Ethics, Human Conduct and Values:
Slavery’s Pleasant Homes
Slavery’s Pleasant Homes told by L. M. Child is a sorrowful story that presents a clear picture of how racism, slavery, marriage, and classism as institutions were used by Frederic Dalcho to oppress and humiliate George, Rosa, Mars and Marion. The purpose of this paper is to discuss, investigate and analyze all the major elements in the story and how these elements can be linked to the various characters such as Frederic and George Dalcho, Mars, Marion and Rosa. This paper seeks to investigate who is morally culpable for perpetrating the worst thing that humanity has ever encounter. It is also my goal to recommend possible power structures that can be substituted for those which existed in the story. I also attempt to address current sexist, racist and classist practices that are demonstrated in the United States and how these practices promote and encourage oppression, male supremacy, violence, and the exploitation of the powerless, weak, poor, unprivileged and vulnerable population. In order to fully understand each element in the story “Slavery’s Pleasant Homes” and how these can be attributed to each of the other characters in the story and their moral implications, it is also important to briefly state and connect the major events in the story to their moral significance. Therefore, I attempt to find out whether or not Frederic’s actions were morally ethical?
Frederic Dalcho was a rich man who lived in the south in Georgia and was married to a young and beautiful lady name Marion who also had two servants to her possession. These two servants may have been given to her by her parents as a family arrangement to serve in her newly wedded home. Frederic was probably the son of a rich man who may have died and left all the wealth in his possession as well as slaves even though he also has other siblings probably from a different mother. According to the story “Slavery’s Pleasant Homes,” he also has a brother by the name of George who is likely from his father side. It is assumed that George made have been from a different mother meaning that he might have had a different skin color.
Frederic enslaved his own brother George and considered him his favorite slave. Isn’t that immoral? How could someone who claims to be a good and respected person in the community enslave his own brother, because they both never came from the same parents? It can be assumed from the story that Frederic’s wickedness to his own brother may have been grounded on the basis of racism; George’s mother was a black woman. He expressed his hate for his brother after noting that George and Rosa fell in love with each other. Even though he has his wife who is also beautiful and intelligent, he desired to forcefully rape, torture, beat and subsequently murder Rosa, because she refused to go out with him or resisted having sexual intercourse with him when he tried to rape her. His actions, according to Kant’s moral theory, contradicted that of goodwill and portrayed example of extreme wickedness. Kant best described his behavior in the following word, “behaving contrary to duty is considered an immoral actions; whereas, or merely in accordance with duty or out of a sense of duty, as when we identify rationally the rule that tells us the right thing to do, and we do it” (Waters, 2008).
Dealing with others fairly is a moral responsibility that we all should strive for if we want to achieve a good moral standard. She furthered noted by commenting on Kant’s moral theory stating that “we have varieties of duties: to be honest, to deal with others fairly, to be good to each other (beneficent), to refrain from being bad to each other, to try to see that justice is done” (Waters, 2008). To Kant, Frederic’s actions and behavior would be considered unethical and morally wrong, because he enslaved his own brother, disrespected his wife by raping, abusing and murdering his slave girl . His intentions in committing these acts were based on a well-founded desire to achieve a set end, which eventually lead to pains and sufferings of his subjects. Slavery, racism, sexism, marriage and classism were institutions that Frederic promoted in order to oppress and exploit his subjects. These institutions also brought with them ideologies that the owners used in dealing with their subjects and most of these ideologies even though they seem to be promoted with the intent to achieve a desire end, encouraged their perpetrators to inflict pains and sufferings on their subjects.
In Slavery’s Pleasant Homes, Frederic disrespected his wife by raping Rosa and beating her to death. This can also lead us to the conclusion that his actions demonstrated that he was the leader of the home, thus leading us to another ideology, which dominated human history, especially the institution of family for centuries and that is the “male supremacy” or the patriarchal system. The 11th Edition of the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary provides two definitions for the term patriarchy. These definitions are stated below to give us a clearer understanding about how this word can affect our lives and how these two definitions are relevant for the purpose of this paper.
Firstly, patriarchy is defined as a “social organization marked by the supremacy of the father in the clan or family, the legal dependence of wives and children, and the reckoning of descent and inheritance in the male line.” Secondly, it is “a society or institution organized according to the principles or practices of patriarchy” (Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 2005). For the purpose of our study concerning how male supremacy dominated the home of Frederic Dalcho by practicing the patriarchal system of family and how that institution (marriage) was used to promote the ideology of male supremacy, gender and class in the home in suppressing, oppressing and exploiting his wife as well as their subjects, I will therefore accept the two definitions and based my arguments that male supremacy in the home is wrong, because it exploit the females of their legal rights, as well as make her much more like a sex slave subject to the will and domination of the male. I believe from the reading and understanding of the nature of the problems that Marion and Rosa both experienced in the story that Frederic’s actions as a husband and slave owner was inappropriate and an abuse of nature and his action constituted one of the immoral acts that humanity has ever experienced. His actions were based on selfish desires and should not be considered as a universal law. As a husband, it is expected that he should have respect, care and love for his wife. His attitude towards his wife shows that he does not consider her part of his live, but rather as a sex slave or possession that he has no concrete feelings for.
The community in which these acts happened is also of importance to consider if we really want to unearth the significance of Frederic’s actions to Marion, George, Rosa and Mars. A community is composed of people of diverse social and economic class. It can be assumed from the story that some people of that community also kept slaves. This is because, after considering all that Frederic did to his wife, George and Rosa, the community still honor him as a respectful and honorable person without showing due respect to those who were victimized by this wicked creature of their community. It can also be concluded that Frederic may have used his influence as a rich man as well as slave owner to render some assistance to the community while he was yet alive.
However, it can also be assumed from Kant’s moral theory that his good gesture to the people of his community may have been based on an end result, which is to gain recognition and respect as oppose to doing it out of goodwill without expecting an end result for what has been done. I also feel that the community didn’t do well in handling the issues that Frederic committed to his wife, Rosa, George and Mars. I feel that they were discriminated, ridiculed and criticized for crimes that they didn’t initiate. Frederic should have been the one to be criticized and subsequently punished because of his immoral acts against these powerless and vulnerable people.
Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary 11th Edition. 2005, Merriam-Webster, Inc. Springfield, MA
Child, Lydia Maria. "Slavery's Pleasant Homes." The Online Archive of Nineteenth-Century U.S. Women's Writings. Ed. Glynis Carr. Online. Internet. Posted: Summer 1997. http://www.facstaff.bucknell.edu/gcarr/19cUSWW/LB/SPH.html. Accessed: June 10, 2008.
Waters, Summer I. WSC. (Lecture and Study Sheet on Race and Gender), 2008