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The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African written by himself, explores the life of a native-born African in pursuit of a life, liberty and freedom in the English world. For the most part the narratives purpose was to impress a formidable audience: influential British officials. In chapter twelve of the narrative, he put forth two impressive arguments: the first economic rationale and the second moral duty. Equiano's paramount argument petitioned Christians by calling on the scriptures as evidence in the immediate necessity to abolish slavery and simultaneously called in question the ideology set forth in republicanism and the denial thereof to victims of slavery. Olaudah Equiano's freedom ended as a young boy when his fellow countrymen kidnapped and sold him into slavery. In his report of the Middle Passage Equiano gave his first impressions of the English control - death of the body as well as the spirit.
This initial voyage ended in Barbados. After a short time Equiano boards a ship headed for an English colony of Virginia, where he would spend the next seven years as a slave owned by Pascal. During these seven years, he educated himself, traveled with Pascal in the Royal Navy, and converted to Christianity. Subsequently he purchased his freedom and in 1789 and shortly after wrote his memoirs. His memoirs realized its ultimate purpose in 1797 with the abolition of the English slave trade.
The memoirs reached varied audiences, initially composed of American, European, and religiously motivated abolitionists but targeted the deliberator's in favor of slavery abolishment within the British government. His composition of the narrative employed a strategy of social desirability with an indication of hypocrisy that targeted the concept of humanity, the evolution of liberty and the ideals of civilization. This strategy indirectly attacked its readers with humility that in turn created guilt in its captive audience. According to one side of the issue, economic rationale appealed to government officials in the governments quest to acquire a large market for European products. Equiano assured the officials with the premises that African commerce is trading upon safe grounds and commercial intercourse with Africa opens an inexhaustible source of wealth to the manufacturing interests of Great Britain; two equally powerful assumptions put forth by an African native with economic sensibility. (193). Equiano's insight into the validity of capitalization on, instead of enslaving a nation, would certainly attract followers in the economic arena.
He argued that it was most advantageous to capitalize within a nation instead of enslaving it. On a larger scale, religious advocates far out numbered economic advocates and the scriptures had already provided the supreme rights and privileges of man. Equiano converted to Christianity and expected his religion and fellow parishioners to provide sound proof that Man had the authority to deny freedom and liberty to any human. The Bible issued to him by Christians provided no such authority. An argument built on Godly approach would certainly attract followers on a larger scale - humanity. It is conceivable to argue with economists, politicians and governments, but unconceivable for Christians to stand against God.
One fear of the Christian Bible is noted when Equiano reported how Portuguese officials confiscated his Bible upon arrival and announced the penalties for possession of the Bible, to be imprisoned and flogged, and sent into slavery for ten years. (142). In following the moral dilemma, republicanism embodied the pursuit for liberty, freedom, and equality, which contradicted the institution of slavery. The critical argument in support of republicanism and the fight for independence nullified the enslaving of any people (s). Slavery denied the fundamental policy that the United States claimed to adopt, which contradicted the actual functionality of government and a civilized society.
In 1776, the American Declaration of Independence declares, all men are created equal. (198). The actual syntax and semantics of the verbatim that addressed slavery in officiated documents such as the Constitution and Declaration of Independence set forth suspicion as to the de-humanization of slavery. Equiano humanized himself and man in his narrative with words and morals. He civilized himself with conviction and religion. He put forth conventions written and spoken by government leaders, religious clergy and society in black and white and challenged this society to correspond to them. All mankind has practiced a religion: a moral code by which societies have succeeded or seceded.
Mans inalienable right under God and under a Republic is to have access to life, liberty and freedom. Of the two arguments, Equiano put forth morality being the sounder of the two, by proving that slavery was an immoral practice in religion and in a republic. The Bible of the Christians and the Declaration of Independence of the Republic, two supremely accepted documents, whereby the rules outlined within have survived to present-day Man, provide the evidence in support of his argument: condemnation of slavery is the only moral option. Works Cited Equiano, Olaudah. The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano.
Ed. Robert J. Allison. Boston: Bedford, 1995.
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