in Massachusetts, proposed by the Hon. Judge Tucker of Vir-
ginia, & answered by the Rev. DR Belknap.
Williamsburg, Virginia, Janry 24, 1795.
Having never visited the eastern states, it has been
my misfortune never to have had the pleasure of a personal
Acquaintance with any of those eminent litterary characters
which that part of the United States has produced, and if I
may credit Fame, abounds with, more than any other part
of our common country: a circumstance, probably not more
mortifying to myself, than of real disadvantage to this
part of the United States, since a more frequent intercourse,
and intimate acquaintance, between the several parts of
the Union, would probably contribute more to remove local
prejudices, and cement the Bond of Union, than any other
project, unsupported by such a Foundation. To supply, as
far as respects myself, this incovenience, in some measure,
I have prevailed on my friend, the reverend Mr. Hust,
to favor me with a Letter of introduction, which I take
the Liberty to enclose, and to request your pardon for
thus intruding my correspondence upon you; a Liberty
which private considerations, alone, could scarcely
justify on any Account, and which, I fear, you will think
fully commensurate to the Occasion which prompts it.
The introduction of Slavery into this Country, is at
this day considered among its greatest Misfortunes,
An Evil, which the present Generation could no more
have avoided, than an hereditary Gout or Leprosy.
The Malady has proceeded so far, as to render it doubtful
whether any specific can be found to eradicate, or even
to palliate the Disease. Having, in my official Character
as professor of law in the College at this place, had occasion
to notice the several acts of the legislature on the subject,
I find that, even before the commencement of the present
Century an attempt was made to check the importation
of Slaves, by imposing a Duty on them: the Act was indeed
only temporary, but was renewed as often as the Influence
of the African Company in England would permit.
At length the Duty was made payable by the Buyers;
but the Acts imposing it were still temporary, though
Constantly renewed whenever an extraordinary supply of
Money was required; and was gradually increased
from five to twenty per cent. ad valorem. As soon as the
revolution took place, the legislature passed an Act
prohibiting the importation of Slaves under the severest
penalties; and permitting, what had hitherto been
prohibited, the voluntary emancipation of them, by their
Masters. The question of a general Emanicipation has not,
that I know, been brought on the Carpet in the Legislature;
but I am fully persuaded that Circumstance is altogether
owing to the Difficulties which present themselves to every
reflecting Mind. To assist in removing them, is the
Object of this Letter: for having observed, with much
from the Massachusetts; and being impressed with an
Idea, that it once had existence there, I have cherished
a hope that we may, from the example of our sister
State, learn what methods are most likely to succeed
in removing the same evil from among ourselves. With
this view, I have taken the Liberty to enclose a few
Queries, which, if your leisure will permit you to
answer, you will confer on me a favor, which I
shall always consider as an obligation: and if, in
the pursuits in which you are engaged, any subject
should occur, on which you may be disposed to
obtain information from this quarter, I will not
promise to afford it you, but I assure you that I
will most faithfully endeavour to do it.
Your most obedient
& very hble servant.
Rev. DR. Belknap.
Please to direct to St. George Tucker, Williamsburg, Virginia
respecting the introduction, progress & abolition of Slavery
in the Massachusetts.
1. The first Introduction of Negroes, or other Slaves in Massachusetts?
2. Whether the African trade was carried on thither: at what
period it commenced -- to what extent it was carried on. --
When it began to decline, & when it was wholly discontinued?
3. Whether it was carried on by European or American Adventurers.
by what means its declension first begun -- whether from
legislative Discouragement, or other causes: and to what causes
its abolition is to be ascribed?
4. The State of Slavery in the
Massachusetts when slaves were
most numerous. -- Their number when most numerous; their
proportion to the number of white persons at that period?
5. The mode by which Slavery hath been abolished there.
Whether by a general, and simultaneous Emancipation,
or at different periods. -- or whether by declaring all persons
born after a particular period free?
6. At what period Slavery was wholly abolished. What
were their numbers & proportion to the Whites at
7. What is the Condition of emancipated negroes. -- Is any,
and what provision made for their Education and
maintenance during infancy, or in a state of decrepitude,
Age, or insanity?
8. What are their political rights, or disabilities, if there
be any discrimination between them & white persons?
9. Is there any perceptible difference between the general
moral, or social conduct of emancipated persons, or
their descendants, & others?
10. Are intermarriages frequent between Blacks & whites.
If so, are such alliances more frequent between
black men & white women, or the contrary?
11. Does Harmony in general prevail between the
Blacks, & white Citizens. -- Do they associate freely
together -- or is there A pre-eminence claimed by the
one, & either avowedly, or tacitly admitted by the
Janry 24th. 1795.}
Judge Tucker of Virga