Part 1: 1450-1750
<---Part 2: 1750-1805
Part 3: 1791-1831
Part 4: 1831-1865

Narrative | Resource Bank | Teacher's Guide

Historical Document
The Watchman's Alarm

Resource Bank Contents

Click here for the text of this historical document.

By 1774, the contradiction between chattel slavery and the colonists' demands for liberty had become a common theme in the pamphlets of the northern and middle colonies -- not as a negative comment on the institution of slavery, but to suggest the colonists' own lack of freedom.

An exception was popular Baptist preacher and pamphleteer John Allen, who was especially harsh in his condemnation of slave owners who professed Christianity. In The Watchman's Alarm to Lord N---H... he proposed to the American colonists that the "darkness of the night" they experienced was deserved punishment "for your iniquitous and disgraceful practice of keeping African slaves, a custom so evidently contradictory to the laws of God, and in direct violation of the charter of this province, and the natural and unalienable rights of mankind."

He especially criticized the hypocrisy of those who enslaved Africans "with the idle pretence of christianizing them," and of those who released their slaves at the age of 50,"a period which is far beyond the meridian of man's natural life," leaving them to fend for themselves in their old age.

Allen expressed his hope that "it never be told in the streets of America, that nursery of freedom, that there is one bond-slave dwells therein."

previous | next

Part 2: Narrative | Resource Bank Contents | Teacher's Guide

Africans in America: Home | Resource Bank Index | Search | Shop

WGBH | PBS Online | ©