Slavery constitutes a significant thread in the fabric of American history, and the transatlantic slave trade was one of the most prevalent issues predating the establishment of the United States. Trade really began to increase in the early 1600’s, driven by increased demand for agricultural labor. Africans were specifically targeted, primarily due to racial thinking and economics, but other forces played a role as well, including competition among political entities in Africa and competition to trade in the European market. The slave trade was an extremely controversial topic throughout the European colonies, with supporters of the slave trade on one end of the spectrum and abolitionists on the other. These two sides of the spectrum can be seen in the poems The sorrows of slavery: a poem: containing a faithful statement of facts respecting the African slave trade by John Jamieson, and No abolition of slavery, or, The universal empire of love: a poem by John Boswell.
While both are poems, they display a radically different point of view. John Jamieson wrote his work in the form of a poem in order to, “attract the attention of some who would not otherwise give themselves the trouble of looking into the subject.” Jamieson expressed a very strong opinion against the slave trade and used his poem to open others’ eyes to its horrors. He divided his poem into three parts: the description of methods used to procure slaves on the Guinea coast, the treatment of slaves on the Middle passage, and the situation in the West Indies. He wrote in great detail on each topic to show the full expanse of what the slave trade entailed. Jamieson described how the political entities in Africa enslaved captives from other African tribes: “Bound by their countrymen, their kinsmen, friends/ in hated chains, at their own Kings command,” highlighting one of the main factors that drove the African slave trade. He also described the Middle Passage and the fact that little room existed on the ships to lie down and to stretch out. These descriptions and facts about the slave trade help to make him a more credible source and make the poem more likely to be believed by others.
In contrast, John Boswell’s poem expressed the necessity for the slave trade. In the footnotes of his poem he stated, “An abolition of the slave trade would in truth be precluding them from the first step towards progressive civilization, and consequently of happiness.” He wrote these words to convince others that slavery was an opportunity for slaves to have a better life; therefore; the slave trade was a necessary evil. He also talked of the widespread idea that slavery not only bettered the lives of slaves but also those that they worked for. This poem accurately described how one would defend the slave trade in this period of time.
Throughout the poems both of the authors refer to religion, demonstrating the importance of Christianity during this time period. Jamieson states, “O Thou, Almighty Father! Who haft made/ On all the various sons of men, and own/ All as thy offspring, blacken’d by thy sun/ or by thy snows made white, to thee alike.” He expresses that God created all men as his sons, and no skin color should divide them. On the other hand, Boswell expresses, “He who to thwart God’s system tries/ Bids mountains sink, and vallies rise/ Slavery, subjection, what you will/ Has ever been, and will be still.” Boswell expresses that it is God’s will that the slave trade has been put in place and that it should remain there. He also states in his footnotes that slavery is acknowledged in both the Old and New Testament of the Bible. Both of these poems draw religion into their argument, but in very different ways.
Further research on this topic could explore the language used to describe the slave trade in general. How did each of the authors change their tone and diction to help defend their arguments? Also, would a different format for their arguments, such as an essay or newspaper article, have been more effective?
 Tindall, George B. and David E. Shi. America: A Narrative History (New York, NY: Norton & Company, 2013), 75.
 Ibid., 76.
 Jamieson, John. The sorrows of slavery : a poem : containing a faithful statement of facts respecting the African slave trade (London, 1789), 3.
 Jamieson, The sorrows of slavery, 6.
 Ibid., 33.
 Boswell, James. No abolition of slavery, or, The universal empire of love : a poem (London, 1791), 7.
 Jamieson, The sorrows of slavery, 8.
 Boswell, No abolition of slavery, 17.
Boswell, James. No abolition of slavery, or, The universal empire of love : a poem.London, 1791. 23pp. Sabin Americana. Gale, Cengage Learning. University of Alabama. 09 October2014<http://galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/Sabin?af=RN&ae=CY3807350826&srchtp=a&ste=14>
Jamieson, John. The sorrows of slavery : a poem : containing a faithful statement of facts respecting the African slave trade. London, 1789. 78pp. Sabin Americana. Gale, Cengage Learning. University of Alabama. 09 October 2014 http://galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/Sabin?af=RN&ae=CY3804936332&srchtp=a&ste=14
Tindall, George B. and David E. Shi. America: A Narrative History. New York, NY: Norton & Company, 2013. Print.