Thoreau, Franklin, and Byrd – Differences in skin color English Literature Essay
From the strong words of Thoreau in “Resistance to Civil Government” in which he claims he is unable to recognize a government that allows slavery, to the understanding words of Franklin concerning Native Americans. It is clear that many transcendentalist and early American authors called for the abolishment of slavery and the end of unfair treatment of Native Americans.
However, the reading does give examples of those who have not
progressed enough to view those with different color skin as being anymore then a farm hand or a savage.
Benjamin Franklin’s statements in “Remarks Concerning the Savages of North America” leave no room for interpretation or negative judgment when looking at the lives or social structure of Native Americans. Even his opening line calls into question the prejudgments that correspond with most any reader who would find this work for the first time. His precise statement does not give room for someone to question the manners of Native Americans as he himself does not want to be questioned. This strong sense of understanding was probably cultured during Franklin’s many years over seas where he was the one looked down on for having a different idea of civility.
William Apess, whom wrote “An Indian’s Looking-Glass for the White Man” pleads to Americans to look past skin color and look at principles. At the same time Apess tells the reader of those cruelties done to Native Americans and not to trust the judgment of others. He calls into question those who have claimed them to be unholy, or merely savages. Apess urges he readers not to hold a double standard for cruel behavior and for them wander out into these lands to decide for themselves who is causing problems.
Apess also makes claim that it is the same God who created the white man and the Indian. He sees their abilities to be the same and should only be judged by God. This calls to a higher sense of morality in those people who are torturing and killing in the name of God. It calls to question their real motivation. For if they were attempting to show them the way of God they would not spread disease, famine, and death but rather they would teach those in need of help. Apess shows the reader that earthly wants and desire is the only real motivator for the destruction that white men have caused.
In contrast to this strong sense of right there is William Byrd. From reading “The Secret Diary of William Byrd of Westover” you see that he is not a man seeking to uncover justice for his slaves. He is aware of their presence and shows concern if they are sick or unable to work. But not from the perspective of someone who has empathy but rather as a manager must keep his employees working in order to have production at its highest point. He does show the reader empathy for his wife and a solid understanding of her desires. So without a doubt his heart feels, but only through the strong filters that racism has created.
The reading has shown many progressive thinkers who are not afraid to risk putting their name to works that threaten the very fabric of westward expansion and southern economy. Their strong convictions about right and wrong are still worth reading today. How great a place this country would truly be if America was able to see its people for their accomplishments and not their manners, skin color, origin, or sex.