Let’s look at Cruikshank’s cartoon of “John Bull taking a Clear View of the Negro Slavery Question !!”
So who is John Bull? He is a personification of England, a reoccurring representation of the country in political cartoons and graphic images. Basically, John Bull is to England, what Uncle Sam is to the United States.
The cartoon is referencing certain abolitionist causes by questioning their ethics and putting into perspective the reasoning behind the abolition movement. Robert Cruikshank is a representation of the tragic depths of disgusting unethical blindness that a man can succumb to. He attempts to enforce the right of slavery by addressing the ethical standards of those who are attacking it. To me, that’s like robbing a bank and then accusing the people that are accusing you of robbing the bank by saying that they’re being paid by the bank. The questioning of ethics in abolition is irrelevant, whatever the reason for supporting abolition completely overrides the atrocity and act of slavery. In the cartoon, Robert Cruikshank shows Barbadoes as a land that is enjoying joy through dancing, when compared to the strife that some citizens of England were experiencing. Oladauh Equiano has else to say.
“Even in the Barbadoes, notwithstanding those humane exception which I have mentioned, and others I am acquainted with, which justly make it quoted as a place where slaves meet with the best treatment and need fewest recruits of any in the West indies, yet this island requires 1000 negroes annually to keep up with the original stock, which is only 80,000. So that the whole term of a negro’s life may be said to be there but sixteen years!”(Ch. 5). Equiano explains the brevity of life in the Barbadoes and explains that it is a small portion of the massive transatlantic slave trade, in which over 10 million Africans were taken from their homes. The slavery in the United States is not discussed or scrutinized in Cruikshank’s pathetic cartoon, and he dismisses the reality of the horrors, which is ironic in that he attempts to explain the blindness of abolition when his morality is the one most at concern with the illustration.
Education helps free the world. Oladauh Equiano’s narrative was a key proponent in abolishing the transatlantic slave-trade. Abolition of the slave trade in Britain helped pave the way for the freedom of slaves In the United States. Abolitionist leaders such as William Lloyd Garrison, who wrote “No Compromise with Slavery”, Frederick Douglass, and Harriet Beecher Stowe borrowed from the British abolition movement, to express their beliefs and concerns. There are further interesting analyzations that could be formulated in a term paper about the connections of Equiano and his antebellum counterparts. Oladauh Equiano advanced the chain of events leading to more equal rights, and the term “Eyes on the Prize”, refers to the civil-rights movement in the mid 20th century that involved Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, and so many others. Education or the lack thereof is a direct determination in crafting a view of humanity and enables the ability to defend or in Cruikshank’s case, attack it.
– Thomas Pham