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INTRODUCTORY TO THE
POEM ON SLAVERY.
LOCAL circumstances, which I need not enumerate, compel me to make these introductory remarks. When the poem appears, the propriety of them will be sufficiently manifest. Sincerely can I say, my great aim is to be useful. With this view I have endeavoured to accommodate my poem to the various tastes of the different classes of readers, into whose hands it is likely to be put. My endeavour is to imitate the eminent apostle of the Gentiles in becoming all things to all men in order to gain some of every sort. Of the vicious taste, caprice, and whim of many, I am sufficiently aware.
To expect to please every one is absurd in the extreme. My object is to profit ; but, in order to profit, I should wish to please. In the cause I have undertaken to promote, I glory. On the merits of it I confidently rely. I live in the animating prospect of the speedy approach of a period, in which
tyranny, of every species, will be seen in its native deformity. Then will all the votaries of oppression wish, but, perhaps, wish in vain, that they had listened to the soft, moving, pathetic strains, by which their best friends now endeavour to reclaim and reform them.
Their recon very, before it be too late, is the object of these remarks, and also of the poem I am about to usher into the world. That they may accomplish this salutary purpose is my.earnest wish and ardent prayer. Whether my endeavours shall be attended with desired success or not, it does not belong to me to predict. In the mean time it is to me no small consolation, that those who aim at the reformation of their fellow mortals, are, in the decisive day, to be approved and rewarded, not according to the degrees of success with which their endeavours are attended, but according to the integrity and fidelity with which they
If God approve, man may accuse ; and I can remain unmoved. To be mal-treated and persecuted, for the best of causes and the most praise-worthy actions, is nothing new ei. ther in the christian or pagan world. I appeal to the history of all ages ancient and modern. Of the prophets or the apostles.; or the martyrs, Jewish or christian, I shall not say any thing.
Were not the wisest and best of the philosophers of antiquity, who remonstrated against the prevailing vices of the times in which they lived, instead of being caressed and rewarded, persecuted by fines, banishment and death ? Review the histories of Anaxogoras, Socrates, Seneca, and others. They were fined, banished, murdered ! For what? For their crimes? No, for their virtues; for opposing the idolatrous worship of the inhabitants of Athens, and other cities of Greece ; for denying the divinity of the heavenly bodies, particularly the sun; and pleading for one God, the eternal, original cause of all things terrestri. al and celestial. Were such wise, exemplary, useful men persecuted? Yes; with unrelenting fury were they persecuted.
Are the times in which we live better than the ages which are past? No, this, indeed, is an age of discoveries and scientific improvement. But, at the same time, an age, which, in infidelity, dissipation, and vice, seems to exceed all former times.
Has persecution for virtuous actions and lau. dable efforts to promote the best interests of mankind, been confined to the pagan countries? No, nations and individuals, called, christian, have
been the most cruel and merciless butchers of their fellow creatures, and even of one another. What then may I expect to be the fate of my humble, but well-meant, endeavours for the good of my cotemporaries? While the phantoms and dreams of romancers and novelists are read with assiduity, my performances will, doubtless, be by many treated with great neglect. But'philanthropy, though scarce, has not altogether left the world. For the sufferings of their fellow creatures some can feel. In the abhorrence of every species of tyranny and slavery I am not singular. Do the advocates and promoters of the slave-trade attend to the natural consequences and effects of it? Is it not a common, though unfair method, to estimate the merit or demerit of any religion from the conduct of its votaries and professors ? How unworthy and disgraceful 'the behaviour of thousands and millions of the professors of revealed religion! Read the history of the barbarities and cruelties of the Spaniards in the West-India islands and on the continent of America; of the English and other nations in the East Indies. It is a certain, incontrovertible, melancholy truth, that nothing has a stronger tendency to confirm Pagans and Mahometans in their prejudices against the christian religion,
than the unworthy, immoral, inhuman, and cruel conduct of multitudes who affect to be called christians. What I have affirmed of Pagans and Mahometans, I might have extended to the practical Atheists and ayowed Deists, who abound among us. Natural religion I do not decry. But is it not, in the present state of humanity, utterly insufficient to direct mankind, either how they may be extricated from the misery in which they have involved themselves, or recover the felicity which they have forfeited? Can it either discover the origin of evil,
moral and penal, or prescribe a marqume to the malady? For necessary information on all these most interesting topics, we are indebted to supernatural revelation. And is this revelation treated with contempt? Yes ; and treated with contempt by those very persons, whose best interests it is intended and calculated to subserve. Is there a virtue which na- tural religion enjoins, that revealed does not inculcate? Is there a vice which natural religion prohibits, that revealed does not forbid ? No, easy would it be to shew in what numerous instances revealed religion excels natural; in its
precepts and prohibitions, the duties it requires and sins it forbids, the rewards and punishments it proposes, it incomparably excels.