Last time we were here it was 1775, now, just 45 years later, Liverpool has changed

The population is now 118,000 and growing rapidly. By the middle of the century it will be 376,000 and the town will be calling itself a city.

William Roscoe, the young poet just making his way in 1775 is now sixty seven years old, and his fortunes have passed their zenith. Having lived in some style out in the country at grand Allerton Hall, his bank has failed, he’s been declared bankrupt, has had to sell his house and all of his books, and is now living in Lodge Lane.

But since we last met him he has become increasingly radicalised. By his religious non-conformism, which in these days means he will never be allowed into the closed shop of 41 Liverpool town councillors. By his instinctive moral opposition to the Trans Atlantic slave trade, which 37 of the councillors are involved in. And by his initial and public support for the reasons behind the French Revolution of 1789.

And now, along with many others, not least the slaves themselves, he appears to have helped end the iniquitous Slave Trade. This was not easy, given the heavy involvement of most of the people of Liverpool in some aspect of the trade. (Roscoe himself, as a banker, must have handled money from the slave trade.) And there were times, campaigning to be the town’s MP, when he was stoned in the street. But the trade seems to be over and Roscoe and the other abolitionists are now working together to end the slavery of all those transported to the Americas and the Caribbean before the trade was stopped in 1807.


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