Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

The History of the Rise, Progress and Accomplishment of the Abolition of the African Slave Trade by the British Parliament (1808), Vol. I by Thomas Clarkson

Part 2 out of 5

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.6 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

To carry me, to fan me while I sleep,
And tremble when I wake, for all the wealth
That sinews bought and sold have ever earn'd.
No! dear as freedom is,--and in my heart's
Just estimation priz'd above all price,--
I had much rather be myself the slave,
And wear the bonds, than fasten them on him.
We have no Slaves at home--then why abroad?
And they themselves once ferried o'er the wave
That parts us, are emancipate and loos'd.
Slaves cannot breathe in England; if their lungs
Receive our air, that moment they are free;
They touch our country, and their shackles fall[A].
That's noble, and bespeaks a nation proud
And jealous of the blessing. Spread it then,
And let it circulate through every vein
Of all your empire--that where Britain's pow'r
Is felt, mankind may feel her mercy too."

[Footnote A: Expressions used in the great trial, when Mr. Sharp obtained
the verdict in favour of Somerset.]


_Second class of forerunners and coadjutors, up to May 1787, consists of
the Quakers in England--of George Fox, and others--of the body of the
Quakers assembled at the yearly meeting in 1727--and at various other
times--Quakers, as a body, petition Parliament--and circulate books on the
subject--Individuals among them become labourers and associate in behalf of
the Africans--Dilwyn--Harrison--and others--This the first association
ever formed in England for the purpose._

The second class of the forerunners and coadjutors in this great cause up
to May 1787 will consist of the Quakers in England.

The first of this class was George Fox, the venerable founder of this
benevolent society.

George Fox was contemporary with Richard Baxter, being born not long after
him, and dying much about the same time. Like him, he left his testimony
against this wicked trade. When he was in the island of Barbadoes, in the
year 1671, he delivered himself to those who attended his religious
meetings, in the following manner:--

"Consider with yourselves," says he, "if you were in the same condition as
the poor Africans are--who came strangers to you, and were sold to you as
slaves--I say, if this should be the condition of you or yours, you would
think it a hard measure; yea, and very great bondage and cruelty. And
therefore consider seriously of this; and do you for them, and to them, as
you would willingly have them, or any others do unto you, were you in the
like slavish condition, and bring them to know the Lord Christ." And in his
Journal, speaking of the advice, which he gave his friends at Barbadoes, he
says, "I desired also, that they would cause their overseers to deal mildly
and gently with their Negros, and not to use cruelty towards them, as the
manner of some had been, and that after certain years of servitude they
should make them free."

William Edmundson, who was a minister of the Society, and, indeed, a
fellow-traveller with George Fox, had the boldness in the same island to
deliver his sentiments to the governor on the same subject. Having been
brought before him and accused of making the Africans Christians, or, in
other words, of making them rebel and destroy their owners, he replied,
"that it was a good thing to bring them to the knowledge of God and Christ
Jesus, and to believe in him who died for them and all men, and that this
would keep them from rebelling, or cutting any person's throat; but if they
did rebel and cut their throats, as the governor insinuated they would, it
would be their own doing, in keeping them in ignorance and under
oppression, in giving them liberty to be common with women, like brutes,
and, on the other hand, in starving them for want of meat and clothes
convenient; thus giving them liberty in that which God restrained, and
restraining them in that which was meat and clothing."

I do not find any individual of this society moving in this cause for some
time after the death of George Fox and William Edmundson. The first
circumstance of moment, which I discover, is a Resolution of the whole
Society on the subject, at their yearly meeting held in London in the year
1727. The resolution was contained in the following words:--"It is the
sense of this meeting, that the importing of Negros from their native
country and relations by Friends, is not a commendable nor allowed
practice, and is therefore censured by this meeting."

In the year 1758 the Quakers thought it their duty, as a body to pass
another Resolution upon this subject. At this time the nature of the trade
beginning to be better known we find them more animated upon it, as the
following extract will show:--

"We fervently warn all in profession with us, that they carefully avoid
being any way concerned in reaping the unrighteous profits arising from the
iniquitous practice of dealing in Negro or other slaves; whereby, in the
original purchase, one man selleth another, as he doth the beasts that
perish, without any better pretension to a property in him, than that of
superior force; in direct violation of the Gospel rule, which teacheth all
to do as they would be done by, and to do good to all; being the reverse of
that covetous disposition, which furnisheth encouragement to those poor
ignorant people to perpetuate their savage wars, in order to supply the
demands of this most unnatural traffic, by which great numbers of mankind,
free by nature, are subject to inextricable bondage; and which hath often
been observed to fill their possessors with haughtiness, tyranny, luxury,
and barbarity, corrupting the minds and debasing the morals of their
children, to the unspeakable prejudice of religion and virtue, and the
exclusion of that holy spirit of universal love, meekness, and charity,
which is the unchangeable nature and the glory of true Christianity. We
therefore can do no less than, with the greatest earnestness, impress it
upon Friends every where, that they endeavour to keep their hands clear of
this unrighteous gain of oppression."

The Quakers hitherto, as appears by the two resolutions which have been
quoted, did nothing more than seriously warn all those in religious
profession with them, against being concerned in this trade. But in three
years afterwards; or at the yearly meeting in 1761, they came to a
resolution, as we find by the following extract from their Minutes, that
any of their members having a concern in it should be disowned. "This
meeting, having reason to apprehend that divers under our name are
concerned in the unchristian traffic in Negros, doth recommend it earnestly
to the care of Friends every where, to discourage, as much as in them lies,
a practice so repugnant to our Christian profession; and to deal with all
such as shall persevere in a conduct so reproachful to Christianity; and to
disown them, if they desist not therefrom."

The yearly meeting of 1761 having thus agreed to exclude from membership
such as should be found concerned in this trade, that of 1763 endeavoured
to draw the cords still tighter, by attaching criminality to those, who
should aid and abet the trade in any manner. By the minute, which was made
on this occasion, I apprehend that no one, belonging to the Society, could
furnish even materials for such voyages. "We renew our exhortation, that
Friends every where be especially careful to keep their hands clear of
giving encouragement in any shape to the Slave-trade, it being evidently
destructive of the natural rights of mankind, who are all ransomed by one
Saviour, and visited by one divine light, in order to salvation; a traffic
calculated to enrich and aggrandize some upon the misery of others, in its
nature abhorrent to every just and tender sentiment, and contrary to the
whole tenour of the Gospel."

Some pleasing intelligence having been sent on this subject by the Society
in America to the Society in England, the yearly meeting of 1772 thought it
their duty to notice it, and to keep their former resolutions alive by the
following minute:--"It appears that the practice of holding Negros in
oppressive and unnatural bondage hath been so successfully discouraged by
Friends in some of the colonies as to be considerably lessened. We cannot
but approve of these salutary endeavours, and earnestly entreat they may be
continued, that, through the favour of divine Providence, a traffic so
unmerciful and unjust in its nature to a part of our own species, made,
equally with ourselves, for immortality, may come to be considered by all
in its proper light, and be utterly abolished as a reproach to the
Christian name."

I must beg leave to stop here for a moment, just to pay the Quakers a due
tribute of respect for the proper estimation, in which they have uniformly
held the miserable outcasts of society, who have been the subject of these
minutes. What a contrast does it afford to the sentiments of many others
concerning them! How have we been compelled to prove by a long chain of
evidence, that they had the same feelings and capacities as ourselves! How
many, professing themselves enlightened, even now view them as of a
different species! But in the minutes, which have been cited, we have seen
them uniformly represented as persons "ransomed by one and the same
Saviour"--"as visited by one and the same light for salvation"--and "as
made equally for immortality as others." These practical views of mankind,
as they are highly honourable to the members of this society, so they
afford a proof both of the reality and of the consistency of their

But to return:--From this time there appears to have been a growing desire
in this benevolent society to step out of its ordinary course in behalf of
this injured people. It had hitherto confined itself to the keeping of its
own members unpolluted by any gain from their oppression. But it was now
ready to make an appeal to others, and to bear a more public testimony in
their favour. Accordingly, in the month of June 1783, when a bill had been
brought into the House of Commons for certain regulations to be made with
respect to the African trade, the Society sent the following petition to
that branch of the legislature:--

"Your petitioners, met in this their annual assembly, having solemnly
considered the state of the enslaved Negros, conceive themselves engaged,
in religious duty, to lay the suffering situation of that unhappy people
before you, as a subject loudly calling for the humane interposition of the

"Your petitioners regret that a nation, professing the Christian faith,
should so far counteract the principles of humanity and justice, as by the
cruel treatment of this oppressed race to fill their minds with prejudices
against the mild and beneficent doctrines of the Gospel.

"Under the countenance of the laws of this country many thousands of these
our fellow-creatures, entitled to the natural rights of mankind, are held
as personal property in cruel bondage; and your petitioners being informed
that a Bill for the Regulation of the African Trade is now before the
House, containing a clause which restrains the officers of the African
Company from exporting Negros, your petitioners, deeply affected with a
consideration of the rapine, oppression, and bloodshed, attending this
traffic, humbly request that this restriction may be extended to all
persons whomsoever, or that the House would grant such other relief in the
premises as in its wisdom may seem meet."

This petition was presented by Sir Cecil Wray, who, on introducing it,
spoke very respectfully of the Society. He declared his hearty approbation
of their application, and said he hoped he should see the day when not a
slave would remain within the dominions of this realm. Lord North seconded
the motion, saying he could have no objection to the petition, and that its
object ought to recommend it to every humane breast; that it did credit to
the most benevolent society in the world; but that, the session being so
far advanced, the subject could not then be taken into consideration; and
he regretted that the Slave-trade, against which the petition was so justly
directed, was in a commercial view become necessary to almost every nation
of Europe. The petition was then brought up and read, after which it was
ordered to lie on the table. This was the first petition (being two years
earlier than that from the inhabitants of Bridgewater), which was ever
presented to parliament for the abolition of the Slave-trade.

But the Society did not stop here; for having at the yearly meeting of 1783
particularly recommended the cause to a standing commitee appointed to act
at intervals, called the Meeting for Sufferings, the latter in this same
year resolved upon an address to the public, entitled, The Case of our
Fellow-creatures, the oppressed Africans, respectfully recommended to the
serious Consideration of the Legislature of Great Britain, by the People
called Quakers: in which they endeavoured in the most pathetic manner to
make the reader acquainted with the cruel nature of this trade; and they
ordered two thousand copies of it to be printed.

In the year 1784 they began the distribution of this case. The first copy
was sent to the King through Lord Carmarthen, and the second and the third,
through proper officers, to the Queen and the Prince of Wales. Others were
sent by a deputation of two members of the society to Mr. Pitt, as
prime-minister; to the Lord Chancellor Thurlow; to Lord Gower, as president
of the council; to Lords Carmarthen and Sidney, as secretaries of state; to
Lord Chief Justice Mansfield; to Lord Howe, as first lord of the Admiralty;
and to C.F. Cornwall, Esq. as speaker of the House of Commons. Copies were
sent also to every member of both Houses of Parliament.

The Society, in the same year, anxious, that the conduct of its members
should be consistent with its public profession on this great subject,
recommended it to the quarterly and monthly meetings to inquire through
their respective districts, whether any, bearing its name, were in any way
concerned in the traffic, and to deal with such, and to report the success
of their labours in the ensuing year. Orders were also given for the
reprinting and circulation of ten thousand other copies of 'The Case.'

In the year 1785, the Society interested itself again in a similar manner.
For the meeting for sufferings, as representing it, recommended to the
quarterly meetings to distribute a work, written by Anthony Benezet, in
America, called, A Caution to Great Britain and her Colonies, in a short
Representation of the calamitous State of the enslaved Negros in the
British Dominions. This book was accordingly forwarded to them for this
purpose. On receiving it, they sent it among several public bodies, the
regular and dissenting clergy, justices of the peace, and particularly
among the great schools of the kingdom, that the rising youth might acquire
a knowledge, and at the same time a detestation, of this cruel traffic. In
this latter case, a deputation of the Society waited upon the masters, to
know if they would allow their scholars to receive it. The schools of
Westminster, the Charter-house, St. Paul, Merchant-Taylors, Eton,
Winchester, and Harrow were among those visited. Several academies also
were visited for this purpose.

But I must now take my leave of the Quakers as a public body[A], and go
back to the year 1783, to record an event, which will be found of great
importance in the present history, and in which only individuals belonging
to the Society were concerned. This event seems to have arisen naturally
out of existing or past circumstances. For the Society, as I have before
stated, had sent a petition to Parliament in this year, praying for the
abolition of the Slave-trade. It had also laid the foundation for a public
distribution of the books as just mentioned, with a view of enlightening
others on this great subject. The case of the ship Zong, which I have
before had occasion to explain, had occurred this same year. A letter also
had been presented, much about the same time, by Benjamin West, from
Anthony Benezet before mentioned, to our Queen, in behalf of the injured
Africans, which she had received graciously. These subjects occupied at
this time the attention of many Quaker families, and among others, that of
a few individuals, who were in close intimacy with each other. These, when
they met together, frequently conversed upon them. They perceived, as facts
came out in conversation, that there was a growing knowledge and hatred of
the Slave-trade, and that the temper of the times was ripening towards its
abolition. Hence a disposition manifested itself among these, to unite as
labourers for the furtherance of so desirable an object. An union was at
length proposed and approved of, and the following persons (placed in
alphabetical order) came together to execute the offices growing out of it:

William Dillwyn, Thomas Knowles, M.D.
George Harrison, John Lloyd,
Samuel Hoare, Joseph Woods.

[Footnote A: The Quakers, as a public body, kept the subject alive at their
yearly meeting in 1784, 1785, 1787, &c.]

The first meeting was held on the seventh of July, 1783. At this "they
assembled to consider what steps they should take for the relief and
liberation of the Negro slaves in the West Indies, and for the
discouragement of the Slave-trade on the coast of Africa."

To promote this object they conceived it necessary that the public mind
should be enlightened respecting it. They had recourse therefore to the
public papers, and they appointed their members in turn to write in these,
and to see that their productions were inserted. They kept regular minutes
for this purpose. It was not however known to the world that such an
association existed.

It appears that they had several meetings in the course of this year.
Before the close of it they had secured a place in the General Evening
Post, in Lloyd's Evening Post, in the Norwich, Bath, York, Bristol,
Sherborne, Liverpool, Newcastle, and other provincial papers, for such
articles as they chose to send to them. These consisted principally of
extracts from such authors, both in prose and verse, as they thought would
most enlighten and interest the mind upon the subject of their institution.

In the year 1784 they pursued the same plan; but they began now to print
books. The first, was from a manuscript composed by Joseph Woods, one of
the commitee. It was entitled, Thoughts on the Slavery of the Negroes. This
manuscript was well put together. It was a manly and yet feeling address in
behalf of the oppressed Africans. It contained a sober and dispassionate
appeal to the reason of all without offending the prejudices of any. It was
distributed at the expense of the association, and proved to be highly
useful to the cause which it was intended to promote.

A communication having been made to the commitee, that Dr. Porteus, then
bishop of Chester, had preached a sermon before the Society for the
Propagation of the Gospel, in behalf of the injured Africans, (which sermon
was noticed in the last chapter,) Samuel Hoare was deputed to obtain
permission to publish it. This led him to a correspondence with Mr. Ramsay
before mentioned. The latter applied in consequence to the bishop, and
obtained his consent. Thus this valuable sermon was also given to the

In the year 1785 the association continued their exertions as before; but I
have no room to specify them. I may observe, however, that David Barclay, a
grandson of the great apologist of that name, assisted at one of their
meetings, and (what is singular) that he was in a few years afterwards
unexpectedly called to a trial of his principles on this very subject. For
he and his brother John became, in consequence of a debt due to them,
possessed of a large grazing farm, or pen, in Jamaica, which had thirty-two
slaves upon it. Convinced, however, that the retaining of their
fellow-creatures in bondage was not only irreconcileable with the
principles of Christianity, but subversive of the rights of human nature,
they determined upon the emancipation of these. And they[A] performed this
generous office to the satisfaction of their minds, to the honour of their
characters, to the benefit of the public, and to the happiness of the
slave[B]. I mention this anecdote, not only to gratify myself, by paying a
proper respect to those generous persons who sacrificed their interest to
principle, but also to show the sincerity of David Barclay, (who is now the
only surviving brother,) as he actually put in practice what at one of
these meetings he was desirous of recommending to others.

[Footnote A: They engaged an agent to embark for Jamaica in 1795 to effect
this business, and had the slaves conveyed to Philadelphia, where they were
kindly received by the Society for improving the Condition of free Black
People. Suitable situations were found for the adults, and the young ones
were bound out apprentices to handicraft trades, and to receive school

[Footnote B: James Pemberton, of Philadelphia, made the following
observation in a letter to a Friend in England:--"David Barclay's humane
views towards the Blacks from Jamaica have been so far realized, that these
objects of his concern enjoy their freedom with comfort to themselves, and
are respectable in their characters, keeping up a friendly intercourse with
each other, and avoiding to intermix with the common Blacks of this city,
being sober in their conduct and industrious in their business."]

Having now brought up the proceedings of this little association towards
the year 1786, I shall take my leave of it, remarking, that it was the
first ever formed in England for the promotion of the abolition of the
Slave-trade. That Quakers have had this honour is unquestionable. Nor is it
extraordinary that they should have taken the lead on this occasion, when
we consider how advantageously they have been situated for so doing. For
the Slave-trade, as we have not long ago seen, came within the discipline
of the Society in the year 1727. From thence it continued to be an object
of it till 1783. In 1783 the Society petitioned Parliament, and in 1784 it
distributed books to enlighten the public concerning it. Thus we see that
every Quaker, born since the year 1727, was nourished as it were in a fixed
hatred against it. He was taught, that any concern in it was a crime of the
deepest dye. He was taught, that the bearing of his testimony against it
was a test of unity with those of the same religious profession. The
discipline of the Quakers was therefore a school for bringing them up as
advocates for the abolition of this trade. To this it may be added, that
the Quakers knew more about the trade and the slavery of the Africans, than
any other religious body of men, who had not been in the land of their
sufferings. For there had been a correspondence between the Society in
America and that in England on the subject, the contents of which must have
been known to the members of each. American ministers also were frequently
crossing the Atlantic on religious missions to England. These, when they
travelled through various parts of our island, frequently related to the
Quaker families in their way the cruelties they had seen and heard-of in
their own country. English ministers were also frequently going over to
America on the same religious errand. These, on their return, seldom failed
to communicate what they had learned or observed, but more particularly
relative to the oppressed Africans, in their travels. The journals also of
these, which gave occasional accounts of the sufferings of the slaves were
frequently published. Thus situated in point of knowledge, and brought up
moreover from their youth in a detestation of the trade, the Quakers were
ready to act whenever a favourable opportunity should present itself.


_Third class of forerunners and coadjutors, up to 1787, consists of the
Quakers and others in America--Yearly meeting for Pennsylvania and the
Jerseys takes up the subject in 1696--and continue it till 1787--Other five
yearly meetings take similar measures--Quakers, as individuals, also become
labourers--William Burling and others--Individuals of other religious
denominations take up the cause also--Judge Sewell and others--Union of the
Quakers with others in a society for Pennsylvania, in 1774--James Pemberton
--Dr. Rush--Similar union of the Quakers with others for New York and other

The next class of the forerunners and coadjutors, up to the year 1787, will
consist, first, of the Quakers in America; and then of others, as they were
united to these for the same object.

It may be asked, How the Quakers living there should have become
forerunners and coadjutors in the great work now under our consideration. I
reply, first, That it was an object for many years with these to do away
the Slave-trade as it was carried on in their own ports. But this trade was
conducted in part, both before and after the independence of America, by
our own countrymen. It was, secondly, an object with these to annihilate
slavery in America; and this they have been instruments in accomplishing to
a considerable extent. But any abolition of slavery within given boundaries
must be a blow to the Slave-trade there. The American Quakers, lastly,
living in a land where both the commerce and slavery existed, were in the
way of obtaining a number of important facts relative to both, which made
for their annihilation; and communicating many of these facts to those in
England, who espoused the same cause, they became fellow-labourers with
these in producing the event in question.

The Quakers in America, it must be owned, did most of them originally as
other settlers there with respect to the purchase of slaves. They had lands
without a sufficient number of labourers, and families without a sufficient
number of servants, for their work. Africans were poured in to obviate
these difficulties, and these were bought promiscuously by all. In these
days, indeed, the purchase of them was deemed favourable to both parties,
for there was little or no knowledge of the manner in which they had been
procured as slaves. There was no charge of inconsistency on this account,
as in later times. But though many of the Quakers engaged, without their
usual consideration, in purchases of this kind, yet those constitutional
principles, which belong to the Society, occasioned the members of it in
general to treat those whom they purchased with great tenderness,
considering them, though of a different colour, as brethren, and as persons
for whose spiritual welfare it became them to be concerned; so that
slavery, except as to the power legally belonging to it, was in general
little more than servitude in their hands.

This treatment, as it was thus mild on the continent of America where the
members of this Society were the owners of slaves, so it was equally mild
in the West India islands where they had a similar property. In the latter
countries, however, where only a few of them lived, it began soon to be
productive of serious consequences; for it was so different from that,
which the rest of the inhabitants considered to be proper, that the latter
became alarmed at it. Hence in Barbadoes an act was passed in 1676, under
Governor Atkins, which was entitled, An Act to prevent the people called
Quakers from bringing their Negros into their meetings for worship, though
they held these in their own houses. This act was founded on the pretence,
that the safety of the island might be endangered, if the slaves were to
imbibe the religious principles of their masters. Under this act Ralph
Fretwell and Richard Sutton were fined in the different sums of eight
hundred and of three hundred pounds, because each of them had suffered a
meeting of the Quakers at his own house, at the first of which eighty
Negros, and at the second of which thirty of them, were present. But this
matter was carried still further; for in 1680, Sir Richard Dutton, then
governor of the island, issued an order to the Deputy Provost Marshal and
others, to prohibit all meetings of this Society. In the island of Nevis
the same bad spirit manifested itself.--So early as in 1661, a law was made
there prohibiting members of this Society from coming on shore. Negros were
put in irons for being present at their meetings, and they themselves were
fined also. At length, in 1677, another act was passed, laying a heavy
penalty on every master of a vessel, who should even bring a Quaker to the
island. In Antigua and Bermudas similar proceedings took place, so that the
Quakers were in time expelled from this part of the world. By these means a
valuable body of men were lost to the community in these islands, whose
example might have been highly useful; and the poor slave, who saw nothing
but misery in his temporal prospects, was deprived of the only balm, which
could have soothed his sorrow--the comfort of religion.

But to return to the continent of America.--Though the treatment, which the
Quakers adopted there towards those Africans who fell into their hands, was
so highly commendable, it did not prevent individuals among them from
becoming uneasy about holding them in slavery at all. Some of these bore
their private testimony against it from the beginning as a wrong practice,
and in process of time brought it before the notice of their brethren as a
religious body. So early as in the year 1688, some emigrants from Krieshiem
in Germany, who had adopted the principles of William Penn, and followed
him into Pennsylvania, urged in the yearly meeting of the Society there,
the inconsistency of buying, selling, and holding men in slavery, with the
principles of the Christian religion.

In the year 1696, the yearly meeting for that province took up the subject
as a public concern, and the result was, advice to the members of it to
guard against future importations of African slaves, and to be particularly
attentive to the treatment of those, who were then in their possession.

In the year 1711, the same yearly meeting resumed the important subject,
and confirmed and renewed the advice, which had been before given.

From this time it continued to keep the subject alive; but finding at
length, that, though individuals refused to purchase slaves, yet others
continued the custom, and in greater numbers than it was apprehended would
have been the case after the public declarations which had been made, it
determined, in the year 1754, upon a fuller and more serious publication of
its sentiments; and therefore it issued, in the same year, the following
pertinent letter to all the members within its jurisdiction:--

"Dear Friends,

"It hath frequently been the concern of our yearly meeting to testify their
uneasiness and disunity with the importation and purchasing of Negros and
other slaves, and to direct the overseers of the several meetings to advise
and deal with such as engage therein. And it hath likewise been the
continual care of many weighty Friends to press those, who bear our name,
to guard, as much as possible, against being in any respect concerned in
promoting the bondage of such unhappy people. Yet, as we have with sorrow
to observe, that their number is of late increased among us, we have
thought it proper to make our advice and judgment more public, that none
may plead ignorance of our principles therein; and also again earnestly to
exhort all to avoid, in any manner, encouraging that practice, of making
slaves of our fellow-creatures.

"Now, dear Friends, if we continually bear in mind the royal law of doing
to others as we would be done by, we should never think of bereaving our
fellow-creatures of that valuable blessing--liberty, nor endure to grow
rich by their bondage. To live in ease and plenty by the toil of those,
whom violence and cruelty have put in our power, is neither consistent with
Christianity nor common justice; and, we have good reason to believe, draws
down the displeasure of Heaven; it being a melancholy but true reflection,
that, where slave-keeping prevails, pure religion and sobriety decline, as
it evidently tends to harden the heart, and render the soul less
susceptible of that holy spirit of love, meekness, and charity, which is
the peculiar characteristic of a true Christian.

"How then can we, who have been concerned to publish the Gospel of
universal love and peace among mankind, be so inconsistent with ourselves,
as to purchase such as are prisoners of war, and thereby encourage this
antichristian practice; and more especially as many of these poor creatures
are stolen away, parents from children, and children from parents; and
others, who were in good circumstances in their native country, inhumanly
torn from what they esteemed a happy situation, and compelled to toil in a
state of slavery, too often extremely cruel! What dreadful scenes of murder
and cruelty those barbarous ravages must occasion in these unhappy people's
country are too obvious to mention. Let us make their case our own, and
consider what we should think, and how we should feel, were we in their
circumstances. Remember our Blessed Redeemer's positive command--to do unto
others as we would have them do unto us;--and that with what measure we
mete, it shall be measured to us again. And we intreat you to examine,
whether the purchasing of a Negro, either born here or imported, doth not
contribute to a further importation, and, consequently, to the upholding of
all the evils above mentioned, and to the promoting of man-stealing, the
only theft which by the Mosaic law was punished with death;--'He that
stealeth a man, and selleth him; or if he be found in his hand, he shall
surely be put to death.'

"The characteristic and badge of a true Christian is love and good works.
Our Saviour's whole life on earth was one continual exercise of them. 'Love
one another,' says he, 'as I have loved you.' But how can we be said to
love our brethren, who bring, or, for selfish ends, keep them, in bondage?
Do we act consistently with this noble principle, who lay such heavy
burthens on our fellow-creatures? Do we consider that they are called, and
do we sincerely desire that they may become heirs with us in glory, and
that they may rejoice in the liberty of the sons of God, whilst we are
withholding from them the common liberties of mankind? Or can the Spirit of
God, by which we have always professed to be led, be the author of those
oppressive and unrighteous measures? Or do we not thereby manifest, that
temporal interest hath more influence on our conduct herein, than the
dictates of that merciful, holy, and unerring Guide?

"And we likewise earnestly recommend to all, who have slaves, to be careful
to come up in the performance of their duty towards them, and to be
particularly watchful over their own hearts, it being by sorrowful
experience remarkable, that custom, and a familiarity with evil of any
kind, have a tendency to bias the judgement and to deprave the mind. And it
is obvious that the future welfare of these poor slaves, who are now in
bondage, is generally too much disregarded by those who keep them. If their
daily task of labour be but fulfilled, little else perhaps is thought of.
Nay, even that which in others would be looked upon with horror and
detestation, is little regarded in them by their masters,--such as the
frequent separation of husbands from wives and wives from husbands, whereby
they are tempted to break their marriage covenants, and live in adultery,
in direct opposition to the laws of God and men, although we believe that
Christ died for all men without respect of persons. How fearful then ought
we to be of engaging in what hath so natural a tendency to lessen our
humanity, and of suffering ourselves to be inured to the exercise of hard
and cruel measures, lest thereby in any degree we lose our tender and
feeling sense of the miseries of our fellow-creatures, and become worse
than those who have not believed.

"And, dear Friends, you, who by inheritance have slaves born in your
families, we beseech you to consider them as souls committed to your trust,
whom the Lord will require at your hand, and who, as well as you, are made
partakers of the Spirit of Grace, and called to be heirs of salvation. And
let it be your constant care to watch over them for good, instructing them
in the fear of God, and the knowledge of the gospel of Christ, that they
may answer the end of their creation, and that God may be glorified and
honoured by them as well as by us. And so train them up, that if you should
come to behold their unhappy situation, in the same light, that many worthy
men, who are at rest, have done, and many of your brethren now do, and
should think it your duty to set them free, they may be the more capable of
making proper use of their liberty.

"Finally, Brethren, we entreat you, in the bowels of gospel love, seriously
to weigh the cause of detaining them in bondage. If it be for your own
private gain, or any other motive than their good, it is much to be feared
that the love of God and the influence of the Holy Spirit are not the
prevailing principles in you, and that your hearts are not sufficiently
redeemed from the world, which, that you with ourselves may more and more
come to witness, through the cleansing virtue of the Holy Spirit of Jesus
Christ, is our earnest desire. With the salutation of our love we are your
friends and brethren--

"_Signed, in behalf of the yearly meeting, by_ 'John Evans, Abraham
Farringdon, John Smith, Joseph Noble, Thomas Carleton, James Daniel,
William Trimble, Joseph Gibson, John Scarborough, John Shotwell, Joseph
Hampton, Joseph Parker.'"

This truly Christian letter, which was written in the year 1754, was
designed, as we collect from the contents of it, to make the sentiments of
the Society better known and attended to on the subject of the Slave-trade.
It contains, as we see, exhortations to all the members within the yearly
meeting of Pennsylvania and the Jerseys, to desist from purchasing and
importing slaves, and, where they possessed them, to have a tender
consideration of their condition. But that the first part of the subject of
this exhortation might be enforced, the yearly meeting for the same
provinces came to a resolution in 1755, That if any of the members
belonging to it bought or imported slaves, the overseers were to inform
their respective monthly meetings of it, that "these might treat with them,
as they might be directed in the wisdom of truth."

In the year 1774, we find the same yearly meeting legislating again on the
same subject. By the preceding resolution they, who became offenders, were
subjected only to exclusion from the meetings for discipline, and from the
privilege of contributing to the pecuniary occasions of the Society; but by
the resolution of the present year, all members concerned in importing,
selling, purchasing, giving, or transferring Negro or other slaves, or
otherwise acting in such manner as to continue them in slavery beyond the
term limited by law[A] or custom, were directed to be excluded from
membership or disowned. At this meeting also all the members of it were
cautioned and advised against acting as executors or administrators to
estates, where slaves were bequeathed, or likely to be detained in bondage.

[Footnote A: This alludes to the term of servitude for white persons in
these provinces.]

In the year 1776, the same yearly meeting carried the matter still further.
It was then enacted, That the owners of slaves, who refused to execute
proper instruments for giving them their freedom, were to be disowned

In 1778 it was enacted by the same meeting, That the children of those, who
had been set free by members, should be tenderly advised, and have a
suitable education given them.

It is not necessary to proceed further on this subject. It may be
sufficient to say, that from this time, the Minutes of the yearly meeting
for Pennsylvania and the Jerseys exhibit proofs of an almost incessant
attention, year after year[A], to the means not only of wiping away the
stain of slavery from their religious community, but of promoting the
happiness of those restored to freedom, and of their posterity also. And
as the yearly meeting of Pennsylvania and the Jerseys set this bright
example, so those of New England, New York, Maryland, Virginia, and of
the Carolinas and Georgia, in process of time followed it.

[Footnote A: Thus in 1779, 1780,-1,-2,-4,-5,-6. The members also of this
meeting petitioned their own legislature on this subject both in 1783 and
in 1786.]

But whilst the Quakers were making these exertions at their different
yearly meetings in America, as a religious body, to get rid both of the
commerce and slavery of their fellow-creatures, others in the same
profession were acting as individuals (that is, on their own grounds and
independently of any influence from their religious communion) in the same
cause, whose labours it will now be proper, in a separate narrative, to

The first person of this description in the Society, was William Burling of
Long Island. He had conceived an abhorrence of slavery from early youth. In
process of time he began to bear his testimony against it, by representing
the unlawfulness of it to those of his own Society, when assembled at one
of their yearly meetings. This expression of his public testimony he
continued annually on the same occasion. He wrote also several tracts with
the same design, one of which, published in the year 1718, he addressed to
the elders of his own church, on the inconsistency of compelling people and
their posterity to serve them continually and arbitrarily, and without any
proper recompense for their services.

The next was Ralph Sandiford, a merchant in Philadelphia. This worthy
person had many offers of pecuniary assistance, which would have advanced
him in life, but he declined them all because they came from persons, who
had acquired their independence by the oppression of their slaves. He was
very earnest in endeavouring to prevail upon his friends, both in and out
of the Society, to liberate those whom they held in bondage. At length he
determined upon a work called The Mystery of Iniquity, in a brief
Examination of the Practice of the Times. This he published in the year
1729, though the chief judge had threatened him if he should give it to the
world, and he circulated it free of expense wherever he believed it would
be useful. The above work was excellent as a composition. The language of
it was correct. The style manly and energetic. And it abounded with facts,
sentiments, and quotations, which, while they showed the virtue and talents
of the author, rendered it a valuable appeal in behalf of the African

The next public advocate was Benjamin Lay[A], who lived at Abington, at the
distance of twelve or fourteen miles from Philadelphia. Benjamin Lay was
known, when in England, to the royal family of that day, into whose private
presence he was admitted. On his return to America, he took an active part
in behalf of the oppressed Africans. In the year 1737, he published a
treatise on Slave-keeping. This he gave away among his neighbours and
others, but more particularly among the rising youth, many of whom he
visited in their respective schools. He applied also to several of the
governors for interviews, with whom he held conferences on the subject.
Benjamin Lay was a man of strong understanding and of great integrity, but
of warm and irritable feelings, and more particularly so when he was called
forth on any occasion in which the oppressed Africans were concerned. For
he had lived in the island of Barbadoes, and he had witnessed there scenes
of cruelty towards them, which had greatly disturbed his mind, and which
unhinged it, as it were, whenever the subject of their sufferings was
brought before him. Hence if others did not think precisely as he did, when
he conversed with them on the subject, he was apt to go out of due bounds.
In bearing what he believed to be his testimony against this system of
oppression, he adopted sometimes a singularity of manner, by which, as
conveying demonstration of a certain eccentricity of character, he
diminished in some degree his usefulness to the cause which he had
undertaken; as far indeed as this eccentricity might have the effect of
preventing others from joining him in his pursuit, lest they should be
thought singular also, so far it must be allowed that he ceased to become
beneficial. But there can be no question, on the other hand, that his warm
and enthusiastic manners awakened the attention of many to the cause, and
gave them first impressions concerning it, which they never afterwards
forgot, and which rendered them useful to it in the subsequent part of
their lives.

[Footnote A: Benjamin Lay attended the meetings for worship, or associated
himself with the religious society of the Quakers. His wife too was an
approved minister of the gospel in that Society. But I believe he was not
long an acknowledged member of it himself.]

The person, who laboured next in the Society, in behalf of the oppressed
Africans, was John Woolman.

John Woolman was born at Northampton, in the county of Burlington and
province of Western New Jersey, in the year 1720. In his very early youth
he attended, in an extraordinary manner, to the religious impressions which
he perceived upon his mind, and began to have an earnest solicitude about
treading in the right path. "From what I had read and heard," says he, in
his Journal[A], "I believed there had been in past ages people, who walked
in uprightness before God in a degree exceeding any, that I knew or heard
of, now living. And the apprehension of there being less steadiness and
firmness among people of this age, than in past ages, often troubled me
while I was a child." An anxious desire to do away, as far as he himself
was concerned, this merited reproach, operated as one among other causes to
induce him to be particularly watchful over his thoughts and actions, and
to endeavour to attain that purity of heart, without which he conceived
there could be no perfection of the Christian character. Accordingly, in
the twenty-second year of his age, he had given such proof of the integrity
of his life, and of his religious qualifications, that he became an
acknowledged minister of the gospel in his own Society.

[Footnote A: This short sketch of the life and labours of John Woolman, is
made up from his Journal.]

At a time prior to his entering upon the ministry, being in low
circumstances, he agreed for wages to "attend shop for a person at Mount
Holly, and to keep his books." In this situation we discover, by an
occurrence that happened, that he had thought seriously on the subject, and
that he had conceived proper views of the Christian unlawfulness of
slavery. "My employer," says he, "having a Negro woman, sold her, and
desired me to write a bill of sale, the man being waiting, who bought her.
The thing was sudden, and though the thought of writing an instrument of
slavery for one of my fellow-creatures made me feel uneasy, yet I
remembered I was hired by the year, that it was my master who directed me
to do it, and that it was an elderly man, a member of our Society, who
bought her. So through weakness I gave way and wrote, but, at executing it,
I was so afflicted in my mind, that I said before my master and the friend,
that I believed slave-keeping to be a practice inconsistent with the
Christian religion. This in some degree abated my uneasiness; yet, as often
as I reflected seriously upon it, I thought I should have been clearer, if
I had desired to have been excused from it, as a thing against my
conscience; for such it was. And some time after this, a young man of our
Society spoke to me to write a conveyance of a slave to him, he having
lately taken a Negro into his house. I told him I was not easy to write it;
for though many of our meeting, and in other places, kept slaves, I still
believed the practice was not right, and desired to be excused from the
writing. I spoke to him in good-will; and he told me that keeping slaves
was not altogether agreeable to his mind, but that the slave being a gift
to his wife he had accepted of her."

We may easily conceive that a person so scrupulous and tender on this
subject (as indeed John Woolman was on all others) was in the way of
becoming in time more eminently serviceable to his oppressed
fellow-creatures. We have seen already the good seed sown in his heart, and
it seems to have wanted only providential seasons and occurrences to be
brought into productive fruit. Accordingly we find that a journey, which he
took as a minister of the gospel in 1746, through the provinces of
Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina, which were then more noted than
others for the number of slaves in them, contributed to prepare him as an
instrument for the advancement of this great cause. The following are his
own observations upon this journey. "Two things were remarkable to me in
this journey; First, in regard to my entertainment. When I ate, drank, and
lodged free-cost, with people who lived in ease on the hard labour of their
slaves, I felt uneasy; and, as my mind was inward to the Lord, I found,
from place to place, this uneasiness return upon me at times through the
whole visit. Where the masters bore a good share of the burthen, and lived
frugally, so that their servants were well provided for, and their labour
moderate, I felt more easy. But where they lived in a costly way, and laid
heavy burthens on their slaves, my exercise was often great, and I
frequently had conversations with them in private concerning it. Secondly,
This trade of importing slaves from their native country being much
encouraged among them, and the White people and their children so generally
living without much labour, was frequently the subject of my serious
thoughts: and I saw in these southern provinces so many vices and
corruptions, increased by this trade and this way of life, that it appeared
to me as a gloom over the land."

From the year 1747 to the year 1753, he seems to have been occupied chiefly
as a minister of religion, but in the latter year he published a work upon
Slave-keeping; and in the same year, while travelling within the compass of
his own monthly meeting, a circumstance happened, which kept alive his
attention to the same subject. "About this time," says he, "a person at
some distance lying sick, his brother came to me to write his will. I knew
he had slaves, and, asking his brother, was told, he intended to leave them
as slaves to his children. As writing was a profitable employ, and as
offending sober people was disagreeable to my inclination, I was straitened
in my mind, but as I looked to the Lord he inclined my heart to his
testimony; and I told the man, that I believed the practice of continuing
slavery to this people was not right, and that I had a scruple in my mind
against doing writings of that kind; that, though many in our Society kept
them as slaves, still I was not easy to be concerned in it, and desired to
be excused from going to write the will. I spoke to him in the fear of the
Lord; and he made no reply to what I said, but went away: he also had some
concerns in the practice, and I thought he was displeased with me. In this
case, I had a fresh confirmation, that acting contrary to present outward
interest from a motive of Divine love, and in regard to truth and
righteousness, opens the way to a treasure better than silver, and to a
friendship exceeding the friendship of men."

From 1753 to 1755, two circumstances of a similar kind took place, which
contributed greatly to strengthen him in the path he had taken; for in both
these cases the persons who requested him to make their wills, were so
impressed by the principle upon which he refused them, and by his manner of
doing it, that they bequeathed liberty to their slaves.

In the year 1756, he made a religious visit to several of the Society in
Long Island. Here it was that the seed, now long fostered by the genial
influences of Heaven, began to burst forth into fruit. Till this time he
seems to have been a passive instrument, attending only to such
circumstances as came in his way on this subject. But now he became an
active one, looking out for circumstances for the exercise of his labours.
"My mind," says he, "was deeply engaged in this visit, both in public and
private; and at several places observing that members kept slaves, I found
myself under a necessity, in a friendly way, to labour with them on that
subject, expressing, as the way opened, the inconsistency of that practice
with the purity of the Christian religion, and the ill effects of it as
manifested amongst us."

In the year 1757, he felt his mind so deeply interested on the same
subject, that he resolved to travel over Maryland, Virginia, and North
Carolina, in order to try to convince persons, principally in his own
Society, of the inconsistency of holding slaves. He joined his brother with
him in this arduous service. Having passed the Susquehanna into Maryland,
he began to experience great agitation of mind. "Soon after I entered this
province," says he, "a deep and painful exercise came upon me, which I
often had some feeling of since my mind was drawn towards these parts, and
with which I had acquainted my brother, before we agreed to join as

"As the people in this and the southern provinces live much on the labour
of slaves, many of whom are used hardly, my concern was that I might attend
with singleness of heart to the voice of the true Shepherd, and be so
supported, as to remain unmoved at the faces of men."

It is impossible for me to follow him in detail, through this long and
interesting journey, when I consider the bounds I have prescribed to myself
in this work. I shall say therefore, what I purpose to offer generally and
in a few words.

It appears that he conversed with persons occasionally, who were not of his
own Society, with a view of answering their arguments, and of endeavouring
to evince the wickedness and impolicy of slavery. In discoursing with
these, however strenuous he might appear, he seems never to have departed
from a calm, modest, and yet dignified and even friendly demeanour. At the
public meetings for discipline, held by his own Society in these provinces,
he endeavoured to display the same truths and in the same manner, but
particularly to the elders of his own Society, exhorting them, as the most
conspicuous rank, to be careful of their conduct, and to give a bright
example in the liberation of their slaves. He visited also families for the
same purpose: and he had the well-earned satisfaction of finding his
admonitions kindly received by some, and of seeing a disposition in
others to follow the advice he had given them.

In the year 1758, he attended the yearly meeting at Philadelphia, where he
addressed his brethren on the propriety of dealing with such members, as
should hereafter purchase slaves. On the discussion of this point he spoke
a second time, and this to such effect that he had the satisfaction at this
meeting to see minutes made more fully than any before, and a commitee
appointed, for the advancement of the great object, to which he had now
been instrumental in turning the attention of many, and to witness a
considerable spreading of the cause. In the same year also, he joined
himself with two others of the Society to visit such members of it, as
possessed slaves in Chester county. In this journey he describes himself to
have met with several, who were pleased with his visit but to have found
difficulties with others, towards whom however he felt a sympathy and
tenderness on account of their being entangled by the spirit of the world.

In the year 1759, he visited several of the Society who held slaves in
Philadelphia. In about three months afterwards, he travelled there again,
in company with John Churchman, to see others under similar circumstances.
He then went to different places on the same errand. In this last journey
he went alone. After this he joined himself to John Churchman again, but he
confined his labours to his own province. Here he had the pleasure of
finding that the work prospered. Soon after this he took Samuel Eastburne
as a coadjutor, and pleaded the cause of the poor Africans with many of the
Society in Bucks county, who held them in bondage there.

In the year 1760, he travelled, in company with his friend Samuel
Eastburne, to Rhode Island, to promote the same object. This island had
been long noted for its trade to Africa for slaves. He found at Newport,
the great sea-port town belonging to it, that a number of them had been
lately imported. He felt his mind deeply impressed on this account. He was
almost overpowered in consequence of it, and became ill. He thought once of
promoting a petition to the legislature, to discourage all such
importations in future. He then thought of going and speaking to the House
of Assembly, which was then sitting; but he was discouraged from both these
proceedings. He held, however, a conference with many of his own Society in
the meeting-house-chamber, where the subject of his visit was discussed on
both sides, with a calm and peaceable spirit. Many of those present
manifested the concern they felt at their former practices, and others a
desire of taking suitable care of their slaves at their decease. From
Newport he proceeded to Nantucket; but observing the members of the Society
there to have few or no slaves, he exhorted them to persevere in abstaining
from the use of them, and returned home.

In the year 1761, he visited several families in Pennsylvania, and, in
about three months afterwards, others about Shrewsbury and Squan in New
Jersey. On his return he added a second part to the treatise before
published on the keeping of slaves, a care which had been growing upon him
for some years.

In the year 1762, he printed, published, and distributed this treatise.

In 1767, he went on foot to the western shores of the same province on a
religious visit. After having crossed the Susquehanna, his old feelings
returned to him; for coming amongst people living in outward ease and
greatness, chiefly on the labour of slaves, his heart was much affected,
and he waited with humble resignation, to learn how he should further
perform his duty to this injured people. The travelling on foot, though it
was agreeable to the state of his mind, he describes to have been wearisome
to his body. He felt himself weakly at times, in consequence of it, but yet
continued to travel on. At one of the quarterly meetings of the Society,
being in great sorrow and heaviness, and under deep exercise on account of
the miseries of the poor Africans, he expressed himself freely to those
present, who held them in bondage. He expatiated on the tenderness and
loving-kindness of the apostles, as manifested in labours, perils, and
sufferings, towards the poor Gentiles, and contrasted their treatment of
the Gentiles with it, whom he described in the persons of their slaves: and
was much satisfied with the result of his discourse.

From this time we collect little more from his journal concerning him, than
that, in 1772, he embarked for England on a religious visit. After his
arrival there, he travelled through many counties, preaching in different
meetings of the Society, till he came to the city of York. But even here,
though he was far removed from the sight of those whose interests he had so
warmly espoused, he was not forgetful of their wretched condition. At the
quarterly meeting for that county, he brought their case before those
present in an affecting manner. He exhorted these to befriend their cause.
He remarked that as they, the Society, when under outward sufferings, had
often found a concern to lay them before the legislature, and thereby, in
the Lord's time, had obtained relief; so he recommended this oppressed part
of the creation to their notice, that they might, as the way opened,
represent their sufferings as individuals, if not as a religious society,
to those in authority in this land. This was the last opportunity that he
had of interesting himself in behalf of this injured people; for soon
afterwards he was seized with the small-pox at the house of a friend in the
city of York, where he died.

The next person belonging to the Society of the Quakers, who laboured in
behalf of the oppressed Africans, was Anthony Benezet. He was born before,
and he lived after, John Woolman; of course he was cotemporary with him. I
place him after John Woolman, because he was not so much known as a
labourer, till two or three years after the other had begun to move in the
same cause.

Anthony Benezet was born at St. Quintin in Picardy, of a respectable
family, in the year 1713. His father was one of the many protestants, who,
in consequence of the persecutions which followed the revocation of the
edict of Nantz, sought an asylum in foreign countries. After a short stay
in Holland, he settled, with his wife and children, in London, in 1715.

Anthony Benezet, having received from his father a liberal education,
served an apprenticeship in an eminent mercantile house in London. In 1731,
however, he removed with his family to Philadelphia, where he joined in
profession with the Quakers. His three brothers then engaged in trade, and
made considerable pecuniary acquisitions in it. He himself might have
partaken both of their concerns and of their prosperity; but he did not
feel himself at liberty to embark in their undertakings. He considered the
accumulation of wealth as of no importance, when compared with the
enjoyment of doing good; and he chose the humble situation of a
schoolmaster, as according best with this notion, believing, that by
endeavouring to train up youth in knowledge and virtue, he should become
more extensively useful than in any other way to his fellow-creatures.

He had not been long in his new situation, before he manifested such an
uprightness of conduct, such a courtesy of manners, such a purity of
intention, and such a spirit of benevolence, that he attracted the notice,
and gained the good opinion, of the inhabitants among whom he lived. He had
ready access to them, in consequence, upon all occasions; and, if there
were any whom he failed to influence at any of these times, he never went
away without the possession of their respect.

In the year 1756, when a considerable number of French families were
removed from Acadia into Pennsylvania, on account of some political
suspicions, he felt deeply interested about them. In a country where few
understood their language, they were wretched and helpless; but Anthony
Benezet endeavoured to soften the rigour of their situation, by his kind
attention towards them. He exerted himself also in their behalf, by
procuring many contributions for them, which, by the consent of his
fellow-citizens, were entrusted to his care.

As the principle of benevolence, when duly cultivated, brings forth fresh
shoots, and becomes enlarged, so we find this amiable person extending the
sphere of his usefulness, by becoming an advocate for the oppressed African
race. For this service he seems to have been peculiarly qualified. Indeed,
as in all great works a variety of talents is necessary to bring them to
perfection, so Providence seems to prepare different men as instruments,
with dispositions and qualifications so various, that each, in pursuing
that line which seems to suit him best, contributes to furnish those parts,
which, when put together, make up a complete whole. In this point of view,
John Woolman found, in Anthony Benezet, the coadjutor, whom, of all others,
the cause required. The former had occupied himself principally on the
subject of Slavery. The latter went to the root of the evil, and more
frequently attacked the Trade. The former chiefly confined his labours to
America, and chiefly to those of his own Society there. The latter, when he
wrote, did not write for America only, but for Europe also, and endeavoured
to spread a knowledge and hatred of the traffic through the great society
of the world.

One of the means which Anthony Benezet took to promote the cause in
question, (and an effectual one it proved, as far as it went,) was to give
his scholars a due knowledge and proper impressions concerning it. Situated
as they were likely to be, in after-life, in a country where slavery was a
custom, for the promotion of his plans.

To enlighten others, and to give them a similar bias, he had recourse to
different measures from time to time. In the almanacs published annually in
Philadelphia, he procured articles to be inserted, which he believed would
attract the notice of the reader, and make him pause, at least for a while,
as to the licitness of the Slave-trade. He wrote, also, as he saw occasion,
in the public papers of the day. From small things he proceeded to greater.
He collected, at length, further information on the subject, and, winding
it up with observations and reflections, he produced several little tracts,
which he circulated successively (but generally at his own expense), as he
considered them adapted to the temper and circumstances of the times.

In the course of this his employment, having found some who had approved
his tracts, and to whom, on that account, he wished to write, and sending
his tracts to others, to whom he thought it proper to introduce them by
letter, he found himself engaged in a correspondence, which much engrossed
his time, but which proved of great importance in procuring many advocates
for his cause.

In the year 1762, when he had obtained a still greater store of
information, he published a larger work. This, however, he entitled, A
short Account of that Part of Africa inhabited by the Negros. In 1767 he
published, A Caution and Warning to Great Britain and her Colonies, on the
Calamitous State of the enslaved Negros in the British Dominions;--and soon
after this, appeared, An Historical Account of Guinea; its Situation,
Produce, and the General Disposition of its Inhabitants; with an Inquiry
into the Rise and Progress of the Slave-Trade, its Nature, and Calamitous
Effects. This pamphlet contained a clear and distinct development of the
subject, from the best authorities. It contained also the sentiments of
many enlightened men upon it; and it became instrumental, beyond any other
book ever before published, in disseminating a proper knowledge and
detestation of this trade.

Anthony Benezet may be considered as one of the most zealous, vigilant, and
active advocates, which the cause of the oppressed Africans ever had. He
seemed to have been born and to have lived for the promotion of it, and
therefore he never omitted any the least opportunity of serving it. If a
person called upon him who was going a journey, his first thoughts usually
were, how he could make him an instrument in its favour; and he either gave
him tracts to distribute, or he sent letters by him, or he gave him some
commission on the subject, so that he was the means of employing several
persons at the same time, in various parts of America, in advancing the
work he had undertaken.

In the same manner he availed himself of every other circumstance, as far
as he could, to the same end. When he heard that Mr. Granville Sharp had
obtained, in the year 1772, the noble verdict in the cause of Somerset the
slave, he opened a correspondence with him, which he kept up, that there
might be an union of action between them for the future, as far as it could
be effected, and that they might each give encouragement to the other to

He opened also a correspondence with George Whitfield and John Wesley, that
these might assist him in promoting the cause of the oppressed.

He wrote also a letter to the Countess of Huntingdon on the following
subject.--She had founded a college, at the recommendation of George
Whitfield, called the Orphan-house, near Savannah, in Georgia, and had
endowed it. The object of this institution was, to furnish scholastic
instruction to the poor, and to prepare some of them for the ministry.
George Whitfield, ever attentive to the cause of the poor Africans, thought
that this institution might have been useful to them also; but soon after
his death, they who succeeded him bought slaves, and these in unusual
numbers, to extend the rice and indigo plantations belonging to the
college. The letter then in question was written by Anthony Benezet, in
order to lay before the Countess, as a religious woman, the misery she was
occasioning in Africa, by allowing the managers of her college in Georgia
to give encouragement to the Slave-trade. The Countess replied, that such a
measure should never have her countenance, and that she would take care to
prevent it.

On discovering that the Abbe Raynal had brought out his celebrated work, in
which he manifested a tender feeling in behalf of the injured Africans, he
entered into a correspondence with him, hoping to make him yet more useful
to their cause.

Finding, also, in the year 1783, that the Slave-trade, which had greatly
declined during the American war, was reviving, he addressed a pathetic
letter to our Queen, (as I mentioned in the last chapter,) who, on hearing
the high character of the writer of it from Benjamin West, received it with
marks of peculiar condescension and attention. The following is a copy of

"_To_ CHARLOTTE _Queen of Great Britain_.

"IMPRESSED with a sense of religious duty, and encouraged by the
opinion generally entertained of thy benevolent disposition to
succour the distressed, I take the liberty, very respectfully, to
offer to thy perusal some tracts, which, I believe, faithfully
describe the suffering condition of many hundred thousands of our
fellow-creatures of the African race, great numbers of whom, rent
from every tender connection in life, are annually taken from their
native land, to endure, in the American islands and plantations, a
most rigorous and cruel slavery; whereby many, very many of them,
are brought to a melancholy and untimely end.

"When it is considered that the inhabitants of Great Britain, who
are themselves so eminently blessed in the enjoyment of religious
and civil liberty, have long been, and yet are, very deeply
concerned in this flagrant violation of the common rights of
mankind, and that even its national authority is exerted in support
of the African Slave-trade, there is much reason to apprehend, that
this has been, and, as long as the evil exists, will continue to
be, an occasion of drawing down the Divine displeasure on the
nation and its dependencies. May these considerations induce thee
to interpose thy kind endeavours in behalf of this greatly injured
people, whose abject situation gives them an additional claim to
the pity and assistance of the generous mind, inasmuch as they are
altogether deprived of the means of soliciting effectual relief for
themselves; that so thou mayest not only be a blessed instrument in
the hand of him 'by whom kings reign and princes decree justice,'
to avert the awful judgments by which the empire has already been
so remarkably shaken, but that the blessings of thousands ready to
perish may come upon thee, at a time when the superior advantages
attendant on thy situation in this world will no longer be of any
avail to thy consolation and support.

"To the tracts on this subject to which I have thus ventured to
crave thy particular attention, I have added some which at
different times I have believed it my duty to publish[A], and
which, I trust, will afford thee some satisfaction, their design
being for the furtherance of that universal peace and goodwill
amongst men, which the gospel was intended to introduce.

"I hope thou wilt kindly excuse the freedom used on this occasion
by an ancient man, whose mind, for more than forty years past, has
been much separated from the common intercourse of the world, and
long painfully exercised in the consideration of the miseries under
which so large a part of mankind, equally with us the objects of
redeeming love, are suffering the most unjust and grievous
oppression, and who sincerely desires thy temporal and eternal
felicity, and that of thy royal consort.


[Footnote A: These related to the principles of the religious society of
the Quakers.]

Anthony Benezet, besides the care he bestowed upon forwarding the cause of
the oppressed Africans in different parts of the world, found time to
promote the comforts, and improve the condition of those in the state in
which he lived. Apprehending that much advantage would arise both to them
and the public, from instructing them in common learning, he zealously
promoted the establishment of a school for that purpose. Much of the two
last years of his life he devoted to a personal attendance on this school,
being earnestly desirous that they who came to it might be better qualified
for the enjoyment of that freedom to restored. To this he sacrificed the
superior emoluments of his former school, and his bodily case also,
although the weakness of his constitution seemed to demand indulgence. By
his last will he directed, that, after the decease of his widow, his whole
little fortune (the savings of the industry of fifty years) should, except
a few very small legacies, be applied to the support of it. During his
attendance upon it he had the happiness to find, (and his situation enabled
him to make the comparison,) that Providence had been equally liberal to
the Africans in genius and talents as to other people.

After a few days' illness this excellent man died at Philadelphia in the
spring of 1784. The interment of his remains was attended by several
thousands of all ranks, professions, and parties, who united in deploring
their loss. The mournful procession was closed by some hundreds of those
poor Africans, who had been personally benefited by his labours, and whose
behaviour on the occasion showed the gratitude and affection they
considered to be due to him as their own private benefactor, as well as the
benefactor of their whole race.

Such, then, were the labours of the Quakers, in America, of individuals,
from 1718 to 1784, and of the body at large, from 1696 to 1787, in this
great cause of humanity and religion. Nor were the effects produced from
these otherwise than corresponding with what might have been expected from
such an union of exertion in such a cause; for both the evils, that is, the
evil of buying and selling, and the evil of using, slaves, ceased at length
with the members of this benevolent Society. The leaving off all concern
with the Slave-trade took place first. The abolition of slavery, though it
followed, was not so speedily accomplished; for, besides the loss of
property, when slaves were manumitted without any pecuniary consideration
in return, their owners had to struggle, in making them free, against the
laws and customs of the times. In Pennsylvania, where the law in this
respect was the most favourable, the parties wishing to give freedom to a
slave were obliged to enter into a bond for the payment of thirty pounds
currency, in case the said slave should become chargeable for maintenance.
In New Jersey the terms were far less favourable, as the estate of the
owner remained liable to the consequences of misconduct in the slave, or
even in his posterity. In the southern parts of America manumission was not
permitted but on terms amounting nearly to a prohibition. But,
notwithstanding these difficulties, the Quakers could not be deterred, as
they became convinced of the unlawfulness of holding men in bondage, from
doing that which they believed to be right. Many liberated their slaves,
whatever the consequences were; and some gave the most splendid example in
doing it, not only by consenting, as others did, thus to give up their
property, and to incur the penalties of manumission, but by calculating and
giving what was due to them, over and above their food and clothing, for
wages[A] from the beginning of their slavery to the day when their
liberation commenced. Thus manumission went on, some sacrificing more, and
others less; some granting it sooner, and others later; till, in the year
1787[B], there was not a slave in the possession of an acknowledged Quaker.

[Footnote A: One of the brightest instances was that afforded by Warner
Mifflin. He gave unconditional liberty to his slaves. He paid all the
adults, on their discharge, the sum, which arbitrators, mutually chosen,
awarded them.]

[Footnote B: Previously to the year 1787, several of the states had made
the terms of manumission more easy.]

Having given to the reader the history of the third class of forerunners
and coadjutors, as it consisted of the Quakers in America, I am now to
continue it, as it consisted of an union of these with others on the same
continent in the year 1774, in behalf of the African race. To do this I
shall begin with the causes which led to the production of this great

And in the first place, as example is more powerful than precept, we cannot
suppose that the Quakers could have shown these noble instances of
religious principle, without supposing also that individuals of other
religious denominations would be morally instructed by them. They who lived
in the neighbourhood where they took place, must have become acquainted
with the motives which led to them. Some of them must at least have praised
the action, though they might not themselves have been ripe to follow the
example. Nor is it at all improbable that these might be led, in the course
of the workings of their own minds, to a comparison between their own
conduct and that of the Quakers on this subject, in which they themselves
might appear to be less worthy in their own eyes. And as there is sometimes
a spirit of rivalship among the individuals of religious sects, where the
character of one is sounded forth as higher than that of another; this, if
excited by such a circumstance, would probably operate for good. It must
have been manifest also to many, after a lapse of time, that there was no
danger in what the Quakers had done, and that there was even sound policy
in the measure. But whatever were the several causes, certain it is, that
the example of the Quakers in leaving off all concern with the Slave-trade,
and in liberating their slaves (scattered as they were over various parts
of America) contributed to produce in many of a different religious
denomination from themselves, a more tender disposition than had been usual
towards the African race.

But a similar disposition towards these oppressed people was created in
others by means of other circumstances or causes. In the early part of the
eighteenth century, Judge Sewell of New England came forward as a zealous
advocate for them. He addressed a memorial to the legislature, which he
called The Selling of Joseph, and in which he pleaded their cause both as a
lawyer and a Christian. This memorial produced an effect upon many, but
particularly upon those of his own persuasion; and from this time the
presbyterians appear to have encouraged a sympathy in their favour.

In the year 1739, the celebrated George Whitfield became an instrument in
turning the attention of many others to their hard case, and of begetting
in these a fellow sympathy towards them. This laborious minister, having
been deeply affected with what he had seen in the course of his religious
travels in America, thought it his duty to address a letter from Georgia to
the inhabitants of Maryland, Virginia, and North and South Carolina. This
letter was printed as follows--

"As I lately passed through your provinces in my way hither, I was sensibly
touched with a fellow-feeling for the miseries of the poor Negros. Whether
it be lawful for Christians to buy slaves, and thereby encourage the
nations from whom they are bought to be at perpetual war with each other, I
shall not take upon me to determine. Sure I am it is sinful, when they have
bought them, to use them as bad as though they were brutes, nay worse; and
whatever particular exceptions there may be (as I would charitably hope
there are some) I fear the generality of you, who own Negros, are liable to
such a charge; for your slaves, I believe, work as hard, if not harder,
than the horses whereon you ride. These, after they have done their work,
are fed and taken proper care of; but many Negros, when wearied with labour
in your plantations, have been obliged to grind their corn after their
return home. Your dogs are caressed and fondled at your table; but your
slaves, who are frequently styled dogs or beasts, have not an equal
privilege. They are scarce permitted to pick up the crumbs which fall from
their master's table. Not to mention what numbers have been given up to the
inhuman usage of cruel task-masters, who, by their unrelenting scourges
have ploughed their backs, and made long furrows, and at length brought
them even unto death. When passing along I have viewed your plantations
cleared and cultivated, many spacious houses built, and the owners of them
faring sumptuously every day, my blood has frequently almost run cold
within me, to consider how many of your slaves had neither convenient food
to eat, nor proper raiment to put on; notwithstanding most of the comforts
you enjoy were solely owing to their indefatigable labours."

The letter, from which this is an extract, produced a desirable effect upon
many of those, who perused it, but particularly upon such as began to be
seriously disposed in these times. And as George Whitfield continued a firm
friend to the poor Africans, never losing an opportunity of serving them,
he interested, in the course of his useful life, many thousands of his
followers in their favour.

To this account it may be added, that from the year 1762, ministers, who
were in the connection of John Wesley, began to be settled in America, and
that as these were friends to the oppressed Africans also, so they
contributed in their turn[A] to promote a softness of feeling towards them
among those of their own persuasion.

[Footnote A: It must not be forgotten that the example of the Moravians had
its influence, also, in directing men to their duty towards these oppressed
people; for though, when they visited this part of the world for their
conversion, they never meddled with the political state of things, by
recommending it to masters to alter the condition of their slaves, as
believing religion could give comfort in the most abject situations in
life, yet they uniformly freed those slaves, who came into their own

In consequence then of these and other causes, a considerable number of
persons of various religious denominations had appeared at different times
in America, besides the Quakers, who, though they had not distinguished
themselves by resolutions and manumissions as religious bodies, were yet
highly friendly to the African cause.

This friendly disposition began to manifest itself about the year 1770: for
when a few Quakers, as individuals, began at that time to form little
associations in the middle provinces of North America, to discourage the
introduction of slaves among people in their own neighbourhoods, who were
not of their own Society, and to encourage the manumission of those already
in bondage, they were joined as colleagues by several persons of this
description[A], who cooperated with them in the promotion of their design.

[Footnote A: It then appeared that individuals among those of the church of
England, Roman Catholics, presbyterians, methodists, and, others, had begun
in a few instances to liberate their slaves.]

This disposition however became more manifest in the year 1772; for the
house of burgesses of Virginia presented a petition to the King, beseeching
his majesty to remove all those restraints on his governors of that colony,
which inhibited their assent to such laws, as might check that inhuman and
impolitic commerce, the Slave-trade: and it is remarkable, that the refusal
of the British government to permit the Virginians to exclude slaves from
among them by law, was enumerated afterwards among the public reasons for
separating from the mother country.

But this friendly disposition was greatly increased in the year 1773, by
the literary labours of Dr. Benjamin Rush of Philadelphia[A], who, I
believe, is a member of the presbyterian church. For in this year, at the
instigation of Anthony Benezet, he took up the cause of the oppressed
Africans in a little work, which he entitled An Address to the Inhabitants
of the British Settlements on the Slavery of the Negros; and soon
afterwards in another, which was a vindication of the first, in answer to
an acrimonious attack by a West Indian planter. These publications
contained many new observations. They were written in a polished style; and
while they exhibited the erudition and talents, they showed the liberality
and benevolence, of the author. Having had a considerable circulation, they
spread conviction among many, and promoted the cause for which they had
been so laudibly undertaken. Of the great increase of friendly disposition
towards the African cause in this very year, we have this remarkable
proof;--that when the Quakers, living in East and West Jersey, wished to
petition the legislature to obtain an act of assembly for the more
equitable manumission of slaves in that province, so many others of
different persuasions joined them, that the petition was signed by upwards
of three thousand persons.

[Footnote A: Dr. Rush has been better known since for his other literary
works; such as his Medical Dissertations, his Treatises on the Discipline
of Schools, Criminal Law, &c.]

But in the next year, or in the year 1774[A], the increased good-will
towards the Africans became so apparent, but more particularly in
Pennsylvania, where the Quakers were more numerous than in any other state,
that they, who considered themselves more immediately as the friends of
these injured people, thought it right to avail themselves of it: and
accordingly James Pemberton, one of the most conspicuous of the Quakers in
Pennsylvania, and Dr. Rush, one of the most conspicuous of those belonging
to the various other religious communities in that province, undertook, in
conjunction with others, the important task of bringing those into a
society who were friendly to this cause. In this undertaking they
succeeded. And hence arose that union of the Quakers with others, to which
I have been directing the attention of the reader, and by which the third
class of forerunners and coadjutors becomes now complete. This society,
which was confined to Pennsylvania, was the first ever formed in America,
in which there was an union of persons of different religious denominations
in behalf of the African race.

[Footnote A: In this year, Elhanan Winchester, a supporter of the doctrine
of universal redemption, turned the attention of many of his hearers to
this subject, both by private interference and by preaching expressly upon

But this society had scarcely begun to act, when the war broke out between
England and America, which had the effect of checking its operations. This
was considered as a severe blow upon it. But as those things which appear
most to our disadvantage, turn out often the most to our benefit, so the
war, by giving birth to the independence of America, was ultimately
favourable to its progress. For as this contest had produced during its
continuance, so it left, when it was over, a general enthusiasm for
liberty. Many talked of little else but of the freedom they had gained.
These were naturally led to the consideration of those among them, who were
groaning in bondage. They began to feel for their hard case. They began to
think that they should not deserve the new blessing which they had
acquired, if they denied it to others. Thus the discussions, which
originated in this contest, became the occasion of turning the attention of
many, who might not otherwise have thought of it, towards the miserable
condition of the slaves.

Nor were writers wanting, who, influenced by considerations on the war and
the independence resulting from it, made their works subservient to the
same benevolent end. A work, entitled, A Serious Address to the Rulers of
America on the Inconsistency of their Conduct respecting Slavery, forming a
Contrast between the Encroachments of England on American Liberty and
American Injustice in tolerating Slavery, which appeared in 1783, was
particularly instrumental in producing this effect. This excited a more
than usual attention to the case of these oppressed people, and where most
of all it could be useful. For the author compared in two opposite columns
the animated speeches and resolutions of the members of congress in behalf
of their own liberty with their conduct in continuing slavery to others.
Hence the legislature began to feel the inconsistency of the practice; and
so far had the sense of this inconsistency spread there, that when the
delegates met from each state, to consider of a federal union, there was a
desire that the abolition of the Slave-trade should be one of the articles
in it. This was, however, opposed by the delegates from North and South
Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and Georgia, the five states which had the
greatest concern in slaves. But even these offered to agree to the article,
provided a condition was annexed to it, (which was afterwards done,) that
the power of such abolition should not commence in the legislature till the
first of January 1808.

In consequence then of these different circumstances, the society of
Pennsylvania, the object of which was "for promoting the abolition of
slavery and the relief of free Negros unlawfully held in bondage," became
so popular, that in the year 1787 it was thought desirable to enlarge it.
Accordingly several new members were admitted into it. The celebrated Dr.
Franklin, who had long warmly espoused the cause of the injured Africans,
was appointed president; James Pemberton and Jonathan Penrose were
appointed vice-presidents; Dr. Benjamin Rush and Tench Coxe, secretaries;
James Star, treasurer; William Lewis, John D. Coxe, Miers Fisher, and
William Rawle, counsellors; Thomas Harrison, Nathan Boys, James Whiteall,
James Reed, John Todd, Thomas Armatt, Norris Jones, Samuel Richards,
Francis Bayley, Andrew Carson, John Warner, and Jacob Shoemaker, junior, an
electing commitee; and Thomas Shields, Thomas Parker, John Oldden, William
Zane, John Warner, and William McElhenny, an acting commitee for carrying
on the purposes of the institution.

I shall now only observe further upon this subject, that as a society,
consisting of an union of the Quakers, with others of other religious
denominations, was established for Pennsylvania in behalf of the oppressed
Africans, so different societies, consisting each of a similar union of
persons, were established in New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware,
Maryland, and other states for the same object, and that these afterwards
held a correspondence and personal communion with each other for the
promotion of it.


_Observations on the three classes already introduced--Coincidence of
extraordinary circumstances--Individuals in each of these classes, who
seem to have had an education as it were to qualify them for promoting the
cause of the abolition--Sharp and Ramsay in the first--Dillwyn in the
second--Pemberton and Rush in the third--These, with their respective
classes, acted on motives of their own, and independently of each
other--and yet, from circumstances neither foreseen nor known by them, they
were in the way of being easily united in 1787--William Dillwyn, the great
medium of connection between them all._

If the reader will refer to his recollection, he will find, that I have
given the history of three of the classes of the forerunners and coadjutors
in the great cause of the abolition of the Slave-trade up to the time
proposed. He will of course expect that I should proceed with the history
of the fourth. But, as I foresee that, by making certain observations upon
the classes already introduced in the present rather than in any future
place, I shall be able to give him clearer views on the subject, I shall
postpone the history of the remaining class to the next chapter.

The account, which I shall now give, will exhibit a concurrence of
extraordinary and important circumstances. It will show, first, that in
each of the three classes now introduced, there were individuals in the
year 1787, who had been educated as it were for the purpose of becoming
peculiarly qualified to act together for the promotion of the abolition of
the Slave-trade. It will show, secondly, that these, with their respective
classes, acted upon their own principles, distinctly and independently of
each other. And, lastly, that by means of circumstances, which they
themselves had neither foreseen nor contrived, a junction between them was
rendered easily practicable, and that it was beginning to take place at the
period assigned.

The first class of forerunners and coadjutors consisted principally, as it
has appeared, of persons in England of various descriptions. These, I may
observe, had no communication with each other as to any plan for the
abolition of the Slave-trade. There were two individuals, however, among
them, who were more conspicuous than the rest, namely, Granville Sharp, the
first labourer, and Mr. Ramsay, the first controversial writer, in the

That Granville Sharp received an education as if to become qualified to
unite with others, in the year 1787, for this important object, must have
appeared from the history of his labours, as detailed in several of the
preceding pages. The same may be said of Mr. Ramsay; for it has already
appeared that he lived in the island of St. Christopher, where he made his
observations, and studied the laws, relative to the treatment of slaves,
for nineteen years.

That Granville Sharp acted on grounds distinct from those in any of the
other classes is certain. For he knew nothing at this time either of the
Quakers in England or of those in America, any more than that they existed
by name. Had it not been for the case of Jonathan Strong, he might never
have attached himself to the cause. A similar account may be given of Mr.
Ramsay; for, if it had not been for what he had seen in the island of St.
Christopher, he had never embarked in it. It was from scenes, which he had
witnessed there, that he began to feel on the subject. These feelings he
communicated to others on his return to England, and these urged him into

With respect to the second class, the reader will recollect that it
consisted of the Quakers in England: first, of George Fox; then of the
Quakers as a body; then of individuals belonging to that body, who formed
themselves into a commitee, independently of it, for the promotion of the
object in question. This commitee, it may be remembered, consisted of six
persons, of whom one was William Dillwyn.

That William Dillwyn became fitted for the station, which he was afterwards
to take, will be seen shortly. He was born in America, and was a pupil of
the venerable Benezet, who took pains very early to interest his feelings
on this great subject. Benezet employed him occasionally, I mean in a
friendly manner, as his amanuensis, to copy his manuscripts for
publication, as well as several of his letters written in behalf of the
cause. This gave his scholar an insight into the subject, who, living
besides in the land where both the Slave-trade and slavery were
established, obtained an additional knowledge of them, so as to be able to
refute many of those objections, to which others for want of local
observation could never have replied.

In the year 1772 Anthony Benezet introduced William Dillwyn by letter to
several of the principal people of Carolina, with whom he had himself
before corresponded on the sufferings of the poor Africans, and desired him
to have interviews with them on the subject. He charged him also to be very
particular in making observations as to what he should see there. This
journey was of great use to the latter in fixing him as the friend of these
oppressed people, for he saw so much of their cruel treatment in the course
of it, that he felt an anxiety ever afterwards, amounting to a duty, to do
everything in his power for their relief.

In the year 1773 William Dillwyn, in conjunction with Richard Smith and
Daniel Wells, two of his own Society, wrote a pamphlet in answer to
arguments then prevailing, that the manumission of slaves would be
injurious. This pamphlet,--which was entitled, Brief Considerations on
Slavery, and the Expediency of its Abolition; with some Hints on the Means
whereby it may be gradually effected,--proved that in lieu of the usual
security required, certain sums paid at the several periods of manumission
would amply secure the public, as well as the owners of the slaves, from
any future burthens. In the same year also, when the Society, joined by
several hundreds of others in New Jersey, presented a petition to the
legislature, (as mentioned in the former chapter,) to obtain an act of
assembly for the more equitable manumission of slaves in that province,
William Dillwyn was one of a deputation, which was heard at the bar of the
assembly for that purpose.

In 1774 he came to England, but his attention was still kept alive to the
subject. For he was the person, by whom Anthony Benezet sent his letter to
the Countess of Huntingdon, as before related. He was also the person, to
whom the same venerable defender of the African race sent his letter,
before spoken of, to be forwarded to the Queen.

That William Dillwyn and those of his own class in England acted upon
motives very distinct from those of the former class may be said with
truth, for they acted upon the constitutional principles of their own
Society, as incorporated into its discipline, which principles would always
have incited them to the subversion of slavery, as far as they themselves
were concerned, whether any other persons had abolished it or not. To which
it may be added, as a further proof of the originality of their motives,
that the Quakers have had ever since their institution as a religious body,
but little intercourse with the world.

The third class, to which I now come, consisted, as we have seen, first, of
the Quakers in America; and secondly, of an union of these with others on
the same continent. The principal individuals concerned in this union were
James Pemberton and Dr. Rush. The former of these, having taken an active
part in several of the yearly meetings of his own Society relative to the
oppressed Africans, and having been in habits of intimacy and friendship
with John Woolman and Anthony Benezet, with the result of whose labours he
was acquainted, may be supposed to have become qualified to take a leading
station in the promotion of their cause. Dr. Rush also had shown himself,
as has appeared, an able advocate, and had even sustained a controversy in
their favour. That the two last mentioned acted also on motives of their
own, or independently of those belonging to the other two classes, when
they formed their association in Pennsylvania, will be obvious from these
circumstances; first, that most of those of the first class, who
contributed to throw the greatest light and odium upon the Slave-trade, had
not then made their public appearance in the world. And, with respect to
the second class, the little commitee belonging to it had neither been
formed nor thought of.

And as the individuals in each of the three classes, who have now been
mentioned, had an education as it were to qualify them for acting together
in this great cause, and had moved independently of each other, so it will
appear that, by means of circumstances which they themselves had neither
foreseen nor contrived, a junction between them was rendered easily
practicable, and that it was beginning to take place at the period

To show this, I must first remind the reader that Anthony Benezet, as soon
as he heard of the result of the case of Somerset, opened a correspondence
with Granville Sharp, which was kept up to the encouragement of both. In
the year 1774, when he learned that William Dillwyn was going to England,
he gave him letters to that gentleman. Thus one of the most conspicuous of
the second class was introduced, accidentally as it were, to one of the
most conspicuous of the first. In the year 1775 William Dillwyn went back
to America, but, on his return to England to settle, he renewed his visits
to Granville Sharp. Thus the connection was continued. To these
observations I may now add; that Samuel Hoare, of the same class as William
Dillwyn, had, in consequence of the Bishop of Chester's sermon, begun a
correspondence in 1784, as before mentioned, with Mr. Ramsay, who was of
the same class as Mr. Sharp. Thus four individuals of the two first classes
were in the way of an union with one another.

But circumstances equally natural contributed to render an union between
the members of the second and the third classes easily practicable also.
For what was more natural than that William Dillwyn, who was born and who
had resided long in America, should have connections there? He had long
cultivated a friendship (not then knowing to what it would lead) with James
Pemberton. His intimacy with him was like that of a family connection. They
corresponded together. They corresponded also as kindred hearts, relative
to the Slave-trade. Thus two members of the second and third classes had
opened an intercourse on the subject, and thus was William Dillwyn the
great medium, through whom the members of the two classes now mentioned, as
well as the members of all the three might be easily united also, if a fit
occasion should offer.


_Fourth class of forerunners and coadjutors up to 1787--Dr. Peckard,
vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge, the first of these--gives
out the Slave-trade as the subject for one of the annual prizes--Author
writes and obtains the first of these--reads his Dissertation in the
Senate-house in the summer of 1785--his feelings on the subject during his
return home--is desirous of aiding the cause of the Africans, but sees
great difficulties--determines to publish his prize-essay for this
purpose--is accidentally thrown into the way of James Phillips, who
introduces him to W. Dillwyn, the connecting medium of the three classes
before mentioned--and to G. Sharp, and Mr. Ramsay--and to R. Phillips._

I proceed now to the fourth class of forerunners and coadjutors up to the
year 1787 in the great cause of the abolition of the Slave-trade.

The first of these was Dr. Peckard. This gentleman had distinguished
himself in the earlier part of his life by certain publications on the
intermediate state of the soul, and by others in favour of civil and
religious liberty. To the latter cause he was a warm friend, seldom
omitting any opportunity of declaring his sentiments in its favour. In the
course of his preferment he was appointed by Sir John Griffin, afterwards
Lord Howard, of Walden, to the mastership of Magdalen College in the
University of Cambridge. In this high office he considered it to be his
duty to support those doctrines which he had espoused when in an inferior
station; and accordingly, when in the year 1784 it devolved upon him to
preach a sermon before the University of Cambridge, he chose his favourite
subject, in the handling of which he took an opportunity of speaking of the
Slave-trade in the following nervous manner:--

"Now, whether we consider the crime, with respect to the individuals
concerned in this most barbarous and cruel traffic, or whether we consider
it as patronized and encouraged by the laws of the land, it presents to our
view an equal degree of enormity. A crime, founded on a dreadful
preeminence in wickedness--A crime, which being both of individuals and the
nation, heaviest judgment of Almighty God, who made of one blood all the
sons of men, and who gave to all equally a natural right to liberty; and
who, ruling all the kingdoms of the earth with equal providential justice,
cannot suffer such deliberate, such monstrous iniquity, to pass long

But Dr. Peckard did not consider this delivery of his testimony, though it
was given before a learned and religious body, as a sufficient discharge of
his duty, while any opportunity remained of renewing it with effect. And,
as such an one offered in the year 1785, when he was vice-chancellor of the
University, he embraced it. In consequence of his office, it devolved upon
him to give out two subjects for Latin dissertations, one to the middle
bachelors, and the other to the senior bachelors of arts. They who produced
the best were to obtain the prizes. To the latter, he proposed the
following: "Anne liceat Invitos in Servitutem dare?" or, "Is it right to
make slaves of others against their will?"

This circumstance of giving out the subjects for the prizes, though only an
ordinary measure, became the occasion of my own labours, or of the real
honour which I feel in being able to consider myself as the next coadjutor
of this class in the cause of the injured Africans. For it happened in this
year that, being of the order of senior bachelors, I became qualified to
write. I had gained a prize for the best Latin dissertation in the former
year, and, therefore, it was expected that I should obtain one in the
present, or I should be considered as having lost my reputation both in the
eyes of the University and of my own College. It had happened also, that I
had been honoured with the first of the prizes[A] in that year, and
therefore it was expected again, that I should obtain the first on this
occasion. The acquisition of the second, however honourable, would have
been considered as a falling off, or as a loss of former fame. I felt
myself, therefore, particularly called upon to maintain my post. And, with
feelings of this kind, I began to prepare myself for the question.

[Footnote A: There are two prizes on each subject, one for the best and the
other for the second-best essays.]

In studying the thesis, I conceived it to point directly to the African
Slave-trade, and more particularly as I knew that Dr. Peckard, in the
sermon which I have mentioned, had pronounced so warmly against it. At any
rate, I determined to give it this construction. But, alas! I was wholly
ignorant of this subject; and, what was unfortunate, a few weeks only were
allowed for the composition. I was determined, however, to make the best
use of my time. I got access to the manuscript papers of a deceased friend,
who had been in the trade. I was acquainted also with several officers who
had been in the West Indies, and from these I gained something. But I still
felt myself at a loss for materials, and I did not know where to get them;
when going by accident into a friend's house, I took up a newspaper then
lying on his table. One of the articles, which attracted my notice, was an
advertisement of Anthony Benezet's Historical Account of Guinea. I soon
left my friend and his paper, and, to lose no time, hastened to London to
buy it. In this precious book I found almost all I wanted. I obtained, by
means of it, a knowledge of, and gained access to, the great authorities of
Adanson, Moore, Barbot, Smith, Bosman and others. It was of great
consequence to know what these persona had said upon this subject. For,
having been themselves either long resident in Africa, or very frequently
there, their knowledge of it could not be questioned. Having been concerned
also in the trade, it was not likely that they would criminate themselves
more than they could avoid. Writing too at a time, when the abolition was
not even thought of, they could not have been biassed with any view to that
event. And, lastly, having been dead many years, they could not have been
influenced, as living evidences may be supposed to have been, either to
conceal or to exaggerate, as their own interest might lead them, either by
being concerned in the continuance of the trade, or by supporting the
opinions of those of their patrons in power, who were on the different
sides of this question.

Furnished then in this manner, I began my work. But no person can tell the
severe trial, which the writing of it proved to me. I had expected pleasure
from the invention of the arguments, from the arrangement of them, from the
putting of them together, and from the thought in the interim that I was
engaged in an innocent contest for literary honour. But all my pleasure was
damped by the facts which were now continually before me. It was but one
gloomy subject from morning to night. In the day-time I was uneasy. In the
night I had little rest. I sometimes never closed my eye-lids for grief. It
became now not so much a trial for academical reputation, as for the
production of a work, which might be useful to injured Africa. And keeping
this idea in my mind ever after the perusal of Benezet, I always slept with
a candle in my room, that I might rise out of bed and put down such
thoughts as might occur to me in the night, if I judged them valuable,
conceiving that no arguments of any moment should be lost in so great a
cause. Having at length finished this painful task I sent my Essay to the
vice-chancellor, and soon afterwards found myself honoured as before with
the first prize.

As it is usual to read these essays publicly in the senate-house soon after
the prize is adjudged, I was called to Cambridge for this purpose. I went
and performed my office. On returning however to London, the subject of it
almost wholly engrossed my thoughts. I became at times very seriously
affected while upon the road. I stopped my horse occasionally, and
dismounted and walked. I frequently tried to persuade myself in these
intervals that the contents of my Essay could not be true. The more however
I reflected upon them, or rather upon the authorities on which they were
founded, the more I gave them credit. Coming in sight of Wades Mill in
Hertfordshire, I sat down disconsolate on the turf by the roadside and held
my horse. Here a thought came into my mind, that if the contents of the
Essay were true, it was time some person should see these calamities to
their end. Agitated in this manner I reached home. This was in the summer
of 1785.

In the course of the autumn of the same year I experienced similar
impressions. I walked frequently into the woods, that I might think on the
subject in solitude, and find relief to my mind there. But there the
question still recurred, "Are these things true?"--Still the answer
followed as instantaneously "They are."--Still the result accompanied it,
"Then surely some person should interfere." I then began to envy those who
had seats in parliament, and who had great riches, and widely extended
connections, which would enable them to take up this cause. Finding
scarcely any one at that time who thought of it, I was turned frequently to
myself. But here many difficulties arose. It struck me, among others, that
a young man of only twenty-four years of age could not have that solid
judgment, or knowledge of men, manners, and things, which were requisite to
qualify him to undertake a task of such magnitude and importance;--and with
whom was I to unite? I believed also, that it looked so much like one of
the feigned labours of Hercules, that my understanding would be suspected
if I proposed it. On ruminating however on the subject, I found one thing
at least practicable, and that this also was in my power. I could translate
my Latin dissertation. I could enlarge it usefully. I could see how the
public received it, or how far they were likely to favour any serious
measures, which should have a tendency to produce the abolition of the
Slave-trade. Upon this then I determined; and in the middle of the month of
November 1785, I began my work.

By the middle of January, I had finished half of it, though I had made
considerable additions. I now thought of engaging with some bookseller to
print it when finished. For this purpose I called upon Mr. Cadell, in the
Strand, and consulted him about it. He said that as the original Essay had
been honoured by the University of Cambridge with the first prize, this
circumstance would ensure it a respectable circulation among persons of
taste. I own I was not much pleased with his opinion. I wished the Essay to
find its way among useful people, and among such as would think and act
with me. Accordingly I left Mr. Cadell, after having thanked him for his
civility, and determined, as I thought I had time sufficient before dinner,
to call upon a friend in the city. In going past the Royal Exchange, Mr.
Joseph Hancock, one of the religious society of the Quakers, and with whose
family my own had been long united in friendship, suddenly met me. He first
accosted me by saying that I was the person, whom he was wishing to see. He
then asked me why I had not published my Prize Essay. I asked him in return
what had made him think of that subject in particular. He replied, that his
own Society had long taken it up as a religious body, and individuals among
them were wishing to find me out. I asked him who. He answered, James
Phillips, a bookseller, in George-yard, Lombard-street, and William
Dillwyn, of Walthamstow, and others. Having but little time to spare, I
desired him to introduce me to one of them. In a few minutes he took me to
James Phillips, who was then the only one of them in town; by whose
conversation I was so much interested and encouraged, that without any
further hesitation I offered him the publication of my work. This
accidental introduction of me to James Phillips was, I found afterwards, a
most happy circumstance for the promotion of the cause, which I had then so
deeply at heart, as it led me to the knowledge of several of those, who
became afterwards material coadjutors in it. It was also of great
importance to me with respect to the work itself. For he possessed an acute
penetration, a solid judgment, and a many alterations and additions he
proposed, and which I believe I uniformly adopted, after mature
consideration, from a sense of their real value. It was advantageous to me
also, inasmuch as it led me to his friendship, which was never interrupted
but by his death.

On my second visit to James Phillips, at which time I brought him about
half my manuscript for the press, I desired him to introduce me to William
Dillwyn, as he also had mentioned him to me on my first visit, and as I had
not seen Mr. Hancock since. Matters were accordingly arranged, and a day
appointed before I left him. On this day I had my first interview with my
new friend. Two or three others of his own religious society were present,
but who they were I do not now recollect. There seemed to be a great desire
among them to know the motive by which I had been actuated in contending
for the prize. I told them frankly, that I had no motive but that which
other young men in the University had on such occasions; namely, the wish
of being distinguished, or of obtaining literary honour; but that I had
felt so deeply on the subject of it, that I had lately interested myself in
it from a motive of duty. My conduct seemed to be highly approved by those
present, and much conversation ensued, but it was of a general nature.

As William Dillwyn wished very much to see me at his house at Walthamstow,
I appointed the thirteenth of March to spend the day with him there. We
talked for the most part, during my stay, on the subject of my Essay. I
soon discovered the treasure I had met with in his local knowledge, both of
the Slave-trade and of slavery, as they existed in the United States, and I
gained from him several facts, which with his permission I afterwards
inserted in my work. But how surprised was I to hear in the course of our
conversation of the labours of Granville Sharp, of the writings of Ramsay,
and of the controversy in which the latter was engaged, of all which I had
hitherto known nothing! How surprised was I to learn, that William Dillwyn
himself, had two years before associated himself with five others for the
purpose of enlightening the public mind upon this great subject! How
astonished was I to find that a society had been formed in America for the
same object, with some of the principal members of which he was intimately
acquainted! And how still more astonished at the inference which instantly
rushed upon my mind, that he was capable of being made the great medium of
connection between them all. These thoughts almost overpowered me. I
believe that after this I talked but little more to my friend. My mind was
overwhelmed with the thought that I had been providentially directed to his
house; that the finger of Providence was beginning to be discernible; that
the daystar of African liberty was rising, and that probably I might be
permitted to become a humble instrument in promoting it.

In the course of attending to my work, as now in the press, James Phillips
introduced me also to Granville Sharp, with whom I had afterwards many
interesting interviews from time to time, and whom I discovered to be a
distant relation by my father's side.

He introduced me also by letter to a correspondence with Mr. Ramsay, who in
a short time afterwards came to London to see me.

He introduced me also to his cousin, Richard Phillip of Lincoln's Inn, who
was at that time on the point of joining the religious society of the
Quakers. In him I found much sympathy, and a willingness to cooperate with
me. When dull and disconsolate, he encouraged me. When in spirits, he
stimulated me further. Him I am now to mention as a new, but soon
afterwards as an active and indefatigable coadjutor in the cause. But I
shall say more concerning him in a future chapter. I shall only now add,
that my work was at length printed; that it was entitled, An Essay on the
Slavery and Commerce of the human Species, particularly the African,
translated from a Latin Dissertation, which was honoured with the First
Prize in the University of Cambridge, for the Year 1785; with
Additions;--and that it was ushered into the world in the month of June
1786, or in about a year after it had been read in the Senate-house in its
first form.


_Continuation of the fourth class of forerunners and coadjutors up to
1787--Bennet Langton--Dr. Baker--Lord and Lady Scarsdale--Author visits
Ramsay at Teston--Lady Middleton and Sir Charles (now Lord Barham)--Author
declares himself at the house of the latter ready now to devote himself to
the cause--reconsiders this declaration or pledge--his reasoning and
struggle upon it--persists in it--returns to London--and pursues the work
as now a business of his life._

I had purposed, as I said before, when I determined to publish my Essay, to
wait to see how the world would receive it, or what disposition there would
be in the public to favour my measures for the abolition of the
Slave-trade. But the conversation, which I had held on the thirteenth of
March with William Dillwyn, continued to make such an impression upon me,
that I thought now there could be no occasion for waiting for such a
purpose. It seemed now only necessary to go forward. Others I found had
already begun the work. I had been thrown suddenly among these, as into a
new world of friends. I believed also that a way was opening under
Providence for support. And I now thought that nothing remained for me but
to procure as many coadjutors as I could.

I had long had the honour of the friendship of Mr. Bennet Langton, and I
determined to carry him one of my books, and to interest his feelings in
it, with a view of procuring his assistance in the cause. Mr. Langton was a
gentleman of an ancient family, and respectable fortune in Lincolnshire,
but resided then in Queen's-square, Westminster. He was known as the friend
of Dr. Johnson, Jonas Hanway, Edmund Burke, Sir Joshua Reynolds, and
others. Among his acquaintance indeed were most of the literary, and
eminent professional, and public-spirited, men of the times. At court also
he was well known and had the esteem of his present Majesty, with whom he
frequently conversed. His friends were numerous also in both houses of the
legislature. As to himself, he was much noted for his learning, but most of
all for the great example he gave with respect to the usefulness and
integrity of his life.

By introducing my work to the sanction of a friend of such high character
and extensive connections, I thought I should be doing great things. And so
the event proved. For when I went to him after he had read it, I found that
it had made a deep impression upon his mind. As a friend to humanity he
lamented over the miseries of the oppressed Africans, and over the crimes
of their tyrants as a friend to morality and religion. He cautioned me,
however, against being too sanguine in my expectations, as so many
thousands were interested in continuing the trade. Justice, however, which
he said weighed with him beyond all private or political interest, demanded
a public inquiry, and he would assist me to the utmost of his power in my
attempts towards it. From this time he became a zealous and active
coadjutor in the cause, and continued so to the end of his valuable life.

The next person, to whom I gave my work with a like view, was Dr. Baker, a
clergyman of the Establishment, and with whom I had been in habits of
intimacy for some time. Dr. Baker was a learned and pious man. He had
performed the duties of his profession from the time of his initiation into
the church in an exemplary manner, not only by paying a proper attention to
the customary services, but by the frequent visitation of the sick and the
instruction of the poor. This he had done too to admiration in a
particularly extensive parish. At the time I knew him he had May-fair
chapel, of which an unusual portion of the congregation consisted then of
persons of rank and fortune. With most of these he had a personal
acquaintance. This was of great importance to me in the promotion of my
views. Having left him my book for a month, I called upon him. The result
was that which I expected from so good a man. He did not wait for me to ask
him for his cooperation, but he offered his services in any way which I
might think most eligible, feeling it his duty, as he expressed it, to
become an instrument in exposing such a complication of guilt and misery to
the world. Dr. Baker became from this time an active coadjutor also, and
continued so to his death.

The person, to whom I sent my work next, was the late lord Scarsdale, whose
family I had known for about two years. Both he and his lady read it with
attention. They informed me, after the perusal of it, that both of them
were desirous of assisting me in promoting the cause of the poor Africans.
Lady Scarsdale lamented that she might possibly offend near and dear
connections, who had interests in the West Indies, by so doing; but that
conscious of no intention to offend these, and considering the duties of
religion to be the first to be attended to, she should be pleased to become
useful in so good a cause. Lord Scarsdale also assured me, that, if the
subject should ever come before the house of lords, it should have his
constant support.

While attempting to make friends in this manner, I received a letter from
Mr. Ramsay, with an invitation to spend a month at his house at Teston,
near Maidstone in Kent. This I accepted, that I might communicate to him
the progress I had made, that I might gain more knowledge from him on the
subject, and that I might acquire new strength and encouragement to
proceed. On hearing my account of my proceedings, which I detailed to him
on the first evening of our meeting, he seemed almost overpowered with joy.
He said he had been long of opinion, that the release of the Africans from
the scourges of this cruel trade, was within the determined views of

Book of the day: