Give Back His Slave!

Hush! open wide your ears, I say,
All you who boast of English blood;
One of your race stands here to-day
A suitor: - shall he be withstood?
One, truer than yourselves, is here
To twit you with “his rights of man;”
He wants his own, his claim his clear;
Refuse him justice if you can.
What asks he there across the wave?
But this, that you’ll give back his slave;
He only asks that you’ll re-chain
The freeman whom your rights made free,
Who knew, ‘mongst you, that he’d remain
The man his God made him to be.
O God! that we – we here to-day,
This very hour in England, can
Be asked to scan our laws and weigh
This Devil’s right – this claim to man!
Talk not of laws; who does not know
No slave, a slave, can tread our soil!
No, no, we have not fallen so low,
This does not make our blood to boil;
Of rights our nature scouts, he raves;
Spit at the man! we chain his slaves?
No, he our name the whole world’s scorn, -
Slave torturer’s lashes seam each back,
Man’s, woman’s, child’s, amongst us born,
If we to chains give this man back.
And can a treaty bid us dare
To act this sin to man and God;
If so, the accursed writing tear,
Beneath our feet its shreds be trod!
No man made laws, in this, shall bind
Our Christian souls hell’s work to do;
The devil and his tools shall find,
In this, to God alone, we’re true.
Not in our judges’ breath shall live
The answer that to-day we give;
For me, whatever come, I say,
If laws command us, “Let him go!”
God’s will, not man’s, I will obey;
Give back his slave? we thunder “No.”

Title:Give Back His Slave!


Publication:The Bradford Observer

Published in:Bradford

Date:January 17th 1861

Keywords:religion, slavery


This staunchly abolitionist poem gives some indication of the strength of feeling in many quarters in Britain relating to the subject of slavery. Canada was a well-known destination for escaped slaves, and as a British territory it was often a site of tension between the US and the UK. Abolitionist sentiment in Britain was often tied to a nationalist moral high ground, and was frequently referenced in more general criticisms towards American policy. However, although the UK abolished slavery from almost all of its colonies in 1833, the cotton manufacturing industry still relied heavily on slave labour at this point just before the outbreak of the Civil War. And towns like Bolton, where this poem was published, were almost completely reliant on the cotton industry. – SR