My dearly beloved Brethren and Fellow-Citizens:
Having travelled over a considerable portion of these United States, and having,
in the course of my travels, taken the most accurate observations of things as they exist,
the result of my observations has warranted the full and unshaken conviction, that we
(coloured people of these United States) are the most degraded, wretched and abject set
beings that ever lived since the world began; and I pray God that none like us ever may
live again until time shall be no more. They tell us of the Israelites in Egypt, the Helots in
Sparta, and of the Roman slaves, which last were made up from almost every nation
under heaven, whose sufferings under those ancient and heathen nations were, in
comparison with ours, under this enlightened and Christian nation, no more than a cypher
I will ask one question here,—Can our condition be any worse?— Can it be more mean
and abject? If there are any changes, will they not be for the better, though they may
appear for the worse at first? Can they get us any lower? Where can they get us? They are
afraid to treat us worse, for they know well, the day they do it they are gone. But against
all accusations which may or can be preferred against me, I appeal to Heaven for my
motive in writing - - who knows that my object is, if possible, to awaken in the breasts of
my afflicted, degraded and slumbering brethren, a spirit of inquiry and investigation
respecting our miseries and wretchedness in this Republican Land of Liberty! ! ! ! !
OUR WRETCHEDNESS IN CONSEQUENCE OF SLAVERY
My beloved brethren:—The Indians of North and South America—the Greeks—the Irish,
subjected under the king of Great Britain—the Jews, that ancient people of the Lord—the
inhabitants of the islands of the sea—in fine, all the inhabitants of the earth, (except,
however, the sons of Africa) and called men, and of course are and ought to be free. But
we (coloured people) and our children are brutes! ! and of course are and ought to be
Slaves to the American people and their children forever! ! to dig their mines and work
their farms; and thus go on enriching them, from one generation to another with our
blood and our tears! ! ! !
Can a man of colour buy a piece of land and keep it peaceably? Will not some white man
try to get it from him, even if it is in a mud hole? I need not comment any farther on a
subject which all, both black and white, will readily admit. But I must, really, observe
that in this very city [Boston], when a man of colour dies, if he owned any real estate it
most generally falls into the hands of some white person. The wife and children of the
deceased may weep and lament if they please, but the estate will be kept snug enough by
its white possessor . . .
Has Mr. Jefferson [Thomas Jefferson] declared to the world, that we are inferior to the
whites, both in the endowments of our bodies and of minds? [See Book 2] It is indeed
surprising, that a man with such great learning, combined with such excellent natural
parts, should speak so of a set of men in chains. I do not know what to compare it to,
unless, like putting one wild deer in an iron cage, where it will be secured, and hold
another by the side of the same, then let it go, and expect the one in the cage to run as fast
as the one at liberty . . .
God [has made] us black—which colour, Mr. Jefferson calls unfortunate! ! ! ! ! ! As
though we are not as thankful to our God, for having made us as it pleased himself, as
they (the whites,) are for having made them white. They think because they hold us in
their infernal chains of slavery, that we wish to be white, or of their color—but they are
dreadfully deceived—we wish to be just as it pleased our Creator to have made us, and
no avaricious and unmerciful wretches, have any business to make slaves of, or hold us in
slavery . . .
The man who would not fight under our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, in the glorious and
heavenly cause of freedom and of God—to be delivered from the most wretched, abject
and servile slavery, that ever a people was afflicted with since the foundation of the
world, to the present day —ought to be kept with all of his children or family, in slavery,
or in chains, to be butchered by his cruel enemies . . . .
I saw a paragraph, a few years since, in a South Carolina paper, which, speaking of the
barbarity of the Turks, said: “The Turks are the most barbarous people in the world—
they treat the Greeks more like brutes than human beings.” And in the same paper was an
advertisement, which said: ”Eight well built Virginia and Maryland Negro fellows and
four wenches will positively be sold this day to the highest bidder!” . . . I declare, it is
really so amusing to hear the Southerners and Westerners of this country talk about
barbarity, that it is positively enough to make a man smile. . . .
The sufferings of the Helots among the Spartans, were somewhat severe, it is true, but to
say that theirs were as severe as ours among the Americans, I do most strenuously deny -
- for instance, can any man show me an article on a page of ancient history which
specifies that, the Spartans chained, and hand-cuffed the Helots, and dragged them from
their wives and children, children from their parents, mothers from their suckling babes,
wives from their husbands, driving them from one end of the country to the other? Notice
the Spartans were heathens, who lived long before our Divine Master made his
appearance in the flesh. Can Christian Americans deny those barbarous cruelties? Have
you not, Americans, having subjected us under you, added to these miseries, by insulting
us in telling us to our face, because we are helpless, that we are not of the human family?
I ask you, O! Americans, I ask you, in the name of the Lord, can you deny these charges?
OUR WRETCHEDNESS IN CONSEQUENCE OF THE PREACHERS OF THE
RELIGION OF JESUS CHRIST
Religion, my brethren, is a subject of deep consideration among all the nations of the
earth. . . .
I have known tyrants or usurpers of human liberty in different parts of this country to take
their fellow creatures, the coloured people, and beat them until they would scarcely leave
life in them; what for? Why they say, ”The black devils had the audacity to be found
making prayers and supplications to the God who made them ! ! ! !” . . .
I remember a Camp Meeting in South Carolina. . . where was a very great concourse of
people. . . I among the rest went up and took my seat - - being seated I fixed myself in a
complete position to hear the word of my Savior . . . but to my no ordinary astonishment,
our Reverend gentleman got up and told us (coloured people) that the slaves must be
obedient to their masters - - must do their duty to their masters or be whipped—the whip
was made for the backs of fools, &c. Here I pause for a moment, to give the world time to
consider what was my surprise, to hear such preaching from a minister of my Master [i.e.
Jesus Christ], whose very gospel is that of peace and not of blood and whips. . . .
[P]ride and prejudice have got to such a pitch, that in the very houses erected to the Lord,
they have built little places for the reception of coloured people, where they must sit
during meeting, or keep away from the house of God, and the preachers say nothing
about it . . .