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Full text of "Thoughts upon the African slave trade"

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THOUGHTS 



UPON THE 



AFRICAN SLAVE TRADE, 



[PRICE ONE SHILLING.] 
# 



ADVERTISEMENT. 

THE profits, if any, arifing from the fale of 
this pamphlet ', are appropriated to the ufe of the 
Society, efablijhed in London, for the fupport 
and encouragement of Sunday Schools, in the 
different counties of England* 



• 



THOUGHTS 



fu, 



UPON THE 



AFPvICAN SLAVE TRADE. 



By JOHN N E W T O N, 

F. E C T O R OF ST. MARY WOOLNOTK. 



Matt. vii. 12. 



ilt THINGS WHATSOEVER YE WOULD THAT MEN SHOULD DO TO YOTT, 
DO YE EVEN SO TO THEM : FOR THIS IS THE LAW AND THE FRO- 
IHETS. 

HOMO SUM 



LONDON: 

PRINTED FOR J. BUCKLAND, IN PATER-NOSTER-ROW J AND 

J. Johnson, in st. paul's church-yard. 

M.DCC.LXXXVIII. 



f ■ 



I # I 



THOUGHTS 

UPON THE 

AFRICAN SLAVE TRADE, 



TH E nature and effects of that unhappy 
and difgraceful branch of commerce, 
which has long been maintained on the Coaft 
of Africa, with the fole, and profeffed defign 
of purchafing our fellow-creatures, in order 
to fupply our Weft-India iflands and the Ame- 
rican colonies, when they were ours, with 
Slaves ; is now generally underftood. So much 
light has been thrown upon the fubject, by 
many able pens ; and fo many refpectable per- 
fons have already engaged to ufe their utmoft 
influence, for the fuppreflion of a traffic, which 
contradicts the feelings of humanity $ that it 
is hoped, this ftain of our National character 
will foon be wiped out. 

B If 



2 THOUGHTS UPON THE 

If I attempt, after what has been done, to 
throw my mite into the public ftock of in- 
formation, it is lefs from an apprehenfion that 
my interference is neceffary, than from a con- 
viction, that lilence, at fuch a time, and on 
fuch an occafion, would, in me, be criminal. 
If my teflimony mould not be neceffary, or 
fervieeable, yet, perhaps, I am bound, in con- 
ference, to take fhame to myfelf by a public 
confeffion, which, however fineere, comes too 
late to prevent, or repair, the mifery and mif- 
chief to which I have, formerly, been accef- 
&ry. 

I hope it will always be a fubject of humi- 
liating reflection to me, that I was, once, an 
active inftrument, in a bufinefs at which my 
heart now fhudders. My headftrong pailions 
and follies plunged me, in early life, into a 
fucceilion of difficulties and hardships, which,. 
at length, reduced me to feek a refuge among 
the Natives of Africa There, for about the 
fpace of eighteen months, I was in effects 
though without the name, a Captive and a 
Slave myfelf - 3 and was depreffed to the loweft 
degree of human wretchednefs. Poffibly, I 
Should not have been fo completely miferabie? 
had 1 lived among the Natives only, but it 
was my lot to reiide with white men -, for at 
that time, fcverul perfons of my own colour 

an 1 



AFRICAN SLAVE TRADE. g 

and language were fettled upon that part of the 
Windward coaft, which lies between Sierra- 
Leon and Cape Mount; for the purpofe of 
purchafmg and collecting Slaves, to fell to the 
vefTels that arrived from Europe. 

This is a bourn, from which few travellers 
return, who have once determined to venture 
upon a temporary reiidenee there $ but the good 
providence of God, without my expectation, 
and ajmoft againft my will, delivered me from 
thofe fcenes of wickednefs and woe ; and I ar- 
rived at Liverpool in May 1748, I foon revi- 
fited the place of my captivity, as mate of a 
fhip, and, in the year 1750, 1 was appointed 
commander, in which capacity I made three 
voyages to the Windward Coaft, for Slaves. 

I firft faw the Coaft of Guinea in the year 
1745, and took my laft leave of it in 1754. 
Jt was not, intentionally, a farewel ; but through 
the mercy of God it proved fo. I fitted out 
for a fourth voyage, and was upon the point 
of failing, when I was arrefted by a fudden 
jllnefs, and I refigned the {hip to another Cap^ 
fain. 

Thus I was unexpectedly freed from this 

difagreeable fervice. Difagreeable I had long 

B 2 found 



4 THOUGHTS UPON THE 

found it j but I think I mould have quitted it 
fooner, had I confidered it, as I now do, to be 
unlawful and wrong. But I never had a fcru~ 
pie upon this head at the time - 3 nor was fuch 
a thought once fuggefted to me, by any friend* 
What I did, I did ignorantly ; confidering it 
as the line of life which Divine Providence 
had allotted me, and having no concern, in 
point of confcience, but to treat the Slaves, 
while under my care, with as much humanity 
as a regard to my own fafety would admit. 

The experience and obfervation of nine 
years, would qualify me for being a compe- 
tent witnefs upon this Subject, could I fafely 
truf! to the report of Memory, after an interval 
of more than thirty-three years. But, in the 
courfe of fo long a period, the ideas of paft 
fcenes and transactions, grow indiftinct ; and I 
am aware, that what I have feen, and what I 
have only heard related, may, by this time, 
have become fo infenfibly blended together, 
that, in fome cafes, it may be difficult for me, 
if not impoilible, to diitinguifh them, with' 
abfoiute certainty. It is, however, my earned 
defire, and will therefore engage my utmoft 
care, that I may offer nothing in writing, as 
from my own knowledge, which I could not 
chearfuliy, if requifite, confirm upon oath. 

Tha£ 



AFRICAN SLAVE TRADE. 5 

That part of the African more, which lies 
between the river Sierra-Leon, lat. 8. 30. N. 
and Cape Palmas, is ufually known by the 
name of the Windward, or Grain Coaft. The 
extent (if my recolle&ion does not fail me) is 
about one hundred and fifty leagues. There 
is a fort upon Benee Ifland, in Sierra-Leon, 
which formerly belonged to the old African 
Company: they alfo had a fort on an ifland 
in the river Sherbro ; but the former was in 
private hands, and of the latter, fcarcely the 
foundations were vifible, when I firft went to 
Africa. There is no fort, or factory, upon 
this coaft, under the fan&ion of our Govern- 
ment ; but there were, as I have faid, and 
probably dill are, private traders refident at 
Benee Ifland, at the Bananoes, and at the 
Plantanes. The former of thefe is about twelve, 
and the latter twenty leagues, from Sierra- 
Leon, to the South-Baft. 

By thefe perfons, the trade is carried on, in boats 
and fhallops, thirty or forty leagues to the north- 
ward, in feveral rivers lying within the flioals 
of Rio Grande. But the mod northerly place 
of trade, for (hipping, is Sierra-Leon, and the 
buiinefs there, and in that neighbourhood, is 
chiefly tranfacted with the white men : but 
from Sherbro to Cape Palmas, directly with 

the 



6 THOUGHTS UPON' THE 

the natives. Though I have been on the Gold 
Coaft, and beyond it as far as Cape Lopez, in 
the latitude of one or two degrees South, I pro- 
fefs no knowledge of the African trade, but 
as it was conducted on ?he Windward Coafh 
when I was concerned in it. 

I am not qualified, and if I were, I mould 
think it rather unfuitable to my prefent cha- 
racter, as a Minifter of the Gofpel, to confider 
the African Slave Trade, merely, in a political 
light. This difquilition more properly be- 
longs to perfons in civil life. Only thus far 
my character as a Minifter will allow, and per. 
haps require me, to obferve, that the bell: Hit* 
man Policy, is that which is connected with a 
reverential regard to Almighty God, the Su* 
preme Governor of the Earth. Every plan, which 
aims at the welfare of a nation, in defiance of 
his authority and laws, however apparently 
wife, will prove to be eUentially defective, 
and, if perfifled in, ruinous. The Righteous 
Lord loveth Righteoufnefs, and He has en- 
gsiffed to plead the caufe, and vindicate the 
wrongs of the opprefTed. It is Righteoufnefs 
that exaileth a nation ; and Wickednefs is the 
prefent reproach, and will, fooner or later, 
uniefs repentance intervene, prove the ruin of 
any people. 

Perhaps 



AFRICAN SLAVE T R A D E. J 

Perhaps what I have faid of myfelf may 
be applicable to the nation at large. The 
Slave Trade was always unjuilifiable -, but in- 
attention and interefl prevented, for a time, the 
evil from being perceived. It is other wife 
atprefent; the mifchiefs and evils, connected 
with it, have been, of late years, reprefented 
with fuch undeniable evidence, and are now 
fo generally known, that I fuppofe there is 
hardly an objection can be made, to the wifli 
of thoufands, perhaps of millions, for the fup- 
preffion of this Trade, but upon the ground of 
political expedience, 

Tho' I were even fure, that a principal branch 
of thepublic revenue depended upon the African 
Trade (which, I apprehend, is far from being 
the cafe), if I had accefs and influence, I mould 
think myfelf bound to fay to Government, to 
Parliament, and to the Nation, €t It is not law- 
*' ful to put it into the Treafury, becaufe it is 
" the price of blood *." 

I account anjntelligent Farmer to be a good 
Politician, in this fenfe -, that, if he has a 
large heap of good corn, he will not put a 
fmall quantity, that is damaged, to the reft, 
for the fake of encreafmg the heap. He knows 

* Matth. xxvii. 6. 

that 



O THOUGHTS UPON THE 

that fuch an addition would fpoil the whole. 
God forbid, that any fuppofed profit or advan- 
tage, which we can derive from the groans 
and agonie^ and blood of the poor Africans> 
mould draw down his heavy curie, upon all 
that we might, otherwife, honourably and 
comfortably poiTefs* 

For the fake of Method, I could wifh to 
conlider the African Trade, — Firft, with regard 
to the effects it has upon our own people ; and 
Secondly, as it concerns the Blacks, or, as 
ihsy are more contemptuoufly ftyled, the 
Negroe Slaves, whom we purchafe upon the 
Coafl. But thefe two topics are fo interwoven 
together, that it will not be eafy to keep them 
exactly feparate. 

i. The firft point I fhall mention is furely 
of political importance, if the lives of our 
fellow- fubjects be fo ; and if a rapid lofs of 
Seamen deferves the attention of a maritime 
people. This lofs, in the African Trade, is 
truly alarming. I admit, that many of them 
are cut off in their firft voyage, and, confe- 
quently, before they can properly rank as Sea- 
men j though they would have been Seamen? 
;r they had lived. But the neighbourhood of 
our fea-ports is continually drained, of men 
and boys, to fupply the places of thofe who 

die 



AFRICAN SLAVE TRADE. 

9 

die abroad ; and if they are not all Seamen 
they are all our brethren and countrymen, 
fubjecls of the Britifh Government. 

The people who remain, on mip-board, 
upon the open coaft, if not accuftomed to the 
climate, are liable to the attack of an inflam- 
matory fever, which is not often fatal, unltfs 
the concurrence of unfavourable circumftances 
makes it fo. When this danger is over, I 
think they might, probably, be as healthy 
as in moft other voyages -, provided, they 
could be kept from fleeping in the dews, from 
being much expofed to the rain, from the in- 
temperate ufe of fpirits, and efpecially from 
women. 

But, confidering the general difpofition of 
our Sailors, and the nature of the Slave Trade, 
thefe provifos are of little more (igniflcance, 
than if I mould fay, upon another occafion, 
that Great-Britain would be a happy country, 
provided, all the inhabitants were Wife, and 
Good. The Sailors mvji be much expofed to 
the weather j efpecially on the Windward 
Coaft, where a great part of the cargo is pro- 
cured by boats, which are often fent to the 
diftance of thirty or forty leagues, and are 
fometimes a month before they return. Man v 
vefTels arrive upon the coaft before the rainy 

C feaibn, 



!© THOUGHT SUPON THE 

feafon, which continues from about May to 
October, is over - y and if trade be fcarce, the 
fhips which arrive in the fair, or dry feafon,. 
often remain till the rains return, before they 
can complete their purchafe. A proper fhelter 
from the weather, in an open boat, when the 
rain is incelfant night and day, for weeks and 
months, is impracticable. 

I have myfelf, in fuch a boat, been five or 
fix days together, without, as we fay, a dry 
thread about me, fleeping or waking. And 
during the fair feafon, Tornadoes, or violent 
ftorms of wind, thunder, and heavy rain, are 
very frequent, though they feldom laft long. 
In fact, the boats feldom return, without 
bringing fome of the people ill of dangerous 
fevers or fluxes, occafioned either by the wea- 
ther, or by unwholfome diet, fuch as the 
crude fruits and palm wine, with which they 
are plentifully fupplied by the natives. 

Strong liquors, fuch as brandy, rum, or 
Englifh fpirits, the Sailors cannot often pro- 
cure, in fuch quantities as to hurt them ; but 
they will, if they can ; and opportunities 
fometimes offer, efpecially to thofe who are 
in the boats ; for firong liquor being an article 
much in demand, fo that, without it, fcarcely 
a lingle Slave can be purchafed, it is always at 

hand. 



AFRICAN SLAVE TRADE. II 

hand. And if what is taken from the cafks 
or bottles, that are for fale, be fupplied with 
water, they are as full as they were before. 
The Blacks, who buy the liquor, are the 
lofers by the adulteration -, but often the 
people, who cheat them, are the greater!: fuf- 
ferers. 

The article of Women, likewife, contributes 
largely to the lofs of our Seamen. When they 
are on more, they often, from their known» 
thoughtlefs imprudence, involve themfelves, 
on this account, in quarrels with the Natives, 
and, if not killed upon the fpot, are frequently 
poifoned. On fhip-board, they may be re- 
trained, and in fome {hips they are ; but fuch 
reftraint is far from being general. It depends 
much upon the difpoiition, and attention, of 
the Captain, When I was in the trade, I 
knew feveral commanders of African mips, 
who were prudent, refpeclabie men, and who 
maintained a proper difcipline and regularity 
in their veflels ; but there were too many of a 
different character. In fome fhips, perhaps in 
the moft, the licenfe allowed, in this parti- 
cular, was almofr. unlimited. Moral turpitude 
was feldom conhdered, but they who took care 
to do the fhip's bufmefs, might, in other re- 
fpects, do what they pleafed. Thefe excefTes* 
•if they do not induce fevers, at lead, render the 

C 2 conflitution 



12 THOUGHTS UPON THE 

confutation lefs able to fupport them ; and 
lewdnefs, too frequently, terminates in death. 

The rifk of infurreclions is to be added. 
Thefe, I believe, are always meditated ; for 
the Men Slaves are not, eafily, reconciled to 
their confinement, and treatment ; and if at- 
tempted, they are feldorn fupprerTed without 
confiderable lofs ; and fometimes they fucceed, 
to the dcflruction of a whole fhip's company 
at once. Seldom a year panes, but we hear 
of one or more fuch cataftrophes : and we 
likewife hear, fometimes, of Whites and Blacks 
involved, in one moment, in one common 
ruin, by the gunpowder taking fire, and blow- 
ing up the (hip. 

How far the feveral caufes, I have enume- 
rated, f may refpe&ively operate, I cannot fay : 
the fact however is fure, that a great number 
of our Seamen perifh in the Slave Trade. Few 
fhips, comparatively, are either blown up, or 
totally cut off, but fome are. Of the reft, I 
have known fome that have loft half their 
people, and fome a larger proportion. I am 
iar from faying, that it is always, or even 
often, thus; but, I believe, I mail ftate the 
matter fufficiently low, if I fuppole, that, at 
leaft, one fifth part of thofe who go from 
England to the Coaft of Africa, in (hips which 

trade 



AFRICAN SLAVE TRADE. 13 

trade for Slaves, never return from thence. 
I dare not depend, too much, upon my memory, 
as to the number of mips, and men, employed 
in the Slave Trade more than thirty years ago ; 
nor do I know what has been the flate of the 
trade fince -, therefore I mall not attempt to 
make calculations. But, as I cannot but form 
fome opinion upon the fubjeci, I judp-eit pro- 
bable, that the collective fum of Seamen, 
who go, from all our ports, to Africa, within 
the courfe of a year, (taking Guinea in the 
extenfive fenfe, from Goree or Gambia, and 
including the coaft of Angola,) cannot be lefs 
than eight thoufand ; and if, upon an average 
of (hips and feafons, a fifth part of thefe die, 
the annual lofs is fifteen hundred. I believe 
thofe, who have taken pains to make more 
exact enquiries, will deem my fuppofition t9 
be very moderate. 

Thus much concerning the firft evil, the 
Lofs of Seamen and Subjects, which the na- 
tion fuftains, by the African Slave Trade. 

2. There is a fecond, which either is, or 
ought to be, deemed of importance, confidered 
in a political light. I mean, the dreadful ef- 
fects of this trade, upon the minds of thofe 
who are engaged in it. There are, doubdefs, 
exceptions, and I would, willingly, except 

myfelf. 



24 THOUGHTS UPON THE 

myfelf. But, in general, I know of no me- 
thod of getting money, not even that of rob- 
bery, for it, upon the highway, which has a 
more direct tendency to efface the moral fenfe, 
to rob the heart of every gentle and humane 
difpontion, and to harden it, like fteel, againft 
all imprefflons of feniibility. 

Uiually, about two-thirds of a cargo of 
Slaves are males. When a hundred and fifty 
or two hundred front men, torn from their 
native land, many of whom never faw the fea, 
much lefs a (hip, till a iliort fpace before they 
are embarked | who have, probably^ the fame 
natural prejudice againft a white man, as we 
have again/! a black ; and who often bring with 
them an apprehenfion that they are bought to 
be eaten : I fay, when thus circumftanced, it 
is not to be expecled that they will, tamely, 
reiign themfelves to their Situation. It is al- 
ways taken for granted, that they will attempt 
to gain their liberty, if pofljble. Accordingly, 
as we dare not trull them, we receive them on 
board, from the firft, as enemies : and before 
their number exceeds, perhaps, ten or fifteen, 
they are all put in irons ; in moil mips, two 
and two together. And frequently, they are 
not thus confined, as they might, moil conve- 
niently, (land or move, the right hand and 
foot ofoae to the left of the other ; but acxo-fe, 

that 



AFRICAN SLAVE TRADE. T£ 

that is, the hand and foot of each on the fame 
iide, whether right or left, are fettered toge- 
ther : fo that they cannot move, either hand 
or foot, but with great caution, and with per- 
fect, confent. Thus they muft fit, walk and 
lie, for many months, (fometimes for nine or 
ten,) without any mitigation or relief, unlefs 
they are lick. 

In the night they are confined below, in 
the day-time (if the weather be fine) they are 
upon deck ; and as they are brought up, by 
pairs, a chain is put through a ring upon their 
irons, and this is likewife locked down to the 
ring-bolts, which are faflened at certain in- 
tervals upon the deck. Thefe, and other pre- 
cautions, are no more than neceflary ; efpe- 
cially, as while the number of Slaves in- 
creafes, that of the people, who are to guard 
them, is diminimed, by iicknefs, or death, or 
by being abfent in the boats : fo that, fome- 
times, not ten men can be muftered, to watch, 
night and day, over two hundred, befides 
having all the other buflnefs of the fhip to 
attend. 

That thefe precautions are fo often effectual, 
is much more to be wondered at, than that 
they fometimes fail. One unguarded hour, 
or minute, is fufficient to give the Slaves the 

oppor- 



l6 THOUGHTS UPON THE 

opportunity they are always waiting for. An 
attempt to rife upon the fhip's company, brings 
on inflantaneous and horrid war) for, when 
they are once in motion, they are defperate 5 
and where they do not conquer, they are fel- 
dom quelled without much mifchief and blood- 
flied, on both fides. 

Sometimes, when the Slaves are ripe for an 
in furreclion, one of them will impeach the 
affair ; and then neceffity, and the ftate policy, 
of thefe fmall, but moft abfolute govern- 
ments, enforce maxims dire&ly contrary to 
the nature of things. The traitor to the 
caufe of liberty is careffed, rewarded, and 
deemed an honed: fellow. The patriots, who 
formed and animated the plan, if they can be 
found out, mult be treated as villains, and 
punifhed, to intimidate the reft. Thefe pu- 
niihments, in their nature and degree, depend 
upon the fovereign will of the Captain. Some 
are content with inflitling fuch moderate pu- 
nifhment, as may fuffice for an example. But 
unlimited power, inftigated by revenge, and 
where the heart, by a long familiarity with 
the fufferings of Slaves, is become callous, 
and infenfibfe to the pleadings of humanity, 
is terrible. 

I have 



AFRICAN SLAVE TRADE. 1J 

1 have feen them fentenced to unmerciful 
whippings, continued till the poor creatures 
have not had power to groan under their 
mifery, and hardly a fign of life has remained. 
I have feen them agonizing for hours, I be- 
lieve, for days together, under the torture of 
the thumb -fcrews -, a dreadful engine, which, 
if the fcrew be turned by an unrelenting hand, 
can give intolerable anguifli. There have 
been inftances in which cruelty has proceeded 
ftill further; but, as I hope they are few, and 
I can mention but one, from my own know- 
ledge, I fhall but mention it. 

I have often heard a Captain, who has been 
long fince dead, boaft of his conduct in a 
former voyage, when his Slaves- attempted to 
rife upon him. After he had fuppreffed the 
inmrre&ion, he fat in judgment upon the in- 
furgents ; and not only, in cold blood, ad- 
judged ieveral of them, I know not how 
many, to die, but ftudied, with no fmall 
attention, how to make death as excruciating 
to them as poffibl'e. For my reader's fake, I 
fupprefs the recital of particulars. 

Surely, it muft be allowed, that they who 
are long converfant with fuch fcenes as thefe, 
are liable to imbibe a fpirit of ferocioufnefs, 

D and 



1 8 THbUGflfS U P ft THfi 

and favage infenfibility, of which human na- 
ture, depraved as it is, is not, ordinarily, ca- 
pable. If thefe things be true, the reader will 
admit the poflibi'lity of a fact, that was in 
current reports when I was upon the Coaft, and 
the truth of which, though I cannot now au- 
thenticate it, I have no reafon to doubt. 

A Mate of a fhip, in a long-boat, purchafed 
a" young woman, with a fine child, of about a 
year old, in her arms. In the night, the 
child cried much, and difturbed his fleep. He 
role up in great anger, and fwore, that if the 
child did not ceafe making fuch a noife, he 
would prefently filence it. The child conti- 
nued to cry. At length he rofe up a fecond 
time, tore the child from the mother, and 
threw it into the lea. The child was foon 
iilenced indeed, but it was not fo eafy to 
pacify the woman : fhe was too valuable to be 
thrown overboard, and he was obliged to bear 
the found of her lamentations, till he could put 
her on board his fhip. 

I am periuaded, that every tender mother^ 
who feafts her eyes and her mind, when (he 
contemplates the infant in her arms, will com- 
iruferate the poor Africans. — But why do I 
fpcak of one child, when we have heard and 

read 



AFRICAN SLAVE TRADE. 19 

read a melancholy ftory, too notorioufly true 
to admit of contradiction, of more than a 
hundred grown flaves, thrown into the fea, at 
one time, from on board a (hip, when frefh 
water was fcarce ; to fix the lofs upon the 
Underwriters, which otherwife, had they died 
pn board, muft have fallen upon the Owners of 
the veffel. Thefe inftances are fpecimens of 
the fpirit produced, by the African Trade, in 
men, who, once, were no more deftitute of 
the milk of human kindnefs than our* 
felves. 

Hitherto, I have considered the condition of 
the Men Slaves only. From the Women* 
there is no danger of infurredlion, and they 
are carefully kept from the men -, I mean? 

from the Black men. But In what I have 

to offer, on this head, I am far from including 
every fhip. I fpeak not of what is univerfally* 
but of what is too commonly, and, I am afraicj* 
too generally, prevalent. 

I have already obferved, that the Captain of 
an African (hip, while upon the Coaft, is abfo- 
}ute in his command -, and if he be humane* 
vigilant, and determined, he has it in his 
power to protect the miferable ; for fcarcely 
%ny thing can be done, on bpard the fhip, 

P 2 without 



20 THOUGHTS UPON THE 

without his permiffion, or connivance. But 
this power is, too feldom, exerted in favour of 
the poor Women Slaves. 

When we hear of a town taken by ftorm* 
and given up to the ravages of an enraged and 
licentious army, of wild and unprincipled 
CoiTacks, perhaps no part of the diftrefs affects 
a feeling mind more, than the treatment to 
which the women are expofed. But the 
enormities frequently committed, in an African 
fhip, though equally flagrant, are little known 
here, and are considered, there, only as matters 
of courfe. When the Women and Girls are 
taken on board a fhip, naked, trembling, ter- 
rified, perhaps almoir. exhausted with cold* 
fatigue, and hunger, they are often expofed to 
the wanton rudenefs of white Savages. The 
poor creatures cannot understand the language 
they hear, but the looks and manner of the 
fpeakers, are fufficiently intelligible. In ima- 
gination, the prey is divided, upon the fpo£ a 
and only referved till opportunity offers, 
Where refinance, or refufal, would be utterly 
in vain, even the foliicitation of confent is 
feldom thought of. But 1 forbear. —This is 
not a fbbjeel; for declamation. Facls like 
the fe, lb certain, and fo numerous, fpeak for 
themfelves. Surely, if the advocates for 

the 



AFRICAN SLAVE TRADE. 21 

the Slave Trade attempt to plead -for it, be- 
fore the Wives and Daughters of our harpy 
land, or before thofe who have Wives or 
Daughters of their own, they mufl lofe their 
caufe. 

Perhaps fome hard - hearted pleader may 
fa^eeft, that fuch treatment would indeed be 
cruel, in Europe ; but the African "Women are 
Negroes, Savages, who have no idea of the nicer 
feniations which obtain among civilized people. 
I dare contradict them in the ftrongeft. terms. 
I have lived long, and converfed much, 
amongft thefe fuppoled Savages. I have often 
llept in their towns, in a houfe filled with 
goods for trade, with na perfon in the houfe 
but myfelf, and with no other door than a 
mat ; in that fecurify, which no man in 
his fenfes would expect, in this civilized 
nation, efpecially in this metropolis, with- 
out the precaution of having fr.ro r>g doors, 
ftrongly locked and bolted. And with re- 
gard to the women, in Sherbro, where I 
was moil acquainted, I have fetn many 
inftances of modefty, and even delicacy* 
which would not difgrace an Englim woman. 
Yet, fuch is the treatment which 1 have known 
permitted, if not encouraged, in many of our 
(hips— ° they have been abandoned, without 

reftiaintj 



22 THOUGHTS UPON THE 

rcftraint, to the lawlefs will of the £rf| 
comer. 

Accuftomed thus to defpife, inftl.t, and in- 
jure the Slaves on board, it may be expected 
that the conduct of many of our people to the 
Natives, with whom they trade, is, as far as 
pircumftances admit, very firpilar 3 and it is 
fo. They are coniidered as a people to b§ 
robbed and fpoiled, with impunity. Every 
?rt is employed to deceive, and wrong them. 
And he who has moft addrefs, in this way, 
lias moil to b.oa(l pf. 

Not an article, that is capable of diminu-? 
lion or adulteration, is delivered genuine, or 
entire. The fpirits are lowered hy water. 
Falfe heads are put into the kegs that contain 
the gun-powder j fo that, though the keg ap r 
pears large, there is no more powder in it, 
than in a much fmaller. The linen and cotton 
cloths are opened, and two or three yards, 
according to the length of the piece, cutoff, 
not from the end s but out of the middle, 
v/htrt it is not fo readily noticed. 

The Natives are cheated, in the number, 
weight, mcafure, or quality, of what they 

purchafe, 



AFRICAN SLAVE TRADE. 2j 

purchafe, in every pofiible way. And, by 
habit and emulation, a marvellous dexterity is 
acquired in thefe practices. And thus the 
Natives, in their turn, in proportion to their 
commerce with the Europeans, and (I am 
ibrry to add) particularly with the Englifii, 
become jealous, infidious and revengeful. 

They know with whom they deal, and are 
accordingly prepared ; — though they can truffc 
ibme fhips and boats, which have treated them 
with punctuality, and may be trufted by them. 
A quarrel, fometimes, furnifhes pretext for 
detaining, and carrying away, one or more of 
the Natives, which is retaliated, if practicable, 
upon the next boat that comes to the place, 
from the fame port. For fo far their vindictive 
temper is retrained by their ideas of juftice, 
that they will nor, often, revenge an injury 
received from a Liverpool {hip, upon one be- 
longing to Briiloi or London, 

They will, ufually, wait with patience, the 
arrival of one, which, they fuppofe, by her 
failing from the fame place, has ibme connec- 
tion with that which ufed them ill ; and they 
are fo quick at diftingui thing our little local 
differences of language, and cufloms in a fhip, 
that before they have been in a fhip five mi- 
nutes, 



24 THOUGHTS UPON THE 

nutes, and often before they come on board* 
they know, with certainty, whether {he be 
from Briftol, Liverpool, or London. 

Retaliation on their parts, furnifhes a plea 
for reprizal on ours. Thus, in one place or 
another, trade is often fufpended, all inter- 
courfe cut off, and things are in a ftate of war $ 
till neceffity, either on the fhip's part, or on 
theirs, produces overtures of peace, and dic- 
tates the price, which the offending party mud 
pay for it. But it is a warlike peace. We 
trade under arms ; and they are furnifhed with 
long knives. 

For, with a few exceptions, the Engiiilx 
and the Africans, reciprocally, confider each 
other as confummate villains, who are always 
watching opportunities to do mifchief* In 
fhort, we have, I fear too defervedly, a very 
unfavourable character upon the Coaft. Whert 
I have charged a Black with unfairnefs and 
difhonefty, he has anfwered, if able to clear 
himfelf, with an air of difdain, " What ! do 
" you think I am a White Man ?" 

Such is the nature, fuch are the concomi- 
tants, of the Slave Trade ; and fuch is the 
fchool in which many thoufands of our Seamen 

are 



AFRICAN SLAVE TRADE. 25 

are brought up. Can we then wonder at that 
impatience of fubordination, and that difpo- 
iition to mutiny, amongtt them, which has 
been, of late, fo loudly complained of, and fo 
feverely felt? Will not found policy fugged, 
the neceflity, of fome expedient here ? Or can 
found policy fuggeft any, effectual, expedient, 
but the total fuppreiiion of a Trade, which, 
like a poifonous root, diffufes its malignity into 
every branch? 

The effects which our trade has upon the 
Blacks, thofe efpecially who come under our 
power, may be confidered under three heads, 
-—How they are acquired? The mortality they 
are fubjcft to ! and, How thofe who furvive 
are difpofed of ? 

I confine my remarks on the firft head to 
the Windward Coaft, and can fpeak molt, con- 
fidently of the trade in Sherbro, where I lived. 
I own, however, that I queftion, if any part of 
the Windward Coaft is equal to Sherbro, in 
point of regularity and government. They 
have no men of great power or property 
among them -, as I am told there are upon the 
Gold Coaft, at Whidah and Benin. The 
Sherbro people live much in the patriarchal 
way. An old man ufually prefides in each 

E town, 



2.6 THOUGHTS UPON THE 

town, whofe authority depends more on his 
years, than on his poffeffions : and He, who 
is called the King, is not eafily diftinguifhed, 
either by ftate or wealth, from the reft. But 
the different diftricfs, which feem to be, in 
many refpe&s, independent of each other, are 
incorporated, and united, by means of an in- 
ftitution which pervades them all, and is called 
The Furrow. The perfons of this order, who 
are very numerous, feem, very much, to re- 
femble the Druids, who once prefided in our 
iiland. 

The Purrow has both the legiflative and 
executive authority, and, under their fanclion, 
there is a police exercifed, which is by no 
means contemptible. Every thing belonging 
to the Purrow is myfterious and fevere, but, 
upon the whole, it has very good effects ; and 
as any man, whether bond or free, who will 
fubmit to be initiated into their myfleries, may 
be admitted of the Order, it is a kind of 
Common- wealth. And, perhaps, few people 
enjoy more, fimple, political freedom, than the 
inhabitants of Sherbro, belonging to the Pur-- 
row, (who are not flaves,) further than they 
are bound by their own infcitutions. Private 
property is tolerably well fecured, and violence 
is much fupprelied. 

THs" 



AFRICAN SLAVE TRADE. Z*J 

The date of Slavery, among thefe wild bar- 
barous people, as we efteem them, is much 
milder than in our colonies. For as, on the 
one hand, they have no land in high cultiva- 
tion, like our Weft-India plantations, and 
therefore no call for that exceffive, uninter^ 
mitted labour, which exhaufts our Slaves ; fo> 
on the other hand, no man is permitted to 
draw blood, even from a Slave. If he does, 
he is liable to a ftricl: inquifition -, for the 
Furrow laws will not allow a private indivi- 
dual to fhed blood. A man may fell his Have, 
if he pleafes -, but he may not wantonly abufe 
him. The laws likewife punifh forne fpecies 
of theft, with flavery; and in cafes of adul- 
tery, which are very common, as polygamy is 
the cuftom of the country, both the woman, 
and the man who offends with her, are liable 
to be fold for Slaves, unlefs they can fatisfy 
the hufband, or unlefs they are redeemed by 
their friends. 

Among thefe unenlightened Blacks, it is a 
general maxim, that if a. man deals, or breaks 
a moveable, as a mufket, for indance, the of-* 
fence may be nearly compenfated, by putting 
another muiket in its place ; but offences, 
which cannot be repaired in kind, as adultery, 
admit of no fatisfadtion, till the injured perfon 
E 2 declares 



28 THOUGHTS UPON THE 

declares, that He is fatisfied. So that, if a 
rich man feduces the wife of a poor man, he 
has it in his power to change places with him ; 
for he may fend for every article in his houfe, 
one by one, till he fays, " I have enough." 
The only alternative, is perfonal flavery. 

I fuppofe, bribery and influence may have 
their effects in Guinea, as they have in fome 
other countries; but their laws, in the main? 
are wife and good, and, upon the whole, they 
have conuderable operation ; and therefore, I 
believe, many of the Slaves purchafed in 
Sherbro, and probably upon the whole Wind- 
ward Coaft, are convicts, who have forfeited 
their liberty, by breaking the laws of their 
country. 

But, I apprehend, that the neighbourhood 
of our mips, and the deure of our goods, are 
motives, which often pufh the rigour of the 
laws to an extreme, which would not be ex- 
acted, if they were left to themfelves. 

But Slaves are the (raple article of the traffic ; 
and though a conijderable number may have 
been born near the fed, I believe. the bulk of 
them are brought from far. I have reafon to 
think, that fome travel more than a ihoufand 

miles, 



AFRICAN SLAVE TRADE. 29 

miles, before they reach the fea-coaft. Whe- 
ther there may be convicts amongft thefe like- 
wife, or what proportion they may bear to 
thofe who are taken prifoners in war, it is im- 
poffible to know. 

I judge, the principal fource of the Slave 
Trade, is, the wars which prevail among the 
Natives. Sometimes, thefe wars break out 
between thofe who live near the fea. The 
Engliih, and other Europeans, have been 
charg-ed with fomenting them 3 I believe 
(fo far as concerns the Windward Coaft) un- 
juflly. That fome would do it, if they could, 
I doubt not ; but I do not think they can have 
opportunity. Nor is it needful they mould 
interfere. Thoufands, in our own country, 
wiih for war, becaufe they fatten upon its 
fpoils. 

Human nature is much the fame in every 
place, and few people will be willing to allows 
that the Negroes in Africa are better than them- 
felves. Suppofing, therefore, they wifh for 
European goods, may not they wiih to pur- 
chafe them from a fhip juft arrived ? Of 
courfe, they muft wiih for Slaves to go to 
market with ; and if they have not Slaves, - 
and think themfelves flrong enough to invade j 

their , x 



2 O THOUGHT. S UPON THE 



«j 



their neighbours, they will probably wifh for 
war . — And if once they wifh for it, how eafy 
is it to find, or make, pretexts for breaking an 
inconvenient peace j or (after the example of 
greater heroes, of Chriftian name) to make 
depredations, without condefcending to aflign, 
any reafons. 

I verily believe, that the far greater part of 
the wars, in Africa, would ceafe i if the Eu- 
ropeans would ceafe to tempt them, by offer- 
ing goods for Slaves. And though they do 
not bring legions into the field, their wars are 
"bloody. I ' believe, the captives referved for 
fale, are fewer than the flain. 

I have not fufficient data to warrant calcula- 
tion, but, I fuppofe, not lefs than one hundred 
thoufand Slaves are exported, annually, from all 
parts of Africa, and that more than one half, of 
thefe, are exported in English bottoms. 

If but an equal number are killed in war, 
and if many of thefe wars are kindled by 
fche incentive of felling their priibners ; what 
an. annual accumulation of blood m'uft there 
be, crying agai.nPc the nations of Europe con- 
ned in this trade, and particularly againft 
r own ! 

I have. 



AFRICAN SLAVE TRADE. $t 

1 have, often, been gravely told, as a proof 
that the Africans, however hardly treated, 
deferve but little companion, that they are a 
people fo deftitute of natural affection, that it 
is common, among them, for parents to fell 
their children, and children their parents. 
And, I think, a charge, of this kind, is 
brought againft them, by the refpe&able au- 
thor of Spe5ia.de de la Nature. But he muft 
have been mifinformed. I never heard of one 
inftance of either, while I ufed theCoaft. 

One article more, upon- this head, is Kid- 
napping, or ftealing free people. Some people 
fuppofe, that the Ship Trade is rather the 
ilealing, than the buying of Slaves. Bur 
there is enough to lay to the charge of the 
ihips, without accufing them falfeiy. The 
(laves, in general, are bought, and paid for. 
Sometimes, when goods are lent, or traded 
on fhore, the trader voluntarily leaves a free 
perfon, perhaps his own fen, as a hoftage, or 
pawn, for the payment; and, in cafe or de- 
fault, the hofbge is carried off, and fold y 
which, however hard upon him, being in 
confequence of a free ftipulation, cannot be 
deemed unfair. There have been initances of 
unprincipled Captains, who, at the clofe of 
what they fuppefed their lad: voyage, mi 

when 



%Z THOUGHTS UPON THE 

when they had no intention of reviliting the 
Coaft, have detained, a-nd carried away, free 
people with them ; and left the next fhip, 
that fhould come from the fame port, to rifk 
the confequences. But thefe actions, I hope, 
and believe, are not common. 

With regard to the Natives, to ileal a free 
man or woman, and to fell them on board a 
fhip, would, I think, be a more difficult, and 
more dangerous attempt, in Sherbro, than ill 
London. But I have no doubt, that the 
traders who come, from the interior parts of 
Africa, at a great diftance, find opportunity* 
in the courfe of their journey, to pick up- 
ftrao-o-lers, whom they may meet in their way,; 
This branch of pppreflion, and robbery* 
would like wile fail, if the temptation to it 
were removed. 

I have, to the belt, of my knowledge* 
pointed out the principal fources> of that im- 
menfe fupply of Slaves, which furnimes fa 
lar°e an exportation every year. If all that 
are taken on board the '{hips, were to furvive 
the voyage, and be landed in good order, pof- 
iiblv the Englim, French, and Dutch iflands, 
and colonies, would be foon overstocked,, and 
fewer mips would fail to the Coaft. But a 

larger 



AFRICAN SLAVE TRADE. 33 

large abatement muft be made for mortality. 
— After what I have already faid of their treat- 
ment, I £hall now, that I am again to coniider 
them on board the (hips, confine myfelf to 
this point. 

In the Portuguefe mips, which trade from 
Braiil to the Gold Coaft and Angola, I believe* 
a heavy mortality is not frequent. The 
Slaves have room, they are not put in irons, 
(I fpeak from information only J and are hu- 
manely treated. 

With our mips ? the great objecl is, to be 
full. When the fhip is there, it is thought 
defirable, me mould take as many as pofTible,, 
The cargo of a veffel of a hundred tons, or 
little more, is calculated to purchafe from 
twq hundred and twenty to two hundred and 
fifty Slaves. Their lodging-rooms below the 
deck, which are three, (for the men ? the 
boys, and the women,) befides a place for the 
lick, are fcmetimes more than five feet high, 
and ibmetimes lefs j and this height is divided 
towards the middle, for the Slaves lie in two 
rows, one above the other, on cash fide of 
the fhip, clofe to each other, like books 
upon a (lielf. I have known them fo clofe, 

F that 



34 THOUGHTS UPON THK 

that the fhelf would not, eafily, contain one 
more. 

And I have known a white man fent down 
among the men, to lay them in thefe rows 
to the greatest advantage, fo that as little 
fpace as poffible might be loft. Let it be 
obierved, that the poor creatures, thus 
cramped for want of room, are likewife in 
irons, for the moll part both hands and feet, 
and two together, which makes it difficult 
for them to turn or move, to attempt either 
to rife or to lie down, without hurting them T 
felves, or each other. Nor is the motion of 
the (hip, efpecially her heeling, or (loop on 
one fide, when under fail, to be admitted ; for 
this, as they lie athwart, or acrofs the fhip, 
adds to the uncomfortablenefs of their lodging, 
efpecially to thofe who lie on the leeward, or 
leaning fide of the velfel. 

Dire is the toffing, deep the groans.—-— 

The heat and the fmell of thefe rooms.., 
when the weather will not admit of the Slaves 
being brought upon deck, and of having 
their rooms cleaned every day, would be, aU 
moft, infupportable, to a perfon not accus- 
tomed 



AFRICAN SLAVE TRADE. 35 

tomed to them. If the Slaves and their rooms 
can be conftantly aired, and they are not de- 
tained too long on board, perhaps there are not 
many die ; bat the contrary is often their 
lot. They are kept down, by the weather, to 
breathe a hot and corrupted air, fometimes 
for a week : this, added fo the galling of their 
irons, and the defpondency which feizes their 
fpirits, when thus confined, foon becomes 
fatal. And every morning, perhaps, more 
inftances than one are found, of the living 
and the dead, like the Captives of MezentiuF, 
fattened together. 

Epidemical fevers and fluxes, which fill 
the (hip with noifome and noxious efBuvia, 
often break out, infect the Seamen likewife, 
and the Oppreffors, and the OppreiTed, fall by 
the fame ftroke. I believe, nearly one half of 
the Slaves on board, have, fometimes, died 5 
and that the lofs of a third part, in thefe cir~ 
cumftances, is not unufual. The (hip, in 
which I was Mate, left the Coad with Two 
Hundred and Eighteen Slaves on board; and 
though we were not much affected by epide- 
mical diforders, I find, by my journal of that 
voyage, (now before me,) that we buried 
Sixty -two on our paflage to South-Carolina, 
F 2 exclufive 



36 THOUGHTS UPON THIS 

cxclulive of thole which died before we left 
the Coaft, of which I have no account. 

I believe, upon an average between the 
more healthy, and the more fickly voyages, 
and including all contingencies, One Fourth 
of the whole purchafe may be allotted to the. 
article of Mortality. That is, if the Enelifli 
ihips purchafe Sixty ^Thoufand Slaves annually, 
upon the whole extent of the Coafc, the an- 
nual lofs of lives cannot be much lefs than 
Fifteen Tboufand. 

I am now to fpeak of the furvivors.— When 
the mips make the land, (ufually the Weft- 
India iflands,) and have their port in view 
after having been four, five, fix weeks, or a 
longer time, at fea, (which depends much 
upon the time that panes before they can get 
into the permanent Trade Winds, which blow 
from the North- Eaft and Eaft acrofs the At- 
lantic,) then, and not before, they venture to 
releafe the Men Slaves from their irons. And 
then, the fight of the land, and their freedom 
from long and painful confinement, uiualiy 
excite in them a degree of alacrity, and a 
fcrannent feeling of joy 

The prifoner leaps to lofe his chains. 

But, 



AFRICAN SLAVE TRADE. 

But, this joy is {hort-lived indeed. The 
condition of the unhappy Slaves is in a conti- 
nual progrefs from bad to worfe. Their cafe 
is truly pitiable, from the moment they are 
In a ilate of flavery, in their own country ; 
but it may be deemed a ilate of eafe and li_ 
berty, compared with their Situation on board 
our ihips. 

Yet, perhaps, they would with to fpend the 
remainder of their days on fhip board. 
could they know, before-hand, the nature of 
the fervitude which awaits them, on fliore ; 
and that the dreadful hardfhios and fufferin^s 
they have already endured, would, to the molt 
of them, only terminate in exceffive toil,, 
hunger, and the excruciating tortures of the 
cart-whip, inflicted at the caprice of an un- 
feeling Overfeer, proud of the power allev 
him of punifhing whom,, and when, and how 
he pleafes. 

I hope the ^Slaves, in our iflands, are better 
treated now, than they were, at- the I 
when I was in the trade. And even then, I 
know, there were Slaves, who, under the care' 
and protection of humane mailers, were, com- 
paratively, happy. But I faw and 'heard 

enough 



jS THOUGHTS UPON THE 

enough to fatisfy me* that their condition* iii 
general, was wretched to the extreme. How- 
ever* my flay in Antigua and St; Chriftopher's 
(the only iflands I viiited) was too fhort, to 
qualify me for faying much, from my own 
certain knowledge, upon this painful fubject. 
Nor is it needful: — Encugh has been offered 
by feveral refpeclable writers, who have had 
opportunity of collecting furer 5 and fuller in- 
formation. 

One thing I cannot omit, which was told 
me by the Gentleman to whom my lhip was 
consigned, at Antigua, in the year 1751, 
and who was, himfelf, a Planter. He faid, 
that calculations had been made, with all 
pofUhle exactnefs, to determine which was 
the preferable, that is, the moil faving me- 
thod of managing Slaves: 



" Whether, to appoint them moderate 
" work, plenty of provifion, and fuch 
" treatment, as might enable them to 
<c protract their lives to old age ?" Or, 

* c By rigorouily draining their flfength to 
" the utmoft, With little relaxation^ 
t{ hard fare, and hard ufage, to wear 
" them out before they became ufelefs, 

<c and 



AFRICAN SLAVE TRADE. 39 

i( and unable to do fervice ; and then, 
" to buy new ones, to fill up their 
" places ?" 

He farther faid, that thcfe fkilful calcu- 
lators had determined in favour of the latter 
mode, as much the cheaper; and that he 
could mention feveral eftates, in the ifland of 
Antigua, on which, it was feldom known, 
that a Slave had lived above nine years. ■ 
Exfede HercuIemJ 

When the Slaves are landed for fale, (for in 
the Leeward Iflands they are ufually fold on 
fhore,) it may happen, that after a long fe- 
paration in different parts of the fliip, when 
they are brought together in one place, fome, 
who are nearly related, may recognize each 
pther. If, upon fuch a meeting, pleafure 
mould be felt, it can be but momentary. 
The fale difperfes them wide, to different 
parts of the ifland, or to different iflands. 
Hufbands and Wives, Parents and Children, 
Brothers and Sifters, muft fuddenly part again, 
probably to meet no more. 

After a careful perufal of what I have 
written., weighing every paragraph diftindtly, 

I can 



^.O THOUGHTS UPON THg 

I can find nothing to retract. As it is not 
ear/ to write altogether with coolnefs, upon 
this bufmefs, and especially not eafy to me? 
who have formerly been fo deeply engaged 
in it ; I have been jealous, left the warmth 
of imagination might have infenfibly feduced 
me, to aggravate and overcharge fome of the 
horrid features, which I have attempted to 
delineate, of the African Trade, But, upon 
a ilrict review, I am fatislied. 

I have apprised the reader, that I write 
from memory, after an interval of more than 
thirty years. But at the fame time, I believe, 
many things which I law, heard and feltf 
upon the Co aft of Africa? are fo deeply en- 
graven in my memory, that I can hardly 
forget, or greatly miftake them, while I am 
capable of remembering any thing. I am 
certainly not guilty of wilful mifreprefenta- 
tion. And, upon the whole, I dare appeal 
tj the Great Searcher of hearts, in whofe 
prefence 1 write, and before whom I, and 
my readers, muft all fliortly appear, that 
(with the reft notions and exceptions 1 have 
made) I have advanced nothing, but what, 
to the beft cf my judgment and confeience, is 

I have 



AFRICAN SLAVE TRADE. 4I 

I have likewife written without folicitation, 
and (imply from the motive I have already 
aflignedj a conviction, that the fhare I have 
for nerly had in the trade, binds me, in con- 
fcience, to throw what li^ht I am able upon 
the fubjeel, now it is likely to become a point 
of Parliamentary iriveftigation. 

No one can have lefs interefl in it, than I 
have at prefent, further than as I am inte- 
relied by the feelings of humanity, and a 
regard for the honour, and welfare of my 
country. 

Though unwilling to give offence to a nngle 
perfon 5 in fuch a caufe, I ought not to be 
afraid of offending many, by declaring the 
truth - 3 if, indeed, there can be many, whom 
even interell can prevail upon to contradict 
the common fenfe of mankind, by pleading 
for a commerce, fo iniquitous, fo cruel, fo 
oppreffive, fo deftruclive, as the African Slave 
Trade ! 6 



FINIS, 



PuHijJjcd'by the Juihcr of thefe Thoughts, 

i. MESSIAH. Fifty Difcourfes on the Series 
of Scriptural Tallages, which form the Subject 
of the celebrated Oratorio of Handel. 
Preached in the Years 1784 and 1785, in the 
Parifh Church of St. Mary Woolnoth, Lom- 
bard-Street* 2 Vols. 8vo. Price 12 s. bound. 

2. A Sermon on the Death of the late Dr. Cqnyers. 

Price 6 d. 

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