“Massah,” said he, looking seriously upon me, “I have wife and children; my massah takes care of them, and I have no care to provide anything; I have a good massah, who teach me to read; and I read good book, that makes me happy.” “I am glad,” replied I, “to hear you say so; and pray what is the good book you read?” “The Bible, massah, God’s own good book.” “Do you understand, friend, as well as read this book? for many can read the words well, who cannot get hold of the true and good sense.” “O massah,” says he, “I read the book much before I understand; but at last I found things in the book which made me very uneasy.” “Aye,” said I, “and what things were they?” “Why massah, I found that I was a sinner, massah, a very great sinner, I feared that God would destroy me, because I was wicked, and done nothing as I should do. God was holy, and I was very vile and naughty; so I could have nothing from him but fire and brimstone in hell, if I continued in this state.” In short, he fully convinced me that he was thoroughly sensible of his errors, and he told me what scriptures came to his mind, which he had read, that both probed him to the bottom of his sinful heart, and were made the means of light and comfort to his soul. I then inquired of him, what ministry or means he made use of and found that his master was a Quaker, a plain sort of man who had taught his slaves to read, and had thus afforded him some means of obtaining religious knowledge, though he had not ever conversed with this negro upon the state of his soul. I asked him likewise, how he got comfort under all his trials? “O massah,” said he, “it was God gave me comfort by his word. He bade me come unto him, and he would give me rest, for I was very weary and heavy laden.” And here he went through a line of the most striking texts in the Bible, showing me, by his artless comment upon them as he went along, what great things God had done in the course of some years for his soul....—Bishop William Meade’s “Tracts, Dialogues,” etc., in the Appendix of Thomas Bacon’s Sermons Addressed to Masters and Servants.
LETTER TO ABBE GREGOIRE, OF PARIS, 1809
I have received the favor of your letter of August 19th, and with it the volume you were so kind as to send me on the Literature of Negroes. Be assured that no person living wishes more sincerely than I do to see a complete refutation of the doubts I have myself entertained and expressed on the grade of understanding allotted to them by nature and to find that in this respect they are on par with ourselves. My doubts were the result of personal observation in the limited sphere of my own state, where the opportunities for the development of their genius were not favorable, and those of exercising it still less so. I expressed them therefore with great hesitation; but whatever be their degree of talent it is no measure of their rights. Because Sir Isaac Newton was superior