Item of the Day: The History of the Abolition of the African Slave-Trade (1808)
Full Title: The History of the Rise, Progress, & Accomplishments of the Abolition of the African Slave-Trade, by the British Parliament.
Written by Thomas Clarkson, M.A. Printed in Philadelphia by James P. Parke, 1808.
Volume I. Chapter V.
Anthony Benezet may be considered as one of the most zealous, vigilant, and active advocates, which the cause of the oppressed Africans ever had. He seemed to have been born and to have lived for the promotion of it, and therefore he never omitted any the least opportunity of serving it. If a person called up on him who was going a journey, his first thoughts usually were, how he could make him an instrument in its favor; and he either gave him tracts to distribute, or he sent letters by him, or he gave him some commission on the subject, so that he was the means of employing several persons at the same time, in various parts of America, in advancing the work he had undertaken.
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Finding, also, in the year 1783, that the Slave-trade, which had greatly declined during the American war, was reviving, he addressed a pathetic letter to our Queen . . . who, on hearing, the high character of the writer of it from Benjamin West, received it with marks of peculiar condescension and attention. The following is a copy of it.
To Charlotte Queen of Great Britain.
"Impressed with a sense of religious duty, and encouraged by the opinion generally entertained of thy benevolent disposition to succour the distressed, I take the liberty, very respectfully, to offer to thy perusal some tracts, which, I believe faithfully describe the suffering condition of many hundred thousands of our fellow-creatures of the African race, great numbers of whom, rent from every tender connexion in life, are annually taken from their native land, to endure, in the American islands and plantations, a most rigorous and cruel slavery; where by many, very many of them, are brought to a melancholy and untimely end.
"When it is considered that the inhabitants of Great Britain, who are themselves so eminently blessed in the enjoyment of religious and civil liberty, have long been, and yet are, very deeply concerned in this flagrant violation of the common rights of mankind, and that even its national authority is exerted in support of the African Slave-trade, there is much reason to apprehend, that this has been, and, as long as the evil exists, will continue to be, an occasion of drawing down the Divine displeasure on the nation and its dependencies. May these considerations induce thee to interpose thy kind endeavors in behalf of this greatly injured people, whose abject situation gives them an additional claim to the pity and assistance of the generous mind, inasmuch as they are altogether deprived of the means of soliciting effectual relief for themselves; that so thou mayest not only be a blessed instrument in the hand of him 'by whom kings reign and princes decree justice,' to avert the awful judgments by which the empire has already been so remarkably shaken, but that the blessings of thousands ready to perish may come upon thee, at a time when the superior advantages attendant on thy situation in this world will no longer be of any avail to thy consolation and support.
"To the tracts on this subject to which I have thus ventured to crave thy particular attention, I have added some which at different times I have believed it my duty to publish, and which, I trust, will afford thee some satisfaction, their design being for the furtherance of that universal peace and goodwill amongst men, which the gospel was intended to introduce.
"I hope thou wilt kindly excuse the freedom used on this occasion by an ancient man, whose mind, for more than forty years past, has been much separated from the common intercourse of the world, and long painfully exercised in the consideration of the miseries under which so large a part of mankind, equally with us the objects of redeeming love, are suffering the most unjust and grievous oppression, and who sincerely desires thy temporal and eternal felicity, and that of thy royal consort.