A Poem on the Inhumanity of the Slave-Trade

An Electronic Edition · Ann Yearsley (1752-1806)

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Full Colophon Information

A Poem on the Inhumanity of the Slave Trade by Ann Yearsley

by Michelle Glazer

(University of Maryland, College Park)



Short Biography of Ann Yearsley

Ann Yearsley, a British romantic poet also known as “Lactilla”, thrived in the late 18th century, crafting influential works such as Poems on Several Occasions (1785), Poems on Various Subjects (1787), A Poem on the Inhumanity of the Slave Trade (1788), and The Rural Lyre: A Volume of Poems (1796). Yearsley was born Ann Cromarty in Clifton in Bristol, England. She spent her younger years as a milk woman and had no formal education. However, her family members helped her learn to read and write, exposing her to the greats works of literature and sparking her passion for poetry.

In 1774, she married John Yearsley, a poor farmer, and spent the next ten years developing her writing skills while raising six children. A severe winter around 1783-84 caused the family to have terrible financial troubles. Hannah More, a well-known English writer and philanthropist, offered the Yearsleys financial help as well as support. More already was aware of and impressed by Yearsley’s writing abilities after her cook showed her some of the local milk woman’s poems in 1784. As a result, More worked toward publishing a volume of Yearsley’s poems known as Poems on Several Occasions. After its release, the publication became a huge success and led to Yearsley’s fruitful writing career. Although she and More had a tumultuous professional partnership, Yearsley continued to write poetry, plays, and even a novel. She also opened a circulating library in Bristol, which allowed her financial independence and stability until her death in 1806.



About the poem

Ann Yearsley’s A Poem on the Inhumanity of the Slave Trade discusses the issues with slavery and the British involvement in the Transatlantic Slave Trade. The use of the slave trade began in the sixteenth century, with the Portuguese making voyages to Africa, where they captured Africans to sell to the Spanish colonies. Soon, many other European nations became involved, with Britain initially capturing African slaves for Spanish and Portuguese colonies. However, as British colonization in the Caribbean and North America grew, British traders began to capture slaves for British colonies. Britain’s involvement in the slave trade grew because they needed more labor to cultivate sugar found in the colonies. By the 1760s, Britain became the leading European nation involved in the slave trade. In effect, the slave trade became a major part of the British economy and culture.

A Poem on the Inhumanity of the Slave Trade was published in 1788, around the time when abolitionist propaganda sprung to a national level. Toward the end of the eighteenth century, Britain’s society started to change. Prior to this time, anti slavery arguments usually were ignored as the majority supported the practice. However, the increased emergence of enlightenment thinkers like John Locke, the move toward a more industrial economy rather than agrarian, and various revolutions occurring throughout the world contributed to a shift in the public mindset on the topic. The merchant class grew as the economy changed, shrinking the divide between the aristocracy and the lower classes. The transformation of the social hierarchy led to a surge of people who began to question and criticize the societal norms. More people began publishing works that challenged society’s customs and values, creating a more politically involved and aware public concentrated on reform. The use of slavery and the slave trade became a popular debate, with people starting to shed light on its immorality. Although some pushed for the abolishment of slavery in general, many focused more specifically on ending the slave trade, which seemed more plausible at the time. The Haitian Revolution, which emerged in part over the fight to end the slave trade, was a large catalyst in the increased anti slave trade sentiment throughout Britain. It generated a national interest on the topic because it impacted British politics and the economy. In 1807, the British Parliament officially abolished the slave trade; however, the practice of slavery continued until its abolishment in 1838.

Like many other British writers, Yearsley decided to publish her thoughts regarding the pressing issue of slavery. The topic was especially prominent in Bristol, where some even gave up sugar as a protest. Throughout the nation, abolitionist publications grew in popularity. Prior to its release, the Felix Farley’s Bristol Journal announced that Yearsley was to publish a poem on the topic, showcasing the anticipation surrounding its release. In 1788, the Robinsons published her poem, and it quickly gained recognition. Many journals and magazines discussed the poem after its publication. However, the topic of the poem was not the only controversial aspect.

After the success of her first publication in 1785, Poems on Several Occasions, Yearsley and Hannah More had a falling out. As a result of the success of the publication, More took it upon herself to invest the profits for an annuity, which Yearsley saw as defraud. Infamously, the two fought over the matter, which ultimately ended the professional relationship between More and Yearsley, and Yearsley gained sole ownership and freedom over her profits and writings. However, their feud gained attention again when More published her own work on slavery around the same time, titled Slavery: A Poem. Therefore, people interpreted Yearsley’s poem as a slap in the face to More. Journals started to review both works, focusing on the comparison. The Monthly Review even reviewed More’s and Yearsley’s poems in the same section of one of their issues, with the reviewer preferring More’s style to Yearlsey’s. Public attention somewhat diverted away from the individual messages in both poems as people focused on the controversy surrounding the two authors.

In her poem, Yearsley expresses her distaste with slavery, using provocative and persuasive language to foster a greater public opposition to the slave trade. She notably highlights the state’s hypocrisy in upholding a religious zeal while continuing to use and promote the slave trade and slavery. Phrases like, “custom, thou hast undone us! Led us far from God-like probity, from truth, and heaven” and “Oh, shame, shame upon the followers of Jesus!” highlight her opinion on the matter. The poem uses anecdotes and detail on the institution’s negative effects to communicate her message and encourage reform. Despite the controversy surrounding its publication, A Poem on the Inhumanity of the Slave Trade gained notoriety over time more so due to the poem’s uniquely intense language attacking the state’s hypocrisy in using the system.



Editorial Method

As the editor of the text, I faced a few obstacles in translating the poem into a more accessible and readable document for online use. The copy of the poem that I used was originally in microfilm format found at the University of Maryland’s McKeldin Library. Thank you to Brian Crawford at the University of Maryland, College Park for his help with the OCR process. Through this process, the poem was converted into an editable version on Microsoft Word.

Next, I had to edit any punctuation, spacing, and spelling issues. A prominent issue was the use of the letter “f” in place of “s” and “r” in place of “f” for some words. In order to make the poem more readable for a modern audience, all these words needed to be corrected accordingly. Also, the conversion created inaccurate spacing between punctuation marks and words, which was corrected. I tried to maintain the spellings, abbreviations, and punctuations as they appeared on the microfilm and therefore only tried to edit what had changed as a result of the conversion.

When transferring the text to XML coding, I organized the poem based on my interpretation of how the line groups (stanzas) seemed to be distinguished on the microfilm. The first word of each page is repeated twice, initially appearing indented on the bottom right corner of the previous page. This created confusion whether a stanza was to continue or if a new stanza had started. I interpreted that a new stanza began only when there was an evident space separating two lines of text, because this indicated a break in the poem. Therefore, the line groups in my coding correspond to when a distinct space separated two lines of the poem, indicating the end of one stanza and the beginning of another.





Primary text by Ann Yearsley:

A Poem on the Inhumanity of the Slave Trade. Provided by the kind permission of the University of Maryland, College Park, College Park, MD. The copy can be found in their collection at the McKeldin Library Periodical Room under the microfilm section, number 13728, year 1976. The microfilm was reproduced in Woodbridge, CT by Research Publications in 1976 and is a part of the Goldsmiths’-Kress Library of Economic Literature series. The poem was originally published in London, printed for C.G.J. and Robinson in 1788.


Works used and For Further Reading:

“Ann Yearsley: 1752-1806.” Poems and Poets. Poetry Foundation, 2015. Web. 3 April 2015.



“British Involvement in the Transatlantic Slave Trade.” The Abolition Project. East of England

Broadband Network and MLA East of England, 2009. Web. 8 June 2015.             <http://abolition.e2bn.org/slavery_45.html>.


“The Slave Trade – a Historical Background.” Learning the Campaign for Abolition. The British

Library Board, n.d. Web. 8 June 2015.

<http://www.bl.uk/learning/histcitizen/campaignforabolition/abolitionbackground/aboliti            onintro.html>.


Swaminathan, Srividhya. Debating the Slave Trade: Rhetoric of British National Identity, 1759–

  1. 1815. Farnham: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2009. Print.


Waldron, Mary. Lactilla, Milkwoman of Clifton: The Life and Writings of Ann Yearsley,

1753-1806. Athens: University of Georgia, 1996. Print.


Wood, Marcus. “Ann Yearsley (1752-1806), A Poem on the Inhumanity of the Slave-Trade

Humbly Inscribed to the Right and Honourable and Right Reverend Frederic Earl of Bristol Bishop of Derry (1788).” The Poetry of Slavery: An Anglo-American Anthology, 1764-1865. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2003. 120-30. Print.


A Poem on the Inhumanity of the Slave Trade by Ann Yearsley
Edition for EADA by Michelle Glazer
(University of Maryland, College Park)



Go seek the soul refin’d and strong; Such aids my wildest pow’r of song: For those I strike the rustic lyre Who share the transports they inspire.

To the Right Hon. and Right Rev. FREDERICK, Earl of Bristol, Bishop of Derry, &c. &c.


BEING convinced that your Ideas of Justice and Humanity are not confined to one Race of Men, I have endeavoured to lead you to the Indian Coast. My Intention is not to cause that Anguish in your Bosom which powerless Compassion ever gives; yet, my Vanity is flattered, when I but fancy that Your Lordship feels as I do.

With the highest Reverence, I am, My Lord

Your Lordship’s much obliged, And obedient Servant,


A Poem on the Inhumanity of the Slave-trade.

BRISTOL, thine heart hath throbb’d to glory. -Slaves,
E’en Christian slaves, have shook their chains, and gaz’d
With wonder and amazement on thee. Hence
Ye grov’ling souls, who think the term I give,
Of Christian slave, a paradox! to you
I do not turn, but leave you to conception
Narrow; with that be blest, nor dare to stretch
Your shackled souls along the course of Freedom.
Yet, Bristol, list! nor deem Lactilla’s soul
Lessen’d by distance; snatch her rustic thought,
Her crude ideas, from their panting state,
And let them fly in wide expansion; lend
Thine energy, so little understood
By the rude million, and I’ll dare the strain
Of Heav’n-born Liberty till Nature moves
Obedient to her voice. Alas! my friend,
Strong rapture dies within the soul, while Pow’r
Drags on his bleeding victims. Custom, Law,
Ye blessings, and ye curses of mankind,
What evils do ye cause? We feel enslaved,
Yet move in your direction. Custom, thou
Wilt preach up filial piety; thy sons
Will groan, and stare with impudence at Heav’n,
As if they did abjure the act, where Sin
Sits full on Inhumanity; the church
They fill with mouthing, vap’rous sighs and tears,
Which, like the guileful crocodile’s, oft fall,
Nor fall, but at the cost of human bliss.

Custom, thou hast undone us! led us far
From God-like probity, from truth, and heaven.

But come, ye souls who feel for human woe,
Tho’ drest in savage guise! Approach, thou son,
Whose heart would shudder at a father’s chains,
And melt o’er thy lov’d brother as he lies
Gasping in torment undeserv’d. Oh, sight
Horrid and insupportable! far worse
Than an immediate, an heroic death;
Yet to this sight I summon thee. Approach,
Thou slave of avarice, that canst see the maid
Weep o’er her inky sire! Spare me, thou God
Of all-indulgent Mercy, if I scorn
This gloomy wretch, and turn my tearful eye
To more enlighten’d beings. Yes, my tear
Shall hang on the green furze, like pearly dew
Upon the blossom of the morn. My song
Shall teach sad Philomel a louder note,
When Nature swells her woe. O’er suff’ring man
My soul with sorrow bends! Then come, ye few
Who feel a more than cold, material essence;
Here ye may vent your sighs, till the bleak North
Find its adherents aided. -Ah, no more!
The dingy youth comes on, sullen in chains;
He smiles on the rough sailor, who aloud
Strikes at the spacious heav’n, the earth, the sea,
In breath too blasphemous; yet not to him
Blasphemous, for he dreads not either:-lost
In dear internal imag’ry, the soul
Of Indian Luco rises to his eyes,
Silent, not inexpressive: the strong beams
With eager wildness yet drink in the view
Of his too humble home, where he had left
His mourning father, and his Incilanda.
Curse on the toils spread by a Christian hand
To rob the Indian of his freedom! Curse
On him who from a bending parent steals
His dear support of age, his darling child;
Perhaps a son, or a more tender daughter,
Who might have clos’d his eyelids, as the spark
Of life gently retired. Oh, thou poor world!
Thou fleeting good to individuals! see
How much for thee they care, how wide they ope
Their helpless arms to clasp thee; vapour thou!
More swift than passing wind! thou leav’st them nought
Amid th’unreal scene, but a scant grave.
I know the crafty merchant will oppose
The plea of nature to my strain, and urge
His toils are for his children: the soft plea
Dissolves my soul—but when I sell a son,
Thou God of nature, let it be my own!


Behold that Christian! see what horrid joy
Lights up his moody features, while he grasps
The wish’d-for gold, purchase of human blood!
Away, thou seller of mankind! Bring on
Thy daughter to this market! bring thy wife!
Thine aged mother, though of little worth,
With all thy ruddy boys! Sell them, thou wretch,
And swell the price of Luco! Why that start?
Why gaze as thou wouldst fright me from my challenge
With look of anguish? Is it Nature strains
Thine heart-strings at the image? Yes, my charge
Is full against her, and she rends thy soul,
Is full against her, and she rends thy soul,
While I but strike upon thy pityless ear,
Fearing her rights are violated. -Speak,
Astound the voice of Justice! bid thy tears
Melt the unpitying pow’r, while thus she claims
The pledges of thy love. Oh, throw thine arm
Around thy little ones, and loudly plead
Thou canst not sell thy children.-Yet, beware
Lest Luco’s groan be heard; should that prevail,
Justice will scorn thee in her turn, and hold
Thine act against thy pray’r. Why clasp, she cries,
That blooming youth? Is it because thou lov’st him?
Why Luco was belov’d: then wilt thou feel,
Thou selfish Christian, for thy private woe,
Yet cause such pangs to him that is a father?
Whence comes thy right to barter for thy fellows?
Where are thy statutes? Whose the iron pen
That gave thee precedent? Give me the seal
Of virtue, or religion, for thy trade,
And I will ne’er upbraid thee; but if force
Superior, hard brutality alone
Become thy boast, hence to some savage haunt,
Nor claim protection from my social laws.
Luco is gone; his little brothers weep,
While his fond mother climbs the hoary rock
Whose point o’er-hangs the main. No Luco there,
No sound, save the hoarse billows. On she roves,
With love, fear, hope, holding alternate rage
In her too anxious bosom. Dreary main!
Thy murmurs now are riot, while she stands
List’ning to ev’ry breeze, waiting the step
Of gentle Luco. Ah, return! return!
Too hapless mother, thy indulgent arms
Shall never clasp thy fetter’d Luco more.
See Incilanda! artless maid, my soul
Keeps pace with thee, and mourns. Now o’er the hill
She creeps, with timid foot, while Sol embrowns
The bosom of the isle, to where she left
Her faithful lover: here the well-known cave,
By Nature form’d amid the rock, endears
The image of her Luco; here his pipe,
Form’d of the polish’d cane, neglected lies,
No more to vibrate; here the useless dart,
The twanging bow, and the fierce panther’s skin,
Salute the virgin’s eye. But where is Luco?
He comes not down the steep, tho’ he had vow’d,
When the sun’s beams at noon should sidelong gild
The cave’s wide entrance, he would swift descend
To bless his Incilanda. Ten pale moons
Had glided by, since to his generous breast
He clasp’d the tender maid, and whisper’d love.

Oh, mutual sentiment! thou dang’rous bliss!
So exquisite, that Heav’n had been unjust
Had it bestowd less exquisite of ill;
When thou art held no more, thy pangs are deep,
Thy joys convulsive to the soul; yet all
Are meant to smooth th’uneven road of life.
For Incilanda, Luco rang’d the wild,
Holding her image to his panting heart;
For her he strain’d the bow, for her he stript
The bird of beauteous plumage; happy hour,
When with these guiltless trophies he adorn’d
The brow of her he lov’d. Her gentle breast
With gratitude was fill’d, nor knew she aught
Of language strong enough to paint her soul,
Or ease the great emotion; whilst her eye
Pursued the gen’rous Luco to the field,
And glow’d with rapture at his wish’d return.
Ah, sweet suspense! betwixt the mingled cares
Of friendship, love, and gratitude, so mix’d,
That ev’n the soul may cheat herself.-Down, down,
Intruding Memory! bid thy struggles cease,
At this soft scene of innate war. What sounds
Break on her ear? She, starting, whispers “Luco.”
Be still, fond maid; list to the tardy step
Of leaden-footed woe. A father comes,
But not to seek his son, who from the deck
Had breath’d a last adieu: no, he shuts out
The soft, fallacious gleam of hope, and turns
Within upon the mind: horrid and dark
Are his wild, unenlighten’d pow’rs: no ray
Of forc’d philosophy to calm his soul,
But all the anarchy of wounded nature.
Now he arraigns his country’s gods, who sit,
In his bright fancy, far beyond the hills,
Unriveting the chains of slaves: his heart
Beats quick with stubborn fury, while he doubts
Their justice to his child. Weeping old man,
Hate not a Christian’s God, whose record holds
Thine injured Luco’s name. Frighted he starts,
Blasphemes the Deity, whose altars rise
Upon the Indian’s helpless neck, and sinks,
Despising comfort, till by grief and age
His angry spirit is forced out. Oh, guide,
Ye angel-forms, this joyless shade to worlds
Where the poor Indian, with the sage, is prov’d
The work of a Creator. Pause not here,
Distracted maid! ah, leave the breathless form,
On whose cold cheek thy tears so swiftly fall,
Too unavailing! On this stone, she cries,
My Luco sat, and to the wand’ring stars
Pointed my eye, while from his gentle tongue
Fell old traditions of his country’s woe.
Where now shall Incilanda seek him? Hence,
Defenceless mourner, ere the dreary night
Wrap thee in added horror. Oh, Despair,
How eagerly thou rend’st the heart! She pines
In anguish deep, and sullen: Luco’s form
Pursues her, lives in restless thought, and chides
Soft consolation. Banish’d from his arms,
She seeks the cold embrace of death; her soul
Escapes in one sad sigh. Too hapless maid!
Yet happier far than he thou lov’dst; his tear,
His sigh, his groan avail not, for they plead
Most weakly with a Christian. Sink, thou wretch,
Whose act shall on the cheek of Albion’s sons
Throw Shame’s red blush: thou, who hast frighted far
Those simple wretches from thy God, and taught
Their erring minds to mourn his[1] partial love,
Profusely pour’d on thee, while they are left
Neglected to thy mercy. Thus deceiv’d,
How doubly dark must be their road to death!
Luco is borne around the neighb’ring isles,
Losing the knowledge of his native shore
Amid the pathless wave; destin’d to plant
The sweet luxuriant cane. He strives to please,
Nor once complains, but greatly smothers grief.
His hands are blister’d, and his feet are worn,
Till ev’ry stroke dealt by his mattock gives
Keen agony to life; while from his breast
The sigh arises, burthen’d with the name
Of Incilanda. Time inures the youth,
His limbs grow nervous, strain’d by willing toil;
And resignation, or a calm despair,
(Most useful either) lulls him to repose.
A Christian renegade, that from his soul
Abjures the tenets of our schools, nor dreads
A future punishment, nor hopes for mercy,
Had fled from England, to avoid those laws
Which must have made his life a retribution
To violated justice, and had gain’d,
By fawning guile, the confidence (ill placed)
Of Luco’s master. O’er the slave he stands
With knotted whip, lest fainting nature shun
The task too arduous, while his cruel soul,
Unnat’ral, ever feeds, with gross delight,
Upon his suff rings. Many slaves there were,
But none who could supress the sigh, and bend,
So quietly as Luco: long he bore
The stripes, that from his manly bosom drew
The sanguine stream (too little priz’d); at length
Hope fled his soul, giving her struggles o’er
And he resolv’d to die. The sun had reach’d
His zenith—pausing faintly, Luco stood,
Leaning upon his hoe, while mem’ry brought,
In piteous imag’ry, his aged father,
His poor fond mother, and his faithful maid:
The mental group in wildest motion set
Fruitless imagination; fury, grief,
Alternate shame, the sense of insult, all
Conspire to aid the inward storm; yet words
Were no relief, he stood in silent woe.
Gorgon, remorseless Christian, saw the slave
Stand musing, ‘mid the ranks, and, stealing soft
Behind the studious Luco, struck his cheek
With a too-heavy whip, that reach’d his eye,
Making it dark for ever. Luco turn’d,
In strongest agony, and with his hoe
Struck the rude Christian on the forehead. Pride,
With hateful malice, seize on Gorgon’s soul,
By nature fierce; while Luco sought the beach,
And plung’d beneath the wave; but near him lay
A planter’s barge, whose seamen grasp’d his hair
Dragging to life a wretch who wish’d to die.
Rumour now spreads the tale, while Gorgon’s breath
Envenom’d, aids her blast: imputed crimes
Oppose the plea of Luco, till he scorns
Even a just defence, and stands prepared.
The planters, conscious that to fear alone
They owe their cruel pow’r, resolve to blend
New torment with the pangs of death, and hold
Their victims high in dreadful view, to fright
The wretched number left. Luco is chain’d
To a huge tree, his fellow-slaves are ranged
To share the horrid sight; fuel is plac’d
In an increasing train, some paces back,
To kindle slowly, and approach the youth,
With more than native terror. See, it burns!
He gazes on the growing flame, and calls
For “water, water!” The small boon’s deny’d.
E’en Christians throng each other, to behold
The different alterations of his face,
As the hot death approaches. (Oh, shame, shame
Upon the followers of Jesus! shame
On him that dares avow a God!) He writhes,
While down his breast glide the unpity’d tears,
And in their sockets strain their scorched balls.
“Burn, burn me quick! I cannot die!” he cries:
“Bring fire more close!” The planters heed him not,
But still prolonging Luco’s torture, threat
Their trembling slaves around. His lips are dry,
His senses seem to quiver, e’er they quit
His frame for ever, rallying strong, then driv’n
From the tremendous conflict. Sight no more
Is Luco’s, his parch’d tongue is ever mute;
Yet in his soul his Incilanda stays,
Till both escape together. Turn, my muse,
From this sad scene; lead Bristol’s milder soul
To where the solitary spirit roves,
Wrapt in the robe of innocence, to shades
Where pity breathing in the gale, dissolves
The mind, when fancy paints such real woe.
Now speak, ye Christians (who for gain enslave
A soul like Luco’s, tearing her from joy
In life’s short vale; and if there be a hell,
As ye believe, to that ye thrust her down,
A blind, involuntary victim), where
Is your true essence of religion? where
Your proofs of righteousness, when ye conceal
The knowledge of the Deity from those
Who would adore him fervently?
Your God Ye rob of worshippers, his altars keep
Unhail’d, while driving from the sacred font
The eager slave, lest he should hope in Jesus
Is this your piety? Are these your laws,
Whereby the glory of the Godhead spreads
O’er barb’rous climes? Ye hypocrites, disown
The Christian name, nor shame its cause: yet where
Shall souls like yours find welcome? Would the Turk,
Pagan, or wildest Arab, ope their arms
To gain such proselytes? No; he that owns
The name of[2] Mussulman would start, and shun
Your worse than serpent touch; he frees his slave
Who turns to Mahomet. The[3] Spaniard stands
Your brighter contrast; he condemns the youth
For ever to the mine; but ere the wretch
Sinks to the deep domain, the hand of Faith
Bathes his faint temples in the sacred stream,
Bidding his spirit hope. Briton, dost thou
Act up to this? If so, bring on thy slaves
To Calv’ry’s mount, raise high their kindred souls
To him who died to save them: this alone
Will teach them calmly to obey thy rage,
And deem a life of misery but a day,
To long eternity. Ah, think how soon
Thine head shall on earth’s dreary pillow lie,
With thy poor slaves, each silent, and unknown
To his once furious neighbour. Think how swift
The sands of time ebb out, for him and thee.
Why groans that Indian youth, in burning chains
Suspended o’er the beach? The lab’ring sun
Strikes from his full meridian on the slave
Whose arms are blister’d by the heated iron,
Which still corroding, seeks the bone. What crime
Merits so dire a death? [4]Another gasps
With strongest agony, while life declines
From recent amputation. Gracious God!
Why thus in mercy let thy whirlwinds sleep
O’er a vile race of Christians, who profane
Thy glorious attributes? Sweep them from earth,
Or check their cruel pow’r: the savage tribes
Are angels when compared to brutes like these.

Advance, ye Christians, and oppose my strain:
Who dares condemn it? Prove from laws divine,
From deep philosophy, or social love,
That ye derive your privilege. I scorn
The cry of Av’rice, or the trade that drains
A fellow-creature’s blood: bid Commerce plead
Her publick good, her nation’s many wants,
Her sons thrown idly on the beach, forbade
To seize the image of their God and sell it:-
I’ll hear her voice, and Virtue’s hundred tongues
Shall sound against her. Hath our public good
Fell rapine for its basis? Must our wants
Find their supply in murder? Shall the sons
Of Commerce shiv’ring stand, if not employ’d
Worse than the midnight robber? Curses fall
On the destructive system that shall need
Such base supports! Doth England need them? No;
Her laws, with prudence, hang the meagre thief
That from his neighbour steals a slender sum,
Tho’ famine drove him on. O’er him the priest,
Beneath the fatal tree, laments the crime,
Approves the law, and bids him calmly die.
Say, doth this law, that dooms the thief, protect
The wretch who makes another’s life his prey,
By hellish force to take it at his will?
Is this an English law, whose guidance fails
When crimes are swell’d to magnitude so vast,
That Justice dare not scan them? Or does Law
Bid Justice an eternal distance keep
From England’s great tribunal, when the slave
Calls loud on Justice only? Speak, ye few
Who fill Britannia’s senate, and are deem’d
The fathers of your country! Boast your laws,
Defend the honour of a land so fall’n,
That Fame from ev’ry battlement is flown,
And Heathens start, e’en at a Christian’s name.

Hail, social love! true soul of order, hail!
Thy softest emanations, pity, grief,
Lively emotion, sudden joy, and pangs,
Too. deep for language, are thy own: then rise,
Thou gentle angel! spread thy silken wings
O’er drowsy man, breathe in his soul, and give
Her God-like pow’rs thy animating force,
To banish Inhumanity. Oh, loose
The fetters of his mind, enlarge his views,
Break down for him the bound of avarice, lift
His feeble faculties beyond a world
To which he soon must prove a stranger! Spread
Before his ravish’d eye the varied tints
Of future glory; bid them live to Fame
Whose banners wave for ever. Thus inspired,
All that is great, and good, and sweetly mild,
Shall fill his noble bosom. He shall melt,
Yea, by thy sympathy unseen, shall feel
Another’s pang: for the lamenting maid
His heart shall heave a sigh; with the old slave
(Whose head is bent with sorrow) he shall cast
His eye back on the joys of youth, and say,
“Thou once couldst feel, as I do, love’s pure bliss;
“Parental fondness, and the dear returns
“Of filial tenderness were thine, till torn
“From the dissolving scene.”-Oh, social love,
Thou universal good, thou that canst fill
The vacuum of immensity, and live
In endless void! thou that in motion first
Set’st the long lazy atoms, by thy force
Quickly assimilating, and restrain’d
By strong attraction; touch the soul of man;
Subdue him; make a fellow-creature’s woe
His own by heart-felt sympathy, whilst wealth
Is made subservient to his soft disease.
And when thou hast to high perfection wrought
This mighty work, say,” such is Bristol’s soul.”



[1] Indians have been often heard to say,
in their complaining moments,
“God Almighty no love us well; he be good to
White man buckera; he bid buckera burn us;
he no burn buckera.

[2] The Turk gives freedom to his slave on condition that he embraces Mahometism..

[3] The Spaniard, immediately on purchasing an Indian, gives him baptism.

[4] A coromantin slave in Jamaica (who had frequently escaped to the mountains) was, a few years since, doomed to have his leg cut off. A young practitioner from England (after the surgeon of the estate had refused to be an executioner) undertook the operation, but after the removal of the limb, on the slave’s exclaiming, You buckera! God Almightly made dat leg; you cut it off! You put it on again? was so shocked, that the other surgeon was obliged to take up the vessals, apply the dressings, &c. The Negro suffered without a groan, called for his pipe, and calmly smoaked, till the absence of his attendant gave him an opportunity of tearing off his bandages, when he bled to death in an instant. Many will call this act of the Negro’s stubbornness; under such circumstances, I dare give it a more glorious epithet, and that is fortitude.

Full Colophon Information

Genre: Poetry
Subjects: slavery
Period: 1750-1800
Location: British America
Format: verse