Percival Stockdale, "Verses on the Abolition of the Slave Trade" (1804)







WHILE iron hearts of the commercial race,
Dead to the feelings of each moral grace,
To Afric's woes refuse the just relief;
Fell agents of their pandemonian chief;
Who fires his advocates; his chosen band;
Though legislators to a Christian land:
See heaven-born genius noble thoughts display!
Illumined with it's GOD'S paternal ray!
His favourite sons, harmonious with His mind;
Destined to govern, and protect mankind;
The cause of freedom ardently maintain;
Crush, o'er the Atlantic, Satan's ruthless reign;
The truly great are ever the humane.
   Born to be free, brave children of the sun!
White cruelty, at length, it's course hath run.
For you I oft have poured the plaintive strain;
When oft I felt, for your, transmitted pain.
*"Let Afric, and her hundred throunes rejoice!"
Let Christians join their warm applauding voice!
If selfish, vulgar tyrants urge their plan;
The slow, deliberate murderers of man;
Debase GOD'S image in the human soul;
And sink it with their dark, and dire controul;
Ethereal minds diffuse their cheering light,
And quell the demons of eternal night;
Like Sol, to bless the universe, they shine;
Bright emanations of the POWER DIVINE!

  Lesbury, June 13th, 1804.


 *  A line from that glorious tragedy, the Revenge.

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Notes on the poem

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Percival Stockdale (1736-1811) was born at Braxton, Northumberland. He was the only child of Thomas Stockdale and Dorothy Collingwood. Stockdale was an avid intellectual whose education led him to become well acquainted with Greek and Latin classics, nurturing his taste for poetry. After the death of his father financial distress led him to accept the offer of a lieutenancy in the royal Welsh fusiliers. Stockdale was based out of Gibralter in 1756. He was forced to leave his position due to ill health in 1757. After his time as a lieutenant Stockdale became an ordained deacon in 1759. Starting as a deacon and later taking priest's orders put Stockdale in a good position to extensively explore the world of literature through reading and writing, bringing him into touch with leading intellectuals and poets as well. Stockdale was an avidly outspoken reformist. Over the course of his life he witnessed and participated in the great political struggle over slavery and slave trading. Stockdale's "Verses on the abolition of the slave trade" was written in 1804, three years before the bill abolishing the slave trade was finally passed. We find multiple other examples of Stockdale's avid thoughts of the politics of the late 18th cenury and early 19th century. Stockdale wrote a Letter to Granville Sharp, suggested by the present Insurrection of the Negros in the Island of St. Domingo in 1791. He also published Observations on the Writings and Conduct of our present Political and Religious Reformers in 1792. Stockdale's aggressive poetry, prose and letters, are distinctive examples of his anti-slavery mindset. Stockdale died in Lesbury on September 14, 1811.
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Bibliographical note

Stockdale, Percival, "Verses on the Abolition of the Slave Trade," The Poetical Works of Percival Stockdale (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme; and W. Clarke, 1810), vol. 2, pp. 325-326.
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This hypertext was created on November 15, 1999, by Sara Hart.