Anti-Slavery Opinions before the Year 1800 - Read before the Cincinnati Literary Club, November 16, 1872
by William Frederick Poole
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[19] At the end of M. Brissot de Warville's oration at Paris, February 19, 1788, on the necessity of establishing such a society, is a note, which states that, after the Paris Society had been formed, "in the space of six weeks, ninety others, distinguished for their nobility, for their offices, and as men of letters, have made application to be admitted into the Society. The Marquis de la Fayette is one of the founders of this Society, and he gives it a support, so much the more laudable, as the Society of Paris has many great difficulties to encounter, which are unknown to the societies in London and America."

[20] M. Brissot, writing in September, 1788, speaks of the Delaware Society as then existing. Warner Mifflin was its most enterprising member. M. Brissot says of him: "One of the ardent petitioners to Congress in this cause was the respectable Warner Mifflin. His zeal was rewarded with atrocious calumnies, which he always answered with mildness, forgiveness, and argument"—p. 300. A petition which Mr. Mifflin made to Congress in November, 1792, for the abolition of slavery, was, by vote of the House, returned to him by the clerk. Annals of Congress, iii, p. 71. On March 23, 1790, the following resolution on the subject of emancipation, after discussion in committee of the whole House, was adopted: "That Congress have no authority to interfere in the emancipation of slaves, or in the treatment of them in any of the states, it remaining with the several States alone to provide any regulations therein which humanity and true policy may require." Annals, i. p. 1523.

[21] Constitution of the Maryland Society for promoting the Abolition of Slavery, and the Relief of Free Negroes and others unlawfully held in Bondage.

The present attention of Europe and America to slavery, seems to constitute that crisis in the minds of men when the united endeavors of a few may greatly influence the public opinion, and produce, from the transient sentiment of the times, effects, extensive, lasting, and useful.

The common Father of mankind created all men free and equal; and his great command is, that we love our neighbor as ourselves—doing unto all men as we would they should do unto us. The human race, however varied in color or intellects, are all justly entitled to liberty; and it is the duty and the interest of nations and individuals, enjoying every blessing of freedoms to remove this dishonor of the Christian character from amongst them. From the fullest impression of the truth of these principles; from an earnest wish to bear our testimony against slavery in all its forms, to spread it abroad as far as the sphere of our influence may extend, and to afford our friendly assistance to those who may be engaged in the same undertaking; and in the humblest hope of support from that Being, who takes, as an offering to himself, what we do for each other—

We, the subscribers, have formed ourselves into the "MARYLAND SOCIETY for promoting the ABOLITION OF SLAVERY, and the RELIEF OF FREE NEGROES and OTHERS unlawfully held in bondage."


I. The officers of the Society are a president, vice-president, secretary, treasurer, four counselors, an electing-committee of twelve, an acting-committee of six members. All these, except the acting-committee, shall be chosen annually by ballot, on the first seventh-day called Saturday, in the month called January.

II. The president, and in his absence the vice-president, shall subscribe all the public acts of the Society.

III. The president, and in his absence, the vice-president, shall moreover have the power of calling a special meeting of the Society whenever he shall judge proper, or six members require it.

IV. The secretary shall keep fair records of the proceedings of the Society; he shall also conduct the correspondence of the Society, with a committee of three appointed by the president; and all letters on the business of the Society are to be addressed to him.

V. Corresponding members shall be appointed by the electing-committee. Their duty shall be to communicate to the secretary and his assistants any information, that may promote the purposes of this institution, which shall be transferred by him to the acting-committee.

VI. The treasurer shall pay all orders drawn by the president, or vice-president; which orders shall be his vouchers for his expenditures. He shall, before he enters on his office, give a bond of not less than 200l. for the faithful discharge of his duty.

VII. The duty of the councilors shall be to explain the laws and constitutions of the States, which relate to the emancipation of slaves; and to urge their claims to freedom, when legal, before such persons or courts as are authorized to decide upon them.

VIII. The electing-committee shall have sole power of admitting new members. Two-thirds of them shall be a quorum for this purpose; and the concurrence of a majority of them by ballot, when met, shall be necessary for the admission of a member. No member shall be admitted who has not been proposed at a general meeting of the Society nor shall election of a member take place in less than a month after the time of his being proposed. Foreigners, or other persons, who do not reside in this State, may be elected corresponding members of the Society without being subject to an annual payment, and shall be admitted to the meetings of the Society during their residence in the State.

IX. The acting-committee shall transact the business of the Society in its recess, and report the same at each quarterly meeting. They shall have a right, with the concurrence of the president or vice-president, to draw upon the treasurer for such sums of money as may be necessary to carry on the business of their appointment. Four of them shall be a quorum. After their first election, at each succeeding quarterly meeting, there shall be an election for two of their number.

X. Every member, upon his admission, shall subscribe the Constitution of the Society, and contribute ten shillings annually, in quarterly payments, towards defraying its contingent expenses. If he neglect to pay the same for more than six months, he shall, upon due notice being given him, cease to be a member.

XI. The Society shall meet on the first seventh-day, called Saturday, in the months called January, April, July, and October, at such time and place as shall be agreed to by a majority of the Society.

XII. No person, holding a slave as his property, shall be admitted a member of this Society; nevertheless, the Society may appoint persons of legal knowledge, owners of slaves, as honorary-counselors.

XIII. When an alteration in the Constitution is thought necessary, it shall be proposed at a previous meeting, before it shall take place. All questions shall be decided, where there is a division, by a majority of votes. In those cases where the Society is equally divided, the presiding officer shall have a casting vote.



Vice-President—JAMES CAREY.


Treasurer—DAVID BROWN.





September 8, 1789.

[22] Of the one hundred and eighty-nine incorporators of the Rhode Island Society, one hundred and seventeen were from Rhode Island, sixty-eight from Massachusetts, three from Connecticut, and one from Vermont. The Nation, Nov. 28, 1872.

[23] St. George Tucker, an eminent jurist, and Professor of Law at the College of William and Mary, at Williamsburg, Virginia, January 24, 1795, addressed a letter to Dr. Jeremy Belknap, of Boston, inquiring into the condition of the negroes in Massachusetts, and the circumstances under which slavery had come to an end in that state. His object was to obtain facts which he could use in removing prejudice against general emancipation in Virginia. "The introduction of slavery into this country," he says, "is at this day considered among its greatest misfortunes. I have cherished a hope that we may, from the example of our sister State, learn what methods are most likely to succeed in removing the same evils from among ourselves. With this view, I have taken the liberty to enclose a few queries, which, if your leisure will permit you to answer, you will confer on me a favor which I shall always consider as an obligation." He propounded eleven queries, to which Dr. Belknap replied at length. The correspondence is printed in the Massachusetts Historical Society's selections, iv, pp. 191-211. The next year Judge Tucker printed, at Philadelphia, his "Dissertation on Slavery, with a proposal for the gradual abolition of it in Virginia." Dr. Belknap's replies to Judge Tucker's inquiries have much historical interest. To the fifth query, "The mode by which slavery hath been abolished?" he says: "The general answer is, that slavery hath been abolished here by public opinion, which began to be established about thirty years ago. At the beginning of our controversy with Great Britain, several persons, who before had entertained sentiments opposed to the slavery of the blacks, did then take occasion publicly to remonstrate against the inconsistency of contending for their own liberty, and, at the same time, depriving other people of theirs. Pamphlets and newspaper essays appeared on the subject; it often entered into the conversation of reflecting people; and many who had, without remorse, been the purchasers of slaves, condemned themselves, and retracted their former opinion. The Quakers were zealous against slavery and the slave-trade; and by their means the writings of Anthony Benezet of Philadelphia, John Woolman of New Jersey, and others were spread through the country. Nathaniel Appleton and James Swan, merchants of Boston, and Dr. Benjamin Rush, of Philadelphia, distinguished themselves as writers on the side of liberty. Those on the other side generally concealed their names; but their arguments were not suffered to rest long without an answer. The controversy began about the year 1766, and was renewed at various times till 1773, when it was warmly agitated, and became a subject of forensic disputation at the public commencement at Harvard College." p. 201.

[24] Vol. ii, p. 30.

[25] Lectures by Members of the Mass. Historical Society on the Early History of Massachusetts, p. 216.

[26] Mr. George H. Moore, in his elaborate work, "Notes on the History of Slavery in Massachusetts," expresses a doubt whether slavery legally came to an end in Massachusetts at the period stated above; and perhaps not before the adoption of the fourteenth amendment to the Constitution. He says: "It would not be the least remarkable of the circumstances connected with this strange and eventful history, that though virtually abolished before, the actual prohibition of slavery in Massachusetts, as well as Kentucky, should be accomplished by the votes of South Carolina and Georgia." p. 242.

[27] Dr. Belknap says the clause "all men are born free and equal" was inserted in the Declaration of Rights of Massachusetts "not merely as a moral and political truth, but with a particular view to establish the liberation of the negroes on a general principle, and so it was understood by the people at large; but some doubted whether it was sufficient"—p. 203. That some persons had this result in view is probable; but contemporaneous records and acts of the citizens do not justify the statement that "so it was understood by the people at large." Dr. Belknap was living in New Hampshire at the time, and did not come to Boston till 1786. The construction put upon the clause, by the Supreme Court, was evidently a happy afterthought; and was inspired by that public opinion to which Dr. Belknap himself, in his reply to Judge Tucker, ascribes the extinction of slavery.

[28] The Pennsylvanian Society assumed all the expenses of the Convention, of entertaining the delegates, and of printing the proceedings. The delegates of the Pennsylvanian Society were William Rogers, Samuel P. Griffiths, Samuel Coats, William Rawle, Robert Patterson, and Benjamin Rush. The printed proceedings of this convention, which is in the New York Historical Society's library, I have not had access to. Joseph Bloomfield, of New Jersey, an officer of the Revolution, attorney-general, governor of the state from 1801-12, and member of Congress from 1817-21, was president of the Convention.

[29] The memorial was presented in both branches of Congress, January 28, 1794. The record in the House was as follows: "A memorial from the several societies formed in different parts of the United States, for promoting the abolition of slavery, in convention assembled at Philadelphia, on the first instant, was presented to the House and read, praying that Congress may adopt such measures as may be the most effectual and expedient for the abolition of the slave-trade. Also, a memorial of the Providence Society, for abolishing the slave-trade, to the same effect. Ordered, That the said memorials be referred to Mr. Trumbull [of Connecticut], Mr. Ward [of Massachusetts], Mr. Giles [of Virginia], Mr. Talbot [of New York], and Mr. Grove [of North Carolina]; that they do examine the matter thereof, and report the same, with their opinion thereupon, to the House." Annals of Congress, iv, p. 349.

A bill was reported in conformity to the wishes of the memorialists, passed its several stages without debate, and was approved March 22, 1794. For the bill, see Id., p. 1426.

[30] The address is as follows:

"To the Citizens of the United States:

"The Address of the Delegates from the several Societies formed in different parts of the United States, for promoting the Abolition of Slavery, in convention assembled at Philadelphia, on the first day of January, 1794.

"FRIENDS AND FELLOW-CITIZENS: United to you by the ties of citizenship, and partakers with you in the blessings of a free government, we take the liberty of addressing you upon a subject highly interesting to the credit and prosperity of the United States.

"It is the glory of our country to have originated a system of opposition to the commerce in that part of our fellow-creatures who compose the nations of Africa. Much has been done by the citizens of some of the States to abolish this disgraceful traffic, and to improve the condition of those unhappy people whom the ignorance, or the avarice of our ancestors had bequeathed to us as slaves. But the evil still continues, and our country is yet disgraced by laws and practices which level the creature man with a part of the brute creation. Many reasons concur in persuading us to abolish domestic slavery in our country. It is inconsistent with the safety of the liberties of the United States. Freedom and slavery can not long exist together. An unlimited power over the time, labor, and posterity of our fellow-creatures, necessarily unfits man for discharging the public and private duties of citizens of a republic. It is inconsistent with sound policy, in exposing the States which permit it, to all those evils which insurrections and the most resentful war have introduced into one of the richest islands in the West Indies. It is unfriendly to the present exertions of the inhabitants of Europe in favor of liberty. What people will advocate freedom, with a zeal proportioned to its blessings, while they view the purest republic in the world tolerating in its bosom a body of slaves? In vain has the tyranny of kings been rejected, while we permit in our country a domestic despotism which involves in its nature most of the vices and miseries that we have endeavored to avoid. It is degrading to our rank as men in the scale of being. Let us use our reason and social affections for the purposes for which they were given, or cease to boast a pre-eminence over animals that are unpolluted by our crimes.

"But higher motives to justice and humanity towards our fellow-creatures, remain yet to be mentioned. Domestic slavery is repugnant to the principles of Christianity. It prostrates every benevolent and just principle of action in the human heart. It is rebellion against the authority of a common Father. It is a practical denial of the extent and efficacy of the death of a common Savior. It is an usurpation of the prerogative of the Great Sovereign of the universe, who has solemnly claimed an exclusive property in the souls of men. But if this view of the enormity of the evil of domestic slavery should not affect us, there is one consideration more, which ought to alarm and impress us, especially at the present juncture. It is a violation of a Divine precept of universal justice, which has in no instance escaped with impunity. The crimes of nations, as well as individuals, are often designated in their punishments; and we conceive it to be no forced construction of some of the calamities which now distress or impend over our country, to believe that they are the measure of the evils which we have meted to others. The ravages committed upon many of our fellow-citizens by the Indians, and the depredations upon the liberty and commerce of others, of the citizens of the United States by the Algerines, both unite in proclaiming to us in the most forcible language, 'to loose the bands of wickedness, to break every yoke, to undo the heavy burthens, and to let the oppressed go free.'

"We shall conclude this address by recommending to you:

"First. To refrain immediately from that species of rapine and murder which has improperly been softened by the name of the African trade. It is Indian cruelty and Algerine piracy in another form.

"Second. To form Societies in every State, for the purpose of promoting the abolition of the slave-trade, of domestic slavery, for the relief of persons unlawfully held in bondage, and for the improvement of the condition of Africans and their descendants amongst us.

"The Societies which we represent, have beheld with triumph the success of their exertions in many instances, in favor of their African brethren; and, in full reliance upon the continuance of Divine support and direction, they humbly hope their labors will never cease while there exists a single slave in the United States."

[31] Mr. Jackson opposed the reference of the memorial to a committee, and wished it to be thrown aside. Mr. Burke, of South Carolina, said he saw the disposition of the House, and feared the memorial would be referred. He "was certain the commitment would sound an alarm, and blow the trumpet of sedition in the Southern States."

Mr. Seney, of Maryland, denied that there was anything unconstitutional in the memorial; its only object was that Congress should exercise their constitutional authority to abate the horrors of slavery as far as they could.

Mr. Parker, of Virginia, said: "I hope the petition of these respectable people will be attended to with all the readiness the importance of its object demands; and I cannot help expressing the pleasure I feel in finding so considerable a part of the community attending to matters of such momentous concern to the future prosperity and happiness of the people of America. I think it my duty as a citizen of the Union to espouse their cause."

Mr. Page, of Virginia (governor from 1802-1805), said he was in favor of the commitment. He hoped that the designs of the respectable memorialists would not be stopped at the threshold, in order to preclude a fair discussion of the prayer of the memorial. With respect to the alarm that was apprehended, he conjectured there was none; but there might be just cause, if the memorial was not taken into consideration. He placed himself in the case of a slave, and said that, on hearing that Congress had refused to listen to the decent suggestions of a respectable part of the community, he should infer that the general government (from which was expected great good would result to every class of citizens) had shut their ears against the voice of humanity; and he should despair of any alleviation of the miseries he and his posterity had in prospect. If anything could induce him to rebel, it must be a stroke like this. But if he was told that application was made in his behalf, and that Congress was willing to hear what could be urged in favor of discouraging the practice of importing his fellow-wretches, he would trust in their justice and humanity, and wait for the decision patiently. He presumed that these unfortunate people would reason in the same way.

Mr. Madison, of Virginia, said, if there were the slightest tendency by the commitment to break in upon the constitution, he would object to it; but he did not see upon what ground such an event could be apprehended. He admitted that Congress was restricted by the constitution from taking measures to abolish the slave-trade; yet there was a variety of ways by which it could countenance the abolition of slavery; and regulations might be made in relation to the introduction of slaves into the new States, to be formed out of the Western Territory.

The memorial was committed by a vote of 43 yeas to 14 nays. Of the Virginia delegation, 8 voted yea and 2 nay; Maryland, 3 yea, 1 nay; Delaware and North Carolina, both delegations absent. Mr. Vining, the member for Delaware, however, spoke and voted later with the friends of the memorialists.

The committee reported on the 8th of March. The report was discussed in committee of the whole, and amended to read as follows:

"First. That the migration or importation of such persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, can not be prohibited by Congress prior to the year 1808.

"Second. That Congress have no authority to interfere in the emancipation of slaves, or in the treatment of them, in any of the States—it remaining with the several States alone, to provide any regulations therein which humanity and true policy may require.

"Third. That Congress have authority to restrain the citizens of the United States from carrying on the African trade, for the purpose of supplying foreigners with slaves, and of providing, by proper regulations, for the humane treatment during their passage of slaves imported by the said citizens into the States admitting such importation."

This was the first legislation on the subject of slavery in the new Congress, and was carried by 29 votes to 25—North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia voting unanimously in the negative. All the other States (except Rhode Island, from which no member was present) voted in the affirmative or divided. New Hampshire voted 1 yea, 1 nay; Massachusetts, 6 yeas, 3 nays; Connecticut, 2 yeas, 2 nays; New York, 5 yeas, 2 nays; New Jersey, 3 yeas; Pennsylvania, 5 yeas; Virginia, 5 yeas, 6 nays; Maryland, 1 yea, 4 nays; Delaware, 1 yea.

[32] At this period, one hundred and fifteen American citizens, captured by piracy, were held as slaves in Algiers, for whom large ransoms were demanded by the pirates.

[33] The convention, after discussing principles, appointed a "committee of detail," consisting of Mr. Rutledge of South Carolina, Mr. Randolph of Virginia, Mr. Wilson of Pennsylvania, Mr. Ellsworth of Connecticut, and Mr. Gorham of Massachusetts, to reduce to the form of a constitution the resolutions agreed upon. This committee without instructions, or authority from the resolutions adopted, introduced a clause forever prohibiting the abolition of the African slave-trade. Mr. Randolph earnestly protested against this clause. He was opposed to any restriction on the power of Congress to abolish it. He "could never agree to the clause as it stands. He would sooner risk the Constitution." Madison Papers, p. 1396. Mr. Ellsworth "was for leaving the clause as it now stands. Let every State import what it pleases. The morality, the wisdom of slavery, are considerations belonging to the States themselves. What enriches a part, enriches the whole; and the States are the best judges of their particular interest." Id., p. 1389. It was moved, as a compromise, to guarantee the slave-trade for twenty years, by postponing the restriction to 1808. This motion was seconded by Mr. Gorham, of Massachusetts, and it passed. Mr. Madison, of Virginia, opposed it. "Twenty years," he said, "will produce all the mischief that can be apprehended from the liberty to import slaves. So long a term will be more dishonorable to the American character, than to say nothing about it in the Constitution." Id., p. 1427. Mr. Mason, of Virginia, pronounced the traffic as "infernal." Id., p. 1390.

[34] Life of Benjamin Lundy, Phil. 1847, p. 218. The total membership of the 130 societies was 6625, exclusive of twelve societies in Illinois from which no returns had been received. These statistics were gathered by the American Anti-Slavery Convention, which was held at Philadelphia, in 1827.


Since the preceding pages were in type, I have seen, in the library of the New York Historical Society, the printed minutes of the first convention held by the Abolition Societies of the United States, which met at Philadelphia, January 1, 1794, and was several days in session, of which mention was made on page 59. These minutes show that my statement of the societies represented needs correction. The Rhode Island Society appears to have had no delegates present. The Virginia Society appointed delegates; but, for reasons stated below, they were not admitted. Several societies, however, were represented, of which before I had seen no mention. As the convention met in the depth of winter, and as traveling was then expensive and difficult, it is evidence of a deep interest in the subject, that so many delegations attended.

The convention met in the City Hall, at Philadelphia, and organized by choosing Joseph Bloomfield, of New Jersey, President; John McCrea, Secretary; and Joseph Fry, Door-keeper.

The following societies were represented by the delegates named:

Connecticut Society—Uriah Tracy.

New York Society—Peter Jay Munroe, Moses Rogers, Thomas Franklin, Jr., William Dunlap.

New Jersey Society—Joseph Bloomfield, William Coxe, Jr., John Wistar, Robert Pearson, Franklin Davenport.

Pennsylvania Society—William Rogers, William Rawle, Samuel Powel Griffitts, Robert Patterson, Samuel Coates, Benjamin Rush.

Washington (Pa.) Society—Absalom Baird.

Delaware Society—Warren Mifflin, Isaiah Rowland, Joseph Hodgson, John Pemberton.

Wilmington (Del.) Society—Joseph Warner, Isaac H. Starr, Robert Coram.

Maryland Society—Samuel Sterett, James Winchester, Joseph Townsend, Adam Fonerdon, Jesse Hollingsworth.

Chester-town (Md.) Society—Joseph Wilkinson, James Maslin, Abraham Ridgely.

A letter, directed to the convention, from Robert Pleasants, chairman of the Committee of Correspondence of the Virginia Society, was presented and read. By this letter it appeared that Samuel Pleasants and Israel Pleasants, of Philadelphia, were appointed to represent that society in the convention; and in case of their declining, or being prevented from acting, the convention were at liberty to nominate two other persons as their representatives. In the letter was inclosed "an authentic account of several vessels lately fitted out in Virginia for the African slave-trade." The convention, after considering the proposition of the Virginia Society, adopted the following resolution:

"Resolved, That as information, and an unreserved comparison of one another's sentiments, relative to the important cause in which we are severally engaged, are our principal objects; and as the persons appointed by the Virginia Society are not citizens of that State, nor members of that Society, to admit them, or, according to their proposals for us to elect others as their representatives, would be highly improper."

The president was directed to acknowledge the receipt of the letter, to inform the Virginia Society of the above resolution, and to thank them for the important information contained in the letter.

Benjamin Rush, William Dunlap, Samuel Sterett, William Rawle, and Warner Mifflin, were appointed a committee to report the objects proper for the consideration of the convention, and the best plan for carrying the same into execution. Under the direction of this committee, memorials were prepared to be sent to the legislatures of the several States which had not abolished slavery; a memorial to Congress asking for the enactment of a law making the use of vessels and men in the slave-trade a penal offense; and an address to the citizens of the United States, already printed in a note, pp. 60-63. It was also voted "to recommend to the different Abolition societies to appoint delegates to meet in convention, at Philadelphia, on the first Wednesday of January, 1795, and on the same day in every year afterward, until the great objects of their original association be accomplished."

I was so fortunate as to find, also, in the New York Historical Society's library, the minutes of the conventions of 1795 and 1797. The convention of 1795 met in the City Hall, at Philadelphia, January 7, and continued in session till the 14th of that month. The societies represented, and delegates, were as follows:

Rhode Island Society—Theodore Foster. The credentials from the president of the society stated that George Benson was also appointed to represent the society; but he did not appear.

Connecticut Society—Jonathan Edwards, Uriah Tracy, Zephaniah Swift.

New York Society—John Murray, Jr., William Johnson, Lawrence Embree, William Dunlap, William Walton Woolsey.

New Jersey Society—James Sloan, Franklin Davenport. Other delegates appointed, Joseph Bloomfield, William Coxe, Jr., and John Wistar, did not appear. It was explained to the convention that the absence of Mr. Bloomfield was occasioned by sickness.

Pennsylvania Society—William Rawle, Robert Patterson, Benjamin Rush, Samuel Coates, Caspar Wistar, James Todd, Benjamin Say.

Washington (Pa.) Society—Thomas Scott, Absalom Baird, Samuel Clark.

Delaware Society—Richard Bassett, John Ralston, Allen McLane, Caleb Boyer.

Wilmington (Del.) Society—Cyrus Newlin, James A. Bayard, Joseph Warner, William Poole.

Maryland Society—Samuel Sterett, Adam Fonerdon, Joseph Townsend, Joseph Thornburgh, George Buchanan, John Bankson, Philip Moore.

Chester-town (Md.) Society—Edward Scott, James Houston.

Dr. Benjamin Rush was elected President; Walter Franklin, Secretary; and Joseph Fry, Door-keeper.

Jonathan Edwards, William Dunlap, Caspar Wistar, Cyrus Newlin, Caleb Boyer, Philip Moore, and James Houston were appointed the committee on business. Memorials were prepared, and adopted by the convention, to be sent to the legislatures of South Carolina and Georgia, as both States still persisted in the importation of slaves. An address to the Abolition Societies of the United States was also adopted, the spirit of which may be inferred from the following extract:

"When we have broken his chains, and restored the African to the enjoyment of his rights, the great work of justice and benevolence is not accomplished. The new-born citizen must receive that instruction, and those powerful impressions of moral and religious truths, which will render him capable and desirous of fulfilling the various duties he owes to himself and to his country. By educating some in the higher branches, and all in the useful parts of learning, and in the precepts of religion and morality, we shall not only do away the reproach and calumny so unjustly lavished upon us, but confound the enemies of truth, by evincing that the unhappy sons of Africa, in spite of the degrading influence of slavery, are in nowise inferior to the more fortunate inhabitants of Europe and America."

The fourth annual convention of the Abolition Societies of the United States was held in the Senate Chamber, at Philadelphia, May 3, 1797. The societies represented, and delegates, were as follows:

New York Society—Willett Seaman, Thomas Eddy, Samuel L. Mitchell, William Dunlap, Elihu Hubbard Smith.

New Jersey Society—Joseph Bloomfield, Richard Hartshorne, Joseph Sloan, William Coxe, Jr., William Carpenter.

Pennsylvania Society—Benjamin Rush, William Rawle, Samuel P. Griffitts, Casper Wistar, Samuel Coates, Robert Patterson, James Todd.

Maryland Society—Francis Johonnett, Jesse Tyson, Gerrard T. Hopkins.

Choptank (Md.) Society—Seth Hill Evitts.

Virginia Society (at Richmond)—Joseph Anthony.

Alexandria (Va.) Society—George Drinker.

Joseph Bloomfield was elected President; Thomas P. Cope, Secretary; and Jacob Meyer, Door-keeper.

Communications from the New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Choptank (Md.), Virginia, and Alexandria (Va.) Abolition Societies were read. The minutes of the convention of 1797 are more elaborately compiled, and contain more statistics than the previous reports. Among other papers adopted by the convention, was an "Address to the Free Africans." Besides the seven societies, which sent delegates, the eight societies following, which sent none, were reported, viz: Rhode Island, Connecticut, Washington (Pa.), Delaware (at Dover), Wilmington (Del.), Chester-town (Md.), Winchester (Va.), and Kentucky Societies. Among the memorials presented to Congress, in 1791, was one from the Caroline County (Md.) Society. Besides the Maryland Society, at Baltimore, there appear to have been three local societies on the Eastern Shore of that State.

The several societies reported their membership, in 1797, as follows: New York Society, two hundred and fifty; New Jersey Society, "compiled partially;" Pennsylvania Society, five hundred and ninety-one; Maryland Society, two hundred and thirty-one; Choptank (Md.) Society, twenty-five; Wilmington (Del.) Society, sixty; Virginia Society, one hundred and forty-seven; Alexandria (Va.) Society, sixty-two. From the other societies no reports of membership were received. The Choptank (Md.) Society, formed in 1790, reported having liberated more than sixty slaves; the Wilmington (Del.) Society, reported having liberated eighty since 1788; and the Alexandria (Va.) Society reported having made twenty-six complaints under the law against the importation of slaves. By votes of previous conventions, the Abolition Societies were required to sustain schools for the education of Africans. The minutes for 1797 contain interesting reports from the several societies of their success in this department of benevolence.

Before the year 1782, it was illegal in Virginia for a master to liberate his slaves without sending them out of the State. The Assembly of Virginia then passed an act permitting the manumission of slaves. Judge Tucker of that State, in his "Dissertation on Slavery," estimated that, from 1782 to 1791, ten thousand slaves were liberated in Virginia by their masters.

Of the anti-slavery literature of this period, which has not already been noticed, there is in the New York Historical Society's library, "An Oration spoken before the Connecticut Society for the Promotion of Freedom, and the Relief of Persons unlawfully held in Bondage, convened at Hartford the 8th of May, 1794. By Theodore Dwight.[35] Hartford, 1794." 8vo, 24 pp. Also, a "Discourse delivered April 12, 1797, at the Request of the New York Society for the Promoting the Manumission of Slaves, and protecting such of them as have been or may be liberated. By Samuel Miller, A. M. New York, 1787." 8vo, 36 pp.

In the Boston Athenaeum library are the following tracts:

"A Dissuasion to Great Britain and the Colonies from the Slave Trade to Africa. By James Swan. Revised and abridged. Boston, 1773." 8vo, 40 pp. The original edition was printed in 1772.

"A Forensic Dispute on the Legality of Enslaving the Africans, held at a Public Commencement in Cambridge, N. E., July 21, 1773, by the Candidates for the Bachelors' Degrees. Boston, 1773." 8vo, 48 pp.

"A Short Account of that Part of Africa inhabited by the Negroes. [By Anthony Benezet.] Philadelphia, 1772." 8vo, 80 pp.

"An Address to the British Settlements in America upon Slaveholding. Second edition. To which are added Observations on a Pamphlet entitled 'Slavery not forbidden by Scripture; or, a Defence of the West Indian Planters.' By a Pennsylvanian [Dr. Benjamin Rush]. Philadelphia, 1773." 8vo, pp. 28 + 54. Also, another edition issued the same year, with the title somewhat varied; the second part being termed, "A Vindication of the Address to the Inhabitants," etc. The pamphlet entitled "Slavery not forbidden by Scripture," etc., was written by R. Nisbet, and is in the Library of Congress.

"Memorials presented to the Congress of the United States, by the different Societies instituted for promoting the Abolition of Slavery, in the States of Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Mary, and Virginia. Published by the Pennsylvania Society for promoting the Abolition of Slavery. Philadelphia. Printed by Francis Bailey, 1792." 8vo, 31 pp.

This tract contains the memorials which were presented to the House of Representatives, December 8, 1791, and which were read and referred. The Rhode Island memorial is signed by David Howell, President, and dated December 28, 1790. Connecticut—by Ezra Stiles, President; Simon Baldwin, Secretary; January 7, 1791. New York—by Matthew Clarkson, Vice-President; December 14, 1790. Pennsylvania—by James Pemberton, President; John McCrea and Joseph P. Norris, Secretaries; October 3, 1791. Washington (Pa.)—by Andrew Swearingen, Vice-President. Maryland, in Baltimore—"Signed by the members generally;" but the names of no members are given. Chester-town, Maryland—by James M. Anderson, President; Daniel McCurtin, Secretary; November 19, 1791. Caroline County, Maryland—by Edward White, Vice-President; Charles Emery, Secretary; September 6, 1791.

Of the sixteen Abolition Societies existing in the United States during this decade, it appears that six were in States which, at the outbreak of the late rebellion, were non-slaveholding; and ten were in slaveholding States.


[35] The "Dwight" to whom, with others, Bishop Gregoire inscribed his "Literature of Negroes," was probably Theodore Dwight, and not President Timothy Dwight, as stated on page 31.



BALTIMORE, July 4, 1791.













others unlawfully held in BONDAGE.

BALTIMORE, July 4th, 1791.

By GEORGE BUCHANAN, M. D. Member of the American Philosophical Society.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

At a special meeting of the "MARYLAND SOCIETY for promoting the Abolition of Slavery, and the Relief of free Negroes and others unlawfully held in Bondage," held at Baltimore, July 4th, 1791,—


THAT the President present the Thanks of this Society to Dr. George Buchanan, for the excellent ORATION, by him delivered this Day—and at the same time request a copy thereof in the Name and for the Use of the Society."

Extract from the Minutes. JOSEPH TOWNSEND, Secretary.

President, SAMUEL STERETT, Vice President, ALEXr McKIM.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


WHOSE Patriotism, since the American Revolution, has been uniformly marked, by a sincere, steady and active Attachment to the Interest of his Country; and whose literary Abilities have distinguished him amongst the first of Statesmen and Philosophers—


Is respectfully inscribed, as an humble Testimony of the highest Regard and Esteem, by




SUMMONED by your voice, I appear before you with diffidence; the arduous task you have imposed upon me, would have been better executed by some one of greater abilities and information, and one more versed in public speaking.

However, my feeble executions shall not be wanting to promote the intentions of so laudable an institution; and while I endeavour to fulfil the purport of this meeting, I shall hope not to fail in proving its utility.

Too much cannot be offered against the unnatural custom that pervades the greatest part of the world, of dragging the human race to slavery and bondage, nor of exposing the ignominy of such barbarity.

Let an impartial view of man be taken, so far as it respects his existence, and in the chain of thought, the white, swarthy and black, will be all linked together, and at once point out their equality. God hath created mankind after his own image, and granted to them liberty and independence; and if varieties may be found in their structure and colour, these are only to be attributed to the nature of their diet and habits, also of the soil and climate they may inhabit, and serve as flimsy pretexts for enslaving them.

In the first rudiment of society, when simplicity characterised the conduct of man, slavery was unknown, every one equally enjoyed that peace and tranquility at home, to which he was naturally born: But this equality existed but for a time; as yet no laws, no government was established check the ambitious, or to curb the crafty; hence reprisals were made upon the best by the strong and robust, and finally subjected the weak and indigent to poverty and want.

Here then arose a difference in the circumstances of men, and the poor and weak were obliged to submit themselves to the control of the rich and powerful; but although the authority exercised was at first mild, and ensured to the bondsmen almost the same privileges with their masters, yet the idea of power soon crept in upon the mind, and at length lenity was converted into rigidity, and the gall of servitude became insupportable; the oppressed, soon found that that liberty, which they had just given up, was an inalienable privilege of man, and sought means to regain it: this was effected,—but not until a time when ignorance began to decline, when improvements were made in the arts, commerce and governments, and when men could seek protection from the law, or by industry could ward off the bitterness of poverty, and ensure to themselves an independence.

Happy circumstance! To feel oneself emancipated from the chains of slavery, must awaken every delicate sensation of the soul, and transport the gloomy mind into a region of bliss; for what is life, without an enjoyment of those privileges which have been given to us by nature? It is a burden, which if not awed by Divine Providence, would be speedily cast off, by all who sweat under the yoke of slavish servitude, and know no alternative but an unceasing submission to the goads of a brutal master.

Ages have revolved since this happy condition of human affairs; and although mankind have been gradually verging from a state of simplicity to a more social refinement, yet the governments of those primitive times laid open an analogy for licentiousness; and we find, by pursuing the history of man, that slavery was again introduced, and stained the annals of all the powers of Europe.

The idea of possessing, as property, was too lucrative to be totally eradicated; it diffused itself into Egypt and Cyprus, which became the first and most noted markets for the sale and purchase of slaves, and soon became the cause of rapine and bloodshed in Greece and Rome: there it was an established custom to subject to slavery all the captives in time of war; and not only the Emperors, but the nobility, were in possession of thousands—to them they served as instruments of diversion and authority.

To give an idea only of the amphitheatrical entertainments, so repugnant to humanity, would make the most obdurate heart feel with keen sensibility. For to hear with patience of voracious animals being turned loose among human beings, to give sport to the rich and great, when upon reflection, he may be assured, that the merciless jaw knew no restraint but precipitately charged upon its prey whom it left, without remorse, either massacred or maimed.

Such was the practice among the ancients, and to charge the modern with like enormities, would by many be deemed criminal.

But I fear not to accuse them—the prosecution of the present barbarous and iniquitous slave trade affords us too many instances of cruelties exercised against the harmless Africans. A trade, which, after it was abolished in Europe by the general introduction of Christianity, was again renewed about the fourteenth century by the mercenary Portuguese, and now prosecuted by the Spaniards, French and British, in defiance of every principle of justice, humanity and religion.

Ye moderns, will you not blush at degenerating into ancient barbarity, and at wearing the garb of Christians, when you pursue the practices of savages?

Hasten to reform, and put an end to this unnatural and destructive trade—Do you not know that thousands of your fellow-mortals are annually entombed by it? and that it proves ruinous to your government? You go to Africa to purchase slaves for foreign markets, and lose the advantages of all the proper articles of commerce, which that country affords. You bury your seamen upon the pestiferous shores; and, shocking to humanity! make monsters of all you engage in the traffic.

Who are more brutal than the Captains of vessels in the slave trade? Not even the tawny savage of the American wilds, who thirsts after the blood of the Christian, and carries off his scalp the trophy of splendid victory!

They even countenance the practice of the ancients, in seeing a sturdy mastiff tear in pieces some poor wretch of their hateful cargoes, or in viewing their wreathes and tortures, when smarting under the lash of a seasoned cat.[36]

It is time to abolish these enormities, and to stay such repeated insults from being offered to Divine Providence: Some dreadful curse from heaven may be the effect of them, and the innocent be made to suffer for the guilty.

What, will you not consider that the Africans are men? that they have human souls to be saved? that they are born free and independent? A violation of which prerogatives is an infringement upon the laws of God.

But, are these the only crimes you are guilty of in pursuing the trade? No—you stir up the harmless Africans to war, and stain their fields with blood: you keep constant hostile ferment in their territories, in order to procure captives for your uses; some you purchase with a few trifling articles, and waft to distant shores to be made the instruments of grandeur, pride and luxury.

You commit also the crime of kidnapping others, whom you forcibly drag from their beloved country, from the bosoms of their dearest relatives; so leave a wife without a husband, a sister without a brother, and a helpless infant to bemoan the loss of its indulgent parent.

Could you but see the agonizing pangs of these distressed mortals, in the hour of their captivity, when deprived of every thing that is dear to them, it would make even the heathenish heart to melt with sorrow; like a noble Senator of old, death is their choice in preference to lingering out their lives in ignominious slavery—and often do we see them meet it with a smile.

The horrors of the grave intimidate not even the delicate females; too many melancholy instances are recorded of their plunging into the deep, and carrying with them a tender infant at their breast; even in my own recollection, suicide has been committed in various forms by these unhappy wretches, under the blind infatuation of revising the land of their nativity.

Possessed of Christian sentiments, they fail not to exercise them when an opportunity offers. Things pleasing rejoice them, and melancholy circumstances pall their appetites for amusements.—They brook no insults, and are equally prone to forgiveness as to resentment; they have gratitude also, and will even expose their own lives, to wipe off the obligation of past favours; nor do they want any of the refinements of taste, so much the boast of those who call themselves Christians.

The talent for music, both vocal and instrumental, appears natural to them: Neither is their genius for literature to be despised; many instances are recorded of men of eminence amongst them: Witness Ignatius Sancho, whose letters are admired by all men of taste—Phillis Wheatley, who distinguished herself as a poetess—The physician of New Orleans—The Virginia calculator—Banneker, the Maryland Astronomer, and many others whom it would be needless to mention. These are sufficient to shew, that the Africans, whom you despise, whom you inhumanly treat as brutes, and whom you unlawfully subject to slavery, with the tyrannizing hands of Despots, are equally capable of improvements with yourselves.

This you may think a bold assertion, but it is not made without reflection, nor independent of the testimony of many, who have taken pains with their education.

Because you few, in comparison to their number, who make any exertions of abilities at all, you are ready to enjoy the common opinion, that they are inferior set of beings, and destined by nature to the cruelties and hardships you impose upon them.

But be cautious how long you hold such sentiments; the time may come, when you will be obliged to abandon them—consider the pitiable situation of these most distressed beings; deprived of their liberty and reduced to slavery; consider also, that they toil not for themselves, from the rising of the Sun to its going down, and you will readily conceive the cause of their inaction.

What time, or what incitement has a slave to become wise? there is no great art in hilling corn, or in running a furrow; and to do this, they know they are doomed, whether they seek into the mysteries of science, or remain ignorant as they are.

To deprive a man of his liberty, has a tendency to rob his soul of every spring to virtuous actions; and were slaves to become fiends, the wonder could not be great. Nothing more assimilates a man to a beast, says the learned Montesque, than being among freemen, himself a slave; for slavery clogs the mind, perverts the moral faculty, and reduces the conduct of man to the standard of brutes.

What right then have you to expect greater things from these poor mortals? You would not blame a brute for committing ravages upon his prey, nor ought you to censure a slave, for making attempts to regain his liberty even at the risque of life itself.

Ye mercenary Portuguese, ye ambitious French, and ye deceitful Britons, I again call upon you to take these things into your consideration; it is time, a remorse of conscience had seized upon you; it is time, you were apprised of your danger: Behold the thousands that are annually lost to your governments, in the prosecution of an unlawful and iniquitous trade.

View the depredations that you commit upon a nation, born equally free with yourselves; consider the abyss of misery into which you plunge your fellow-mortals, and reflect upon the horrid crimes you are hourly committing under the bright sunshine of revealed religion.—Will you not then find yourselves upon a precipice, and protected from ruin, only because you are too wicked to be lost?

What Empire, or what State can have the hope of existing, which prosecutes a trade, that proves a sinking fund to her coffers, and to her subjects, tramples the human species under foot, with as much indifference as the dirt, and fills the world with misery and woe?

Let not a blind hardness of opinion any longer bias your judgments, and prevent you from acting like Christians.

View the Empires amongst the ancients; behold Egypt in the time of Secostris, Greece in the time of Cyrus, and Rome in the reign of Augustus; view them all, powerful as enemies, patterns of virtue and science, bold and intrepid in war, free and independent; and now see them sacrificed at the shrine of luxury, and dwindled into insignificance. When in power, they usurped the authority of God, they stretched out their arms to encompass their enemies, and bound their captives in iron chains of slavery.

Vengeance was then inflicted, their spoils became the instruments of pride, luxury and dissipation, and finally proved the cause of their present downfall.

Then look back at home; view your degeneracy from the times of Louis the 14th and Charles the 2d, and if a universal blush don't prevail, it will argue a hardness of heart, tempered by a constant action of wickedness upon the smooth anvil of religion.

For such are the effects of subjecting man to slavery, that it destroys every human principle, vitiates the mind, instills ideas of unlawful cruelties, and eventually subverts the springs of government.

What a distressing scene is here before us. America, I start at your situation! The idea of these direful effect of slavery demand your most serious attention.—What! shall a people, who flew to arms with the valour of Roman Citizens, when encroachments were made upon their liberties, by the invasion of foreign powers, now basely descend to cherish the seed and propagate the growth of the evil, which they boldly sought to eradicate. To the eternal infamy of our country, this will be handed down to posterity, written in the blood of African innocence.

If your forefathers have been degenerate enough to introduce slavery into your country, to contaminate the minds of her citizens, you ought to have the virtue of extirpating it.

Emancipated from the shackles of despotism, you know no superior; free and independent, you stand equally respected among your foes, and your allies.—Renowned in history, for your valour, and for your wisdom, your way is left open to the highest eminence of human perfection.

But while with pleasing hopes you may anticipate such an event, the echo of expiring freedom cannot fail to assail the ears, and pierce the heart with keen reproach.

In the first struggles for American freedom, in the enthusiastic ardour for attaining liberty and independence, one of the most noble sentiments that ever adorned the human breast, was loudly proclaimed in all her councils—

Deeply penetrated with a sense of Equality, they held it as a fixed principle, "that all men are by nature and of right ought to be free, that they are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, amongst which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

Nevertheless, when the blessings of peace were showered upon them, when they had obtained these rights which they had so boldly contended for, then they became apostates to their principles, and rivetted the fetters of slavery upon the unfortunate Africans.

Deceitful men! who could have suggested, that American patriotism would at this day countenance a conduct so inconsistent; that while America boasts of being a land of freedom, and an asylum for the oppressed of Europe, she should at the same time foster an abominable nursery for slaves, to check the shoots of her growing liberty?

Deaf to the clamours of criticism, she feels no remorse, and blindly pursues the object of her destruction; she encourages the propagation of vice, and suffers her youth to be reared in the habits of cruelty.

Not even the sobs and groans of injured innocence, which reek from every State, can excite her pity, nor human misery bend her heart to sympathy.

Cruel and oppressive she wantonly abuses the Rights of Man, and willingly sacrifices her liberty at the altar of slavery: What an opportunity is here given for triumph among her enemies? Will they not exclaim, that upon this very day, while the Americans the anniversary of Freedom and Independence, abject slavery exists tn all her States but one.[37]

How degenerately base to merit the rebuke. Fellow-countrymen, let the heart of humanity awake and direct your counsels; reflect that slavery gains root among you; look back upon the curses which it has heaped upon your ancestors, and unanimously combine to drive the fiend Monster from your territories; it is inconsistent with the principles of your government, with the education of your youth, and highly derogatory to the true spirit of Christianity.

In despotic governments, says Montesque, where they are already in a state of political slavery, civil slavery is more tolerable than in other governments; for there the minds of masters and servants are equally degenerate and act in unison.—But in America, this cannot be the case; here the pure forms of Republicanism are established, and hold forth to the world the enjoyment of Freedom and Independence.

Her citizens have thrown off the load of oppression, under which they formerly laboured; and elated with their signal victories, have become oppressors in their turn.

They have slaves, over whom they carry the iron rod of subjection, and fail not to exercise it with cruelty, hence their situations become insupportable, misery inhabits their cabins, and persecution pursues them in the field.

I would wish to be partial to my country, and carry a hand of lenity; it is more pleasing to celebrate than to detract, but whoever takes a view of the situation of its slaves, will find it even worse than this description.

Naked and starved, they often fall victims to the inclemencies of the weather, and inhumanly beaten; sacrifices to the turbulent tempers of their cruel masters.

Unfortunate Africans! born in freedom and subjected to slavery! How long will you remain the spoils of despotism, and the harbinger of human calamities? Cannot your distresses awaken the heart of sensibility, and excite her pity? Cannot your unlawful treatment call forth the voice of humanity to plead your cause?

Americans! step forward; you have already diffused a spirit of Liberty throughout the world; you have set examples of heroism; and now let me intreat you to pave the way to the exercise of humanity: an opportunity is offered to raise yourselves to the first eminence among mankind.

Rouse then from your lethargy, and let not such torpid indifference prevail in your councils.—Slavery, the most implacable enemy to your country, is harboured amongst you; it makes a rapid progress, and threatens you with destruction.

Already has it disturbed the limpid streams of liberty, it has polluted the minds of your youth, sown the seeds of despotism, and without a speedy check to her ravages, will sink you into a pit of infamy, where you shall be robbed of all the honours you have before acquired.

Let it viewed either morally or politically, and no one argument can be adduced in its favour.

The savage mind may perhaps be reconciled to it, but the heart of the Christian must recoil at the idea.—He sees it forbidden in Holy Writ, and his conscience dictates to him, that it is wrong.

"He that stealeth a man," says Exodus, "and selleth him, of if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death."

Oh my countrymen! are there any of you who can con over this elegant passage of Scripture, without trembling; or can you stand before the great Author of your existence, with an arm uplifted to subject his creatures to slavery, without dreading an execution of this divine threat.

"The nation, to whom they shall be in bondage, will I judge, said God"—and what that judgment may be, is beyond the suggestion of mortals. We may be hurled amidst the elements of woe to expiate the guilt, for he who holdeth men in slavery liveth in sin.

In a civilized country, where religion is tolerated in all its purity, it must be the fault of ignorance, stubborn indifference to Christianity, to rebel against divine sentiments; and considering slavery in a political view, it must appear equally as destructive to our terrestrial happiness, as it endangers our enjoyment of heavenly bliss.

For who is there, unless innured to savage cruelties, that hear of the inhuman punishments daily afflicted upon the unfortunate Blacks, without feeling for their situations?

Can a man who calls himself a Christian, coolly and deliberately tie up, thumb screw, torture with pincers, and beat unmercifully a poor slave, for perhaps a trifling neglect of duty? Or can any one be an eye witness to such enormities, without at the same time being deeply persuaded of its guilt?

I fear these questions may be answered in the affirmative, but I hope by none of this respectable audience; for such men must be monsters, not of the regular order of nature, and equally prone to murder, or to less cruelties.

But independent of these effects, which the existence of slavery in any country has over the moral faculty of man, it is highly injurious to its natural oeconomy; it debars the progress of agriculture, and gives origin to sloth and luxury.

View the fertile fields of Great Britain, where the hand of freedom conducts the plowshare, then look back upon your own, and see how mean will be the comparison.

Your labourers are slaves, and they have no inducement, no incentive to be industrious; they are cloathed and victualled, whether lazy or hard-working; and from the calculations that have been made, one freeman is worth almost two slaves in the field, which makes it in many instances cheaper to have hirelings; for they are incited to industry by the hopes of reputation and future employment, and are careful of their apparel and their instruments of husbandry, where they must provide them for themselves, whereas, the others have little or no temptation to attend to any of these circumstances.

But this, the prejudiced mind is scarce able to scan, the pride of holding men as property is too flattering to yield to the dictates of reason, and blindly pushes on man to his destruction.

What a pity is it, that darkness should so obscure us, that America with all her transcending glory, should be stigmatized with the infamous reproach of oppression, and her citizens be called Tyrants.

Fellow-countrymen, let the hand of persecution be no longer raised against you.—Act virtuously; do unto all men as you would they should do unto you, and exterminate the pest of slavery from your land.

Then will the tongues of slander be silenced, the shafts of criticism blunted, and America enter upon a new theatre of glory.

But unless these things shall be done, unless the calamitous situation of the slaves shall at least be alleviated, what is America to expect? Can she think that the repeated insults to Divine Authority will pass off with impunity? Or can she suppose, that men, who are naturally born free, shall forever sweat under the yoke of ignominious slavery, without making one effort to regain their liberty?

No, my countrymen, these things are not to be expected.—Heaven will not overlook such enormities! She is bound to punish impenitent sinners, and her wrath is to be dreaded by all! Moreover, the number of slaves, that are harboured amongst you holds forth an alarm; in many parts of the continent they exceed the whites, and are capable of ransacking the country.

What then, if the fire of Liberty shall be kindled amongst them? What, if some enthusiast in their cause shall beat to arms, and call them to the standard of freedom? Would they fly in clouds, until their numbers became tremendous, and threaten the country with devastation and ruin?—It would not be the feeble efforts of an undisciplined people, that could quell their fury.

Led on by the hopes of freedom, and animated by the aspiring voice of their leader, they would soon find, that "a day, an hour of virtuous liberty, worth a whole eternity of bondage."

Hark! Methinks I hear the work begun, the Blacks have sought for Allies, and found them in the wilderness; they have called the rusty savages to their assistance, and are preparing to take revenge of their haughty masters.[38]

A revenge, which they consider as justly merited; for being no longer able to endure their unnatural and unlawful bondage, they are determined to seek Liberty or Death.

Why then is there not some step to be taken to ward off the dreadful catastrophe?

Fellow countrymen, will you stand and see your aged parents, your loving wives, your dutiful children butchered by the merciless hand of the enthusiast, when you have it in your power to prevent it?

In this enlightened period, when the Rights of Man is the topick of political controversy, and slavery is considered not only unnatural but unlawful, why do you not step forward and compleat the glorious work you have begun, and extend the merciful hand to the unfortunate Blacks? Why do you not form some wise plan to liberate them, and abolish slavery in your country?

If it should be deemed injudicious or impolitic to effect it at once, let it be done gradually; let the children for one or two generations be liberated at a certain age, and less than half a century will the plague be totally rooted out from amongst you—then will you begin to see your consequence—thousands of good citizens will be added to your number, and your arms will become invincible: Gratitude will induce them to become your friends; for the PROMISE alone of freedom to a slave ensures his loyalty; witness their conduct in the second Punic war which the Senate of Rome carried on against Hannibal; not a man disgraced himself, but all with an intrepidity peculiar to veterans met their foes, fought and conquered.

Witness also the valour of a few Blacks in South-Carolina, who under the promise of freedom, joined the great and good Colonel JOHN LAURENS; and in a sudden surprised the British, and distinguished themselves as heroes.

I remember it was said, they were foremost in the ranks, and nobly contended for their promised reward.

At this critical juncture, when savage cruelties threatened to invade your peaceful territories, and murder your citizens, what great advantage might be derived from giving freedom to the Africans at once. Would they not all became your Allies; would they not turn out hardy for the wilderness, to drive the blood-thirsty savage to his den, and teach him it were better to live peaceably at home, than to come under the scourge of such newly liberated levies.

Americans arouse—It is time to hear the cause of the wretched sons of Africa, enslaved in your country; they plead not guilty to every charge of crime, and unmeritedly endure the sufferings you impose upon them.

Yet, like haughty Despots, or corrupt judges, you forbid a trial. Justice however to yourselves and humanity toward your fellow mortals, loudly demand it of you, and you ought not to hesitate in obeying their sacred mandates.

A few years may be sufficient to make you repent of your unrelenting indifference, and give a stab to all your boasted honors; then may you, pitiable citizens, be taught wisdom, when it will be too late; then may you cry out, Abba Father, but mercy will not be found, where mercy was refused.

Let all the social feelings of the soul, let honour, philanthropy, pity, humanity, and justice, unite to effect their emancipation.

For eternal will be the disgrace of keeping them much longer in the iron fetters of slavery, but immortal the honour of accomplishing their FREEDOM.

* * * * *


Such were the sentiments, my friends, that first induced you to form yourselves into this Society.

For seeing human nature debased in the most vile manner, and seeing also that your country deeply suffered from the iniquitous custom of holding man in slavery, you have justly concluded "that at this particular crisis, when Europe and America appear to pay some attention to this evil, the united endeavours of a few, might greatly influence the public opinion, and produce from the transient sentiment of the times, effects, extensive, lasting and useful."—But however great have been your exertions; however much they have been guided by the precepts of humanity and religion, your public reward has been censure and criticism; but let not such airy weapons damp your ardour for doing good; your just reward is in Heaven, not on earth.

Yours is the business of mercy and compassion, not of oppression. You forcibly rescue from the hands of no man his property, but by your examples and precepts you promote the Abolition of Slavery, and give relief to free Negroes, and others unlawfully held in bondage.

You have shown an anxiety to extend a portion of that freedom to others, which GOD in his Providence hath extended unto you, and a release from that thraldom to which yourselves and your country were so lately tyrannically doomed, and from which you have been but recently delivered. You have evinced to the world your inclination to remove as much as possible the sorrows of those who have lived in undeserved bondage, and that your hearts are expanded with kindness toward men of all colours, conditions and nations; and if you did not interest yourselves in their behalf, how long might their situations remain hard and distressing.

Numbers might passively remain for life in abject slavery from an ignorance of the mode of acquiring their emancipation, notwithstanding they may be justly entitled to their freedom by birth and by the law.

If the hand of prosecution is now raised against you, for relieving your fellow mortals from the distresses of unlawful slavery, and restoring them to liberty, it is to be hoped it will not be of long duration; the principles of your institutions will be daily made more known, and others will begin to think as you do; they will find upon reflection, that they have no just power or authority to hold men in slavery, and seeing that your actions are charitable and disinterested, will cordially inlist under your banners, and aid your benevolent exertions.

Already have you reason to suppose, that your good examples have been influential; you humbly began with a few, and you now see your numbers hourly encreasing.

It may be the effusions of a youthful fancy, solicitous of aggrandizing your merit, but I fear not to say, that the operations of similar institutions will date one of the most splendid aeras of American greatness.

Go on then, my friends, pursue the dictates of an unsullied conscience, and cease not until you have finished your work—but let prudence guide you in all your undertakings, and let not an enthusiastic heat predominate over reason. Your cause is a just one, consistent with law and equity, and must finally be advocated by all men of Humanity and Religion.

* * * * *

"For, 'tis Liberty alone which gives the flower of fleeting life its lustre and perfume, And we are weeds without it."



[36] A whip with nine tails.

[37] Massachusetts.

[38] This was thrown out as a conjecture of what possibly might happen, and the insurrections in St. Domingo tend to prove the danger, to be more considerable than has generally been supposed, and sufficient to alarm the inhabitants of these States.


[Transcriber's Notes:

Every effort has been made to replicate this text as faithfully as possible, including obsolete and variant spellings and other inconsistencies.

The transcriber noted the following issues and made changes as indicated to the text to correct obvious errors:

1. p. 15, "tendto" —> "tend to" 2. p. 18, "partiotism" —> "patriotism" 3. p. 30, Footnote #9, "Litterature" —> "Litterature" 4. p. 33, Footnote #10, Elliot's Debates, Va. p. 452: (page number is indecipherable, possibly 452.) 5. p. 37, Footnote #11, "contray" —> "contrary" 6. p. 40, Footnote #12, April 23, 178?, (year is indecipherable) 7. p. 41, Both "Ralph Sandiford" and "Ralph Sandyford" appear in main text and Footnote #13 8. p. 76, Both "Adam Fonerdon" and "Adam Fonerden" appear in main text and Footnote #21 9. p. 99, "terrestial" —> "terrestrial" 10. p. 18, "peceably" —> "peaceably"

Also, many occurrences of mismatched single and double quotes remain as published.

End of Transcriber's Notes]

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