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Freighted with Fools
The Sotweed Factor #1


Satire in the hands of the literate man of conscience in early modern English letters was a means of shaming the literate class into taking notice of the plight of their slaves by recourse to comic strains. Ebeneezer Cooke’s lays on the subject of Plantation Maryland compliment well the works of James Revel and Samuel Wisemen of the previous generation and point drearily forward into time towards the suffering of Mary Sprigg

Part One

Condemn’d by Fate to way-ward Curse,

Of Friends unkind, and empty Purse:

Plagues worse than fill’d Pandora’s Box,

I took my leave of Albion‘s Rock

With heavy heart, concern’d that I [1]

Was forc’d my Native soil to fly.

And the Old World must bid good-buy.

But Heav’n ordain’d it should be so.

And to repine is vain we know:

Freighted with Fools, from Plymouth sound, [2]

To Mary-Land our ship was bound.

Where we arriv’d in dreadful Pain,

Shock’d by the Terrours of the Main:

For full three Months, our wavering Boat.

Did thro’ the surley Ocean float.

And furious storms and threat’ning Blasts,

Both tore our Sails and sprung our Masts:

Wearied, yet pleased, we did escape

Such ills, we anchor’d at the Cape.

But weighing soon, we plough’d the Bay,

To Cove it in Piscato-way,

Intending there to open Store

I put myself and Goods a-shore:

Where soon repair’d a numerous Crew,

In Shirts and Drawers of Scotch-cloth Blue.

With neither Stockings, Hat, nor Shooe.

These SOTWEED Planters Crowd the Shoar,

In Hue as tawny as a Moor: [3]

Figures so strange, no God design’d,

To be a part of Humane Kind:

But wanton Nature, void of Rest,

Moulded the brittle Clay in Jest.

At last a Fancy ver odd

Took me. this was the Land of Nod.

Planted at first, when Vagrant Cain,

His Brother had unjustly slain:

then conscious of the Crime he’d done,

From Vengeance dire, he hither run;

And in a Hat supinely dwelt,

The first in Furs and SOTWEED dealt. [4]

And ever since his Time, the Place,

Has harbour’d a detested Race; [5]

Who when they cou’d not live at Home,

For Refuge to these Worlds did roam;

In hopes by Flight they might prevent,

The Devil and his fell intent;

Obtain from Tripple Tree repreive,

And Heav’n and Hell alike deceive: [6]

but e’re their Manners I display,

I think it fit I open lay.


1. The narrator is a debt criminal, who fled England ahead of his debtors.

2. Debtors were the early modern protestant definition of fools and were sold and shipped as freight [adults] and half-freight [children].

3. The tanned and impoverished tobacco hands owned by the Planter class, who were the Stansburys Talbots, Taskers, Calverts and other great families who owned the majority of Caucasian slaves in Maryland.

4. Sotweed is tobacco, the primary export of Maryland, a Plantation, that by the 1750s was still not capable of feeding its own population, but imported corn for slave feed. See Mary Sprigg in Into Wicked Company. In 1676 a pamphlet published in Maryland and sent to London complained of Lord Calvert selling English persons to the Indians in exchange for furs for export.

5. The English idea of race during this period was not related to our metazoological constructs but was rooted in culture and ethnicity and class, therefore debt criminals—money being the true functioning religion of Anglican Britain—were literally damned to hell for debts owed and unpaid under the judgement of heaven.

6. Rather than be sold as a fool debtor, the narrator has fled judgement and somehow managed to pay for passage aboard ship and has arrived dressed as a man of status, with hat, boots and presumably a coat and sidearm.

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The Lies That Bind Us

The Foundational Falsehoods of the American Dream

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