The Annual of the Association for Documentary Editing
2013, Volume 34
"Will not these days be by thy poets sung": Poems of the Anglo-African and National Anti-Slavery Standard, 1863–1864Edited by Elizabeth Lorang and R. J. Weir
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JANUARY 11TH, 1865.
Oh, fitly may the silver light, From all the round moon's cycle bright, Shine o'er the sleeping town to-night.
No smallest cloud to dim her ray, She moveth on her splendid way, To bless the night of Freedom's day.
For unto many an humble home, With quiet feet no more to roam, The Angel of the Lord has come;
And broken lies the heavy chain, That at his bidding snapped in twain, And left the slave a man again.
Now many hearts forget their care, As joyous, solemn words of prayer Float upward on the quiet air.
And North and South, where still the broad And swelling river rolls its flood, Go up the freed man's thanks to God;
And West, to where, o'er war-worn lands, Our freedom-loving Kansas stands And welcomes him with outstretched hands.
Oh, earth roll round, and bring the sun, To shine upon the triumph won, Upon the better life begun.
To shine upon the rescued State, All thrilling with the coming fate, That asked but this to make her great.
For now at last, redeemed and free, She sends her voice to either sea, And cries: "Oh, sisters, welcome me!"
Through all the storm-clouds of the fight, Our God has led her steps aright To Freedom's first, most blessed right.
Nor doubt we that He guardeth still, And leadeth all the land until He gives us peace. We wait his will.
- "Free Missouri" also appeared in the February 4, 1865 issue of the Anglo-African. The Anglo-African text is identical to the Standard text.
- Missouri's state convention opened in St. Louis on January 6, 1865. An overwhelming majority of delegates were "Radical" Unionists; they passed the emancipation ordinance on January 11 (Journal of the Missouri State Convention [St. Louis: Missouri Democrat, 1865], 26); William E. Parrish, History of Missouri [Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1973], 3:116–17). The ordinance decreed that "hereafter, in this State, there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except in punishment of crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted; and all persons held to service or labor as slaves are hereby declared free" (Journal of the Missouri State Convention, 25). Large public celebrations were held three days later (Parrish, 3:118).
- The Mississippi River forms Missouri's eastern border. In lines 16 through 19, the whole state is remapped as free: "the freed man's" praise rises from the north and south, east and west. Perhaps the lines also gesture toward a united nation; the Mississippi flows from Minnesota to the Gulf Basin.
- In the wake of the Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854), free-soil settlers in Kansas Territory fought with raiders from neighboring slave state Missouri to win the popular majority that would define the political and social identity of Kansas as a state. Under the Wyandotte Constitution, "Bleeding Kansas" joined the Union as a free state in January 1861. The poem simultaneously acknowledges recent Kansan history and seeks to displace the old "bleeding" personification with a welcoming antislavery figure claimed as kin ("our . . . Kansas"). The scenario in stanza 7 prefigures the welcome in stanza 10: the implication is that Missouri, "redeemed and free," will be similarly welcomed by her "sisters" (line 30).
- Established in 1853, the Missouri Democrat was pro-Republican throughout the war; in 1864 the newspaper had helped "lead for a pro-abolition state government" (David W. Bulla and Gregory A. Borchard, Journalism in the Civil War Era [New York: Peter Lang, 2010], 166–67).
- "A. E." is unidentified.