The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African can be compared to Philip Freneau ’s poem “On the Emigration to America and Peopling the Western Country” in terms of nature. Both works advocate taking advantage of natural resources. In his memoir, Equiano declares, “Our...
land is uncommonly rich and fruitful.” The people of Eboe produce fruits, vegetables, tobacco, spices, and honey in “great abundance.” According to Equiano, the goal of the community is to “improve those blessings of nature.”
Writing toward the end of the 1700s, one of the main problems for Freneau is that the lands associated with the newly formed United States have not been properly exploited. Freneau bemoans the “useless” streams and the lakes that have “swelled in vain.” Yet Freneau remains hopeful that the people of the United States will soon use their land similarly to how Equiano and the people of Eboe cultivate their land.
Freneau is also somewhat hopeful that one day the United States will be a place where “the African” can break their “unbroken chains.” The issue of slavery ties to Equiano’s work, as he is kidnapped and turned into a slave for multiple masters, including a chieftain and a British sea captain.
Overall, Freneau seems to gloss over the horrors of slavery. He doesn’t present the United States as a site of oppression but as a pleasant place with “happier soil” and a “milder sway.” For Freneau, the tyrants aren’t slave masters; they're not those displacing and killing Indigenous people. In Freneau’s poem, the main villains are the members of the British government who tried to prevent America’s independence.
Equiano’s work does delve into the barbarity upon which Western hegemony was built. Equiano describes his journey on a slave ship in graphic detail:
The shrieks of the women, and the groans of the dying, rendered the whole a scene of horror almost inconceivable.
He writes of the suffocating atmosphere, the manifold deaths, and the basic inhumane treatment. Equiano is in an extremely precarious position throughout most of his work; Freneau is not.