Archive for May, 2011

William Roscoe – Good to Great?

May 26, 2011

William Roscoe - looking to the future

Three powerful features link William Roscoe from Liverpool in 1811 to Liverpool in 2011: He had a passion for Liverpool to rise to be the cultural capital of Europe. He was determined to see the end of the slave trade, and he understood the value of communication, arts and business in making a difference in society.

Roscoe came from a humble background, his father a pub owner and market gardener. He started out helping his father but life changed when he was twelve and he bought his first book. This led him on a journey of self education and awareness of the arts. He qualified as a lawyer, wrote poetry and fell in love with the classic arts and in particular Italian art and culture.

Although he became a successful banker and lawyer he held onto his beliefs and values. While he was collecting Italian art he was writing moving poetry and used his poems to challenge the educated classes to think differently. In one poem he saw through the ages to a time when Liverpool might suffer hard times:

“The time may come – O distant be the year – When desolation spreads her empire here, When Trade’s uncertain triumph shall be o’er, And the wave roll neglected on the shore . . . and not one trace of former pride remain”

His passion and determination to see the transatlantic slave trade ended was captured in a 10,000 word poem called ‘The Wrongs of Africa’ captured in these few lines of challenge to British society and Christians:

 Blush ye not,
To boast your equal laws, your just restraints,
Your rights defin’d, your liberties secur’d,
Whilst with an iron hand ye crush to earth
The helpless African; and bid him drink
That cup of sorrow, which yourselves have dash’d
Indignant, from oppression’s fainting grasp?

Roscoe directed his vision and values on many fronts. He was successful in business, promoted the value of parks and the countryside, championed the arts and was active in politics on behalf of the poor and oppressed. He was elected as an MP and spoke for the bill abolishing the slave trade in 1807.

This man sets an example for leadership in 21st century: He was a man of conviction and values, who demonstrated determination in his own education and business development. He was a campaigner for human rights and environmental concerns. He was not afraid to venture into politics and risk making enemies by challenging the status quo. Roscoe understood that greed and abuse of fellow human beings will ultimately be judged by God, and that there is much in this life to enjoy, much more than mere material gain.