1775–1777George Walton's Journal from 2d, 6th Month, 1775, to 12th, 10th Month, 1777 - Florida Scholarship Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
The Having of Negroes Is Become a BurdenThe Quaker Struggle to Free Slaves in Revolutionary North Carolina$

Michael Crawford

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780813034706

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813034706.001.0001

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George Walton's Journal from 2d, 6th Month, 1775, to 12th, 10th Month, 1777

(p.49) 3 1775–1777
The Having of Negroes Is Become a Burden

Michael J. Crawford

University Press of Florida

Abstract and Keywords

George Walton played a leading role not only in the movement to persuade Friends to free their slaves but also in the confrontation with North Carolina's government that the manumissions precipitated. When he was appointed captain of one of the company of patrollers, George Walton refused to serve and counseled fellow Quakers to follow his example. The 1776 Yearly Meeting appointed a committee of eleven to help any Friends who wanted to free their slaves. Walton and other members of the committee visited fellow Quakers, encouraging them and helping them to free their slaves. In 1777, the Perquimans Monthly Meeting recommended Walton to the Quarterly Meeting of Ministers and Elders as “a minister with whom we have Unity.” By 1778, Walton had risen so high in the esteem of his co-religionists that they appointed him to the Standing Committee of the Eastern Quarter.

Keywords:   George Walton, North Carolina, manumissions, Quakers, Perquimans Monthly Meeting, Standing Committee

George Walton played a leading part not only in the movement to persuade Friends to free their slaves but also in the confrontation with North Carolina's government that the manumissions precipitated.

Night Patrols

In mid-1775, hoping to prevent slaves from responding to Loyalist urgings to rise and free themselves, local authorities in North Carolina's Albemarle region decided to increase the number and frequency of night patrols and called on all adult male residents, including Quakers, to participate in the patrols. When he was appointed captain of one of the company of patrollers, George Walton refused to serve and counseled fellow Quakers to follow his example.

The colony of North Carolina had formally established slave patrols in 1753.48 In the earlier part of the eighteenth century, when the free white population outnumbered the more than two thousand slaves by a factor of two or more, the colonial government deemed more casual forms of control adequate. When the economy expanded in the middle of the century, the proportion of slaves in the population increased; in some areas there came to be twice as many enslaved persons as free whites. To the white residents, an established mechanism for preventing slave rebellion appeared essential to their security.49

In North Carolina the county courts appointed slave patrollers, drawing their names from county tax lists and militia rosters. Only property owners were appointed. The original duty of North Carolina's patrollers (p.50)

was to search slave quarters for weapons. Eventually their responsibilities expanded to include dispersing slave gatherings and patrolling roads in order to question slaves on the roads and detain those that did not have the pass required by law.50

When the county court appointed members to a patrol, it named one of them the unit's captain. The captain exercised responsibility for deciding on which nights, in which locations, and by what routes the unit would operate. He also kept a record of participation in patrols. That the county court appointed George Walton a patrol captain indicates that the court recognized in him leadership abilities and a degree of social importance. By turning down the appointment, Walton exposed himself to fines for noncompliance and sacrificed a 40-shilling tax exemption as well as exemption from militia, jury, and road work duty. In 1779, the assembly increased the penalty for not serving to one hundred pounds.51

Walton objected to Quaker participation in the patrols since it was wrong to deny fellow human beings their natural freedom and because participation in the patrols would inevitably involve Quakers in the use of violence—in contravention of Quaker pacifism—while subduing blacks found violating curfew or when putting down blacks in open revolt. Quakers, Walton pointed out, had no more justification for taking up arms to resist blacks than they had for joining the army to resist British tyranny.

It is not known how many Friends followed Walton's lead and refused patrol duty. Records do indicate, however, that North Carolina Moravians, whose views on the resort to violence were similar to those of the Quakers, did not have scruples about stockpiling arms to use in case of a slave uprising during the Revolution or about serving on night patrols during the War of 1812, even though in both wars they refused to take up arms against the British.52

The journal is published here in its entirety.

The Journal Begins

Source: Papers of George Walton, Accession No. 3988, Americana Collection, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, Washington, D.C.

2d 6th Mo 1775 I went to the Yearly Meeting in Virginia in Company with our Friends Francis Jones, Moses Bundy, Joseph Newby, and Some other private Friends, and it was a time of great probation to our Ministers, they not having Certificates from the Monthly meeting (p.51)

(as it had not been customary to require one only to go to a Meeting in Virginia and so streight back) met with cool reception; from the Elders of that Meeting. there was there Saml Hopkins53 from Philedelphia Hannah Reves from the Jerseys and another woman freind from the Jerseys I don't Remember her Name, all Publick, Benjamin Sharper, Joshua Thompson54 and Joseph Jenny their Companions.—

Sixth Mo. 1775} About this time there was a great {illegible} the People about Negros Rising, and they appointed Patrollers to go about in the Night to {watch} them; I had an Order given me to act as Capt of one of the Companys, and all Friends in General without any Exception to Age or Quality (unless Minor's) were Appointed to Act; which brought a Concern on my mind lest Some might be drawn in without considering the Consequence of it, And I found it my Duty to lay it before Freinds; which I did after the Following Manner—

To all Friends that beleive in our Lord Jesus Christ and Love his inward Appearance—

Dear Friends

It is not to Shew myself Singular, or to Appear forward in the Affairs of the Church (but to ease my mind of an unexpected burthen I am brought under, and in Obedience to my Great Lord and Master the Prince of Peace) that I Salute you in this Manner; And I heartily wish that all that profess to be followers of him may in like manner be brought to a true Sense and feeling of the Darkness of the times and the Spirit of AntiChrist that now rules in the hearts of many—

What now lays heavy upon my mind, and I am about to lay before Friends' consideration according to the Ability given me Is concerning Friends undertaking to Act as Patrollers, without Strictly weighing and considering where it may end, and also from what Spirit it Proceeds, for it most certainly can't proceed from the Spirit of Christ Jesus to Usurp the Liberty of our fellow creatures, so far as not to Suffer them to go to See their Wives, or neares friends, but to take them up and have them Whip'd without committing any other crime, but only walking peacably along the Road, or being at Home (as it may Justly be call'd) with their Wives; Remember the Spirit of Christ is full of Mercy and Compassion, and tender Love to all Men, opens the (p.52)

Prison Doors, and let the Captive go free, And how far is this from that Royal rule our Blessed Lord gave us, to do to all men as we would have them do to us.55

{We t}hat have So long profess'd to the World that we wanted to give them their entire Liberty, and now to usurp them in the Smallest part of it, and that with Rigour. But some may say this care is Necessary, lest they should rise, and take both our lives and Property's—This is so Shallow and naked an excuse for those that profess to be the true followers of Christ the King and Prince of Peace, who declares that his Kingdom is not of this World else would his Servants fight, that it may well be compared to fig leaves, to hide them from the Eyes of the all seeing God. And it comes so nigh doing our Endeavour to protect ourselves from any other outward Enemy by strength of Arm that for my part I can Scarce See any Difference; it all proceeds from one Spirit, even the Spirit of Anti-Christ; The same plea might with as much reason be made in Joining in all those Resolves that are made to protect ourselves against the King of England's invading our Propertys and Perhaps our Lives, and if it comes to that to take up Arms also.—But some may be ready to say there will be no need of taking up Arms in this Affair, I Answer, how is that Known. Suppose any one met with Negroes that resisted, and would not be dispersd what would be done then, would not they try to do it by Violence, Yea certainly, otherwise they would not be true in their Office and would disobey their Master that set them to Work; And if they did offer Violence, they certainly would disobey their Heavenly Master, who says we must Love and pray for our Enemies, and if any man Smite us on the one Cheek, turn the other also; and John tells the Soldiers to do Violence to no Man. But Suppose those Blacks Should openly Rise, when we had been Acting as Gaurds over them, would it not justly be expected that we should take up Arms to Subdue them, Yea certainly, for the Gaurds of all places are in the same rank with Soldiers, whether they be for the King or Commonwealth and where is the Difference in taking up Arms against one Enemy more then against another.—

Those that have truly known {co}ming to the Mountain of the Lord their Swords are beaten into plowshares and their Spears into pruning (p.53)

hooks, they can't kill nor destroy neither learn War any more,56 but their Spirits that before were like Lions, Bears and Wolves, killing and destroying, are become as Lambs {le}d and Guided by the Spirit of Child that neither does, nor thinks harm to any one.

I wish Friends would weigh it d{ee}ply before they Join with it, and Consider where it may end; for it seems to be a Key to open a Door to bring friends to be more deeply connected in those troubles and Commotions that are now in the Nation, which I think we ought all to endeavour to keep out of.—

The Patrollers did not much concern me before, as not thinking Friends would have been requested to Act in any such Office, till first day last I had a ticket given me to act as Capt of one of the Companys, which I did not except, but returned it to the Person gave it me; but hearing since that Some Friends have begun to Act in that Office, and perhaps without deeply weighing what might be the Event, brings this burthen upon me and I am led to clear my mind after this manner—

For my part I beleive I can never act in any such Office with a cler Consience, and I hope thro devine asstance, not to do any thing that may bring Guilt to my Consience whatever I may Suffer, for according to the Apostles words, I am perswaded that neither Life nor Death principallitys or powers thro' devine Assistance, can be able to Seperate me from the Love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.—57

If any should think I am too Severe, bear with me, for since it has Pleas'd the Capt of my Salvation to call me to the Battle of the Lamb, thro' his Assisting arm I am willing to be a Valient Soldier under his banner, and faithfully to obey his Command, And I pray that many more Valient Soldiers may list themselves under his Banner, and Stand faithfull for his Great Name, in this Day of Firey tryal and fierce Wrath of the Lord;—

If his wrath is gone forth the Plague is begun and it greatly behoves the Servants of the Lord to Stand between the Living and the Dead, Offering holy {Incense} to his great and Glorious Name, with Prayers (p.54)

and Intercessions, that he would be pleas'd to Spare his People and not cut them off in his Wrath.—So with my prayers to the most high God, to open the Blind Eyes, unstop the Deaf Ears, unloose the Dumb tounge and Soften the Hard hearts I bid you farewell, Directing every one to the Word of his Grace, which alone is able to Guide You in true Judgment, And remain a Sincere friend to all Mankind, and well wisher to Sions Prosperity

Geo Walton—

P.S. I am perswaded if all Friends would do their utmost indeavour, to keep their Negroes at Home, and likewise to Order those from their Houses that were not on lawfull Business there might be a great Regulation in a Loving and Friendly Manner and without danger of Embrueing our hands in Blood.—

“Inconsistant with righteousness”

In the autumn of 1775, the Yearly Meeting determined that slaveholding was “inconsistant with…righteousness,” and advised “all the members…who hold slaves…cleanse their hands of them as soon as they possibly can.” George Walton's interest in the slavery question was by now apparent to the Quaker leadership, for he was appointed to the committee that drafted this resolution.58

Following the 1775 Yearly Meeting's resolution that all members end their involvement with slaveholding as soon as possible, the committee appointed by the Perquimans monthly meeting in 1774 to help Thomas Newby finally acted. It produced a document setting ten of Newby's slaves free, which Newby signed on 3 March 1776.59

The Journal from 17 June 1775 to 24 May 1776

17th of the 6th Mo 1775

About this time their was great Disturbance Between England and America and several Battles were fought at or nigh Boston which seems to be a fullfilling of the Dream I had on the 15th of the 8th Mo 1774. The Continent Enter'd into many Resolves against England and would Gladly have friends to Join with them, but by the mercy of the Lord and his Protecting Arm, they were preserv'd from medling with (p.55)

them{.} the Resolves were enter'd into Soon after their begun to be Disturbance between England & America in 1774—60

I now Continued at Home frequenting only our own Meetings and did not yet find it my Duty to travail abroad for as Yet I was but a Child in the Work of the Ministry—

On the 25th of the 8th Month 1775 begun our Quarterly Meeting at Pasquotank for Ministers and Elders, but I not being yet Recommended to the Quarterly meeting as A Minister, was not there on the 26th and 27th. the Meetings of Worship were very large and Many Weighty truths were declare'd amongst them, and I believe it was a humbling time to Some, tho there Seem'd to be many there that had a Spirit of lightness, & Airiness, and what was Said by way of Reproof Seem'd like water pour'd upon Rock it could find no Entrance in them{.} Religion being at a low Ebb with many nothing but outward Performances being left, nothing of the true Power or life to be felt in them—

On the 2d of the 9th Mo We had a most Violent Storm of Wind & Rain So that no Person could ever Remember any like it Blowing down many Houses and Trees in Abundance the Corn was very much Destroy'd and fother {fodder?} was tore So that but very little was to be got, this brougt me under a Weighty Concern of Mind and I was humbly bow'd before the Lord under a Sense thereof, then it was open'd to me that God Judgements was over the Land for their Disobedience and Since the People would not bow in Mercy, he would cause them to bow in Judgement, for he would be Glorify'd by the Work of his Hands.

On the 2d—4th day in the 11th Mo I went to Western Branch in Virginia61 and was at their Monthly meeting on 5th day, on 6th begun their Quarterly Meeting for Ministers & Elders and Continued 7th & 1st days for Worship and I beleive it was a time of Comfort & refreshment, to the faithfull tho there were many of other {con}fessions; & Some Seem'd light & Airy— (p.56)

On 2d day I was at a Burial at Summerton62 of a Child belonging to our Friend Elisha Copeland; that was burnt to Death, it was a very Solemn time, and many Weighty truths were Spoken to the Comfort & Encouragement of the faithfull, and Sharp Reproof to the Backsliders, warning them to prepare for their great & final Change, I think I never return'd from any Place with so great peace in my mind as I did from here. Glory be given unto God, to whom it is due—

The last 6th day in this Month our Quarterly meeting for Ministers & Elders begun at Well's and Continued 7th & 1st days for Worship I believe it was a time of Refreshment to many tho' there were many light & airy ones that seem'd to be dry & Barren, and did not know nor witness a Spiritual Refreshment by Assembling themselves together—

I now kept Close to meetings about Home and was at Some Burials—

27th of 1st Mo 1776 I went in Company with our Friend Moses Bundy to Virginia to the Marriage of Thos Winslow, with Ann Jordan, Daughter of Robt Jordan and the Meeting was very Comfortable & Solemn altho' I felt very Heavy and much Burden'd before I went in, under a feeling Sense of the Darkness of many there, but when I sat down to wait upon the Lord I witness'd myself to be refresh'd and was made able to clear myself, I hope to the Comfort of the well minded, and to the Exhortation of those that were afar off, and did not Yet Witness Christ the Hope of Glory to be in them and to know him to be the Way, the truth and the Life and that no Man could come to the father but by him;63 and by Yeilding true Obedience to the leading and Guidance of his holy spirit in them

The {manuscript torn} day in 2{d Mo} 177{6} {I attended a meeting} at Little River which was Solemn & Refreshing {to} the welminded our Fr{ien}d Able Thomas from {Penn}silvania attending it whose Service in Love was Comfortable & Edifying—

The 24th of the 5th Mo begun our Quarterly Meeting at old Neck which was a {manuscript torn} time to some and caused Greif of Heart; the (p.57)

Soldiers c{om}ing and behaving very indecent about the House; yet the fai{thfu}ll were preserved still & quiet Our Friends William {manuscript torn} from Penslvania {manuscript torn} & also had several more meetings in the Parts very Comfortable & Edifying—

The Progress of Manumission

The most significant acts of the 1776 Yearly Meeting prohibited Friends from buying and selling slaves and appointed a committee of eleven to help any Friends who wanted to free their slaves. The Yearly Meeting also instructed monthly meetings to protect freed slaves from re-enslavement. The Yearly Meeting agreed to pay associated legal costs. On receiving this advice, the Perquimans monthly meeting added six more members to the committee. George Walton was included in that number.64

In late 1776 and early 1777 Walton and other members of the committee visited fellow Quakers, encouraging them and helping them free their slaves. During that time, at least fourteen North Carolina Friends, including Walton, joined Newby in setting free their slaves. The fifteen men together liberated some forty slaves. Other Quakers were sympathetic but hesitant, and still others were unwilling.65

The Journal from 25 October 1776 to 29 March 1777

The 25th of the 10th Mo 177{6}

Begun our Yearly Meeting which was large, and Continued till the 29th Which was an Affecting time I believe to many and the presence of the Lord was livingly felt & Witnessed to by many; It was Attended by our Friends Samuel Emlen66 & {Samuel} Hopkins from philadelphie Mark Reeves67 from Salem in the Jerseys & George Dilwyn68 from Burlington all publick; also our Friend Edwd Stabler69 from Virginia and many Friends from the Westward both publick & private requesting the Yearly Meeting to be Circular one Yeare in Perquimons the other to the Westwd but, it was refer'd till the next Yearly Meeting there was an Order passed that no Friend in Unity should buy or Sell any Negroe Nor hire them for a Term of Years so as to prolong their Bondage Neither hire any of such as were not in Unity with us. Also it was Advised that all Friends should Endeavour (p.58)

to Cleanse their Hands of them as soon as possible and a Comittee was Appointed to Assist Friends in preparing Manumissions; as several then declare they were Convinced of the Evill practice and were willing to Release them. And that Comittee was to be joined by some others appointed by Each Monthly Meeting that were thought fit for such a Service. At our Ensueing Monthly Meeting after the Quarterly the following Friends were Appointed to Join our Quater of the Comittee Viz Mark Newby Wm Albertson Josiah White Exum Newby, Moses Bundy & myself

On the Seventh Nin{th and} tenth of the twelfth Mo Visited {frie}nds Up the River And {manuscript torn} one Manumitted their Neg{roes on} the North Side of the River {manuscript torn} low as Wm White's which were in Number Sixty th{manuscript torn} only two people on the South Side Released Eight of them But we found a great openness in the people and their Minds tender on that Acct.

21st of 2d Mo 1777 Begun Quarterly Meeting of Ministers & Elders at Littl{e Riv}er in which Divine Comfort {was} witne{ssed}

{22d & 23d} {illegible} meetings {for w}orship & I believe it was a Seasoning time to Many

24th I was at a Meeting at Newbegun Creek in Company with our Friends Thos Saint {and} Francis Jones & it was a Very tender time I believe {for} many and I hope Instructive to the Enquiring Soul—

25th We had a Meeting at Truebloods70 there were but few Friends there but Yet {I believe} that it may be Rember'd by some many good Cau{tions} & Admonitions being given not to depend too much on Outward forms or Will Worship but to come to know & taste of the Life & Substance—this Night I got home—

26th Was our preparative Meeting at pineny Woods

27th Thos Newby. Caleb White Moses Bundy & I Visited Several Famileys of Friends on the South side of the River on Acct of their Setting their Negroes Free and it was to us a Time of hard Labour & Travail (p.59)

meeting with Some that were much Blinded by the gain of Oppression and very unwilling to do as they would be done by. Yet some were tender & three were set free—

On the 22d of ye 3d Mo 1777

Our Friend Sarah Metcalf Appointed a Meeting for the Blacks and desired that Moses Bundy & I would be there if we found freedom which Accordingly we both were and it was a very tender time many good Cautions and Advices being given and I hope might prove of Service to some—

On the 29th We had a Meeting for the Blacks at pineny Woods and many good Counsels & Exhortation{s} were deliver'd and I beleive Some of the Blacks were tender and I hope may Remmerber the good Advice given them—

Re-Enslavement of the Manumitted Blacks

Viewing the wholesale manumission of blacks as both unlawful and irresponsible, the North Carolina General Assembly condemned the freeing of slaves as an “evil and pernicious Practice…{that} ought at this alarming and critical Time to be guarded against.” The legislature enacted a law authorizing the seizure and sale of illegally freed slaves.71 The Yearly Meeting's Standing Committee engaged lawyers to contest in court the application of the law retrospectively to slaves who had been freed before its passage.72

On 18 June, Walton, with Thomas and Mark Newby, attended a meeting of the court at Edenton, where lawyers engaged by the ad hoc committee established by the Yearly Meeting were going to argue in favor of the freedom of several manumitted former slaves whom freeholders had seized and turned over to the sheriff under the new law. Because the prosecution lawyers did not have an attested copy of that law, the trial had to be postponed. When the court reconvened at Hertford several weeks later, the court ruled against the freed slaves and ordered that they be sold to the highest bidder.73

(p.60) The Journal from 20 May to 10 October 1777

On the 20th of the 5th Mo 1777 The Standing Committee met to consider of, and inspect into an Act made by the Assembly to take up all free Negroes, and to be Sold at publick sale at Court;74 many having been taken up and people going about daily to take them up, And after much consultation it was refer'd to a future Sitting, not coming to any Determination; only it was thought it might be necessary to try the Virtue of the Act by Law, as it Seem'd not to be against Negroes all-ready Set free, but against them that should be set free here after.—

On the 30th Begun our Quarterly Meeting for Ministers and Elders at Old Neck. And we were Accompanied by John Pemberton from philadelphia,75 and Edwd Stabler from Virginia.—

On the 31st Before Meeting of Worship the Standing Comitee met to Consider further about the Case of the Negroes and after a Seasonable Conference on the Subject it was thought best & safest to leave the Management thereof to a Comittee of ten Friends choosen out of the Standing Comittee.—

After the Comittee broke up, begun the Meeting for Worship and Business which was large and Comfortable—

1st of 6th Mo 1777 Being 1st Day the Meeting was large there being many of other Societies but all I believe behaved Well and I hope Some were edified and comforted—

15th Francis Jones & I was at a Burying of a Child of John Shepherds in Hertford County, at which was many people chiefly not of our Society, but all behaved well, and Some were tender, and I hope it will not Soon be forgotten, the Name of the Lord, & his power, being exalted above all.—

18th I attended Edenton Court in Company with Thos Newby and Mark Newby, two Negro Women being intended to be Sold on that day (as Notice had been given to their former Masters) but when we (p.61)

got to Edenton our Lawyers that were employ'd by the Committee of ten friends, inform'd us that our Persecutors Adversaries had no Attested Copy of the Act. Therefore it was not in the power of the Court to Sell them or to go upon their tryall they having no law to go by, So that we need not Stay on that Acct.

Whilst we were in town the parson of Edenton, Earll, by Name76 came to me and Mark Newby and asked us what was our Motive for Setting them free, what law or Scripture had we for it. Mark Newby made him Several Suitable answers I do not distinctly remember, & I told him our greatest motive was to fulfill the Command of our Blessed Lord by doing to others as they would be done by77 which no person could do, So long as they kept them Slaves for I believed that none of us would be willing to be slaves from which he and I enter'd into a pretty long Argument in which I believe he'll have nothing to Vaunt on, I ask'd him, if Christ had not said that he that put away his wife committed Adultery and he that taketh her committeth Adultery78 to which he readily Answer'd Yes. I Ask'd him then if he did not think that those that parted Man and Wife made them to Committ Adultery and the Sin would lay at their Door. He Answer'd Stop I know not, perhaps that fellow was such a Rogue he could not keep him, we must do a Small evill to keep from a Bigger—I told him a Christian ought to live in no known Evill and that committing evill that good migt come on it which the Apostle Says God forbid,79 he Said God forbid Also, then C{h}ang'd the discours to some other Branch So the dispute Held I believe near an hour

On Seventh Day; being 12th Of 7th Mo 1777—I set off for Virginia in Company with Francis Jones & Rachel & {illegible} White; and on first Day we Attended two Burials at Sam1 Bufkins—his Wife's Mother and his Eldest Daughter the Meeting was large being many of other proffessions it was an humbling time to Many & the Everlasting truth was declared with great Power Glory to God alone—We had an Evening Meeting at the Same House, mostly Friends, it was a very tender Comfortable Meeting and Friends were encouraged to trust in the Lord in all trials & probations which he in {h}is Wisdom might permit them to be tried with— (p.62) Second Day; we had a Meeting over the Western Branch80 within five Miles of Portsmouth, at one Widow Hugh's there were no Friends about there nor none at the Meeting but what went with us, but it was a Tender Meeting as ever I remember to be at, the people were greatly affected I believe there were few dry Eyes in the Meeting especially among the Women, at our parting the Widow Hughs was very tender and Desired we might not forget them but would come again She believed it would be of great Service among them—and I beleive if they are Visited and they are careful to keep to there first Love there will be a Meeting Settled there in time Glory be to the Lord who is able to tender the hardest hearts and make them bow under his Mighty Power. I writ a few Lines to one Wm Taylor who was in a low Condition advising him to keep close by the Grace of God and witness in himself &c—That Evening we went to our Friend Robt Jordans—

Third day. In the Morning we cross'd Nancemund River and had a Meeting at John Densons in Chuckatuck.81 The Meeting was small but very Comfortable. Friends about there are much gone back again into the World and but a Small Remnant left. I lodg'd that night with John Denson and had much Di{s}course with him and found him a very tender Young Man and much affected with a feeling Sense of truth altho he lives remote from Friends and being only just come to his Estate there are many allurements to draw him aside but I think he is a hopeful Youth—

Fourth Day, we were at the Weekday Meeting at Westren Branch (Isle Whight County) which was also small there is a great Declension among Friends in Virginia altho' I hope they'l soon begin to increase again for there are many tender People—

Fifth Day, we had a Meeting at Summerton82 which was tender and Comfortable, there are some tender friends about that place—going from meeting to our Friends Elisha Coplands we had as sharp a thunder Shower as ever I remember to have been in and the thunder was a {illegible} the lightning seem'd to Strike amongst our Horses—Oh the Wonderfull goodness of God to his People and how are his Judgments mixt with Mercy toward the Workmanship of his Hands O that (p.63)

the Inhabitants of the Earth would learn Righteousness and fear and tremble before him—that Evening we Rode nineteen Miles to our Friend John Whiteheads in Southhampton County

Sixth Day, we had a Meeting at Vix's and tho' there are but few Friends thereabout yet the Meeting was pretty large and the people Seem'd tender, there was the parson and his Wife, and two Daughters he seem'd Much Affected with the testimony of truth and Seem'd loving after Meeting I believe there is a good Seed in him if it was not too much Stiffled by the Briers & thorns—

That Evening we had a meeting at John Whiteheads which was very powerful and Affecting the Everlasting truth was Exalted and the Ways thereof largely treated of—there was a Woman who had been brought up a Friend but by unwatchfulness had fallen away and to her last husband Married out, but it had pleased the Lord to visit her and bring her to a Sense of her Backslidings which brought her very low almost to despairs then she joined with the Baptists but found no true peace there. I had much discourse with her after Meeting and she was very tender, her Husband also was very tender and confessed he beleived Friends were in the rightest way of any people but the Way seem'd so narrow. We had much discourse on Baptism Plainness of speech and Honouring of Men alwhich I was enabled to open clearly to there understandings and the Man confessed to the truth thereof, the Woman seem'd much bewildred in her Mind and did not say Much. Glory be given to God alone, Who give Wisdom to babes and Sucklings, & hides it from the Worldly Wise and prudent.—

Seventh Day I got home again and found my family much better in Health then I left them Praises be given to God for Ever for his abundant Mercies and tender Regard to the Sons of Men—

On 21st of the 7th Mo 1777 Begun the Court at Hertford on ye 22d the Negroes that were taken up were brought to tryal and altho' the Lawyers pleaded {much} and clearly shewed they could not sell them by {that} Act, it not being intended to look Back but only to hinder any more to be set free, and that it was contrary to the Constitution that any law should look back and therefore they must Violate the Constitution (p.64)

otherwise set them at Liberty and to Sell them by the former law that could not be, it being void at the time they were set free, by the Declaration of Independency and that also it was to be executed by the Church Wardens which were also out of Office,83 and further that they should have had by the old Act Six Months Liberty to quit the Country before they could be lawfully taken up which those had not; therefore they had no law to Sell them by. But altho' things were so plainly and Clearly Demonstrated; yet by a Majority of the Court Jud{g}ement was given they should be Sold their were five Justices on the Bench three of which gave it their Judgement they should be sold Viz Jethro Ballard Wm Skinner84 Christopher Rite and Jessey Perry, two would not Consent to it; viz George Whitbee and Jesse Heason. Accordingly the Next day twenty Nine were sold at publick Vendue at the Court-House—*

{2}9th of the 8th Mo 1777 Begun the Quarterly Meeting at Simon's Creek for Ministers & Elders in which Friends were exhorted & encouraged to trust in the Lord in the time of trial and affliction and he would Preserve them and Support them {illegible} & hide them as in the Hollow of his Hand till the Calamities were overpast it was a Comfortable refreshing time—

31st We had a large Meeting for Worship & Business Which was Weighty & Solemn and Business transacted with great Condescension & love one to another— (p.65)

1st Continued for Meeting of Worship in which were many people of other Societys the Meeting was very large and Solemn and People in General seem'd to be Affected with the Declaration of truth, tho' some seem'd uneasy in time of Silence it being a Mystery hid from the Worldly Worshipers—

11th Of the 10th Mo I Attended the Funeral of two Children of Zachariah Copelands at Summerton in Virginia In Company with Francis Jones (which were Scalded to Death by the Still Cap Blowing off) the Meeting was Solemn & tender and the people seemed much Affected with the Declaration of truth and the Solemnness of the Occasion in which we were gathered—

12th Being 1st Day we had a Meeting at Stephen Shepherds in Sarum,85 which was very Solid & Comfortable, and tho' there were few Friends yet the people seem'd much Affected & well Satisfied—In the Evening Francis Jones being Sick, I in Company with John Shepherd, his Wife & Sarah Copeland Visited the Widdow Baker (one of their Neigbours but not Friend) who was thought near Death by having a Cancer on her Cheek & her son Capt Wm Baker was also Sick at her House and his Wife being under a Concern of Mind for her Future welfare had a great Desire to have been at our Meeting but could not Attend by reason of the Sickness of her Mother in law and Husband, this made me the more Willing to go to Visit the Sick feeling my mind Unusually Burthened but I knowed not whether for her sake or her Sick Mother in Law, And After I got there John Shepherd & I went into Wm Bakers Room and John Shepherd's Wife and Sarah Copeland into the Widow's Room, and I thought there would be no Opportunity for me to speak to either the Old Woman or Capt Baker's Wife as I did not yet know which I was Burthen'd for, but under this Anxiety of Mind I cried unto the Lord in Secret if he would be pleased to make way for me if he had any thing for me to do and I was Willing to Wait his time, then under this resignation I found peace, Soon after John Shepherd Mentioned to Wm Baker he had a Desire to See his Mother, but Wm Seemed to put him off by telling him the Sight was Affecting and the Smell most Intolerable, this brought me again under trouble thinking there was no hopes of Opportunity of Speaking to either but Soon after Capt Bakers wife came out of her Mother in laws Room and Sat with us, then John Shepherd mentioned again he had a great Desire (p.66)

to see her and Capt. Bakers wife said She would be very gald {glad} if we would go in for her Mother took it hard if any one came there and did not go to See her this made me to rejoice, hoping my way would be opend if my great Master had any thing for me to Do—Then Capt Bakers wife got up and went in before us and we followed, when we came to her Bed Side John Shepherd took her by the hand and asked her how she was, and if She knowed him, She said she was very poorly but she knowed him well. he said Some more words to her but she was to weak to talk much; So he bid her Farewell and took his leave of her. This deeply Affected my Mind as thinking perhaps it might be a last Farewell, and I could not refrain Weeping then I stept to her Bed Side and took hold of her Hand and Bid her farewell and Said altho' I was unknown to her in person, I travell'd with her in Spirit and my prayer was when she had done in this World she might find a resting place for her Soul, or words nigh to that Affect (for my mind was so Overwhelmed with grief I could scarce remember what I said) this made I believe every one in the Room burst out in crying, and Capt Bakers Wife standing by the foot of the Bed I took her by the Hand and bid her Farewell She wept greatly and held my Hand and would hardly let it go this filld my Heart so full I could no longer contain myself but snatchd my hand from her and stept out of the Door into a Middle passage to pour out my tears in Secret before the Lord. She soon came out into the passage to me and Said O she Wished she could have been at Meeting I said I wish she could; then my Heart was Enlarged towards her and the Opportunity I found was presented to clear my Mind of that Burthen I had felt. I then Declar'd to her that the True Worship which God required was Spiritual and not Carnal for God was a Spirit & must be Worshiped in Spirit, and it was the Spirit and Soul of Man that was to be cleansed and must enter into rest & not the Carnal Body therefore it {The journal ends here.}


In 1778, the Superior Court reversed the 1777 County Court decision (see Part III, document 5). In 1779, however, a joint committee of the legislature found that “the conduct of the said Quakers in setting their slaves free when our open and declared enemies were endeavoring to bring about (p.67)

an Insurrection of the Slaves, was highly criminal and reprehensible,” and the legislature specifically legalized the 1777 seizures and sales of the slaves the Quakers had freed and eliminated the six months' grace period.86

In 1779, the Yearly Meeting responded to the legislature's libel on the Quakers' motives for freeing their slaves by drafting a petition in which they explained that they had acted on their convictions that freedom was a natural right the blacks had not forfeited and that slaveholding was unchristian. The fifteen who had freed their slaves in 1777, including Thomas Newby and George Walton, signed on behalf of the meeting. However, on the recommendation of sympathetic legislators who advised that passions on the issue were at a high pitch, the Yearly Meeting chose not to present the petition. As the petition merits quotation at length and bears Walton's signature, its text is included in Part III, document 7, below.87

In 1777, the Perquimans Monthly Meeting recommended George Walton to the Quarterly Meeting of Ministers and Elders as “a minister with whom we have Unity,” and each of the next three years selected him as their representative at the Quarterly Meeting. By 1778, Walton had risen so high in the esteem of his co-religionists that they appointed him to the Standing Committee of the Eastern Quarter, where they kept him through 1782. In his first two years on the Standing Committee, Walton served as clerk. In 1779 and in 1783, Walton was appointed to committees entrusted with presenting petitions on behalf of the blacks to the General Assembly. In 1779, the Quarterly Meeting appointed him to a committee charged with visiting families to encourage reformation of departures from order. In 1781, the Yearly Meeting asked him to serve on a committee to determine whether some writings of the late Thomas Nicholson88 should be approved and circulated, and the Quarterly Meeting added him to a committee to which monthly meetings could apply for assistance in laboring with members who persisted in the practice of slaveholding. The following year, his monthly meeting put him on a committee that sought to persuade slave-holding members to free their slaves. And in 1785, Walton was a member of a committee appointed to lay before the Quarterly Meeting an account of expenses of some Friends who were seeking relief for certain slaves freed by Friends in North Carolina but imprisoned in Virginia and sold to pay prison fees.89

At the end of his dream of searching for a meetinghouse in December 1772, Walton dreamed that his fellow Friends asked him to lead them (p.68)

through the briars and thorns that blocked their way home. Walton subsequently not only became a member of the Society of Friends but also, as his dream foreshadowed, met the challenge of leadership in a time of difficulty, acting prominently in the movement to free the slaves his fellow Quakers held.


(*) According to the minutes of the Perquimans County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions, the judges present when the court opened at 9 A.M. on 22 July 1777 were Jesse Eason, Jesse Perry, William Skinner, George Whedbee, and Christopher Wright, but when the court resumed business after an hour's recess, Jethro Ballard had replaced William Skinner. The court minutes that refer to the case of the manumitted blacks reads simply: “Ordered that the Sheriff of this County Tomorow morning at the Hour of Ten oClock Expose to Sale to the Highest Bider for Ready money at the Court House door the Several Negroes taken up as free and in his Custody Agreeable to Law.” The court minutes for the following day include the following: “Ordered that the Sheriff Hire out to the Highest Bider until the Next Court one Negro man Abraham Taken up as free and one of the Owners not having lawful Notices—Under the following Restrictions the Person hiring to give Security to See him forth Coming to the Next Court and for Payment of the Hire.” The minutes for the July 1777 term are the only known minutes of the court for the period of the War of Independence. “Minutes of Perquimans County Court, July Term 1777,” in Perquimans County Historical Society Year Book 1975, ed. Raymond A. Winslow, Jr. (Ahoakie, N.C.: Perquimans County Historical Society, 1976), 16, 22, 24, 31.

(48.) “An Additional Act to an Act Concerning Servants and Slaves,” in The State Records of North Carolina, ed. and comp. Walter Clark (1905; repr., Wilmington, N.C., Broadfoot Publishing, 1994), 23:388.

(49.) Sally E. Hadden, Slave Patrols: Law and Violence in Virginia and the Carolinas (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2001), 32–35.

(p.200) (50.) Ibid., 36, 72, 106.

(51.) Ibid., 36–37, 86; Laws of North Carolina for 1779, Chapter VII, in Clark, The State Records of North Carolina, 24:276–77.

(52.) Jon F. Sensbach, A Separate Canaan: The Making of an Afro-Moravian World in North Carolina, 1763–1840 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998), 88, 208.

(53.) Philadelphian Samuel Hopkins appears to have traveled frequently on religious visits. For instance, he was in Maryland in 1760 and in North Carolina twenty years later. “A Journal of the Life, Travels & Gospel Labours of a Faithful Minister of Jesus Christ, Daniel Stanton, Late of Philadelphia, in the Province of Pennsylvania,” in The Friends' Library: Comprising Journals, Doctrinal Treatises, and Other Writings of Members of the Religious Society of Friends, ed. William Evans and Thomas Evans (Philadelphia, 1848), 12:172; and “The Life and Travels of John Pemberton, a Minister of the Gospel of Christ,” in The Friends' Library: Comprising Journals, Doctrinal Treatises, and Other Writings of Members of the Religious Society of Friends, ed. William Evans and Thomas Evans (Philadelphia, 1842), 6:299.

(54.) Joshua Thompson, “a worthy experienced elder,” lived near Salem, New Jersey, and traveled some two thousand miles in the cause of the Society of Friends in 1771. His companion, Joseph Oxley, found him “a choice companion, and very serviceable in the discipline of the church.” “Joseph Oxley's Journal of His Life, Travels, and Labours of Love, in the Faith and Fellowship of Our Lord Jesus Christ,” in The Friends' Library: Comprising Journals, Doctrinal Treatises, and Other Writings of Members of the Religious Society of Friends, ed. William Evans and Thomas Evans (Philadelphia, 1838), 2:464, 472.

(55.) Matthew 7:12.

(56.) Isaiah 2:4; Micah 4:3.

(57.) Romans 8:39.

(58.) Minutes of North Carolina Friends Yearly Meeting, 1775, 136–37.

(59.) Perquimans Monthly Meeting Minutes, 6th of 3rd Month 1776. See the manumission paper in document 6, Part II, this volume.

(60.) On the coming of the Revolution to North Carolina, see the introductory section to Part III, this volume.

(61.) This was the Friends' meeting on the western branch of the Nansemond River, in Isle of Wight County, Virginia.

(62.) Summerton, Nansemond County, Virginia.

(63.) John 14:6.

(64.) Minutes of North Carolina Friends Yearly Meeting, 1776, 149; Perquimans Monthly Meeting Minutes, 4th of 12th Month 1776.

(65.) Some secondary accounts state that eleven Friends manumitted their slaves, basing the number on the names listed in the Minutes of North Carolina Friends Yearly Meeting, 1779, 182–84. But the minutes for the Standing Committee, from which the text in the yearly meeting minutes is drawn, list the names of four additional men. Before the end of the eighteenth century, at least fifty-eight Friends in Chowan, Pasquotank, and Perquimans counties emancipated their slaves, according to a list printed in Memorial and Address of the People Called Quakers, from Their Yearly Meeting Held in Philadelphia, by Adjournments, from the 25th of the 9th Month, to the 29th of the Same Inclusive, 1797 (Philadelphia: Philadelphia Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, 1797). This list is reproduced in document 9, Part II, this volume.

(66.) Samuel Emlen (1730–1799) of Philadelphia, nearsighted and slight, possessed a gift for languages, including Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French, and German. Born to wealth, he became a public Friend and traveled widely in service to the Society of Friends, including travels to Ireland and England. “Samuel Emlen,” in Quaker Biographies: A Series of Sketches, Chiefly Biographical, Concerning Members of the Society of Friends, from the Seventeenth Century to More Recent Times (Philadelphia, 1912), 3:143–56.

(67.) Joseph Oxley mentions the attendance of Mark Reeves, of Salem, New Jersey, at the 1771 yearly meeting at Shrewsbury, New Jersey. See “Joseph Oxley's Journal of His Life, Travels, and Labours of Love, in the Faith and Fellowship of Our Lord Jesus Christ,” in The Friends' Library: Comprising Journals, Doctrinal Treatises, and Other Writings of Members of the Religious Society of Friends, ed. William Evans and Thomas Evans (Philadelphia, 1838), 2:470. John Churchman stayed with Reeves at Cohansey, New Jersey, in 1772. See “An Account of the Gospel Labours and Christian Experiences, of that Faithful Minister of Christ, John Churchman, Late of Nottingham, in Pennsylvania,” in The Friends' Library: Comprising Journals, Doctrinal Treatises, and Other Writings of Members of the Religious Society of Friends, ed. William Evans and Thomas Evans (Philadelphia, 1842), 6:259.

(68.) George Dilwyn (1738–1830) of Burlington, New Jersey, was a frequent traveling companion of Samuel Emlen, including during his travels England, Ireland, France, and the Netherlands. “Samuel Emlen,” 147.

(69.) Edward Stabler occasionally gave lodging in his home to Friends traveling on religious visits. “A Short Account of the Life and Some of the Religious Labours of Patience Brayton,” in The Friends' Library: Comprising Journals, Doctrinal Treatises, and Other Writings of Members of the Religious Society of Friends, ed. William Evans and Thomas Evans (Philadelphia, 1846), 10:451; and “A Journal of the Life, Travels & Gospel Labours of a Faithful Minister of Jesus Christ, Daniel Stanton, Late of Philadelphia, in the Province of Pennsylvania,” in The Friends' Library: Comprising Journals, Doctrinal Treatises, and Other Writings of Members of the Religious Society of Friends, ed. William Evans and Thomas Evans (Philadelphia, 1848), 12:171.

(70.) See map and caption in Part I.

(71.) See “An Act to Prevent Domestic Insurrections,” document 1, Part III, this volume.

(72.) See “The Trial of Several Negroes Manumitted by Friends,” document 2, Part III, this volume.

(73.) See ibid. and “Accounts of Sales of Blacks Emancipated by Friends,” document 3, Part III, this volume.

(74.) “An Act to Prevent Domestic Insurrections.”

(75.) John Pemberton (1727–1795), “one of the most influential Quaker ministers in the Philadelphia yearly meeting,” played a leading role in the Quaker reform movement that promoted moral discipline and separation from the world. He served the Society of Friends in many capacities, including as clerk of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, overseer of the press, and member of the Friendly Association for Regaining and Preserving Peace with the Indians by Pacific Measures. His religious visit to Maryland and Virginia in 1776 that Walton mentions here was one of several he made to American colonies outside Pennsylvania. With other suspected Loyalists, Pemberton spent a period of exile in Virginia from September 1777 to April 1778. In the 1790s he took an active part in the Pennsylvania Abolition Society. He died in Germany during a religious visit to the continent. Jessica Kross, “Pemberton, John,” in American National Biography, ed. by John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 17:269–71.

(76.) Rev. Daniel Earl (d. 1790), youngest son of an Irish nobleman, entered holy orders in 1746 and emigrated to the Albemarle region in 1757. He accepted appointment as rector of St. Paul's, Edenton, in 1759. Earl was criticized for giving too much attention to his investments in fisheries, to the neglect of his clerical duties. After his resignation from St. Paul's in 1778, he established a classical school for boys at his plantation, Blandon, fifteen miles above Edenton on the Chowan River. He is known to have owned slaves. George Troxler, “Earl, Daniel,” Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, ed. William S. Powell (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1986) 2:128; The Herald and Norfolk and Portsmouth Advertiser (Norfolk, Va.), 27 June 1795.

(77.) Matthew 7:12.

(78.) Matthew 5:32.

(79.) Romans 3:8.

(80.) This was the Friends meeting on the western branch of the Nansemond River in Isle of Wight County, Virginia.

(81.) This was the Friends meeting at Chuckatuck, in Nansemond County, Virginia, just south of the James River.

(82.) This was the Friends meeting at Summerton, Virginia.

(83.) Article 34 of the North Carolina constitution of 18 December 1776 declared that “there shall be no establishment of any one religious church or denomination in this State,” thus disestablishing the Church of England. The Federal and State Constitutions, Colonial Charters, and Other Organic Laws of the States, comp. Benjamin P. Poore, 2 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1909), 2:1409–14.

(84.) William Skinner, one of North Carolina's revolutionary leaders, served as state treasurer and held the rank of brigadier general in the militia. He participated in the Battle of Great Bridge in 1775. Alan D. Watson, Perquimans County: A Brief History (Raleigh: Division of Archives and History, North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, 1987), 31, 42. He was among the larger slaveowners of the county, owning forty-seven in 1790.

(85.) Sarem, North Carolina, in modern Gates County.

(86.) Jeffrey J. Crow, The Black Experience in Revolutionary North Carolina (Raleigh: Division of Archives and History, North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, 1977), 62–63; Hilty, Toward Freedom for All, 26; “An Act for Apprehending and Selling Certain Slaves Set Free Contrary to Law and for Confirming the Sales of Others, and for Other Purposes,” document 6, Part III, this volume.

(87.) Minutes of the Standing Committee, 25th of 10th Month 1779.

(88.) For more about Nicholson, see “Thomas Nicholson Urges Gradual Emancipation,” document 1, Part II, this volume.

(89.) Minutes of the Standing Committee, 26th of 10th Month 1778, 25th of 10th Month 1779, 25th of 2nd Month 1781, 4th of 1st Month 1783, 31st of 12th Month 1785; and Perquimans Monthly Meeting Minutes, 5th of 2d Month 1777, 6th of 8th Month 1778, 5th of 5th Month 1778, 1st of 12th Month 1779, 5th of 12th Month 1781, 3rd of 7th Month 1782.