Williamsburg Nov. 27th. 1795.
It is with much pleasure that I am at length
indulged with an Opportunity of thanking you for your
favor of the 19th. of August, enclosing also a Letter from
Mr. Sullivan to yourself; & accompanied with some books;
they arrived some weeks ago when I was upon the Circuit,
& till within a few days past I have either been absent
or too much engaged to indulge my wish of writing to you.
I shall indeed be happy, Sir, if any thing contained
in my Letters to you may convince you that the existence of Slavery in
this Country is no longer to be deemed a reproach to the present Genera=
=tion -- much happier should I be, could my enquiries lead to some
practicable expedient by which that reproach may for ever be removed
from us. Mr. Sullivan's Letter, of which I have taken the liberty to
take a Copy, proposing to return the original by a private Conveyance,
contains some very just remarks: Strongly as he paints the danger, &
even the impracticability of the attempt, I hope to see the Foundation
of universal freedom in the United States, laid in this State, by a
plan for the gradual abolition of domestic Slavery among us. My
plan would indeed require a Century to execute itself; but we ought
not to be discouraged from doing good ultimately because we can
not immediately effect it, or live to see its Operation. Mr. Jefferson,
(& with him Mr. Sullivan seems to accord in Sentiment,) proposes that
all persons born after a certain period should be free. Mr. S. proposes
that the persons so born, who would otherwise have been slaves,
shall be held to service till, 40. 30. & 21. years of age. This plan
would execute itself in little more than half a Century. I will
not say that this is too speedy; but I incline to suppose that the
blacks be to enjoy their future condition, & the less violent will the prejudices of
the Whites be against them as their equals &c. -- besides, -- it is not improbable
that a great proportion of the emancipated blacks would incline to migrate
to other parts of the continent, where lands were better, & cheaper, & where the
distinction between the Master & the Slave had not taken such deep root as
on the Atlantic coast; or where the climate was more congenial to their Consti=
=tutions, & habits. A plan whose operation isas most gradual seems therefore
preferable on many Accounts. The Agriculture of the lower Country being
now almost exclusively carried on by the blacks, time should be given to intro=
=duce a new system, and to prevent those inconveniences which would inevi=
=tably flow from the emancipation & dispersion of those who had been employed
in it. Under these Impressions I have thought that the Emancipation of the
after born should be confined to Females & their Descendants. -- And that
those entitled to Freedom should be held to service till the age of thirty years:
This latter measure I would propose as some security for their being humane=
=ly treated in their Infancy; for otherwise I am persuaded they would be
much exposed for want of due Care. -- The operation of this plan will be best
seen by recurring to the Aid of figures.
The number of Slaves in
Virginia, by the Census of 1792. being 292.427. we
may conclude that at this period they are little short of 300,000. let it be supposed
that their numbers will be such, when a law should pass for the gradual abolition
of Slavery. -- If the Inhabitants of America double in less than thirty years, as
Doctor Franklin calculates, the Negroes whose fertility & Increase is immense
may well be supposed to double in that time.
The number of negroes thirty years hence will therefore be 600,000. -- Sixty
years hence they will be 1,200,000. -- In ninety years they will be 2,400,000.
In 30. years one half the present generation may be supposed to be extinct.
will then be 150,000. Ante nati, & 450,000. post nati. -- The mean increase
of the latter during this period will be 15,000. annually; of which number one
half may be presumed to be males not entituled to Freedom born during the first 16. years
Females have begun to breed. -- The numbers will then stand thus.
Ante-nati . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Slaves. 150,000.
Post-nati . . Males born in the first 16. years 120,000.
Males, born of antenatae females 52,500.. 322,500. Slaves.
Post-natae -- females & their Children free born . . . 277,500.
[The following figure is the sum of the two figures above:] 600,000.
At this period the effect of emancipation would first manifest itself
by the annual liberation of 9250, females, for 16. years, & the like
number of both sexes, for the remaining 14. years of the second period of
thirty years. -- their whole number in 45. years from the commencement
of the plan, would be 138,750. nearly.
Pursuing the train of Calculation above the numbers in 45. years
would stand thus.
Antenati Slaves --1/5 of their present number . . 60,000.
Post-nati. Males as above 120,000. + 52,500 = 172,500.
Males born of ante-natae females within
the last 15 years . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . } 13,125.
Emancipated post-nati -- over thirty years of age 138,750.
Post-nati under thirty years of age . . . . . 515,000.
[The following figure is the sum of the two figures above it.] 900,000.
In sixty years the whole of the present race may be calculated to be
extinct. Of those born in the first period of thirty years, we may also
infer that one-half will be extinct. -- Their numbers will stand thus.
1/2 Slaves born during first period of 30 years . . . 86,250.
1/2 Post-nati free born during that period . . . . . . . 138,125.
Slaves born during the second period of 30 yrs 13,125.
Post-nati above under thirty years, & not fully emancipated 961,875. = 1,200,000.
In 90 years those only born after the second period being
supposed to be living, the number of slaves would then be reduced
to . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13,125.
3/5. of the remainder may be supposed to be
under 30 years of age, and in a state of service} 1,432,125.= 1,445,250. In Service
2/5 above 30 years of Age & absolutely free . . . . . 954,750
Total blacks = 2,400,000.
The continual migrations from this State to the Western Country, if
Were we to admit that it was double what it ought to be, the number of blacks
would even then be immense -- and if in a state of Slavery, or of unorganized
Emancipation truly formidable. One or the other of these Evils is utterly
unavoidable, unless we have resolution enough shortly to set about the
remedy. -- I am therefore almost resolved to publish something upon the
subject -- but before I do, it would give me pleasure to hear your own,
Mr. Sullivan's, & any other of your friends Sentiments upon the subject. In
my former Letter I believe I mentioned, that I thought good policy required
that Blacks and Mulattoes should be excluded from all the valuable rights
of Citizenship -- such as Capacity for holding Offices, Lands, &c. -- narrow as
this policy may appear, I am persuaded it is necessary for the preservation of
the peace of Society. I would also disarm them, & by denying them those privi=
=leges here, which they might hope to acquire elsewhere, endeavour to
prompt them to migrate from hence. -- The Florida's, Louisiana, and the
Country south of the Mouth of the Missisipi would I should hope afford a
continual drain for them. -- At that distance they could never be formidable
to us, and would possess a climate better adapted to their natural temperature.
The number annually arriving at the Age of Emancipation being small compared
with their whole numbers, the loss of their labour should they emigrate would
be less sensibly felt -- The Operation of our late law of Descents by which lands are
divided among all the Children, & even among collaterals in a remote degree where
there are no Children, by dividing inheritances would compell many to labour,
who now seem only born to consume the fruits of the Earth. The progress of both
laws being gradual, & coeval, it might be hoped that a desirable change
of sentiment might would accompany this Operation. If the Blacks should
in a Century appear more capable of cultivation & Improvement than our
present prejudices will permit us to believe they are, the existing Generation of
whites may then find it good policy to relax from the strictness of those measures
which during the Progress of their Metamorphosis from Slavery might be thought
Proper. From the preceding Sketch it will appear that, if the policy of holding
those to Servitude till the Age of thirty, who may be born among us, should be
under that Age would always be much greater than the present
number of Slaves among us: which gives to this plan the Advantage over
any other which I have heard of.
I beg that you will apologize to Mr.
Sullivan for the liberty I
have taken in copying his Letter to you. I shall return the original by
the first private Conveyance. -- Any further Communications from
him, yourself, or any other friend would be highly acceptable
to me. -- Permit me to thank you for the Books sent -- I now
enclose a Bank Bill for the Amount, & will thank you to send
me Mr. Sullivan's History of Maine, & Williams's History of Vermont
and any other litterary productions which you may think worthy
of Attention. -- Periodical publications of all kinds, are I think
worthy of Encouragement, for in a new Country as ours is, they
must be mean indeed, if they do not contain some valuable infor=
=mation. From what I have now said, you will perceive that I
am an Advocate for all Collections, without much regard to Selecti [on. ]
We are too young to aim at, & perhaps to desire, the latter. The plan
of your historical Society pleases me much, and I make no doubt but
its object will in time be amply fulfilled. I wish, most cordially
it were in my power to contribute any thing, worthy of notice, to such
a Compilation. But I have to lament a Life spent very differently from
that manner, which a difference of Situation would have enabled
me to pursue: the support of a large and increasing family necessarily
occupied my Attention almost from my first entrance into Life
and the task has been too great for my exertions the greater part of my
Life. -- My time has therefore been employed in action rather than in
Study and research. The partiality of my friends has indeed placed
me in a situation which renders the latter now as necessary as the
former: for the former is still made necessary by my public functions
which call me from home full half the year. -- Pardon me, Sir, for
this piece of Egotism -- It is however necessary in order to apologize
to you for a seeming indifference to that honour, for which I am
should rejoice could I persuade myself that I am were worthy of a place among
the corresponding members of the Massachusetts Historical Society. -- In a separate
Letter, directed to you as their corresponding Secretary, I have therefore declined
the Election, from a consciousness of my own unworthiness, & I beg you will
do me the favor to represent that Sentiment as the only reason for my doing it.
If however such a Conduct should appear liable to be construed into a
disrespect for the Society, be pleased for the present to suppress the Commu=
=nication of that Letter.
Since my last, your favor dated
May 8th. with several pamphlets
has been received, for which accept my best thanks. -- By a private Convey=
=ance I shall send you one or two pamphlets, among which will be a
second Copy of the Letter to Doctor Morse. I should be happy to see some
reparation from his Pen for the Injustice done to the Character of the
Inhabitants of this little place. -- If Mr. Webb be still in Boston be
pleased to make my compliments to him. Mr. Hust I have never seen
since he favoured me with an Introduction to you -- I believe he is in
Philadelphia. Believe me, with the greatest respect & esteem, & with
a grateful sense of your favours, Sir,
Your most obedt. & obliged
Copy of Stith's title
The History of the first Discovery
and Settlement of Virginia
An Essay towards a general history
of this Colony
By William Stith. A. M.
Rector of Henrico Parish and one of the Governors of William & Mary College.
Tantae molis erat x x x x condire gentem -- Virg:
Williamsburg printed by William Parks, M,DCC,XLVII.
Enclosed -- A Ten dollar Bank note -- united States Bank C. no 4414
Wmsburg 28 Novr 1795
Oct & Nov 1795