Utilitarianism – Slavery Kunta Kinte the infamous character from the movie Roots was the model slave that many Americans pictured as your typical slave. Most people pictured the slavery era as a dark age of the United States. They picture this part of the U.S. history as the period of suffering and regrettableness. This era has been described as a period of repression and forced labor, however without this episode there would be no modern day United States.
In order to survive in a world of fierce completion one needs to do whatever it takes to succeed. For the United States, it needed the cheap labor to be able to become the world power it is now today. Utilitarianism, whenever this word is brought up there is a sense of confusion and question. What is utilitarianism? Although, one may have never heard of the word utilitarianism we have all experienced some form of it. The formal definition of utilitarianism is that it is a principle which requires that whenever we have a choice between alternative actions or social policies we shall choose the one that has the best consequences for everyone involved. This is the single, fundamental, and universal principle of morality. This principle is considered a universal principle that applies to all people at all times, and places.
The best consequences mean the best balance of happiness over unhappiness. An example of a controversial issue about utilitarianism is euthanasia. This issue has stirred up much debate and anger. Who must decide if a person should be allowed to die, or live? Should the decision be the patients, the familys, or should it be the doctors? This has sparked one of the fiercest debates in our nation today. Most people have had some contact with this specific issue, whether through a personal experience or through the news. We have all developed some personal view about the issue.
An example is the case of Dr. Matthew Donnelly. He was a physicist who worked with X-rays for 30 years, and as a result of this exposure he contracted cancer. He lost part of his jaw, his upper lip, his nose, his left hand, and as well as two fingers from his right hand. He lost his ability to see, and his doctor told him that he had about a year to live, but he decided that he did not want to live in this state of constant pain and torture.
He begged his three brothers to take him out of his misery. Two of the brothers refused but the third one, Harold, who loved his brother very much, obeyed and killed him. This case carried much controversy and debate. Should Harold be charged with murder and what should be done about future cases? Utilitarianism says that the morally right thing to do is to do whatever brings the greatest balance of happiness over non-happiness. On occasions, the greatest balance of happiness over unhappiness may be brought about by mercy killing. Chattel slavery in America began in the 15th century.
The first black slaves were brought over to America in the year 1619 to Jamestown, Virginia. Brought over to this country by Dutch ships, they were subjected to limited servitude, a legalized status of Native American, white, and black servants preceding slavery in most of the English colonies in the New World. The number of slaves imported was small at first, and it did not seem necessary to define their legal status. Formal recognition of slavery, however, occurred in Massachusetts in 1641, in Connecticut in 1650, and in Virginia in 1661; these statutes mainly concerned fugitive slaves. With the development of the plantation system in the southern colonies in the latter half of the 17th century, the number of Africans imported as agricultural slave laborers increased greatly, and several northern coastal cities became centers of the slave traffic. Generally, in most of the northern colonies, slaves were used as domestics and in trade; in the Middle Atlantic colonies they were used more in agriculture; and in the southern colonies, where plantation agriculture was the primary occupation, almost all slaves were used to work the plantations. As African slaves became an increasingly important element in the English colonies in America, particularly in the South, where they were fundamental to the economy and society, the laws affecting them were modified.
By the time of the American Revolution (1775-1783), they were no longer indentured servants but slaves in the fullest sense of the term, and laws defining their legal, political, and social status, with respect to their owners, were specified. Slavery was widely viewed as an acceptable from of labor by many of our nations leaders. Thomas Jefferson, for example, owned many slaves. In fact there are allegations that Thomas Jefferson had an illegitimate child with one of his slaves. Slavery was an accepted feature, often seem as essential to the economy and society, of all civilizations.
The ancient Mesopotamian, Indian, and Chinese civilizations employed slaves, either domestically in homes and shops or in gangs for large-scale construction or agriculture. The ancient Egyptians used slaves on a mass scale to build the royal palaces and monuments. The ancient Hebrews also used slaves, but they were required by religious law to free slaves of their own nationality at certain fixed times. In the more advanced civilizations of pre-Columbian America, for example, those of the Aztec, Inca, and Maya, slave labor was also used on a large scale in both agriculture and warfare. In the Homeric epics, slavery is the ordinary destiny of prisoners of war.
The Greek philosophers did not consider the condition of slavery as morally objectionable, although Aristotle suggested that faithful slaves might be freed in reward for loyal service. With few exceptions, slaves in ancient Greece were treated humanely. However, the Helots of Sparta, descendants of an earlier conquered race of inhabitants, were forced to labor on large estates and were even forced to fight with the Spartan armies. They were treated severely, mainly because they far outnumbered their dependent masters. More typically, slaves were employed in domestic service, in trades, as laborers on country estates, and as seamen and oarsmen.
When they were employed in private domestic service, it was quite common to find them having a healthy relationship with their masters. Roman slavery, however, differed in several important aspects from that of ancient Greece. Roman masters had more power …