Chapter 1 - Nottingham Riots of 1794

UNFOLD, Father TIME, thy long Records unfold,
Of noble Atchievements accomplish’d of old,
When MEN, by the Spirit of LIBERTY led,
Undauntedly conquer’d, or chearfully bled;
But now ‘midst the Triumphs these Moments reveal,
Their Glory all fades, and their Lustre turns pale,
While FRANCE rises up, and proclaims the Decree,
That tears off our Chains, and bids MILLIONS BE FREE!

– “Millions be Free”, from a ballad circulated by the English Jacobins in the 1790s

John Wheatley and Elizabeth Wright came from the vicinity of Nottingham; they were forced to leave England after 1794, owing to their Jacobin sympathies. They may have had contact with Joseph Priestley, the scientist, theologian and dissenter; they maintained contact with John’s brother in England after their emigration.