Counsel To The Americans.

“Abolish slavery!” – Well!
By multitudinous murdering of brothers,
Outrage and tyranny beyond all others,
By sword and flame, by recklessness and ravage,
By all that marks the fiend or moves the savage?
There, - these are works of hell!
Ye cannot wrest Heaven’s holy purpose so,
God, Christ, man, mercy, charity cry No!
Ye waste your wealth, ye maximise your woe!
List to the teachings of the Saviour’s breath,
Cease from these deeds of darkness and of death,
Restore these bloody weapons to their sheath,
And forward go!

Title:Counsel to the Americans

Author:J. B.

Publication:Preston Chronicle

Published in:Preston, Lancashire

Date:5th Sept 1863

Keywords:religion, slavery, war


This thirteen line poem with the rhyme scheme ABBCCADDDEEED contains words which are unusually multisyllabic, not just for Cotton Famine poetry, but for Victorian poetry generally. There is little attempt to maintain any kind of regular meter, though the long lines are generally decasyllabic, and this reads more like a poetic rant, or perhaps an angry sermon. It is not without skill though, as ode-like rhyme scheme with long delays between some of the rhymes and cleverly shortened lines varying rhythm attest. The imagery used is largely biblical, in keeping with its fervent moral stance.

It is possible that ‘J. B.’ is James Bowker, featured elsewhere in this site, but the only evidence we have beyond the initials is the evident quality of the piece here, not really the style. What is remarkable about this urgent call for the cessation of the American Civil War is that its ardent pacifism neglects to address the question of what will happen to the slaves if the fighting simply ceased at this point. There is perhaps an implicit support for the ‘gradualism’ policy towards slavery reform. This is one of several poems published in Lancashire during the conflict and the famine which complicate the idea that the general sympathy for the abolitionist cause in the region necessarily translated into unblinking support for the Union. The vast range of poems published on the subject understandably expressed a similarly vast range of opinions, and opinions such as these were not so beyond the pale that newspaper editors would not publish them. – SR.