Patrick Henry on Slavery * January 18, 1773
It is not a little surprising that Christianity, whose chief excellence consists in softening the human heart, in cherishing & improving its finer Feelings, should encourage a Practice so totally repugnant to the first Impression of right & wrong. What adds to the wonder is that this Abominable Practice has been introduced in the most enlightened Ages, Times that seem to have pretensions to boast of high Improvements in the Arts, Sciences, & refined Morality, have brought into general use, & guarded by many Laws, a Species of Violence & Tyranny, which our more rude & barbarous, but more honest Ancestors detested. Is it not amazing, that at a time, when the Rights of Humanity are defined & understood with precision, in a Country above all others fond of Liberty, that in such an Age, & such a Country we find Men, professing a Religion the most humane, mild, meek, gentle & generous, adopting a Principle as repugnant to humanity as it is inconsistent with the Bible and destructive to Liberty. . . .
I cannot but wish well to a people whose System imitates the Example of him whose Life was perfect. And believe me, I shall honour the Quakers for their noble Effort to abolish Slavery. It is equally calculated to promote moral & political Good.
Would any one believe that I am Master of Slaves of my own purchase! I am drawn along by the general inconvenience of living without them. . . .
I believe a time will come when the oppo. will be offered to abolish this lamentable Evil. Every thing we can do is to improve it, if it happens in our day, if not, let us transmit to our descendants together with our Slaves, a pity for their unhappy Lot, & an abhorrence for Slavery. If we cannot reduce this wished for Reformation to practice, let us treat the unhappy victims with lenity, & it is the furthest advance we can make toward Justice.