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Milton and Slavery Ryan Gutierrez. Argument Milton was at least open to the possibility that forced subjugation would be justified against any people.

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Presentation on theme: "Milton and Slavery Ryan Gutierrez. Argument Milton was at least open to the possibility that forced subjugation would be justified against any people."— Presentation transcript:

1 Milton and Slavery Ryan Gutierrez

2 Argument Milton was at least open to the possibility that forced subjugation would be justified against any people fitted by nature for servitude, assuming that such people actually existed.

3 Aristotle’s Concept of the Natural Slave and Climatic Determinism Natural Slaves possess only enough reason to perceive what is rational without being capable of deliberation or forethought. Parallels: Souls over Body, Reason over Passions, Human Beings over Tame Animals and Men over Women Climatic Determinism: People dwelling in cold climates lack wisdom but possess courage which lets them enjoy freedom. People living in warm climates possess wisdom but lack courage and are in a constant state of slavery.

4 Work Cited Jablonski, Steven. "Ham's Vicious Race: Slavery and John Milton." Studies in English Literature 37 (1997): JSTOR. Monmouth. 21 Apr

5 Milton and Aristotle’s Concepts Milton refers to Aristotle as a person, “whom we commonly allow for one of the best interpreters of nature and morality” (3:204) Tenure of Kings and Magistrates Milton refers to “natural, hereditary, and successive slaves” in The Tenure (3:204). Milton states in Defence of the People of England, “generally the people of Asia, and with them the Jews also…are noted by wise Authors much inclinable to slavery” (3:202-3) Milton refers to supporters of the Restoration as “worthie indeed themselves…to be for ever slaves” (7:428) Readie and Easy Way Milton makes a distinction between political subordination and slavery itself.

6 Political Subordination and “Natural Slavery” in Paradise Lost In Book XII of Paradise Lost Michael uses the story of Nimrod’s tyranny and draws a connection between external servitude and the failure to follow reason to explain the political implications of Adam’s Fall. ( ) This first group of people are the politically subordinate. Michael further explains to Adam another category of subjected people. ( ) This second group of people are the “natural slaves”. Michael goes on to identify one of these Nations. ( )

7 The Story of Noah’s Curse Noah falls drunkenly asleep and exposes himself. Ham looks at his father naked before alerting his two brothers. Noah wakes up and curses Ham’s son Canaan for Ham’s offense and pronounced Cannan “a servant of servants” “Since blacks were believed to be among the descendants of Ham through his son Cush, apologists for black slavery simply argued that Noah’s curse fell on Ham instead of or addition to Canaan” (179). Milton interprets Noah’s curse in Paradise Lost like the apologists for black slavery did. 1. “Michael does not specify that Noah himself pronounced the curse, just as apologists for black slavery preferred to attribute the curse to God speaking through Noah” (180.) 2. “Michael makes no explicit reference to Canaan as the object of the curse. While his references to “Nations” and Ham’s “vicious Race” shift the onus of the story from Ham alone to the Hamites” (180).

8 Slavery and Paradise Lost In Paradise Lost Milton links natural (Artisotle) and divine positive law (Bible) as dual explanations for the continuing existence of slavery. In Milton’s retelling of the story, Ham’s race were justly cursed because of their inability to follow reason. “As objects of a curse who nonetheless deserve their fate, Ham and his offspring resemble other recipients of curses in Paradise Lost” (181). 1. Adam and Eve inherit the ability to sin to justify their inability to reason and not eat from the tree. Adam’s Soliloquy ( ). 2. The serpent and his descendants are rendered corrupt by their ancestor’s sin. ( ).

9 St. Augustine and Slavery Points to ( ) in Paradise Lost Augustine believes, “The prime cause of slavery, then, is sin, so that man was put under man in a state of bondage; and this can be only by a judgement of God” (182). 1. Does not link slavery with lack of reason. 2. Does not designate any particular people as more apt for slavery than others.

10 St. Thomas Aquinas, Slavery, and The Two Intentions of Nature Aquinas attributes slavery to both sin and nature. Aquinas and Augustine agreed that slavery could not have existed before the fall. However, Aquinas does believe that superior men would have had some kind of dominion over lesser men even if there had been no fall. ( ). Aquinas believed in two intentions of nature 1. Perfection (before fall) 2. The best possible compensation for human corruption (after fall)

11 Milton and Slavery “It seems unlikely so great a champion of slavery could have believed that slavery in any form could be just” (184). Milton seems to have imagined a whole spectrum of degrees of slavery which were justified by a combination of natural inferiority and divine punishment. “Freedom was not a universal right for Milton; it had to be earned, and only those who earned it were truly men” (186).


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