831. Jeremy Belknap to Benjamin Rush
Boston, 7 April 1788 (excerpts)1

By your very obliging Letter I had the pleasure to be assured of the friendly disposition of the Quakers in Phila to the federal Constitution, the contrary of which has been confidently asserted here, & what will not the virulence of party zeal lead [people?] to assert? I have taken some pains to let some of my Friends of that persuasion know the Truth for I found that even they had been deceived into a belief that all was wrong & that the Constitution was intended to establish Slavery for twenty years at least—

An incident which took place here just after the breakg up of our Convention has set the friends of consistent & universal Liberty on an exertion for the abolition as far as possible of the horrid traffick. Three Negroes were kidnapped & carried away from this Harbour in the Month of February just before the sitting of the Genl Court. On this Occasion, the minds of the people being agitated, a Petition was drawn & subscribed by about 90 Persons of different orders & Characters—the Negroes also were put upon presenting one, which they did & happily there was one from the Quakers then on the Table presented at a former Session—The acco wh you gave me in your former Letter of a Petition of the same sort to yr Assembly was very seasonable & had its effect. No efforts were wanting to carry the Matter through. There was more Opposition than I expected but it was managed in a sly & evasive manner—they dared not openly & directly to attack the Question—however they shewed themselves as plainly as did the Toad at Eve’s Ear on the touch of the Spear of Ithuriel & really it is matter of lamentation & grief that there should at this day be any who even in secret harbour a wish to make gain by the ruin & destruction of mankind. Their manouevres were ineffectual & the Bill has passed to prohibit the owning fitting out & insuring of any Vessells destined to Africa or elsewhere to buy & sell Slaves and to assist the friends of those who may be kidnapped in their endeavors to obtain redress. The Fellow who was aiding in the business of the three Negroes has been indicted tried & convicted & will receive his due punishment. but the poor fellows themselves have not been heard of tho’ Letters are gone to Georgia, Martinico &c to inform of the Circumstances of their carrying away—

I am told this Week that a similar Transaction has happened at Fairfield in Connecticut—I hope the friends of Virtue will be aroused there also.

I have now the pleasure to enclose to you a Copy of the Debates in our Convention. …

Mr Hopkinson has done admirably well in exposing the antifederal Writers in Phila—If ours were to be as publickly known they would turn out to be bankrupts & insolvents, or equally dirty Characters. …

1. RC, Rush Papers, Library Company of Philadelphia.