Reading about the academic panel organized by Princeton’s Committee on Naming, which is examining President John Witherspoon’s life and his stance on slavery as it considers a proposal to replace or remove a campus statue in his likeness (On the Campus, June issue), I felt compelled to respond to a comment made by a panelist, the Rev. Kevin DeYoung. As evidence of Witherspoon’s character, DeYoung is quoted as saying, “There’s no record that he dealt in the buying and selling of slaves or that he treated his slaves poorly.”
So we are all clear, how one came to own humans as property is irrelevant to both the discussion and, more importantly, to the enslaved. Furthermore, not treating slaves poorly is an oxymoron. Ownership and authority over another person’s body is, by definition, poor treatment.