W0368 SCHOOL ESSAY BY JACOB BATCHELDER JR.
Aug 28 1825
To: [Dr.] Calvin McQuesten,
From: Bradford Academy, [Bradford, Massachusetts, U.S.A] LIBERTY AND SLAVERY
Liberty is a blessing, which all have an equal right to enjoy. It sweetens the cup of life, and causes our existence to flow smoothly on.
Here, in this happy country, where Liberty deigns to fix her habitation, we sit beneath our cooling shades, and, conscious of our strength, laugh at the efforts of the unions of royalty. Our institutions are flourishing beneath the fostering care of a wise policy, education is generally diffused through all our land, and forms the bulwark of our independence.
But while we are reveling in the sweets of Liberty, let us look about us, and see if every individual is enjoying the same blessing. Let us cast our eyes to the south, do we there see every one cultivating his own fields, and breathing the air of Liberty? No! far from it. We may there sometimes hear the planter, exulting in being a free born son of America; and in full view, may be seen the taskmaster, exercising his lash on the unhappy slave, while the big tear rolls in silent agony down his cheek.
The images of home, and friends mourning his cruel fate, presents itself to his imagination. He ponders on the agonizing hour, when the kidnapper in the shades of night set fire to his cot, and seizing him when flying from destruction, hurried him on board the vessel destined to separate him forever from the shores of his beloved country, and to convey him to foreign regions, where being sold for a slave, washes with his tears, the land on which he is forced to toil. The last moans of his friends still ring in his ears, the last beckon of the hand is still before the eye of his imagination.
Or in a happier moment when he reposes his wearied limbs from the fatigues of the day, he imagines himself again in the bosom of his family, his little cot overspread with peace and tranquillity, he fancies himself again surrounded by happinefs.1 But the charm is broken, his happy dreams take to themselves wings and fly away, and, in their stead, the hoarse voice of the taskmaster is heard, summoning him to his daily toil.
Unhappy African! Ere long may our country vindicate your rights and redrefs your wrongs, and may it demonstrate to the world, that pure Liberty dwells among its children, not in name only but also in principle.23
Jacob Batchelder Jr.4
1 We note that Jacob Batchelder, Jr., uses the now archaic "fs" construction for the "ss" sound, but only when the "ss" falls at the end of a word. However, Calvin McQuesten, during the same period and at the same school, uses the "fs" for "ss" throughout his essays for 1825 (see W0365), but in 1826 he uses the "ss" construction (see W0374). By comparison, we can also note that John Batchelder in his essay "On Compassion" in 1826 at the same school, does not employ the "fs" construction at all. (See W0392). It likely was a period of transition.
2 It is interesting to note the date on the essay (1825) and to speculate that it may have contributed to the emancipation movement. The New England Anti-Slavery Society was founded in 1832, seven years later; and it was not until 1863 that Lincoln issued the Emancipation Declaration, thirty-eight years after this essay was written. The American Civil War began in 1861. We can note also that Longfellow, a professor at Bowdoin College (likely Calvin's professor at least for a time when Calvin was there between 1827 and 1830) also wrote on slavery and published his "Poems on Slavery" in 1842 (OCEL 488).
The "Slavery" essay clearly illustrates the strong moral and humanitarian character of the Scotch-Irish who settled in the American colonies and brought with them their Presbyterian work ethic and commitment to education and liberty. Many of these enlightened ideas, reinforced in the universities, provided the engine for emancipation.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow represents the "the flowering of New England," as Van Wyck Brooks terms the period from 1815 to 1865, that took place in Longfellow's day, and he made a great contribution to it. He lived when giants walked the New England earth, giants of intellect and feeling who established the New Land as a source of greatness. Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and William Prescott were a few of the great minds and spirits among whom Longfellow took his place as a representative of America.
Henry was the son of Stephen Longfellow and Zilpah Wadsworth Longfellow. He was born February 27, 1807, in Portland, Maine. Longfellow's father was eager to have his son become a lawyer. But when Henry was a senior at Bowdoin College at 19 (1826) the college established a chair of modern languages. The recent graduate was asked to become the first professor, with the understanding that he should be given a period of time in which to travel and study in Europe. He traveled to Europe from 1826 to 1829. He returned to America in 1829. At 22, he was launched into his career as a college professor. He had to prepare his own texts, because at that time none were available. Much tribute is due him as a teacher. Just as he served America in making the world conscious of its legend and tradition, so he opened to his students and to the American people the literary heritage of Europe. He created in them the new consciousness of the literature of Spain, France, Italy, and especially writings from the German, Nordic, and Icelandic cultures. He expended his energies on translations from Old World literature and contributed travel sketches to the New England Magazine, in addition to serving as a professor and a librarian at Bowdoin. In 1834, he was appointed to a professorship at Harvard. "Longfellow." Biography by Roberto Rabe. December 4. 2003. http://www.auburn.edu/~vestmon/longfellow_bio.html.
The noted Scottish sociologist John Millar noted in 1771 that the Quakers of Pennsylvania were "the first body of men" to have "discovered any scruples" about slavery. Also Montesquieu expressed serious doubts about slavery in 1721 in his Persian Letters; and Rousseau rejected slavery in principle in the Social Contract. (The Enlightenment by Peter Gay, 684).
3 The anti-slavery sentiments were inherited by Dr. Calvin McQuesten's son Dr. Calvin Brooks McQuesten (1837-1912)and others in the next generation. Dr. Calvin Brooks wrote to his brother Isaac in 1865 deploring, the death of Lincoln (W-MCP4-6.064). Also Dr. Calvin Brooks's Diary written between April 1859 and February 1862, mentions Lincoln and the Southern Confederacy on March 3, 1861 (Diary not yet digitized).
4 Jacob Batchelder, Jr. and John Batchelder were classmates of [Dr.] Calvin McQuesten's at Bradford Academy. Among Dr. McQuesten's school essays, he retained a copy of two of Batchelder's essays: "Liberty and Slavery" dated August 28, 1824, and "On Compassion" dated October 6, 1826, and some letters. (See W0368, W0392, W0039, W0050, W0088, W-MCP5-6.362). In a letter from the same Jacob Batchelder Jr. (W0039) written just a few months after the essay on slavery, he struggles with the problem of corporal punishment of children. He deplores the behaviour of his students and wishes to use force to discipline them, but is prevented in so doing by the parents. This illustrates an enlightened attitude toward the corporal punishment of children, and so the emancipation of children, as well as of slaves, is underway.