Born in 1720 to a Quaker family in New Jersey (bordering the "Quaker State" or colony of Pennsylvania), John Woolman pursued various trades throughout his life including farming, clerking, accounting, tailoring, and writing business and legal transactions for neighbors. Especially in the southern colonies, early Quakers kept slaves, but Woolman came of age as the Quakers became a source for early Abolitionist movement encouraging slave-owners to emancipate their slaves from perpetual bondage, or at least to educate them and offer better treatment and rights including marriage and family ties.
In addition to his various livelihoods, Woolman acted as an itinerant or traveling minister to various Quaker meetings or communities in North and South. As a minister he would reside in other Quakers' homes. In the South he would seek to persuade slaveholders to reconsider their commitment to this economic system, a situation requiring exceptional tact, especially given Quaker requirements of humility.
Later in his life Woolman also traveled West to investigate the status and treatment of American Indians. He died in England of smallpox in 1772.
“I should almost despair of that man who could peruse the life of John Woolman without an amelioration [improvement] of heart.”—Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), British Romantic poet, author of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1798).
 I have often felt a motion of love to leave some hints in writing of my experience of the goodness of God, and now, in the thirty-sixth year of my age [1756?], I begin this work.
I was born in
 In reading it, my mind was drawn to seek after that pure habitation which I then believed God had prepared for His servants. The place where I sat, and the sweetness that attended my mind, remain fresh in my memory. This, and the like gracious visitations, had such an effect upon me that when boys used ill language it troubled me; and, through the continued mercies of God, I was preserved from that evil.
 The pious instructions of my parents were often fresh in my mind, when I happened to be among wicked children, and were of use to me. Having a large family of children, they used frequently, on First-days, after meeting, to set us one after another to read the Holy Scriptures, or some religious books, the rest sitting by without much conversation; I have since often thought it was a good practice. From what I had read and heard, I believed there had been, in past ages, people who walked in uprightness before God in a degree exceeding any that I knew or heard of now living: and the apprehension of there being less steadiness and firmness amongst people in the present age often troubled me while I was a child.
 I may here mention a remarkable circumstance that occurred in my childhood. On going to a neighbor's house, I saw on the way a robin sitting on her nest, and as I came near she went off; but having young ones, she flew about, and with many cries expressed her concern for them. I stood and threw stones at her, and one striking her, she fell down dead. At first I was pleased with the exploit, but after a few minutes was seized with horror, at having, in a sportive way, killed an innocent creature while she was careful [caring] for her young. I beheld her lying dead, and thought those young ones, for which she was so careful, must now perish for want of their dam to nourish them. After some painful considerations on the subject, I climbed up the tree, took all the young birds, and killed them, supposing that better than to leave them to pine away and die miserably. In this case I believed that Scripture proverb was fulfilled, "The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel." [<Psalm 145.9] I then went on my errand, and for some hours could think of little else but the cruelties I had committed, and was much troubled. Thus He whose tender mercies are over all His works hath placed a principle in the human mind, which incites to exercise goodness towards every living creature [a reference to “the light” Quakers believe that all people share with God and each other]; and this being singly attended to, people become tender-hearted and sympathizing; but when frequently and totally rejected, the mind becomes shut up in a contrary disposition.
 About the twelfth year of my age, my father being abroad, my mother reproved me for some misconduct, to which I made an undutiful reply. The next First-day, as I was with my father returning from meeting, he told me that he understood I had behaved amiss to my mother, and advised me to be more careful in future. I knew myself blamable, and in shame and confusion remained silent. Being thus awakened to a sense of my wickedness, I felt remorse in my mind, and on getting home, I retired and prayed to the Lord to forgive me, and I do not remember that I ever afterwards spoke unhandsomely [unbecomingly] to either of my parents, however foolish in some other things.
 Having attained the age of sixteen years, I began to love wanton [reckless] company; and though I was preserved from profane language or scandalous conduct, yet I perceived a plant in me which produced much wild grapes . . . .
 Advancing in age, the number of my acquaintance increased, and thereby my way grew more difficult. Though I had found comfort in reading the Holy Scriptures and thinking on heavenly things, I was now estranged [alienated] therefrom. I knew I was going from the flock of Christ and had no resolution to return, hence serious reflections were uneasy to me, and youthful vanities and diversions were my greatest pleasure. In this road I found many like myself, and we associated in that which is adverse to [against] true friendship. . . .
 . . . I was not so hardy as to commit things scandalous, but to exceed in vanity and to promote mirth was my chief study. Still I retained a love and esteem for pious people, and their company brought an awe upon me. . . . I was now led to look seriously at the means by which I was drawn from the pure truth, and learned that if I would live such a life as the faithful servants of God lived, I must not go into company as heretofore in my own will, but all the cravings of sense must be governed by a divine principle. . . .
 I kept steadily to [Quaker] meetings, spent First-day [Sunday] afternoons chiefly in reading the Scriptures and other good books, and was early convinced in my mind that true religion consisted in an inward life, wherein the heart does love and reverence God the Creator, and learns to exercise true justice and goodness, not only toward all men, but also toward the brute [unthinking, non-human] creation; that, as the mind was moved by an inward principle to love God as an invisible, incomprehensible Being, so, by the same principle, it was moved to love Him in all His manifestations in the visible world; that, as by His breath the flame of life was kindled in all animal sensible creatures, to say we love God as unseen, and at the same time exercise cruelty toward the least creature moving by His life, or by life derived from Him, was a contradiction in itself. . . .
 As I lived under the cross, and simply followed the opening of truth, my mind, from day to day, was more enlightened, my former acquaintance were left to judge of me as they would, for I found it safest for me to live in private, and keep these things sealed up in my own breast. While I silently ponder on that change wrought in me, I find no language equal to convey to another a clear idea of it [sublime]. I looked upon the works of God in this visible creation, and an awfulness [sense of awe; sublime] covered me. My heart was tender and often contrite, and universal love to my fellow-creatures increased in me. This will be understood by such as have trodden in the same path. Some glances of real beauty may be seen in their faces who dwell in true meekness. There is a harmony in the sound of that voice to which divine love gives utterance, and some appearance of right order in their temper and conduct whose passions are regulated . . . .
 All this time I lived with my parents, and wrought on the plantation [farm]; and having had schooling pretty well for a planter [farmer], I used to improve myself [study] in winter evenings, and other leisure times. Being now in the twenty-first year of my age, with my father's consent I engaged [became employed] with a man, in much business as a shopkeeper and baker, to tend shop and keep books. At home I had lived retired [apart from society]; and now, having a prospect of being much in the way of company, I felt frequent and fervent cries in my heart to God, the Father of Mercies, that He would preserve me from all taint and corruption . . . .
 After a while, my former acquaintance gave over expecting me as one of their company, and I began to be known to some [others] whose conversation was helpful to me. And now, as I had experienced the love of God through Jesus Christ, to redeem me from many pollutions, and to be a succor [nourishment, support] to me through a sea of conflicts, with which no person was fully acquainted, and as my heart was often enlarged in this heavenly principle, I felt a tender compassion for the youth who remained entangled in snares like those which had entangled me. This love and tenderness increased, and my mind was strongly engaged for the good of my fellow-creatures. I went to [Quaker] meetings in an awful [deeply reverent] frame of mind, and endeavored to be inwardly acquainted with the language of the true Shepherd.
[Paragraph 14 below describes the Quaker practice of speaking in meeting. Having no pastor or preacher, Quakers met in silence until one or another member felt an “opening”—that is, being moved by the Light to speak.]
 One day, being under a strong exercise [exertion] of spirit, I stood up and said some words in a meeting; but not keeping close to the divine opening, I said more than was required of me. Being soon sensible of my error, I was afflicted in mind some weeks, without any light or comfort, even to that degree that I could not take satisfaction in anything. I remembered God and was troubled, and in the depth of my distress He had pity upon me, and sent the Comforter. I then felt forgiveness for my offence; my mind became calm and quiet, and I was truly thankful to my gracious Redeemer for His mercies. About six weeks after this, feeling the spring of divine love opened and a concern to speak, I said a few words in a meeting, in which I found peace. Being thus humbled and disciplined under the cross, my understanding became more strengthened to distinguish the pure Spirit which inwardly moves upon the heart, and which taught me to wait in silence sometimes many weeks together, until I felt that rise which prepares the creature to stand like a trumpet, through which the Lord speaks to His flock.
[Those who speak beneficially in Quaker meetings are recognized and encouraged as “ministers.”]
 From an inward purifying and steadfast abiding under it, springs a lively operative desire for the good of others. All the faithful are not called to the public ministry; but whoever are, are called to minister of that which they have tasted and handled spiritually. The outward modes of worship are various; but whenever any are true ministers of Jesus Christ, it is from the operation of His Spirit upon their hearts, first purifying them, and thus giving them a just sense of the conditions of others. This truth was early fixed in my mind, and I was taught to watch the pure opening, and to take heed lest, while I was standing to speak, my own will should get uppermost, and cause me to utter words from worldly wisdom, and depart from the channel of the true gospel ministry.
In the management of my
[business] affairs, I may say with thankfulness, I found truth to be my support;
and I was respected in my master's family, who came to live in
 About the twenty-third year of my age, I had many fresh and heavenly openings . . . . And being clearly convinced in my judgment that to place my whole trust in God was best for me, I felt renewed engagements that in all things I might act on an inward principle of virtue, and pursue worldly business no further than as truth opened my way.
 About the time called Christmas I observed many people, both in town and from the country, resorting to public-houses [taverns], and spending their time in drinking and vain sports, tending to corrupt one another; on which account I was much troubled. At one house in particular there was much disorder; and I believed it was a duty incumbent on me to speak to the master of that house. I considered I was young . . . .
 . . . With prayers and tears I besought the Lord for His assistance, and He in loving-kindness gave me a resigned heart. At a suitable opportunity I went to the public-house; and seeing the man amongst much company, I called him aside, and in the fear and dread of the Almighty expressed to him what rested on my mind. He took it kindly, and afterwards showed more regard to me than before. . . .
 My employer, having a negro woman, sold her, and desired me to write a bill of sale, the man being waiting who bought her. The thing was sudden; and though I felt uneasy at the thoughts of writing an instrument of slavery for one of my fellow-creatures, yet I remembered that I was hired by the year, that it was my master who directed me to do it, and that it was an elderly man, a member of our Society, who bought her; so through weakness I gave way, and wrote it; but at the executing of it I was so afflicted in my mind, that I said before my master and the Friend that I believed slave-keeping to be a practice inconsistent with the Christian religion. This in some degree abated my uneasiness; yet, as often as I reflected seriously upon it, I thought I should have been clearer if I had desired to be excused from it, as a thing against my conscience; for such it was. Some time after this a young man of our Society spoke to me to write a conveyance of a slave to him, he having lately taken a negro into his house. I told him I was not easy to write it; for though many of our meeting and in other places kept slaves, I still believed the practice was not right, and desired to be excused from the writing. I spoke to him in goodwill; and he told me that keeping slaves was not altogether agreeable to his mind; but that the slave being a gift made to his wife, he had accepted her.
 . . . Having now been several years with my employer, and he doing less in merchandise than heretofore, I was thoughtful about some other way of business, perceiving merchandise to be attended with much cumber [burdensome, distracting business] in the way of trading in these parts.
 My mind, through the power of truth, was in a good degree weaned from the desire of outward greatness, and I was learning to be content with real conveniences, that were not costly, so that a way of life free from much entanglement appeared best for me, though the income might be small. I had several offers of business that appeared profitable, but I did not see my way clear to accept of them, believing they would be attended with more outward care and cumber [trouble] than was required of me to engage in. I saw that a humble man, with the blessing of the Lord, might live on a little, and that, where the heart was set on greatness, success in business did not satisfy the craving; but that commonly, with an increase of wealth, the desire of wealth increased. There was a care on my mind so to pass my time, that nothing might hinder me from the most steady attention to the voice of the true Shepherd.
 My employer, though now a retailer of goods, was by trade a tailor, and kept a servant-man at that business; and I began to think about learning the trade, expecting that if I should settle [marry] I might by this trade and a little retailing of goods get a living in a plain way, without the load of great business. . . .
[Below Woolman describes his work as a “Traveling Minister” visiting other Quaker meetings to speak, attend, and advise.]
 . . . I then wrought at my trade as a tailor; carefully attended meetings for worship and discipline [training]; and found an enlargement of gospel love in my mind, and therein a concern to visit Friends in some of the back settlements of Pennsylvania and Virginia. . . .
We left our province
[New Jersey] on the
12th of Third Month, 1746, and had several meetings in the upper part of
 Two things were remarkable to me in this journey: first, in regard to my entertainment [hospitality]. When I ate, drank, and lodged free-cost with people who lived in ease on the hard labor of their slaves, I felt uneasy . . . . Where the masters bore a good share of the burden, and lived frugally, so that their servants were well provided for, and their labor moderate, I felt more easy; but where they lived in a costly way, and laid heavy burdens on their slaves, my exercise [concern] was often great, and I frequently had conversation with them in private concerning it.
 Secondly, this trade of importing slaves from their native country being much encouraged amongst them, and the white people and their children so generally living without much labor, was frequently the subject of my serious thoughts. I saw in these southern provinces [colonies] so many vices and corruptions, increased by this trade and this way of life, that it appeared to me as a dark gloominess hanging over the land; and though now many willingly run into it, yet in future the consequence will be grievous to posterity! . . . .
The winter following
died my eldest sister, Elizabeth Woolman, of the smallpox, aged
thirty-one years. [The eldest of Woolman’s 12
siblings and the only sibling his journal mentions by name]
She was, from her youth, of a thoughtful disposition; and very compassionate to
her acquaintance in their sickness or distress, being ready to help as far as
she could. She was dutiful to her parents; one instance whereof follows:—It
happened that she, and two of her sisters, being then near the estate
of young women, had an inclination
one first day [Sunday]
after meeting to go on a
visit to some other young women at some distance off; whose company, I believe,
would have done them no good. They expressed their desire to our parents; who
were dissatisfied with the proposal, and stopped them. The same day, as my
sisters and I were together, and they talking about their disappointment,
Haddonfield, 1st day, 11th month, 1743
 In this journey, I may say in general, we were sometimes in much weakness, and labored under discouragements, and at other times, through the renewed manifestations of divine love, we had seasons of refreshment wherein the power of truth prevailed. We were taught by renewed experience to labor for an inward stillness; at no time to seek for words, but to live in the spirit of truth, and utter that to the people which truth opened in us. . . .
About this time, believing it good
for me to settle [marry],
and thinking seriously about a companion, my heart was turned to the Lord with
desires that He would give me wisdom to proceed therein agreeably to His will,
and He was pleased to give me a well-inclined damsel, Sarah Ellis, to whom I was
married the 18th of Eighth Month, 1749.
 In the fall of the year 1750 died my father, Samuel Woolman, of a fever, aged about sixty years. In his lifetime he manifested much care for us his children, that in our youth we might learn to fear the Lord; and often endeavored to imprint in our minds the true principles of virtue, and particularly to cherish in us a spirit of tenderness, not only towards poor people, but also towards all creatures of which we had the command. . . .
 About this time, a person at some distance lying sick, his brother came to me to write his will. I knew he had slaves, and, asking his brother, was told he intended to leave them as slaves to his children. As writing is a profitable employ, and as offending sober people was disagreeable to my inclination, I was straitened [in a tight place] in my mind; but as I looked to the Lord, he inclined my heart to His testimony. I told the man that I believed the practice of continuing slavery to this people was not right, and that I had a [doubt or hesitation as to right and wrong] in my mind against doing writings of that kind; that though many in our Society kept them as slaves, still I was not easy to be concerned in it, and desired to be excused from going to write the will. I spake to him in the fear of the Lord, and he made no reply to what I said, but went away; he also had some concerns in the practice, and I thought he was displeased with me. In this case I had fresh confirmation that acting contrary to present outward interest, from a motive of divine love and in regard to truth and righteousness, and thereby incurring the resentments of people, opens the way to a treasure better than silver, and to a friendship exceeding the friendship of men. . . .
 Scrupling [Considering how] to do writings relative to keeping slaves has been a means of sundry [various] small trials to me, in which I have so evidently felt my own will set aside, that I think it good to mention a few of them. Tradesmen and retailers of goods, who depend on their business for a living, are naturally inclined to keep the good-will of their customers; nor is it a pleasant thing for young men to be under any necessity to question the judgment or honesty of elderly men, and more especially of such as have a fair reputation. Deep-rooted customs, though wrong, are not easily altered; but it is the duty of all to be firm in that which they certainly know is right for them. . . .
 While I was out on this journey my heart was much affected with a sense of the state of the churches in our southern provinces . . . .
 Until this year, 1756, I continued to retail goods, besides following my trade as a tailor; about which time I grew uneasy on account of my business growing too cumbersome [burdensome]. . . . [M]y trade increased every year, and the way to large business appeared open, but I felt a stop in my mind.
 Through the mercies of the Almighty, I had, in a good degree, learned to be content with a plain way of living [plain style]. I had but a small family; and, on serious consideration, believed truth did not require me to engage much in cumbering [worrying] affairs. It had been my general practice to buy and sell things really useful. Things that served chiefly to please the vain mind in people, I was not easy to trade in; seldom did it; and whenever I did I found it weaken me as a Christian.
 The increase of business became my burden; for though my natural inclination was toward merchandise, yet I believed truth required me to live more free from outward cumbers [business worries]; and there was now a strife in my mind between the two. In this exercise my prayers were put up to the Lord, who graciously heard me, and gave me a heart resigned to His holy will. Then I lessened my outward business . . . . In merchandise it is the custom where I lived to sell chiefly on credit, and poor people often get in debt; when payment is expected, not having wherewith to pay, their creditors often sue for it at law. Having frequently observed occurrences of this kind, I found it good for me to advise poor people to take such goods as were most useful, and not costly.
 In the time of trading I had an opportunity of seeing that the too liberal use of spirituous liquors and the custom of wearing too costly apparel led some people into great inconveniences; and that these two things appear to be often connected with each other. . . .
[40a] Every degree of luxury hath some connection with evil [<aphorism?]. . . . I have felt an increasing care to attend to that Holy Spirit which sets right bounds to our desires, and leads those who faithfully follow it, to apply all the gifts of divine Providence to the purposes for which they were intended. . . . .
Thirteenth Fifth Month,
1757. —Being in good health, and abroad with Friends visiting families, I lodged
at a Friend's house in
 Feeling the exercise in relation to a visit to the Southern Provinces to increase upon me, I acquainted our Monthly Meeting therewith, and obtained their certificate. . . .
 As it is common for Friends on such a visit to have entertainment [board and lodging] free of cost, a difficulty arose in my mind with respect to saving my money by kindness received from what appeared to me to be the gain of oppression. Receiving a gift, considered as a gift, brings the receiver under obligations to the benefactor, and has a natural tendency to draw the obliged into a party with the giver. . . . [If Woolman receives hospitality from a slave-owner, he benefits from and thus supports slavery.]
 . . . Being thus helped [by prayer] to sink down into resignation, I felt a deliverance from that tempest in which I had been sorely exercised, and in calmness of mind went forward, trusting that the Lord Jesus Christ, as I faithfully attended to Him, would be a counselor to me in all difficulties, and that by His strength I should be enabled even to leave money with the members of society where I had entertainment, when I found that omitting it would obstruct that work to which I believed He had called me. . . . When I expected soon to leave a Friend's house where I had entertainment, if I believed that I should not keep clear from the gain of oppression without leaving money, I spoke to one of the heads of the family privately, and desired them to accept of those pieces of silver, and give them to such of their negroes as they believed would make the best use of them; and at other times I gave them to the negroes myself, as the way looked clearest to me. . . .
 . . . On the way we had the company of a colonel of the militia, who appeared to be a thoughtful man. I took occasion to remark on the difference in general betwixt a people used to labor moderately for their living, training up their children in frugality and business, and those who live on the labor of slaves; the former, in my view, being the most happy life. He concurred in the remark, and mentioned the trouble arising from the untoward, slothful disposition of the negroes, adding that one of our laborers would do as much in a day as two of their slaves. I replied that free men, whose minds were properly on their business, found a satisfaction in improving, cultivating, and providing for their families; but negroes, laboring to support others who claim them as their property, and expecting nothing but slavery during life, had not the like inducement to be industrious. . . .
. . . I may here add that another person, some time afterwards, mentioned the wretchedness of the negroes
 I further said, the present circumstances of these provinces to me appear difficult; the slaves look like a burdensome stone to such as burden themselves with them; and that, if the white people retain a resolution to prefer their outward prospects of gain to all other considerations, and do not act conscientiously toward them as fellow-creatures, I believe that burden will grow heavier and heavier, until times change in a way disagreeable to us. The person appeared very serious, and owned that in considering their condition and the manner of their treatment in these provinces he had sometimes thought it might be just in the Almighty so to order it.
 . . . [S]oon after a Friend [a Quaker] in 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 design of Providence they should be slaves, as a condition proper to the race of so wicked a man as Cain was. Then another spake in support of what had been said.
 . . . I was troubled to perceive the darkness of their imaginations, and in some pressure of spirit said, "The love of ease and gain are the motives in general of keeping slaves, and men are wont [inclined] 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 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 conversation ended. . . .
 . . . Many of the white people in those provinces take little or no care of negro marriages; and when negroes marry after their own way, some make so little account of those marriages, that with views of outward interest they often part men from their wives by selling them far asunder, which is common when estates are sold by executors at vendue [auction]. . . .
 Men and women have many times scarcely clothes sufficient to hide their nakedness, and boys and girls ten and twelve years old are often quite naked amongst their master's children. Some of our Society, and some of the society called New Lights [Puritans or Congregationalists and Baptists revived by First Great Awakening], use some endeavors to instruct those they have in reading; but in common this is not only neglected, but disapproved. These are the people by whose labor the other inhabitants are in a great measure supported, and many of them in the luxuries of life. These are the people who have made no agreement [contract] to serve us, and who have not forfeited their liberty that we know of. These are the souls for whom Christ died, and for our conduct towards them we must answer before Him who is no respecter of persons. . . .
About this time I wrote an
epistle to Friends in the back settlements of
FRIENDS AT THEIR MONTHLY MEETING AT NEW GARDEN AND
DEAR FRIENDS, — . . . While I write, the youth come fresh in my way. Dear young people, choose God for your portion; love His truth, and be not ashamed of it; choose for your company such as serve him in uprightness; and shun as most dangerous the conversation of those whose lives are of an ill savor [flavor]; for by frequenting such company some hopeful young people have come to great loss, and been drawn from less evils to greater, to their utter ruin. In the bloom of youth no ornament is so lovely as that of virtue, nor any enjoyments equal to those which we partake of in fully resigning ourselves to the divine will. These enjoyments add sweetness to all other comforts, and give true satisfaction in company and conversation, where people are mutually acquainted with it; and as your minds are thus seasoned with the truth, you will find strength to abide steadfast to the testimony of it, and be prepared for services in the church. . . .
 . . . Where slaves are purchased to do our labor, numerous difficulties attend it. To rational creatures bondage is uneasy, and frequently occasions sourness and discontent in them; which affects the family and such as claim the mastery over them. . . .
I have been informed that there is a large number of Friends in your parts who have no slaves; and in tender and most affectionate love I beseech you to keep clear from purchasing any. Look, my dear friends, to divine Providence, and follow in simplicity that exercise of body, that plainness and frugality, which true wisdom leads to; so may you be preserved from those dangers which attend such as are aiming at outward ease and greatness. . . .
 . . . Traveling up and down of late, I have had renewed evidences that to be faithful to the Lord, and content with His will concerning me, is a most necessary and useful lesson for me to be learning; looking less at the effects of my labor than at the pure motion and reality of the concern, as it arises from heavenly love. . . .
. . . We lodged the first night at a public-house; the second in the woods; and
the next day we reached a Friend's house at
 Thus lying in the wilderness, and looking at the stars, I was led to contemplate on the condition of our first parents when they were sent forth from the garden; how the Almighty, though they had been disobedient, continued to be a Father to them, and showed them what tended to their felicity as intelligent creatures, and was acceptable to Him. To provide things relative to our outward living, in the way of true wisdom, is good, and the gift of improving in things useful is a good gift, and comes from the Father of Lights. Many have had this gift; and from age to age there have been improvements of this kind made in the world. But some, not keeping to the pure gift, have in the creaturely cunning and self-exaltation sought out many inventions. As the first motive to these inventions of men, as distinct from that uprightness in which man was created, was evil, so the effects have been and are evil. It is, therefore, as necessary for us at this day constantly to attend on the heavenly gift, to be qualified to use rightly the good things in this life amidst great improvements, as it was for our first parents when they were without any improvements, without any friend or father but God only. . . .
At Monalen a Friend gave me some
account of a religious society among the Dutch, called Mennonists
and amongst other things related a passage in substance as follows:
One of the Mennonists
having acquaintance with a man of
another society at a considerable distance, and being with his wagon on business
near the house of his said acquaintance and night coming on, he had thoughts of
putting up with him, but passing by his fields, and observing the distressed
appearance of his slaves, he kindled a fire in the woods hard by, and lay there
that night. His said
acquaintance hearing where he lodged, and afterward meeting the Mennonist
told him of it, adding he should have been heartily welcome at his house, and
from their acquaintance in former time wondered at his conduct in that case. The
replied, "Ever since I
lodged by thy field I have wanted an opportunity to speak with thee.
I had intended to come to thy house for
but seeing thy slaves at their work, and observing the manner of their dress, I
had no liking to come to partake with thee." He then admonished him to use them
with more humanity, and added, "As I lay by the fire that night, I thought that
as I was a man of substance thou wouldst have received me freely; but if I had
been as poor as one of thy slaves, and had no power to help myself, I should
have received from thy hand no kinder usage than they." . . .
[Woolman’s argument against paying taxes to support war continues the Quaker Testimony of Peace or Pacifism and anticipates Thoreau’s Resistance to Civil Government in terms of passive resistance and other forms of civil disobedience such as economic boycotts for social justice.]
 A few years past, money being made current in our province for carrying on wars, and to be called in again by taxes laid on the inhabitants, my mind was often affected with the thoughts of paying such taxes . . . .
 . . . I believed that there were some upright-hearted men who paid such taxes, yet could not see that their example was a sufficient reason for me to do so, while I believe that the Spirit of truth required of me, as an individual, to suffer patiently the distress of goods [seizure of goods to pay taxes], rather than pay actively [voluntarily].
[59a] To refuse the active payment of a tax which our Society generally paid was exceedingly disagreeable; but to do a thing contrary to my conscience appeared yet more dreadful. . . .
 . . . From the steady opposition which faithful Friends in early times made to wrong things then approved, they were hated and persecuted by men living in the spirit of this world, and suffering with firmness, they were made a blessing to the Church, and the work prospered. . . .
 It requires great self-denial and resignation of ourselves to God, to attain that state wherein we can freely cease from fighting when wrongfully invaded, if, by our fighting, there were a probability of overcoming the invaders. . . .
[61a] I have been informed that Thomas a Kempis [1380-1471, author of The Imitation of Christ] lived and died in the profession of the Roman Catholic religion; and, in reading his writings, I have believed him to be a man of a true Christian spirit, as fully so as many who died martyrs because they could not join with some superstitions in that Church. All true Christians are of the same spirit, but their gifts are diverse, Jesus Christ appointing to each one his peculiar office, agreeably to His infinite wisdom. . . .
 . . . Near the conclusion of the meeting for business, Friends were incited to constancy [consistency, vigilance] in supporting the testimony of truth, and reminded of the necessity which the disciples of Christ are under to attend principally to His business as He is pleased to open it to us, and to be particularly careful to have our minds redeemed from the love of wealth . . . .
 . . . In the beginning of the twelfth month [December] I joined . . . in visiting such as had slaves. Some whose hearts were rightly exercised about them appeared to be glad of our visit, but in some places our way was more difficult. I often saw the necessity of keeping down to that root from whence our concern proceeded, and have cause in reverent thankfulness humbly to bow down before the Lord, who was near to me, and preserved my mind in calmness under some sharp conflicts, and begat a spirit of sympathy and tenderness in me towards some who were grievously entangled by the spirit of this world. . . .
 At our Yearly Meeting this year . . . . As the epistles which were to be sent to the Yearly Meetings [of Quakers] on this continent were read, I observed that in most of them, both this year and the last, it was recommended to Friends to labor against buying and keeping slaves . . . .
 This meeting continued near a week. For several days, in the fore part of it, my mind was drawn into a deep inward stillness . . . . Near the conclusion of the meeting for business, way opened in the pure flowings of divine love for me to express what lay upon me, which, as it then arose in my mind, was first to show how deep answers to deep [Psalm 42.7] in the hearts of the sincere and upright; though, in their different growths, they may not all have attained to the same clearness in some points relating to our testimony. And I was then led to mention the integrity and constancy of many martyrs who gave their lives for the testimony of Jesus, and yet, in some points they held doctrines distinguishable from some which we hold, that, in all ages, where people were faithful to the light and understanding which the Most High afforded them, they found acceptance with Him, and though there may be different ways of thinking amongst us in some particulars, yet, if we mutually keep to that spirit and power which crucifies to the world, which teaches us to be content with things really needful, and to avoid all superfluities [luxuries], and give up our hearts to fear and serve the Lord, true unity may still be preserved amongst us; that, if those who were at times under sufferings on account of some scruples [doubts or hesitations] of conscience kept low and humble, and in their conduct in life manifested a spirit of true charity, it would be more likely to reach the witness in others, and be of more service in the Church, than if their sufferings were attended with a contrary spirit and conduct. . . .
24th of the Fourth Month, 1760.
DEARLY BELOVED WIFE, — . . . though since I left you I have often an engaging [distracting] love and affection towards thee and my daughter and friends about home, and going out [traveling] at this time, when sickness is so great amongst you, is a trial upon me; yet I often remember there are many widows and fatherless, many who have poor tutors, many who have evil examples before them, and many whose minds are in captivity; for whose sake my heart is at times moved with compassion, so that I feel my mind resigned to leave you for a season, to exercise that gift which the Lord hath bestowed on me . . . .
Thy loving husband, J. W.
 . . .
The day following we went on
our journey, but the great number of
slaves in these parts
[southern colonies], and the
continuance of that trade from thence to
[The historical backdrop for
Woolman’s visits to
 . . . In my youth I was used to hard labor, and though I was middling healthy, yet my nature was not fitted to endure so much as many others. Being often weary, I was prepared to sympathize with those whose circumstances in life, as free men, required constant labor to answer the demands of their creditors, as well as with others under oppression. In the uneasiness of body which I have many times felt by too much labor, not as a forced but a voluntary oppression, I have often been excited to think on the original cause of that oppression which is imposed on many in the world. . . . [A] belief was gradually settled in my mind, that, if such as had great estates generally lived in that humility and plainness which belong to a Christian life, and laid much easier rents and interests on their lands and moneys, and thus led the way to a right use of things, so great a number of people might be employed in things useful that labor both for men and other creatures would need to be no more than an agreeable employ, and divers branches of business, which serve chiefly to please the natural inclinations of our minds, and which at present seem necessary to circulate that wealth which some gather, might, in this way of pure wisdom, be discontinued. . . .
 . . . Having for many years felt love in my heart towards the natives of this land [American Indians] who dwell far back in the wilderness, whose ancestors were formerly the owners and possessors of the land where we dwell, and who for a small consideration assigned their inheritance to us, and being at Philadelphia in the Eighth Month, 1761, on a visit to some Friends who had slaves, I fell in company with some of those natives who lived on the east branch of the river Susquehanna, at an Indian town called Wehaloosing, two hundred miles from Philadelphia. In conversation with them by an interpreter, as also by observations on their countenances and conduct, I believed some of them were measurably acquainted with that divine power which subjects the rough and froward [contrary] will of the creature. At times I felt inward drawings towards a visit to that place, which I mentioned to none except my dear wife until it came to some ripeness. . . .
We lodged at
 Their chiefs have often complained of this in their treaties with the English. Where cunning people pass counterfeits and impose on others that which is good for nothing, it is considered as wickedness; but for the sake of gain to sell that which we know does people harm, and which often works their ruin, manifests a hardened and corrupt heart, and is an evil which demands the care of all true lovers of virtue to suppress. While my mind this evening was thus employed, I also remembered that the people on the frontiers, among whom this evil is too common, are often poor; and that they venture to the outside of the colony in order to live more independently of the wealthy, who often set high rents on their land. I was renewedly confirmed in a belief, that, if all our inhabitants lived according to sound wisdom, laboring to promote universal love and righteousness, and ceased from every inordinate desire after wealth, and from all customs which are tinctured with luxury, the way would be easy for our inhabitants, though they might be much more numerous than at present, to live comfortably on honest employments, without the temptation they are so often under of being drawn into schemes to make settlements on lands which have not been purchased of the Indians, or of applying to that wicked practice of selling rum to them.
Tenth of Sixth Month. . . .
After travelling some miles, we met
several Indian men
and women with a cow and horse, and some household goods, who were lately come
from their dwelling at
 Near our tent, on the sides of large trees peeled for that purpose, were various representations of men going to and returning from the wars, and of some being killed in battle. This was a path heretofore used by warriors, and as I walked about viewing those Indian histories, which were painted mostly in red or black, and thinking on the innumerable afflictions which the proud, fierce spirit produceth in the world, also on the toils and fatigues of warriors in traveling over mountains and deserts; on their miseries and distresses when far from home and wounded by their enemies; of their bruises and great weariness in chasing one another over the rocks and mountains; of the restless, unquiet state of mind of those who live in this spirit, and of the hatred which mutually grows up in the minds of their children, — the desire to cherish the spirit of love and peace among these people arose very fresh in me. . . .
 Thirteenth of Sixth Month. — The sun appearing, we set forward, and as I rode over the barren hills my meditations were on the alterations in the circumstances of the natives of this land since the coming in of the English. The lands near the sea are conveniently situated for fishing; the lands near the rivers, where the tides flow, and some above, are in many places fertile and not mountainous, while the changing of the tides makes passing up and down easy with any kind of traffic. The natives have in some places, for trifling considerations, sold their inheritance so favorably situated, and in other places have been driven back by superior force; their way of clothing themselves is also altered from what it was, and they being far removed from us have to pass over mountains, swamps, and barren deserts, so that traveling is very troublesome in bringing their skins and furs to trade with us. By the extension of English settlements, and partly by the increase of English hunters, the wild beasts on which the natives chiefly depend for subsistence are not so plentiful as they were, and people too often, for the sake of gain, induce them to waste their skins and furs in purchasing a liquor which tends to the ruin of them and their families.
 My own will and desires were now very much broken, and my heart was with much earnestness turned to the Lord, to whom alone I looked for help in the dangers before me. I had a prospect [vision] of the English along the coast for upwards of nine hundred miles where I traveled, and their favorable situation and the difficulties attending the natives as well as the negroes in many places were open before me. A weighty and heavenly care came over my mind, and love filled my heart towards all mankind, in which I felt a strong engagement that we might be obedient to the Lord while in tender mercy He is yet calling to us, and that we might so attend to pure universal righteousness as to give no just cause of offence to the Gentiles, who do not profess Christianity, whether they be the blacks from Africa, or the native inhabitants of this continent. . . .
Twenty-sixth of Sixth Month.
— Having carefully endeavored to settle all affairs with the Indians relative to
our journey, we took leave of them, and I thought they generally parted from us
affectionately. We went forward to
 The latter part of the summer, 1763, there came a man to Mount Holly who had previously published a printed advertisement that at a certain public-house [tavern, inn] he would show many wonderful operations, which were therein enumerated. At the appointed time he did, by sleight of hand [magic tricks], perform sundry things which appeared strange to the spectators. Understanding that the show was to be repeated the next night, and that the people were to meet about sunset, I felt an exercise [mental struggle] on that account. So I went to the public-house in the evening, and told the man of the house that I had an inclination to spend a part of the evening there; with which he signified that he was content. Then, sitting down by the door, I spoke to the people in the fear of the Lord, as they came together, concerning this show, and labored to convince them that their thus assembling to see these sleight-of-hand tricks, and bestowing their money to support men who, in that capacity, were of no use to the world, was contrary to the nature of the Christian religion. One of the company endeavored to show by arguments the reasonableness of their proceedings herein; but after considering some texts of Scripture and calmly debating the matter he gave up the point. After spending about an hour among them, and feeling my mind easy, I departed. [Modern reaction: tell about the magic tricks!]
Having been some time under
a religious concern to prepare for crossing the seas, in order to visit Friends
in the northern parts of
 As my lodging in the steerage, now near a week, hath afforded me sundry opportunities of seeing, hearing, and feeling with respect to the life and spirit of many poor sailors, an exercise [struggle] of soul hath attended me in regard to placing our children and youth where they may be likely to be exampled and instructed in the pure fear of the Lord. . . .
I believe a communication with
different parts of the world by sea is at times consistent with the will of our
Heavenly Father, and to educate some youth in the practice of sailing, I
believe, may be right; but how lamentable is the present corruption of the
world! . . . How great is the danger to which poor lads are exposed when placed
on shipboard to learn the art of sailing! Five lads training up for the seas
were on board this ship. Two of them were brought up in our Society
. . . .
 . . . Now, as I have been with them [these sailors] in my lodge, my heart hath often yearned for them, and tender desires have been raised in me that all owners and masters of vessels may dwell in the love of God and therein act uprightly, and by seeking less for gain and looking carefully to their ways they may earnestly labor to remove all cause of provocation from the poor seamen, so that they may neither fret nor use excess of strong drink; for, indeed, the poor creatures, in the wet and cold, seem to apply at times to strong drink to supply the want of other convenience. Great reformation is wanting in the world, and the necessity of it among those who do business on great waters hath at this time been abundantly opened before me. . . .
 . . . As I continue to lodge in the steerage [cheapest quarters of passenger ship] I feel an openness this morning to express something further of the state of my mind in respect to poor lads bound apprentice to learn the art of sailing. As I believe sailing is of use in the world, a labor of soul attends me that the pure counsel of truth may be humbly waited for in this case by all concerned in the business of the seas. A pious father whose mind is exercised [working] for the everlasting welfare of his child, may not with a peaceable mind place him out to an employment among a people whose common course of life is manifestly corrupt and profane. Great is the present defect among seafaring men in regard to virtue and piety; and, by reason of an abundant traffic, and many ships being used for war, so many people are employed on the sea, that the subject of placing lads to this employment appears very weighty. . . .
 Profane examples are very corrupting and very forcible. And as my mind day after day and night after night hath been affected with a sympathizing tenderness towards poor children who are put to the employment of sailors, I have sometimes had weighty conversation with the sailors in the steerage, who were mostly respectful to me, and became more so the longer I was with them. They mostly appeared to take kindly what I said to them; but their minds were so deeply impressed with the almost universal depravity among sailors . . . .
To silence every motion proceeding from the love of money, and humbly to wait
upon God to know His will concerning us have appeared necessary.
. . . Desires arising from the spirit of truth are pure desires; and when a mind
divinely opened towards a young generation is made sensible of corrupting
examples powerfully working and extensively spreading among them, how moving is
the prospect! . . . I was now desirous to embrace every opportunity of being
inwardly acquainted with the hardships and difficulties of my fellow-creatures,
and to labor in His love for the spreading of pure righteousness on the earth.
were frequent of hearing conversation among the sailors respecting the voyages
yet remained of those the passengers took for their
sea-store. I believe about fourteen perished in the storms at sea, by the waves
breaking over the quarter-deck, and a considerable number with sickness at
different times. I observed the cocks
as we came down the
 . . . The present state of the seafaring life in general appears so opposite to that of a pious education, so full of corruption and extreme alienation from God, so full of the most dangerous examples to young people, that in looking towards a young generation I feel a care for them, that they may have an education different from the present one of lads at sea, and that all of us who are acquainted with the pure gospel spirit may . . . so abide in the love of Christ that, being delivered from the entangling expenses of a curious, delicate, and luxurious life, we may learn contentment with a little, and promote the seafaring life no further than that spirit which leads into all truth attends us in our proceedings.
In the 8th of Sixth Month, 1772, we landed at
. . . The wages of laboring men in several counties toward London at tenpence
per day in common business, the employer finds
small beer [low-alcohol]
and the laborer finds his own food; but in harvest
and hay time wages are about one shilling per day, and the laborer hath all his
diet [provides all his own food]. . . . Industrious women who
spin in the factories get some fourpence, some fivepence, and so on to six,
seven, eight, nine, or tenpence per day, and find their own house-room and diet.
Great numbers of poor people live chiefly on bread and water in the southern
 Stage-coaches frequently go upwards of one hundred miles in twenty-four hours; and I have heard Friends say in several places that it is common for horses to be killed with hard driving, and that many others are driven till they grow blind. Post-boys pursue their business, each one to his stage, all night through the winter. Some boys who ride long stages suffer greatly in winter nights, and at several places I have heard of their being frozen to death. So great is the hurry in the spirit of this world, that in aiming to do business quickly and to gain wealth, the creation at this day doth loudly groan. . . .
. . . I have felt great distress of mind since I came on this island, on
account of the members of our Society being mixed with the world in various
sorts of traffic, carried on in impure channels. Great is the trade to Africa
for slaves [Slave trade legal in
 In this declining state many look at the example of others and too much neglect the pure feeling of truth. . . . [I]f Friends who have known the truth, keep in that tenderness of heart where all views of outward gain are given up, and their trust is only in the Lord, he will graciously lead some to be patterns of deep self-denial in things relating to trade and handicraft labor; and others who have plenty of the treasures of this world will be examples of a plain frugal life, and pay wages to such as they may hire, more liberally than is now customary in some places. . . .
Twenty-sixth of Eighth Month. — Being now at George Crosfield's, in the
 In a time of sickness, a little more than two years and a half ago, I was brought so near the gates of death that I forgot my name. Being then desirous to know who I was, I saw a mass of matter of a dull gloomy color between the south and the east, and was informed that this mass was human beings in as great misery as they could be and live, and that I was mixed with them, and that henceforth I might not consider myself as a distinct or separate being. In this state I remained several hours. I then heard a soft melodious voice, more pure and harmonious than any I had heard with my ears before; I believed it was the voice of an angel who spake to the other angels; the words were, "John Woolman is dead." I soon remembered that I was once John Woolman, and being assured that I was alive in the body, I greatly wondered what that heavenly voice could mean. I believed beyond doubting that it was the voice of an holy angel, but as yet it was a mystery to me.
 I was then carried in spirit to the mines where poor oppressed people were digging rich treasures for those called Christians, and heard them blaspheme the name of Christ, at which I was grieved, for His name to me was precious. I was then informed that these heathens were told that those who oppressed them were the followers of Christ, and they said among themselves, "If Christ directed them to use us in this sort, then Christ is a cruel tyrant."
 All this time the song of the angel remained a mystery; and in the morning, my dear wife and some others coming to my bedside, I asked them if they knew who I was, and they telling me I was John Woolman, thought I was light-headed, for I told them not what the angel said, nor was I disposed to talk much to any one, but was very desirous to get so deep that I might understand this mystery.
 My tongue was often so dry that I could not speak till I had moved it about and gathered some moisture, and as I lay still for a time I at length felt a divine power prepare my mouth that I could speak, and I then said, "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me. And the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." Then the mystery was opened and I perceived there was joy in heaven over a sinner who had repented, and that the language "John Woolman is dead," meant no more than the death of my own will. . . .