If you’ve already read Guerrilla Season, you know that it does not in any way condone slavery. Jesse’s family slaves are shown as well-treated; that’s consistent with the historical facts as we know them. But in the book’s final word on the subject, Matt’s brother Clayton relates their dead father’s belief that kind treatment of slaves does not justify the institution.
     For most of  Guerrilla Season, though, the kids don’t think about or talk about slavery as a moral issue. This is because I believe that when writing about 19th-century people, we should strive to show them as they really were – not as we wish they had been. And I don’t think we should impose our modern-day sensibilities on people who did not have the same thoughts or beliefs that we have.         
     To gain an understanding of Civil War-era kids’ beliefs about slavery, I went to the primary sources ... among them, one of my favorite American authors, Mark Twain:
“In my schoolboy days I had no aversion to slavery. I was not aware that there was anything wrong about it. No one arraigned it in my hearing; the local papers said nothing against it; the local pulpit taught us that God approved it, that it was a holy thing, and that the doubter need only look in the Bible if he wished to settle his mind – and then the texts were read aloud to us to make the matter sure; if the slaves themselves had an aversion to slavery they were wise and said nothing. In Hannibal we seldom saw a slave misused; on the farm, never.”
     Children learn what they live, as the old saying goes. In real life – unlike in most fiction – it was the rare 19th-century child who questioned or fought the institution of slavery.

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Guerrilla Season and slavery