Some considerations on the keeping of Negroes. Recommended to the professors of Christianity of every denomination.
Woolman, John, 1720-1772.
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Forasmuch as ye did it to the least of these my Brethren, ye did it unto me,

Matt. xxv. 40.

AS Many Times there are different Motives to the same Actions; and one does that from a generous Heart, which another does for selfish Ends:—The like may be said in this Case.

THERE are various Circumstances a|mongst them that keep Negroes, and dif|ferent Page  2 Ways by which they fall under their Care; and, I doubt not, there are many well disposed Persons amongst them who desire rather to manage wise|ly and justly in this difficult Matter, than to make Gain of it.

BUT the general Disadvantage which these poor Africans lie under in an en|light'ned Christian Country, having of|ten fill'd me with real Sadness, and been like undigested Matter on my Mind, I now think it my Duty, through Divine Aid, to offer some Thoughts thereon to the Consideration of others.

WHEN we remember that all Nations are of one Blood, Gen. iii. 20. that in this World we are but Sojourners, that we are subject to the like Afflictions and Infirmities of Body, the like Disorders and Frailties in Mind, the like Tempta|tions, the same Death, and the same Judgment, and, that the Alwise Being is Judge and Lord over us all, it seems to raise an Idea of a general Brother+hood, and a Disposition easy to be touch+ed with a Feeling of each others Afflicti+ons: But when we forget those Thing and look chiefly at our outward Circum|stances, Page  3 in this and some Ages past, con|stantly retaining in our Minds the Di|stinction betwixt us and them, with re|spect to our Knowledge and Improve|ment in Things divine, natural and art|ificial, our Breasts being apt to be filled with fond Notions of Superiority; there is Danger of erring in our Conduct to|ward them.

WE allow them to be of the same Spe|cies with ourselves, the Odds is, we are in a higher Station, and enjoy greater Favours than they: And when it is thus, that our heavenly Father endoweth some of his Children with distinguished Gifts, they are intended for good Ends; but if those thus gifted are thereby lifted up above their Brethren, not considering themselves as Debtors to the Weak, nor behaving themselves as faithful Stewards, none who judge impartially can suppose them free from Ingratitude.

WHEN a People dwell under the libe|ral Distribution of Favours from Heaven, it behoves them carefully to inspect their Ways, and consider the Purposes for which those Favours were bestowed, lest, through Forgetfulness of God, and Page  4 Misusing his Gifts, they incur his heavy Displeasure, whose Judgments are just and equal, who exalteth and humbleth to the Dust as he seeth meet.

IT appears by Holy Record that Men under high Favours have been apt to err in their Opinions concerning others. Thus Israel, according to Description of the Prophet, Isai. lxv. 5. when ex|ceedingly corrupted and degenerated, yet remembred they were the chosen People of God, and could say, Stand by thyself, come not near me, for I am belier than thou. That this was no chance Language, but their common Opinion of other People, more fully appears by con|sidering the Circumstances which attend|ed when God was beginning to fulfil his precious Promises concerning the Gather|ing of the Gentiles.

THE Most High, in a Vision, undecei|ved Peter, first prepared his Heart to be|lieve; and, at the House of Cornelius, shewed him of a Certainty that God was no Respector of Persons.

THE Effusion of the Holy Ghost upon a People with whom they, the Jewish Christians, would not so much as cat, Page  5 was strange to them: All they of the Cirqumcision were astonished to see it; and the Apostles and Brethren of Judea contended with Peter about it, till he, having rehearsed the whole Matter, and fully shewn that the Father's Love was unlimited, they are thereat sttuck with Admiration, and cry out; Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted Repentance unto Life!

THE Opinion of peculiar Favours be|ing confined to them, was deeply rooted, or else the above Instance had been less strange to them, for these Reasons: First, They were generally acquainted with the Writings of the Prophets, by whom this Time was repeatedly spoken of, and pointed at. Secondly, Our Blessed Lord shortly before expresly said, I have other Sheep, not of this Fold, them also must I bring, &c. Lastly, His Words to them after his Resurrection, at the very Time of his Ascention, Ye shall be Witnesses, to me, not only in Jerusalem, Judea, and Sa|maria, but to the uttermost Parts of the Earth.

THOSE concuring Circumstances, one would think, might have raised a strong Page  6 Expectation of seeing such a Time; yet; when it came, it proved Matter of Of|fence and Astonishment.

To consider Mankind otherwise than Brethren, to think Favours are peculiar to one Nation, and exclude others, plain|ly supposes a Darkness in the Under|standing: For as God's Love is univer|sal, so where the Mind is sufficiently influenced by it, it begets a Likeness of itself, and the Heart is enlarged towards all Men. Again, to conclude a People froward, perverse, and worse by Nature than others (who ungratefully receive Fa|vours, and apply them to bad Ends) this will excite a Behaviour toward them unbecoming the Excellence of true Religion.

To prevent such Error, let us calmly consider their Circumstance; and, the better to do it, make their Case ours. Suppose, then, that our Ancestors and we had been exposed to constant Ser|vitude in the more servile and inferior Employments of Life; that we had been destitute of the Help of Reading and good Company; that amongst ourselves we had had few wise and pious Instruc|tors; that the Religious amongst our Page  7 Superiors seldom took Notice of us, that while others, in Ease, have plen|tifully heap'd up the Fruit of our La|bour, we had receiv'd barely enough to relieve Nature, and being wholly at the Command of others, had generally been treated as a contemptible, ignorant Part of Mankind: Should we, in that Case, be less abject than they now are? Again, If Oppression be so hard to bear, that a wise Man is made mad by it, Eccl. vii. 7. then a Series of those Things alter|ing the Behaviour and Manners of a People, is what may reasonably be ex|pected.

WHEN our Property is taken contrary to our Mind, by Means appearing to us unjust, it is only through divine Influ|ence, and the Enlargement of Heart from thence proceeding, that we can love our reputed Oppressors: If the Negroes fall short in this, an uneasy, if not a disconso|late Disposition, will be awak'ned, and remain like Seeds in their Minds, pro|ducing Sloth and many other Habits ap|pearing odious to us, with which being free Men, they, perhaps, had not been chargeable. These, and other Circum|stances, Page  8 rightly considered, will lessen that too great Disparity, which some make between us and them.

INTEGRITY of Heart hath appeared in some of them; so that if we continue in the Word of Christ (previous to Dis|cipleship, John viii. 31.) and our Con|duct towards them be seasoned with his Love, we may hope to see the good Effect of it: The which, in a good De|gree, is the Case with some into whose Hands they have fallen: But that too many treat them otherwise, not seeming concious of any Neglect, is, alas! too evident.

WHEN Self-love presides in our Minds, our Opinions are bias'd in our own Fa|vour; in this Condition, being concerned with a People so situated, that they have no Voice to plead their own Cause, there's Danger of using ourselves to an undisturbed Partiality, till, by long Cus|tom, the Mind becomes reconciled with it, and the Judgment itself infected.

To humbly apply to God for Wisdom, that we may thereby be enabled to see Things as they are, and ought to be, is very needful; hereby the hidden Page  9 Things of Darkness may be brought to light, and the Judgment made clear: We shall then consider Mankind as Brethren: Though different Degrees and a Variety of Qualifications and Abilities, one dependant on another, be admitted, yet high Thoughts will be laid aside, and all Men treated as becometh the Sons of one Father, agreeable to the Doctrine of Christ Jesus.

HE hath laid down the best Crite|rion, by which Mankind ought to judge of their own Conduct, and o|thers judge for them of theirs, one towards another, viz. Whatsoever ye would that Men should do unto you, do ye even so to them. I take it, that all Men by Nature, are equally entituled to the Equity of this Rule, and under the indispensable Obligations of it. One Man ought not to look upon an|other Man, or Society of Men, as so far beneath him, but that he should put himself in their Place, in all his Actions towards them, and bring all to this Test, viz. How should I ap|prove of this Conduct, were I in their Circumstance and they in mine?
A. Page  10 Arsect's Considerations, Part III. Fol 107.

THIS Doctrine being of a moral un|changeable Nature, hath been likewise inculcated in the former Dispensation; If a Stranger sojourn with thee in your Land ye shall not vex him; but the Stranger that dwelleth with you, shall be as One born a+mongst you, and thou shalt love him as thyself Lev. xix. 33, 34. Had these People come voluntarily and dwelt amongst us, to have called them Strangers would be proper and their being brought by Force, with Regret, and a languishing Mind, may well raise Compassion in a Heart rightly disposed: But there is Nothing in such Treatment, which upon a wise and judi|cious Consideration, will any Ways lesser their Right of being treated as Strangers. If the Treatment which many of them meet with, be rightly examined and com|pared with those Precepts, Thou shalt not vex him nor oppress him; he shall be as one born amongst you, and thou shalt love him as thyself, Lev. xix. 33. Deut xxvii. 19. there will appear an im|portant Difference betwixt them.

Page  11IT may be objected there is Cost of Purchase, and Risque of their Lives to them who possess 'em, and therefore needful that they make the best Use of their Time: In a Practice just and rea|sonable, such Objections may have Weight; but if the Work be wrong from the Beginning, there's little or no Force in them. If I purchase a Man who hath never forfeited his Liberty, the natural Right of Freedom is in him; and shall I keep him and his Pos|terity in Servitude and Ignorance?

How should I approve of this Con|duct, were I in his Circumstances, and he in mine?
It may be thought, that to treat them as we would willingly be treated, our Gain by them would be in|considerable: And it were, in divers Re|spects, better that there were none in our Country.

WE may further consider, that they are now amongst us, and those of our Nation the Cause of their being here; that whatsoever Difficulty accrues there|on, we are justly chargeable with, and to bear all Inconveniencies attending it, with a serious and weighty Concern of Page  12 Mind to do our Duty by them, is the best we can do. To seek a Remedy by continuing the Oppression, because we have Power to do it, and see others do it, will, I apprehend, not be doing as we would be done by.

HOW deeply soever Men are involved in the most exquisite Difficulties, Since|rity of Heart, and upright Walking be|fore God, freely submitting to his Pro|vidence, is the most sure Remedy: He only is able to relieve, not only Persons, but Nations, in their greatest Calamities.

DAVID, in a great Strait, when the Sense of his past Error, and the full Ex|pectation of an impending Calamity, as the Reward of it, were united to the agravating his Distress, after some Deli|beration, saith, Let me fall now into the Hands of the Lord, for very great are his Mercies; let me not fall into the Hand of Man, 1 Chron. xxi. 13.

TO act continually with Integrity of Heart, above all narrow or selfish Mo|tives, is a sure Token of our being Par|takers of that Salvation which God hath appointed for Walls and Bulwarks, Isa. v. 26. Rom. xv. 8. and is, beyond all Page  13 Contradiction, a more happy Situation than can ever be promised by the utmost Reach of Art and Power united, not proceeding from heavenly Wisdom.

A SUPPLY to Nature's lawful Wants, joined with a peaceful, humble Mind, is the truest Happiness in this Life; and if here we arrive to this, and remain to walk in the Path of the Just, our Case will be truly happy: And though herein we may part with, or miss of some glaring Shews of Riches, and leave our Chil|dren little else but wise Instructions, a good Example, and the Knowledge of some honest Employment, these, with the Blessing of Providence, are sufficient for their Happiness, and are more likely to prove so, than laying up Treasures for them, which are often rather a Snare, than any real Benefit; especially to them, who, instead of being exampled to Tem|perance, are in all Things taught to prefer the getting of Riches, and to eye the temporal Distinctions they give, as the principal Business of this Life. These readily overlook the true Happiness of Man, as it results from the Enjoyment of all Things in the Fear of Page  14 God, and, miserably substituting an in|ferior Good, dangerous in the Acqui|ring, and uncertain in the Fruition, they are subject to many Disappointments, and every Sweet carries its Sting.

IT is the Conclusion of our blessed Lord and his Apostles, as appears by their Lives and Doctrines, that the highest Delights of Sense, or most plea|sing Objects visible, ought ever to be ac|counted infinitely inferior to that real intellectual Happiness suited to Man in his primitive Innocence, and now to be found in true Renovation of Mind; and that the Comforts of our present Life, the Things most grateful to us, ought always to be receiv'd with Temperance, and never made the chief Objects of our Desire, Hope, or Love: But that our whole Heart and Affections be princi|pally looking to that City, which hath Foundations, whose Maker and Builder is God. Did we so improve the Gifts be|stowed on us, that our Children might have an Education suited to these Doc|trines, and our Example to confirm it, we might rejoice in Hopes of their being Heirs of an Inheritance incorruptible.

Page  15THIS Inheritance as Christians, we e|steem the most valuable; and how then can we fail to desire it for our Children? O that we were consistent with our|selves, in pursuing Means necessary to obtain it!

IT appears, by Experience, that where Children are educated in Fulness, Ease and Idleness, evil Habits are more pre|valent, than in common amongst such who are prudently employed in the ne|cessary Affairs of Life: And if Children are not only educated in the Way of so great Temptation, but have also the Opportunity of lording it over their Fellow Creatures, and being Masters of Men in their Childhood, how can we hope otherwise than that their tender Minds will be possessed with Thoughts too high for them? Which, by Conti|nuance, gaining Strength, will prove, like a slow Current, gradually separating them from (or keeping from Acquain|tance with) that Humility and Meek|ness in which alone lasting Happiness can be enjoyed.

MAN is born to labour, and Experience abundantly sheweth, that it is for our Page  16 Good: But where the Powerful lay the Burthen on the Inferior, without afford|ing a Christian Education, and suitable Opportunity of improving the Mind, and a Treatment which we, in their Case, should approve, that themselves may live at Ease, and fare sumptu|ously, and lay up Riches for their Pos|terity, this seems to concradict the De|sign of Providence, and, I doubt, is sometimes the Effect of a perverted Mind: For while the Life of one is made grievous by the Rigour of another, it entails Misery on both.

AMONGST the manifold Works of Providence, displayed in the different Ages of the World, these which follow (with many others) may afford Instruc|tion.

ABRAHAM was called of God to leave his Country and Kindred, to sojourn a|monst Strangers: Through Famine, and Danger of Death, he was forced to flee from one Kingdom to another: He, at length, not only had Assurance of being the Father of many Nations, but became a mighty Prince, Gen. xxiii. 6.

REMARKABLE was the Dealings of God with Jacob in a low Estate, the Page  17 just Sense he retained of them after his Advancement, appears by his Words; I am not worthy of the Least of all thy Mercies, Gen. xxxii. 10. xlviii. 15.

THE numerous Afflictions of Joseph, are very singular; the particular Provi|dence of God therein, no less manifest: He, at length, became Governor of E|gypt, and famous for Wisdom and Virtue.

THE Series of Troubles David passed through, few amongst us are ignorant of; and yet he afterwards became as one of the great Men of the Earth.

SOME Evidences of the Divine Wis|dom appears in those Things, in that such who are intended for high Stations, have first been very low and dejected, that Truth might be sealed on their Hearts, and that the Characters there imprinted by Bitterness and Adversity, might in after Years remain, suggesting compassionate Ideas, and, in their Pros|perity, quicken their Regard to those in the like Condition: Which yet further appears in the Case of Israel: They were well acquainted with grievous Suffer|ings, a long and rigorous Servitude, then, through many notable Events, were Page  18 made Chief amongst the Nations: To them we find a Repetition of Precepts to the Purpose abovesaid: Though, for Ends agreeable to infinite Wisdom, they were chose as a peculiar People for a Time; yet the Most High acquaints them, that his Love is not confined, but extends to the Stranger; and, to ex|cite their Compassion, reminds them of Times past, Ye were Strangers in the Land of Egypt, Deut. x. 19. Again, Thou shalt not oppress a Stranger, for ye know the Heart of a Stranger, seeing ye were Stran|gers in the Land of Egypt, Exod. xxiii. 9.

IF we call to Mind our Beginning, some of us may find a Time, wherein our Fathers were under Afflictions, Re|proaches, and manifold Sufferings.

RESPECTING our Progress in this Land, the Time is short since our Begin|ning was small and Number few, com|pared with the native Inhabitants. He that sleeps not by Day nor Night, hath watched over us, and kept us as the Ap|ple of his Eye. His Almighty Arm hath been round about us, and saved us from Dangers.

Page  19THE Wilderness and solitary Desarts in which our Fathers passed the Days of their Pilgrimage, are now turned into pleasant Fields; the Natives are gone from before us, and we established peace|ably in the Possesssion of the Land, en|joying our civil and religious Liberties; and, while many Parts of the World have groaned under the heavy Calamities of War, our Habitation remains quiet, and our Land fruitful.

WHEN we trace back the Steps we have trodden, and see how the Lord hath opened a Way in the Wilderness for us, to the Wise it will easily ap|pear, that all this was not done to be buried in Oblivion; but to prepare a People for more fruitful Returns, and the Remembrance thereof, ought to humble us in Prosperity, and excite in us a Chri|stian Benevolence towards our Inferiors.

IF we do not consider these Things a|right, but, through a stupid Indolence, conceive Views of Interest, separate from the general Good of the great Brother|hood, and, in Pursuance thereof, treat our Inferiors with Rigour, to increase our Wealth, and gain Riches for our Page  20 Children, what then shall we do, when God riseth up, and when he visiteth, what shall we Answer him? Did not he that made Us, make Them, and Did not one Fashion us in the Womb? Job. xxxi. 14.

TO our great Master we stand or fall, to judge or condemn is most suitable to his Wisdom and Authority; my Incli|nation is to persuade, and intreat, and simply give Hints of my Way of Think|ing.

IF the Christian Religion be consider|ed, both respecting its Doctrines, and the happy Influence which it hath on the Minds and Manners of all real Christi|ans, it looks reasonable to think, that the miraculous Manifestation thereof to the World, is a Kindness beyond Ex|pression.

ARE we the People thus favoured Are we they whose Minds are opened influenced, and govern'd by the Spirit of Christ, and thereby made Sons of God? Is it not a fair Conclusion, that we, like our heavenly Father, ought, our Degree, to be active in the far great Cause, of the Eternal Happin•••Page  21 of, at least, our whole Families, and more, if thereto capacitated?

IF we, by the Operation of the Spirit of Christ, become Heirs with him in the Kingdom of his Father, and are re|deemed from the alluring counterfeit Joys of this World, and the Joy of Christ re|main in us, to suppose that One remaining in this happy Condition, can for the Sake of earthly Riches, not only deprive his Fellow Creatures of the Sweetness of Freedom (which, rightly used, is one of the greatest temporal Blessings) but therewith neglect using proper Means, for their Acquaintance with the Holy Scriptures, and the Advantage of true Religion, seems, at least, a Contradic|tion to Reason.

WHOEVER rightly advocates the Cause of some, thereby promotes the Good of all. The State of Mankind was harmo|nious in the Beginning, and tho' Sin hath introduced Discord, yet, through the wonderful Love of God, in Christ Jesus our Lord, the Way is open for our Redemption, and Means appointed to restore us to primitive Harmony. Page  22 That if one suffer, by the Unfaithfulness of another, the Mind, the most noble Part of him that occasions the Discord, is thereby alienated from its true and real Happiness.

OUR Duty and Interest is insepara|bly united, and when we neglect or misuse our Talents, we necessarily de|part from the heavenly Fellowship, and are in the Way to the greatest of Evils.

THEREFORE, to examine and prove ourselves, to find what Harmony the Power presiding in us bears with the Divine Nature, is a Duty not more in|cumbent and necessary, than it would be beneficial.

IN Holy Writ the Divine Being saith of himself, I am the Lord, which exercise Loving Kindness, Judgment and Righteous|ness in the Earth; for in those Things I de|light, saith the Lord, Jer. ix. 24. Again, speaking in the Way of Man, to shew his Compassion to Israel, whose Wicked|ness had occasioned a Calamity, and then being humbled under it, it is said, His Soul was grieved for their Miseries, Judg x. 16. If we consider the Life of our Blessed Saviour when on Earth, as it was Page  23 recorded by his Followers, we shall find, that one uniform Desire for the eternal, and temporal Good of Mankind, dis|covered itself in all his Actions.

IF we observe Men, both Apostles and others, in many different Ages, who have really come to the Unity of the Spirit, and the Fellowship of the Saints, there still appears the like Disposition, and in them the Desire of the real Hap|piness of Mankind, has out-ballanced the Desire of Ease, Liberty, and, many Times, Life itself.

IF upon a true Search, we find that our Natures are so far renewed, that to exercise Righteousness and Loving Kindness (according to our Ability) to|wards all Men, without Respect of Per|sons, is easy to us, or is our Delight; if our Love be so orderly, and regu|lar, that he who doth the Will of our Father, who is in Heaven, appears in our View, to be our nearest Relation, our Brother, and Sister, and Mother; if this be our Case, there is a good Foun|dation to hope, that the Blessing of God will sweeten our Treasures during our Stay in this Life, and our Memory be Page  24 savory, when we are entred into Rest.

TO conclude, 'Tis a Truth most cer|tain, that a Life guided by Wisdom from above, agreeable with Justice, Equity, and Mercy, is throughout consistent and amiable, and truly beneficial to Society; the Serenity and Calmness of Mind in it, affords an unparallel'd Comfort in this Life, and the End of it is blessed.

AND, no less true, that they, who in the Midst of high Favours, remain ungrateful, and under all the Advanta|ges that a Christian can desire, are self|ish, earthly, and sensual, do miss the true Fountain of Happiness, and wan|der in a Maze of dark Anxiety, where all their Treasures are insufficient to quiet their Minds: Hence, from an insa|tiable Craving, they neglect doing Good with what they have acquired, and too often add Oppression to Vanity, that they may compass more.

O that they were wise, that they under|stood this, that they would consider their lat|ter End! Duet. xxxii. 29.