Are there records of any American slave owner treat their slave well?

It seems like an objective, if not to difficult answer, question.

Yet it has a score of -4. What's wrong with it?


I also didn't vote either way on the question. I also have a tiny interest here, in that I answered it. That being said.

First off, some site culture: We get a lot of questions here that were posted not from a pure historical interest (assuming such a thing exists), but rather with an agenda. Most of these are questions relating to the Holocaust, and after repeatedly getting our fingers burned giving those questions the benefit of the doubt, we've learned to have higher standards for Holocaust/Nazi questions.

However, those aren't the only questions where that happens, of course. We get Turks asking questions goading us into saying the Armenian Genocide didn't happen. We get Indian nationalists goading us into saying all kinds of accepted stuff that goes against their dogma isn't true. We get people from about every country on Earth with an internet connection trying to goad us into saying there's been some kind of conspiracy to keep their particular country down.

And yes, occasionally we get US-based racists trying to goad us into affirming their racist beliefs about black people.

Now with that as a background, this is a question that looks an awful lot like its fishing for answers saying that slavery wasn't so bad, and that black people were perhaps arguably better off under it in some circumstances. This is an argument with a long racist history in the US going back even before the Civil War.

Now I can see where a person ignorant of this history might hear the argument today, and innocently wonder about it. I can also see its obvious attraction to my fellow white people, as it absolves a certain amount of guilt. So I did feel it was worth refuting.

However, its also an argument you are almost certain to hear from a US-based White Supremicist, so I can also totally understand those who felt like downvoting the question with impunity, and going on with their day.


I also did not vote on the question, but I can try to describe what made me uncomfortable. I share @semaphore's concerns with subjectivity; he has expressed it will so I won't repeat.

I've got two sources of discomfort, and I'll admit that I'm struggling to articulate them clearly, so I'm open to feedback.

First, American chattel slavery dehumanizes a person. It transforms a person into a thing. Once you've done that, it doesn't matter if you treat the resulting thing kindly. It simply isn't possible to treat a possession with dignity. The legal, cultural and psychological structures that create and maintain chattel slavery begin with the assumption that the slave has not only no dignity, but no right to dignity, any more than a comb or a saddle has a right to dignity. Slaves had no right to respect, other than the sense in which I "respect" a saddle by not misusing it as a doorstop or leaving it outside in the snow. This is the fundamental evil of slavery - the only rights the slave possessed were in the context of their ability to serve their master's will. The slave knew that the master had the ability/right to torture, kill, sell, the slave at any time. Every day you weren't sold away from your family, whipped, or starved was a day when the master was "kind". It is difficult for me as a modern person with a modern notion of civil rights to understand just how cruel that system is. The only tool that I've found that helps me to imagine that relationship is the discussions I've had with some of my friends who have been in abusive relationships - it is fairly clear that once the abuser imposes the framework that the abuse is legitimate, that "kindness" is not uncommon. But the abused is obligated to be kind, while the abuser has the perogative to be kind. The abuser has the option of granting the semblance of dignity, while the abused must be constantly aware of the fact that their fate depends on maintaining the abuser's dignity, happiness and wellness. I'm uncomfortable with the question's focus on the semblance of dignity while ignoring the underlying social/legal structures that stripped the slave of all rights.

I'll ahve to leave the second source of discomfort for later when I have more time.


The current score is really seven downvotes but also 3 upvotes.

So seven voters found the question not only "not good" but really "bad"; then 3 liked it. Before you brought this up here, I hadn't seen this question. But the question is as much a head scratcher to me as is the voting on it.

As sometimes quite some votes are very spuriously motivated, lets assume that in this case they all were from well-meaning users, properly rested and adequately caffeinated and nicotinised and up-sugared to vote fairly after analysis.

To top it off, this a touchy subject, and I think we largely agreed here, that sexism, racism, antisemitism and topics like that have to meet a higher bar in terms of inherent quality.

As far as voting on questions goes, I wouldn't and still haven't voted on this, simply because I think it's as it stands just mediocre, off-hand question. Anyone might have such a question, and even post it here, but it can and should be improved. In this case I'd say it doesn't deserve my upvote and I can almost see why people would want to downvote it.

That means first, it seems to lack documenting the OP's prior research into this. That is the biggest complaint I have with it. As a question.

Although I see a lot of other problems associated with this question as well. Such as "well", the word, in the title, without quotes, as used in this answer of mine. It is entirely unclear to me what the aim of this question really is. Mainly because the terms used are left undefined and invite misinterpretation, or even scolding the poster for using them.

What does "well" mean in this context? Is that term useful for describing something that we now find to be a contradiction in terms?

  • If "well" can only mean to us that a slave owner freed his slave, then there would be examples to list.
  • If "well" means treatment measured on a scale that orients itself on modern "human rights", then there would be examples to list ranging from let's say -100 to -1, as we now define slavery as grossly incompatible with human rights.
  • If "well" means not "good" but just "better than" a neighbour to the South (or whatever direction), then there would be examples to list
  • If "well" means "look, it wasn't all bad", then we have a problem. Big time.

The meaning and perspective are left unclear. This applies to all other qualifiers as well: "dignity", "respect", "proper", "hearty", etc.

Is this about applying modern views to a historical situation? Is this an inquiry into comparison of contemporary accounts? We do not know whether this is searching for diachronic or synchronic analysis and evaluation or for an anachronistic justification. Is this about how we judge these conditions and behaviours, how 'they' did it, or 'they' saw it and justified it? Addressing these complaints might be on a range from not easy to uneasy, but that should be edited into the question to avoid confusion. If not that still can be sorted out in answers.

However, the last bullet on that non-exhaustive list might be quite heavily frowned upon as being an attempt of pushing a disgusting narrative. It is unclear to me that the question would fall into that category "to be closed as pushy".

Some comments below the question try to address logical or historical short-comings of the question, but the usual problem with many comments crop up as well: almost half-answers, a pyramids joke…

So, logically 'was there anytime anything was above average' is always answered with: 'yes' by the very definition of 'average' (depending on which definition, we shouldn't jump to 50% in every case, but you get the idea).

This brings us to how to possibly answer this question:

For all four bullet points left unclear in the question these aspects would need to be addressed in an answer. Making these long, perhaps too long for the taste of most people here.

Then we have the undefined timescape, the undefined places. "Americans" and their "slaves"? Not tracking an evolution and development over centuries but apparently assuming an answer of average paragraph length, summing it up as "that was that", at least implicitly conveying a uniformity in time and space. A tool of a quality a bit too blunt for my taste. And quite certainly really unfitting.

Q It seems like an objective, if not to difficult answer, question.

To me, it seems like a badly researched and badly presented question, that has serious shortcomings in objectivity. prior historical knowledge or research, and even logic. Answering that I would require from myself an amount of differential interpretation, frame challenging plus actually answering all the aspects I think in need of addressing: that this is a question that's extraordinarily difficult to answer properly. In one sentence: It is very broad.

Just for stats:
There were five answers posted to this question. Two deleted. The currently highest scoring answer has just one upvote more than the question itself (but zero downvotes).

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