Thomas Jefferson Papers

Enclosure: Anonymous Description of “Celebration of Freedom” by African Americans in Boston, 16 July 1821


Anonymous Description of “Celebration of Freedom” by African Americans in Boston


ON Monday the Africans, and descendants of Africans, in this town, held their annual commemoration of the commencement of measures for the abolition of the Slave Trade. A respectable procession passed through many streets, (which were nearly as much thronged as they are on Election and Independent days, or as when President Monroe, and some of our Naval Worthies passed them in procession) to the African meeting-house. The Rev. Hosea Ballou delivered the discourse this year. A dinner was served up in the African school-house. The blessing was craved by the Rev. Thomas Paul and thanks returned by Mr. Samuel Snowden. Every thing was conducted with decency and order, and the company retired to their homes two hours before sunset.

The following Toasts were given:1

Wilberforce, Pitt, Fox, Clarkson, Grenville, Benezet, Woolman, Dickson, Marquis de la Fayette, Brissot, Claviere, Washington, Franklin, Adams, Hancock, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe—Names in the old and new world, which Africans and descendants of Africans will long have reason to remember.

The ever memorable vote for the Abolition of the Slave Trade in 1807. which was carried in the House of Lords in the affirmative, 100 to 16 and in the Commons 286 to 16. The deed is registered in Heaven—the mandate is gone forth—Africa must and shall be free.

Africa.—She is free—when a nation of Africans can vindicate their claims to mental equality in the community of civilized man.

The late report of the Legislature of Massachusetts on the subject ofFree Blacks.” We wish the Gentlemen Committee a better acquaintance with us.—For our characters, we refer to the merchants of Long, Central, and India wharves, and to those citizens, in whose families many of us have lived a great number of years, and from all whom we derive support for ourselves, our wives and our little ones.

The Orator of the day.—He has discoursed to us upon the principles of our Independence. May we at all times be found acting in accordance with them.

The memory of Abiel Smith—Through his munificence, aided by the School Committee of the town of Boston, ample provision is made for our African Free School.

His Excellency Gov. Brooks.—Long may he live to enjoy the gratitude of the people of this great State.

His Honor Lt. Gov. Phillips—The charity meetings held in our African Church have witnessed, that his high station does not prevent him from worshiping at the same altar, and casting in of his abundance to the same box with Africans.

The Christian Religion—It is shewn in its true spirit when Ministers of every denomination cheerfully take their turns to discourse to us upon the great events which terminated in breaking the fetters of slavery.

Our Procession this day.—A proof of the good order of the inhabitants of the Head Quarters of correct principles.

The Municipal Authorities of this ancient metropolis.—Able administrators of wise and wholesome regulations—may we never be found deficient in a due observance of them.

The Laws of the Land.—As good subjects, may Africans strive to live peaceably with all men—render unto Cæsar the things which are Caesar’s and unto God the things which are God’s.

The Report of the Committee onFree Blacks.”—Africans may securely rest under their own vine and their own fig tree, when their cause is in the hands of that elegant, spirited, and Christian, “LAmi des Noirs.”

Boston, July 16th, 1821.

Broadside (DLC: TJ Papers, 220:39337).

On 14 June 1821 a committee of the Massachusetts House of Representatives made a report to that body “concerning the admission into and residence in this state of Negroes and Mulattoes.” The report detailed legislation enacted in other states with regard to free blacks; articulated concern at the rapidly increasing free-black population in Massachusetts; expressed fear that this increase in numbers would result in more paupers and convicts, the collection in cities of “an indolent, disorderly and corrupt population,” and fewer jobs for white residents; and called for legislation in the ensuing session of the Massachusetts General Court to “protect this State from the burthen of an expensive and injurious population” (Boston Daily Advertiser, 16 June 1821).

The command by Jesus to render unto cæsar the things which are caesar’s and unto god the things which are god’s is in the Bible, Matthew 22.21, Mark 12.17, and Luke 20.25. The biblical reference to resting under their own vine and their own fig tree is from Micah 4.4.

Under the signature of l’ami des noirs (“The Friend of the Blacks”), an anonymous writer rebutted the report of the Massachusetts House of Representatives described above by criticizing the historic treatment of blacks in Massachusetts, opposing the report’s assertions regarding the potential threat posed by a growing population of free blacks, and warning that if Massachusetts refused them entry, other nonslaveholding states might follow suit (Boston Daily Advertiser, 21, 22, 25 June 1821).

1Remainder of text is in two columns separated by a vertical rule.

Index Entries

  • Adams, John; toasts honoring search
  • Africa; toasts honoring search
  • African Americans; commemorate abolition of slave trade search
  • African Americans; in Mass. search
  • African Free School (Boston) search
  • anonymous authors; broadsides from search
  • Ballou, Hosea; and abolition of slave trade search
  • Benezet, Anthony; toasts honoring search
  • Bible; Luke referenced search
  • Bible; Mark referenced search
  • Bible; Matthew referenced search
  • Bible; Micah referenced search
  • Boston, Mass.; African Americans of search
  • Brissot de Warville, Jacques Pierre; toasts honoring search
  • Brooks, John; toasts honoring search
  • Celebration of Freedom (anonymous broadside) search
  • Clarkson, Thomas; toasts honoring search
  • Clavière, Étienne; toasts honoring search
  • Dickson, William (d.1823); toasts honoring search
  • Fox, Charles James; toasts honoring search
  • Franklin, Benjamin; toasts honoring search
  • Great Britain; and slave trade search
  • Grenville, William Wyndam Grenville, 1st Baron; toasts honoring search
  • Hancock, John; toasts honoring search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; anonymous letters to search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Honors & Memberships; toasts honoring search
  • Lafayette, Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, marquis de; toasts honoring search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); toasts honoring search
  • Massachusetts; African Americans in search
  • Massachusetts; legislature of search
  • Monroe, James (1758–1831); presidential tour search
  • Monroe, James (1758–1831); toasts honoring search
  • Paul, Thomas; and abolition of slave trade search
  • Phillips, William (1750–1827); toasts honoring search
  • Pitt, William (the Younger); toasts honoring search
  • schools and colleges; African Free School (Boston) search
  • slave trade; abolition of commemorated search
  • Smith, Abiel; toasts honoring search
  • Snowden, Samuel; and abolition of slave trade search
  • Washington, George; toasts honoring search
  • Wilberforce, William; toasts honoring search
  • Woolman, John; toasts honoring search