by Frank R. Shaw, FSA Scot, Dawsonville, GA, USA
Robert Burns has always been a
good topic to write about as thousands of people can attest to having done
so in the form of books or articles, not to mention the tons of annual
speeches during Burns Night Suppers each January. Lately there has been much
interest in Burns and slavery. A presentation entitled Robert Burns and
Slavery: The Dumfries and Galloway Context was presented in the spring of
2009 at the University of South Carolina by Lizanne Henderson of the
University of Glasgow Dumfries Campus. In the fascinating book, Fickle
Man, edited by Johnny Rodger and Gerry Carruthers (see review on
Robert Burns Lives! at
there is an excellent chapter on Burns and slavery by Carruthers. Also on
Robert Burns Lives! (http://www.electricscotland.com/familytree/frank/burns_lives55.htm)
is an additional piece by Carruthers on the subject. Others I am aware of
having written on the topic include noted Burns professors Corey Andrews and
Early in his young life Burns
had contemplated fleeing Scotland for the islands and working for a
slave-operated plantation. Cant imagine him being part of an operation like
that but a desperate man will sometimes contemplate doing things he never
would have under normal circumstances. Even though Burns booked passage for
his trip on several boats, I do not believe his heart was in it and the
ships left without him. Publishing Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish
Dialect had a lot to do with his decision to remain in Scotland because,
for the first time, he had money in his pocket. For a man in his position,
it was a quite a lot of money. Jamaica and the West Indies lost out on Burns
and the world gained one of its better poets for athat!
Below is an article by one of
our favorite contributors, Clark McGinn. It is intriguing and does not lack
proper documentation. Clark is one of the best two or three speakers on the
Burns circuit worldwide and a Burns scholar if there ever was one! I would
be glad to have articles on this topic by others to share with our readers,
so please send them for inclusion on Robert Burns Lives! or simply
share your thoughts on Burns and slavery with us through the email address
above. (FRS: 7.22.10)
BURNS AND SLAVERY
By CLARK McGINN
Burns has also been described as a poet of the poor, an
advocate of social and political change, and an opponent of slavery,
pomposity and greed.
UN Secretary General
Robert Burns, Scotland's
national poet, is loved the world over as the bard of freedom, liberty and
the common good of humankind. So in this, the run up to the 200th
anniversary of the abolition of slavery, it comes as a great shock to many
that he once accepted a job to help manage a slave plantation in the West
Indies. What is the real story here how could our
Burns, the people's poet, look to become an instrument in what many now call
'The Black Holocaust'?
Burns's life had many turns of
fate and in many ways, the year 1786 saw him at the lowest of them.
Financially, he faced ruin as a combination of his father's death and the
poor soil on the farm he worked with his brother had reduced them to near
starvation. His love life was even more troubled. He had been nearly married
to his first love Jean (to the horror of her parents and the Kirk) but they
had agreed to separate (without knowing that Jean was pregnant with twins);
then Robert had fallen in love with another girl, whom we now call 'Highland
Mary' who died suddenly while waiting for him to come to her. Jean's
vindictive father sought court proceedings to arrest Robert and force him to
support his illegitimate child so, like a fox with the hounds snapping at
his heels, the poet needed to escape.
Patrick Douglas of Garallan was a local doctor
and friend of Burns with investments in an estate in Jamaica. This made him
wealthy through the sugar which was so much in demand in Scotland (We still
retain a sweet tooth today!). His brother was the resident manager and had a
vacancy on the small white staff of overseers. Burns accepted the position,
although some friends worried about his health in the climate, and he
planned his emigration from the woes around him.
But the fact that hurts is that, like all West
Indian plantations, the Douglas enterprise was firmly built on black slave
History intervened though as, in a last defiance
of his enemies, he published his Poems to instant acclaim and Robert turned
from the ports towards the City of Edinburgh, fame and marriage with Jean.
But the worry remains: our poet had voluntarily contracted to become a
manager of enslaved human beings does this harm our view of him?
Part One: Robert Burns: Face to face with
Since 2007 a number of writers sought to explore
his attitudes to, and engagement with, what Burns had called the infernal
Black slavery and its abolition is hardly touched on in his lettersiv
and is the subject of only one relatively weak poem (The Slaves Lamentv)
and this near silence raises questions about whether the poet who was famed
for his humanity failed to register the human cost of chattel slavery.
In fact Burnss attitude to the slave question
has been a point of concern for many years. The great abolitionist Reverend
Henry Beecher Wardvi
summed up this conflict in his Immortal Memory for the Burns Club of New
York in 1859:
Persecution hung over him; his farming labours
were disastrous, and he determined as the last resort of a broken-down and
discouraged man, to go to Jamaica as the overseer of a plantation. I think I
see Robert Burns on a plantation, with a whip under his arm. I think I see
Robert Burns following a gang of slaves, and chanting A mans a man for a
that. Poor Burns was in a very bad way, but he was not as bad as that.vii
Could it simply be that Burns failed to engage
or understand the plight of Black slaves in 1786 because he had never met a
Black person? As Gerry Carruthers rightly says, while Ayrshire made good
money out of the slave economy: Scotland had no such notorious port as
Liverpool or Bristol where African slaves
were chained in the most
Thats not to say that slaves were invisible to Ayrshire sensibilities. At
the time RB considered throwing over Scotland and seeking a new life in the
Caribbean (until making his fortune would hopefully allow his return),
Ayrshires society included a number of rich West Indian plantocrats who had
followed that exact career. These men had made fortunes overseas by
exploiting slaves and returned to a prominent place in the countys social
hierarchy, bringing back Black servants to their Scottish households during
the lifetime of Burns. Fictionally this trend was caricatured in Galts Annals
Of The Parish where Mr Cayenne arrives at Dalmailing in 1785 with his
Blackamoor servant (jarringly called Sambo) in towix.
The most famous real example at this period in
Ayrshire is the Black freedman Scipio Kennedy. He was a Guinea slavex
who came to the Kennedy family as part of the dowry brought by a slave
captains daughter when she married into one of Ayrshires oldest and
richest dynasties. Scipio was freed in 1725, but voluntarilyxi
indentured himself to serve the family at Culzean. He was a well known part
of Kirkoswald life: Kirkoswald Kirk saw him christened and worship, here he
was censured for fornication, marriedxii
and ultimately he was buried in the churchyard in June 1774, the year before
Burns came to study therexiii.
Scipios son Douglas and his five siblings still lived in the village for
some years after Scipios death and Burns may well have met them but must at
least certainly have seen them each Sunday in the Kirk where everyone in the
village gathered for Divine Service.
Nearby lived Mungo Smith of Drongan (albeit he
was an East Indies nabob rather than West Indies plantocrat). He had the
reputation of being a forward-looking agricultural improver and an early
industrialist, notably employing Symington to build a steam engine to power
He is recorded on the tax returns as having kept a Black boy called Jack
Scott between 1777 and 1779xv.
Smith served as the master of Lodge Tarbolton (Kilwinning) St James in
1780-81 during its merger with its fellow lodge which was the year Burns
joined and subsequently Smith was a subscriber to the Edinburgh Edition, so
he too may well have met the poet though there is no record of RB ever
seeing Smiths servant Jack Scott.
The Hamilton family was powerful
in Jamaica and Ayrshire, with several estates on both sides of the Atlanticxvi.
The elder brother Robert was based at Bourtreehill near Irvine (we know
William Burness borrowed books from Hamiltons gardenerxvii)
and later he bought an estate in Ayr which he renamed Rozelle after one of
his Jamaican propertiesxviii.
His nephew, John Hamilton of Sundrum, was better known to the Burns family
as he acted as the oversman or arbitrator in the painful and protracted
legal dispute which William Burness fell into with his Lochlie landlord. The
connection was enhanced as Sundrum too was a founder member of Lodge St
James (passing the chair in 1777). There is an interesting tale about how
this old college friend and neighbour of James Boswellsxix
worked his estate:
In the village of Joppa on the
main road from Ayr to Cumnock there were at one time a number of Negroes
brought from the plantations in West Indies, belonging to John Hamilton of
Sundrum. They intermarried with the local inhabitants, and traces of Negro
in the hair and countenance could be observed for some generations.xx
Certainly, the Hamilton
connections with the Caribbean lasted for more than another century as
Sundrums son Colonel AW Hamilton of Pinmore acquired the Bellisle estate
(on the road between Ayr and Burns Cottage)xxi
and had a Black butler at the house from 1788; while as late as 1894 a Black
stonemason, who had been born on the Hamilton Jamaica plantations, died an
old man after a (free) working life at Sundrum. It is highly likely that
there were other transient servants seen in Ayrshire, whether accompanying
visiting Glasgow Tobacco Lords or on duty at the other plantocrat estates
in the county such as the Oswalds at Auchincruive.xxii
It was not just a county
phenomenon, one gentleman called Macadam had a Black servant resident in
Irvine who is recorded as having gone insane and had to be incarcerated in
the towns Tolbooth in 1785xxiii
(although that was after RBs unlucky sojourn there, but the fracas did make
the newspapers so again while there is no direct evidence, it is possible
that this newsworthy event came to Burnss attention).
So there were Black inhabitants
in Ayrshire at the time Burns was considering his Atlantic crossing. At the
very least, Burns would have been aware of these few people in his society,
albeit he may not have had direct meetings or relationships with any of
these early Black inhabitants of Scotland however; the concept of a Black
person could not have been totally alien to his experience in the county.
Of course, in 1786 many people
were directly or obliquely benefiting from the wealth of the sugar crop in
the West Indies and it would be wrong to underestimate the direct
involvement of Scots in operating the slave trade and in managing the slave
economy of the Caribbean with estimates that up to one third of the white
employees of Jamaica were from Scotlandxxiv.
Professor Geoff Palmer sums up the overall effect of the Scottish in
Jamaican history in a telling illustration:
I have a Jamaican telephone
directory and I would say that about 60% of the names in it are Scottish.xxv
So it was in the interest of
many not to have the slave-question openly discussed as many Scottish
fortunes were still being made on its back. This would be particularly
relevant for Robert in being a West Coast man. The economic foundation of
Glasgow was the riches of the families who farmed or had slaves to do it
for them the great Virginian tobacco fields and the booming sugar crop
after the American Revolution closed off the Virginia trade. These
entrepreneurs (whose names still grace the streets in Glasgow) created the
wealth that allowed a commercial rivalry to Edinburgh. The 'Tobacco Lords'
were astute and like the butcher who never shows how sausages are made, they
held quiet on the true human costs. Sad to say that many were or chose to
be fooled into accepting that pitiless proverb: 'You can't make an
omelette without breaking eggs'.
When Samuel Ringgold Ward, a
Black abolitionist, visited Scotland in 1853 he fearlessly admonished those
who glossed over the impact that fellow Scots had on the slave economy and
shocked his audience by showing them how traditional, clichéd Scottish
virtues could become inhuman vices in another context:
Scotchmen, in the West Indies,
became slaveholders. They were severely exacting and oppressive. It was just
like them to demand, and, if possible, to receive, the last 'baubee', from
the unpaid toil of their slaves. They required the exhibition of Scottish
energy from their bondmen; if they did not receive it, they were prepared to
exhibit Scotch energy in forcing it out of them. Instances of this sort are
to be remembered of many Scotch slaveholders (and, alas! by many Negroes,
who were their slaves) to this day. The record of them, and the names of
their perpetrators, would be the largest, Blackest roll and record of infamy
that ever disgraced the Scottish name or blighted Scottish character.xxvi
But that was seventy years after Burns was
contemplating flight in 1786 there was not yet a great movement in place to
force the many to face the realities of what Scots were doing to their
fellow men across the Atlantic. To make it easier, a salary of £30 a year
looked quite tempting compared to an average labouring wage of £23 or the
subsistence existence of a smallholder. Robert would have seen many lads
leave in similar straits, only to return after a decade: weathered brown in
skin, but golden in pocket.
While it is possible that Burns
had met Black people in Ayrshire in his youth so, if he was not unacquainted
with black people, was the poet unaware of what was actually happening on
the ground in the West Indies?
What did RB think about the
question of slavery when offered the job by the Douglases? While we cannot
read inside the plaster cast of his skull, we can look at a helpful analogy
of a young man of the time who went through almost exactly the same change
of life as Burns was planning in 1786 and who recorded his life changing
experiences for history.
Zachary Macaulay was the son of
the Manse in Inverary, born a few years after RB in 1768. He was known as a
bright lad with a love of reading and so his father sent him to work in a
counting house in Glasgow. Here his joy in books led him astray with the
students of the University and ended up in too many evenings fuelled by much
beer and increasingly open criticism of the Kirk. To straighten out his life
he agreed with his reverend father to cross the seas:
Towards the end of the year 1784 a circumstance
happened which gave a temporary suspension to my career, and led to a few
sober reflections. I then saw that the only way that remained to extricate
myself from the labyrinth in which I was involved was going abroad. I made
known my wish to my father, and it was determined that I should try my
fortunes in the East Indies.xxvii
A paternal friend suggested
Jamaica as a place of greater opportunities and so the sixteen year old boy
set off to the Caribbean, as many had done before and as RB would plan to do
two years later. On arrival he obtained the situation of under-manager or
book-keeper on a sugar plantation.xxviii
No doubt thinking of the kind of
tasks he had performed on the books back in Glasgow, he turned up to his new
post to be met with a radically different prospect of duty:
Here I entered upon a new mode of life which
waged war with all my tastes and feelings. My position was laborious,
irksome, and degrading, to a degree of which I could have formed no previous
conception, and which none can imagine fully who have not, like me,
experienced the vexatious, capricious, tyrannical, and pitiless conduct of a
Jamaica overseer. To this, however, I made it a point of honour to reconcile
my mind. Indeed I saw there was no medium for me, under the circumstances,
between doing so and starving.
However unpleasant this was Zachary was trapped
with no money for the passage home and no other way of sustaining himself,
so he took that unhappy compromise that many have done: adopting the option
of participating in the tyranny, but oiling his conscience by trying to be a
fair master and shelter the slaves from the worst excesses of his
brother slave drivers:
I therefore submitted with cheerfulness to all
the severe toil and painful watchings which were required of me. What
chiefly affected me at first was, that by my situation I was exposed not
only to the sight, but also to the practice of severities over others, the
very recollection of which makes my blood run cold. My mind was at first
feelingly alive to the miseries of the poor slaves, and I not only revolted
from the thought of myself inflicting punishment upon them, but the very
sight of punishment sickened me.xxx
Time, heat and moral compromise wore Zachary
down and soon he was adopting the cast of mind of the society around him. He
wrote to a Scottish friend in 1785:
But far other is now my lot, doomed by my own
folly to toil for a scanty subsistence in an inhospitable clime. The air of
this island must have some peculiar quality in it, for no sooner does a
person set foot on it than his former ways of thinking are entirely changed.
The contagion of an universal example must indeed have its effect. You would
hardly know your friend, with whom you have spent so many hours in more
peaceful and more pleasant scenes, were you to view me in a field of canes,
amidst perhaps a hundred of the sable race, cursing and bawling, while the
noise of the whip resounding on their shoulders, and the cries of the poor
wretches, would make you imagine that some unlucky accident had carried you
to the doleful shadesxxxi
Simply put, the industry based
on the slave trade was inhuman, so it was no surprise that the white
society built on it was brutalised too, no Jamaica bodies these as Burns
pictured them in his verses:
My outward conduct indeed, for a West Indian
planter, was sober and decorous, for I affected superiority to the grossly
vulgar manners and practices which disgrace almost every rank of men in the
West Indies, but my habits and dispositions were now fundamentally the same.
In these I was quite assimilated to my neighbours, and this is a part of my
life of which I scarce like either to speak or think. It was a period of
most degrading servitude to the worst of masters.xxxii
It may seem that neither Macaulay (nor Burns)
consciously or unconsciously thought about what they would meet at the end
of their Atlantic crossing truly planter society described by Zachary in
no way looks like the good Scots folk that Burns hoped would find a cozie
biel for a dainty chielxxxiii.
On top of the appalling social mores, there was, of course, a genuine risk
of death in service. And while Zachary and Burns were free contractors
rather than indentured men, their personal lot had serious risks:
Bookkeepers were not expected to marry, and were
often forbidden to do so, but were encouraged to take housekeepers from
amongst the slave women. They lived, as a rule, in comfortless barracks
exposed to the malarious influences so common around sugar works, and
totally devoid of the refinement most of them were accustomed to in
Scotland. The death registers of the colony indicate that 90 per cent. of
the young white men who went out as employees on estates succumbed to the
effects of imprudence and intemperate living. After the first shock of
contact they were able to lose the fine sense of moral responsibility
acquired in their Scottish homes, and were tempted to spend their scanty
leisure time in low debauchery.xxxiv
In time, though, Zachary got a get out of jail
free card. After a serious bout of illness renewed his Christian
introspection, his uncle in London wrote offering a free passage home and
place of work. Macaulay jumped at the chance and returned to England in
1789, but did not leave the thick cloud of evilsxxxv
behind. He settled in Clapham and joined its famous evangelical sect where
he met Wilberforce and became one of the leaders of the abolition movement.
Today, his monument sits yards away from RBs in Westminster Abbey.
When Burns was considering fleeing Scotland for
Jamaica, he had set out with the aim of realising enough cash from his poems
to pay his passage out, in fact the financial success allowed him to stay in
Scotland and not meet the hard truths faced by Macaulay. Zacharys
experience is a fair representation of what Robert would have known ahead of
leaving and what he would have found life as a poor negro driverxxxvi
had he arrived. There was not yet a widespread debate about, let alone a
broad condemnation of, slavery, and the harsh truths were likely to have
been understated or hidden from the folks at home. A young man, be it Robert
or Zachary, was unlikely to have an appreciation of the cruelty underlying
every part of the slave economy. Macaulays journey (physical, mental and
moral) seems a good tool to use to interpret Burnss mindset in 1786.
Neither had a vision or comprehension of the Kurtz horrors they would
starkly face across the sea.
While his negotiation of a
contract with the Douglas brothers does not look like a wilful decision to
share in the spoils of a corrupt and immoral institution, however, the
simple fact that Burns looked to become one of the overseer or factor class
does reflect poorly on him but that is not sufficient to condemn his
decision thankfully never completed to leave Ayrshire for Jamaica in
that Summer of 1786.
Part Two: Other Voices, Other Evidence the
I love Burns, but he was no saint (that's both a
compliment and a criticism). He is a mix of passion and pragmatism and in
June 1786 he was in a right hard fix. Without reading his mind, did he see
oppression and poverty in Scotland in a similar light to the oppression of
In the forum of public debate,
1786 was before what Iain Whyte calls the mobilisation of public support
through the pulpits between 1788 and 1792
. The Knight case had been through the Court of Session in 1776 and that
must have stirred memories of the Montgomery case just before RBs birth
which involved an Ayrshire master and his runaway slavexxxviii.
So while a young man like Burns may have seen or met Black people in
Ayrshire it is hard to imagine that he would be any wiser than young Zachary
Young Burns does not seem to see
slavery as an issue at all. Certainly when Burns was hurling invective at
the late Mrs Oswald, the daughter of one of Jamaicas wealthiest slave
owners and the widow of Ayrshires most successful slave trader, in early
the insults are clearly about her wealth, not its roots in slavery.
Similarly, in The Mauchline Wedding (written in 1785) Burns teases
an old flame whose brother married a local girl on the strength of the
bequest of £500 in Jamaica sillerxl
left to her by a brother who met his death working the plantations. Again,
we see no attack on the source of the fortune, only its effect.
Philosophers and writers schooled by Francis
Hutcheson of Glasgow University had expressed genuine concern about the
ethics of slavery and we know RB read and studied Adam Smiths
Theory of Moral Sentimentsxli,
which has a brief attack on slavery, couched in terms of the polity of
ancient Greek states who were:
involved in the most sanguinary
wars in which each sought
either completely to extirpate all his enemies
or, what was not less cruel, to reduce them to the vilest of all states,
that of domestic slavery, and to sell them , man, woman and child like so
many herd of cattle , to the highest bidder in the market.
This passage may have stuck in
RBs mind in 1786 when he alluded to emigration (to escape the consequences
of his sport or fornication) in The Epistle to John Rankin:
Lord, Ise hae sporting by an
For my gowd guinea,
Tho I should herd the buckskin kye
Fort in Virginia.xliii
There is a good argument that
you can read this poem as revealing that Burns had more awareness of what a
role in the New World meant for a young white bookkeeper: for the cattle (kye)
those buckskin-clad planters were herding were likely to be Black human
cattle, a periphrasis often used in describing slaves in reports and
inventories, echoing the Smith quote above. In another poem of that period,
RB now seems clumsy in his use of the word niger (sic) in The
(at least to our ears) but even the use of the word in this poem satirising
the rivalries in Biblical interpretation is not a direct reference to Black
On balance, it looks more as if
he failed to differentiate between the fates of Black slaves and the
grinding lot of the poor peasantry of Scotland with whom he was intimately
This is clearly seen in the
autobiographical letter to Dr Moorexlvi
where he described his own life on the farm as the unceasing moil of a
galley slave then unselfconsciously only a few lines later lamented his
future as a poor Negro driver. This failure of understanding may have been
caused by thought of how his own life could change if he was obliged to
become an indentured servant. Burns mentions that possibility in this
letter, as he briefly considered this form of fixed term bondsmanship as a
method of raising the money for his passage if his master was unwilling to
pay his fare. Indentured service was not uncommon in Scotland or the
American colonies and shares aspects of servitude if not formal slavery. It
looks as if Burns did not differentiate between this form of employment and
the extremity of chattel slavery.
The most extreme form of
indentured bondage covered workmen in Scotlands salt and coal industries,
who despite ameliorative legislation in 1775, still suffered near slavery.
White working families in Ayrshire such as the salters around Saltcoats and
Kilburnie and those employed at the growing collieries (such as Smiths at
Drongan) were bound for life (with their wives and children too) to the
workings of pan and pit until the law freed them finally in 1798.
Interestingly, Burns makes no comment in poem or letters about the plight of
this class of poor humanity either. Were they too out of his sight? When he
visits the lead mines at Wanlockheadxlvii
with Maria Riddell, neither of them takes issue with the hard life the
skilled lead miners face (although free of servitude and highly paid, it was
still hard and dangerous work); nor when he unsuccessfully tried to visit
the huge Carron Works (Scotlands largest industrial complex of the time) is
there any exhibition of concern for the condition of the workforce. At this
level, Burns seems to have an undifferentiated view of the poor working
class that all poor workers share in this galley slavery regardless of
colour, legal form of service or location.xlviii
Turning from the young Burns of 1786 to the
older Burns in Dumfries (not that he was that much older). After 1788 the
question of abolishing the Black slave trade was common talk and debate was
taken up across Scotland, with notable contributions from Ayrshire and
Dumfries, including many people whom Burns knew wellxlix.
So later in Burnss life, we do see some involvement in the issues of
slavery and abolition through a single poem: The Slaves Lament
composed in 1792. Despite being championed by Maya Angelou, who has
described Burns as a slave himself, Gerry Carruthers is right when he says
it is hardly the strongest exhibition of sentiment in the Burns canonl
while Ian Whyte labels it whimsicalli;
the very interesting point is that Burns writes of a Senegalese slave
destined for Virginia, not the West Indies. Was Jamaica just too close to
home in terms of RBs history or was it easier to avoid the Scottish
question and to criticise the Southern States of the now independent USA
whose direct links with Glasgow had diminished?
This and one letter are all Burnss extant
writings on the subject. Nigel Leaskliiand
E Cory Andrewsliii
have both discussed Helen Maria Williamss abolitionist poem which she sent
to RB for criticism and advice. The thrust of Burnss reply to the poetess
shows a heavier involvement in the critique of her poem rather than a
discussion of its issues (the infernal traffic as he called it), which
adds to the charge of disengagement; it is important to stress that when
Burns does mention the real effects of slavery he is supportively
abolitionist setting the contrast between The unfeeling selfishness of the
oppressor on the one hand and the misery of the captive on the other.liv
However, while there is no doubt that he is on Williamss side of the
argument, his letter is no polemic.
The only other direct reference that I can find
is where Clarinda mentioned that she was reading The Letters of the late
Ignatius Sancho, an African
Sancho was the first Black man to vote in a British election and was an
early l embodiment of the abolitionist cause. The publication of his
collected correspondence two years after his death in 1780 allowed wider
debate and discussion of the slavery question. Nancy wrote asking:
Did you ever read Sancho's Letters? They would
hit your taste.lvi
If Sylvander talked to Clarinda about her choice
of reading on slavery, there is no reply in the letters. Once again, a
direct question about our interface with Black slaves seems to go
unanswered. Again, RB made no constructive engagement that we can see.
In fact, if you compare Helen Maria Williamss
outlook on the African question with RBs (taken from his 1796 Versicles
to Jessy Lewars), you see a disappointing superficiality. For Williams,
the children of Afric are condemned to being objects in the production
line of slavery, for Burns they remain savages as part of the menagerielvii.
Alas! To AFRICs fetterd race
Creation wears no form of grace!
To them earths pleasant values are found
A blasted waste, a sterile bound;
Where the poor wandrer must sustain
The load of unremitted pain.lviii
Talk not to me of savages,
From Africs burning sun;
No savage eer could rend my heart,
As Jessie, thou hast done.lix
Burns's slowly growing awareness echoes the
development of thought in Scotland arguing for Abolition. The arguments were
strong, as some of us can understand from watching the apartheid regime
collapse slowly, and that growing conviction would have been an influence on
In terms of the active debate, Burns would have
seen the slave-owners championed by people that he despised: from Richard
Oswald who bought the estate of Auchencruive near Robert's farm in Ayrshire
from his profits as one of the few active Scots slave traders, to the
noxious James Maclehose (the feckless husband of 'Clarinda', his great
Edinburgh love) all people whom Burns reviled.
On the side of emancipation stood 'Dalrymple
mild' of Ayr Auld Kirk who had baptised the infant Robert Burns, in 1759,
William Robertson and Hugh Blair in whose Edinburgh salons he was lionised
and even that hard businessman Creech, the publisher of Burns's later
editions. We know which people Burns would side with in this argument.
The real concern that many have debated recently
is the poetic use that RB makes of the very word slave and in particular
the famous use of coward slave in A Mans A Man. Slave is a common
thematic word in Burnss poetry: think of Scots Wa Hae which warns of
a base slave and a coward's grave as the alternative to national and
personal liberty. While many references (particularly in the letters) to
slave are entirely figurative, there is a pattern of linkage between
cowardice and slavery found in several poems creating a consistent
His poem Poorith Cauld has this verse:
The warld's wealth, when I think on
Its pride and a' the lave o't;
O fie on silly coward man,
That he should be the slave o't.
The Song Of Death taunts Death to 'Go
frighten the coward and the slave'lxi
while warning him that he has no terrors for the brave man, while
MacPhersons Rant compares a coward with someone who'd dare to dielxii.
This shows a clear trend that supports the concept of a coward slave as a
common trope in Burnss work.
What did he mean by coward slave? Was he
belittling the victims of chattel slavery in writing this? On the one hand,
as Andrew Lindsay describes it: The use of the word [coward] implies an
element of complicity and cowardly acquiescence and may have nothing to do
with the contemporary trade in captured Africanslxiii,
in effect saying that all modes and manners of men may be virtual or actual
cowards and slaves economically or philosophically. While this is an
appealing line of argument, Gerry Carruthers sums up the concern trenchantly
in saying: to use this metaphor at a time of real, appalling actual slavery
is rather insensitive.
This engendered quite a heated debate on the two
Burns discussion boards, with advocates looking to reread coward as
cowered/ cowrd or perhaps cowed to avoid the juxtaposition which
seems harsh to the liberal ear of an essential linkage between the state of
slavery and the condemnation of cowardice . How could Burns describe slaves
in the period of abolition debate as being cowards? Again, we cannot see his
intentions, but we can see their outcome. Was his use of slave offensive,
unhelpful or unthinking? Does it show that he failed to stand against
slavery by implying that chattel slaves were cowardly or lesser people, who
in some way acquiesced in the peculiar institution?
Even though by this stage in Burnss life, there
was an open debate for and against abolition, he seems unwilling or
incapable of classifying Black chattel slavery as a totally different form
of mans inhumanity to man. Zachary Macaulays contemporary experience,
where he set off in ignorance of what he would find in Jamaica was balanced
by a recognition of its horror and the need to destroy the institution of
slavery. Staying at home, Burns was sympathetic to the call but remained
unengaged on the specifics. Of course, he died too soon to see the climax of
the debate and the first 1807 landmark Act and had he lived we might have
seen his interest and understanding grow in line with the wider
understanding of what needed to be done.
Unfortunately the few elements we have left in
his writings do not give a sense of strong commitment to the specifics of
slavery, but draw us to the conclusion that RB saw mans inhumanity to man
as present in all forms of human society, not realising the fundamental
differences between economic poverty in the agricultural poor and the
cruelty within the legal code which transformed Black people into objects
owned for life or death by a white master.
Part Three: A Mans A Man For A That:
Burns And The Abolition Of Slavery In The US.
So in his youth (for understandable reasons on
balance) and in his later life (surprisingly), Robert Burns seems to have
had little engagement with the growing movement to secure freedom for Black
It is going too far, however, to accuse Burns of
being part of the problem as has been posited by some who suggest that the
regular use of the words coward and slave and their linkage in his poems
must lead to a belief that Burns felt that all slaves were in some way
complicit with their masters and therefore cowards who did not merit the
freemans concern. When debating the coward slave question it is very
helpful to look at the effect of Burnss poetry after his death: the use
made of it by the Abolition movement in the USA is particularly
Mark Twain said that the American Civil War was
a fight between Sir Walter Scott and Robert Burns (a tad harsh as both Union
President Abraham Lincoln and also Confederate President Jefferson Davis
were devoted Burnsian scholars) but certainly the abolition movement took to
Burns as a source of hope thirty years before Fort Sumpter. Early Black
leaders in the American abolition movement looked to Burns and his poems for
inspiration such as Dr James McCune Smithlxv,
an American who as the first Black medical student at Glasgow University
became the first Black American physician, was known as a man of letters
and was a quoter of RB in his abolitionist speeches:
When Dr. James M'Cune Smith returned from
[Glasgow], in 1837, at whose University he had drank deep of the Pierian
stream of classic literature, the colored citizens of his native New York
tendered him a public welcome. Ransom F. Wake, in their behalf,
congratulated him on having passed five years in a land where a man's a
man, without regard to his complexion.lxvi
The leader in quoting Burns as inspiration for
emancipation was Frederick Douglass who was a co-founder of with McCune
Smith of the National Council of Colored People. This man, the extraordinary
slave orator, was introduced to the poetry of Burns by the New Bedford
abolitionist, Nathan Johnston. It was Johnson who received the fugitive
slave after his escape to the North and who in his love for Walter Scott,
suggested Frederick change his surname to Douglass after the Bruces good
Sir James, or Black Douglas.
The first book, however, Frederick bought after
fleeing the South was a copy of Burnss poems. It is a copy of the one
volume 1833 Philadelphia edition and became his talisman. The volume can be
seen today in the University of Rochester Library.
It bears these inscriptions in Douglasss
To Lewis H. Douglass from his affectionate
Oct. 15, 1867
This book was the first bought by me after my
escape from slavery. I have owned it for thirty one years and now give it to
my son as a keepsake. F. D.lxvii
Burnss poems with their love of liberty
expressed by an ordinary man captured Douglass and he read more about the
poet and his life, culminating in a visit to Burns Cottage in 1846. After
speaking at an abolitionist rally in Ayrs Cathcart Church, he spent the
afternoon with Isabella Burns Begg (the 80 year old sister of RB) and he
wrote feelingly about Burns afterwards to the New York Tribune. He
used this open letter to make a thinly coded attack on contemporary slave
owning society in the States:
I have ever esteemed Robert Burns a true soul
Burns lived in the midst of a bigoted and besotted clergy - a pious, but
corrupt generation - a proud, ambitious, and contemptuous aristocracy, who,
esteemed a little more than a man, and looked upon the plowman, such as was
the noble Burns, as being little better than a brute. He became disgusted
with the pious frauds, indignant at the bigotry, filled with contempt for
the hollow pretensions set up by the shallow-brained aristocracy. He broke
loose from the moorings which society had thrown around him. ... The
elements of character which urge him on are in us all, and influencing our
conduct every day of our lives. We may pity him, but we can't despise him.
We may condemn his faults, but only as we condemn our own. His very weakness
was an index of his strength. Full of faults of a grievous nature, yet far
more faultless than many who have come down to us in the pages of history as
Here we see the image of Scotia, not Columbia,
as being the sweet land of liberty emanating from the pen of Burns, the
ordinary ploughman poet. This was a classic image used extensively both in
the US and in the UK by prominent abolitionists. A typical example is where
Samuel Ringgold Ward reports that his Glasgow host:
conferred upon me one of the highest favours a
Scotchman could confer or a Negro could appreciate--he gave me a copy of
Burns' poems, from his own library. That was almost equal to proffering me
the freedom of Glasgow, or making me a Scotchman.
Burns was adopted by the movement as a symbol
and as the cause of abolition grew in the US, the interesting point for us
is the use the leading anti-slavery speakers (McCune Smith, Gerritt Smithlxx,
Ringgold Ward, Henry Ward Beecherlxxi,
William Lloyd Garrisonlxxii
and especially Frederick Douglass) made of the phrase a mans a man for a
that. Burns was heavily invoked by Black and white abolitionists in papers,
speeches and letters of the time.
Here are a few examples encompassing the range
of people active in the cause who shared the use of Burnss words (my
emphasis is added):
Races and varieties of the human family appear
and disappear, but humanity remains and will remain forever. The American
people will one day be truer to this idea than now and will say with
Scotia's inspired son: ' a man's a man for a' that.lxxiii
A man's a man for a' that. I sincerely
believe that the weight of the argument is in favor of the unity of origin
of the human race, or species--that the arguments on the other side are
partial, superficial, utterly subversive of the happiness of man, and
insulting to the wisdom of God.lxxiv
My visit to
this city [London] has been exceedingly gratifying, on account of the
freedom I have enjoyed in visiting such places of instruction and amusement
as those from which I have been carefully excluded by the inveterate
prejudice against color in the United States. Botanic and Zoological
gardens, Museums and Panoramas, Halls of Statuary and Galleries of
Paintings, are as free to the Black as the white man in London. There is no
distinction on account of color. The white man gains nothing by being white,
and the Black man loses nothing by being Black. A man's a man for a'
If you are sound in body and mind, there is
nothing in your color to excuse you from enlisting in the service of the
Republic against its enemies. If color should not be a criterion of rights,
neither should it be a standard of duty. The whole duty of a man, belongs
alike to white and Black. A mans a man for a that.lxxvi
So much for insisting that, both on the ground
of principle and consistency, the 'self-evident truths' contained in the
Declaration of Independence ought to be reduced to practice, and that,
whatever may be the color of his skin, 'a man's a man for a' that'!lxxvii
Again take these slaveholding pleas to
Scotland, from the graves of the dead and the homes of the living they shall
be replied to in thunder-tones, in the living words of BURNS: A mans a
man, for a that.
Who would be a traitor knave?
Who would fill a cowards grave?
Who so base as be a slave?
Let him turn and fleelxxviii
A constitution, which is not built upon the
recognition of our common humanity; is entitled to no respect. ... The right
to our manhood and to the conditions of maintaining our manhood
derived from the constitution. It comes from a source infinitely more sacred
and authoritative - from a law infinitely older than the oldest works of men
- from the law of human nature and of God. No judge is to pause to inquire
whether by the constitution a man's a man. The man is himself the
sufficient and sole proof of the fact. To go back of that proof is to insult
him and insult his Maker, who made man in his own image.lxxix
Within a few weeks the Chief-Justice has left
our world. There is a world (and maybe he has gone to it) where to condemn a
man for his skin is held to be a mistake; and where those few words of dear
Robert Burns, A man's a man for a' that, infinitely outweigh all
the nonsense and blasphemy which pro-slavery courts and pro-slavery parties
and pro-slavery churches have uttered to the contrary.
But with me, all men are men. Are the skin and
the mind of my fellow men dark? A man's a man for a' that! I still
recognize him as a man. He is my brother: and I still have a brother's heart
The American people will outlive this mean
prejudice against complexion. Sooner or later they will learn a mans a
man for a that.lxxxii
Burns as a poet of liberty featured in the
abolitionist press, too, with the Massachusetts Abolitionist (No 4
March 14 1839) featuring Honest Poverty on its front page under the
tile Manhood by Robert Burns while a previous edition (October
1838) had carried Man Was Made To Mourn prominently with its line
which also features in abolitionist (and Black rights) rhetoric: mans
inhumanity to man, makes countless thousands mourn.lxxxiii
Garrison even wrote an anti slavery anthem which became the abolitionist
movements theme and set it to Auld Lang Synelxxxiv,
but the phrase that resonated was 'a man's a man for a that' such that it
became the shibboleth of the abolitionists in the run up to and their
culminating victory in the Civil War.
A mans a man was the touchstone of their aims
and reached its apogee when used by Harriet Tubmanlxxxv,
also known as Moses, the most famous of the conductors of the Underground
Railway. This volunteer network saved thousands of escaping Black people by
spiriting them from house to house in the United States until they reached
safety and undisputed freedom in Canada was reported singing this song as
she and her escapees crossed the iron railway bridge to Canada and to
De hounds are baying on my track,
Ole Master comes behind,
Resolved that he will bring me back,
Before I cross the line;
I'm now embarked for yonder shore,
Where a man's a man by law,
De iron horse will bear me o'er,
To shake de lion's paw;
Oh, righteous Father, wilt thou not pity me
carry me to Canada where the slaves are free.lxxxvi
So these people hurrying for freedom saw no
concern about the way this Scottish poet used the word slave in his
writings. What about its linkage with coward, however?
I have always read these lines in Burns as a
difference between the place we have in life and the life we have inside
each of us. You could have a coward slave, or a coward butcher, a coward
baker or a coward candlestick maker. Certainly Frederick Douglass thought
so. In his bestselling autobiography there is a harrowing chapter called The
Last Flogging and this is his summary of the turning point of his own
life as a human being:
Covey [his slave master] was a tyrant and a
cowardly one withal. After resisting him, I felt as I had never felt before.
It was a resurrection from the dark and pestiferous tomb of slavery, to the
heaven of comparative freedom. I was no longer a servile coward, trembling
under the frown of a brother worm of the dust, but my long-cowed spirit was
roused to an attitude on manly independence. I had reached the point, at
which I was not afraid to die. The spirit had made me a freeman in fact,
while I remained a slave in form.lxxxvii
Douglass saw the point that RB had made in his
poem, as he had lived through it. The leaders of the great movement, and
many of the Black population, saw Burns as accurately describing their
plight: Burns was not calumniating slaves as people, but was telling them
like Douglass that internal fortitude and character were what defined you
not the branded mark on the forearm or the whip scars on the back. A mans a
man for a that.
Douglass clearly saw that emancipation came in
two steps: First no more coward slaves. Then no more slaves at all. Dare to
be true to yourself even under the slave owners tyranny then dare to be
free when the time came for emancipation. Both sides in the debate needed to
The simplest reflection of that credo was not in
one of Douglasss abolitionist lectures (which could span two hours and
more) but in a short speech at a Burns Supper in Rochester New York in 1849:
I repeat again, that though I am not a
Scotchman, and have a colored skin, I am proud to be among you this evening.
And if any think me out of my place on this occasion (pointing at the
picture of Burns), I beg that the blame may be laid at the door of him who
taught me that 'a man's a man for a' that.'
In 1786, Burns in line with many in Ayrshire
was not aware (perhaps through an absence of deliberate enquiry) of what
Black chattel slavery in the West Indies and Americas entailed. At the
simplest level, RB deserves a hard look for crossing from the poor workers
side to become one of the factors (or bookkeepers) that he attacked savagely
in The Twa Dogs; but it is hard to pin deliberate bad faith on him as
the level of his knowledge of the plight of the few Black people he may have
seen at home or the many cruelly treated abroad (often by fellow Scots) was
By the 1790s though, the debate had grown in
significance and Ayrshire and Dumfries were active in abolitionist debate
which seems to have passed Burns substantially by. His lack of involvement
does permit commentators to be critical of Burnss attitudes under the
Burkeian premise that the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is
for good men to do nothing. It is unfair though, in the light of the
inspiration and effect that his poems gave the Black abolitionist movement
in the US to accuse him of not doing enough in his short life for reasons
we can only wonder at, the fate of Black slaves (and also Scots pit workers
and salt farmers, and the growing industrial underclass in Scotland) do not
receive the close attention that the life of the agricultural poor receive.
But the effect of his poetry was an electric force for good in the long
march to the American Civil War and beyond.
Douglass encapsulated this, as in so many
aspects of abolition. Douglasss testimony show his epiphany, mirroring
Burnss words and leaving the coward slave behind. In doing so he dares to
speak the voice of freedom using Burns as his inspiration.
Burns was too young to comprehend slavery in
1786, and failed to fully engage with the debate at the end of his life, but
his words did become after his death the call of change. The many voices
calling for, and winning the Great Emancipation recognised Burnss innate
humanity if, like so many of us, we all recognise that he like us had
But in 1786, societys verdict on the slave
question was less clear, voices were still gathering, evidence was remote
and disguised; so it is not too hard to imagine a young man with no
prospects, grabbing at a lifeline and venturing abroad without too many
questions. Upon arrival, we can only guess at his horror as the depravity
and barbarism unfolded, echoing the real story of Zachary Macauley.
Thank heavens, the publication of his Poems
meant that the sloop left for the Indies without Burns. I am certain that
whatever the rationale for accepting the passage initially, the man who
shared his fears with the mouse in the field, who consistently defied
oppression and who understood 'man's inhumanity to man' could not have been
It seems too coincidental that the
abolitionist's badge of the period, with Wedgwood's iconic design of the
kneeling slave, carried the slogan:
Am I not a man and a brother?
Or as we sing with our Burns,
that man to man the world o'er, shall brothers
be for a' that.
That is his true belief. Let it be so.
This essay for Robert Burns Lives consolidates articles published on
Scotland Now (issue 6, December 2007) and in The Burns Chronicle (Spring
2010) with thanks to the editors of both publications.
K. Annan, Inaugural Robert Burns Memorial Lecture, United Nations
Building, New York: 13th
January 2004 text from UN Information services : http://www.unis.unvienna.org/unis/pressrels/2004/sgsm9112.html.
Clark McGinn Burns and Slavery Scotland Now (Issue 6, December 2007)
Nigel Leask Burns And the Poetics of Abolition in The Edinburgh
Companion To Robert Burns Ed: Gerard Carruthers Ed EUP 2009, pp 47-60.
Gerard Carruthers Robert Burns And Slavery in Fickle Man: Robert
Burns In The 21st Century (Eds: Johnny Rodger and Gerard
Carruthers) Sandstone Press, Dingwall 2009, pp 163 175.
Henry Ward Beecher (1813 87) Congregationalist clergyman and
abolitionist, brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe.
Chronicle Of The Hundredth Birthday Of Robert Burns: New York Ed:
James Ballantine Fullarton Edinburgh & London 1859, p 580.
John Galt Annals of The Parish, OUP 1986 p115. Note that Mr Cayenne is
described as an American Loyalist rather than a West Indian sugar
Leask p56 suggests a reading of the line: The rank is but the Guineas
stamp as being a reference to the branding of slaves from the Guinea
Coast... British slavery was often known as the Guinea Trade given the
importance of the region as a source of slaves.
Both his liaison (with Jean Fergusson) and matrimony (with Mary Gray)
occurred with locally born women.
xiiiHis Gravestone may still be seen in Kirkoswald Parish Church.
It was Symington who built the engine for Patrick Millers prototype
steamboat on Dalswinton Loch and the engine at the Wanlockhead lead
Ayrshire archives cited.
Ayrshire archives cited.
xvii Gilbert Burns, Letter To Mrs Dunlop 1797, quoted in Burns
James Mackay, Alloway 1992, p46.
xviii Interestingly, one of the ships sailing between Scotland and
Jamaica was the Roselle (Burns had a passage booked and it was the
vessel Nancy McLehose used on her abortive visit to Kingston). More
research is needed to see if this was another part of the Hamilton
This friendship must have been influential in confirming Boswells pro
slavery stance, as evidenced in his anonymous 1791 No Abolition of
Slavery or The Universal Empire of Love. See Ian Whyte Scotland and
The Abolition of Black Slavery 1756 1838 EUP 2006 p.57.
Jean Acheson, Servants in Ayrshire 1750 1914 p 15 in Ayrshire
Monographs No 26, Ayrshire Archaeological and Natural History Society,
2001 quoting from JE Shaw, Ayrshire, 17451950, A Social and Industrial
History [Edinburgh & London, 1953], p. 23.
From his uncle, Hugh Hamilton of Pinmore, who was patron to RBs
Kirkoswald fellow student and letter recipient Willy Niven.
xxii A century after Burns considered the Jamaica option this was
written: Auchincruive is now  the property of Richard Alexander
Oswald, elder son of George Oswald, who died in 1871
There is now
hardly one left of our old West Indians, probably not one Glasgow man
that ever owned a slave. In The Old Country Houses Of the Old Glasgow
Gentry John Guthrie Smith and John Oswald Mitchell Glasgow 1878, LXXIV
xxiii David McClure Records and Functions of the Ayrshire
Commissioners of Supply, Scottish Local History Journal Vol 39 (1997).
McClure tentatively suggests that this may have been Macadam the great
xxiv Whyte, p49 quotes Coleridges observation that three out of
four overseers in the West Indies were Scots.
Prof Geoff Palmer interviewed in The Guardian 25th November
xxvi Samuel Ringgold Ward Autobiography Of A Fugitive Negro New
York 1855 pp349 -350.
xxvii Lady Knutsford, Zachary Macaulay London Arnold 1906 p5
(quoting a short autobiographical memorandum written by Macaulay in
Sierra Leone in 1797)
xxxiii On A Scotch Bard, Gone To The West Indies
xxxiv Burns Jamaica Connections (Anonymous, but attributed to a
descendent of Patrick and Charles Douglas of Garallan) Burns Chronicle
1903. Which shows, as part of another argument that Highland Mary
Campbell wasnt going to Jamaica with Burns as young men were employed
without trailing spouses. See also Nancy McLehoses description of her
brief visit to her dissolute husband in Kingston, Jamaica (Mackay
Burns p 489)
xxxvi The Autobiographical Letter
xxxix Ode, Sacred To The Memory Of Mrs Oswald
The Mauchline Wedding and see also the covering letter To Mrs. Dunlop
21 August 1788, You would know an Ayr-shire lad, Sandy Bell, who made a
Jamaica fortune, & died some time ago.
It has long been recognised that Smiths Moral Sentiments
important text for Burns. Murray Pittock, Nibbling At Adam Smith in
Fickle Man p121
xlii Adam Smith The Theory Of Moral Sentiments Glasgow Edn Oxford
xliii RB To Dr John Moore, Letter dated Mauchline, 2nd
August 1787 (known as The Autobiographical Letter)
xliv Carruthers discusses this in The Fickle Man
xlvThe glossary to the Edinburgh Edition contains these entries:
Niger: a negroe;
Buckskin, an inhabitant of Virginia
Some later glossaries make a direct gloss of
buckskin kye for negroes.
xlvi The Autobiographical Letter.
xlvii Maria Riddells book: Voyages to the Madeira, and Leeward
Caribbean Isles: with Sketches of the Natural History of these Islands
(1792) was recently described as exhibiting self-censorship:
Riddell's selective elisions of well-known aspects of West Indian
society, such as slavery, register her efforts to reconcile these
colonies with British values. From Melissa Bailes Hybrid Britons: West
Indian Colonial Identity and Maria Riddell's Natural History: European
Romantic Review, Volume 20, Number 2, April 2009, pp. 207-217. That
being said Maria Riddell did attack slavery in her private
correspondence: Our ancestors, when they instituted the accursed
transfer of the slave trade, brought over a nation who though long
patient and submissive to servitude, seem now to have nearly reached, by
the decree of providence, the term of their bondage and have already
begun to retaliate the injuries imposed upon them by their persecuting
masters. Letter of 17 November 1793 to William Smellie in Memoirs Of
The Life, Writings And Correspondence of William Smellie Ed: Robert
Kerr, Anderson, Edinburgh 1811, Vol II p 376.
xlviii Although his preface to The Address To Beelzebub of 1790
seeks to defend a group of Highlanders frustrated by their lawful lords
and masters whose property they were, by emigrating
to the wilds of
Canada, in search of that fantastic thing LIBERTY.
xlix Clark McGinn Burns and Slavery Scotland Now (Issue 6,
Gerard Carruthers Robert Burns And Slavery in Fickle Man: Robert
Burns In The 21st Century (Eds: Johnny Rodger and Gerard
Carruthers) Sandstone Press, Dingwall 2009, p172
Ian Whyte Scotland and The Abolition of Black Slavery 1756 1838 EUP
Nigel Leask Burns And the Poetics of Abolition in The Edinburgh
Companion To Robert Burns Ed: Gerard Carruthers Ed EUP 2009, pp 47-60
liii Cory E Andrews Burns the Critic in The Edinburgh Companion
To Robert Burns Ed: Gerard Carruthers Ed EUP 2009, p 119
RB to Helen Maria Williams Letter, n.d July/August 1789
Ignatius Sancho, The Letters Of The Late Ignatious Sancho, An African
Cosimo NY 2005
Agnes McLehose to RB Letter n.d.
lvii Literally, as the versicles are in Burnss handwriting on the
back of a handbill advertising the visit of a touring menagerie to
lviii Helen Maria Williams: Poem On The Bill Lately Passed For
Regulating The Slave Trade: in Romantic Women Poets, 1788 1848 Ed:
Andrew Ashfield Manchester University Press 1998, vol 2 pp12 -19
Versicles To Jessy Lewars
lxiii Andrew O. Lindsay Negro-driver or Illustrious Exile:
Revisiting Illustrious Exile: Journal of my Sojourn in the West Indies,
International Journal of Scottish Literature, Issue 4, Spring/Summer
James McCune Smith (1816 1835) born in New York, studied at Glasgow
University before returning home to practise medicine and run a
lxvi William Cooper Nell, The Colored Patriots of the American
Revolution, With Sketches of Several Distinguished Colored Persons To
Which Is Added a Brief Survey of the Condition And Prospects of Colored
Americans, Boston 1855 p353.
lxvii University of Rochester Library Rare Books and Special
Collections (Thanks to Melissa S. Mead).
lxviii Frederick Douglass A Fugitive Slave Visiting the Birth-Place
of Robert Burns in New York Weekly Tribune, vol. 5, no. 45 [cont. no.
253], (July 18, 1846).
lxix Samuel Ringgold Ward Autobiography Of A Fugitive Negro New
York 1855 p332.
Gerrit Smith (1797 1874) US Congressman, presidential candidate and
abolitionist. Close friend of John Brown.
lxxi Henry Ward Beecher (1813 1887) Congregationalist clergyman
and abolitionist, brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe.
lxxii William Lloyd Garrison (1805 1879) American journalist and
abolitionist who founded the American Anti Slavery Society.
lxxiii Frederick Douglass The Future Of The Colored Race Boston MA
lxxiv Frederick Douglass Speech, Commencement Exercises at Western
Reserve College, July 12, 1854 Frederick Douglass The Orator Ed: James
M Gregory Springfield IL 1893 pp110/111.
lxxv Douglass Letter to William Lloyd Garrison May 23, 1846 Life
and Writings of Frederick Douglas Ed Philip Foner, New York 1950 vol I,
lxxvi Frederick Douglass, Why Should The Colored Man Enlist? F D
Douglasss Monthly, April 1863.
lxxviii William Lloyd Garrison New York Times, 15 Feb 1854.
lxxix Gerrit Smith: Letter to George T Downing 6 March 1874,
Syracuse University Library Gerrit Smith Broadside and Pamphlet
lxxx Gerrit Smith Speeches of Gerrit Smith New York, 1865 p50.
lxxxi Gerrit Smith Speeches of Gerrit Smith New York, 1865 p203.
lxxxii National Anti-Slavery Standard, 16 April 1864 Letter from
Teachers of the Freedmen Harriet A Jacobs and Lisa Jacobs.
lxxxiii Mans Inhumanity to man was used more extensively after
the Civil War to denote the inhumanity of slavery. The quotation
features in a range of contexts by Marcus Garvey, to Dr Martin Luther
King to the UN resolutions marking the 2007 bicentenary.
lxxxiv After Emancipation, Garrison turned his attention to other
causes. He also used a Mans A Man and Auld Lang Syne as a tune to
support womens and animals rights.
lxxxv Harriet Tubman (née Araminta Ross c 1822 1913). She escaped
slavery herself and rescued over 70 slaves through the network of the
Underground Railway and fought in the Civil War. At the end of her life
she was active as a Suffragette.
lxxxvi Sarah H Bradford Harriet: The Moses Of Her People New York
1886 p 50.
lxxxvii Frederick Douglass Autobiographies Ed: Henry Gates Jr,
Library of America, 1996 p286.
lxxxviii Frederick Douglass: The Frederick Douglass Papers .Series
One. Speeches, Debates and Interviews, Ed: John W Blassinghame New
Haven, 1979, 2, 148.