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Another example of a master who
turns corrupt due to slavery is Thomas Auld, Lucreita Auld’s husband. He came
into possession of slaves through marriage, so he was not used to the power and
responsibility of being a slaveholder; this luxury was something “new and
unprepared for” (Douglass 260). However, this power turns him into a vicious,
hypocritical, inhumane man who uses his religion in order to remain blind to
the sins he commits through slavery. Douglass states, “I indulged a faint hope
that his conversion would lead him to emancipate his slaves, and that, if he
did not do this, it would, at any rate, make him more kind and humane…but after
his conversion, he found religious sanction and support for his slaveholding
cruelty” (Douglas 260). Auld uses his newfound religion as a reason to be even
crueler to Douglass. Religion is supposed to change someone for the better; not
turn them more barbaric. However, Thomas Auld is so warped by the wicked effects
of slavery that no one, not even God, can save him from falling deeper into
this web of corruption. There is no going back because this power of holding
slaves dominates his whole being and makes him more malicious, “He was a mean
man; and like most other mean men, he lacked the ability to conceal his
meanness” (Douglas 259). This was not always the case for Thomas, but his kind
character was irreversibly changed after a short time as a slaveholder. Slavery
transformed him for the worst. Douglass, after his emancipation, speaks with
other slaves about Thomas Auld’s hypocrisy as a slaveholder. Thomas Auld uses
religion as a way to cover up his barbaric actions toward his slaves. Douglass
recalls Thomas Auld’s dishonesty and writes in his “Letter to His Old Master”;
“They have little respect for your honesty and less for your religion” (Qtd in
Andrews ed. 105). Thomas Auld uses his religion as a way to justify slavery and
keep his mind at ease. He knows deep down in the bottom of his heart that
slavery is wrong, but he uses his religion in order to hide this reality.

Eventually, these lies and self-deceptions just keep building upon one another
and ultimately turn him into a hypocrite.

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Thomas Auld believes that his
religion is a God- given right to treat slaves crueler. Douglass recalls how he
uses religion in order to justify his treatment of a helpless female slave:

I have said my master found
religious sanction for his cruelty…I have seen him tie up a lame young woman,
and whip her with a heavy cow skin upon her naked shoulders, causing the warm
red blood to drip; and, in justification of the bloody deed, he would quote
this passage of Scripture— “He that knoweth his master’s will, and doeth it
not, shall be beaten with many stripes.” (Douglas 261)

goes ahead to show how slavery completely disfigures slaveholders character and
their whole being. Scripture is to be used to keep us from stumbling and also
to identify what is moral and immoral, but we see that Mr. Auld uses scripture
to justify his barbaric ways to his Slaves. Religious slaveholders, like Auld,
believed that these physical punishments inflicted on the slaves are acceptable
because God said so. So, under the false condition that this type of treatment
is in line with God’s will, they whip innocent slaves. In reality, this is
contradictory to the Scriptures. God’s message is one of selflessness and love,
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must
love one another” (New American Bible, John 13:34). However, they interpreted
God’s will as a way to feel better about themselves when they punish the
innocent slaves. Once again, this shows how slavery completely changes what
once were honest human beings into fraudulent, excuse-making slaveholders.

Douglass, in his speech What to the Slave is the Fourth of July, describes the
hypocrisy of slaveholders and America as a whole, “Your prayers and hymns…with
all your religious parade…are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety,
and hypocrisy—a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of
savages” (Qtd in Andrews ed. 119). The Fourth of July is a joyful day to the
American people, but a mockery to slaves. It is supposed to be celebrating
independence, yet slaves are still treated as less than human by the
slaveholders. In addition, Douglass points out that religion is simply a way to
cover up this hypocrisy and make slavery seem justifiable. Douglass says that
when the slaveholders attempt to cover up their inhumane treatment of slaves
with religion, it makes them more phony and imposturous.

Through his own experiences as a
slave, Douglass shows how slavery turns an honest, dignified human being into
barbaric slaveholder. Both Sophia Auld and Thomas Auld were previously
unaffected by slavery, but quickly transformed into beasts. Perhaps the most
important lesson is that the vicious effects of slavery can trap anyone in its
web of corruption; even those least expected. 

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