Transatlantic Abhorrence and Abolitionist “Eyes on the Prize”

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

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Sophia the Pretentious

In Phebe Gibbes’s Hartley House, Sophia often utilizes references to works from authors such as Dryden and Milton to demonstrate her ‘English Class’. In the book I think that Sophia utilizes the allusions or references to great english works so that she can brag about how much ‘cooler’ she is than her dear friend Arabella. Sophia in one of her many letters stated “But perhaps, instead of thinking yourself obliged to me, you will, with true European sangiford, suspect me of self- gratification in my descriptions; beware, however, of such erroneous conclusions, as you value the future favors of your own…” (Gibbs, p.14). This quote demonstrates sophia need to brag and show off to her friend how much class and cultured she is. The author does this in order to illuminate the obsessiveness the English had with their own cultural class hierarchy and to also offer a satirical analysis of the way in which the english language was used in such a complicated way to demonstrate ‘intelligence’ and along with that, ‘class’. Her reference to Dryden also emphasizes this in that Dryden was known for his admiration of the english language  so much so that he wrote The Indian Emperor, in closed couplets and iambic pentameters in a true heroic drama style. Although written in fancy English, Drydens drama is hard to follow and not easy for the average person to understand, even at that time in period. This is significant because although he is trying to uplift the english language, he is essentially uplifting nonsense. Ironically the more complicated and rare your diction and complex sentence structure was, the more intelligent you sounded which lead to a superiority complex and class distinction; even Sophia relies heavy on her cultured references and large amount of words to brag to her friend Arabella to demonstrate to Arabella how high society she is and to the reader how immature and spoiled she is.

The High Status of English Literature

Sophia Goldborne references English literary works because England is a symbol of power and high status, and in a way Goldborne feels the same about herself. When she references English literary works she doesn’t just do this to showcase the status of England, but more so of herself. Although, India is a British colony, by referring back to works by Dryden, Milton, Pope and other English authors. Sophia Goldborne is able to separate the two different societies, and she is also able to distinguish herself from her friend Arabella.

“For me the mine a thousand treasures brings;

For me health gushes from a thousand springs;

Seas roll to Wait me, suns to light me rise;

My footstool earth, my canopy the skies” (Gibbes 48).

This quote from Alexander Pope is significant because it lays out how Goldborne sees herself. Goldborne sees herself as the English in India, and how India belongs to them and it’s theirs for the taking. Goldborne is England (power and wealth) and India is everybody else. Goldborne is very egocentric, and this quotes really proves that. Notice how the quote contains ‘me’ which in this case would be Goldborne. Goldborne will have thousands of riches, the seas and sun will bow down to her, and the Earth and skies belong to her, and the world centers around her. “Suns to light me rise” can also refer to the idea that England and English literature has to be superior to all other cultures and nations because that their destiny. To be superior is Goldborne’s destiny.

Goldborne may have chosen English literature because English literature has the ability to give one’s self a sense of superiority, and in a way that showcases how Goldborne wants to be looked as. As someone who is superior and has a high status.

Beautiful Words to Describe the Grotesque

Phebe Gibbes’ Hartly House, Calcuutta is extensively completed with quotes from English poets, authors, and/or plays; one of these being William Shenstone. Within Letter XI, nearing its end of the letter, Sophia quotes Shenstone to ironically express her native beauty, all the while she is critiquing England’s hospitals (by glorifying Calcutta’s). His quote is a short one: “They love me the more when they hear/ Such tenderness fall from my tongue” (Shenstone via Gibbes, 76).

It is needed to be said that Shenstone was indeed an English poet whom wrote about all the wonders and greatness that was found in his native land, such as the English language, hence his quote. He was regarded by many as being a profound poet, Robert Burns in fact—who wrote in the preface to one of Shenstone’s poetry collections—stated that he was a “celebrated poet whose divine elegies do honour to our language, our nation, and our species” (written in 1786). The poet appears to be quite talented in his English, so much so that it brings “honour” to it.

But with this said, what place does he have in this excerpt of the epistle, that is, why does Sophia quote from him whilst critiquing England’s morality?

For the most part Sophia is describing the hospital in Calcutta with pleasurable sensations of her father’s account with it; then tells Arabella that towards England’s hospitals she ought to “promote new and salutary regulations, by publishing so noble an example as [she has] thus set before [her]” (76). To Sophia, her language—her description of the hospital—has done its beauty justice; her words alone ought to grant the construction of better hospital regulations in her native country.

The proof is in her language—appropriately so—when she is comparing her thoughts between the hospitals both wherein she resides and the one she has fled. Sophia praises Calcutta’s, whereas she disregards with disgust the other, “extolling the country [she] now resides in; and sighing for the disgraces of the country [she has] quitted” (76). Therefore, no matter how grotesque she’d like to picture the English regulations, she’ll do so with her greatest asset, thus, also her greatest contradiction: English language.

–Daniel Lizaola Lopez

The Enlightenment Discourse: A Fiction

Give it up for Samuel Johnson for being maniacal enough to write out the English dictionary. Although some could make the argument that we do, it seems that we do not often question whether our language is fit enough to be considered civilized. It is no surprise that Samuel Johnson prefaced his dictionary as if it were a manifesto ready to civilize the mouths of the English speakers—considering the fact that he is a familiar face of the Enlightenment. Like the other languages of the Western world, English is rooted primarily in Latin, but it also gained influence from other languages that were already fathered by Latin, like French. Johnson takes note of this in page 3 of his book, as he explains how they “had dominions in France.” Interestingly enough, he talks about how church service was ironically still in Latin, while this was going on, which must have created a cacophony of languages and dialects. In other words, English was formed in a crucible of languages, which disturbed people like Johnson who wished to see uniformity in their society.

In retrospect, we can see how the Enlightenment led to colonialism. Concepts like taxonomy and categorization were a solid pedestal where Westerners like the British were able to stand on and cast a gaze on foreigners while taking colonial power. Thomas Babington Macaulay assumes this power way too comfortably in the 19th century when describing “the intrinsic superiority of the Western literature” in his essay “Minute”. Macaulay is writing in response to making English a primary language in India while they were colonizing it, and proudly states he does not know anything about the language but has known enough to make an all-encompassing judgment to render their language inferior. As brutally racist and ignorant as this may be, it is following suit from the bias that Samuel Johnson had for the English language, even though he ironically held it in a lower regard. As Johnson was trying to be objective in describing why he chose to write “entire” rather than “intire” because the latter came from Latin and not French, for example, Johnson reveals that he is actually being subjective and bias. He confuses objectivity with what he strongly believes should dictate the English language, and this shows his dictionary is more a work of his own and NOT the English language. Just as much as Samuel Johnson’s pretenses for what dictates the English language are a FICTION, so are Macaulay’s claims that Western language should dictate the lives of foreigners.

–Cesar R

“Perfection of Nature”

The Houyhnhnms (the horse civilization) in Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels seem like an ideal place in the eyes of the titular Gulliver, as they often seem to be surprised by the problems facing his society. While disregarding the fact that it is a race of horses, Gulliver was venting to his “master” how humans in his civilization “could never have enough” (Gulliver 231) money to spend so they are always in necessity of it because they feel it is the most fundamental basis for life. It is actually kind of Marxist of Gulliver to explain this to his “master,” and it is also kind of Marxist of the talking horse to respond with saying it is a “miserable country which cannot furnish food for its own inhabitants” (232). The Houyhnhnms seem to be the perfect civilization in the eyes of Gulliver, despite having to call one of them “master,” and being subject to the inspection and vetting of them to make sure Gulliver is not a Yahoo.

The Yahoos are a human civilization that the talking horses consider savages, which gives the Houyhnhnms the reason to believe Gulliver is one of them. The Houyhnhnms use their own frame of reference to inspect Gulliver and differentiate him from the Yahoos they have not known to be “teachable,” civil or clean (216). We have to pick up the subtle clues that these horses are not in fact an ideal race, or a city upon a hill, as Winthrop would put it. The reason the horses think of Gulliver as an exceptional Yahoo is because the Yahoos are othered in the eyes of the Houyhnhnms, so they see him as a kind of anomaly and nothing more. In other words, Gulliver is othered as well, because he is still filtered through the original stereotype of the Yahoos. Swift goes as far as to use linguistics to make this race of horses similar to the Eurocentric behavior of the people in England. Gulliver notes how the etymology of the word Houyhnhnm means “perfection of nature” (217) as jab from Swift to the hubris of the elite in his own country. The satire here is that, as readers, we cannot seem to get our mind off the fact that these are literally talking horses. This ridiculous choice from Swift is to play with the subjectivity of the reader.

Cesar Ramirez

Happiness is more than Perfection

 

Happiness is different from pleasure. Happiness has something to do with struggling and enduring and accomplishing.

George A. Sheehan

Those who are not looking for happiness are the most likely to find it, because those who are searching forget that the surest way to be happy is to seek happiness for others.

-Martin Luther King Jr.

Sorrow and Frustration have their power. The world is moved by people with great discontents. Happiness is a drug. It can make men blind and deaf and insensible to reality. There are times when only sorrow can give to sorrow.

-Winifred Holtby

Would we be happier if we acted a bit more like the Houyhnhnms, and also reasoned in the same manner they do? Perhaps in some regards, as suffering and conflict would surely be diminished, but the happiness we live and breathe for entails a notion that is evidently separate from the seemingly perfect philosophy of the supposedly superior horse-people in the land of the Houyhnhnms. Happiness is found to occur over accomplishment and triumph, over the strife and struggles present in our society, that seem to be devoid or lacking on this horse-run island. Happiness is infinitely defined, and can be seen also  alongside the vices of our world and the insinuation of terror,  and in the ways blissful innocence and enlightened thinking may. I believe that Swift does a commendable job at putting into perspective the imperfections and ethically digressive actions we partake through the characterization of the Yahoos, and I sense an underlying presence of irony in that Gulliver becomes too caught up in his own fantasy of a Utopian society, forgetting the beauty of the challenge and the triumph of adversity.

Through the doubt of those who have denied your capabilities, you have many times succeeded in life and felt the elation of such a victory. Opposition and challenges are what opportunities to succeed and overcome. They are scenarios in which brave individuals and daring souls have resisted and rejected attempts of tyranny and authoritative rule. Swift shows the fault of laws, greed, war among other repulsive aspects of our culture, but he begins to lose a grasp of what makes us human. Ironically, in his attempt to convey the grotesque and undesirable reality of mankind, he  inadvertently reveals the magnificence of imperfection. There is a severe lack of joy and happiness in the world of the Houyhnhnms. The unpleasant realities of our world give us a platform to contrast onto our perceptions of good and righteousness. Heaven in the bible wouldn’t seem so amazing without the depiction of hell. However Swift brings to light our perception of happiness directly. Truly, happiness can be a result of maniacal fervor, or blatant addiction, but this is where the unique existence of our kind is shaped. For those who find happiness in the light of positivism and ethical behavior, then evil is indeed necessary.

We have come to define happiness in our own ways throughout time, and to extract a more perfect definition of this, would oppose and detract from the original meaning of the word itself. Like each and every human, our world is imperfect in its very own beautiful way, and happiness is defined with this imperfection. Johnathan Swift implies a more peaceful and desirable way of living through the Houyhnhnms, but demonstrates that ultimately a transition to a more perfect society would inevitably dismantle the true definition of happiness that we surely all pursue.

Swift is evidently targeting John Locke’s philosophy of nature, war, and society. Locke seemed to justify European colonization attempts with his doctrine on the necessity of society. The enlightenment aimed to glorify the intellectual, but at the expense of those who were deemed as not within the category of a society, the uncivilized. The Houyhnhmns seemed to emulate this Lockean philosophy, and were willing to exterminate the Yahoos for their own well-being. With Gulliver’s Travels, Swift expresses his concern over the dangers that Enlightenment thinking can insinuate. He insists that superiority will involve gruesome and heartless actions. He makes it clear that happiness is not present through the path that the enlightenment might proceed to. Johnathan Swift defends those who would otherwise have no say, and presents a rare defense to the encroaching oppression of tyrannical governments.

-Thomas Pham

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Living in a Fantasy Land

I disagree that humanity would be happier living in as the Houyhnhnms live. While I think the idea of humanity living just like the Houyhnhnms would have its benefits, this idea is simply not plausible. The Houyhnhms live simple lives, they aren’t guided by greed, politics, religion, or even compassion, but solely on reason. It’s almost as if they are machines rather than biological entities that posse feelings and emotions. If Houyhnhms were real beings, I doubt that they would not have any sense of fear. Humans have a fear instinct, therefore, we are guided by our own thoughts and choices. There is too much influence in the world that blinds reason therefore, living in a ‘Houyhnhnms world’ is the equivalent of living in a fantasy land.

Living in a world with few problems doesn’t always bring happiness. When Gulliver describes the society which Houyhnhnms live in, it’s almost as if there is no life present. Sure the H live simple lives where the laws of nature guide their way of life, but it seems as if the Houyhnhnms have no meaning in their lives. Their life is practically written for them, and all they can do is play their role. Most importantly the individual doesn’t even have personal freedom. For instance, when someone dies no one griefs or when someone gets married they aren’t allowed to choose their spouse. The Houyhnhnms live a rational, but empty life.

When I think of what the U.S. would be look like if the Houyhnhnms way of life was implemented, I think of Soviet Russia or North Korea were the state is in charge of the individual’s life or Nazi Germany where the ideology  (nationalism) is the basis for all decision making. The Houyhnhnms view themselves as superior to the Yahoos therefore, have total control over them. Very similar to Nazi Germany and Soviet Union. The Houyhnhnms way of life is no more different than that of Nazi Germany. Before the Holocaust, Nazis held the ‘Wannsee Conference’ where Himmler would set forth their ‘final solution’ plan to eradicate the Jews which seems very similar to the Houyhnhnms plan to eradicate the Yahoos. At first, these regimes made their people proud and gave them a sense of hope, but as more and more atrocities were committed, all in the name of the good of the people, people began questioning their government. People start to question their rulers and begin forming revolutions. If the U.S. functioned the same way as the Houyhnhnms, there would be a revolution. The U.S. governing system may have its flaws, but people still have the power to change it. We could live as the Houyhnhnms live, but we would have to get rid of governments, currency, religion, and traditions, and the same way that regimes like Nazi Germany, North Korea, and Soviet Union have done.

-Benjamin Montes

A Whole Newton World

“Newton, forgive me; you found the only way which, in your age, was just about possible for a man of highest thought and creative power.”

– Albert Einstein

Issac Newton is the most influential scientist to have ever walked the earth. His devotion to the cause of science is legendary; it stretches far beyond the realms of experiment, as he introduced a structured set of philosophical thinking. Newton’s ground-breaking vision propelled a world to welcome further mind-expanding discoveries and insinuated deeply intellectual thoughts. The remnants of his work are seen everywhere you go, buildings, cars, the coins you carry in your pocket, and so much more.

In the 17th century, a man in disguise took to the streets to expose counterfeiters who were essentially dismantling the economy of England by melting silver to sell to France, and distributing inauthentic pieces of currency. As the warden of the Royal Mint, Newton not only took matters into his own hands, but he recalled the entire circulation of coins and remade the financial system to make the coins much more difficult to copy. The milled edge of the U.S. quarter is a feature designed by Newton. As he spent hours and hours in his work space, which wound up to equal months of solitude at a time, his impact is so widespread, and nearly unquantifiable.  Space exploration began with Newton’s work on introducing the notion of gravity, mathematics was exponentially advanced with his development of Calculus , alchemy and the philosopher’s stone, the study of light refraction, mirror reflecting telescopes and more.

The enlightenment championed the individual spirit. Finally there was a widespread movement that challenged the fallacy that the mindset of religion presented. Book 3 Rule 1 in the Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, “To this purpose the philosophers say that Nature does nothing in vain, and more is in vain when less will serve; for Nature is pleased with simplicity, and affects not the pomp of superfluous causes.” Religion was no longer the solution to the problems that humanity could not solve, allowing for the progression and extent of advancement of a society that we continue to experience to this day, however Newton did attempt to explain the significance of theology in his thorough studies. What separated Newton from the others, was his focus less on economic issues but still retained a strong sense of duty for the government.  Issac Newton did everything he could and more. He lived in a savage world that lacked the bright intellectualism.

Hypotheses non fingo (“I contrive no hypotheses”)

Issac Newton

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-Thomas Pham

The Royal Society’s Conquest for Knowledge

Like all advancements in culture, there are political implications that shaped the Royal Society when Charles II reigned. The terms science and exploration tell us the implications it had on the scientific world. However, these terms also reflected that at the time, science and reasoning were put on a hierarchy, which in turn shaped the way people thought about the world around them. The important thing to note here is that, as a western civilization, they were not the first to put these terms on a pedestal.

The image of the Royal Society that includes Francis Bacon has references that could be expressed as intertextualities about the classical times of the Roman and Greek empires. Judging by Bacon’s “New Atlantis” there were many ideas of, not only a utopic vision, but also the importance of functionality. The narrator’s litany that is offered by the wise man he meets represents the ideal world for a learning environment. Indeed, the location is fictional, but like all utopic visions, it represents the ideal. It is significant to see how the characteristics of the location are emphasized by their function, even if they are just for ornament. When the narrator lists the “beasts” that will be there for both visual pleasure and dissection, it is stated matter-of-factly to further emphasize the idealistic characteristics that would make the civilization whole. This phase of praising science and reasoning seems to be like a fashion, as if trying to emulate the classical times. This begs the question whether the Royal Society is doing it to allude to the classical times or to actually seek out knowledge. Furthermore, the importance of seeking a location like New Atlantis serves to recognize conquest of knowledge on a spatial format. I say conquest because this almost seems to justify the colonization of other lands in order to search for this idealistic pinnacle of learning—and even teaching.

 

–Cesar Ramirez