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Posts Tagged ‘William Cowper

A thousand words, and then some…

Eighteenth-century abolitionists used every propaganda tool in the book, but one of their most widely circulated visual aids was an innovative diagram of the Liverpool slave ship Brookes, first published in 1788…

Thanks to a parliamentary survey that year, detailed measurements of the Brookes were available and a group of Plymouth-based campaigners had accurate deck plans, cross-sections and side views drawn up. Into these were added hundreds of prone black figures, not dissimilar to Isotype figures, drawn to the dimensions laid down in the Regulated Slave Trade Act of 1788 (‘6ft by 1ft 4in to each man, 5ft 10in by 1ft 4in to each woman, 5ft by 1 ft 2in to each boy, 4ft 6in by 1ft for a girl’).

Under the act, which was designed to reduce the overcrowding that led to so many deaths on the transatlantic crossing, the Brookes was permitted to carry a maximum of 454 slaves. The engraver managed to fit 400 in. At least one earlier voyage had carried a human cargo of 609 African people.

London abolitionists had it printed on 7000 posters (in one run), and, in the years that followed, the diagram was widely copied in broadsheets, pamphlets and books in Britain, France and the United States. ‘No one saw it but he was impressed,’ wrote the tireless abolitionist Thomas Clarkson, who was partly responsible for the original. ‘It spoke to him in a language which was at once intelligible and irresistible.’ Art critic Tom Lubbock described it as ‘perhaps the most politically influential picture ever made.’

Read the whole story (and click through to an enlarged version of the graphic) at Eye Magazine.

[TotH to CoDesign]


As we shudder, we might send melodious birthday greetings to John Newton; he was born on this date in 1725.  As a young man, Newton put to sea on a slave ship; subsequently, he was himself enslaved in West Africa.  Rescued in 1748, Newton returned to England, and on the voyage home had a spiritual conversion to Evangelical Christianity.  He tried returning to slaving, but couldn’t stomach it.  So he supported himself as a tide surveyor, applying unsuccessfully to the Methodists, Independents and Presbyterians for curatorial positions until finally, via an influential friend, he was ordained an Anglican priest in 1764.  In 1788 Newton began to speak out against slavery, and became an ally of William Wilberforce.

But many years earlier Newton what may be made his best-remembered contribution to the cause:  In 1767 the poet William Cowper moved to Olney, where Newton was Curate.  Cowper worshipped in the church, and collaborated with Newton on a volume of hymns, which was eventually published as Olney Hymns in 1779– a collection that had great influence on English hymnology.  Among its songs of worship:  “Faith’s Review and Expectation,” which has come to be known by its opening phrase, “Amazing Grace.”

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me….
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.

T’was Grace that taught…
my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear…
the hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares…
we have already come.
T’was Grace that brought us safe thus far…
and Grace will lead us home.

The Lord has promised good to me…
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be…
as long as life endures.

When we’ve been here ten thousand years…
bright shining as the sun.
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise…
then when we’ve first begun.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me….
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.




Written by (Roughly) Daily

July 24, 2012 at 1:01 am

Science can be fun!…

From X-Ray Technician Schools,  the 100 Coolest Science Experiments on YouTube. (All of the usual cautions and disclaimers apply…)

As we polish our pipettes, we might recall that it was on this date in 1709 that Scottish sailor Alexander Selkirk after spending four years marooned on a desert island (Juan Fernandez, in the South Pacific, just over 400 miles off the coast of Chile).  Selkirk inspired Daniel Dafoe to create Robinson Crusoe, and William Cowper to coin an immortal phrase in his poem “The Solitude Of Alexander Selkirk”:

I am monarch of all I survey,
My right there is none to dispute;
From the centre all round to the sea,
I am lord of the fowl and the brute.


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