AND DEFENCE OF THE SLAVE TRADE
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Importance of the African Companys Forts and Settlements Considered, etc.
not every British planter in America and West India Merchant in England
grant, that the Negroe trade on the coast of Africa is the chief and
fundamental support of the British Colonies and Plantations in America?
Should our most formidable rivals monopolize the African trade to
themselves, will they not naturally furnish their own colonies with the
best of the Negroes and suffer Englishmen to purchase their Refuse only
and that too at an exorbitant prate? Our neighbours
Nations wisely consider their African trade in the light of a nursery to
their colonies and plantations in America and as such they studiously
cherish and preserve (it). . .
5 Is it not evident that here is not a man in
this Kingdom, who in proportion to his rank, the Community does not more
or less partake of the Benefits of the African Company's Forts and
Castle in Africa?
John. The Journal and Essays of John Woolman. Rancocas Edition.
Gummere, Amelia Mott, ed. Philadelphia: Friends' Book Store and London:
Friends' Bookshop, 1922. Pages 496-503. On The Slave Trade (1774)
departing from the Truth as it is in Jesus, through introducing Ways of
Life attended with unnecessary Expences, many Wants have arisen, the
Minds of People have been employ'd in studying to get Wealth, and in
this Pursuit, some departing from Equity, have retain'd a Profession of
Religion; others have look'd at their Example, and thereby been
stengthen'd to proceed further in the same Way: Thus many having
encourag'd the Trade of taking Men from Africa and selling them as
It hath been computed that near One Hundred Thousand Negroes have, of
late Years, been taken annually from that Coast, by Ships employed in
the English trade.
As I have travell'd on religious Visits in some Parts of America, I have
seen many of these People under the Command of Overseers, in painful
I have beheld them as Gentiles, under People professing Christianity,
not only kept ignorant of the Holy Scriptures, but under great
Provocations to Wrath; of whom it may truly be said, They that rule
over them make them to howl,and the Holy Name is abundantly blasphemed.
Where Children are taught to read the Sacred Writings, while young, and
exampled in Meekness and Humility, it is often helpful to them; nor is
this any more than a Debt due from us to a succeeding Age. But where
Youth are pinched for want of the Necessaries of Life, forced to labour
hard under the harsh Rebukes of rigorous Overseers, and many Times
endure unmerciful Whippings: In such an Education, how great are the
Disadvantages they lie under! And how forcible do these Things work
against the Increase of the Government of the Prince of Peace!
Humphrey Smith, in his works, p. 125(1), speaking of the tender Feeling
of the love of God in his Heart when he was a Child, said, "By the
violent wrathful Nature that ruled in others, was my Quietness
disturbed, and Anger begotten in me toward them yet that of God in me
was not wholly overcome, but his Love was felt in my Heart, and great
was my Grief when the Earthly-mindedness and wrathful Nature in others
so provoked me, that I was estranged from it.
"And this I write as a Warning to Parents and Others, that in the
fear of the living God, you may train up the Youth, and may not be a
Means of bringing them into such Alienation."
Many are the Vanities and Luxuries of the present Age, and in labouring
to support a Way of living conformable to the present World, the
Departure from that Wisdom that is pure and peaceable, hath been great.
Under the Sense of deep Revolt, and an overflowing Steam of
Unrighteousness, my Life has often been a Life of Mourning, and tender
Desires are raised in me, that the Nature of this Practice may be laid
to the Heart.
I have read some Books by People who were personally acquainted with the
Manner of getting Slaves in Africa.
I have had verbal Relations of this Nature from several Negroes brought
from Africa, who have learned to talk English.
I have sundry Times heard Englishmen speak on this Subject, who have
been in Africa on Business, and from all these Accounts, it appears
evident that great Violence is committed, and much Blood shed in Africa
When three or four Hundred Slaves are put in the Hold of a Vessel in a
hot Climate, their breathing soon affects the Air. Were that Number of
free People to go Passengers, with all Things proper for their Voyage,
there would Inconvenience arise from the greatness of Number; but Slaves
are taken by Violence, and frequently endeavour to kill the white
People, that they may return to their Native Land. Hence they are
frequently kept under some Sort of Confinement, by means of which a
Scent ariseth in the Hold of a Ship, and Distempers often break out
amongst them, of which many die. Of this tainted Air in the Hold of
Ships freighted with Slaves, I have had several Accounts, some in Print,
and some verbal, and all agree that the Scent is grievous. When these
People are sold in America, and in the Islands, they are commonly made
to labour in a Manner more servile and constant, than that which they
were used to at Home, That with Grief, with different Diet from what had
been common with the, and with hard Labour, some Thousands are computed
to die every Year, in what is called the Seasoning.
Thus it appears evident, that great Numbers of these People are brought
every Year to an untimely End; many of them being such who never injured
Where the Innocent suffer under hard-hearted Men, even unto Death, and
the Channels of Equity are so obstructed, that the Cause of the
Sufferers in not judged in Righteousness, the Land is polluted with
Blood. Numb. xxxv. 33.
Where Blood hath been shed unrighteously, and remains unattoned for, the
Cry thereof is very piercing.
Under the humbling Dispensations of Divine Providence, this Cry hath
deeply affected my Heart, and I feel a Concern to open, as I may be
enabled, that which lieth heavy on my Mind.
When the Iniquity of the house of Israel and of Judah was
exceeding great great, when the Land was defiled with blood, and the
City full of Perverseness, Ezek ix. 9. some were found sighing
and crying for the Abominations of the times. and such who live
under a right Feeling of our Condition as a Nation these I trust will be
sensible that the Lord at this Day doth call to Mourning, thou many are
ignorant of it. So powerful are bad Customs when they become general,
that People growing bold thro' the Examples one of another, have often
been unmoved at the most serious Warnings.
Our blessed Saviour speaking of the People of the old World, said, They
eat, they drank, they married, and were given in Marriage, until the Day
that Noah went into the Ark, and the Flood came and destroy'd them all.
He also spake concerning the People of Sodom, who were represented by
the Prophet as haughty, luxurious, and oppressive: this was the sin
of Sodom, Pride, Fullness of Bread, and Abundance of Idleness was found
in her, and in her Daughters; neither did she strengthen the Hand of the
Poor and Needy. Ezek. XVI.49.
Now in a Revolt so deep as this, when much Blood has been shed
unrighteously, in carrying on the Slave Trade, and in supporting the
Practice of keeping Slaves, which at this Day in unattoned for, and
crieth from the Earth, and from the Seas against the Oppressor.
While this Practice is continued, and, under a great Load of Guilt there
is more unrighteousness committed, the State of Things is very moving.
There is a Love which stands in Nature; and a Parent beholding his Child
in Misery, hath a Feeling of the Affliction, but in Divine Love, the
Heart is enlarged towards Mankind universally, and prepar'd to
sympathize with Strangers, though in the lowest Stations in Life. Of
this the Prophet appears to have had a feeling, when he said, Have we
not all one Father? Hath not one God created us? Why then do we deal
treacherously every Man with his Brother in prophaning the Covenant of
He who of old heard the Groans of the Children of Israel under the
hard Task-masters in Egypt, I trust hath looked down from his Holy
Habitation on the Miseries of these deeply oppress'd people.
Many Lives have been shortened through extreme Oppression, while they
labour'd to support Luxury and Worldly Greatness; and though many People
in outward Prosperity may think little of those Things, yet the gracious
Creator hath regard to the Cries of the Innocent, however unnoticed by
The Lord in the Riches of his Goodness, is leading some unto the Feeling
of the Condition of this People, who cannot rest without labouring as
their Advocates; of which in some Measure I have had Experience: for, in
the Movings of his Love in my Heart, these poor Sufferers have been
brought near me.
The unoffending Aged and Infirm made to labour too hard, kept on a Diet
less comfortable than their week State required, and exposed to great
difficulties under hard-hearted Men, to whose Sufferings I have been a
Witness, and under the Heart-melting Power of Divine Love, their Misery
hath felt to me like the Misery of my Parent.
Innocent Youth taken by Violence from their Native Land, from their
Friends and Acquaintances; put on board Ships with Hearts laden with
Sorrow; exposed to great Hardships at Sea; placed under People, where
their Lives have been attended with great Provocation to Anger and
With the Condition of these Youth, my Mind hath often been affected, as
with the Afflictions of my Children, and in a feeling of the Misery of
these People,and of that great Offense with is minister'd to them, my
Tears have often poured out before the Lord.
That Holy Spirit which affected my Heart when I was a Youth, I trust is
often felt by the Negroes in their Native Land, inclining their Minds to
that which is righteous, and had the professed Followers of Christ in
all their Conduct toward them, manifested a Disposition answerable to
the pure Principle in their Hearts, how might the Holy Name have been
honoured amongst the Gentiles, and how might we have rejoiced in
the fulfilling of that Prophecy, I the Lord love Judgment, I hate
Robbery for Burnt-offerings, and I will direct their Work in Truth, and
make an everlasting Covenant with them. Their Seed shall be known among
the Gentiles and their Offspring amongst the People: All that see
them shall acknowledge them, that they are the Seed which the Lord hath
blesses. Isaiah lxi.8.
But in the present State of things, how contrary is this Practice to
that meek Spirit, in which our Saviour laid down his Life for us, that
all the Ends of the Earth might know Salvation in his Name.
How are the Sufferings of our blessed Redeemer set at nought, and his
Name blasphemed amongst the Gentiles, through the unrighteous
Proceedings of his profess'd Followers!
My Mind hath often been affected, even from the Days of my Youth, under
a Sense of that Marvellous Work, for which God, in infinite Goodness,
sent his Son into the World.
The opening of that Spring of living Waters, which the true Believers in
Christ experience, by which they are redeemed from Pride and
Covetousness, and brought into a State of Meekness, wherein their Hearts
are enlarged in true Love toward their Fellow Creatures universally:
this work to me has been precious, and the Spreading of their Knowledge
of the Truth among the Gentiles, been very desirable. And the
professed Followers of Christ joining in Customs evidently unrighteous,
which manifestly tend to stir up Wrath, and increase Wars and
Desolations, hath often covered my Mind with Sorrow.
If we bring this Matter home, and as Job proposed to his Friends, Put
our Soul in their Soul's stead.
If we consider ourselves and our Children as exposed to the
Hardships which these People lie under in supporting an imaginary
Did we in such Case behold an Increase of Luxury and Superfluity amongst
our Oppressors, and therewith felt an Increase of the Weight of our
Burdens, and expected our Posterity to groan under Oppression after us.
Under all this Misery, had we none to plead our Cause, nor any Hope of
Relief from Man, how would our Cries ascend to the God of the Spirits of
all Flesh, who judgeth the World in Righteousness, and in his own time
is a Refuge for the Oppressed!
If they who thus afflicted us, continued to lay Claim to Religion, and
were assisted in their Business by others, esteemed Pious People, who
through a Friendship with them strengthened their Hands in Tyranny:
In Such a State, when we were Hunger-bitten, and could not have
sufficient Nourishment, but saw them in Fulness pleasing their Taste
with Things fetched from afar:
When we were wearied with Labour, denied the Liberty to rest, and saw
them spending their Time at Ease: When Garments answerable to our
Necessities were denied us, while we saw them clothed in that which was
costly and delicate:
Under such Affliction, how would these painful Feelings rise up as
Witness against their pretended Devotion! And if the Name of their
Religion was mention'd in our Hearing, how would it sound in our Ears
like a Word which signified Self-exaltation, and Hardness of Heart!
Where a Trade is carried on, productive of much Misery, and they who
suffer by it are some Thousand miles off, the Danger is the greater of
not laying their Sufferings to Heart.
In procuring slaves on the Coast of Africa, many Children are stolen
privately; Wars also are encouraged amongst the Negroes, but all is at a
Many Groans arise from dying Men, which we hear not.
Many Cries are uttered by Widows and Fatherless Children, which reach
not our ears.
Many Cheeks are wet with Tears, and Faces sad with unutterable Grief,
which we see not.
Cruel Tyranny is encouraged. The Hands of Robbers are strengthened, and
Thousands reduced to the most abject Slavery, who never injured us.
Were we for the Term of one Year only, to be an Eye-witness to that what
passes in getting these Slaves:
Was the Blood which is there shed to be sprinkled on our Garments:
Were the poor Captives, bound with Thongs, heavy laden with Elephants
Teeth, to pass before our Eyes on their Way to the Sea:
Were their bitter Lamentations Day after Day to ring in our Ears, and
their mournful Cries in the Night to hinder us from Sleeping:
Were we to hear the Sound of the Tumult at Sea, when the Slaves on board
the Ships attempt to kill the English, and behold the Issue of those
What pious Man could be a Witness to these Things, and see a Trade
carried on in this Manner, without being deeply affected with Sorrow?(2)
Through abiding in the Love of Christ, we feel a Tenderness in our
Hearts toward our Fellow Creatures entangled in oppressive Customs; and
a Concern so to walk that our Conduct may not be a Means of strengh'ning
them in Error.
It was the Command of the Lord through Moses, Thou shalt not suffer
Sin upon thy Brother: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy Brother, and
shalt not suffer Sin upon him. Lev.xix.17.
Again; Keep far from a false Matter; and the Innocent and Righteous
slay thou not. Exod.xxiii.7.
The Prophet Isaiah mentions Oppression as that which the true Church in
Time of outward Quiet should not only be clear of, but should be far
from it: Thou shalt be far from oppression, Isaiah liv.14. Now these
Words, far from appear to have an extensive Meaning, and to
convey Instruction in regard to that of which Solomon speaks, Though
Hand join in Hand, yet the Wicked shall not go unpunished.
It was a Complaint against one of old, When thou sawest a Thief,
thou consentedst with him.
The Prophet Jeremiah represents the Degrees of Preparation toward
Idolatrous Sacrifice, in the Similitude of a work carried on by
Children, Men, and Women. The Children gather Wood, the Fathers
kindle the Fire, and the Women knead the Dough to bake Cakes for the
Queen of Heaven, Jer.vii.18.
It was a Complaint of the Lord against Israel, through his Prophet
Ezekiel, that they strengthen'd the Hands of the Wicked, and made the
Hearts of the Righteous sad. Ezek.xiii.12.
Some Works of Iniquity carried on by the People were represented by the
Prophet Hosea, in the Similitude of Ploughing, Reaping, and eating the
Fruit: You have ploughed Wickedness, reaped Iniquity, eaten the Fruit
of Lying, because thou didst trust in thy own Way, to the Multitude of
might Men, Hosea x.13.
(1) A/Collection/of the Several Writings and/Faithful Testimonies/of
that/ Suffering Servant of god and Patient/Follower of
the Lamb,/Humphrey Smith/who Dyed a Prisoner of the
Testimony of Jesus/in the Winchester Common-Gaol, the
4th day of the 3d Month, in the Year 1663. This
Quotation is from Andrew Sowles Edition, London, 1683. Quarto.
(2) Various Editions omit the concluding paragraphs below. The first
edition of 1774 contains them, and agrees therein with
a note in the York MS. . .
Clarkson T, Essay on Impolicy of the
African Slave Trade 1788
Thomas, The History of the Rise, Progress and Accomplishment of the Abolition of
the African Slave Trade London 1808
Peter C, The African Slave Trade and its Suppression - Bibliography, Frank Cass,
Averil, The Last Year of the English Slave Trade, Liverpool, 1907
John, Thoughts upon slavery first publ 1774 (In Works, London 1872, M 59-79)