24: An Account from Bristol in Old England: The Great Numbers of Slaves Their Vessels Fetch Yearly to Bring to West Indies

A banner is taped over the inscription on the pedestal of the toppled statue of Edward Colston in Bristol, England, Monday, June 8, 2020.

The 30th of the Tenth Month [December] 1736:

I did not know but I had done scribbling about slave-keeping,  but this day calling to see our Friend J.R. at his house in Philadelphia, who was newly arrived from Bristol, in Old England, and he speaking of the Negro or Guinea trade said, while he was in Bristol four or five weeks, there was fitted out for that trade nine sail[ing vessels].

And he told me, according to account he had there, that there goes from Bristol about 50 sail in a year for Negroes. And I suppose some plain-coat men [i.e., Quakers] are concerned in it there as well as at Liverpool, Barbados, and elsewhere.

Now, if each of these 50 vessels carries 300—some carry many more—it comes to 15,000 souls yearly stolen by Bristol men. And if there should be four times as many stolen by vessels from London, Liverpool, North Britain, Ireland, Barbados, Jamaica, and some other places—as I suppose there may—it comes to 75,000 yearly stolen and kept in iron furnaces.

So that in 50 years and more, some Friends have been concerned in this practice, beside what  has been increased by generation: comes to 3,825,000 [stolen souls]. Is not this ten times worse than the sins of Sodom and Egypt, Turk, Jew, or infidel?

So I inquired of the Friend: what they did with this or such vast numbers of slaves? He said they carried them to Jamaica generally, and sold them to the Spaniards for the mines, or anybody else, I suppose, that will give most for them, although they keep them and their posterity in their cursed hellish iron furnace forevermore.

O brave Christians for the devil! And Protestants too! Is this the way to convince Papists [Catholics], Turks [Muslims], Jews, and infidels [unbelievers] of their notorious wickedness and inhumanity, when we encourage them in it all we can by supplying them with slaves for our cursed gain?

Several eminent Friends amongst us of great note have boasted in my hearing of having servants or slaves born in their house, alluding to Abraham for keeping slaves. But I cannot find in all the scriptures that Abraham ever had any slaves. Servants he might have born in his house, and bought with money for a time. But I do not believe that righteous, perfect, good man would keep his fellow creatures in bondage—them and their offspring—for evermore. I have a better opinion of that tender-hearted, good, virtuous man that was styled the father of the faithful by the lip of truth—and that rightly too, for so he was.

But the unfaithful, hypocritical Pharisees would, for a cloak to their wickedness, have him to [be] their father. But Truth told them: if they were Abraham’s children, they would do the works of Abraham. But now ye are of your father the devil, and his works ye will do. May not Truth say the same thing now of our preachers and elders: keepers and traders in slaves for nothing but their ungodly gain?

But what will our wicked slave-keepers get by flying beyond Gospel and Law to Abraham, to patronize their cursed infernal practice? But what Truth said to the Jews, it will say to them: Ye are of your father the devil.