Title: Travels with Willie
Tags: Willie Nelson Slavery Abolition Immigration
Blog Entry: Good morning everyone.... I thought it was time for a Hillsdale update. Now, as some of you are aware, Marcel has an extensive music collection..... Today, on update and edit was Willie Nelson. Love him (which I do) or hate him (you're entitled).... Perhaps this is the strangest journey I've been on while listening to Willie in the background. Granted, there were a few short forays into Hoagy Carmichael and Duke Ellington...(Stardust), but the main voyage took me a long way back and to far away places. I suddenly found myself in Wapping, England in the year 1725 attending the birth of a boy named John. The son of a commander of a merchant ship which sailed the Mediterranean, and a mother who died of tuberculosis when he was aged six, when John was eleven, he went to sea with his father and made six voyages with him before his father retired. In 1744 John was impressed into service on a man-of-war, the H. M. S. Harwich, where finding conditions on board intolerable, he deserted but was soon recaptured, publicly flogged and demoted from midshipman to common seaman. Eventually, at his own request he was exchanged into service on a slave ship, which took him to the coast of Sierra Leone. He there became the servant of a slave trader and was brutally abused. Early in 1748 he was rescued by a sea captain who had known his father and ultimately became captain of his own ship, one which also plied the slave trade. A cross-grained man given to disobedience, drinking, gambling and profanity, during a storm at sea while homeward bound in 1748, John experienced a spiritual conversion. Ordered to give up the sea after having suffered a stroke he became tide surveyor (tax collector) in Liverpool while studying Greek, Hebrew and Syriac with the intention of becoming a minister. It took him seven years to achieve that goal. An evangelical Anglican minister, by 1790, John's advice was being sought by churchmen, writers, and philanthropists of the day. At about this time he became a friend and associate of one William Wilberforce, a young member of parliament from Yorkshire. In 1788, 34 years after he had retired from the slave trade, John broke a long silence on the subject with the publication of a forceful pamphlet "Thoughts Upon the Slave Trade", in which he described the horrific conditions of the slave ships during the Middle Passage, and apologized for "a confession, which ... comes too late ... It will always be a subject of humiliating reflection to me, that I was once an active instrument in a business at which my heart now shudders." A copy of the pamphlet was sent to every MP, and sold so well that it swiftly required reprinting. John became an ally of his friend William Wilberforce, leader of the Parliamentary campaign to abolish the slave trade. He lived to see the passage of the Slave Trade Act 1807. The John referred to was John Newton. He also wrote, and had published in 1779..... Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound) That sav’d a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found, Was blind, but now I see. ’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, And grace my fears reliev’d; How precious did that grace appear, The hour I first believ’d! Thro’ many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come; ’Tis grace has brought me safe thus far, And grace will lead me home. The Lord has promis’d good to me, His word my hope secures; He will my shield and portion be, As long as life endures. Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail, And mortal life shall cease; I shall possess, within the veil, A life of joy and peace. The earth shall soon dissolve like snow, The sun forbear to shine; But God, who call’d me here below, Will be forever mine. John Newton lived to see the passage of the England's 'Slave Trade Act 1807'. William Wilberforce died just three days after hearing that the 'Slavery Abolition Act 1833' was assured passage through parliament. He is buried in Westminster Abbey. Although Britain had passed the Slavery Abolition Act in 1833, the Atlantic slave trade continued. In 1840, in an effort to control this, Britain established a naval base on St. Helena in the South Atlantic to patrol the slave routes. St Helena was the landing place for many of the slaves captured by the navy during the suppression of the trade between 1840 and 1872. Between 1840 and 1872, over fifteen thousand freed slaves known as 'Liberated Africans' were landed there. From: The St Helena Independent Volume VII, Issue 17, Friday 9th March 2012 - pg. 35 British archaeologists have unearthed a slave burial ground containing an estimated 5,000 bodies on a remote South Atlantic island. The corpses were found on tiny St Helena, 1,000 miles off the coast of south-west Africa. Those who died were slaves taken from slave traders by the Royal Navy in the 1800s. Many of the captives died after being kept on British ships in appalling conditions or in refugee camps when they reached the island. The dig, held in advance of the construction of a new airport on the island, revealed the horrors of the Atlantic slave trade. The Middle Passage was the name of the route taken by ships transporting slaves from Africa to the new world. It was the second leg of a triangular journey undertaken by European ships. The first leg would involve them taking manufactured goods to Africa, which they would trade for slaves. After the Africans were delivered to the US, the ships would take raw materials back to Europe. Experts from Bristol University led the dig. One of them, Prof Mark Horton, said: “Here we have the victims of the Middle Passage – one of the greatest crimes against humanity – not just as numbers, but as human beings. "These remains are certainly some of the most moving that I have ever seen in my archaeological career.” In 1858 another young Yorkshire man, Thomas Esterby Hutchinson traveled to St. Helena in service with HM 66th Regiment. There he married a young woman, Elizabeth Martha Ellis, born St. Helena, and also probably of Yorkshire descent. Of their ten children, five were born on St. Helena, two were born in London on their return from St. Helena, and three were born after their immigration to Canada. The youngest of those was my grandfather. Now, as I end this epistle, Willie is still singing in the background.... His cover of Simon and Garfunkle's 'Bridge Over Troubled Water'. How appropriate.
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