Friend John Woolman Visits the Camp Creek Settlement, 1757

[A Journal of the Life, Gospel Labours, and Christian Experiences of that Faithful Minister of Jesus Christ, John Woolman… (London, 1847), pp. 43-45:]

…we came amongst Friends at Cedar Creek in Virginia, on the 12th [of the 5th month]; and the next day, rode, in company with several Friends, a day’s journey to Camp Creek. As I was riding along in the morning, my mind was deeply affected in a sense I had of the want of divine aid to support me…in uncommon distress of mind, I cried in secret to the Most High, “O Lord! be merciful, I beseech thee, to thy poor afflicted creature.” After some time, I felt inward relief; and soon after, a Friend in [the] company began to talk in support of the slave-trade, and said, the negroes were understood to be the offspring of Cain, their blackness being the mark which God set upon him, after he murdered Abel his brother; that it was the deign of Providence they would be slaves, as a condition proper to the race of so wicked a man as Cain was. Then another [in the company] spake in support of what had been said. To all which I replied in substance as follows: that Noah and his family were all who survived the flood, according to scripture; and as Noah was of Seth’s race, the family of Cain was wholly destroyed. One of them [in the company] said, that after the flood Ham went to the land of Nod and took a wife; that Nod was a land far distant, inhabited by Cain’s race, and that the flood did not reach it; and as Ham was sentenced to be a servant of servants to his brethren, these two families being thus joined, were undoubtedly fit only for slaves. I replied, the flood was a judgment upon the world for their abominations; and it was granted that Cain’s stock was the most wicket, and therefore unreasonable to suppose that they were spared. As to Ham’s going to the land of Nod for a wife, no time being fixed, Nod might be inhabited by some of Noah’s family, before Ham married a second time; moreover the text saith, “That all flesh died that moved upon the earth.”—Gen. vii. 21. I further reminded them how the prophets repeatedly declare, “that the son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father: But every one be answerable for his own sins.” I was troubled to perceive the darkness of their [the company’s] imaginations; and in some pressure of spirit [I] said, the love of ease and gain are the motives in general of keeping slaves, and men are wont to take hold of weak arguments to support a cause which is unreasonable. I have no interest on either side, save only the interest which I desire to have in the truth. I believe liberty is their [enslaved people’s] right, and as I see they are not only deprived of it, but treated in other respects with inhumanity in many places, I believe He, who is a refuge for the oppressed, will, in his own time, plead their cause; and happy will it be for such as walk in uprightness before Him. And thus our conversations ended.

14th of Fifth Month.—I was this day at Camp Creek Monthly Meeting, and then rode to the mountains up James’ River, and had a meeting at a Friend’s house; in both [Camp Creek and the Friend’s house] which I felt sorrow of heart, and my tears were poured out before the Lord, who was pleased to afford a degree of strength, by which way was opened to clear my mind amongst Friends in those places. From then I went to Fork Creek, and so to Cedar Creek again….

[Relevant Component(s), National Park Service Thematic Framework: Creating Social Institutions and Movements--Religious Institutions; Peopling Places--Community and Neighborhood]

[selected and posted by NGH]

Last updated: February 26, 2015

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