Liverpool's Heart of Darkness

By Klinkenborg, Verlyn | Mother Jones, July/August 2002 | Go to article overview

Liverpool's Heart of Darkness


Klinkenborg, Verlyn, Mother Jones


CONSCIENCE OF PLACE

IT WAS STRICTLY BUSINESS:THE CITY'S ERA OF PROSPERITY RESTED ON THE PROFITS OF THE TRANSATLANTIC SLAVE TRADE. TODAY ITS IDLE DOCKS ARE HOME TO THE MEMORIES OF AN ANCESTRAL CRIME.

On the 27th of July, 1807, a ship named the Kitty's Amelia sailed from Liverpool, England, under the command of Captain Hugh Crow, a one-eyed Manxman turning 42. Earlier that year, Parliament had abolished the British slave trade, but the Kitty's Amelia had received legal clearance before the first of May, when abolition took effect. Though she left port almost three months after the slave trade officially ended in Great Britain, the Kitty's Amelia sailed legally, as legally, that is, as a slave trader-the last of the English slave traderscould sail. The ship carried 300 tons burden and 18 guns, a concession not only to England's war with.France but also to conditions on the Guinea coast of Africa, where Captain Crow-called "Mind-Your-Eye Crow"-was bound.

I have no idea whether the Kitty's Amelia was finally dismasted, her timbers knocked apart, her ship's furniture salvaged or burned. The ship may have ended its days benignly. It might have become a prison hulk, like the ones in Great Expectations, or been wrecked at sea. There's no knowing precisely where Captain Crow's human cargo finally ended up after being sold in the West Indies or where and in what circumstances they lived and died, apart from those captives, that is, who died of disease aboard ship during the Middle Passage from Africa to the New World.

As for Captain Crow, his days ended in 1829, and he was buried on the Isle of Man. In his autobiography, Memoirs of the Late Captain Hugh Crow of Liverpool, he does his best to make a slave's voyage aboard the Kitty's Amelia sound almost pleasant. "I always took great pains to promote the health and comfort of all on board, by proper diet, regularity, exercise, and cleanliness, for I considered that on keeping the ship clean and orderly, which was always my hobby, the success of our voyage mainly depended." How you interpret this passage depends entirely on the meaning you give the word "success."

I recently stood at the edge of the Mersey River, trying to imagine the July day 195 years ago when the Kitty's Amelia worked her way into the tide. The thought of that day brought with it a sense of the irrevocable, of lives lost, fortunes gathered and dispersed, the peculiar distortions of human and economic justice we like to call history. Perhaps someone in Liverpool, watching the Kitty's Amelia work her way downstream in 1807, had the sense of an era ending. But human flesh was just one among many cargoes, and a risky one because slaves found it so easy to die aboard ship. The end of the slave trade in Great Britain ratified the outrage of the abolitionists-people who, as Captain Crow saw it, knew little or nothing about the subject of slavery-but it also confirmed the shifting of markets and the growing importance of the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain. When Captain Crow arrived in Kingston, Jamaica, he found the harbor crowded with slave ships, their human wares going unsold.

Today, Liverpool stands where it always has, rising above the Mersey and above a chain of now disused docks. From the river's edge, you can look across the water and see the Wirral, a spur of land that divides the Dee River from the Mersey and, in a sense, England from Wales. Standing on the embankment, watching the tidal chop on the Mersey's brown water, which empties into a sea framed by Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and northern England, you get none of the land's-end feeling you get at the westernmost tip of Cornwall, where the waves breaking against the headlands seem to have come direct from America. The Mersey these days could be almost any large river flowing past the engineered edge of almost any city. Except that between 1760 and 1807 Liverpool built and the Mersey floated the largest fleet of slave ships in the history of the trade. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Liverpool's Heart of Darkness
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.