There are many features of this artifact that merit mention, but the most important for historical purposes is the shift in Hammon’s thinking about the nature of slavery itself. We know from his writings that his masters raised and educated him under devout Calvinist principles that advocated the compatibility of slavery with Christianity. (His masters later became connected by marriage to the Hillhouse family of New Haven, which is how the poem ended up at Yale.) In his previous publications, Hammon suggests a predestinarian belief that since slavery existed, it had to be part of God’s will, and therefore slaves were bound to obey their masters. But “An Essay on Slavery,” written in 1786, declares unambiguously that slavery is a manmade sin, not the will of God, and then proceeds to celebrate the eventual end of the institution of human bondage:
Exact Title: An Essay on Slavery and Abolitionism, with Reference to the Duty of American Females
Volume: Second Edition
Page(s): 6−9, 53−57, 82−85
Essay On Slavery Slavery and the origins of racism
An Essay on the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species, Particularly The African, Translated from a Latin Dissertation, which was honoured with First Prize in the University of Cambridge for the Year 1785, With Additions. MDCCLXXXV1 (1786) Printed by J. Phillips, George-Yard, Lombard-Street.Notes: 1st Edition copy of Clarkson's original essay which began his lifetime's work.