Boston March 12, 1795.

Revd. Sir,

I am in doubt whether this letter will
contain any information, you are not already possessed of,
You will however receive it as the best reply I can make
to the Queries you sent me.

1 The first mention of Slaves in New England I find
in the year 1638, when Saml Mavericke who was in poss:
:ession of Noddle's Island at the time the Settlement of
Massachusetts. bay colony began, had it is said three or four
Negro slaves in his family. In seven years after vizt
In 1645. A law was enacted by the Genl Court, to prohibit the
buying or selling of slaves, except those taken in lawful war
or reduced to servitude by other means. From these circumstan:
:ces, the probability is that Slaves were brought into this colony
soon after its settlement, and was then disapproved. Whether
this law was ever repealed, how soon after it the slave trade,
commenced here, and whether it was only connived at, are queries
I cannot answer. 2. We know that a large trade to Guinea
was carried on for many years by the citizens of Massachusetts
colony who were the proprietors of the Vessels, and their cargoes
out and home. Some of the slaves purchased in Guinea, and
I suppose the greatest part of them, were sold in the W Indies.
Some were brought to Boston & Charlestown, and sold to town
and country purchasers by the head as we sell sheep & Oxen
not indeed for the same purposes of Slaying and eating them, but
for menial services and hard Labour during their lives. This business of
importing & selling negroes continued till nearly the time of
2 the controversy with Gt. Britain, the precise date when it
wholly ceased I cannot ascertain, but it declined, and drew
towards a period about the time the British parlt. attempted
to enslave the colonists by arbitrary acts. It was these that
stirred up the people, more thoroughly to investigate the Rights
of Man, and they now became better understood. The equal
right of all, and every man to freedom was asserted. It arrested
the attention of the people of colour among us. The more
knowing

ones propagated the doctrine among the black slaves.

5 The first instance I have heard of a Negro, requesting
his freedom as his right, belonged (I am informed) to Doctor
Stockbridge in Plymouth county, his master refused to
grant it, but by the assistance of lawyers he obtained it --
this happened about 1770. I don't know of any more being
liberated, (but perhaps there might have been a few) till
the year 1774 when the first Congress met at Philadelphia
In their first Session, The delegates from twelve of the United
Colonies (Georgia had not then joined them) Agreed for them:
:selves, and their constituents wholly to discontinue the Slave
trade, neither to import nor purchase any slave imported
after the first day of December in that year. There
was a manifest inconsistency in holding any of their species
in bondage, whilst they were contending for their own
5 liberty. This sentiment seems to have operated on the
minds of the citizens of this State, and in some of the
Country towns they voted to have no slaves among them, and to
indemnifie their Masters (after they had given them freedom)
from any expence that might arise by means of their age,
infirmities, or inability to support themselves.

The Declaration of independence in 1776, announces "That all Men
are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain, unalien:
:able Rights, among these are life, liberty, &c" This involves in
it the idea, as expressed by an author "That there are no na:
:tural distinctions among mankind whereby one part of the
species are entitled to privileges from which the other is
excluded, for all alterations & distinctions among mankind
wholly arise from civil government which has no other found.
.ation than natural right, and natural right must for this
reason, be a principle of higher authority than civil government,
Whenever therefore civil government tends to destroy, and
confound the rights of nature, it ceases to have any claim to
obedience, it becomes corruption & despotism"

5 Impressed with thoughts similar to these, The Citizens

in general relinquish'd the idea of a right in them to detain
any of their species in Slavery, and a general emancipation
of Slaves, began now to take place. Some Slaves took
the liberty to free themselves, and left their masters, (these
were not consider'd as runaways, and apprehended as formerly,)
Others requested freedom of their Masters & obtained it, by
their voluntary consent. Some few others, I believe procured
their liberty by legal process. In this manner I take
it, the abolition of Slavery in the Massachusetts was
effected.

7 The Colour'd people here demean themselves as
orderly as might be expected, and are civilly treated by
the Whites who employ them & pay them wages for their
services, but there is a discrimination between the Whites
and Blacks. The former are tenacious of their Superiority, &
it is rare for them to associate and mix together in company
whenever this happens, the whites are of the lower class of
citizens. It is more rare for intermarriages to take
place between them; very few instances of such connections
can be found. The qualifications required by the
Constitution of Massachusetts, prevents the coloured people
from being electors, or elected into a public office.

Here I finish all I had to say, respecting slavery in
the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and shall detain you
but a little longer. --

In the reign of Q Eliza, AD 1562, Sir John Hawkins, a
noted Sea Commander, (as the Biographer of his life relates)
"Engaged some gentn. in England to be concerned with him in
a voyage to Guinea, where having arrived, he acquired 300
Negro slaves by money, and, where that fail'd, by the sword,
with these he sailed to Hispaniola, and making a large
profit, returned safe to England the next year." I write
this for the sake of asking the questions, Is not this the
origin of the English slave trade? or were any negroes brought
from Guinea prior to the year 1562? by the English. I

have seen a publication in 1769 which contains a par.
.ticular account of the number of Negro slaves purchased
in one year vizt. 1768, on the coast of Africa from Cape
Blanco to Rio Congo, by the different European nations
and they amount to 104.100 for that year; of this number
Gt. Britain and her dominions imported 59.400. These
were barter'd for European & Indian manufactures. The
author of the above account says "Since that time
1768, The revolution of America seems to have inspired
the different nations with more liberal sentiments. The
natural rights of every individual of the human species is
more clearly understood, and attended to, and the slavery of
the Africans strongly reprobated, that trade checked, and
on the decline" [in the European Nations]. England has
set a good example by passing an Act in 1792 to --
abolish the slave trade within a short period from
that date, for this Mr Wilberforce a worthy member
of parliament is entitled to particular merit. We wish
it may be followed by the other nations of Europe.

I have done, and believe you are glad of it. I fear
your patience is exhausted, and must ask an excuse
for leading you such a Jaunt.

I am Revd. Sir, very respectfully Yrs.
Tho Pemberton

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From the Jeremy Belknap papers