CHAPTER 15 | Document 57

John Adams to George Churchman and Jacob Lindley

24 Jan. 1801Works 9:92--93

Although I have never sought popularity by any animated speeches or inflammatory publications against the slavery of the blacks, my opinion against it has always been known, and my practice has been so conformable to my sentiments that I have always employed freemen, both as domestics and laborers, and never in my life did I own a slave. The abolition of slavery must be gradual, and accomplished with much caution and circumspection. Violent means and measures would produce greater violations of justice and humanity than the continuance of the practice. Neither Mr. Mifflin nor yourselves, I presume, would be willing to venture on exertions which would probably excite insurrections among the blacks to rise against their masters, and imbue their hands in innocent blood.

There are many other evils in our country which are growing (whereas the practice of slavery is fast diminishing), and threaten to bring punishment on our land more immediately than the oppression of the blacks. That sacred regard to truth in which you and I were educated, and which is certainly taught and enjoined from on high, seems to be vanishing from among us. A general relaxation of education and government, a general debauchery as well as dissipation, produced by pestilential philosophical principles of Epicurus, infinitely more than by shows and theatrical entertainments; these are, in my opinion, more serious and threatening evils than even the slavery of the blacks, hateful as that is. I might even add that I have been informed that the condition of the common sort of white people in some of the Southern States, particularly Virginia, is more oppressed, degraded, and miserable, than that of the negroes. These vices and these miseries deserve the serious and compassionate consideration of friends, as well as the slave trade and the degraded state of the blacks. I wish you success in your benevolent endeavors to relieve the distresses of our fellow creatures, and shall always be ready to coöperate with you as far as my means and opportunities can reasonably be expected to extend.

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 1, Chapter 15, Document 57
The University of Chicago Press

The Works of John Adams. Edited by Charles Francis Adams. 10 vols. Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1850--56. See also: Butterfield; Cappon; Warren-Adams Letters

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