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A. You have repeatedly spoken of the attempt that is made to oppress and enslave the American colonies, and the calami. ties this has introduced, as a judgment which God has brought upon us for enslaving the Africans, and say we have no reason to expect deliverance, but still greater judgments, unless this practice be reformed. But is not this supposition inconsistent with the course of divine Providence since this war began? Have we not been strengthened and succeeded in our opposition to the measures taken against us, even beyond our most sanguine expectations; and a series of events very extraordinary and almost miraculous have taken place in our favor, and so as remarkably to disappoint our opposers and baffle them in all their plots and attempts against us? How is this consistent with the above supposition? If these calamities were brought on us for our sin in enslaving the Africans, and an expression of God's displeasure with us on that account, would he in such a signal manner appear on our side and favor, protect, and prosper us, even so that those of our enemies who are considerate and attentive have been obliged to acknowledge God was for us; I say, could this be, while we persist in that practice so offensive to him ?
B. When I speak of our being under the divine judgments for this sin of enslaving the Africans, I do not mean to exclude other public crying sins found among us, such as impiety and profaneness, formality and indifference, in the service and cause of Christ and his religion, and the various ways of open opposition to it - intemperance and prodigality, and other instances of unrighteousness, etc., the fruits of a most criminal, contracted selfishness, which is the source of the highhanded oppression we are considering. But that this is a sin
a most particularly pointed out, and so contrary to our holy religion in every view of it, and such an open violation of all the laws of righteousness, humanity, and charity, and so contrary to our professions and exertions in the cause of liberty, that we have no reason to expect, nor can sincerely ask deliverance, so long as we continue in a disposition to hold fast this iniquity. If we should be delivered while we continue in this evil practice, and obstinately refuse thoroughly to execute judgment between a man and his neighbor, but go on to oppress the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, we should, agreeably to the spirit of what you have just said, improve such deliverance as God said the Jews would have done had he delivered them while they refused to reform. “Will ye steal, murder, etc., and come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations ?” (Jer. vii. 5–10.) Surely this is not to be expected or desired. Even the prayer for such deliverance must be an abomination to the Lord.
But your objection is worthy of a more particular answer. It has been observed, that there has been a general resolution to suppress the slave trade in these colonies, and to import no more slaves from Africa. This is a remarkable instance of our professed regard to justice, and a wise and notable step towards a reformation of this evil, and, as has been observed, a complete reformation will be the unavoidable consequence, if we will be consistent with ourselves. For no reason can be given for suppressing the slave trade which is not equally a reason for freeing all those who have been reduced to a state of slavery by that trade; and that same regard to justice, humanity, and mercy which will induce us to acquiesce in the former, will certainly oblige us to practise the latter. Have we not, therefore, reason to think that the righteous and infinitely merciful Governor of the world has been pleased to testify his well-pleasedness with that regard to righteousness and mercy which we professed and appeared to exercise in refusing to import any more slaves, and which is an implicit condemnation of all the slavery practised among us, by appearing on our side in the remarkable, extraordinary manner you have mentioned, by which wonderful interposition in our favor he has, at the same time, given us the greatest encouragement not to stop what we have begun, but to go on to a thorough reformation, and act consistently with ourselves by breaking every yoke and doing justice to all our oppressed slaves, as well as to repent of and reform all our open, public sins? So that God is hereby showing us what he can do for us, and how happy we may be under his protection, if we will amend our ways and our doings, and loudly calling us to a thorough reformation in this most kind and winning way.
But if we obstinately refuse to reform what we have implicitly declared to be wrong, and engaged to put away the holding the Africans in slavery, which is so particularly pointed out by the evil with which we are threatened, and is such a glaring contradiction to our professed aversion to slavery and struggle for civil liberty, and improve the favor God is showing us as an argument in favor of this iniquity and encouragement to persist in it, as you, sir, have just now done, have we not the greatest reason to fear, yea, may we not with great certainty conclude, God will yet withdraw his kind protection from us, and punish us yet seven times more? This has been God's usual way of dealing with his professing people; and who can say it is not most reasonable and wise? He, then, acts the most friendly part to these colonies and to the masters of slaves, as well as to the slaves themselves, who does his utmost to effect a general emancipation of the Africans among us; and, in this view, I could wish the conversation we have now had on this subject, if nothing better is like to be done, were published and spread through all the colonies, and had the attentive perusal of every American.
TO THE OWNERS OF NEGRO SLAVES IN THE
GENTLEMEN : Since it has been determined to publish the preceding Dialogue, it was thought proper it should be attended with a particular address to you, who are more immediately interested in the slavery there considered.
It would be injurious, it is confessed, to consider you as the only persons guilty or concerned in this matter. The several legislatures in
these colonies, the magistrates, and the body of the people, have doubtless been greatly guilty in approving and encouraging, or at least conniving at, this practice; — yea, every one is in a measure guilty who has been inattentive to this oppression, and unaffected with it, and neglected to bear proper testimony against it. And it is granted the public ought to go into some effectual measures to liberate all the slaves, without laying an unreasonable burden on their masters; but though this be not done, such neglect will not excuse you in holding them in slavery, as it is in your power to set them free, and your indispensable duty, and really your interest, to do them this piece of justice, though others should neglect to assist you as they ought.
It is hoped you will not be offended with the plainness of speech used on this subject, and that though you should at first think some of the epithets and expressions which are used too severe, and find the subject itself disagreeable, this will not prevent your attentively considering it, and weighing what is offered with the utmost impartiality and readiness to ceive conviction, how much soever you may find yourselves condemned; for, if your practice is here set in a true light, - in which it must appear to all impartial, judicious, good men, and in which it will appear to all at the day of judginent,VOL. II.
you must be sensible you cannot too soon admit the conviction, and reform. And here it cannot be improper to remind you of your liableness to strong prejudices, which tend to prevent your seeing what in itself may be very plain. Our divine Teacher says, “ Every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.” If you are indeed doing evil, according to the import of the preceding dialogue, these words of Christ are so far applicable to you, and are suited to awaken your jealousy of yourselves, and lead you to attend to the subject with great concern, circumspection, and earnest prayer to the Father of lights for that discerning and wisdom by which you may, in the case depending, come to the knowledge of the truth. And is it not worthy your serious consideration that they who are not interested in this practice, and have no slaves, are generally, if not every one, fully convinced it is wrong? Are they not, at least many of them, as capable of judging in this matter as you yourselves are? and, therefore, more likely to judge right than you, as they are uninterested and impartial ? The conviction of the unjustifiableness of this practice has been increasing and greatly spread of late, and many who have had slaves have found themselves so unable to justify their own conduct in holding them in bondage, as to be induced to set them at liberty. May this conviction soon reach every owner of slaves in North America.
To this end you are desired to consider what is more than once urged in the dialogue, viz.,
The very inconsistent part you act while you are thus enslaving your fellow-men, and yet condemning and strenuously opposing those who are attempting to bring you and your children into a state of bondage much lighter than that in which you keep your slaves, who yet have at least as good a right to make slaves of
children as you have to hold your brethren in this state of bondage. Men do not love to be inconsistent with themselves; and, therefore, this is so evident and glaring, that, if you will only suffer yourselves to reflect a moment, it must give you pain, from which you can find no relief but by freeing your slaves, or relinquishing the cause of public liberty, which you have thought so glorious, and worthy to be pursued at the risk of your fortunes and lives. A general assembly of one of these colonies have expressed
Rhode Island. This is a preamble to a proposed act," prohibiting the importation of negroes into this colony, and asserting the rights of freedom of all those hereafter born or manumitted within the same.” It is observable, at first view, that the reason given for this act is equally a reason for actually