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The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano

The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano

Author:Olaudah Equiano


I believe it is difficult for those who publish their own memoirs to escape the imputation of vanity; nor is this the only disadvantage under which they labour: it is also their misfortune, that what is uncommon is rarely, if ever, believed, and what is obvious we are apt to turn from with disgust, and to charge the writer with impertinence. People generally think those memoirs only worthy to be read or remembered which abound in great or striking events, those, in short, which in a high degree excite either admiration or pity: all others they consign to contempt and oblivion.
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  I believe it is difficult for those who publish their own memoirs to

  escape the imputation of vanity; nor is this the only disadvantage

  under which they labour: it is also their misfortune, that what is

  uncommon is rarely, if ever, believed, and what is obvious we are apt

  to turn from with disgust, and to charge the writer with impertinence.

  People generally think those memoirs only worthy to be read or

  remembered which abound in great or striking events, those, in short,

  which in a high degree excite either admiration or pity: all others

  they consign to contempt and oblivion. It is therefore, I confess, not

  a little hazardous in a private and obscure individual, and a stranger

  too, thus to solicit the indulgent attention of the public; especially

  when I own I offer here the history of neither a saint, a hero, nor a

  tyrant. I believe there are few events in my life, which have not

  happened to many: it is true the incidents of it are numerous; and,

  did I consider myself an European, I might say my sufferings were

  great: but when I compare my lot with that of most of my countrymen, I

  regard myself as a _particular favourite of Heaven_, and acknowledge

  the mercies of Providence in every occurrence of my life. If then the

  following narrative does not appear sufficiently interesting to engage

  general attention, let my motive be some excuse for its publication. I

  am not so foolishly vain as to expect from it either immortality or

  literary reputation. If it affords any satisfaction to my numerous

  friends, at whose request it has been written, or in the smallest

  degree promotes the interests of humanity, the ends for which it was

  undertaken will be fully attained, and every wish of my heart

  gratified. Let it therefore be remembered, that, in wishing to avoid

  censure, I do not aspire to praise.

  That part of Africa, known by the name of Guinea, to which the trade

  for slaves is carried on, extends along the coast above 3400 miles,

  from the Senegal to Angola, and includes a variety of kingdoms. Of

  these the most considerable is the kingdom of Benen, both as to extent

  and wealth, the richness and cultivation of the soil, the power of its

  king, and the number and warlike disposition of the inhabitants. It is

  situated nearly under the line, and extends along the coast about 170

  miles, but runs back into the interior part of Africa to a distance

  hitherto I believe unexplored by any traveller; and seems only

  terminated at length by the empire of Abyssinia, near 1500 miles from

  its beginning. This kingdom is divided into many provinces or

  districts: in one of the most remote and fertile of which, called

  Eboe, I was born, in the year 1745, in a charming fruitful vale, named

  Essaka. The distance of this province from the capital of Benin and

  the sea coast must be very considerable; for I had never heard of

  white men or Europeans, nor of the sea: and our subjection to the king

  of Benin was little more than nominal; for every transaction of the

  government, as far as my slender observation extended, was conducted

  by the chiefs or elders of the place. The manners and government of a

  people who have little commerce with other countries are generally

  very simple; and the history of what passes in one family or village

  may serve as a specimen of a nation. My father was one of those elders

  or chiefs I have spoken of, and was styled Embrenche; a term, as I

  remember, importing the highest distinction, and signifying in our

  language a _mark_ of grandeur. This mark is conferred on the person

  entitled to it, by cutting the skin across at the top of the forehead,

  and drawing it down to the eye-brows; and while it is in this

  situation applying a warm hand, and rubbing it until it shrinks up

  into a thick _weal_ across the lower part of the forehead. Most of the

  judges and senators were thus marked; my father had long born it: I

  had seen it conferred on one of my brothers, and I was also

  _destined_ to receive it by my parents. Those Embrence, or chief men,

  decided disputes and punished crimes; for which purpose they always

  assembled together. The proceedings were generally short; and in most

  cases the law of retaliation prevailed. I remember a man was brought

  before my father, and the other judges, for kidnapping a boy; and,

  although he was the son of a chief or senator, he was condemned to

  make recompense by a man or woman slave. Adultery, however, was

  sometimes punished with slavery or death; a punishment which I believe

  is inflicted on it throughout most of the nations of Africa[A]: so

  sacred among them is the honour of the marriage bed, and so jealous

  are they of the fidelity of their wives. Of this I recollect an

  instance:--a woman was convicted before the judges of adultery, and

  delivered over, as the custom was, to her husband to be punished.

  Accordingly he determined to put her to death: but it being found,

  just before her execution, that she had an infant at her breast; and

  no woman being prevailed on to perform the part of a nurse, she was

  spared on account of the child. The men, however, do not preserve the

  same constancy to their wives, which they expect from them; for they

  indulge in a plurality, though seldom in more than two. Their mode of

  marriage is thus:--both parties are usually betrothed when young by

  their parents,

though I have known the males to betroth themselves


  On this occasion a feast is prepared, and the bride and bridegroom

  stand up in the midst of all their friends, who are assembled for the

  purpose, while he declares she is thenceforth to be looked upon as his

  wife, and that no other person is to pay any addresses to her. This is

  also immediately proclaimed in the vicinity, on which the bride

  retires from the assembly. Some time after she is brought home to her

  husband, and then another feast is made, to which the relations of

  both parties are invited: her parents then deliver her to the

  bridegroom, accompanied with a number of blessings, and at the same

  time they tie round her waist a cotton string of the thickness of a

  goose-quill, which none but married women are permitted to wear: she

  is now considered as completely his wife; and at this time the dowry

  is given to the new married pair, which generally consists of portions

  of land, slaves, and cattle, household goods, and implements of

  husbandry. These are offered by the friends of both parties; besides

  which the parents of the bridegroom present gifts to those of the

  bride, whose property she is looked upon before marriage; but after it

  she is esteemed the sole property of her husband. The ceremony being

  now ended the festival begins, which is celebrated with bonefires, and

  loud acclamations of joy, accompanied with music and dancing.

  We are almost a nation of dancers, musicians, and poets. Thus every

  great event, such as a triumphant return from battle, or other cause

  of public rejoicing is celebrated in public dances, which are

  accompanied with songs and music suited to the occasion. The assembly

  is separated into four divisions, which dance either apart or in

  succession, and each with a character peculiar to itself. The first

  division contains the married men, who in their dances frequently

  exhibit feats of arms, and the representation of a battle. To these

  succeed the married women, who dance in the second division. The young

  men occupy the third; and the maidens the fourth. Each represents some

  interesting scene of real life, such as a great achievement, domestic

  employment, a pathetic story, or some rural sport; and as the subject

  is generally founded on some recent event, it is therefore ever new.

  This gives our dances a spirit and variety which I have scarcely seen

  elsewhere[B]. We have many musical instruments, particularly drums of

  different kinds, a piece of music which resembles a guitar, and

  another much like a stickado. These last are chiefly used by betrothed

  virgins, who play on them on all grand festivals.

  As our manners are simple, our luxuries are few. The dress of both

  sexes is nearly the same. It generally consists of a long piece of

  callico, or muslin, wrapped loosely round the body, somewhat in the

  form of a highland plaid. This is usually dyed blue, which is our

  favourite colour. It is extracted from a berry, and is brighter and

  richer than any I have seen in Europe. Besides this, our women of

  distinction wear golden ornaments; which they dispose with some

  profusion on their arms and legs. When our women are not employed with

  the men in tillage, their usual occupation is spinning and weaving

  cotton, which they afterwards dye, and make it into garments. They

  also manufacture earthen vessels, of which we have many kinds. Among

  the rest tobacco pipes, made after the same fashion, and used in the

  same manner, as those in Turkey[C].

  Our manner of living is entirely plain; for as yet the natives are

  unacquainted with those refinements in cookery which debauch the

  taste: bullocks, goats, and poultry, supply the greatest part of their

  food. These constitute likewise the principal wealth of the country,

  and the chief articles of its commerce. The flesh is usually stewed in

  a pan; to make it savoury we sometimes use also pepper, and other

  spices, and we have salt made of wood ashes. Our vegetables are mostly

  plantains, eadas, yams, beans, and Indian corn. The head of the family

  usually eats alone; his wives and slaves have also their separate

  tables. Before we taste food we always wash our hands: indeed our

  cleanliness on all occasions is extreme; but on this it is an

  indispensable ceremony. After washing, libation is made, by pouring

  out a small portion of the food, in a certain place, for the spirits

  of departed relations, which the natives suppose to preside over their

  conduct, and guard them from evil. They are totally unacquainted with

  strong or spirituous liquours; and their principal beverage is palm

  wine. This is gotten from a tree of that name by tapping it at the

  top, and fastening a large gourd to it; and sometimes one tree will

  yield three or four gallons in a night. When just drawn it is of a

  most delicious sweetness; but in a few days it acquires a tartish and

  more spirituous flavour: though I never saw any one intoxicated by it.

  The same tree also produces nuts and oil. Our principal luxury is in

  perfumes; one sort of these is an odoriferous wood of delicious

  fragrance: the other a kind of earth; a small portion of which thrown

  into the fire diffuses a most powerful odour[D]. We beat this wood

  into powder, and mix it with palm oil; with which both men and women

  perfume themselves.

  In our buildings we study convenience rather than ornament. Each

  master of a family has a large square piece of ground, surrounded with

  a moat or fence, or enclosed with a wall made of red earth tempered;

  which, when dry, is as hard as brick. Within this are his houses to

  accommodate his family and slaves; which, if numerous, frequently

  present the appearance of a village. In the middle stands the

  principal building, appropriated to the sole use of the master, and

  consisting of two apartments; in one of which he sits in the day with

  his family, the other is left apart for the reception of his friends.

  He has besides these a distinct apartment in which he sleeps, together

  with his male children. On each side are the apartments of his wives,

  who have also their separate day and night houses. The habitations of

  the slaves and their families are distributed throughout the rest of

  the enclosure. These houses never exceed one story in height: they are

  always built of wood, or stakes driven into the ground, crossed with

  wattles, and neatly plastered within, and without. The roof is

  thatched with reeds. Our day-houses are left open at the sides; but

  those in which we sleep are always covered, and plastered in the

  inside, with a composition mixed with cow-dung, to keep off the

  different insects, which annoy us during the night. The walls and

  floors also of these are generally covered with mats. Our beds consist

  of a platform, raised three or four feet from the ground, on which are

  laid skins, and different parts of a spungy tree called plaintain. Our

  covering is calico or muslin, the same as our dress. The usual seats

  are a few logs of wood; but we have benches, which are generally

  perfumed, to accommodate strangers: these compose the greater part of

  our household furniture. Houses so constructed and furnished require

  but little skill to erect them. Every man is a sufficient architect

  for the purpose. The whole neighbourhood afford their unanimous

  assistance in building them and in return receive, and expect no other

  recompense than a feast.

  As we live in a country where nature is prodigal of her favours, our

  wants are few and easily supplied; of course we have few manufactures.

  They consist for the most part of calicoes, earthern ware, ornaments,

  and instruments of war and husbandry. But these make no part of our

  commerce, the principal articles of which, as I have observed, are

  provisions. In such a state money is of little use; however we have

  some small pieces of coin, if I may call them such. They are made

  something like an anchor; but I do not remember either their value or

  denomination. We have also markets, at which I have been frequently

  with my mother. These are sometimes visited by stout mahogany-coloured

  men from the south west of us: we call them Oye-Eboe, which term

  signifies red men living at a distance. They generally bring us

  fire-arms, gunpowder, hats, beads, and dried fish. The last we

  esteemed a great rarity, as our waters were only brooks and springs.

  These articles they barter with us for odoriferous woods and earth,

  and our salt of wood ashes. They always carry slaves through our land;

  but the strictest account is exacted of their manner of procuring them

  before they are suffered to pass. Sometimes indeed we sold slaves to

  them, but they were only prisoners of war, or such among us as had

  been convicted of kidnapping, or adultery, and some other crimes,

  which we esteemed heinous. This practice of kidnapping induces me to

  think, that, notwithstanding all our strictness, their principal

  business among us was to trepan our people. I remember too they

  carried great sacks along with them, which not long after I had an

  opportunity of fatally seeing applied to that infamous purpose.

  Our land is uncommonly rich and fruitful, and produces all kinds of

  vegetables in great abundance. We have plenty of Indian corn, and vast

  quantities of cotton and tobacco. Our pine apples grow without

  culture; they are about the size of the largest sugar-loaf, and finely

  flavoured. We have also spices of different kinds, particularly

  pepper; and a variety of delicious fruits which I have never seen in

  Europe; together with gums of various kinds, and honey in abundance.

  All our industry is exerted to improve those blessings of nature.

  Agriculture is our chief employment; and every one, even the children

  and women, are engaged in it. Thus we are all habituated to labour

  from our earliest years. Every one contributes something to the common

  stock; and as we are unacquainted with idleness, we have no beggars.

  The benefits of such a mode of living are obvious. The West India

  planters prefer the slaves of Benin or Eboe to those of any other part

  of Guinea, for their hardiness, intelligence, integrity, and zeal.

  Those benefits are felt by us in the general healthiness of the

  people, and in their vigour and activity; I might have added too in

  their comeliness. Deformity is indeed unknown amongst us, I mean that

  of shape. Numbers of the natives of Eboe now in London might be

  brought in support of this assertion: for, in regard to complexion,

  ideas of beauty are wholly relative. I remember while in Africa to

  have seen three negro children, who were tawny, and another quite

  white, who were universally regarded by myself, and the natives in

  general, as far as related to their complexions, as deformed. Our

  women too were in my eyes at least uncommonly graceful, alert, and

  modest to a degree of bashfulness; nor do I remember to have ever

  heard of an instance of incontinence amongst them before marriage.

  They are also remarkably cheerful. Indeed cheerfulness and affability

  are two of the leading characteristics of our nation.

  Our tillage is exercised in a large plain or common, some hours walk

  from our dwellings, and all the neighbours resort thither in a body.

  They use no beasts of husbandry; and their only instruments are hoes,

  axes, shovels, and beaks, or pointed iron to dig with. Sometimes we

  are visited by locusts, which come in large clouds, so as to darken

  the air, and destroy our harvest. This however happens rarely, but

  when it does, a famine is produced by it. I remember an instance or

  two wherein this happened. This common is often the theatre of war;

  and therefore when our people go out to till their land, they not only

  go in a body, but generally take their arms with them for fear of a

  surprise; and when they apprehend an invasion they guard the avenues

  to their dwellings, by driving sticks into the ground, which are so

  sharp at one end as to pierce the foot, and are generally dipt in

  poison. From what I can recollect of these battles, they appear to

  have been irruptions of one little state or district on the other, to

  obtain prisoners or booty. Perhaps they were incited to this by those

  traders who brought the European goods I mentioned amongst us. Such a

  mode of obtaining slaves in Africa is common; and I believe more are

  procured this way, and by kidnapping, than any other[E]. When a trader

  wants slaves, he applies to a chief for them, and tempts him with his

  wares. It is not extraordinary, if on this occasion he yields to the

  temptation with as little firmness, and accepts the price of his

  fellow creatures liberty with as little reluctance as the enlightened

  merchant. Accordingly he falls on his neighbours, and a desperate

  battle ensues. If he prevails and takes prisoners, he gratifies his

  avarice by selling them; but, if his party be vanquished, and he falls

  into the hands of the enemy, he is put to death: for, as he has been

  known to foment their quarrels, it is thought dangerous to let him

  survive, and no ransom can save him, though all other prisoners may be

  redeemed. We have fire-arms, bows and arrows, broad two-edged swords

  and javelins: we have shields also which cover a man from head to

  foot. All are taught the use of these weapons; even our women are

  warriors, and march boldly out to fight along with the men. Our whole

  district is a kind of militia: on a certain signal given, such as the

  firing of a gun at night, they all rise in arms and rush upon their

  enemy. It is perhaps something remarkable, that when our people march

  to the field a red flag or banner is borne before them. I was once a

  witness to a battle in our common. We had been all at work in it one

  day as usual, when our people were suddenly attacked. I climbed a tree

  at some distance, from which I beheld the fight. There were many women

  as well as men on both sides; among others my mother was there, and

  armed with a broad sword. After fighting for a considerable time with

  great fury, and after many had been killed our people obtained the

  victory, and took their enemy's Chief prisoner. He was carried off in

  great triumph, and, though he offered a large ransom for his life, he

  was put to death. A virgin of note among our enemies had been slain in

  the battle, and her arm was exposed in our market-place, where our

  trophies were always exhibited. The spoils were divided according to

  the merit of the warriors. Those prisoners which were not sold or

  redeemed we kept as slaves: but how different was their condition from

  that of the slaves in the West Indies! With us they do no more work

  than other members of the community, even their masters; their food,

  clothing and lodging were nearly the same as theirs,

except that they

  were not permitted to eat with those who were free-born

; and there

  was scarce any other difference between them, than a superior degree

  of importance which the head of a family possesses in our state, and

  that authority which, as such, he exercises over every part of his

  household. Some of these slaves have even slaves under them as their

  own property, and for their own use.

  As to religion, the natives believe that there is one Creator of all

  things, and that he lives in the sun, and is girted round with a belt

  that he may never eat or drink; but, according to some, he smokes a

  pipe, which is our own favourite luxury. They believe he governs

  events, especially our deaths or captivity; but, as for the doctrine

  of eternity, I do not remember to have ever heard of it: some however

  believe in the transmigration of souls in a certain degree. Those

  spirits, which are not transmigrated, such as our dear friends or

  relations, they believe always attend them, and guard them from the

  bad spirits or their foes. For this reason they always before eating,

  as I have observed, put some small portion of the meat, and pour some

  of their drink, on the ground for them; and they often make oblations

  of the blood of beasts or fowls at their graves. I was very fond of my

  mother, and almost constantly with her. When she went to make these

  oblations at her mother's tomb, which was a kind of small solitary

  thatched house, I sometimes attended her. There she made her

  libations, and spent most of the night in cries and lamentations. I

  have been often extremely terrified on these occasions. The loneliness

  of the place, the darkness of the night, and the ceremony of libation,

  naturally awful and gloomy, were heightened by my mother's

  lamentations; and these, concuring with the cries of doleful birds, by

  which these places were frequented, gave an inexpressible terror to

  the scene.

  We compute the year from the day on which the sun crosses the line,

  and on its setting that evening there is a general shout throughout

  the land; at least I can speak from my own knowledge throughout our

  vicinity. The people at the same time make a great noise with rattles,

  not unlike the basket rattles used by children here, though much

  larger, and hold up their hands to heaven for a blessing. It is then

  the greatest offerings are made; and those children whom our wise men

  foretel will be fortunate are then presented to different people. I

  remember many used to come to see me, and I was carried about to

  others for that purpose. They have many offerings, particularly at

  full moons; generally two at harvest before the fruits are taken out

  of the ground: and when any young animals are killed, sometimes they

  offer up part of them as a sacrifice. These offerings, when made by

  one of the heads of a family, serve for the whole. I remember we often

  had them at my father's and my uncle's, and their families have been

  present. Some of our offerings are eaten with bitter herbs. We had a

  saying among us to any one of a cross temper, 'That if they were to be

  eaten, they should be eaten with bitter herbs.'

  We practised circumcision like the Jews, and made offerings and feasts

  on that occasion in the same manner as they did. Like them also, our

  children were named from some event, some circumstance, or fancied

  foreboding at the time of their birth. I was named _Olaudah_, which,

  in our language, signifies vicissitude or fortune also, one favoured,

  and having a loud voice and well spoken. I remember we never polluted

  the name of the object of our adoration; on the contrary, it was

  always mentioned with the greatest reverence; and we were totally

  unacquainted with swearing, and all those terms of abuse and reproach

  which find their way so readily and copiously into the languages of

  more civilized people. The only expressions of that kind I remember

  were 'May you rot, or may you swell, or may a beast take you.'

  I have before remarked that the natives of this part of Africa are

  extremely cleanly. This necessary habit of decency was with us a part

  of religion, and therefore we had many purifications and washings;

  indeed almost as many, and used on the same occasions, if my

  recollection does not fail me, as the Jews. Those that touched the

  dead at any time were obliged to wash and purify themselves before

  they could enter a dwelling-house. Every woman too, at certain times,

  was forbidden to come into a dwelling-house, or touch any person, or

  any thing we ate. I was so fond of my mother I could not keep from

  her, or avoid touching her at some of those periods, in consequence of

  which I was obliged to be kept out with her, in a little house made

  for that purpose, till offering was made, and then we were purified.

  Though we had no places of public worship, we had priests and

  magicians, or wise men. I do not remember whether they had different

  offices, or whether they were united in the same persons, but they

  were held in great reverence by the people. They calculated our time,

  and foretold events, as their name imported, for we called them

  Ah-affoe-way-cah, which signifies calculators or yearly men, our year

  being called Ah-affoe. They wore their beards, and when they died they

  were succeeded by their sons. Most of their implements and things of

  value were interred along with them. Pipes and tobacco were also put

  into the grave with the corpse, which was always perfumed and

  ornamented, and animals were offered in sacrifice to them. None

  accompanied their funerals but those of the same profession or tribe.

  These buried them after sunset, and always returned from the grave by

  a different way from that which they went.

  These magicians were also our doctors or physicians. They practised

  bleeding by cupping; and were very successful in healing wounds and

  expelling poisons. They had likewise some extraordinary method of

  discovering jealousy, theft, and poisoning; the success of which no

  doubt they derived from their unbounded influence over the credulity

  and superstition of the people. I do not remember what those methods

  were, except that as to poisoning: I recollect an instance or two,

  which I hope it will not be deemed impertinent here to insert, as it

  may serve as a kind of specimen of the rest, and is still used by the

  negroes in the West Indies. A virgin had been poisoned, but it was not

  known by whom: the doctors ordered the corpse to be taken up by some

  persons, and carried to the grave. As soon as the bearers had raised

  it on their shoulders, they seemed seized with some[F] sudden

  impulse, and ran to and fro unable to stop themselves. At last, after

  having passed through a number of thorns and prickly bushes unhurt,

  the corpse fell from them close to a house, and defaced it in the

  fall; and, the owner being taken up, he immediately confessed the


  The natives are extremely cautious about poison. When they buy any

  eatable the seller kisses it all round before the buyer, to shew him

  it is not poisoned; and the same is done when any meat or drink is

  presented, particularly to a stranger. We have serpents of different

  kinds, some of which are esteemed ominous when they appear in our

  houses, and these we never molest. I remember two of those ominous

  snakes, each of which was as thick as the calf of a man's leg, and in

  colour resembling a dolphin in the water, crept at different times

  into my mother's night-house, where I always lay with her, and coiled

  themselves into folds, and each time they crowed like a cock. I was

  desired by some of our wise men to touch these, that I might be

  interested in the good omens, which I did, for they were quite

  harmless, and would tamely suffer themselves to be handled; and then

  they were put into a large open earthen pan, and set on one side of

  the highway. Some of our snakes, however, were poisonous: one of them

  crossed the road one day when I was standing on it, and passed between

  my feet without offering to touch me, to the great surprise of many

  who saw it; and these incidents were accounted by the wise men, and

  therefore by my mother and the rest of the people, as remarkable omens

  in my favour.

  Such is the imperfect sketch my memory has furnished me with of the

  manners and customs of a people among whom I first drew my breath. And

  here I cannot forbear suggesting what has long struck me very

  forcibly, namely, the strong analogy which even by this sketch,

  imperfect as it is, appears to prevail in the manners and customs of

  my countrymen and those of the Jews, before they reached the Land of

  Promise, and particularly the patriarchs while they were yet in that

  pastoral state which is described in Genesis--an analogy, which alone

  would induce me to think that the one people had sprung from the

  other. Indeed this is the opinion of Dr. Gill, who, in his commentary

  on Genesis, very ably deduces the pedigree of the Africans from Afer

  and Afra, the descendants of Abraham by Keturah his wife and concubine


for both these titles are applied to her

. It is also conformable to

  the sentiments of Dr. John Clarke, formerly Dean of Sarum, in his

  Truth of the Christian Religion: both these authors concur in

  ascribing to us this original. The reasonings of these gentlemen are

  still further confirmed by the scripture chronology; and if any

  further corroboration were required, this resemblance in so many

  respects is a strong evidence in support of the opinion. Like the

  Israelites in their primitive state, our government was conducted by

  our chiefs or judges, our wise men and elders; and the head of a

  family with us enjoyed a similar authority over his household with

  that which is ascribed to Abraham and the other patriarchs. The law of

  retaliation obtained almost universally with us as with them: and even

  their religion appeared to have shed upon us a ray of its glory,

  though broken and spent in its passage, or eclipsed by the cloud with

  which time, tradition, and ignorance might have enveloped it; for we

  had our circumcision

a rule I believe peculiar to that people:


  had also our sacrifices and burnt-offerings, our washings and

  purifications, on the same occasions as they had.

  As to the difference of colour between the Eboan Africans and the

  modern Jews, I shall not presume to account for it. It is a subject

  which has engaged the pens of men of both genius and learning, and is

  far above my strength. The most able and Reverend Mr. T. Clarkson,

  however, in his much admired Essay on the Slavery and Commerce of the

  Human Species, has ascertained the cause, in a manner that at once

  solves every objection on that account, and, on my mind at least, has

  produced the fullest conviction. I shall therefore refer to that

  performance for the theory[H], contenting myself with extracting a

  fact as related by Dr. Mitchel[I]. "The Spaniards, who have inhabited

  America, under the torrid zone, for any time, are become as dark

  coloured as our native Indians of Virginia; of which _I myself have

  been a witness_." There is also another instance[J] of a Portuguese

  settlement at Mitomba, a river in Sierra Leona; where the inhabitants

  are bred from a mixture of the first Portuguese discoverers with the

  natives, and are now become in their complexion, and in the woolly

  quality of their hair, _perfect negroes_, retaining however a

  smattering of the Portuguese language.

  These instances, and a great many more which might be adduced, while

  they shew how the complexions of the same persons vary in different

  climates, it is hoped may tend also to remove the prejudice that some

  conceive against the natives of Africa on account of their colour.

  Surely the minds of the Spaniards did not change with their

  complexions! Are there not causes enough to which the apparent

  inferiority of an African may be ascribed, without limiting the

  goodness of God, and supposing he forbore to stamp understanding on

  certainly his own image, because "carved in ebony." Might it not

  naturally be ascribed to their situation? When they come among

  Europeans, they are ignorant of their language, religion, manners, and

  customs. Are any pains taken to teach them these? Are they treated as

  men? Does not slavery itself depress the mind, and extinguish all its

  fire and every noble sentiment? But, above all, what advantages do not

  a refined people possess over those who are rude and uncultivated. Let

  the polished and haughty European recollect that his ancestors were

  once, like the Africans, uncivilized, and even barbarous. Did Nature

  make _them_ inferior to their sons? and should _they too_ have been

  made slaves? Every rational mind answers, No. Let such reflections as

  these melt the pride of their superiority into sympathy for the wants

  and miseries of their sable brethren, and compel them to acknowledge,

  that understanding is not confined to feature or colour. If, when they

  look round the world, they feel exultation, let it be tempered with

  benevolence to others, and gratitude to God, "who hath made of one

  blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth[K];

  and whose wisdom is not our wisdom, neither are our ways his ways."