I’ve been reading some interesting books here recently…books on history and also various copies of the Bible, including the Catholic one (as that was my Church)…and having discovered some interesting facts (like no alter or shrine to god made of worked stone or brick can be a church -Exodus 20:25 ), I have discovered that in some cultures bondsmen and even some slaves lived better than I did.
(And no, I am not talking about the form of slavery invented by the East India Tea Company and practiced up until it was abolished in the 1800’s – well, almost abolished. Some sickos still do this crap.)
For one thing, they were legally entitled to health care and could not be legally killed (by murder, overwork, or mistreatment). Their owners were subject to very severe penalties for harming them, up to and including being stoned to death.
Bondsmen -unpaid workmen or women, usually for a seven year period, had more rights than full blown slaves but – and here I’ll start with the Bible (Dust ’em off, people), Exodus 21 says that if you buy a Hebrew servant, he has to serve you for six years and then is free to go. Other races had to do the full seven years. You had to release them with their original clothing and his wife. If that wife had kids, then the master got to keep them BUT he had to raise them as his own or agree to resale them at a discount back to the bondsman.
If you bought a woman and did not like her you had to let her go and provide food and a dowry, or keep her in your household with full privileges of a wife, and you could not resale her. And note the plural here. Wives were the norm from Genesis on, not a single wife, and there were rules for how each one was treated.
If you kidnapped someone and enslaved them and were caught, you were executed.
If you beat a bondsman or slave and he died, you were executed. Your family then also had to free his and make restitution. If he lived you had to make restitution to him or her and pay for their medical expenses.
You also had to provide health care for slaves that could not work and double rations to their families.
If you hit a pregnant women – slave, bondsman, or free – and caused a miscarriage you had to make restitution.
If she died, you were executed.
If you crippled them, then you were crippled yourself – read the verses (Exodus 21:23-27) – this is where the eye for an eye stuff came in. It DID NOT just apply to the free, the citizen, or the upper class. In some cases if you crippled them you had to free the bondsman or slave as well.
And if you raped a woman, free, bonded, or enslaved and were caught you had to marry her and treat her as a full member of the household. But if her family did not desire the marriage you had to pay the equivalent of alimony to her until she died.
So, by their laws you had to feed me, keep me safe and healthy enough to work, provide me with health care, shelter, and were legally responsible for my life and those of my immediate family. You had to protect me from rape, abuse, and murder.
Hmmm, I’m free, of age, and live in a country that claims to have no racial discrimination. I have to pay for food, am denied medical care (uninsured/broke), and denied legal aid (broke). There is no guarantee that if I am abused, raped or even killed that anyone will be punished and if by some miracle someone is caught there is NO restitution made to me or my family. In fact, if I seek it (assuming I am alive) I could actually get in trouble myself and I have to expend my very limited resources to even receive a hearing.
Granted slaves worked more and harder (although I could make a case that even this is not 100% true) but they could not be fired and released into a society where they could be denied the means of making a living. Homelessness is a relatively new concept. Actually so is starvation if you read history. I’d work a sixteen hour day for free if I were guaranteed adequate food, shelter, and my privacy for the other eight hours of the day.
Or perhaps I should say I’d be a slave in a society that guaranteed human rights and recognized that slaves are still human.
The real problem arises as usual when making people things…which is what the EIC version of slavery does.