15: The Best and Only Way for Friends or Others That Now Have Slaves to Discharge Themselves of Them

Ninth Month [November] 1736, as I sat in Concord Meeting House: It was their Quarterly Meeting. I may say it was [a] sweet and comfortable time to me. It came into and arose in my mind, in love of Truth, that if our slave-keepers had been—or now would be:

  • faithful to God the Truth; 
  • and would bring up their Negroes to some learning, reading, and writing; 
  • and endeavor to the utmost of their power in the sweet love of Truth to instruct and teach them the principles of truth and righteousness; 
  • and learn them some honesty trade or employment; 
  • and then set them free; 
  • and all the time Friends are teaching of them, let them know that they intend to let them go free in a very reasonable time; 
  • and that our religious principle will not allow of such severity as to keep them in everlasting bondage and slavery.

This might, according to my way of thinking, beget such love and tenderness in them towards their masters or mistresses—and to the blessed Truth for their sakes—that it might be a means to convince some of them [of God the Truth].

And should they come to receive the pure Truth in the love of it—as, blessed be the Lord, many of us have—and, in that sweet love which is constraining, come under a concern and necessity to go and visit their brethren of their own color and country and language, and preach the Gospel of eternal salvation unto them from sin and captivity, both of body and soul: this would be a glorious work indeed, and well worth our Friends’ pains, charge, and time that they might spend about it, and the best compensation to God and man, as I think, that they can possibly make for being so long in a practice that has so much wickedness attending of it continually.

Isaiah 61:1: As to this chapter, it is very excellent prophesied of concerning the true anointing, which is the Spirit and is God and was in Isaiah, and filled him with love to preach good tidings to the meek, and is of the same nature in all people in all colors and countries.

The many hundreds of thousands that are now in slavery—were they at liberty as we are, had the same education, learning, conversation, books, sweet communion in our religious assemblies—I believe many of them would exceed many of their tyrant masters in piety, virtue, and godliness, and their bright genius, which I know they have, would be enlivened. For I have conversed with many of them: for liberty is life and slavery is death—nay, the very thoughts of it to the right-thinking animal, as [to] man or woman.

Isaiah 61:1: Is this preaching glad tidings to the meek, as many of them are, and bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and opening of the prison to them that are bound, and yet keep them in double bondage, body and soul, them and theirs, forever more? If there be greater contradiction under the sun, many dear and tender Friends are mistaken, as well as myself!

Isaiah 61:2: But how do slave merchants proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord? To their slaves the day of Vengeance they may, and a long day it is. But I believe the Lord will repay it, though he suffers it long. But I pray and beseech you—you hard-hearted ministers of all persuasions in church and state that are called Christians—how do you comfort all that mourn and are in misery as great, for aught I can learn, as any are that be under the very worst of Turks [Muslims], Jews, or infidels in the known world?

But my dear and tender Friends, how does this cruelty and partiality agree with our principles as a people—which have been preaching up perfections in holiness of life for near a hundred years and the universal love of God to all people of all colors and countries without respect of persons? Have we forgot this blessed testimony for which our dear Friends suffered in Old and New England?