Maria Stewart's poem, "The Negro's Complaint," questions slaveholders' humanity.
Forc'd from home and all its pleasures,
Afric's coast I left forlorn;
To increase a stranger's treasures,
O'er the raging billows borne.
Men from England bought and sold me,
Paid my price in paltry gold;
But though slave they have enroll'd me,
Minds are never to be sold.
Still in thought as free as ever,
What are England's rights, (I ask;)
Me from my delights to sever,
Me to torture, me to task?
Fleecy locks and black complexion,
Cannot forfeit nature's claim;
Skins may differ, but affection
Dwells in white and black the same.
Why did all-creating nature,
Make the plant for which we toil?
Sighs must fan it, tears must water,
Sweat of ours must dress the soil.
Think, ye masters iron-hearted,
Lolling at your jovial boards:
Think how many backs have smarted
For the sweets your can affords.
Is there, as ye sometimes tell us,
Is there ONE who reigns on high?
Has HE bid you buy and sell us,
Speaking from His throne, the sky?
Ask him if your knotted scourges,
Fetters, blood-extorting screws,
Are the means which duty urges,
Agents of his will to use?
Hark! He answers -- wild tornadoes,
Strewing yonder sea with wrecks:
Wasting towns, plantations, meadows,
Are the voice with which He speaks.
He, foreseeing what vexation
Afric's sons would undergo,
Fix'd their tyrant's habitation
Where his whirlwind answers -- "No!"
By our blood in Afric wasted,
Ere our necks receiv'd the chain;
By the miseries we tasted,
Crossing in your barks the main.
By our sufferings, since ye brought us
To the man-degrading mart;
All sustained with patience, taught us
Only by a broken heart.
Deem our nation brutes no longer,
Till some reason ye shall find
Worthier to regard and stronger
Than the color of our kind!
Slaves of gold! Whose sordid dealings
Tarnish all your boasted powers;
Prove that ye have human feelings,
Ere ye proudly question ours!
Stewart, Maria W. Productions of Mrs. Maria W. Stewart presented to the First Africa Baptist Church & Society, of the City of Boston. Boston: Friends of Freedom and Virtue, 1835. Available on the website of the New York Public Library.
My American Experience
Of America's first 25 presidents, who is your favorite? From George Washington to William McKinley, which of the new country's leaders most helped shape America in its first century of existence?