Cowper labels slave owners as slaves to gold and challenges them to demonstrate human emotion towards African Americans in order to reveal the hypocrisy of the institution of slavery. He places the slave owners into slavery under gold, reveals the gold’s ability to manipulate the white man’s actions into creating an unethical institution of slavery based on race, and challenges the slave owners to proving they are capable of human emotion before questioning the African American’s ability to have human emotion.
Cowper begins this passage by addressing slave owners as ‘slaves of gold’ thus creating a line of equality between African American slaves and slave owners. He does this in order to reveal that slave owners are enslaved to the ‘gold, ‘ or desire for monetary wealth. The greed for wealth has led to the creation of not only slavery, but the way that the slave owners treat their slaves. Clearly, slaves are treated poorly and without respect as represented in the passage.
Gold is then personified as ‘whose sordid dealings’ to create the analogy of slave owners now being manipulated and commanded by gold. Cowper implies that the desire and greed for gold, or wealth, has manipulated and gained control of the slave owner’s minds and actions which has not only led to the creation of slavery but the unfair treatment of slaves. Not only is there the institution of slavery but the slave owners do not show the least amount of respect or emotion for the slaves that they own.
Because slavery is already frowned upon, the poor treatment of slaves by their masters further emphasizes the unethical and simply wrongfulness of slavery altogether.
The illustration of ‘slaves of gold, whose sordid dealings/ Tarnish all your boasted pow’rs, ‘ further reflects the wickedness of slavery by illustrating the corruption of greed for money to drive a race that feels superior to another to create an institution that strips all liberties from another group of people simply based on race. However, it is interesting to note that Cowper also claims that slavery dulls the powers that the white race boasts about.
In conclusion, the slave owners are challenged to demonstrate that they have an ability to show human emotion before those slave owners question the human emotion of African Americans. Cowper is ultimately implying that the slave owners are hypocrites by stating that the slave owners have yet to show emotion through this acts of slavery yet dehumanize African Americans. As a whole, this passage functions to reflect the harsh treatment of slaves by the slave owners in order to challenge the slave owners to realize that the African Americans have human emotion and are humans that should be treated properly.
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