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Fables from Ancient Authors, or Old Saws with Modern Instances. No IV. The Blackamoor.

1832: Representation of the People Acts

Author: Anon [Peter Pilpay]

This poem appears in our anthology

Publication: The Ten Pounder

Publisher: Peter Brown

Published: 22 September 1832

Place of publication: Lady Stair's Close, Edinburgh, Scotland

Publication type: Newspaper/Periodical

A full copy of this poem is available.

Further information:

Archive/Library: Glasgow University Library
Classmark(s): Sp Coll Mu56-e.12
Pages(s): 58-60

The editor of this journal, Peter Brown, was a ‘ten pounder’: ‘one of those who have been called into political existence, as it were, by the great measure which has lately given a new character to public affairs’.  Despite this, he was against those calling for more reform.  The poem begins with a description of an Ethiopian slave, who is portrayed as an efficient worker, in comparison to his white 'brethern'.  The master then decides to apply a lotion to make the slave, described as an 'admirable Crichton' white.  Other slaves are then brought to scrub the slave and he dies.  The poem then ends with a stanza, titled 'Moral': the moral of the poem is that Reform is like the soap and water used to scrub the slave (who symbolises the constitution).  In other words, that the robust constitution will be threatened by too many attempts to reform and purify it.  A key context to bear in mind is that this poem is written the year before abolitionism (the Slavery Abolition Act 1833).