|This poem vividly portrays the judgment and doom of the slaver after death. The image of the grave’s jaws and the equal judgment of blacks and whites after
death implies man’s deeds are his measure. The belief that evils of slavery should affect the masters before they die as well as after they die is expressed in lines chosen from “The Slave Dealer” by Thomas Pringle from The Iris of 1830:
“There’s blood upon my hands!” he said
“Which water cannot wash;”
It dropped from the gory lash,
As I whirled it o’er and o’er my head
And with each stroke left a gash.
“While Negro blood sprang high;”
And now all oceans cannot wash
My soul from murderer’s dye...
And now with God I have to deal,
And dare not meet His eye. (Pringle 129)
This image of the slave’s blood staining forever the slaver’s soul is an appeal to the reader to condemn as will God those who bear the stain.
Returning to prose, sometimes writers make a direct emotional appeal to women and children readers by depicting the death of innocent children. In “The Negro Babes in the Woods” by Agnes Strickland from Marshall’s Christmas Box of 1831, the Negro, Juba, his wife and children are in desperate flight in the deep forest. They are resolved to die free rather than bear the servile scourge any more. Their only food is the bitter herbs that grew in scanty patches, and their drink is the dew. First the husband dies, and then the wife, and then the unhappy children are left in the wide forest, bereft of all aid. At first, they play and wonder why their parents sleep so long. Weeping, they wander through the tangled wood, broken-hearted, and sadly side-by-side, they sink into each other’s arms and die. This simple story embodies the message that death is preferable to a continued life in slavery. The whole family escapes into a forest, because they will be returned to slavery if they are found. The parents die because they get no help and expect no Christian charity, if found. The innocent victims are the children, who wander in limbo. But, if they are found, they will be returned to a life of slavery. Thus, they die, which their parents believed preferable to life in slavery. That this cycle will only cease when slavery ends becomes obvious, even to the young and children readers.
Romantic stories were also used as a vehicle to reach impressionable young women readers of the literary annuals. “Eva or the Slave Girl” by Charles Phipps from The Keepsake of 1840, describes a young Englishman involved in an interracial love affair with his cousin. This story has elements of the classic love-death of Romeo and Juliet. Alfred, the English protagonist, inherits his uncle’s property in the mountains a few miles from Montego Bay on the island of Jamaica. His uncle had married a mixed race wife after they had three daughters and a son. The uncle and his wife died on a ship returning to Jamaica from England, where they had taken the two older daughters to be educated. The uncle had left the youngest daughter and a son in Jamaica. As a result of the uncle marrying his mulatto woman after the children were born, all of the children were still considered slaves under law. The two daughters in England were freed by being on English soil, but the son and youngest daughter, Eva, remaining in Jamaica, were made slaves by the executor of the uncle’s will. The son escapes into the mountains to join rebel slaves hiding in the mountains, while Eva, the youngest daughter, remains under the power of the executor. When Alfred arrives in Jamaica to survey his inherited estate, he finds that the thieving executor has taken possession not only of most of his uncle’s estates, but also of Eva. The executor tells Alfred, “She is lovely, I admire her and am determined to possess her; she is proud and insolent, and I have sworn to humble her.” Alfred falls sick, and Eva assists his recovery. A short time later, Alfred establishes himself on the remainder of his estate, when Eva comes through a violent storm to warn Alfred of a black revolt led by her brother. She tells Alfred to escape with his life, but he won’t desert her. Eva’s brother has followed her, and overheard her warning Alfred. He reveals himself saying flight is too late for traitors (Eva) and tyrants (Alfred). They struggle and Alfred is mortally wounded. Eva and the dying Alfred exchange final vows of love as a lightening bolt strikes them twined in close embrace. A week later, the rebellion laid ruin to part of the beautiful island. The executor who had delayed too long in joining the militia was dragged from the burning ruins of his stolen mansion, pierced by a thousand wounds, fell dead at his door.