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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

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Providence, and that by turning the public attention to their misery, we
should be the instruments of beginning the good work. He then informed me
how long he himself had had their cause at heart; that, communicating his
feelings to sir Charles Middleton (now lord Barham) and his lady, the
latter had urged him to undertake a work in their behalf; that her
importunities were great respecting it; and that he had on this account,
and in obedience also to his own feelings, as has been before mentioned,
begun it; but that, foreseeing the censure and abuse, which such a subject,
treated in any possible manner, must bring upon the author, he had laid it
aside for some time. He had, however, resumed it at the solicitation of Dr.
Porteus, then bishop of Chester, after which, in the year 1784, it made its
appearance in the world.

I was delighted with this account on the first evening of my arrival; but
more particularly as I collected from it, that I might expect in the bishop
of Chester and sir Charles Middleton, two new friends to the cause. This
expectation was afterwards fully realized, as the reader will see in its
proper place. But I was still more delighted, when I was informed that sir
Charles and lady Middleton, with Mrs. Bouverie, lived at Teston-hall, in a
park, which was but a few yards from the house in which I then was. In the
morning I desired an introduction to them, which accordingly took place,
and I found myself much encouraged and supported by this visit.

It is not necessary, nor indeed is there room, to detail my employments in
this village, or the lonely walks I took there, or the meditations of my
mind at such seasons. I will therefore come at once to a particular
occurrence. When at dinner one day with the family at Teston-hall, I was
much pleased with the turn which the conversation had taken on the subject,
and in the joy of my heart, I exclaimed that, "I was ready to devote myself
to the cause." This brought great commendation from those present; and Sir
Charles Middleton added, that if I wanted any information in the course of
my future inquiries relative to Africa, which he could procure me as
comptroller of the navy, such as extracts from the journals of the ships of
war to that continent, or from other papers, I should have free access to
his office. This offer I received with thankfulness, and it operated as a
new encouragement to me to proceed.

The next morning, when I awoke, one of the first things that struck me was,
that I had given a pledge to the company the day before, that I would
devote myself to the cause of the oppressed Africans. I became a little
uneasy at this. I questioned whether I had considered matters sufficiently
to be able to go so far with propriety. I determined therefore to give the
subject a full consideration, and accordingly I walked to the place of my
usual meditations, the woods.

Having now reached a place of solitude, I began to balance every thing on
both sides of the question. I considered first, that I had not yet obtained
information sufficient on the subject, to qualify me for the undertaking of
such a work. But I reflected, on the other hand, that Sir Charles Middleton
had just opened to me a new source of knowledge; that I should be backed by
the local information of Dillwyn and Ramsay, and that surely, by taking
pains, I could acquire more.

I then considered, that I had not yet a sufficient number of friends to
support me. This occasioned me to review them. I had now Sir Charles
Middleton, who was in the House of Commons. I was sure of Dr. Porteus, who
was in the House of Lords. I could count upon Lord Scarsdale, who was a
peer also. I had secured Mr. Langton, who had a most extensive acquaintance
with members of both houses of the legislature. I had also secured Dr.
Baker, who had similar connections. I could depend upon Granville Sharp,
James Phillips, Richard Phillips, Ramsay, Dillwyn, and the little commitee
to which he belonged, as well as the whole society of the Quakers. I
thought therefore upon the whole, that, considering the short time I had
been at work, I was well off with respect to support; I believed also that
there were still several of my own acquaintance, whom I could interest in
the question, and I did not doubt that, by exerting myself diligently,
persons, who were then strangers to me, would be raised up in time.

I considered next, that it was impossible for a great cause like this to be
forwarded without large pecuniary funds. I questioned whether some thousand
pounds would not be necessary, and from whence was such a sum to come? In
answer to this, I persuaded myself that generous people would be found, who
would unite with me in contributing their mite towards the undertaking, and
I seemed confident that, as the Quakers had taken up the cause as a
religious body, they would not be behind-hand in supporting it.

I considered lastly, that, if I took up the question, I must devote myself
wholly to it. I was sensible that a little labour now and then would be
inadequate to the purpose, or that, where the interests of so many thousand
persons were likely to be affected, constant exertion would be necessary. I
felt certain that, if ever the matter were to be taken up, there could be
no hope of success, except it should be taken up by some one, who would
make it an object or business of his life. I thought too that a man's life
might not be more than adequate to the accomplishment of the end. But I
knew of no one who could devote such a portion of time to it. Sir Charles
Middleton, though he was so warm and zealous, was greatly occupied in the
discharge of his office. Mr. Langton spent a great portion of his time in
the education of his children. Dr. Baker had a great deal to do in the
performance of his parochial duty. The Quakers were almost all of them in
trade. I could look therefore to no person but myself; and the question
was, whether I was prepared to make the sacrifice. In favour of the
undertaking I urged to myself, that never was any cause, which had been
taken up by man in any country or in any age, so great and important; that
never was there one in which so much misery was heard to cry for redress;
that never was there one, in which so much good could be done; never one,
in which the duty of Christian charity could be so extensively exercised;
never one, more worthy of the devotion of a whole life towards it; and
that, if a man thought properly, he ought to rejoice to have been called
into existence, if he were only permitted to become an instrument in
forwarding it in any part of its progress. Against these sentiments on the
other hand I had to urge, that I had been designed for the church; that I
had already advanced as far as deacon's orders in it; that my prospects
there on account of my connections were then brilliant: that, by appearing
to desert my profession, my family would be dissatisfied, if not unhappy.
These thoughts pressed upon me, and rendered the conflict difficult. But
the sacrifice of my prospects staggered me, I own, the most. When the other
objections, which I have related, occurred to me, my enthusiasm instantly,
like a flash of lightning, consumed them: but this stuck to me, and
troubled me. I had ambition. I had a thirst after worldly interest and
honours, and I could not extinguish it at once. I was more than two hours
in solitude under this painful conflict. At length I yielded, not because I
saw any reasonable prospect of success in my new undertaking (for all
cool-headed and cool-hearted men would have pronounced against it), but in
obedience, I believe, to a higher Power. And this I can say, that both, on
the moment of this resolution, and for some time afterwards I had more
sublime and happy feelings than at any former period of my life.

Having now made up my mind on the subject, I informed Mr. Ramsay, that in a
few days I should be leaving Teston, that I might begin my labours,
according to the pledge I had given him.


_Continuation of the fourth class of forerunners and coadjutors up to
1787--Author resolves upon the distribution of his Book--Mr. Sheldon--Sir
Herbert Mackworth--Lord Newhaven--Lord Balgonie (now Leven)--Lord
Hawke--Bishop Porteus--Author visits African vessels in the Thames--and
various persons for further information--Visits also Members of Parliament
--Sir Richard Hill--Mr. Powys (late Lord Lilford) Mr. Wilberforce and
others--Conduct of the latter on this occasion._

On my return to London, I called upon William Dillwyn, to inform him of the
resolution I had made at Teston, and found him at his town lodgings in the
Poultry. I informed him also, that I had a letter of introduction in my
pocket from Sir Charles Middleton to Samuel Hoare, with whom I was to
converse on the subject. The latter gentleman had interested himself the
year before as one of the commitee for the Black poor in London, whom Mr.
Sharp was sending under the auspices of government to Sierra Leone. He was
also, as the reader may see by looking back, a member of the second class
of coadjutors, or of the little commitee which had branched out of the
Quakers in England as before described. William Dillwyn said he would go
with me and introduce me himself. On our arrival in Lombard-street, I saw
my new friend, with whom we conversed for some time. From thence I
proceeded, accompanied by both, to the house of James Phillips in
George-yard, to whom I was desirous of communicating my resolution also. We
found him at home, conversing with a friend of the same religious society,
whose name was Joseph Gurney Bevan. I then repeated my resolution before
them all. We had much friendly and satisfactory conversation together. I
received much encouragement on every side, and I fixed to meet them again
at the place where we then were in three days.

On the evening of the same day I waited upon Granville Sharp to make the
same communication to him. He received it with great pleasure, and he hoped
I should have strength to proceed. From thence I went to the Baptist-head
coffee-house, in Chancery-lane, and having engaged with the master of the
house, that I should always have one private room to myself when I wanted
it, I took up my abode there, in order to be near my friend Richard
Phillips of Lincoln's Inn, from whose advice and assistance I had formed
considerable expectations.

The first matter for our deliberation, after we had thus become neighbours,
was, what plan I ought to pursue to give effect to the resolution I had

After having discussed the matter two or three times at his chambers, it
seemed to be our opinion, That, as members of the legislature could do more
to the purpose in this question than any other persons, it would be proper
to circulate all the remaining copies of my work among these, in order that
they might thus obtain information upon the subject. Secondly, That it
would be proper that I should wait personally upon several of these also.
And thirdly, That I should be endeavouring in the interim to enlarge my own
knowledge, that I might thus be enabled to answer the various objections,
which might be advanced on the other side of the question, as well as
become qualified to be a manager of the cause.

On the third day, or at the time appointed, I went with Richard Phillips to
George-yard, Lombard-street, where I met all my friends as before. I
communicated to them the opinion we had formed at Lincoln's Inn, relative
to my future proceedings in the three different branches as now detailed.
They approved the plan. On desiring a number of my books to be sent to me
at my new lodgings for the purpose of distribution, Joseph Gurney Bevan,
who was stated to have been present at the former interview, seemed uneasy,
and at length asked me if I was going to distribute these at my own
expense. I replied, I was. He appealed immediately to those present whether
it ought to be allowed. He asked whether, when a young man was giving up
his time from morning till night, they, who applauded his pursuit and
seemed desirous of cooperating with him, should allow him to make such a
sacrifice, or whether they should not at least secure him from loss; and he
proposed directly that the remaining part of the edition should be taken
off by subscription, and, in order that my feelings might not be hurt from
any supposed stain arising from the thought of gaining any thing by such a
proposal, they should be paid for only at the prime cost. I felt myself
much obliged to him for this tender consideration about me, and
particularly for the latter part of it, under which alone I accepted the
offer. Samuel Hoare was charged with the management of the subscription,
and the books were to be distributed as I had proposed, and in any way
which I myself might prescribe.

This matter having been determined upon, my first care was that the books
should be put into proper hands. Accordingly I went round among my friends
from day to day, wishing to secure this before I attended to any of the
other objects. In this I was much assisted by my friend Richard Phillips.
Mr. Langton began the distribution of them. He made a point either of
writing to or of calling upon those, to whom he sent them. Dr. Baker took
the charge of several for the same purpose. Lord and Lady Scarsdale of
others. Sir Charles and Lady Middleton of others. Mr. Sheldon, at the
request of Richard Phillips, introduced me by letter to several members of
parliament, to whom I wished to deliver them myself. Sir Herbert Mackworth,
when spoken to by the latter, offered his services also. He seemed to be
particularly interested in the cause. He went about to many of his friends
in the House of Commons, and this from day to day, to procure their favour
towards it. Lord Newhaven was applied to, and distributed some. Lord
Balgonie (now Leven) took a similar charge. The late Lord Hawke, who told
me that he had long felt for the sufferings of the injured Africans,
desired to be permitted to take his share of the distribution among members
of the House of Lords, and Dr. Porteus, now bishop of London, became
another coadjutor in the same work.

This distribution of my books having been consigned to proper hands, I
began to qualify myself, by obtaining further knowledge, for the management
of this great cause. As I had obtained the principal part of it from
reading, I thought I ought now to see what could be seen, and to know from
living persons what could be known, on the subject. With respect to the
first of these points, the river Thames presented itself as at hand. Ships
were going occasionally from the port of London to Africa, and why could I
not get on board them and examine for myself? After diligent inquiry, I
heard of one which had just arrived. I found her to be a little
wood-vessel, called the Lively, captain Williamson, or one which traded to
Africa in the natural productions of the country, such as ivory, beeswax,
Malaguetta pepper, palm-oil, and dye-woods. I obtained specimens of some of
these, so that I now became possessed of some of those things of which I
had only read before. On conversing with the mate, he showed me one or two
pieces of the cloth made by the natives, and from their own cotton. I
prevailed upon him to sell me a piece of each. Here new feelings arose, and
particularly when I considered that persons of so much apparent ingenuity,
and capable of such beautiful work as the Africans, should be made slaves,
and reduced to a level with the brute creation. My reflections here on the
better use which might be made of Africa by the substitution of another
trade, and on the better use which might be made of her inhabitants, served
greatly to animate, and to sustain me amidst the labour of my pursuits.

The next vessel I boarded was the Fly, captain Colley:--Here I found myself
for the first time on the deck of a slave-vessel.--The sight of the rooms
below and of the gratings above, and of the barricade across the deck, and
the explanation of the uses of all these, filled me both with melancholy
and horror. I found soon afterwards a fire of indignation kindling within
me. I had now scarce patience to talk with those on board. I had not the
coolness this first time to go leisurely over the places that were open to
me.--I got away quickly.--But that which I thought I saw horrible in this
vessel had the same effect upon me as that which I thought I had seen
agreeable in the other, namely, to animate and to invigorate me in my

But I will not trouble the reader with any further account of my
water-expeditions, while attempting to perfect my knowledge on this
subject. I was equally assiduous in obtaining intelligence wherever it
could be had; and being now always on the watch, I was frequently falling
in with individuals, from whom I gained something. My object was to see all
who had been in Africa, but more particularly those who had never been
interested, or who at any rate were not then interested, in the trade. I
gained accordingly access very early to General Rooke; to Lieutenant
Dalrymple, of the army; to Captain Fiddes, of the engineers; to the
reverend Mr. Newton; to Mr. Nisbett, a surgeon in the Minories; to Mr.
Devaynes, who was then in parliament, and to many others; and I made it a
rule to put down in writing, after every conversation, what had taken place
in the course of it. By these means things began to unfold themselves to me
more and more, and I found my stock of knowledge almost daily on the

While, however, I was forwarding this, I was not inattentive to the other
object of my pursuit, which was that of waiting upon members personally.
The first I called upon was Sir Richard Hill.--At the first interview he
espoused the cause. I waited then upon others, and they professed
themselves friendly; but they seemed to make this profession more from the
emotion of good hearts, revolting at the bare mention of the Slave-trade,
than from any knowledge concerning it. One, however, whom I visited, Mr.
Powys (the late Lord Lilford), with whom I had been before acquainted in
Northamptonshire, seemed to doubt some of the facts in my book, from a
belief that human nature was not capable of proceeding to such a pitch of
wickedness. I asked him to name his facts. He selected the case of the
hundred-and-thirty-two slaves who were thrown alive into the sea to defraud
the underwriters. I promised to satisfy him fully upon this point, and went
immediately to Granville Sharp, who lent me his account of the trial, as
reported at large from the notes of the short-hand writer, whom he had
employed on the occasion. Mr. Powys read the account.--He became, in
consequence of it, convinced, as, indeed, he could not otherwise be, of the
truth of what I had asserted, and he declared at the same time that, if
this were true, there was nothing so horrible related of this trade, which
might not immediately be believed. Mr. Powys had been always friendly to
this question, but now he took a part in the distribution of my books.

Among those, whom I visited, was Mr. Wilberforce. On my first interview
with him, he stated frankly, that the subject had often employed his
thoughts, and that it was near his heart. He seemed earnest about it, and
also very desirous of taking the trouble of inquiring further into it.
Having read my book, which I had delivered to him in person, he sent for
me. He expressed a wish that I would make him acquainted with some of my
authorities for the assertions in it, which I did afterwards to his
satisfaction. He asked me if I could support it by any other evidence. I
told him I could.--I mentioned Mr. Newton, Mr. Nisbett, and several others
to him. He took the trouble of sending for all these. He made memorandums
of their conversation, and, sending for me afterwards, showed them to me.
On learning my intention to devote myself to the cause, he paid me many
handsome compliments. He then desired me to call upon him often, and to
acquaint him with my progress from time to time. He expressed also his
willingness to afford me any assistance in his power in the prosecution of
my pursuits.

The carrying on of these different objects, together with the writing which
was connected with them, proved very laborious, and occupied almost all my
time. I was seldom engaged less than sixteen hours in the day. When I left
Teston to begin the pursuit as an object of my life, I promised my friend
Mr. Ramsay a weekly account of my progress. At the end of the first week my
letter to him contained little more than a sheet of paper. At the end of
the second it contained three; at the end of the third six; and at the end
of the fourth I found it would be so voluminous, that I was obliged to
decline writing it.


_Continuation of the fourth class of forerunners and coadjutors up to
1787--Author goes on to enlarge his knowledge in the different departments
of the subject--communicates more frequently with Mr. Wilberforce--Meetings
now appointed at the house of the latter--Dinner at Mr. Langton's--Mr.
Wilberforce pledges himself there to take up the subject in
parliament--Remarkable junction, in consequence, of all the four classes of
forerunners and coadjutors before mentioned--commitee formed out of these
on the 22d of May, 1787, for the abolition of the Slave-trade._

The manner in which Mr. Wilberforce had received me, and the pains which he
had taken, and was still taking, to satisfy himself of the truth of those
enormities which had been charged upon the Slave-trade, tended much to
enlarge my hope, that they might become at length the subject of a
parliamentary inquiry. Richard Phillips also, to whom I made a report at
his chambers almost every evening of the proceedings of the day, had begun
to entertain a similar expectation. Of course, we unfolded our thoughts to
one another. From hence a desire naturally sprung up in each of us to
inquire, whether any alteration in consequence of this new prospect should
be made in my pursuits. On deliberating upon this point, it seemed proper
to both of us, that the distribution of the books should be continued; that
I should still proceed in enlarging my own knowledge; and that I should
still wait upon members of the legislature, but with this difference, that
I should never lose sight of Mr. Wilberforce, but, on the other hand, that
I should rather omit visiting some others, than paying a proper attention
to him.

One thing however appeared now to be necessary, which had not yet been
done. This was to inform our friends in the city, upon whom I had all along
occasionally called, that we believed the time was approaching, when it
would be desirable that we should unite our labours, if they saw no
objection to such a measure; for, if the Slave-trade were to become a
subject of parliamentary inquiry with a view to the annihilation of it, no
individual could perform the work which would be necessary for such a
purpose. This work must be a work of many; and who so proper to assist in
it as they, who had before so honourably laboured in it? In the case of
such an event large funds also would be wanted, and who so proper to
procure and manage them as these? A meeting was accordingly called at the
house of James Phillips, when these our views were laid open. When I stated
that from the very time of my hopes beginning to rise I had always had
those present in my eye as one day to be fellow-labourers, William Dillwyn
replied, that from the time they had first heard of the Prize Essay, they
also had had their eyes upon me, and, from the time they had first seen me,
had conceived a desire of making the same use of me as I had now expressed
a wish of making of them, but that matters did not appear ripe at our first
interview. Our proposal, however, was approved, and an assurance was given,
that an union should take place, as soon as it was judged to be seasonable.
It was resolved also, that one day in the week[A] should be appointed for a
meeting at the house of James Phillips, where as many might attend as had
leisure, and that I should be there to make a report of my progress, by
which we might all judge of the fitness of the time of calling ourselves an
united body. Pleased now with the thought that matters were put into such a
train, I returned to my former objects.

[Footnote A: At these weekly meetings I met occasionally Joseph Woods,
George Harrison, and John Lloyd, three of the other members, who belonged
to the commitee of the second class of forerunners and coadjutors as before
described. I had seen all of them before, but I do not recollect the time
when I first met them.]

It is not necessary to say any thing more of the first of these objects,
which was that of the further distribution of my book, than that it was
continued, and chiefly by the same hands.

With respect to the enlargement of my knowledge, it was promoted likewise.
I now gained access to the Custom-house in London, where I picked up much
valuable information for my purpose.

Having had reason to believe that the Slave-trade was peculiarly fatal to
those employed in it, I wished much to get copies of many of the
muster-rolls from the Custom-house at Liverpool for a given time. James
Phillips wrote to his friend William Rathbone, who was one of his own
religious society, and who resided there, to procure them. They were
accordingly sent up. The examination of these, which took place at the
chambers of Richard Phillips, was long and tedious. We looked over them
together. We usually met for this purpose at nine in the evening, and we
seldom parted till one, and sometimes not till three in the morning. When
our eyes were inflamed by the candle, or tired by fatigue, we used to
relieve ourselves by walking out within the precincts of Lincoln's Inn,
when all seemed to be fast asleep, and thus, as it were, in solitude and in
stillness to converse upon them, as well as upon the best means of the
further promotion of our cause. These scenes of our early friendship and
exertions I shall never forget. I often think of them both with
astonishment and with pleasure. Having recruited ourselves in this manner,
we used to return to our work. From these muster-rolls I may now observe,
that we gained the most important information. We ascertained beyond the
power of contradiction, that more than half of the seamen, who went out
with the ships in the Slave-trade, did not return with them, and that of
these so many perished, as amounted to one-fifth of all employed. As to
what became of the remainder, the muster-rolls did not inform us. This,
therefore, was left to us as a subject for our future inquiry.

In endeavouring to enlarge my knowledge, my thoughts were frequently turned
to the West Indian part of the question, and in this department my friend
Richard Phillips gained me important intelligence. He put into my hands
several documents concerning estates in the West Indies, which he had
mostly from the proprietors themselves, where the slaves by mild and
prudent usage had so increased in population, as to supersede the necessity
of the Slave-trade.

By attending to these and to various other parts of the subject, I began to
see as it were with new eyes: I was enabled to make several necessary
discriminations, to reconcile things before seemingly contradictory, and to
answer many objections which had hitherto put on a formidable shape. But
most of all was I rejoiced at the thought that I should soon be able to
prove that which I had never doubted, but which had hitherto been beyond my
power in this case, that Providence, in ordaining laws relative to the
agency of man, had never made that to be wise which was immoral, and that
the Slave-trade would be found as impolitic as it was inhuman and unjust.

In keeping up my visits to members of parliament, I was particularly
attentive to Mr. Wilberforce, whom I found daily becoming more interested
in the fate of Africa. I now made to him a regular report of my progress,
of the sentiments of those in parliament whom I had visited, of the
disposition of my friends in the City of whom he had often heard me speak,
of my discoveries from the Custom-houses of London and Liverpool, of my
documents concerning West India estates, and of all, indeed, that had
occurred to me worth mentioning. He had himself also been making his
inquiries, which he communicated to me in return. Our intercourse had now
become frequent, no one week elapsing without an interview. At one of
these, I suggested to him the propriety of having occasional meetings at
his own house, consisting of a few friends in parliament, who might
converse on the subject. Of this he approved. The persons present at the
first meeting were Mr. Wilberforce, the Honourable John Villiers, Mr.
Powys, Sir Charles Middleton, Sir Richard Hill, Mr. Granville Sharp, Mr.
Ramsay, Dr. Gregory, (who had written on the subject, as before mentioned,)
and myself. At this meeting I read a paper, giving an account of the light
I had collected in the course of my inquiries, with observations as well on
the impolicy as on the wickedness of the trade. Many questions arose out of
the reading of this little Essay. Many answers followed. Objections were
started and canvassed. In short, this measure was found so useful, that
certain other evenings as well as mornings were fixed upon for the same

On reporting my progress to my friends in the City, several of whom now
assembled once in the week, as I mentioned before to have been agreed upon,
and particularly on reporting the different meetings which had taken place
at the house of Mr. Wilberforce, on the subject, they were of opinion that
the time was approaching when we might unite, and that this union might
prudently commence as soon as ever Mr. Wilberforce would give his word that
he would take up the question in parliament. Upon this I desired to
observe, that though the latter gentleman had pursued the subject with much
earnestness, he had never yet dropped the least hint that he would proceed
so far in the matter, but I would take care that the question should be put
to him, and I would bring them his answer.

In consequence of the promise I had now made, I went to Mr. Wilberforce.
But when I saw him, I seemed unable to inform him of the object of my
visit. Whether this inability arose from any sudden fear that his answer
might not be favourable, or from a fear that I might possibly involve him
in a long and arduous contest upon this subject, or whether it arose from
an awful sense of the importance of the mission, as it related to the
happiness of hundreds of thousands then alive and of millions then unborn,
I cannot say. But I had a feeling within me for which I could not account,
and which seemed to hinder me from proceeding. And I actually went away
without informing him of my errand.

In this situation I began to consider what to do, when I thought I would
call upon Mr. Langton, tell him what had happened, and ask his advice. I
found him at home. We consulted together. The result was, that he was to
invite Mr. Wilberforce and some others to meet me at a dinner at his own
house, in two or three days, when he said he had no doubt of being able to
procure an answer, by some means or other, to the question which I wished
to have resolved.

On receiving a card from Mr. Langton, I went to dine with him. I found the
party to consist of Sir Charles Middleton, Mr. Wilberforce, Mr. Hawkins
Browne, Mr. Windham, Sir Joshua Reynolds, and Mr. Boswell. The latter was
then known as the friend of Dr. Johnson, and afterwards as the writer of
his Tour to the Hebrides. After dinner the subject of the Slave-trade was
purposely introduced. Many questions were put to me, and I dilated upon
each in my answers, that I might inform and interest those present as much
as I could. They seemed to be greatly impressed with my account of the loss
of seamen in the trade, and with the little samples of African cloth, which
I had procured for their inspection. Sir Joshua Reynolds gave his
unqualified approbation of the abolition of this cruel traffic. Mr. Hawkins
Browne joined heartily with him in sentiment; he spoke with much feeling
upon it, and pronounced it to be barbarous, and contrary to every principle
of morality and religion. Mr. Boswell, after saying the planters would urge
that the Africans were made happier by being carried from their own country
to the West Indies, observed, "Be it so. But we have no right to make
people happy against their will." Mr. Windham, when it was suggested that
the great importance of our West Indian islands, and the grandeur of
Liverpool, would be brought against those who should propose the abolition
of the Slave-trade, replied, "We have nothing to do with the policy of the
measure. Rather let Liverpool and the Islands be swallowed up in the sea,
than this monstrous system of iniquity be carried on[A]." While such
conversation was passing, and when all appeared to be interested in the
cause, Mr. Langton put the question, about the proposal of which I had been
so diffident, to Mr. Wilberforce, in the shape of a delicate compliment.
The latter replied, that he had no objection to bring forward the measure
in parliament, when he was better prepared for it, and provided no person
more proper could be found. Upon this, Mr. Hawkins Browne and Mr. Windham
both said they would support him there. Before I left the company, I took
Mr. Wilberforce aside, and asked him if I might mention this his resolution
to those of my friends in the City, of whom he had often heard me speak, as
desirous of aiding him by becoming a commitee for the purpose. He replied,
I might. I then asked Mr. Langton, privately, if he had any objection to
belong to a society of which there might be a commitee for the abolition of
the Slave-trade. He said he should be pleased to become a member of it.
Having received these satisfactory answers, I returned home.

[Footnote A: I do not know upon what grounds, after such strong
expressions, Mr. Boswell, in the next year, and Mr. Windham, after having
supported the cause for three or four years, became inimical to it.]

The next day, having previously taken down the substance of the
conversation at the dinner, I went to James Phillips, and desired that our
friends might be called together as soon as they conveniently could, to
hear my report. In the interim I wrote to Dr. Peckard, and waited upon Lord
Scarsdale, Dr. Baker, and others, to know (supposing a society were formed
for the abolition of the Slave-trade) if I might say they would belong to
it? All of them replied in the affirmative, and desired me to represent
them, if there should be any meeting for this purpose.

At the time appointed, I met my friends. I read over the substance of the
conversation which had taken place at Mr. Langton's. No difficulty
occurred. All were unanimous for the formation of a commitee. On the next
day we met by agreement for this purpose. It was then resolved unanimously,
among other things, That the Slave-trade was both impolitic and unjust. It
was resolved also, That the following persons be a commitee for procuring
such information and evidence, and publishing the same, as may tend to the
abolition of the Slave-trade, and for directing the application of such
moneys as have been already, and may hereafter be collected for the above

Granville Sharp.
William Dillwyn.
Samuel Hoare.
George Harrison.
John Lloyd.
Joseph Woods.
Thomas Clarkson.
Richard Phillips.
John Barton.
Joseph Hooper.
James Phillips.
Philip Sansom.

All these were present. Granville Sharp, who stands at the head of the
list, and who, as the father of the cause in England, was called to the
chair, may be considered as representing the first class of forerunners and
coadjutors, as it has been before described. The five next, of whom Samuel
Hoare was chosen as the treasurer, were they who had been the commitee of
the second class, or of the Quakers in England, with the exception of Dr.
Knowles, who was then dying, but who, having heard of our meeting, sent a
message to us, to exhort us to proceed. The third class, of that of the
Quakers in America, may be considered as represented by William Dillwyn, by
whom they were afterwards joined to us in correspondence. The two who stand
next, and in which I am included, may be considered as representing the
fourth, most of the members of which we had been the means of raising.
Thus, on the twenty-second of May 1787, the representatives of all the four
classes, of which I have been giving a history from the year 1516, met
together, and were united in that commitee, to which I have been all along
directing the attention of the reader; a commitee, which, labouring
afterwards with Mr. Wilberforce as a parliamentary head, did, under
Providence, in the space of twenty years, contribute to put an end to a
trade, which, measuring its magnitude, by its crimes and sufferings, was
the greatest practical evil that ever afflicted the human race.

After the formation of the commitee[A], notice was sent to Mr. Wilberforce
of the event, and a friendship began, which has continued uninterruptedly
between them, from that to the present day.

[Footnote A: All the members were of the society of the Quakers, except Mr.
Sharp, Sansom, and myself. Joseph Gurney Bevan was present on the day
before this meeting. He desired to belong to the society, but to be excused
from belonging to the commitee.]




_The preceding history of the different classes of the forerunners and
coadjutors, to the time of the formation of the commitee, collected into
one view by means of a map--Explanation of this map--and observations upon

As the preceding history of the different classes of the forerunners and
coadjutors, to the time of their junction, or to the formation of the
commitee, as just explained, may be thought interesting by many, I have
endeavoured, by means of the annexed map, so to bring it before the reader,
that he may comprehend the whole of it at a single view.

The figure beginning at A and reaching down to X represents the first class
of forerunners and coadjutors up to the year 1787, as consisting of so many
springs or rivulets, which assisted in making and swelling the torrent
which swept away the Slave-trade.

The figure from B to C and from C to X represents the second class, or that
of the Quakers in England, up to the same time. The stream on the
right-hand represents them as a body, and that on the left, the six
individuals belonging to them, who formed the commitee in 1783.

The figure from B to D represents the third class, or that of the Quakers
in America when joined with others in 1774. The stream passing from D
through E to X shows how this class was conveyed down, as it were, so as to
unite with the second. That passing from D to Y shows its course in its own
country, to its enlargement in 1787. And here I may observe, that as the
different streams which formed a junction at X, were instrumental in
producing the abolition of the Slave-trade in England, in the month of
March 1807, so those, whose effects are found united at Y, contributed to
produce the same event in America, in the same month of the same year.

The figure from F to X represents the fourth class up to 1787.

X represents the junction of all the four classes in the commitee
instituted in London on the twenty-second day of May, 1787.

The parallel lines G, H, I, K, represent different periods of time, showing
when the forerunners and coadjutors lived. The space between G and H
includes the space of fifty years, in which we find but few labourers in
this cause. That between H and I includes the same portion of time, in
which we find them considerably increased, or nearly doubled. That between
I and K represents the next thirty-seven years. But here we find their
increase beyond all expectation, for we find four times more labourers in
this short term, than in the whole of the preceding century.

In looking over the map, as thus explained, a number of thoughts suggest
themselves, some of which it may not be improper to detail. And first, in
looking between the first and second parallel, we perceive, that Morgan
Godwyn, Richard Baxter, and George Fox, the first a clergyman of the
Established Church, the second a divine at the head of the Nonconformists,
and the third the founder of the religious society of the Quakers, appeared
each of them the first in his own class, and all of them about the same
time, in behalf of the oppressed Africans. We see then this great truth
first apparent, that the abolition of the Slave-trade took its rise, not
from persons, who set up a cry for liberty, when they were oppressors
themselves, nor from persons who were led to it by ambition, or a love of
reputation among men, but where it was most desirable, namely, from the
teachers of Christianity in those times.

This account of its rise will furnish us with some important lessons. And
first, it shows us the great value of religion. We see, when moral
disorders become known, that the virtuous are they who rise up for the
removal of them. Thus Providence seems to have appointed those, who devote
themselves most to his service, to the honourable office of becoming so
many agents, under his influence, for the correction of the evils of life.
And as this account of the rise of the abolition of the Slave-trade teaches
us the necessity of a due cultivation of religion, so it should teach us to
have a brotherly affection for those, who, though they may differ from us
in speculative opinions concerning it, do yet show by their conduct that
they have a high regard for it. For though Godwyn, and Baxter, and Fox,
differed as to the articles of their faith, we find them impelled by the
spirit of christianity, which is of infinitely more importance than a mere
agreement in creeds, to the same good end.

In looking over the different streams in the map, as they are discoverable
both in Europe and America, we are impressed with another truth on the same
subject, which is, that the Christian religion is capable of producing the
same good fruit in all lands. However men may differ on account of climate,
or language, or government, or laws, or however they may be situated in
different quarters of the globe, it will produce in them the same virtuous
disposition, and make them instruments for the promotion of happiness in
the world.

In looking between the two first parallels, where we see so few labourers,
and in contemplating the great increase of these between the others, we are
taught the consoling lesson, that however small the beginning and slow the
progress may appear in any good work which we may undertake, we need not be
discouraged as to the ultimate result of our labours; for though our cause
may appear stationary, it may only become so, in order that it may take a
deeper root, and thus be enabled to stand better against the storms which
may afterwards beat about it.

In taking the same view again, we discover the manner in which light and
information proceed under a free government in a good cause. An individual,
for example, begins; he communicates his sentiments to others. Thus, while
alive, he enlightens; when dead, he leaves his works behind him. Thus,
though departed, he yet speaks, and his influence is not lost. Of those
enlightened by him, some become authors, and others actors in their turn.
While living, they instruct, like their predecessors; when dead, they speak
also. Thus a number of dead persons are encouraging us in libraries, and a
number of living are conversing and diffusing zeal among us at the same
time. This, however, is not true in any free and enlightened country, with
respect to the propagation of evil. The living find no permanent
encouragement, and the dead speak to no purpose in such a case.

This account of the manner in which light and information proceed in a free
country, furnishes us with some valuable knowledge. It shows us, first, the
great importance of education; for all they who can read may become
enlightened. They may gain as much from the dead as from the living. They
may see the sentiments of former ages. Thus they may contract, by degrees,
habits of virtuous inclination, and become fitted to join with others in
the removal of any of the evils of life.

It shows us, secondly, how that encouraging maxim may become true, That no
good effort is ever lost. For if he, who makes the virtuous attempt, should
be prevented by death from succeeding in it, can he not speak, though in
the tomb? Will not his works still breathe his sentiments upon it? May not
the opinions, and the facts, which he has recorded, meet the approbation of
ten thousand readers, of whom it is probable, in the common course of
things, that some will branch out of him as authors, and others as actors
or labourers, in the same cause?

And, lastly, it will show us the difficulty (if any attempt should be made)
of reversing permanently the late noble act of the legislature for the
abolition of the Slave-trade. For let us consider how many, both of the
living and the dead, could be made to animate us. Let us consider, too,
that this is the cause of mercy, justice, and religion; that as such, it
will always afford renewed means of rallying; and that the dead will always
be heard with interest, and the living with enthusiasm, upon it.


_Author devotes this chapter to considerations relative to himself--fears
that by the frequent introduction of himself to the notice of the reader he
may incur the charge of ostentation--Observations on such a charge._

Having brought my History of the Abolition of the Slave-trade up to the
month of May 1787, I purpose taking the liberty, before I proceed with it,
to devote this chapter to considerations relative to myself. This, indeed,
seems to be now necessary: for I have been fearful for some pages past,
and, indeed, from the time when I began to introduce myself to the notice
of the reader, as one of the forerunners and coadjutors in this great
cause, that I might appear to have put myself into a situation too
prominent, so as even to have incurred the charge of ostentation. But if
there should be some, who, in consequence of what they have already read of
this history, should think thus unfavourably of me, what must their opinion
ultimately be, when, unfortunately, I must become still more prominent in
it! Nor do I know in what manner I shall escape their censure. For if, to
avoid egotism, I should write, as many have done, in the third person, what
would this profit me? The delicate situation, therefore, in which I feel
myself to be placed, makes me desirous of saying a few words to the reader
on this subject.

And first, I may observe, that several of my friends urged me from time to
time, and this long before the abolition of the Slave-trade had been
effected, to give a history of the rise and progress of the attempt, as far
as it had been then made. But I uniformly resisted their application.

When the question was decided last year, they renewed their request. They
represented to me, that no person knew the beginning and progress of this
great work so well as myself; that it was a pity that such knowledge should
die with me; that such a history would be useful; that it would promote
good feelings among men; that it would urge them to benevolent exertions;
that it would supply them with hope in the midst of these; that it would
teach them many valuable lessons:--these and other things were said to me.
But, encouraging as they were, I never lost sight of the objection, which
is the subject of this chapter; nor did I ever fail to declare, that
though, considering the part I had taken in this great cause, I might be
qualified better than some others, yet it was a task too delicate for me to
perform. I always foresaw that I could not avoid making myself too
prominent an object in such a history, and that I should be liable, on that
account, to the suspicion of writing it for the purpose of sounding my own

With this objection my friends were not satisfied. They answered, that I
might treat the History of the Abolition of the Slave-trade as a species of
biography, or as the history of a part of my own life: that people, who had
much less weighty matters to communicate, wrote their own histories; and
that no one charged them with vanity for so doing.

I own I was not convinced by this answer. I determined, however, in
compliance with their wishes, to examine the objection more minutely, and
to see if I could overcome it more satisfactorily to my own mind. With this
view, I endeavoured to anticipate the course which such a history would
take. I saw clearly, in the first place, that there were times, for months
together, when the commitee for the abolition of the Slave-trade was
labouring without me, and when I myself for an equal space of time was
labouring in distant parts of the kingdom without them. Hence I perceived
that, if my own exertions were left out, there would be repeated chasms in
this history, and, indeed, that it could not be completed without the
frequent mention of myself. And I was willing to hope that this would be so
obvious to the good sense of the reader, that if he should think me
vain-glorious in the early part of it, he would afterwards, when he
advanced in the perusal of it, acquit me of such a charge. This
consideration was the first, which removed my objection on this head. That
there can be no ground for any charge of ostentation, as far as the origin
of this history is concerned, so I hope to convince him there can be none,
by showing him in what light I have always viewed myself in connection with
the commitee, to which I have had the honour to belong.

I have uniformly considered our commitee for the abolition of the
Slave-trade, as we usually consider the human body, that is, as made up of
a head and of various members, which had different offices to perform.
Thus, if one man was an eye, another was an ear, another an arm, and
another a foot. And here I may say, with great truth, that I believe no
commitee was ever made up of persons, whose varied talents were better
adapted to the work before them. Viewing then the commitee in this light,
and myself as in connection with it, I may deduce those truths, with which
the analogy will furnish me. And first, it will follow, that if every
member has performed his office faithfully, though one may have done
something more than another, yet no one of them in particular has any
reason to boast. With what propriety could the foot, though in the
execution of its duty it had become weary, say to the finger, "Thou hast
done less than I;" when the finger could reply with truth, "I have done all
that has been given me to do?" It will follow also, that as every limb is
essentially necessary for the completion of a perfect work; so in the case
before us, every one was as necessary in his own office, or department, as
another. For what, for example, could I myself have done if I had not
derived so much assistance from the commitee? What could Mr. Wilberforce
have done in parliament, if I, on the other hand, had not collected that
great body of evidence, to which there was such a constant appeal? And what
could the commitee have done without the parliamentary aid of Mr.
Wilberforce? And in mentioning this necessity of distinct offices and
talents for the accomplishment of the great work, in which we have been all
of us engaged, I feel myself bound by the feelings of justice to deliver it
as my opinion in this place, (for, perhaps, I may have no other
opportunity,) that knowing, as I have done, so many members of both houses
of our legislature, for many of whom I have had a sincere respect, there
was never yet one, who appeared to me to be so properly qualified, in all
respects, for the management of the great cause of the abolition of the
Slave-trade, as he, whose name I have just mentioned. His connections, but
more particularly his acquaintance with the first minister of state, were
of more service in the promotion of it, than they, who are but little
acquainted with political movements, can well appreciate. His habits also
of diligent and persevering inquiry made him master of all the knowledge
that was requisite for conducting it. His talents both in and out of
parliament made him a powerful advocate in its favour. His character, free
from the usual spots of human imperfection, gave an appropriate lustre to
the cause, making it look yet more lovely, and enticing others to its
support. But most of all the motive, on which he undertook it, insured its
progress. For this did not originate in views of selfishness, or of party,
or of popular applause, but in an awful sense of his duty as a Christian.
It was this, which gave him alacrity and courage in his pursuit. It was
this, which made him continue in his elevated situation of a legislator,
though it was unfavourable, if not to his health, at least to his ease and
comfort. It was this, which made him incorporate this great object among
the pursuits of his life, so that it was daily in his thoughts. It was
this, which, when year after year of unsuccessful exertion returned,
occasioned him to be yet fresh and vigorous in spirit, and to persevere
till the day of triumph.

But to return:--There is yet another consideration, which I shall offer to
the reader on this subject, and with which I shall conclude it. It is this;
that no one ought to be accused of vanity until he has been found to assume
to himself some extraordinary merit. This being admitted, I shall now
freely disclose the view, which I have always been desirous of taking of my
own conduct on this occasion, in the following words:--

As Robert Barclay, the apologist for the Quakers, when he dedicated his
work to Charles the Second, intimated to this prince, that any merit, which
the work might have, would not be derived from his patronage of it, but
from the Author of all spiritual good; so I say to the reader, with respect
to myself, that I disclaim all praise on account of any part I may have
taken in the promotion of this great cause, for that I am desirous above
all things to attribute my best endeavours in it to the influence of a
superior Power; of Him, I mean, who gave me a heart to feel--who gave me
courage to begin--and perseverance to proceed--and that I am thankful to
Him, and this with the deepest feeling of gratitude and humility, for
having permitted me to become useful, in any degree, to my


_Author returns to his History--commitee formed as before mentioned--its
proceedings--Author produces a summary view of the Slave-trade and of the
probable consequences of its abolition--Wrongs of Africa, by Mr. Roscoe,
generously presented to the commitee--Important discussion as to the object
of the commitee--Emancipation declared to be no part of it--commitee
decides on its public title--Author requested to go to Bristol, Liverpool,
and Lancaster, to collect further information on the subject of the trade._

I return now, after this long digression, to the continuation of my

It was shown in the latter part of the tenth chapter, that twelve
individuals, all of whom were then named, met together, by means which no
one could have foreseen, on the twenty-second of May 1787; and that, after
having voted the Slave-trade to be both unjust and impolitic, they formed
themselves into a commitee for procuring such information and evidence, and
for publishing the same, as might tend to the abolition of it, and for
directing the application of such money, as had been already and might
hereafter be collected for that purpose. At this meeting it was resolved
also, that no less than three members should form a quorum; that Samuel
Hoare should be the treasurer; that the treasurer should pay no money but
by order of the commitee; and that copies of these resolutions should be
printed and circulated, in which it should be inserted that the
subscriptions of all such, as were willing to forward the plans of the
commitee, should be received by the treasurer or any member of it.

On the twenty-fourth of May the commitee met again to promote the object of
its institution.

The treasurer reported at this meeting, that the subscriptions already
received, amounted to one hundred and thirty-six pounds.

As I had foreseen, long before this time, that my Essay on the Slavery and
Commerce of the Human Species was too large for general circulation, and
yet that a general circulation of knowledge on this subject was absolutely
necessary, I determined, directly after the formation of the commitee, to
write a short pamphlet consisting only of eight or ten pages for this
purpose. I called it A Summary View of the Slave-trade, and of the probable
Consequences of its Abolition. It began by exhibiting to the reader the
various unjustifiable ways in which persons living on the coast of Africa
became slaves. It then explained the treatment which these experienced on
their passage, the number dying in the course of it, and the treatment of
the survivors in the colonies of those nations to which they were carried.
It then announced the speedy publication of a work on the Impolicy of the
Trade, the contents of which, as far as I could then see, I gave generally
under the following heads:--Part the first, it was said, would show, that
Africa was capable of offering to us a trade in its own natural productions
as well as in the persons of men; that the trade in the persons of men was
profitable but to a few; that its value was diminished from many commercial
considerations; that it was also highly destructive to our seamen; and that
the branch of it, by which we supplied the island of St. Domingo with
slaves, was peculiarly impolitic on that account. Part the second, it was
said, would show, that, if the slaves were kindly treated in our colonies,
they would increase; that the abolition of the trade would necessarily
secure such a treatment to them, and that it would produce many other
advantages which would be then detailed.

This little piece I presented to the commitee at this their second meeting.
It was then duly read and examined; and the result was, that, after some
little correction, it was approved, and that two thousand copies of it were
ordered to be printed, with lists of the subscribers and of the commitee,
and to be sent to various parts of the kingdom.

On June the seventh the commitee met again for the dispatch of business,
when, among other things, they voted their thanks to Dr. Baker, of Lower
Grosvenor Street, who had been one of my first assistants, for his services
to the cause.

At this commitee John Barton, one of the members of it, stated that he was
commissioned by the author of a poem, entitled The Wrongs of Africa, to
offer the profits, which might arise from the sale of that work, to the
commitee, for the purpose of enabling them to pursue the object of their
institution. This circumstance was not only agreeable, inasmuch as it
showed us, that there were others who felt with us for the injured
Africans, and who were willing to aid us in our designs, but it was
rendered still more so, when we were given to understand that the poem was
written by Mr. Roscoe, of Liverpool, and the preface to it by the late Dr.
Currie, who then lived in the same place. To find friends to our cause
rising up from a quarter, where we expected scarcely any thing but
opposition, was very consolatory and encouraging. As this poem was well
written, but cannot now be had, I shall give the introductory part of it,
which is particularly beautiful, to the perusal of the reader. It begins

"Offspring of Love divine, Humanity!
To whom, his eldest born, th' Eternal gave
Dominion o'er the heart; and taught to touch
Its varied stops in sweetest unison;
And strike the string that from a kindred breast
Responsive vibrates! from the noisy haunts
Of mercantile confusion, where thy voice
Is heard not; from the meretricious glare
Of crowded theatres, where in thy place
Sits Sensibility, with, watry eye,
Dropping o'er Fancied woes her useless tear;--
Come thou, and weep with me substantial ills;
And execrate the wrongs, that Afric's sons,
Torn from their natal shore, and doom'd to bear
The yoke of servitude in foreign climes,
Sustain. Nor vainly let our sorrows flow,
Nor let the strong emotion rise in vain;
But may the kind contagion widely spread,
Till in its flame the unrelenting heart
Of avarice melt in softest sympathy--
And one bright blaze of universal love
In grateful incense rises up to Heaven!

"Form'd with the same capacity of pain,
The same desire of pleasure and of ease,
Why feels not man for man! When nature shrinks
From the slight puncture of an insect's sting,
Faints, if not screen'd from sultry suns, and pines
Beneath the hardship of an hour's delay
Of needful nutriment;--when Liberty,
Is priz'd so dearly, that the slightest breath,
That ruffles but her mantle, can awake
To arms unwarlike nations, and can rouse
Confed'rate states to vindicate her claims:--
How shall the suff'rer man his fellow doom
To ills he mourns or spurns at; tear with stripes
His quiv'ring flesh; with hunger and with thirst
Waste his emaciate frame; in ceaseless toils
Exhaust his vital powers; and bind his limbs
In galling chains! Shall he, whose fragile form
Demands continual blessings to support
Its complicated texture, air, and food,
Raiment, alternate rest, and kindly skies,
And healthful seasons, dare with impious voice
To ask those mercies, whilst his selfish aim
Arrests the general freedom of their course;
And, gratified beyond his utmost wish,
Debars another from the bounteous store!"

In this manner was the subject of this beautiful poem introduced to the
notice of the public. But I have no room for any further extracts, nor time
to make any further comment upon it. I can only add, that the commitee were
duly sensible as well of its merits, as of the virtuous and generous
disposition of the author, and that they requested John Barton to thank him
in an appropriate manner for his offer, which he was to say they accepted

At this sitting, at which ten members were present out of the twelve, a
discussion unexpectedly arose on a most important subject. The commitee,
finding that their meetings began to be approved by many, and that the
cause under their care was likely to spread, and foreseeing also the
necessity there would soon be of making themselves known as a public body
throughout the kingdom, thought it right that they should assume some
title, which should be a permanent one, and which should be expressive of
their future views. This gave occasion to them to reconsider the object,
for which they had associated, and to fix and define it in such a manner,
that there should be no misunderstanding about it in the public mind. In
looking into the subject, it appeared to them that there were two evils,
quite distinct from each other, which it might become their duty to
endeavour to remove. The first was the evil of the Slave-trade, in
consequence of which many thousand persons were every year fraudulently and
forcibly taken from their country, their relations, and friends, and from
all that they esteemed valuable in life. The second was the evil of slavery
itself, in consequence of which the same persons were forced into a
situation, where they were deprived of the rights of men, where they were
obliged to linger out their days subject to excessive labour and cruel
punishments, and where their children were to inherit the same hard lot.
Now the question was, which of the two evils the commitee should select as
that, to which they should direct their attention with a view of the
removal of it; or whether, with the same view, it should direct its
attention to both of them.

It appeared soon to be the sense of the commitee, that to aim at the
removal of both would be to aim at too much, and that by doing this we
might lose all.

The question then was, which of the two they were to take as their object.
Now in considering this question it appeared that it did not matter where
they began, or which of them they took, as far as the end to be produced
was the thing desired. For, first, if the Slave-trade should be really
abolished, the bad usage of the slaves in the colonies, that is, the hard
part of their slavery, if not the slavery itself, would fall. For, the
planters and others being unable to procure more slaves from the coast of
Africa, it would follow directly, whenever this great event should take
place, that they must treat those better, whom they might then have. They
must render marriage honourable among them. They must establish the union
of one man with one wife. They must give the pregnant women more
indulgencies. They must pay more attention to the rearing of their
offspring. They must work and punish the adults with less rigour. Now it
was to be apprehended that they could not do these things, without seeing
the political advantages which would arise to themselves from so doing; and
that, reasoning upon this, they might be induced to go on to give them
greater indulgencies, rights, and privileges in time. But how would every
such successive improvement of their condition operate, but to bring them
nearer to the state of freemen? In the same manner it was contended, that
the better treatment of the slaves in the colonies, or that the
emancipation of them there, when fit for it, would of itself lay the
foundation for the abolition of the Slave-trade. For, if the slaves were
kindly treated, that is, if marriage were encouraged among them; if the
infants who should be born were brought up with care; if the sick were
properly attended to; if the young and the adult were well fed and properly
clothed, and not overworked, and not worn down by the weight of severe
punishments, they would necessarily increase, and this on an extensive
scale. But if the planters were thus to get their labourers from the births
on their own estates, then the Slave-trade would in time be no longer
necessary to them, and it would die away as an useless and a noxious plant.
Thus it was of no consequence, which of the two evils the commitee were to
select as the object for their labours; for, as far as the end in view only
was concerned, that the same end would be produced in either case.

But in looking further into this question, it seemed to make a material
difference which of the two they selected, as far as they had in view the
due execution of any laws, which might be made respecting them, and their
own prospect of success in the undertaking. For, by aiming at the abolition
of the Slave-trade, they were laying the axe at the very root. By doing
this, and this only, they would not incur the objection, that they were
meddling with the property of the planters, and letting loose an irritated
race of beings, who, in consequence of all the vices and infirmities, which
a state of slavery entails upon those who undergo it, were unfit for their
freedom. By asking the government of the country to do this, and this only,
they were asking for that, which it had an indisputable right to do;
namely, to regulate or abolish any of its branches of commerce; whereas it
was doubtful, whether it could interfere with the management of the
internal affairs of the colonies, or whether this was not wholly the
province of the legislatures established there. By asking the government,
again, to do this and this only, they were asking what it could really
enforce. It could station its ships of war, and command its custom-houses,
so as to carry any act of this kind into effect. But it could not ensure
that an act to be observed in the heart of the islands should be
enforced[A]. To this it was added, that if the commitee were to fix upon
the annihilation of slavery as the object for their labours, the
Slave-trade would not fall so speedily as it would by a positive law for
the abolition; because, though the increase from the births might soon
supply all the estates now in cultivation with labourers, yet new
plantations might be opened from time to time in different islands, so that
no period could be fixed upon, when it could be said that it would cease.

[Footnote A: The late correspondence of the governors of our colonies with
Lord Camden in his official situation, but particularly the statements made
by Lord Seaforth and General Provost, have shown the wisdom of this remark,
and that no dependence was to be had for the better usage of the slaves but
upon the total abolition of the trade.]

Impressed by these arguments, the commitee were clearly of opinion, that
they should define their object to be the abolition of the Slave-trade, and
not of the slavery which sprung from it. Hence from this time, and in
allusion to the month when this discussion took place, they styled
themselves in their different advertisements, and reports, though they were
first associated in the month of May, The commitee instituted in June 1787,
for effecting the Abolition of the Slave-trade. Thus, at the very outset,
they took a ground which was for ever tenable. Thus they were enabled also
to answer the objection, which was afterwards so constantly and so
industriously circulated against them, that they were going to emancipate
the slaves. And I have no doubt that this wise decision contributed greatly
to their success; for I am persuaded, that, if they had adopted the other
object, they could not for years to come, if ever, have succeeded in their

Before the commitee broke up, I represented to them the necessity there was
of obtaining further knowledge on all those individual points, which might
be said to belong to the great subject of the abolition of the Slave-trade.
In the first place, this knowledge was necessary for me, if I were to
complete my work on the Impolicy of this Trade, which work the Summary
View, just printed, had announced to the world. It would be necessary also,
in case the Slave-trade should become a subject of parliamentary inquiry;
for this inquiry could not proceed without evidence. And if any time was
peculiarly fit for the procuring of such information or evidence, it was
the present. At this time the passions of men had not been heated by any
public agitation of the question, nor had interest felt itself biassed to
conceal the truth. But as soon as ever it should be publicly understood,
that a parliamentary inquiry was certain, (which we ourselves believed
would be the case, but which interested men did not then know,) we should
find many of the avenues to information closed against us. I proposed
therefore that some one of the commitee should undertake a journey to
Bristol, Liverpool, and Lancaster, where he should reside for a time to
collect further light upon this subject; and that if others should feel
their occupations or engagements to be such as would make such a journey
unsuitable, I would undertake it myself. I begged therefore the favour of
the different members of the commitee, to turn the matter over in their
minds by the next meeting, that we might then talk over and decide upon the
propriety of the measure.

The commitee held its fourth meeting on the twelfth of June. Among the
subjects, which were then brought forward, was that of the journey before
mentioned. The propriety and indeed even the necessity of it was so
apparent, that I was requested by all present to undertake it, and a minute
for that purpose was entered upon our records. Of this journey, as
gradually unfolding light on the subject, and as peculiarly connected with
the promotion of our object, I shall now give an account; after which I
shall return to the proceedings of the commitee.


_Author arrives at Bristol--Introduction to Quaker families there--Objects
of his inquiry--Ill usage of seamen on board the ship Brothers--Obtains a
knowledge of several articles of African produce--Dr. Camplia--Dean
Tucker--Mr. Henry Sulgar--Procures an authenticated account of the
treacherous massacre at Calebar--Ill usage of the seaman of the ship
Alfred--Painful feelings of the author on this occasion._

Having made preparations for my journey, I took my leave of the different
individuals of the commitee. I called upon Mr. Wilberforce, also, with the
same design. He was then very ill, and in bed. Sir Richard Hill and others
were sitting by his bed-side. After conversing as much as he well could in
his weak state, he held out his hand to me, and wished me success. When I
left him, I felt much dejected. It appeared to me as if it would be in this
case, as it is often in that of other earthly things, that we scarcely
possess what we repute a treasure, when it is taken from us.

I determined to take this journey on horseback, not only on account of the
relaxed state in which I found myself, after such close and constant
application, but because I wished to have all my time to myself upon the
road, in order the better to reflect upon the proper means of promoting
this great cause. The first place I resolved to visit was Bristol.
Accordingly I directed my course thither. On turning a corner, within about
a mile of that city, at about eight in the evening, I came within sight of
it. The weather was rather hazy, which occasioned it to look of unusual
dimensions. The bells of some of the churches, were then ringing; the sound
of them did not strike me, till I had turned the corner before mentioned,
when it came upon me at once. It filled me, almost directly, with a
melancholy for which I could not account. I began now to tremble, for the
first time, at the arduous task I had undertaken, of attempting to subvert
one of the branches of the commerce of the great place which was then
before me. I began to think of the host of people I should have to
encounter in it. I anticipated much persecution in it also; and I
questioned whether I should even get out of it alive. But in journeying on,
I became more calm and composed. My spirits began to return. In these
latter moments I considered my first feelings as useful, inasmuch as they
impressed upon me the necessity of extraordinary courage, and activity, and
perseverance, and of watchfulness, also, over my own conduct, that I might
not throw any stain upon the cause I had undertaken. When, therefore, I
entered the city, I entered it with an undaunted spirit, determining that
no labour should make me shrink, nor danger, nor even persecution, deter me
from my pursuit.

My first introduction was by means of a letter to Harry-Gandy, who had then
become one of the religious society of the Quakers. This introduction to
him was particularly useful to me, for he had been a seafaring man. In his
early youth he had been of a roving disposition; and, in order to see the
world, had been two voyages in the Slave-trade, so that he had known the
nature and practices of it. This enabled him to give me much useful
information on the subject; and as he had frequently felt, as he grew up,
deep affliction of mind for having been concerned in it, he was impelled to
forward my views as much as possible, under an idea that he should be thus
making some reparation for the indiscreet and profane occupations of his

I was also introduced to the families of James Harford, John Lury, Matthew
Wright, Philip Debell Tucket, Thomas Bonville, and John Waring; all of whom
were of the same religious society. I gained an introduction, also, soon
afterwards, to George Fisher. These were my first and only acquaintance at
Bristol for some time. I derived assistance in the promotion of my object
from all of them; and it is a matter of pleasing reflection, that the
friendships then formed have been kept alive to the present time.

The objects I had marked down as those to be attended to, were--to
ascertain what were the natural productions of Africa, and, if possible, to
obtain specimens of them, with a view of forming a cabinet or collection--
to procure as much information as I could, relative to the manner of
obtaining slaves on the continent of Africa, of transporting them to the
West Indies, and of treating them there--to prevail upon persons, having a
knowledge of any or all of these circumstances, to come forward to be
examined as evidences before parliament, if such an examination should take
place--to make myself still better acquainted with the loss of seamen in
the Slave-trade--also with the loss of those who were employed in the other
trades from the same port--to know the nature, and quantity, and value of
the imports and exports of goods in the former case:--there were some other
objects, which I classed under the head of Miscellaneous.

In my first movements about this city, I found that people talked very
openly on the subject of the Slave-trade. They seemed to be well acquainted
with the various circumstances belonging to it. There were facts, in short,
in every body's mouth, concerning it; and every body seemed to execrate it
though no one thought of its abolition. In this state of things I perceived
course was obvious for I had little else to do, in pursuing two or three of
my objects, than to trace the foundation of those reports which were in

On the third of July I heard that the ship Brothers [A], then lying in
King-road for Africa, could not get her seamen, and that a party which had
been put on board, becoming terrified by the prospect of their situation,
had left her on Sunday morning. On inquiring further, I found that those
who had navigated her on her last voyage, thirty-two of whom had died, had
been so dreadfully used by the captain, that he could not get hands in the
present. It was added, that the treatment of seamen was a crying evil in
this trade, and that consequently few would enter into it, so that there
was at all times a great difficulty in procuring them, though they were
ready enough to enter into other trades.

[Footnote A: I abstain from mentioning the names of the captain of this or
of other vessels, lest the recording of them should give pain to relatives
who can have had no share in their guilt.]

The relation of these circumstances made me acquainted with two things, of
which I had not before heard; namely, the aversion of seamen to engage, and
the bad usage of them when engaged, in this cruel trade; into both which I
determined immediately to inquire.

I conceived that it became me to be very cautious about giving ear too
readily to reports; and therefore, as I could easily learn the truth of one
of the assertions which had been made to me, I thought it prudent to
ascertain this, and to judge, by the discovery I should make concerning it,
what degree of credit might be due to the rest. Accordingly, by means of my
late friend, Truman Harford, the eldest son of the respectable family of
that name, to which I have already mentioned myself to have been
introduced, I gained access to the muster-roll of the ship Brothers. On
looking over the names of her last crew, I found the melancholy truth
confirmed, that thirty-two of them had been placed among the dead.

Having ascertained this circumstance, I became eager to inquire into the
truth of the others, but more particularly of the treatment of one of the
seamen, which, as it was reported to me, exceeded all belief. His name was
John Dean; he was a Black man, but free. The report was, that for a
trifling circumstance, for which he was in no-wise to blame, the captain
had fastened him with his belly to the deck, and that, in this situation,
he had poured hot pitch upon his back, and made incisions in it with hot

Before, however, I attempted to learn the truth of this barbarous
proceeding, I thought I would look into the ship's muster-roll, to see if I
could find the name of such a man. On examination I found it to be the last
on the list. John Dean, it appeared, had been one of the original crew,
having gone on board, from Bristol, on the twenty-second day of July, 1785.

On inquiring where Dean was to be found, my informant told me that he had
lately left Bristol for London. I was shown, however, to the house where he
had lodged. The name of his landlord was Donovan. On talking with him on
the subject, he assured me that the report which I had heard was true; for
that while he resided with him he had heard an account of his usage from
some of his ship-mates, and that he had often looked at his scarred and
mutilated back.

On inquiring of Donovan if any other person in Bristol could corroborate
this account, he referred me to a reputable tradesman living in the
Market-place. Having been introduced to him, he told me that he had long
known John Dean to be a sober and industrious man; that he had seen the
terrible indentures on his back; and that they were said to have been made
by the captain, in the manner related, during his last voyage.

While I was investigating this matter farther, I was introduced to Mr.
Sydenham Teast, a respectable ship-builder in Bristol, and the owner of
vessels trading to Africa in the natural productions of that country. I
mentioned to him by accident what I had heard relative to the treatment of
John Dean. He said it was true. An attorney[A] in London had then taken up
his cause, in consequence of which the captain had been prevented from
sailing, till he could find persons who would be answerable for the damages
which might be awarded against him in a court of law. Mr. Teast further
said, that, not knowing, at that time, the cruelty of the transaction to
its full extent, he himself had been one of the securities for the captain
at the request of the purser[B] of the ship. Finding, however, afterwards,
that it was as the public had stated, he was sorry that he had ever
interfered in such a barbarous case.

[Footnote A: I afterwards found out this attorney. He described the
transaction to me, as, by report, it had taken place, and informed me that
he had made the captain of the Brothers pay for his barbarity.]

[Footnote B: The purser of a ship, at Bristol, is the person who manages
the out-fit, as well as the trade, and who is often in part owner of her.]

This transaction, which I now believed to be true, had the effect of
preparing me for crediting whatever I might hear concerning the barbarities
said to be practised in this trade. It kindled also a fire of indignation
within me, and produced in me both anxiety and spirit to proceed. But that
which excited these feelings the most, was the consideration, that the
purser of this ship, knowing, as he did, of this act of cruelty, should
have sent out this monster again. This, I own, made me think that there was
a system of bad usage to be deliberately practised upon the seamen in this
employment, for some purpose or other which I could then neither comprehend
nor ascertain.

But while I was in pursuit of this one object, I was not unmindful of the
others which I had marked out for myself. I had already procured an
interview, as I have mentioned, with Mr. Sydenham Teast. I had done this
with a view of learning from him what were the different productions of the
continent of Africa, as far as he had been able to ascertain from the
imports by his own vessels. He was very open and communicative. He had
imported ivory, red-wood, cam-wood, and gum copal. He purposed to import
palm oil. He observed that bees-wax might be collected also upon the coast.
Of his gum copal he gave me a specimen. He furnished me also with two
different specimens of unknown woods, which had the appearance of being
useful. One of his captains, he informed me, had been told by the natives,
that cotton, pink in the pod, grew in their country. He was of opinion,
that many valuable productions might be found upon this continent.

Mr. Biggs, to whom I gained an introduction also, was in a similar trade
with Mr. Teast; that is, he had one or two vessels, which skimmed, as it
were, the coast and rivers, for what they could get of the produce of
Africa, without having any concern in the trade for slaves. Mr. Biggs gave
me a specimen of gum Senegal, of yellow wood, and of Malaguetta and Cayenne
pepper. He gave me also small pieces of cloth made and dyed by the natives,
the colours of which they could only have obtained from materials in their
own country. Mr. Biggs seemed to be assured, that if proper persons were
sent to Africa on discovery, they would find a rich mine of wealth in the
natural productions of it, and in none more advantageous to this as a
manufacturing nation, than in the many beautiful dyes which it might

From Thomas Bonville I collected two specimens of cloth made by the
natives, and from others a beautiful piece of tulipwood, a small piece of
wood similar to mahogany, and a sample of fine rice, all of which had been
brought from the same continent.

Among the persons whom I found out at Bristol, and from whom I derived
assistance, were Dr. Camplin, and the celebrated Dean Tucker. The former
was my warm defender; for the West-Indian and African merchants, as soon as
they discovered my errand, began to calumniate me. The Dean though in a
very advanced age, felt himself much interested in my pursuit. He had long
moved in the political world himself, and was desirous of hearing of what
was going forward that was new in it, but particularly about so desirable a
measure as that of the abolition of the Slave-trade[A]. He introduced me to
the Custom-house at Bristol. He used to call upon me at the Merchants'
Hall, while I was transcribing the muster-rolls of the seamen there. In
short, he seemed to be interested in all my movements. He became also a
warm supporter both of me and of my cause.

[Footnote A: Dean Tucker, in his Reflections on the Disputes between Great
Britain and Ireland, published in 1785, had passed a severe censure on the
British planters for the inhuman treatment of their slaves.]

Among others, who were useful to me in my pursuit, was Mr. Henry Sulgar, an
amiable minister of the gospel belonging to the religious society of the
Moravians in the same city. From him I first procured authentic documents
relative to the treacherous massacre at Calabar. This cruel transaction had
been frequently mentioned to me; but as it had taken place twenty years
before, I could not find one person who had been engaged in it, nor could I
come, in a satisfactory manner, at the various particulars belonging to it.
My friend, however, put me in possession of copies of the real depositions
which had been taken in the case of the King against Lippincott and others,
relative to this event, namely, of captain Floyd, of the city of Bristol,
who had been a witness to the scene, and of Ephraim Robin John, and of
Ancona Robin Robin John, two African chiefs, who had been sufferers by it.
These depositions had been taken before Jacob Kirby, and Thomas Symons,
esquires, commissioners at Bristol for taking affidavits in the court of
King's Bench. The tragedy, of which they gave a circumstantial account, I
shall present to the reader in as concise a manner as I can.

In the year 1767, the ships Indian Queen, Duke of York, Nancy, and Concord,
of Bristol, the Edgar, of Liverpool, and the Canterbury, of London, lay in
old Calabar river.

It happened at this time, that a quarrel subsisted between the principal
inhabitants of Old Town and those of New Town, Old Calabar, which had
originated in a jealousy respecting slaves. The captains of the vessels now
mentioned joined in sending several letters to the inhabitants of Old Town,
but particularly to Ephraim Robin John, who was at that time a grandee or
principal inhabitant of the place. The tenor of these letters was, that
they were sorry that any jealousy or quarrel should subsist between the two
parties; that if the inhabitants of Old Town would come on board, they
would afford them security and protection; adding at the same time, that
their intention in inviting them was, that they might become mediators,
and, thus heal their disputes.

The inhabitants of Old Town, happy to find that their differences were
likely to be accommodated, joyfully accepted the invitation. The three
brothers of the grandee just mentioned, the eldest of whom was Amboe Robin
John, first entered their canoe, attended by twenty-seven others, and,
being followed by nine canoes, directed their course to the Indian Queen.
They were dispatched from thence the next morning to the Edgar, and
afterwards to the Duke of York, on board of which they went, leaving their
canoe and attendants by the side of the same vessel. In the mean time the
people on board the other canoes were either distributed on board, or lying
close to, the other ships.

This being the situation of the three brothers, and of the principal
inhabitants of the place, the treachery now began to appear. The crew of
the Duke of York, aided by the captain and mates, and armed with pistols
and cutlasses, rushed into the cabin, with an intent to seize the persons
of their three innocent and unsuspicious guests. The unhappy men, alarmed
at this violation of the rights of hospitality and struck with astonishment
at the behaviour of their supposed friends, attempted to escape through the
cabin windows, but being wounded were obliged to desist, and to submit to
be put in irons.

In the same moment, in which this atrocious attempt had been made, an order
had been given to fire upon the canoe, which was then lying by the side of
the Duke of York. The canoe soon filled and sunk, and the wretched
attendants were either seized, killed, or drowned. Most of the other ships
followed the example. Great numbers were additionally killed and drowned on
the occasion, and others were swimming to the shore.

At this juncture the inhabitants of New Town, who had concealed themselves
in the bushes by the water-side, and between whom and the commanders of the
vessels the plan had been previously concerted, came out from their
hiding-places, and, embarking in their canoes, made for such, as were
swimming from the fire of the ships. The ships' boats also were manned, and
joined in the pursuit. They butchered the greater part of those whom they
caught. Many dead bodies were soon seen upon the sands, and others were
floating upon the water; and including those who were seized and carried
off, and those who were drowned and killed, either by the firing of the
ships or by the people of New Town, three hundred were lost to the
inhabitants of Old Town on that day.

The carnage, which I have been now describing, was scarcely over, when a
canoe, full of the principal people of New Town, who had been the promoters
of the scheme, dropped alongside of the Duke of York. They demanded the
person of Amboe Robin John, the brother of the grandee of Old Town, and the
eldest of the three on board. The unfortunate man put the palms of his
hands together, and beseeched the commander of the vessel, that he would
not violate the rights of hospitality by giving up an unoffending stranger
to his enemies. But no entreaties could avail. The commander received from
the New Town people a slave, of the name of Econg, in his stead, and then
forced him into the canoe, where his head was immediately struck off in the
sight of the crew, and of his afflicted and disconsolate brothers. As for
them, they escaped his fate; but they were carried off with their
attendants to the West Indies, and sold for slaves.

The knowledge of this tragical event now fully confirmed me in the
sentiment, that the hearts of those, who were concerned in this traffic,
became unusually hardened, and that I might readily believe any atrocities,
however great, which might be related of them. It made also my blood boil
as it were within me. It gave a new spring to my exertions. And I rejoiced,
sorrowful as I otherwise was, that I had visited Bristol, if it had been
only to gain an accurate statement of this one fact.

In pursuing my objects, I found that reports were current, that the crew of
the Alfred slave-vessel, which had just returned, had been barbarously
used, but particularly a young man of the name of Thomas, who had served as
the surgeon's mate on board her. The report was, that he had been
repeatedly knocked down by the captain; that he had become in consequence
of his ill usage so weary of his life, that he had three times jumped over
board to destroy it; that on being taken up the last time he had been
chained to the deck of the ship, in which situation he had remained night
and day for some time; that in consequence of this his health had been
greatly impaired; and that it was supposed he could not long survive this

It was with great difficulty, notwithstanding all my inquiries, that I
could trace this person. I discovered him, however, at last. He was
confined to his bed when I saw him, and appeared to me to be delirious. I
could collect nothing from himself relative to the particulars of his
treatment. In his intervals of sense, he exclaimed against the cruelty both
of the captain and of the chief mate, and pointing to his legs, thighs and
body, which were all wrapped up in flannel, he endeavoured to convince me
how much he had suffered there. At one time he said he forgave them. At
another he asked, if I came to befriend him. At another he looked wildly,
and asked if I meant to take the captain's part and to kill him.

I was greatly affected by the situation of this poor man, whose image
haunted me both night and day, and I was meditating how most effectually to
assist him, when I heard that he was dead.

I was very desirous of tracing something further on this subject, when
Walter Chandler, of the society of the Quakers, who had been daily looking
out for intelligence for me, brought a young man to me of the name of
Dixon. He had been one of the crew of the same ship. He told me the
particulars of the treatment of Thomas, with very little variation from
those contained in the public report. After cross-examining him in the best
manner I was able, I could find no inconsistency in his account.

I asked Dixon, how the captain came to treat the surgeon's mate in
particular so ill. He said he had treated them all much alike. A person of
the name of Bulpin, he believed, was the only one who had escaped bad usage
in the ship. With respect to himself, he had been cruelly used so early as
in the outward bound passage, which had occasioned him to jump overboard.
When taken up he was put into irons, and kept in these for a considerable
time. He was afterwards ill used at different times, and even so late as
within three or four days of his return to port. For just before the Alfred
made the island of Lundy, he was struck by the captain, who cut his under
lip into two. He said that it had bled so much, that the captain expressed
himself as if much alarmed; and having the expectation of arriving soon at
Bristol, he had promised to make him amends, if he would hold his peace.
This he said he had hitherto done, but he had received no recompense. In
confirmation of his own usage, he desired me to examine his lip, which I
had no occasion to do, having already perceived it, for the wound was
apparently almost fresh.

I asked Dixon, if there was any person in Bristol, besides himself, who
could confirm to me this his own treatment, as well as that of the other
unfortunate man who was now dead. He referred me to a seaman of the name of
Matthew Pyke. This person, when brought to me, not only related readily the
particulars of the usage in both cases, as I have now stated them, but that
which he received himself. He said that his own arm had been broken by the
chief mate in Black River, Jamaica, and that he had also by the captain's
orders, though contrary to the practice in merchant vessels, been severely
flogged. His arm appeared to be then in pain. And I had a proof of the
punishment by an inspection of his back.

I asked Matthew Pyke, if the crew in general had been treated in a cruel
manner. He replied, they had, except James Bulpin. I then asked where James
Bulpin was to be found. He told me where he had lodged, but feared he had
gone home to his friends in Somersetshire, I think, somewhere in the
neighbourhood of Bridgewater.

I thought it prudent to institute an inquiry into the characters of Thomas,
Dixon, and Matthew Pyke, before I went further. The two former I found were
strangers in Bristol, and I could collect nothing about them. The latter
was a native of the place, had served his time as a seaman from the port,
and was reputed of fair character.

My next business was to see James Bulpin. I found him just setting off for
the country. He stopped, however, to converse with me. He was a young man
of very respectable appearance and of mild manners. His appearance, indeed,
gave me reason to hope that I might depend upon his statements; but I was
most of all influenced by the consideration, that, never having been
ill-used himself, he could have no inducement to go beyond the bounds of
truth on this occasion. He gave me a melancholy confirmation of all the
three cases. He told me also that one Joseph Cunningham had been a severe
sufferer, and that there was reason to fear that Charles Horseler, another
of the crew, had been so severely beaten over the breast with a knotted end
of a rope (which end was of the size of a large ball, and had been made on
purpose) that he died of it. To this he added, that it was now a notorious
fact, that the captain of the Alfred, when mate of a slave-ship, had been
tried at Barbadoes for the murder of one of the crew, with whom he had
sailed, but that he escaped by bribing the principal witness to

[Footnote A: Mr. Sampson, who was surgeon's mate of the ship, in which the
captain had thus served as a mate, confirmed to me afterwards this
assertion, having often heard him boast in the cabin, "how he had tricked
the law on that occasion."]

The reader will see, the further I went into the history of this voyage,
the more dismal it became. One miserable account, when examined, only
brought up another. I saw no end to inquiry. The great question was, what
was I to do? I thought the best thing would be to get the captain
apprehended, and make him stand his trial either for the murder of Thomas
or of Charles Horseler. I communicated with the late Mr. Burges, an eminent
attorney and the deputy town-clerk, on this occasion. He had shown an
attachment to me on account of the cause I had undertaken, and had given me
privately assistance in it. I say privately; because, knowing the
sentiments of many of the corporate body at Bristol, under whom he acted,
he was fearful of coming forward in an open manner. His advice to me was,
to take notes of the case for my own private conviction, but to take no
public cognizance of it. He said that seamen, as soon as their wages were
expended, must be off to sea again. They could not generally, as landsmen
do, maintain themselves on shore. Hence I should be obliged to keep the
whole crew at my own expense till the day of trial, which might not be for
months to come. He doubted not that, in the interim, the merchants and
others would inveigle many of them away by making them boatswains and other
inferior officers in some of their ships; so that, when the day of trial
should come, I should find my witnesses dispersed and gone. He observed
moreover, that, if any of the officers of the ship had any notion of going
out again under the same owners[A], I should have all these against me. To
which he added that, if I were to make a point of taking up the cause of
those whom I found complaining of hard usage in this trade, I must take up
that of nearly all who sailed in it; for that he only knew of one captain
from the port in the Slave-trade, who did not deserve long ago to be
hanged. Hence I should get into a labyrinth of expense, and difficulty, and
uneasiness of mind, from whence I should not easily find a clew to guide

[Footnote A: The seamen of the Alfred informed the purser of their ill
usage. Matthew Pyke not only showed him his arm and his back, but
acquainted him with the murder of Charles Horseler, stating that he had the
instrument of his death in his possession. The purser seemed more alive to
this than to any other circumstance, and wished to get it from him. Pyke,
however, had given it to me. Now what will the reader think, when he is
informed that the purser, after all this knowledge of the captain's
cruelty, sent him out again, and that he was the same person, who was
purser of the Brothers, and who had also sent out the captain of that ship
a second time, as has been related, notwithstanding his barbarities in
former voyages!!]

This advice, though it was judicious, and founded on a knowledge of
Law-proceedings, I found it very difficult to adopt. My own disposition was
naturally such, that whatever I engaged in I followed with more than
ordinary warmth. I could not be supposed therefore, affected and interested
as I then was, to be cool and tranquil on this occasion. And yet what would
my worthy friend have said, if in this first instance I had opposed him? I
had a very severe struggle in my own feelings on this account. At length,
though reluctantly, I obeyed. But as the passions, which agitate the human
mind, when it is greatly inflamed, must have a vent somewhere, or must work
off as it were, or in working together must produce some new passion or
effect; so I found the rage, which had been kindling within me, subsiding
into the most determined resolutions of future increased activity and
perseverance. I began now to think that the day was not long enough for me
to labour in. I regretted often the approach of night, which suspended my
work, and I often welcomed that of the morning, which restored me to it.
When I felt myself weary, I became refreshed by the thought of what I was
doing; when disconsolate, I was comforted by it. I lived in hope that every
day's labour would furnish me with that knowledge, which would bring this
evil nearer to its end; and I worked on, under these feelings, regarding
neither trouble nor danger in the pursuit.


_Author confers with the inhabitants of Bridgewater relative to a petition
to parliament in behalf of the abolition--returns to Bristol--discovers a
scandalous mode of procuring seamen for the Slave-trade--and of paying
them--makes a comparative view of their loss in this and in other
trades--procures imports and exports--examines the construction and
admeasurement of Slave-ships--of the Fly and Neptune--Difficulty of
procuring evidence--Case of Gardiner of the Pilgrim--of Arnold of the
Ruby--some particulars of the latter in his former voyages_.

Having heard by accident, that the inhabitants of the town of Bridgewater
had sent a petition to the House of Commons, in the year 1785, for the
abolition of the Slave-trade, as has been related in a former part of the
work, I determined, while my feelings were warm, to go there, and to try to
find out those who had been concerned in it, and to confer with them as the
tried friends of the cause. The time seemed to me to be approaching, when
the public voice should be raised against this enormous evil. I was sure
that it was only necessary for the inhabitants of this favoured island to
know it, to feel a just indignation against it. Accordingly I set off. My
friend George Fisher, who was before mentioned to have been of the
religions society of the Quakers, gave me an introduction to the
respectable family of Ball, which was of the same religious persuasion. I
called upon Mr. Sealey, Anstice, Crandon, Chubb, and others. I laid open to
those, whom I saw, the discoveries I had made relative to the loss and ill
treatment of seamen; at which they seemed to be much moved; and it was
agreed, that, if it should be thought a proper measure, (of which I would
inform them when I had consulted the commitee,) a second petition should be
sent to Parliament from the inhabitants, praying for the abolition of the
Slave-trade. With this view I left them several of my Summary Views, before
mentioned, to distribute, that the inhabitants might know more particularly
the nature of the evil, against which they were going to complain. On my
return to Bristol, I determined to inquire into the truth of the reports
that seamen had an aversion to enter, and that they were inveigled, if not
often forced, into this hateful employment. For this purpose I was
introduced to a landlord of the name of Thompson, who kept a public-house
called the Seven Stars. He was a very intelligent man, was accustomed to
receive sailors, when discharged at the end of their voyages, and to board
them till their vessels went out again, or to find them births in others.
He avoided however all connection with the Slave-trade, declaring that the
credit of his house would be ruined, if he were known to send those, who
put themselves under his care, into it.

From him I collected the truth of all that had been stated to me on this
subject. But I told him I should not be satisfied until I had beheld those
scenes myself, which he had described to me; and I entreated him to take me
into them, saying that I would reward him for all his time and trouble, and
that I would never forget him while I lived. To this he consented; and as
three or four slave-vessels at this time were preparing for their voyages,
it was time that we should begin our rounds. At about twelve at night we
generally set out, and were employed till two and sometimes three in the
morning. He led me from one of those public-houses to another, which the
mates of the slave-vessels used to frequent to pick up their hands. These
houses were in Marsh-street, and most of them were then kept by Irishmen.
The scenes witnessed in these houses were truly distressing to me; and yet,
if I wished to know practically what I had purposed, I could not avoid
them. Music, dancing, rioting, drunkenness, and profane swearing, were kept
up from night to night. The young mariner, if a stranger to the port, and
unacquainted with the nature of the Slave-trade, was sure to be picked up.
The novelty of the voyages, the superiority of the wages in this over any
other trades, and the privileges of various kinds, were set before him.
Gulled in this manner he was frequently enticed to the boat, which was
waiting to carry him away. If these prospects did not attract him, he was
plied with liquor till he became intoxicated, when a bargain was made over
him between the landlord and the mate. After this his senses were kept in
such a constant state of stupefaction by the liquor, that in time the
former might do with him what he pleased. Seamen also were boarded in these
houses, who, when the slave-ships were going out, but at no other time,
were encouraged to spend more than they had money to pay for; and to these,
when they had thus exceeded, but one alternative was given, namely, a
slave-vessel, or a gaol. These distressing scenes I found myself obliged
frequently to witness, for I was no less than nineteen times occupied in
making these hateful rounds. And I can say from my own experience, and all
the information I could collect from Thompson and others, that no such
practices were in use to obtain seamen for other trades.

The treatment of the seamen employed in the Slave-trade had so deeply
interested me, and now the manner of procuring them, that I was determined
to make myself acquainted with their whole history; for I found by report,
that they were not only personally ill-treated, as I have already painfully
described, but that they were robbed by artifice of those wages, which had
been held up to them as so superior in this service. All persons were
obliged to sign articles, that, in case they should die or be discharged
during the voyage, the wages then due to them should be paid in the
currency where the vessel carried her slaves, and that half of the wages
due to them on their arrival there should be paid in the same manner, and
that they were never permitted to read over the articles they had signed.
By means of this iniquitous practice the wages in the Slave-trade, though
nominally higher in order to induce seamen to engage in it, were actually
lower than in other trades. All these usages I ascertained in such a
manner, that no person could doubt the truth of them. I actually obtained
possession of articles of agreement belonging to these vessels, which had
been signed and executed in former voyages. I made the merchants
themselves, by sending those seamen, who had claims upon them, to ask for
their accounts current with their respective ships, furnish me with such
documents as would have been evidence against them in any court of law. On
whatever branch of the system I turned my eyes, I found it equally
barbarous. The trade was, in short, one mass of iniquity from the beginning
to the end.

I employed myself occasionally in the Merchants-hall, in making copies of
the muster-rolls of ships sailing to different parts of the world, that I
might make a comparative view of the loss of seamen in the Slave-trade,
with that of those in the other trades from the same port. The result of
this employment showed me the importance of it: for, when I considered how
partial the inhabitants of this country were to their fellow-citizens, the
seamen belonging to it, and in what estimation the members of the
legislature held them, by enforcing the Navigation-Act, which they
considered to be the bulwark of the nation, and by giving bounties to
certain trades, that these might become so many nurseries for the marine, I
thought it of great importance to be able to prove, as I was then capable
of doing, that more persons would be found dead in three slave-vessels from
Bristol, in a given time, than in all the other vessels put together,
numerous as they were, belonging to the same port.

I procured also an account of the exports and imports for the year 1786, by
means of which I was enabled to judge of the comparative value of this and
the other trades.

In pursuing another object, which was that of going on board the
slave-ships, and learning their construction and dimensions, I was greatly
struck, and indeed affected, by the appearance of two little sloops, which
were fitting out for Africa, the one of only twenty-five tons, which was
said to be destined to carry seventy; and the other of only eleven, which
was said to be destined to carry thirty slaves. I was told also that which
was more affecting, namely, that these were not to act as tenders on the
coast, by going up and down the rivers, and receiving three or four slaves
at a time, and then carrying them to a large ship, which was to take them
to the West Indies, but that it was actually intended, that they should
transport their own slaves themselves; that one if not both of them were,
on their arrival in the West Indies, to be sold as pleasure-vessels, and
that the seamen belonging to them were to be permitted to come home by what
is usually called the run.

This account of the destination of these little vessels, though it was
distressing at first, appeared to me afterwards, on cool reasoning, to be
incredible. I thought that my informants wished to impose upon me, in order
that I might make statements which would carry their own refutation with
them, and that thus I might injure the great cause which I had undertaken.
And I was much inclined to be of this opinion, when I looked again at the
least of the two; for any person, who was tall, standing upon dry ground by
the side of her, might have overlooked every thing upon her deck. I knew
also that she had been built as a pleasure-boat for the accommodation of
only six persons upon the Severn. I determined, therefore, to suspend my
belief till I could take the admeasurement of each vessel. This I did; but
lest, in the agitation of my mind on this occasion, I should have made any
mistake, I desired my friend George Fisher to apply to the builder for his
admeasurement also. With this he kindly complied. When he obtained it he
brought it to me. This account, which nearly corresponded with my own, was
as follows:--In the vessel of twenty-five tons, the length of the upper
part of the hold, or roof, of the room, where the seventy slaves were to be
stowed, was but little better than ten yards, or thirty-one feet. The
greatest breadth of the bottom, or floor, was ten feet four inches, and the
least five. Hence, a grown person must sit down all the voyage, and
contract his limbs within the narrow limits of three square feet. In the
vessel of eleven tons, the length of the room for the thirty slaves was
twenty-two feet. The greatest breadth of the floor was eight, and the least
four. The whole height from the keel to the beam was but five feet eight
inches, three feet of which were occupied by ballast, cargo, and
provisions, so that two feet eight inches remained only as the height
between the decks. Hence, each slave would have only four square feet to
sit in, and, when in this posture, his head, if he were a full-grown
person, would touch the ceiling, or upper deck.

Having now received this admeasurement from the builder, which was rather
more favourable than my own, I looked upon the destination of these little
vessels as yet more incredible than before. Still the different persons,
whom I occasionally saw on board them, persisted in it that they were going
to Africa for slaves, and also for the numbers mentioned, which they were
afterwards to carry to the West Indies themselves. I desired, however, my
friends, George Fisher, Truman Harford, Harry Gandy, Walter Chandler, and
others, each to make a separate inquiry for me on this subject; and they
all agreed that, improbable as the account both of their destination, and
of the number they were to take, might appear, they had found it to be too
true. I had soon afterwards the sorrow to learn from official documents
from the Custom-house, that these little vessels actually cleared out for
Africa, and that now nothing could be related so barbarous of this traffic,
which might not instantly be believed.

In pursuing my different objects there was one, which, to my great
vexation, I found it extremely difficult to attain. This was the procuring
of any assurance from those, who had been personally acquainted with the
horrors of this trade, that they would appear, if called upon, as evidence
against it. My friend Harry Gandy, to whom I had been first introduced, had
been two voyages, as I before mentioned; and he was willing, though at an
advanced age, to go to London, to state publicly all he knew concerning
them. But with respect to the many others in Bristol, who had been to the
coast of Africa, I had not yet found one, who would come forward for this
purpose. There were several old Slave-Captains living there, who had a
great knowledge of the subject. I thought it not unreasonable, that I might
gain one or two good evidences out of these, as they had probably long ago
left the concern, and were not now interested in the continuance of it. But
all my endeavours were fruitless. I sent messages to them by different
persons. I met them in all ways. I stated to them, that if there was
nothing objectionable in the trade, seeing it laboured under such a stigma,
they had an opportunity of coming forward and of wiping away the stain. If,
on the other hand, it was as bad as represented, then they had it in their
power, by detailing the crimes which attached to it, of making some
reparation, or atonement, for the part they had taken in it. But no
representations would do. All intercourse was positively forbidden between
us; and whenever they met me in the street, they shunned me as if I had
been a mad dog. I could not for some time account for the strange
disposition which they thus manifested towards me; but my friends helped me
to unravel it, for I was assured that one or two of them, though they went
no longer to Africa as captains, were in part owners of vessels trading
there; and, with respect to all of them, it might be generally said, that
they had been guilty of such enormities, that they would be afraid of
coming forward in the way I proposed, lest any thing should come out by
which they might criminate themselves. I was obliged then to give up all
hope of getting any evidence from this quarter, and I saw but little
prospect of getting it from those, who were then actually deriving their
livelihood from the trade. And yet I was determined to persevere. For I
thought that some might be found in it, who were not yet so hardened as to
be incapable of being awakened on this subject. I thought that others might
be found in it, who wished to leave it upon principle, and that these would
unbosom themselves to me. And I thought it not improbable that I might fall
in with others, who had come unexpectedly into a state of independence, and
that these might be induced, as their livelihood would be no longer
affected by giving me information, to speak the truth.

I persevered for weeks together under this hope, but could find no one of
all those, who had been applied to, who would have any thing to say to me.
At length Walter Chandler had prevailed upon a young gentleman, of the name
of Gardiner, who was going out as surgeon of the Pilgrim, to meet me. The
condition was, that we were to meet at the house of the former, but that we
were to enter in and go out at different times, that is, we were not to be
seen together.

Gardiner, on being introduced to me, said at once, that he had often wished
to see me on the subject of my errand, but that the owner of the Pilgrim
had pointed me out to him as a person, whom he would wish him to avoid. He
then laid open to me the different methods of obtaining slaves in Africa,
as he had learned from those on board his own vessel in his first, or
former, voyage. He unfolded also the manner of their treatment in the
Middle Passage, with the various distressing scenes which had occurred in
it. He stated the barbarous usage of the seamen as he had witnessed it, and
concluded by saying, that there never was a subject, which demanded so
loudly the interference of the legislature as that of the Slave-trade.

When he had finished his narrative, and answered the different questions
which I had proposed to him concerning it, I asked him in as delicate a
manner as I could, How it happened, that, seeing the trade in this horrible
light, he had consented to follow it again? He told me frankly, that he had
received a regular medical education, but that his relations, being poor,
had not been able to set him up in his profession. He had saved a little
money in his last voyage. In that, which he was now to perform, he hoped to
save a little more. With the profits of both voyages together, he expected
he should be able to furnish a shop in the line of his profession, when he
would wipe his hands of this detestable trade.

I then asked him, Whether upon the whole he thought he had judged
prudently, or whether the prospect of thus enabling himself to become
independent, would counterbalance the uneasiness which might arise in
future? He replied, that he had not so much to fear upon this account. The
trade, while it continued, must have surgeons. But it made a great
difference both to the crew and to the slaves, whether these discharged
their duty towards them in a feeling manner, or not. With respect to
himself, he was sure that he should pay every attention to the wants of
each. This thought made his continuance in the trade for one voyage longer
more reconcileable. But he added, as if not quite satisfied, "Cruel
necessity!" and he fetched a deep sigh.

We took our leave, and departed, the one a few minutes after the other. The
conversation of this young man was very interesting. I was much impressed
both by the nature and the manner of it. I wished to secure him, if
possible, as an evidence for Parliament, and thus save him from his
approaching voyage: but I knew not what to do. At first, I thought it would
be easy to raise a subscription to set him up. But then, I was aware that
this might be considered as bribery, and make his testimony worth nothing.
I then thought that the commitee might detain him as an evidence, and pay
him, in a reasonable manner, for his sustenance, till his testimony should
be called for. But I did not know how long it would be before his
examination might take place. It might be a year or two. I foresaw other
difficulties also; and I was obliged to relinquish what otherwise I should
have deemed a prize.

On reviewing the conversation which had passed between us after my return
home, I thought, considering the friendly disposition of Gardiner towards
us, I had not done all I could for the cause; and, communicating my
feelings to Walter Chandler, he procured me another interview. At this, I
asked him, if he would become an evidence, if he lived to return. He
replied, very heartily, that he would. I then asked him, if he would keep a
journal of facts during his voyage, as it would enable him to speak more
correctly, in case he should be called upon for his testimony. He assured
me, he would, and that he would make up a little book for that purpose. I
asked him, lastly, When he meant to sail. He said, As soon as the ship
could get all her hands. It was their intention to sail to-morrow, but that
seven men, whom the mates had brought drunk out of Marsh-street the evening
before, were so terrified when they found they were going to Africa, that
they had seized the boat that morning, and had put themselves on shore. I
took my leave of him, entreating him to follow his resolutions of kindness
both to the sailors and the slaves, and wished him a speedy and a safe

On going one day by the Exchange after this interview with Gardiner, I
overheard a young gentleman say to another, "that it happened on the Coast
last year, and that he saw it." I wished to know who he was, and to get at
him if I could. I watched him at a distance for more than half an hour,
when I saw him leave his companion. I followed him till he entered a house.
I then considered whether it would be proper, and in what manner, to
address him when he should come out of it. But I waited three hours, and I
never saw him. I then concluded that he either lodged where I saw him
enter, or that he had gone to dine with some friend. I therefore took
notice of the house, and, showing it afterwards to several of my friends,
desired them to make him out for me. In a day or two I had an interview
with him. His name was James Arnold. He had been two voyages to the coast
of Africa for slaves; one as surgeon's mate in the Alexander, in the year
1785, and the other as surgeon in the Little Pearl, in the year 1786, from
which he had not then very long returned.

I asked him if he was willing to give me any account of these voyages, for
that I was making an inquiry into the nature of the Slave-trade. He
replied, he knew that I was. He had been cautioned about falling-in with
me. He had, however, taken no pains to avoid me. It was a bad trade, and
ought to be exposed.

I went over the same ground as I had gone with Gardiner relative to the
first of these voyages, or that in the Alexander. It is not necessary to
detail the particulars. It is impossible, however, not to mention, that the
treatment of the seamen on board this vessel was worse than I had ever
before heard of. No less than eleven of them, unable to bear their lives,
had deserted at Bonny on the coast of Africa,--which is a most unusual
thing,--choosing all that could be endured, though in a most inhospitable
climate, and in the power of the natives, rather than to continue in their
own ship. Nine others also, in addition to the loss of these, had died in
the same voyage. As to the rest, he believed, without any exception, that
they had been badly used.

In examining him with respect to his second voyage, or that in the Little
Pearl, two circumstances came out with respect to the slaves, which I shall
relate in few words.

The chief mate used to beat the men-slaves on very trifling occasions.
About eleven one evening, the ship then lying off the coast, he heard a
noise in their room. He jumped down among them with a lanthorn in his hand.
Two of those, who had been ill-used by him, forced themselves out of their

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