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William Evans.

The Friends' library: comprising journals, doctrinal treatieses, & other writings of members of the religious Society of Freinds online

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and regard should be exercised toward them ;
and that no imperfect, arbitrary power should
prevent the cordial effects of that sympathy,
which exists in the minds of well-met pairs,
to each other, and toward their offspring.

In our species the mutual ties of affection
are more rational and durable than in others
below us ; and the care and labour of raising
our offspring are much greater. The satis-
faction arising to us in their innocent compa-
ny, and in their advances from one rational
improvement to another, is considerable, when
two are thus joined, and their affections sin-
cere. It however happens among slaves, that
they are oflen situate in different places ; and
their seeing each other depends on the will of
men, liable to human passions, and a bias in
judgment; who, with views of self-interest,
may keep them apart more than is right.
Being absent from each other, and oHen with
other company, there is a danger of their af-
fections being alienated, jealousies arising, the
happiness otherwise resulting from the care of
their offspring frustrated, and the comforts of
marriage destroyed. These things being con-
sidered closely, as happening to a near friend,
will appear to be hard and painful.

He who reverently observes that goodness
manifested by our gracious Creator toward
the various species of beings in this world,
will see, that in our frame and constitution it
is clearly shown that innocent men, capable
to manage for themselves, were not intended
to be slaves.

A person lately travelling amongst the ne-
groes near Senegal, has this remark; "Which
way so ever I turned my eyes on this pleasant
spot, I beheld a perfect image of pure nature ;
an agreeable solitude, bounded on every side
by charming landscapes, the rural situation of
cottages in the midst of trees ; the ease and
indolence of the negroes reclining under the
shade of their spreading foliage ; the simpli-
city of their dress and manners ; the whole
revived in my mind the idea of our first pa-



rents, and I seemed to contemplate the world
in its primitive state." M. Adanson, page 55.
Some negroes in these parts, who have had
an agreeable education, have manifested a
brightness of understanding equal to many
of us. A remark of this kind we find in Bos-
man, page 328. << The negroes of Fida, saith
he, are so accurately quick in their merchan-
dise accounts, that they easily reckon as just-
ly and quickly in their heads only, as we with
the assistance of pen and ink, though the sum
amounts to several thousands."

Through the force of long custom, it ap-
pears needful to speak in relation to colour.
Suppose a white child, bom of parents of the
meanest sort, who died and lefl him an in-
fant, falls into the hands of a person, who
endeavours to keep him a slave, some men
would account him an unjust man in doing
so, who yet appear easy while many black
people, of honest lives and good abilities, are
enslaved in a nmnner more shocking than
the case here supposed. This is owing chiefly
to the idea of slavery being connected with
the black colour, and liberty with the white ;
and where false ideas are twisted into our
minds, it is with difficulty we get fairly disen-
tangled.

A traveller who in cloudy weather misses
his way, makes many turns while he is lost, yet
still forms in his mind the bearing and situation
of places, and though the ideas are wrong,
they fix as fast as if they were right. Find-
ing how things are, we see our mistake ; yet
the force of reason, with repeated observations
on places and things, do not soon remove those
false notions so fostened upon us, but it will
seem in the imagination as if the course of the
sun was altered; and though by recollectioD
we are assured it is not, yet those ideas do not
suddenly leave us.

Selfishness being indulged, clouds the un-
derstanding; and where selfish men for a
long time proceed on their way without op-
position, the deceiveableness of unrighteous-
ness gets so rooted in their intellects, that a
candid examination of things relating to self-
interest is prevented; and in thiscircumstance«
some who would not agree to make a slave of
a person whose colour is like their own, ap-
pear easy in making slaves of others of a dif-
ferent colour, though their understandings and
morals are equal to the generality of men of
their own colour.

The colour of a man avails nothing, in mat-
ters of right and equity. Consider colour in
relation to treaties; by which disputes teween
nations are sometimes settled. And should
the Father of us all so dispose things, that
treaties with black men should sometimes be



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LIFE OF JOHN WOOLMAN.



409



necessary, how then would it appear amongst
the princes and ambassadors, to insist on the
prerogative of the white colour?

Whence is it that men, who believe in a
righteous Omnipotent Being, to whom all na-
tions stand equally related, and are equally
accountable, remain so easy in it; but b^use
the ideas of negroes and slaves are so inter-
woven in the mind, that they do not discuss
this matter with that candour and freedom of
thought, which the case justly calls for.

To come at a right feeling of their condi-
tion, requires humble serious thinking; for
in their present situation, they have but lit-
tle to engage our natural auction in their
favour.

Had we a son or a daughter involved in
the same case, in which many of them are, it
would alarm us and make us feel their con-
dition without seekins for it. The adversity
of an intimate friend will excite our compas-
sion, while that of others equally good, in the
like trouble will but little afiect us.

Again, the man in worldly honour whom
we consider as our superior, treating us with
kindness and generosity, begets a return of
gratitude and friendship toward him. We
may receive as great benefits from men a de-
gree lower than ourselves, in the common way
of reckoning, and feel ourselves less engaged
in favour of them. Such is our condition by
nature, and these things being narrowly watch-
ed and examined, will be found to center in
self-love.

The blacks seem far from being our kins-
folks, and did we find an agreeable disposition
and sound understanding in some of them,
which appeared as a good foundation for a
true friendship between us, the disgrace aris-
ing from an open friendship with a person of
so vile a stock, in the common esteem, would
naturally tend to hinder it. They have nei-
ther honours, riches, outward magnificence
nor power; their dress coarse, and oAen rag-
ged, their employ drudgery and much in
the dirt, they have little or nothing at com-
mand, but must wait upon and work for
others, to obtain the necessaries of life; so
that in their present situation, there is not
much to engage the friendship, or move the
affection of selfish men. But such who live in
the spirit of true charity, sympathise with the
af&icted even in the lowest stations of life.

Such is the kindness of our Creator, that
people applying their minds to sound wis-
dom, may in general with moderate exer-
cise live comfortably, where no misapplied
power hinders it. We in these parts have
cause gratefully to acknowledge it. But where
men leave the true use of things, their lives

Voi. IV.— No. 11.



become less calm, and have less of real hap-
piness in them.

Many are desirous of purchasing and keep-
ing slaves, that they may live in some mea-
sure conformably to those customs of the
times, which have in them a tincture of lux-
ury; for when we, in the least degree, de-
part from that use of the creatures, for which
the Creator of all things intended tliem, there
luxury begins.

And if we consider this way of life seri-
ously, we shall see there is nothing in it suf-
ficient to induce a wise man to choose it, be-
fore a plain, simple way of living. If we
examine stately buildings and equipage, de-
licious food, superfine clothes, silks and lin-
ens ; if we consider the splendour of choice
metal fastened upon raiment, and the most
showy inventions of men, it will yet appear
that the humble-minded man, who is con-
tented with the true use of houses, food and
garments, and cheerfully exerciseth himself
agreeably to his station in civil society, to
earn them, acts more reasonably, and dis-
covers more soundness of understanding in
his conduct, than such who lay heavy bur-
dens on others, to support themselves in a
luxurious way of living.

George Buchanan, in his history of Scot-
land, page 62, tells of some ancient inhabi-
tants of Britain, who were derived from a
people that ** had a way of marking their bo-
dies, as some said, with instruments of iron,
with variety of pictures, and with animals of
all shapes, and wear no garments, that they
should not hide their pictures; and were there-
fore called Picts."

Did we see those people shrink with pain,
for a considerable time together, under the
point or edge of this iron instrument, and
their bodies all bloody with the operation;
did we see them sometimes naked, sufilering
with cold, and yet refuse to put on garments^
that those imaginary ensigns of grandeur
might not be concealed, it is likely we should
pity their folly and fondness for those things :
but if we candidly compare their conduct, in
that case, with some conduct amongst our-
selves, will it not appear that our folly is the
greatest ?

In true Gospel simplicity, free from all
wrong use of things, a spirit which breathes
peace and good will is cherished ; but when
we aspire after imaginary grandeur, and ap-
ply to selfish means to attain our end, this
desire, in its original, is the same with the
Picts in cutting figures on their bodies; but
the evil consequences attending our proceed-
ings are the greatest.

A covetous mind, which seeks opportunity
52



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LIFE OF JOHN WOOLMAN.



to exalt itself, is a great enemy to true har-
mony in a country : envy and grudging usu-
ally accompany this disposition, and it tends
to stir up its likeness in others. And where
this disposition ariseth so high, as to embolden
us to look upon honest industrious men as our
own property during life, and to keep them to
hard labour, to support us in those customs
which have not their foundation in right rea-
son, or lo use any means of oppression ; a
haughty spirit is cherished on one side, and
the desire of revenge frequently excited on the
other, till the inhabitants of the land are ripe
for great commotion and trouble; and thus
luxury and oppression have the seeds of war
and desolation in them.



Same account of the stave-trade^ from the writ"
ings of persons toho have been at the places
where they are first purchased^ viz.

BosMAN on Guinea, who was a factor for
the Dutch about sixteen years in that country,
(page 339) thus remarks : ** But since I have
so oQen mentioned that commerce, I shall de-
scribe how it is managed by our factors. The
first business of one of our factors, when he
comes to Fida, is to satisfy the customs of the
king, and the great men, which amounts to
about one hundred pounds, in Guinea value,
as the goods must sell there. Afler which we
have free license to trade, which is published
throughout the whole land by the crier. And
yet before we can deal with any person, we
are obliged to buy the king's whole stock of
slaves, at a set price ; which is commonly one
third or fourth higher than ordinary. Afler
which we have free leave to deal with all his
subjects, of what rank so ever. But if there
happen to be no stock of slaves, the factor
must resolve to run the risk of trusting the
inhabitants with goods, to the value of one or
two hundred slaves ; which commodities they
send into the inland country, in order to buy
with them slaves at all markets, and that some-
times two hundred miles deep in the country :
for you ought to be informed, that markets of
men are here kept in the same manner as they
of beasts are with us.

*^ Most of the slaves which are ofTered to us,
are prisoners of war, which are sold by the
victors as their booty. When these slaves
come to Fida, they are put in prisons all to-
gether ; and when we treat concerning them,
they are all brought out in a large plain,
where, by our surgeons, whose province it is,
they are thoroughly examined, even to the
smallest member, and that naked, both men
and women, without the least distinction or
modesty. Those which are approved as eood,



are set on one side. The invalids and maim-
ed being thrown out, the remainder are num-
bered, and it is entered who delivered them:
in the mean while a burning iron, with the
arms or name of the company, lies in the fire,
with which ours are marked on the breast.
This is done that we may distinguish then) from
the slaves of the English, French, or others.
When we have agreed with the owners of the
slaves, they are returned to their prisons,
where, from that time forward, they are kept
at our charge, cost us two-pence a day a slave,
which serves to subsist them, like our crimi-
nals, on bread and water: so that, to save
charges, we send them on board our ships
the first opportunity ; before which their mas-
ters strip them of all they have on their backs,
80 that they come aboard stark naked, as well
women as men ; in which condition they are
obliged to continue, if the master of the ship
is not so charitable, which he commonly is,
as to bestow something on them, to cover their
nakedness."

Same author, page 310. *' The inhabitants
of Popo, as well as those of Goto, depend on
plunder and the slave trade, in both which
they very much exceed the latter ; for being
endowed with more courage^ they rob more
successfully, and by that means increase their
trade: notwithstanding which, to freight a
vessel with slaves, requires some months at-
tendance. In the year 1697, in three days
time I could get but three slaves; but they as-
sured me, that if I would have patience for
other three days only, they should be able to
deliver me one or two hundred."

Bosman, page 440. " We cast anchor at
Cape Mizurada, but not one negro coming
on board ; I went on shore, and ^^ing desir-
ous to be informed why they did not come on
board, was answered. That about two months
before, the English had been there with two
vessels, and had ravaged the country, destroy-
ed all their canoes, plundered their houses,
and carried off some of their people for slaves;
upon which the remainder fled to the inland
country. They tell us, they live in peace
with all their neighbours, and have no notion
of any other enemy than the English ; of
which nation they had taken some then : and
publicly declared, that they would endeavour
to get as many of them, as the two-mentioned
ships had carried off of their natives. These
unhappy English were in danger of being sa-
crificed to the memory of their friends, which
some of their nation carried off."

Extracts from a collection of voyages. VoL 1.

The author, a popish missionary, speaking
of his departing from the negro country to
Brazil, saith, ** I remember the duke of £^ni-



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LIFE OF JOHN WOOLMAN.



411



bay, a negro chief, one day sent me several
blacks to be my slaves, which I would not
accept ; but sent them back to him. I after-
wards told him, I came not into his country
to make slaves ; but rather to deliver those
from the slavery of the devil, whom he kept
in miserable thraldom. The ship I went
aboard was loaded with elephants' teeth, and
slaves to the number of six hundred and
eighty men, women and children. It was a
pitiful sight to behold how all these people
were bestowed. The nnen were standing in
the hold, fastened one to another with stakes,
for fear they should rise and kill the whites :
the women were between the decks, and the
children in the steerage, pressed together like
herrings in a barrel ; which caused an intole-
rable heat and stench." Page 507.

*^ It is now time, saith the same author, to
speak of a brutish custom these people have
amongst them in making slaves; which I take
not to be lawful for any person of a good con-
science to buy."

He then describes how women betray men
into slavery, and adds, ^' Others go up into
the inland country, and through pretence of
jurisdiction, seize men upon any trifling of-
fence, and sell them for slaves." Page 537.

The author of this treatise, conversing with
a person of good credit, was informed by him,
that in bis youth, while in England, he was
minded to come to America, and happening
on a vessel bound for Guinea, and from thence
into America, he, with a view to see Africa,
went on board her, and continued with them
in their voyage, and so came into this coun-
try. Among other circumstances he related
these. << They purchased on the coast about
three hundred slaves ; some of them he un-
derstood were captives of war, and some
stolen by other n^roes privately. When
tbey bad got many slaves on board, but were
still on that coast, a plot was laid by an old
negro, notwithstanding the men had irons on
tbeir hands and feet, to kill the English and
take the vessel ,* which being discovered, the
man was hanged, and many of the slaves
made to shoot at him as he hung up.

** Another slave was charged with having
a design to kill the English ; and the captain
spoke to him in relation to the charge brought
against him, as he stood on deck; whereupon
he immediately threw himself into the sea, and
was drowned.

'* Several negroes confined on board, were
so extremely uneasy with their condition, that
afler many endeavours used, they could never
make them eat nor drink after they came in
the vessel ; but in a desperate resolution starved
themselves to death, behaving toward the last
like mad-men."



In Randall's Geography, printed 1744, we
are informed, " That in a time of full peace
nothing is more common than for the negroes
of one nation to steal those of another, and
sell them to the Europeans. It is thought that
the English transmit annually nearly fifty
thousand of these unhappy creatures ; and
the other European nations together, about
two hundred thousand more."

It is throuffh the goodness of God that the
reformation U'om gross idolatry and barbarity
hath been thus far efiected. If we consider
our condition as Christians, and the benefits
we enjoy, and compare them with the condi-
tion of those people, and consider that our
nation trading with them for their country
produce, has had an opportunity of imparting
useful instructions to them, and remember
that but little pains have been taken therein,
it must look like an indifierence in us. But
when we reflect on a custom the most shock-
ing of any amongst them, and remember, that
with a view to outward gain we have joined
as parties in it; that our concurrence with
them in their barbarous proceedings, has tend-
ed to harden them in cruelty, and been a means
of increasing calamities in their country, we
must own that herein we have acted contrary
to the precepts of Christ and the examples of
those worthies whose lives and substance were
spent in propagating Truth and righteousness
amongst the heathen. When Saul, by the
hand of Doeg, slew four-score priests at once,
he had a jealousy that one of them at least
was confederate with David, whom he consi-
dered as his enemy. Herod slaying all the
male children in Bethlehem of two years old
and under, was an act of uncommon cruelty ;
but he supposed there was a male child there,
within that age, who was likely to be king of
the Jews, and finding no way to destroy him,
but by destroying them all, thought this the
most effectual means to secure the kingdom to
his own family.

When the sentence against the Protestants
of Marindol, dec, in France, was put in exe-
cution, great numbers of people fled to the
wilderness; amongst whom were ancient peo-
ple, women great with child, and others with
babes in their arms, who endured calamities
grievous to relate, and in the end some perish-
ed with hunger, and many were destroyed by
fire and sword ; but they had this objection
against them, That they obstinately persisted
in opposition to the holy mother church, and
being hereticks, it was right to work their ruin
and extirpation, and raze out their memory
from among men. Fox's Acts and Monu-
ments, page 646.

In favour of those cruelties, every one had
what they deemed a plea. These scenes of



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413



LIFE OP JOHN WOOLMAN.



blood and cruelty among the barbarous in-
habitants of Guinea, are not less terrible than
those now mentioned. They are continued
from one age to another, and we make our-
selves parties and fellow- helpers in them; nor
do I see that we have any plea in our favour
more plausible than the plea of Saul, of Herod,
or of the French, in those slaughters.

Many who are parties in this trade, by keep-
ing slaves with views of self-interest, were
they to go as soldiers in one of these inland
expeditions to catch slaves, must necessarily
grow dissatisfied with such employ, or cease
to profess their religious principles. And
though the first and most striking part of the
scene is done at a great distance, and by other
hands, yet every one who is acquainted with
the circumstances, and notwithstanding joins
in it, for the sake of gain only, must in the
nature of things, be chargeable with the others.

Should we consider ourselves present as
spectators, when cruel negroes privately catch
innocent children, who are employed in the
fields ; hear their lamentable cries, under the
most terrifying apprehensions ; or should we
look upon it as happening in our own families,
having our children carried ofT by savages,
we must needs own, that such proceedings
are contrary to the nature of Christianity.
Should we meditate on the wars which are
greatly increased by this trade, and on that af-
fliction which many thousands live in, through
apprehensions of being taken or slain ; on the
terror and amazement that villages are in,
when surrounded by these troops of enter-
prisers; on the great pain and misery of
groaning dying men, who get wounded in
those skirmishes; we shall necessarily see,
that it is impossible to be parties in such a
trade, on the motives of gain, and retain our
innocence.

Should we consider the case of multitudes
of those people, who in a fruitful soil, and
hot climate, with a little labour raise grain,
roots and pulse to eat ; spin and weave cot-
ton, and fasten together the large feathers of
fowls, to cover their nakedness; many of
whom, in much simplicity live inofiensively
in their cottages, and take great comfort in
rearing up their children.

Should we contemplate their circumstances,
when suddenly attacked, and labour to under-
stand their inexpressible anguish of soul who
survive the conflict : should we think on inof-
fensive women, who fled at the alarm, and at
their return saw that village in which they
and their acquaintance were raised up, and
had pleasantly spent their youthful days, now
lying in gloomy desolation ; some shocked at
finding the mangled bodies of their near friends
amongst the slain ; others bemoaning the ab-



sence of a brother, a sister, a child, or a whole
family of children, who by cruel men, are
bound and carried to market to be sold, with-
out the least hopes of seeing them again : add
to this, the afflicted condition of these poor
captives, who are separated from family con-
nections, and all the comforts arising from
friendship and acquaintance, carried aooongst
a people of a strange language, to be parted
from their fellow-captives, put to labour in a
manner more servile and wearisome than
what they were used to, with many sorrowful
circumstances attending their slavery; we
must necessarily see, that it belongs not to
the followers of Christ to be parties in such
a trade, on the motives of outward gain.

Though there were wars and desolatioDS
among the negroes, before the Europeans be-
gan to trade there for slaves, yet now the ca-
lamities are greatly increased, so many thou-
sands being annually brought from thence;
and we by purchasing them with views of
self-interest, are become parties with them,
and accessary to that increase.

In this case, we are not joining against an
enemy who is fomenting discords on our con-
tinent, and using all possible means to make
slaves of us and our children ; but against a
people who have not injured us.

If those who were spoiled and wronged,
should at length make slaves of their oppres-
sors, and continue slavery to their poaterity,



Online LibraryWilliam EvansThe Friends' library: comprising journals, doctrinal treatieses, & other writings of members of the religious Society of Freinds → online text (page 89 of 104)