Hannah More’s poem “A Slavery” Analytical Essay

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Slavery started in 1619, when a Dutch ship brought 20 African slaves ashore in the British colony of Jamestown, Virginia. Throughout the 17th century, European settlers in North America turned to African slaves as a cheaper, more plentiful labor source than indentured servants, who were mostly poor Europeans. After the American Revolution, many colonists particularly in the North, where slavery was relatively unimportant to the agricultural economy began to link the oppression of black slaves to their own oppression by the British, and to call for slavery’s abolition. More wrote Slavery, A Poem in hope of the abolition of slavery. She also wrote the poem in hope of influencing the others’ to join the abolition campaign and stand against slavery.

At that time, theorists the like of Francis Hutcheson, Thomas Hobbes, J. J. Rousseau, Francis Hutcheson,…etc. were prominent. These theorists had some interesting views and beliefs on certain issues. Thomas Hobbes discusses the State of Nature, and the topic of right or wrong, As for Hutcheson, he believes that mankind is naturally good, the moral sense “pleases” us and no reason or will involve in our life. Lastly, JJ Rousseau Mankind originally good, happy, carefree. Slavery contradicts these claims and makes them questionable and weak to say the least. If what they claim is true; then how would they justify the reason Slavery prevailed either previous to their existence, during or later on?

We have looked at some sentimental literature in class, such as poems and novels that contradict these aforementioned theorists. For example, we have looked at Hannah More’s poem “A Slavery” written in the 1799, long after the aforementioned theorists’ views were known. Hannah More is an educator, writer and social reformer. She is also known for her writings on abolition of slavery and for encouraging people to join her and stand against slavery. More contributed to the abolition movement through her writings which helped spread awareness the movement. When Hannah More wrote this poem, she hoped to bring light to the slavery issue that prospered at the time, and help to abolish it completely from Britain and the world. She hoped to find support from the world and from the British community in particular. Hannah More’s poem “Slavery, A Poem” considered as an abolition of slavery poem was written in 1799; approximately around the aforementioned theorists’ views were made.

If these theorist believe that mankind is naturally good, the moral sense “pleases” us…if there is no reason or will involve in our life and that we are happy and carefree…then how would they justify slavery? Does seeing Africans enslaved and having their dignity and rights taken away makes us feel good? Does that support the claim that mankind is naturally good? Does slavery support the claim that the moral sense pleases us? Does Whites rejoice and feel happy when they see their fellow human suffering and enslaved? Why was slavery prominent then?

These slaves were overlooked and they were subjected to all types of (physical, emotional…etc ) torture. In spite of that, these slaves were forced to give their all to the ones’ that took everything away from them. For instances, their rights, their dignity, their ambitions and dreams. This cannot be morally pleasing, it is impossible.
In addition, these slaves offered their captures with the means to prosper on the expense of these slaves. More claims that since Britain promotes themselves for being a place of freedom; then they need to make it so everyone is free. More says, “…Shall Britain, where the soul of Freedom reigns…” – (293.) This highlights the hypocrisy of Britain’s use of slaves. They refuse to enslave or even recruit their own people but they enslave others.

The way it started is by colonizing their country; then they begin by stealing their raw materials, resources and capturing them as slaves. They use their raw materials and trade it while enslaving their “shabab” in work fields and plantations. These slaves do not get to live their stolen life in dignity. Animals are kept in better conditions than these slaves. For Hume?,…etc to claim what they claimed is horrendous. Maybe these theorists are correct in some way; maybe their views and theories only apply to a small percentage of good,”Adjectives.” If that is true, then they are wrong when it comes to their generalizing.

These slaves helped Britain prosper as Britain was suffering from poverty and they had no food to grow. These slaves worked very hard for years and they managed to make Britain great again. The slaves didn’t only help with Britain’s agriculture. D. N. Ghosh, author of, Representation of Slavery in English Literature, talks about a 25 page survey by author W A Speck that catches the attention of readers. Ghosh explains that the growing of Britain’s commercial prosperity was when they would sail they ships loaded with a cargo of manufactured goods in which they would exchange it in the next stop (on the Caribbean plantation) with the profit they make of that they sell ‘Negros’ with more profit. Moreover, he says; “there is not a brick in the city but what is cemented with the blood of a slave…mansions, the luxurious living and wealth was made from the trade of slaves and their suffering…no reader of English literature will ever understand the human misery and agony of slave trade” (3679)

After everything these slaves offered to their captures, these slaves still long for their stolen rights with little to no regards to the suffering they experience. The slave trade played an important role in providing British industry with access to raw materials. This contributed to the increased production of manufactured goods. Eltis, David, and Stanley L. Engerman, wrote the article entitled “The Importance of Slavery and the Slave Trade to Industrializing Britain.” The article adds and answers an important question of the real importance that the slave systems of the Americas had to the economic development of Europe, and the development of that in Britain in specific. The article explores the time in 1788 when the initial attack on the British slave trade occurred. This attack led the Parliament to hold hearings on and collected information about all aspects of the trade in Africa, the West Indies, and Great Britain. Needless to say this initiative from the parliament received backlash from slave traders as they try to end the abolition movement. Eltis, David, and Stanley L. Engerman explain the extent that these slave traders go to save their business. This is not surprising due to the fact that at the time slaves had a positive effect on the British economy.

As per the authors, the British Caribbean was a part of the British domestic economy because almost all its trade was with British buyers and sellers. As a result, it should not be a surprise that this caused a new assessment of the importance of the eighteenth century slave systems to the British industrialization. The slave trade helped British economy blossom. There were several profitable ways in which Britain made a fortune at the expense of these slaves. This happened by exporting manufactured British goods to Africa and then further profits accrued from imported slave products such as sugar, which became prevalent within the British community. As the slave trade became profitable and a huge reason for the wider economy; financial, commercial, legal and insurance institutions all emerged to support and keep the slave trade. In addition, some traders became bankers and many new businesses were financed by profits made from slave trading.

From the views of the theorist I have mention I want to point a point made by Thomas Hobbes. He talks about the nature of mankind and the point he made was interesting to me. Hobbes in his book chapter 13 “Leviathan” explains:

“…if any two men desire the same thing which nevertheless they cannot both enjoy, they become enemies; and, in the way to their end, which is principally their own conservation and sometimes their delectation only, endeavor to destroy or subdue one another.” (Hobbes 11)

Hobbes says we are the same in our desires and dreams. More believes the same thing basically but she attributes her point of view based on the color of one’s skin. Whereas, Hobbes tackles this issue from the essence of the root of it by discussing the nature of mankind. Also, Hobbes refers to the fact that if the two men can’t get the same thing he believes that they () resort to destroy of subdue each other. I believe that this is exactly what Britain has done to these poor slaves. These slaves got attacked by the Brits, they captured them and they took over the natural resources of their country. Britain wanted to take their resources and raw materials to grow their economy and become stronger. Ever wondered whether or not these innocent slaves wanted the same thing for their country? Wouldn’t it be possible that they wished they would one day prosper, have a strong economy? Or be able to defend themselves against threats made by countries / colonies lurking for a chance to take over their land?


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Hannah More’s poem “A Slavery” Analytical Essay. (2020, Sep 14). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/hannah-mores-poem-a-slavery/

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