Monday, October 08, 2007

Jefferson and the Sharks

Back in September I linked to this post at J.L. Bell's excellent Boston 1775 blog, where Bell points out a Marcus Rediker essay in the Boston Globe about a satirical broadside he'd found, "The Petition of the Sharks of Africa" (transcription here).

The abolitionist broadside, written from the perspective of the sharks, urges Parliament not to stop the slave trade, because "your petitioners are sustained, not only by the carcases of those who have fallen by distempers, but are frequently gratified with rich repasts from the bodies of living negroes who voluntarily plunge into the abodes of your petitioners, preferring instant destruction by their jaws, to the imaginary horrors of a lingering slavery." The whole document is very imaginative and incredibly disturbing.

Why bring this up again, you'll ask? Well, last night as I was adding some more of Thomas Jefferson's library to LibraryThing (project intro here, progress report here), I got to a collection of bound tracts titled "Political Pamphlets. English. 1800. 1801", and there as the first entry is a folded broadside, "The Petition of the Sharks of Africa" [Sowerby 2802]. So Jefferson not only had a copy of this broadside, but kept it and had it bound with other works; the volume still exists at the Library of Congress.

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