A Poetical Epistle to the Enslaved Africans (XHTML)
Historical long poem by Joseph Samson (Philadelphia: Joseph Crukshank, 1790). Digitized by the Antislavery Literature Project.
IN THE CHARACTER OF AN ANCIENT
N E G R O,
BORN A SLAVE IN
But liberated some Years since, and instructed in useful Learning, and the great Truths of Christianity.
A brief historical Introduction, and biographical Notices of some of the earliest Advocates for that oppressed Class of our Fellow-Creatures.
Princes shall come out of Egypt. Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto GOD. Psalm lxviii. 31.
PRINTED BY JOSEPH CRUKSHANK, IN MARKET-STREET, BETWEEN
SECOND AND THIRD-STREETS. M DCC XC.
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Joseph Samson (1765/7?-1826), a Quaker writer and artist from Philadelphia, published A Poetical Epistle to the Enslaved Africans in 1790. It is one of the earliest American antislavery long poems, a form that as to become more popular in antislavery literature only a half-century later.
The poem assumes the voice of an old black man speaking heroic couplets to describe the history of the antislavery movement. His argument suggests that black slaves adapt themselves to a slavery that is rapidly diminishing in harshness due to the efforts of British and American abolitionists. The now-emancipated narrator asserts that Christian-inspired recognition that divine justice will devolve on all humanity will enable slaves to accommodate the present injustices they suffer. "Be patient, humble, silent, and true, / In hope of coming freedom, as you can— / Commend your righteous cause to God and Man." (page 21) He reviews major antislavery figures of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, continuing to urge humility and patient silence until divine plans are realized through the human agency of white abolitionists. Much of the poem represents an historical introduction to antislavery thought through extensive explanatory footnotes. The poem concludes with a call for peace and abandonment of violence in favor of "the Christian Jubilee" (p. 23) when slavery and other human oppressions will disappear.
The publisher, Joseph Crukshank, was active in Philadelphia beginning in 1769 and continuing into the early nineteenth century. He published the works of Anthony Benezet, Thomas Clarkson, William Pinkney, Granville Sharpe, John Woolman, and other antislavery writers.
— Joe Lockard
This is an annotated text of Joseph Samson’s A Poetical Epsitle to the Enslaved Africans, (Philadelphia: Joseph Crukshank, 1790). Original spelling, punctuation and page citations have been retained; minor typographic errors have been corrected. Lineal numbering has been added to the poem for convenient reference.
This electronic edition has been prepared for the Antislavery Literature Project, Arizona State University, a public education project working in cooperation with the EServer, Iowa State University. Digitization has been supported by a grant from the Institute for Humanities Research, Arizona State University.
Editorial annotation by Joe Lockard. Digitization by Noel Borde, Mahesh Bhutkar, Nilesh Ralbhat, Manoj Salvi, and April Brannon. All rights reserved by the Antislavery Literature Project. Permission for non-commercial educational use is granted.
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The cruel and unnatural Practice of stealing and enslaving the inoffensive Natives of Africa, which has so long prevailed among Christians, to the dishonour of our holy Profession, originated with the Portugueze, soon after their discoveries in that part of the Globe, during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. In 1481 they built the castle of Del Mina, on the Gold Coast, from whence they barbarously ravaged the neighbouring country, and carried off its Inhabitants, who were afterward sold in Portugal, with as little remorse as the plundered productions of their native land.
The Spaniards began to trade with the Portugueze Settlements for Negro Slaves, in the year 1508, so early had their inhuman Colonists, in the West Indies, sacrificed the harmless Natives of the Carribibees, to avarice and cruelty: but some English Adventurers first encroached upon their fancied right of discovery, about the middle of the sixteenth century.
In 1562 capt. Hawkins, afterward knighted by queen Elizabeth for his successful enterprizes, made a descent upon the western coast of Guinea, seized on,
the defenceless Natives, sailed away with his booty, and afterward sold them to the Spanish Settlers at Hispaniola. It is said that the Queen expressed great abhorrence of this detestable conduct, on the Captain's return to England, laden with the spoil of the unhappy Negroes: but it is certain that the never prohibited the Trade, and that the Royal patent was granted to some of the principal Slave Merchants in 1585.
The Dutch attacked the Portugueze fortifications on the coast of Guinea, and possessed themselves of some of the most important in 1637, under pretence of the war with Spain. Most of these were afterward ceded to them by treaty; and continued under their new Masters, not ports of beneficial interchange between Man and Man, but marts of slavery and blood.
The French and Danes fell into the Negro Trade about the same period, to promote the settlement of their Colonies; although Lewis XIII. reluctantly subscribed the laws that consigned Mankind to perpetual slavery in his American Dominions; and cardinal Cibo, a minister of the Papal See, had early instructed the Missionaries in Congo to prevent, if possible, the unchristian practice of stealing and selling Men.
Negro Slaves were probably introduced into North America by the Dutch. In 1619 one of their Gui-
nea ships touched at James-Town in Virginia, and a part of the unnatural Cargo was purchased by the Settlers. A few years afterward they brought great numbers of Slaves into their Colony called the New-Netherlands, now New-York, and sold them into different parts of the Continent.
In 1656, many zealous Christians of the Society then first distinguished by the name of Quakers (because, like the Prophets and Apostles, they sometimes trembled at the Word of the Lord) came over to America, to preach the Gospel and disseminate their peaceable principles. They were then prosecuted by the Government as disturbers of the Public peace: but no severities could check their perseverance in religious duty, or daunt their resolution to protest, in the name of God, against every species of cruelty and oppression. The People commiserated their sufferings, and some of the Settlers of all ranks and professions embraced their doctrine; many of whom were possessed of Slaves. They were exhorted by their new Teachers to the exercise of love and charity toward them as Fellow-Creatures, equally favoured with the illuminating grace of God; and most of them became more like Fathers than Masters, setting an example of christian moderation and personal industry, to their idle and oppressive Neighbours. This was the dawn of emancipation from those chains of ignorance and slavery, which Avarice had forged,
and Cruelty had endeavoured to rivet upon the Negro Race.
Toward the close of the century several benevolent Individuals successively laboured to soften the extreme rigour of the American Planters, and to instruct the Victims of their unprincipled barbarity, in the moral and religious duties of Men: but the West India Planters rejected their pious arguments as the instigations of fanaticism, and their attempts to humanize the Negroes were construed into treason and conspiracy.
In 1688, some Followers of our venerable Proprietor, who had lately emigrated from Kriesheim in Germany, and were therefore free from the fascinating effects of custom and interest, conscientiously re-presented to the Yearly Meeting of Pennsylvania, the unlawfulness of stealing, buying, or holding Mankind as Slaves, in the christian System of fellowship and brotherly love. The subject was then referred, but in 1696 that Body advised its Members to discourage the future importation of Negroes, and gave general directions for the benefit of those already imported.
In 1704, the British Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, founded a Catechising School in the city of New-York for the instruction of the enslaved Negroes in the principles of Christianity; and a few
years afterward they recommended the institution of similar Establishments to all their Missionaries in America, as a christian duty.
In 1711, the situation of the Negroes was again represented to the Yearly Meeting of Pennsylvania, and from that time was seldom off its Journals, until the united efforts of the Pious and the Benevolent procured the first public restoration of their rights about the middle of the present century.
The Moravian Brethren sent Missions about this time to several of the West India Islands for the conversion of the Negroes to the christian faith.
At this period the Trade to Guinea for Negro Slaves was eagerly pursued by the European Nations, who had unfeelingly engaged in it, and more than an hundred thousand Human Beings were now annually exported from Africa, like beasts of burthen, destined to cultivate the European Colonies, or moisten them with blood and tears. One eighth part was usually consigned to destruction on the fatal passage; of the remainder the British West India Islands consumed about 50,000, their North American Colonies 6000, the French Settlements 26,000, the Portugueze 9000, the Spanish 4000, and the Danish 1000. This shocking robbery was then principally perpetrated by English and French Traders, and it has since decreased very considerably.
In 1758, the People called Quakers, in Pennsylvania, came to a final resolution to deny the rights of membership in their religious Society, to all such of their Members as should persist in detaining their Fellow-Creatures in bondage, after Gospel admonition against the unjust practice. Many strenuous Advocates for the oppressed Negroes appeared about this time among the different Professors of Christianity, whose pious endeavours for their relief were at length blessed with considerable success: but of late the generous ardour for liberty, which characterizes the present age, has spread with unexampled rapidity. Where solitary Individuals lately wept over the suffering Negroes, numerous Societies are now established to befriend the Enslaved, and to protect the Free. They have solemnly represented the horrors of the Slave Trade to the Legislatures of Great Britain, France, and the United States of America; and unless the clamours of Self-interest and mistaken Policy can stifle the groans of Distress, and obliterate the dictates of Humanity, decisive measures will soon be adopted for the abolition of a trade that has deeply stained the annals of the eighteenth century with robbery and murder.
May the just and merciful creator of Men, e'er long dispose the Oppressors themselves to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the Oppressed go free.
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Whose Oppressors Slay them, and hold themselves not guilty.
Brethren by birth, and Partners in distress,
You may the Christian's God with patience bless.
May resignation calm your Souls to peace
While your wrongs lessen, and your rights increase.
Hark! an indignant *Maron thus replies: 5
"Is not †Orifa pow'rful, good, and wise?
"Must wretched Ottowah that God adore
"Whose Followers dragg'd him from his native shore,
* In several of the West India Islands large bodies of the abused Negroes have occasionally fled from their Oppressors, and taken refuge in the woods and mountains. They are called Marons, and defend themselves from the Usurpers of their rights, with the unconquerable fierceness of desperation.
† In the kingdom of Benin, on the coast of Guinea, the Negroes believe in an infinitely great and good Being, whom they call Orisa, affirming him to be the Creator of Heaven and Earth; and those of Cambea and Cassan acknowledge the existence of One supreme God, without adoring him under any corporeal representation. How long will pseudo Philosophers persist in classing the Negro of Africa with the Ourang Outang of Borneo?—and not rather consider the People of Benin as brethren and follow-believers?
"And still (inhuman, tyger-hearted Brood)
"Prowl over Africa for Human Blood? 10
"Is't not by his command, proud Christians say,
"They Negroes kidnap, whip, torment, and slay,
"As Executioners of wrath Divine
"Commission'd to destroy our fated Line?
"Say, do their boasted Testaments contain 15
"Exclusive rights to wrong their Fellow-Men?
Not so — Who good reject, and cherish evil,
Are of their father and their lord the Devil.
God, for the Father, chargeth not the Son:
Each shall account for what himself hath done. 20
And the New-Testament commandeth, †"Do
"To others as ye would 'twere done to you."
Whatever Pow'r within the mind bears sway,
Whatever Principle our hearts obey,
Is there supreme. 'Tis thus St. Paul records, 25
§ "On earth are many Gods and many Lords."
Some idolize what Some abominate,
These love themselves, and Those their Brethren hate.
Yet One all-pow'rful, over-ruling God
Hath spread the glowing firmament abroad, 30
And hung the earth on nought, whose sun-beams greet
The Evil and the Good with light and heat,
* The Son shall not bear the iniquity of the Father, neither shall the Father bear the iniquity of the Son: the righteousness of the Righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him. Ezek. xviii. 20.
† See Matt. vii. 12.
§ See I Cor. viii. 5.
Whose clouds with blessings fraught in rain descend,
And Just and Unjust equally befriend—
All Nations own him, in all Lands the Same, 35
Known to the Faithful by whatever name—
'Twas He who taught our Fathers to believe
That good Men please him, and that bad Men grieve,
By the eternal Spirit of his Son,
Who did in Jewry once for sins atone: 40
But through all ages, unto all Mankind,
Hath ever been a God within the Mind,
Teaching Men all ungodliness to flee,
And in the present World live righteously.
When by a secret influence divine, 45
My heart becomes its great Creator's shrine
(In faith and humble reverence beheld,
By whom the world was made, by whom upheld)
Then doubting kindles into hope and love,
No selfish views my swelling bosom move, 50
Unenvied then the Proud in grandeur roll,
And all my wishes centre in the Soul.
Though humbled by Oppression's iron band,
I feel myself a Man almost unman'd,
Hard Task-Men, from my weeping Mother's breast 55
To manhood and old ago, my strength opprest,
Nor taught me duties social or divine;
Nay, in such tasks as those forbade to join.
If colour (the imagin'd mark of Cain)
Condemn our Race to glut the thirst of Gain 60
(Doubtful criterion at best of right —
Self gives the casting vote for black or white
A sun-burnt skin was sure a slender plea
To rob our Sires of life or liberty,
Though still deny'd to breathe their native air 65
Their wretched Offspring languish in despair.
Yet early in the awful name of God,
*Fox testified against the unnat'ral fraud.
In forms divided, but in substance one,
†Baxter and §godwyn wrote in unison. 70
* George Fox, of Drayton in Great Britain, one of the most remarkable of those Professors of spiritual Christianity, who, in the words of their historian Sewel, "Began to take heed to a Divine Conviction in the conscience, and accordingly preached to others the doctrine of an inward Light wherewith Christ had enlightened Men, in the latter end of the time of king "Charles I." He visited Barbados in the year 1671, and then advised his Brethren on that Island to train up their Negroes in the fear of God, that all might come to the knowledge of the lord; and to cause their Overseers to deal mildly and gently with them, and not to use cruelty toward them, and that after certain years of servitude they should set them free. See his Journal, pag. 431, 36, & 37.
† Richard Baxter, an eminent dissenting minister of the last century, some of whose Discourses arc now extant. His Directions to Slave-Holders contain a great deal of christian admonition respecting their treatment of the Negroes, and were first published at London in 1673. "They are reasonable creatures as well as you," says he, "and born to as much natural liberty; they have immortal souls, and are equally capable of salvation with yourselves; equally under the government and laws "of God;" exhorting them to consider "how cursed a crime it is to equal Men to beasts."
§ Morgan Godwyn, probably a British clergyman, undoubtedly a humane and benevolent man. He published a book entitled the Negroe's and Indian's Advocate, in the year 1680, with a dedication to the then Archbishop of Canterbury. It is principally addressed to the Planter* of Barbados, earnestly pleading with them on behalf of the Negroes held by them, to use his own
Bondage must not be endless, neither cruel,†
Said they, and pious * Burling, and learn'd Sewall,
words, "In a Soul-murthering and brutifying state of bondage. Whereas," continues he, "a brute may in some sense have a right to divers things according to the Scripture (which is a book of reason and of justice too) the Slave must be divested of all. For by Moses's law, the ass sinking under his burden had a right to be relieved by the next Traveller, Exod. xxiii. 5; nor was the ox to be muzzled which did tread out the corn, Deut. xxv. 4, his labour meriting better usage; and one of the reasons for the Sabbath rest was, That the ox and ass might have respite from soil as well as their Owners, Exod. xxiii. 12. (We see here no working them to death was allowed.) So that here is a plain right belonging unto brutes, whilst by us it is denied unto Men whose flesh it as our own, a thing greatly deserving to be laid to heart.
* William Burling, of Long Island, wrote several humane and animated Tracts against Slave-Holding, about the year 1718. Some of them were printed, but they are now very scarce. In one of these he mentions his having been sensible of its injustice before he was twelve years of age. He was a man well respected among the People called Quakers, some of whom remember to have heard that he used annually to represent to his Brethren in their Yearly Meetings about that time, the gross iniquity of compelling a certain description of our Fellow-Creatures, and their Posterity, to serve others during life, without any reward for their labour; entreating them not to shield it from the judgment of truth, but to suffer the censure of the Church to pass upon this unjust Practice.
†Judge Sewall, a New-Englander of the Presbyterian Communion. He reprobated Slave-Holding, as a lawyer and a christian, early in the present century, in a Memorial entitled the Selling of Joseph, which was probably presented to the General Court on behalf of the injured Negroes. The following extracts are additional proofs that the Conscientious and the Humane of our own age are neither peculiar nor enthusiastic in their serious protest against the complicated iniquity of Negro Slavery, but harmonious, orthodox, and just.
"It is most certain that all Men as they are the Sons of Adam are co-heirs, and have equal right unto liberty, and all other comforts of life. God hath given the earth (with all its commodities) unto the Sons of Adam. Psal. cxv. 16. And hath made of one blood all Nations of Men, for to dwell on all the face of the
And *many more of grateful memory,
Whose gentle use prepared us to be free.
earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitations, that they sbould seek the Lord. For as much then as we are the offspring of God, &c. Acts xvii. 26, 27, & 29. Now although the title given by the last Adam doth infinitely better Men's estates respecting god and themselves, and grants them a most beneficial and inviolable lease under the broad seal of Heaven, who were before only Tenants at will: yet through the indulgence of God to our first Parents after the Fall, the outward estate of all and every of their Children remained the same as to one another, so that originally and naturally there was no such thing as Slavery. Joseph was rightfully no more a Slave to his Brethren than they were to him, and they had no more authority to sell him than they had to slay him; and if they had nothing to do to sell him, the Ishmaelites bargaining with them, and paying down twenty pieces of silver, could not make a title, neither could Potiphar have any better interest in him than the Ishmaelites had. Gen. xxxvii. 20 & 28. For he that shall in this case plead alteration of property seems to have forfeited a great part of his own claim to humanity. There is no proportion between twenty pieces of silver and liberty."
To the argument that our ships bring lawful Captives taken in the African Wars, the Judge replies: "For aught is known, their wars are much such as were between Jacob's Sons and their brother Joseph. Every War is upon one side unjust. An unlawful war cannot make lawful Captives; and by receiving we are in danger to promote, and partake in their barbarous cruelties. I am sure if some Gentlemen should go down to the Brewsters to take the air, or to catch fish; and a stronger Party from Hull should surprise them and sell them for Slaves, to a ship "outward bound, they would think themselves unjustly dealt with, both by Sellers and Buyers. It is observable that the Israelites were strictly forbidden the buying or selling one another for Slaves. Levit. xxv. 39. and Jer. xxxiv. 8—17. And God gaged his blessing in lieu of any loss they might conceit they suffered thereby. Deut. xv. 18. Christians should carry it to all the the World, as the Israelites were to carry it one toward another. These Ethiopians, as black as they are, are the sons and daughters of the first Adam, the brethern and sisters of the last Adam, "and the offspring of God."
* "It is observable in the history of the Reformation from Popery, that it had a gradual progress from age to age. The uprighteousness of the first Reformers, in attending to the light and understanding given them, opened the way for sincere hearted
Long, long remember'd, from my earliest years, 75
Prophetic sounds still tingle in my ears,
Still gentle *Sandiford methinks I see,
Proclaiming Blacks by God and nature free.
People to proceed further afterward; and thus each one truly fearing God, and labouring in those works of righteousness appointed for them in their day, findeth acceptance with him; though, through the darkness of the times, and the corruptness of manners and customs, some upright Men may have had little more for their day's work than to attend to the righteous Principle in their minds, as it related to their own conduct in life, without pointing out to others the whole extent of that which the same Principle would lead succeeding ages into. Thus, for instance, amongst an imperious, warlike People, supported by oppressed Slaves, some of these Masters I suppose are awakened to feel and see their errour; and, through sincere repentance, cease from oppression, and become like fathers to their servants, shewing by their example a pattern of humility in living, and moderation in governing, for the instruction and admonition of their oppressive Neighbours. Those, without carrying the reformation further, I believe have found acceptance with the Lord. Such was the beginning, and those who succeeded them, and have faithfully attended to the nature and spirit of the reformation, have seen the necessity of proceeding forward; and not only to instruct others, by their example, in governing well, but also to use means to prevent their Successors from having so much power to oppress others."
* Ralph Sandiford, a merchant of Philadelphia, descended of a respectable Family of that name in the Island of Barbados. He received a religious education in the Episcopal Church, under the care of a pious Tutor, probably in some part of Great Britain, by whom he was so successfully instructed in the principles of charity and justice, that he could not but perceive the inconsistency of Slave-Holding, with the dictates of religion and morality, on his first landing in Pennsylvania. Here he joined the Society called Quakers, and became very earnest in his endeavours to prevail with them to oblige all their Members to liberate their Slaves. But the Fore-Runners of Negro-Freedom appear to have been only commissioned to declare their violated rights, and to announce the approach of liberty. The sun itself never breaks in upon the gloom of night, but with reflected rays.—His Brief Examination of the Practice of the Times [Slave-Holding] was printed at
To wasting zeal and sympathy a prey,
Methinks I hear the venerable *lay, 80
Now, at distress and wrong for pity sigh,
And now, "All Slave-Keepers, Apostates," cry;
Philadelphia in 1729. It is written with becoming energy, except a few reflections on the conduct of his Brethren, who foresaw that the emancipation of the Negroes must be a gradual and progressive work. These however he excuses to the Reader, as having been wrung from him by the exasperation of oppression, which he describes to have affected his mind, at particular times, as if the rod had been upon his own back.
* Benjamin Lay, an Englishman by birth, was brought up to the Sea, and sailed some years in the West India Trade. About the year 1710 he married and settled in Barbados; but the wretched situation of the poor Negroes on that island so preyed upon his benevolent temper, that he removed to Pennsylvania a few years afterward, to avoid the painful sight of their misery. But it had been so strongly painted upon his imagination, that it was still present in idea, and the horrours of Slavery were seldom out of his mind. At this period Slave-Holding had become very common, even in Pennsylvania, and among the People called Quakers: yet the Negroes were there generally as well provided for as common bound Servants, and moderately used. Lay, notwithstanding, exclaimed against the Practice, as if he had been still among the Negro Drivers of Barbados, and thus lost the force of conviction by the warmth that was meant to excite it. He published his Treatise on Slave-Keeping in 1737, which abounds with genuine effusions of intemperate zeal, forming an incoherent medley of sympathetic descriptions, angry exclamations, pious rhapsodies, and unjustifiable surmizes respecting the conduct of his own Friends, and the Ministers of Religion. Yet those who knew him, believe him to have been an honest, well-meaning man, whose ardent opposition to the African Trade, and the Slavery of the Negroes, has tended to accelerate the period of their sufferings. In person he was rather under size, but remarkable for the simplicity of his dress, which was principally of his own manufacture, and for his animated manner, especially when declaiming against Slavery. He died about the year 1760, a few miles from Philadelphia, having attained his eightieth year, in habits of extreme temperance and solitude. The print we have of him is said to be a striking likeness. He is drawn, reading in the mouth of a cave, from the circumstance of his frequenting such a retirement, for the sake of privacy and meditation.
But, if no human sword our blood avenge,
Invoke on legal murders God's revenge,
Or, when remember'd pangs his bosom swell, 85
Brand the vile Trade with every stamp of Hell.
But vain his tears—his imprecations vain,
Our long-lost freedom then or thus to gain.
Columbia use had fear'd to Negro-groans,
And distant Europe heard not Afric's moans, 90
Until thy meeker spirit, *Wool man, rose,
Aiming to soften rather than oppose;
* John Woolman was born in West Jersey, anno 1720, of reputable parents in religious profession with the People called Quakers, among whom he was a minister from the twenty-second year of his age. He travelled a great deal in the service of the Gospel, and sometimes undertook his religious journies upon this Continent, like the primitive Apostles, on foot, not from necessity, but with the pious view of assimilating himself to the low circumstances of some among whom he laboured, to increase his fellow feeling for the Distressed, and qualify him to administer suitable advice, as well as spiritual consolation. He was a man of good natural parts and great personal industry, yet temperate in all respects; and so scrupulously careful not to partake of the gain of oppression, in any degree, that he denied himself the use of whose conveniencies of life which are furnished by the labour of Slaves. Their cause, as he sometimes mentioned to his Friends, lay almost continually upon him, and he strove for their relief, both in public and private, until a few day; before his death, the last sermon he preached in public being on this subject. In the beginning of the year 1772 he embarked for Great Britain, on a religious visit to those of his Persuasion in that Kingdom. He was there taken with the small-pox, and died of that disorder in the city of York, toward the end of the same year.
The I. Part of his Considerations on keeping Negroes, was written in 1746, but
first published in - - - 1754.
The 11. Part of the same Work in - - - 1762.
Various other religious Tracts in - - - 1768, 1770, & 1773.
All which are bound up together at the end of his Journal, printed at Philadelphia in 1775.
And thou, lov'd *Benezet, of kindred mind,
The World thy country, and thy Friends Mankind.
* Anthony Benezet, a native of France, was born at St. Quintin, in Picardy, anno 1712. His Parents were zealous Protestants, who having suffered greatly under the long and oppressive reign of Lewis XIV. withdrew into Great Britain a short time before the death of that prince. They resided some years in the city of London, where the elder Benezet embraced the religious principles of the People called Quakers. In 1731 he again removed with his Family, and finally settled in Pennsylvania. Anthony, the eldest Son, had been brought up to business; but becoming dissatisfied with mercantile concerns, he accepted the offer of a place in the Society's Academy in Philadelphia, as English Master, soon after his marriage, in 1736. This useful employment was congenial to his diligent habit, and benevolent temper. The vivacity of his Nation was happily tempered in his composition, by the sober and exemplary conduct observable in the christian Society of which he was a Member; indeed so uniform was his assiduous attention to the duties of life, even in old age, that he conscientiously denied himself the unnecessary part of those hours usually allotted to rest; having been heard to say that he could not reconcile a habit of such slothful indulgence with the activity of Christian fervour. He occasionally interested himself on behalf of all his distressed Fellow-Creatures, from his first arrival in America, spending a great part of his time and estate in unremitted endeavours to serve the Poor and the Friendless. He considered himself as a citizen of the world, and regarded all Mankind as friends and countrymen, on principles of reason and humanity, which he believed to describe a wider circle for the operation of charity and benevolence, than that which is limited by parentage, or native country, The few hours unappropriated to his school, and other necessary engagements, were generally employed in the compilation of instructive passages from pious Authors of all Denominations, and publishing their united testimonies in favour of piety, virtue, and particularly justice, with respect to the injured Africans; the last of which he put into the hands of his Executors for publication, within three hours of his peaceful and happy departure. He also wrote several tracts upon the Slave-Trade &c. with other moral treatises and a short Account of the People called Quakers, principally intended for the use of his own Countrymen which he published both in French and English. His first Publications against the flagrant injustice of Negro-Slavery appeared about the year 1760, and being written in a truly christian spirit, his arguments then gained candid attention even in the breasts of the Interested,
Heav'n-born (now Heav'n return'd) awhile they strove, 95
Subduing enmity by faith and love.
Then mitred *Gloucester declared our Race,
Equals by Nature, and co-heirs of Grace;
Which came by Christ to every name and state.
Can these one Father's Children separate! 100
No—the gall'd Slave, born under whip and chain,
May wear his fetters, and be God's Free-Man,
Free from the worst of earthly tyrants, Sin,
Who rules bad Masters, and bad Slaves within;
Nay—-rich tow'rd God in faith and in good works, 105
Treasure in Heav'n—where no Man Stealer lurks.
Tho', variously dispens'd, God's bounteous store
Enrich the Worthless, leave the Worthy poor,
Know, Brethren, that the Father of Mankind
His choicer gifts hath never so confin'd; 110
The two last years of this revered Philanthropist were wholly applied to the tuition of the Negroes, at the Free-School, founded in Philadelphia about the year 1770, by the voluntary contributions of his Brethren, †which he endowed with his whole estate, excepting a few legacies and charitable bequests, at his lamented death in 1784, to be appropriated to the use of that benevolent Institution, on the decease of his widow.
* The Bishop of Gloucester, in a Sermon preached before the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, at their annual meeting in 1766, and since published, denominates the atrocious act of stealing the poor Negroes from their native land, and slowly murdering them by cruel usage in the European Colonies, a sacrifice to their great Idol the God of Gain.
† Their Friends in England have likewise contributed very liberally to the support of this School. —Unsolicited they lately wrote to the Trustees to draw on their Donation Fund for 500 Sterling, which Sum, and Anthony Benezet's Legacy have been since vested in ground-rents to the value of £.200 per annum.
Those envied blessings, health and happiness,
The Poor, in common with the Rich, possess.
Think ye the Proud are happy in their pride?
You little know how oft 'tis mortify'd:
Think ye the Rich amidst their riches blest? 115
Care follows riches—enemy to rest.
Think ye superior bliss annex'd to pow'r ?
Alas!—the Great scarce know a quiet hour.
No human pleasures are unmix'd with pain;
Yet, with contentment, godliness is gain. 120
Oh! that my Brethren for themselves could read—?
The Scriptures shew what's happiness indeed:
The one true god for ever bless'd to know,
And in his love abide, with Friend and Foe.
Yet there's *a surer way true bliss to gain, 125
Free to the Wife, and to the Simple plain,
Taught the Observant by that Guide within,
Who trod the path himself, and bids us, Walk therein.
The Apostles Paul and Peter both command,
"Servants, obey your Masters, heart and hand, 130
Not with eye-service—but with free good-will,
In singleness of heart, your tasks fulfil:
One is your Master, even Christ, and He
Alike rewardeth both the Bond and Free."
If any suffer, having done amiss, 135
'Tis duty to be patient, and submiss:
* 2 Pet. i. 19.
† See Eph. vi. 5—8. & I Pet. ii. 18—20.
"But if for doing well ye bear the rod,
Fear not—this is acceptable with God."
For conscience' sake thus in obedience free,
You'll come to know the Christian liberty. 140
But my glad Soul anticipates the day,
When Men no more on Fellow-Men shall prey,
Or dare—pretending policy and fate,
Divine and human laws to violate.
Three centuries our groans have pierc'd the Skies— 145
But bright'ning visions light my clouded eyes:
Religion and Philosophy unite
Our Minds t' enlighten, and our wrongs to right.
And much, my Countrymen, depends on you;
Be patient, humble, diligent, and true, 150
In hope of coming freedom, as you can—
Commend your righteous cause to God and Man.
You see the efforts of the Good and Wise,
Think not to right yourselves—let God arise,
Fit you for freedom, and then make you free, 155
As he design'd his creature Man to be.
Shun Cities then, unwieldy haunts of Trade,
Industry beckons to the rural shade:
There honest Labour earns two-fold reward,
First health, then plenty from the well-turn'd sward. 160
Where oft at eve, far round to th' 'list'ning Swain,
Thund'ring Niagara bodes the coming rain,
Or westward where Ohio's winding tide
Darts o'er the rocks, or rounds the mountains' side,
Adventrous Settlers friendly welcome give, 165
And teach the Needy how to work—and live.
Meanwhile—in silence let us wait the hour
That shall to civil-life our Race restore—
And Oh! when Liberty's enchanting smile
Height'neth enjoyment and endeareth toil, 170
If we remember whence the blessing flows,
To God 'twill lead us, as from God it rose—
Who solemn inquisition makes for Blood,
And turns the rod o'th' Wicked from the Good.
To him let Afric's dusky Sons sing praise, 175
His works are marvellous and just his ways.
May Time's swift course the pleasing theme prolong,
And Children's Children still repeat the Song.
Nor be their names forgot (in free estate)
Whom Love first urg'd our cause to advocate; 180
Or theirs who now the generous plea inforce,
Sharp, Raynal, De Warville, and Wilber-
Clarkson, who lives and labours but for us,
Sage Neckar, Pinkney, Mifflin, Porteus, 185
Madison, Parry, aged Franklin, Scot,
La Fayette, Marsillac, and Boudinot—
Illustrious groupe—*yet there are but a part
Of those engraven on my grateful heart,
*On this occasion it were injustice not to mention the late James Ramsay, vicar of Teslon in Great Britain, who wrote largely in vindication of the Negroes. He died in 1789.
In distant Climes, whom wond'ring Nations see 190
Bound in thy seraph-band, Philanthropy.
May philosophic Minds no more embrace
Those endless feuds which martyr half the Race,
But rather Concord and her train restore—
Echo the Rights of Men from shore to shore, 195
Strengthen the Weak—illuminate the Blind,
Reform—convert—and humanize Mankind;
Till Christ proclaim the Christian Jubilee,
Break every yoke, and set the Oppressed free—
Sheathe up, or to a ploughshare turn the sword, 200
Take to himself the pow'r, and reign king, priest,
And now to God I one and all commend
As to a common Father, Guide, and Friend,
To whom belongeth filial love and fear; 205
Call on him, he is gracious and will hear;
Draw nigh to him with hearts contrite and true,
And then, doubt not, he will draw nigh to you,
Teach you to live as Men who once must die,
To judgment rise—then live eternally. 210
How rise?—(As the tree falls, 'tis writ, * it lies)
Foolish the Wicked, and the Virtuous wise.
With all his virtues—vices on his head,
Man once must meet the Judge of Quick and Dead.
There where the Slave's long Servitude is o'er, 215
And the Oppressor's voice is heard no more,
Where Sin and Death shall never more destroy,
And all the Sons of God for ever shout for joy.