Abner Woolman

Abner Woolman’s Journal


Abner Woolman (1724–1771) was the brother of iconic eighteenth-century Quaker abolitionist and missionary John Woolman. Abner Woolman’s journal is an insightful example of how an ordinary Quaker—not a major leader in the Society of Friends or a famous Quaker author—might engage with the religious and political currents of the time. 


Abner Woolman (1724–1771) was the brother of iconic eighteenth-century Quaker abolitionist and missionary John Woolman. In contrast to his widely traveled brother, Abner Woolman lived a sedate life in New Jersey. A longtime tuberculosis patient, Abner often relied on John’s financial assistance to get by. Nonetheless, Abner married, raised a family, and produced a small collection of writings about slavery, Quakerism, and the British Empire. After Abner’s death, John revised his brother’s papers and shared the manuscript with Quaker peers in the Philadelphia Meeting for Sufferings. Although some historians downplay the uniqueness of the Abner manuscript or argue that John substantially wrote the manuscript, others recognize Abner’s authorship and feel that the manuscript warrants attention. I will advance the latter view in this introduction.

Despite having little formal education, Abner produced a sophisticated body of work that blended religious and political discourse to reflect on colonial American life. Like his brother John, Abner emphasized the importance of individual conduct, not collective reform movements. This meant that they prioritized individuals choosing to liberate enslaved people or boycott goods produced in the slave trade, as opposed to calling for immediate universal abolition or mass boycotts. Abner briefly inherited two enslaved men, Anthony and James, from his late father-in-law, and although Abner apparently freed both men, his writings emphasize the challenge that owning slaves posed to his soul more than the hardships Anthony and James faced. Yet Abner’s manuscript contains empathetic descriptions of the cruelty of slavery, with Abner ultimately writing, “Were wee senceably to pass through all this, then the Case of Slaves I believe to many of us, would apear very different from what it now doth….” The manuscript also conveys Abner’s thoughts on pacifism (he took a stronger position on refusing to quarter troops or pay war taxes than John did), converting Native Americans to Christianity, temperance, and maintaining an ethical Quaker household. 

The journal of Abner Woolman is an insightful example of how an ordinary Quaker—not a major leader in the Society of Friends or a famous Quaker author—might engage with the religious and political currents of the time. 

Note: The preceding introduction draws on Gorman’s article “Abner Woolman’s Colonial World” from the fall 2018 issue of Quaker History.

Daniel Gorman

Further Reading
  • Woolman, Abner. Abner Woolman’s Journal, edited by John Woolman. Manuscript collection 1250 B5.1 1772 15a, Haverford College Quaker and Special Collections, Haverford, PA. Triptych: Tri-College Digital Library, Quakers and Slavery Collection. Accessed September 21, 2015.
Cite this page
Slavery Law & Power in Early America and the British Empire (October 5, 2022) Abner Woolman’s Journal. Retrieved from https://slaverylawpower.org/abner-woolmans-journal/.
"Abner Woolman’s Journal." Slavery Law & Power in Early America and the British Empire - October 5, 2022, https://slaverylawpower.org/abner-woolmans-journal/
Slavery Law & Power in Early America and the British Empire August 21, 2022 Abner Woolman’s Journal., viewed October 5, 2022,<https://slaverylawpower.org/abner-woolmans-journal/>
Slavery Law & Power in Early America and the British Empire - Abner Woolman’s Journal. [Internet]. [Accessed October 5, 2022]. Available from: https://slaverylawpower.org/abner-woolmans-journal/
"Abner Woolman’s Journal." Slavery Law & Power in Early America and the British Empire - Accessed October 5, 2022. https://slaverylawpower.org/abner-woolmans-journal/
"Abner Woolman’s Journal." Slavery Law & Power in Early America and the British Empire [Online]. Available: https://slaverylawpower.org/abner-woolmans-journal/. [Accessed: October 5, 2022]
  • Transcription
  • Document

Abner Woolman’s Journal 

Transcription from triptych.brynmawr.edu

Additional Revisions by Daniel Gorman Jr., M.A.

Page 1

To the meeting for Sufferings to be held at Philada 

Beloved friends, About three months before the decease of my brother Abner, he exprest in my hearing a desire that a piece he had wrote, concerning trading to the west indies, might be handed about amongst friends at Wilmington. And near his departure, having had a particular desire to speak to me, he then told me that he felt a desire, that a piece he had written, directed to the active members of burlington monthly meeting, which he had handed about to a considerable number, might be continued to be handed about amongst friends of said meeting. 

This trust, thus laid on me, hath been attended with some exercise of mind, under which I have believed it best for me to offer the said pieces to the consideration of the meeting for sufferings; And have also collected the substance, of sundry short chapters, part

Page 2

part from a stitched book, and part from loose papers which I found in said book, and propose to send them herewith. 

The original papers in his hand writing I have by me, and am free to send, or bring them, if the meeting for Sufferings desire it. 

from your loving frd John Woolman




By Abner Woolman, 1770


Page 3

To the Active Members of Burlington monthly Meeting, Dear Friends, the unhappy Case of the Slaves for Some years at times hath been Liveingly on my mind, & were the weight of their Sufferings laid upon us, were wee fully acquainted with all the painful thoughts Connected with Slavery, Saw our minority Spent without being acquainted with the Scripture, that at full age wee felt our Selves in a State of Slavery, & knew of no Crime wee had Commited, or agreement made by us, that were the Cause of it nor Cald our masters give us any

Page 4

Satisfactory reason why they keept us as Slaves, that wee Saw people in general take but little notice of us, and when wee heard of any Pleading for our Liberty, they were ^after^ advised not to Carry it too far, that the Law is Such as makes it difficul to Set the negroes free, that when wee incline to marry, wee Consider Slavery entailed on our of Spring, that from year to year wee observed that the family wee laboured for, were often paying visits to their friends, & their friends returning visits to them, & wee as inferiours Comanded to wate upon them,

Page 5

that in Sickness wee had no body to Call upon, but those who Considered themselves as our Superiours, & Sometimes felt our selves Suffering for want of Careful tender nursing, that Some of us had not been permited to Live with our wives & Children, & now in the decline of life, Saw them in a helpless Condition, heard their Complaints but were not able to relieve them, from one year to another find our apetite & strength to fail, & hath nothing at Comand to help our Selves with, at length ^thro age & weakness^, become unable

Page 6

unable to labour, & considered by those who have the Care of us, as a Charge to their Estates, & feel the warmth of nature very mutch to abate, yet in Cold winter nights are oblige to Lie by our Selves, often feel ourselves Chilly & thinking on our own unhappy Condition, joynd with that of our Children, desire to Sleep but Cannot, were wee senceably to pass through all this, then the Case of Slaves I believe to many of us, would apear very different from what it now doth, 

Last Spring was three year a Sorrowful Exercis Came upon me,

Page 7

which continued Some months / Small entervals excepted / Concerning Slaves & those who keep them, in the forepart of this exercise, it opened in my mind, that their was Estats in the jerseys & Pensilvania, that were advanced by Slaves, but the Scale were now on a turn, that in future those in these two Provinces, who keep them with a desire of profit & ease, in the general would be disapointed, & pass through great difficulties which other wise they might been Clear of. In the latter part of this exercise I became Settled in my mind, that if those whoes Estats were advanced

Page 8

advanced by the Labour of Slaves, would give up freely to have the Case examined, & Equity put in practice & Continue in that mind, It would be pleasing to providence & add to their happiness even in this Life, Now my Beloved Friends, I am more & more Settled in a beleif, that the Lord is acquainted with all our ways, & is of pureer Eyes then to behold Iniquity with the least degree of Aprobation, that at this present time there is negroes amongst us, who have monies justly due to them, from members of our monthly

Page 9

Meeting, & I feel a tender desire that wee may Unite togather in Christian Love, & weightily Consider whether it is not needful, that their Case should be examined to the bottom with out parciallity or respect of person, in order that justice may be done to those, who as Slaves have laboured among us. from your Loveing Friend Abner Woolman 

^mo^ 9th 1770

Page 10

[Text vertical, flush with right margin] Abners



By Abner Woolman, Undated


Page 11

[1] it hath some times Come in my mind that the great trade which the americans have to the Sumer Islands hath not been fully Considered even by men who are Desireous to Live Clear from any Conection with opretion their produce which wee Send there is Chiefly flower & pork and in raising & gathering of this how often do wee See Creatures and sometimes men Opressed the returns which wee have is Chiefly rum Sugar & molasas and it often hath been as a querie in my mind Is rum as its used by us of any real Service to the Inhabatants of america how often do wee See people deprived of their reason

Page 12

[2] by drinking too freely of it and many have So far given way to it that it hath been the Cause of their own & their families poverty ^and that which is more dreadful it unfits the Soul*^ for that glorious kingdom prepaired for the righteous from the foundation of the world wee may further Consider that the returns which wee have from these islands is Chefly the Labour of Slaves and that those Slaves are often Opressed and through Opretion they have been Vexed & raised in opposition to the white people and after those Slaves have been Subdued Some of them by the white people have been burnt to death and others hung up in irons till they have Starved to death all this barbarity

Page 13

[3] and a great deal more is done to a people who were placed in a part of the world not in a Condition able to disturbe us but the English nation hath by force boldly taken those people from their native Land from all their dearest Enjoyments and Used them as above expressd now the cry of David Comes before me Search me O God and ^is^ not a deep imparcial Search needful for every one of us Search me O God & give me to understand & obay that which is right 

do I Stand Clear from any Conection with the above Opretion or hath my

Page 14

[4] Example in trading with those Opressers made their hearts more hard & is Some means of having the Opretion of the Opressed Continued[?] the blessing which Providence hath bestowed upon the Children of men are numberless if wee look on the face of the earth wee may See great Varity of pleasant healthful fruits & the innumerable Sort of plants & herbs which in the beginning, the Great Creator of the whole Universe Defined man in a State of innseency Should Subsist on but alas by giveing way to Selfish desires how

Page 15

[5] how is he degenerated & allenated from his maker and in this dark fallen State what Vast havoc doth he make with the Creation what numberless numbers of Animals are Opressed and Destroyed by man and how oft doth men oppress and afflict Each other O my Soul think on the above hints, and in deep humility Strive daily to Experence a returning to thy Maker and a living in the Same Innocency & uprightness which man in the begining was Created in 

Their is

Page 16

[6] There is a Spirit which if men give way to, will humble & Calm the mind, and make man which is frail by nature, Content with that which is only useful, and I believe if the Divine Gift is Strictly attended to, it will apear and prevail more & more till the Opressed goes free, and the Voice of the Opresser Shall no more be heard in the Land.



Edited by John Woolman


Page 17

Some writings left by Abner Woolman 

My dear children, the following lines were wrote in tenderness, and the chief part of them in the night, when you my dear children were asleep 

Some of you are sensible in some measure of those afflictions which have for a number of years attended me in a state of bodily weakness; and my gracious God was pleased often in the night season, to touch my heart with his Love, and sometimes matter arose fresh in my mind, which I believed it my duty to write, and have found satisfaction in writing it, now a little, and then a little, for whose sake I know not, but am easie to leave it to you as a legacy, and desire that you may read it in the same Spirit in which it was wrote.

Page 18

Chap I I believe it may be useful to make some mention of the dealings of the Lord with me in my youth, who often reproved me for sin and folly, and caused me to walk mournfully, when as yet I knew not what it was which thus affected my mind; but after some time I became more acquainted with his ways, which were pleasent, and I was made willing to forsake the pleasures of sin, for the sake of his favour, which to me was very precious. And I being then an apprentice, was exposed to vain company, which was a burden to me, and I often in the evenings, was alone in the fields, and other places in prayer to God, who often favoured me with comfortable oportunities. And while I was upon my watch I found peace of mind; but through carelessness I fell from this good state and run again into folly, which caused me great Sorrow. O that all may be

Page 19

careful to watch over the vain desires of their hearts, and be obedient to the voice of God in their hearts, lest they perish in the dark howling wilderness, which I in some measure, then was in, for I eat my bread with sorrow, and often in the night my sleep went from me, and I could take little or no delight in any thing, for at times I was ready to dispair in my mind of ever obtaining Salvation; but day and night I cryed to the Lord to look down upon me with an eye of pitty, and have mercy on me, or I should perish; and glory be to his great name he was pleased to be gracious to me, and comfort my heart in that needful time. The above account was wrote when I was a young man, and now looking over it, it seemed to be a means of bringing former visitations to my remembrance, and in deep humility found my mind engaged to acknowledge, that I have often sinned and fell short of glorifying God, as I

Page 20

ought to have done by a holy life & conversation; and he in his great goodness hath been pleased to afflict me very sore, yet in judgment he hath remembred mercy, and his kindness to me is beyond expression. 1760 

Chap II I feel a desire to leave some further hints of the favours and mercies of the Lord toward me, for he is the best master that ever I served, and I am not able to set forth his goodness to his servents, to the full. but I entreat thee to strive daily to be his faithful servent, and in faithfulness thou will be in love with him, and the nigher thou draws to him, the more thou will experience of his goodness. he will give thee peace and comfort which thou will find more precious than any outward enjoyment Thou who art a stranger to him. O come and taste of his goodness! why wilt thou for a little worldly pleasure, miss of that great

Page 21

and lasting Salvation which he hath appointed for all those who love, and serve him. 

Chap III I have been afflicted from a lad upward, leaving my dear fathers house, and part of several summers, I worked in the pines, beyond the inhabitants ^helping to^ build Sawmills, often with vain company who were disagreeable to me, which was a tryal so deep that I believe I did not mention it to any one for some years. My heart in comparison was often like lead with sadness, yet I not being fully subjected to the leadings of truth, did some times endeavour to remove this sadness by myrth. 

The ways of the Lord are deep, and he often afflicts the children of men, that he may bring them near to him. 

O my Son! my daughter! while I remember the state I was then in, my heart is open toward thee, and I feel desires that thou may listen to one, who hath gained experience through various exercises

Page 22

In all thy troubles and distress, seek to feel truth in thy inward parts, and there keep peace; and in prosperity remember thy creator with awfulness, and be obedient to his voice in thy soul. 

Chap IV Some things happened the latter part of my apprenticeship, and soon after I was free which were very afflicting, and which most of my intimate friends are yet strangers to. The Lord alone then knew my distress, and heard my cry, when deeply beset, and so hedged about that had he not had mercy upon me, I had been overwhelmed in total Sorrow. And after I was married and had a family I was so weakly that I could work but little, and had no outward help, but what I hired, and help being then scarce and dear, I laboured under many difficulties, and the world seemed to frown upon me, then was I overwhelmed with troubles,

Page 23

yet the Lord arose, the floods vanished and the mountains disappeared, for I can truly say that in my great afflictions, these words did often rise fresh in my mind with Joy. I Shall yet see thy habitation O Lord! which I verily believe was a favour to me from the Almighty 

O that thee and I may humbly abide under his protection! then in the most piercing and trying times, when all outward help and comfort doth vanish, there will be an anchor to the Soul, with a belief that after the miseries of this life are over, we shall enter into ever–lasting rest 

Chap V I feel love in my heart to all mankind, and in tenderness entreat to seek after divine Love, the enjoyment whereof is our greatest happiness; It is a hidden treasure, which the carnal mind knows not of. O forsake vanity and cleave to the Lord! for their divine sweetness is to be found in inward stilness, in waiting upon the Lord to appear

Page 24

in thy heart as a Light to enlighten thy dark understanding, to give thee to see and taste of the glorious riches which he hath in store for those who love and serve him 

Chap VI In the Spring of the year 1760 as I stood near our door, I saw Soldiers coming up the road, toward our house, at which sight an awe came over me, I felt inwardly weak, but felt ^earnest^ desire to be preserved faithful Soon after several of them came to our house, and wanted to buy cyder; but I not feeling freedom to sell, nor give them any, they went away, and soon after their captain and doctor came, The captain asked me if I would hire my light wagon to him to go as far as cranberry, but I endeavoured to put him by. 

Then he asked me if I could read, & shewed me a press warrent, from their commander in chief, to impower his officers to press waggons and horses to help them on their march. I told him that I looked upon the life of

Page 25

a man to be precious, and could not consistent with my ^religious^ principles do anything to forward them on their march. 

[Horizontal text, flush with left margin] 3

The captain replied, you understand I have power to press; but I had rather have your waggon and horses without pressing, for it may be pressing them will make you angry. 

I told him I believed it would not, however I could in no wise consent to hire them, and if he pressed them I could take no pay for them, as it was on a religious principle that I was against his having them. 

In the forepart of this discourse the captain appeard warm; but grew more pleasent, and then Solid, and said that I differed from all other men that ever he had conversed with, and as from a religious principle I was not easie to help them on their march, it was not easie to him to press my waggon and horses, and so went a way on foot without shewing any signs of resentment.–

Page 26

after they were gone the love of my heavenly Father was sweet to my Soul, and I was thankful in my heart that I had been preserved in a good degree of faithfulness. 

Chap VII In the Eighth month 1760. I went to the sea shore partly for my health sake and there was taken with a fit of my old disorder the phthisie which was very afflicting to me, but that which was heaviest of all, was this, I felt destitue as to divine help, & could not feel the comforter, and my belief and trust in the Almighty was very weak 

I believed that in times past I had looked upon the visible part of the creation in a degree of the same Light and power in which it was made, but now it was hid from me 

I beheld with my outward eyes the rageing of the great deep, which I had not seen before and on the shore I saw great variety of shells curiously fashioned, which with many other things do wonderfully shew forth the works

Page 27

of divine providence to the mind under the influence of the holy Spirit; but without this, things appear almost natural, as they did then to me, In which state I mourned for days together, and yet under this mournful condition I felt a concern to visit a certain poor women who lived near where I made my home, but being under discouragements I did not feel my mind settled to go till near the time of seting for home, and the exercise then grew more and more heavy, and as I was inwardly waiting on the Lord for help, this language arose fresh in my mind, thou knowest not but that for this service thou was brought here, then I gave up, and went, and had a little seasonable oportunity in a religious way which was kindly taken by the woman, and I felt easie in my mind, and so departed without entering into any conversation on temporal things, believing that where we go on busines of this nature, much other conversation is hurtful

Page 28

after this I returned home, and in an inward thankfulness I shed tears of joy, being glad that I was again brought back to my wife and family, and in an inward sweetness lay on my mind day after day. 

Chap VIII In a few weeks after the before mentioned Journey, I was at our yearly meeting at Burlington part of the time, though weak in body, and the meeting was comfortable to me, and one evening as I was returning from meeting, the Love of God was exceeding sweet to my Soul, then I endeavoured to ride alone, and now I remembered the adverse state I which I passed through at the Seashore, and in this Sweet frame of Spirit it rose fresh in my mind, that Some of the inhabitants near where I was, in that journey, were in part in a like condition to that which I passed through amongst them, but with this odds that I did not see them mourning for want of God, 

then in love to their Souls my secret prayer

Page 29

was that they might taste of his goodness, and know him to be a safe hideing place. 

Chap IX .For some years past I have 

[Horizontal text, flush with left margin] 4

been thoughtful about the payment of money which was made some time before to defray military expences and now ^in the year 1758^ was sinking by a tax, and my exercise was at times very great and I often looked round about and thought no ones state is like mine, neither did I know who to converse with. I often was alone endeavouring to have my mind still, and after sometime it looked most clear to decline paying the money thus appointed to military uses, and when the officer came to my house to demand it I told him that I was most easie to decline paying of that tax. And the state I was in the night following is at this time fresh in my mind. In the evening I was weary and lay down

Page 30

to sleep, and in the night I awoke and thought of the State which Jacob was in, with greater clearness than ever I had before, when he left his Fathers house, and was traveling from his acquaintance, and native land, and on the way the God of his fathers appeared to him in a dream which gave him fresh encouragement to trust in the mighty jehova, for he awoke and said with awfulness, surely the Lord is in this place and I knew it not. O when men are favoured with a sence of his presence! how awful, how dreadful doth he appear? What heart is too hard to melt before him? here I remembered how of old time the Law was written on tables of Stone, but the substance of the new covenant was now fresh in my mind, that covenant in which the Lord immediately reveals his will in the hearts of his people, and it looked to me then and continues to look so, that the Lord

Page 31

in this our day is calling to some, and in tender love drawing their minds toward him to leave their acquaintance and kindred which they once took delight in, and follow the leadings of his unering spirit, in some things which were not opened to our forefathers. And some whose hearts are touched with the Love of God, are brought like little Jacob to enter into Covenant with him that if he will be with them, and keep them in the way that they go, and give them bread to eat, and raiment to put on, then the Lord shall be their God, and they will serve Him. 

Chap X O Lord when thou hides thy face from me, then am I troubled, and fear and anguish besets me. 

Be pleased O Lord to look down upon me with an eye of pitty, and give me rest. 

Is it for the Sins of my youth thou art pleased to afflict me so very sore?

Page 32

All they judgments O Lord are righteous and thy ways exceeding deep. Mercy & loving kindness is thy delight, and thou doth not willingly afflict the children of men. 

O Lord forsake me not for in thee alone is my hope. Thou hath done great things for me. my heart that was like a stone for hardness, thou hath softened, & melted into tenderness, and prepared to recieve thy heavenly instruction. 

Weakness and poverty is mine; but Strength and fulness is in thee O God. 

Chap XI The language of Truth as it opened in my heart. 

In Sickness when thy health was taken from thee then thou wast low in thy mind, and thy greatest desire was to be found in the way of thy duty. thou then also desired that the Lord might be pleased to restore thee to health.

Page 33

Now the Lord hath granted thee thy desire 

O remember, how thou then desired above all the pleasures and delights of this world to be found 

[Horizontal text, flush with left margin] 5

in the way of thy duty! O may this good desire continue with thee now in they health! then may thy latter end be happy, and they day of thy death, more joyful than the day of thy birth. 

Look upon this as a kind invitation from heaven and be careful lest thou forget the mercies of a Merciful God, who hath waited long to be gracious to thee.  

Chap XII I dreamed that I with one of my brothers went to a publick house, and I asking him if he would drink some beer, he said no, not at this time. then I called for a pint of beer, and the woman of the house was displeased, because I called for so little. I told her it was enough for one man, there being a company of men, one of them began to talk to me in a scornful way. then I went and sat near to him, and looking earnestly upon him spake to him in the fear

Page 34

of the Lord, and the power of Truth coming over him, he spake to me no more. but turned away, upon which I awoke, and wrote this dream and what follows, part thereof with tears. for it setled my mind that great wickedness is ^often^ frequently commited in publick houses, and that frequenting them proves dangerous to many who are thereby led astay and ruined. 

That people do often provoke one another to excess, and vain conversation, and in the time thereof those who have the prosperity of truth at heart are often treated with contempt. 

Now if one who is generally well inclined doth in any degree joyn with them it tends to weakness, but if our lives throughout are agreable to truth, and we steadily keep to the truth, the Lord preserves us, and gives power over evil spirits. O thou wasteful drinker, who enflameth thy self with strong drink! flatter not thy self, the day of judgment is at hand, and O that thou may repent before it is too late!

Page 35

Chap XIII It is great pitty that any should be scattered like sheep without a shepherd. 

My beloved my desire is that each of us may strive earnestly that we may enter into the fold of everlasting rest. 

When death comes, if we are not prepared, O how shall wee feel then! If we have time to think we shall then have mournful thought! 

O that I had in the days of prosperity, been diligent in seeking after, and serving the Lord! 

Death sometimes comes suddenly, and may not be put by. My mind hath been deeply affected with the thoughts of it. O that we may more and more seek to be acquainted with God, and serve him faithfully! 

Chap XIV How shall men confide in one with whom they are not acquainted? 

O that we may be rightly acquainted with God, then may we put our trust in him. 

In ages past his faithful servents have spoke well of him. they have my experience, found him a gracious helper in a needful time.

Page 36

Chap XV There is a treasure which the world knoweth not of. It is the gift of God to mankind and is to be enjoyed in the denial of self, and ^in^ the forsakeing the vanities of this world. 

It is pure and inward, O my soul seek for it! 

Chap XVI. 

What have we done for the natives of this land? have we been careful to instruct them in the principles of that pure religion which Jesus Christ is the author of? 

O how necessary it is, that our examples before them be agreable to these heavenly doctrines! 

How sorrowful is it that they should be encouraged in drunkenness, by the professors of Christianity? 

How Sorrowful is it that they should learn profane and wicked language from the professed followers of Christ? 

May the kindness of their fathers, to our fathers when these provinces were first setled be remembred; and may we in our conduct toward them bear

Page 37

in mind the small price they set on those lands which we now possess. 

[Horizontal text, flush with left margin] 6

Chap XVII 

When the world smiles upon thee remember to keep to plainness, and let moderation appear in all thy conduct, and actions. 

be exceeding careful lest thy mind be lifted up & carried away with deceitful pleasures. 

Remember that this world is not thy proper home thou ought to be a stranger in it, thy bussines is to do good with what divine providence hath entrust–ed thee with, and above all things to strive daily to be prepared for thy last change. 

All things below are changible & uncertain it will therefore be thy greatest wisdom & happines to have thy mind fixed on God, and serve him with all thy strength, then thou may safely rely upon him. 

If thou attain to old age and hath bodily weakness, he will be thy comfort, even when thy

Page 38

appetite for worldly pleassure the pleasent things of this life is gone, but if thou forsake him so great and good a master, and fixeth thy mind on things here below, then as david said, he will cast thee off forever. O lamentable state indeed! 


The trees and visible part of the Creation may afford us an innocent pleasure in this life, if the mind be fully subdued, and above all things delighted in adoring the great Creator. thus we may see his works, and with admiration behold things, in their proper time and place, but for want of giving diligent heed to the true and inward teacher, true comfort is mised of, and that innocent pleasure which the visible part of the Creation might afford us, we in a great measure are strangers to. 

Chap XIX, A Christian Spirit is a Spirit of love, and they who live in it live in love for they cannot live otherwise

Page 39

The happy effect which it hath on those who rightly attend to it is very admirable, it works out and delivers from all malice & desire of revenge. 

Chap XX, At one of our fourth day meetings, my mind was released from earthly objects and my inward man strengthened in my silent siting, then heavenly treasure appeared exceeding beautiful and desirable, and there was a language in my heart, O my beloved seek for it, and after meeting on my way home tears of joy ran down my Cheeks, and I felt a fresh confirmation that it is profitable, and likewise my duty to endeavour to attend week day meetings, which by many are neglected, and the consideration of so great a neglect hath at times caused me to mourn. 

Chap XXI. In the beginning of the year 1763 the winter was very cold, and corn and hay scarce with me, and many more, which at times caused a sadness in my mind, yet at times my mind

Page 40

was drawn heavenward, and melted into tenderness, which caused me to praise the great governor of the world, and to consider the saying of the Apostle, that all things work together for good to them who love God. 

One day with thee, O Lord, is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day, All thy judgments are righteous, neither doest thou willingly afflict the children of men. 

Chap XXII 

The most high in the beginning created man in his own Image, and gave him power over the inferior part of the Creation, and commanding him to be merciful said by his Servent Moses thou shalt not muzzel the ox which treadeth out the corn, but innocent men he gave not power one over another, so far as to enslave one another, and as man through disobedience fell from that state which he was created in, into a state of sin and death, the mercy of the most high was such that he forsook not man, but strove

Page 41

with him, and to redeem him from this sorrowful fall, he gave his only son who tasted death for every man, then certainly for the poor Negroes. 

[Horizontal text, flush with left margin] 7

And dareest thou who professeth to believe in Christ have the boldness to keep that man in Slavery for whom Christ died? 

O thou that hath eyes but refuseth to see, and ears but refuseth to hear, know thou of a truth that God is no respecter of persons. 


^da^ 2 ^mo^ 2 1764 on my way home from burlington it revived in my mind, that to spend a little time in a Christian way, in visiting the aged, the Sick, & afflicted, and to assist the poor under their difficulties is more pleasing to the Almighty than to lay up riches for posterity, or lay out our money in died collours, and it opened in my mind, that the most high at this time is calling to some and moving upon their hearts, to forsake some of their acquaintance and the use of costly apparel and died collours, which once they delighted in. 

The ways of the most high are wonderful, and

Page 42

as the children of men give way to the leadings of his Spirit, he teacheth them all things needful to be understood, but when they forsake his leadings, they forsake their own mercies, and wander in a dark way which is unprofitable to themselves, and to others. 

My heart is concerned for the happiness of mankind, and it is seated on my mind, that it doth not depend on Customs approved by men, but on Obedience to the spirit of truth. 

Chap XXIV 

The Love of God which unites in true brotherhood is a treasure of all others most desirable, and is a blessing beyond expression. O the sweetness of it! Is thy heart hard, and shut up against the cries of the afflicted, this divine love as thou seekest after it, and delights to feel the movings of it on thy mind, it will soften and melt thy heart into tenderness: then thou wilt find no narrowness of heart. 

The desire for revenge which is very afflicting will be removed from thy mind, and thou wilt

Page 43

experience an increase of love to flow toward all thy fellow creatures. – O the happy effect of the Love of God! it is beyond expression. 

O my Soul! seek after it, and live in it. without it there is darkness and misery, but in it is all true happiness. 

Chap XXV 

O Lord, what is man without thee! or what are the treasures of this world without thy presence! 

Man is a poor frail creature, and the treasures of this world are not sufficient to make him happy. his immaginations and conclusions are vain & foolish. but thy ways O Lord are pure & deep! and thy presence is more than life. 

Chap XXVI 

I beheld the Christian path and it was so narrow that there was no room for self to speak or move. it appeared as if self should drop down & hide, and let Truth arise and be at sway. O my Soul chuse truth for thy companion! prise it as thy bosom friend! then thou may walk in the Christian path with a Secret delight, but take care lest self arise.

Page 44


Keep honesty and humility for thy constant companions, then in times of tryal, when the friendship of the world passeth away, as thou keepest Truth for thy bosom friend, it will be as a wall and bulwark round about thee, and will give thee that peace which the world cannot take away. 


Thou may deck thy self with silver, and array thyself in fine linen, and costly apparel. But the time is near, that of these thy imaginary ornaments, thou must be striped, and stand bare before the Almighty judge, then the ornament of a meek spirit, of a dove, lamblike innocence, and uprightness, these will be the ornaments, which in the Sight of God will be of great price. 

Chap XXIX 

Near the end of the seventh month 1766 I had a fit of asthma, and when the extremity of the pain was over, some of my dear friends

Page 45

who have departed this life revived fresh in my memory, who I believe are entered into the mansions of Glory. Then all earthly treasures & enjoyments crowns and Scepters appear’d no more than bubbles on the water; and there was an earnest longing in my mind, that I might so spend my time as to be tightly prepared to meet with the faithful, in the glorious kingdom, where the wicked cease from troubleing, where all tears shall be wiped away and where the Soul shall continually rejoyce, & sing praise to the redeemer world with out end. 

Chap 30 XXX. 

O Lord, through long and Sore affliction my flesh and strength is wasted! My Spirit is covered with sadness, and my life is afflictive to me! O Lord, my mind is turned toward thee! be pleased I beseech thee in the multitude of thy mercies, to remember me. 

Chap XXXI 

O heavenly father! as a righteous judge thou wast near me in the days of my youth, when darkness covered my mind, & thick darkness

Page 46

was over my understanding. then in tender mercies did thy glorious light shine, and thou Did often draw my mind to forsake earthly vanities, and cleave to thee, the fountain of life & peace. 

O the sweetness of thy love to them that seek thee in Contrition of Spirit, and yield Obedience to thee! 

Chap XXXII. 

Being often afflicted I have been lead to consider this vast globe, The lights in the firmament, the depth of the Sea, the many sorts of grain, plants, and herbs, all these set forth the power of an Almighty being. I considered multitudes of birds with a pleasent harmonious voice, and beheld them Singing of his praise. I considered great numbers of four footed beasts, in fatness and delight who are fed by him. And while my meditations have been on the wonderful works, of the Almighty, alwise, powerful, and Merciful Creator, amongst his creatures, a serious consideration hath arisen

Page 47

in my mind, why men, the most noble part of this visible creation should be so grievious afflicted? 

These considerations have attended my mind, year after year, and I have felt an earnest desire that I might be acquainted with the true cause of my own afflictions. And in these awakening times it often arose in my mind, that man was created in the Image of God; and through disobedience fell from it, into a state of sin, and death to the Soul, where he is endeavor–ing to please himself with creaturely delights, and too much neglects to seek after a return to his maker. 

Thus he is craving the treasures of this world, seeking after greatness, and costly apparrel with almost innumerable unnecessary things, which cause abundance of needless labour, and unprofitable cares. These things though common amongst the children of men, and approved of by many, do hinder us from seeking diligently to return to our maker. 

Now in these times of my sore affliction I believed that the time is come wherein the Almighty is visiting some home! sometimes bringing them

Page 48

near to the gates of death, makeing life afflictive to them, that they may feel of the distress which the oppressed go through, both man & beast. preparing their hearts to receive instruction to learn a new lesson, such an one as would be hard to learn in outward prosperity. 

That they may leave of oppression, and cease to have fellowship with the oppressors, and worldly minded men, That they may be delivered from narrowness of heart, and leave of seeking for advantage over others, That they may come out of all things which would lead themselves or others into hurry, And with hearts full of love & call to others to come out of these things and live a new life, A life Sympathizing with the oppressed and others in their afflictions, To deal their bread to the hungry, and consider the whole of mankind as brothers & Sisters. 

To love the Lord with all our hearts, and our neighbours as our selves.

Page 49

Chap XXXIII Third month 1768 this winter I past through pains and weakness of body and was confined chiefly within doors; In which state the former sufferings for the cause of Truth, which friends patiently went through and the present sufferings and oppression of the Negroes under us was often in my mind. Now if a true history of the Oppressions of the Negroes, together with an account of the costly apparrel, household furniture, and high living of many amongst us, were published, how evidently would it appear that there is a grievious backsliding and degeneracy from that uprightness & simplicity which in time past appeared amongst friends. 

Chap. XXXIV. After recovering a little from the before mentioned weakness I wrapt myself in warm cloaths and went to one of our religious meetings. I sat near the fire but felt very chilly, and had many reasonings in my mind, how I should get home without

Page 50

taking fresh cold. I thought in my self that I was a weak helpless creature, and the remembrance of the great pain which I had lately endured increased my fear, in the higth of which it suddenly came in my mind, that the Lord is a powerful God. then there was no room for doubts or fears for I was sure that this was the Truth. My heart was warmed, and immediately I felt inward comforts, which is a treasure superior to all the delights of this world, and through the renewed mercies of the Lord I returned safe home. 

Chap XXXV. When thou thinks on the poor, when thou deals with the poor, then let tenderness cover thy mind. 

When thou undertakes the management of young, or other creatures, O then remember the Innocency of man, when the Almighty gave him dominion over the inferior part of the creaton! and labour

Page 51

for that innocent state, therein to govern with tenderness and Mercy. 

When thou taketh away the life of a creature, let 

[Horizontal text, flush with left margin] 10

awfulness cover thy mind, let the execution be quick and with as little pain as is possible, always remembring that the Lord hath a regard for every part of his creation, and that thou as a steward must account to him for all thy conduct toward them. 

Chap. XXXVI. Our habitations remain undisturbed, and our land yieldeth pleanty; while many of us under this outward quiet do too much neglect our duty, and are pleaseing our palates with the fruits of the labour of oppressed people. 

While we as a nation in fullness of bread do knowingly make merchendise of the labour of oppressed Slaves, it gradually tents to lessen

Page 52

that inward tenderness which ought to be in our minds toward the oppressed. “ When the time called christmas came while “ others were feasting from house to house “ themselves, I looked out poor widows from “ house to house, and gave them some money. “ G Fox Journal page 4, In this Sympathising spirit, the poor and the afflicted are often in our remembrance, and a care maintained to do nothing to strengthen those bonds under which our fellow creatures are oppressed.   If we would be acquainted with that which belongs to our everlasting peace, we must look from the world, and get down into the valley which is unknown to the world, and in humility and abasement of self, wait to hear the voice of the true Shepherd and when we hear, 

be careful to obey

Page 53

Chap XXXVII There are several sorts of people who have but little of the treasure of this world. Some widows who are left with small children, Some weakly people, Some aged people. Some in those Conditions labour hard, rather beyond their ability, and yet are straitned for the necessaries of life; There are others who live at ease in worldly greatness & fulness of bread. When I have thought on these things, my heart hath been sorrowful. 

That which the latter lay out in superfluities being rightly applied, might be a means of help and relief to the former. 


In the days of my youth I was in the practice of useing Sugar, and other west India produce, without thinking much on the manner of its being raised,

Page 54

and made, but within twelve years past I have been repeatedly and credibly informed, that the labour is chiefly performed by Slaves who are under oppression, many of whom were taken by violence from their native land, which with me is a Sufficient reason to decline useing the west-india prodice. 


[Vertical text, flush with left margin] #Abners own words

At a time when vanity and oppression is increasing amongst the inhabitants of the land it becomes us, who profess to be lead by the Spirit of Truth, to experience our hearts cleansed, and our minds enlightened, with the light of Christ, that we may see # the approaching danger, and calamities which threaten these neighbouring provinces and stand like faithful watchmen on the wall uniting together, in example and godly labours to convice the youth of the danger, there is in 

Page 55

conversing with such whose lives and practices are contrary to the doctrine of Christ. 

Chap XL. In a time of mourning, when my 

[Horizontal text, flush with left margin] 11

heart was exceeding Sorrowful, it opened in my mind that while the rich men live in greatness, and demand Interest at Seven percent, weekday-meetings will be small; and while the members of our Society are engaged in promoting the bringing so much rum into the land, the Society will not be clear from the great sin of drunkenness. 

Chap XLI 

I have experienced the mercies of the Lord, to be greater than what I have words to express. 

With his good gifts I have been fed all my life long. 

He hath given me of his own good Spirit, which hath instructed me to do justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly, and to deal equitably with all my fellow creatures, without seeking for advantage

Page 56

over any. and to Oppress nothing. and so far as I have been Obedient, he hath given me peace. and this morning the thirteenth day of eighth month 1771 under a fresh sence, of his wonderful mercies, in my lonely condition I have shed tears of joy. 

Chap. XLII 

Under a long continuance of bodily weakness, & my strength gradually wasting, I generally felt a concern on meeting days, while I was able to walk to the door without outward help, to give my attendance in dry weather, at our religious meetings, and to take the greatest part of my family with me, and through the renewed mercies of the Lord, I thought that the last meeting I was at was one of the Sweetest to me that ever I was in, 20th-day 8th-month 1771. 

[John Woolman takes over narrating.]

It doth not appear that he made any

Page 57

notes in writing after the last note. ^Several of^ His last being ^found on pieces of paper &^ probably wrote when he was unable to attend meetings.   And as I was sundry times with him within the three last months of his time I had I 

[Horizontal text, flush with left margin] 12

Some ^some^ oportunities of hearing him express the state of his mind.    He once told me that since his strength was so gone that he could not attend meetings, his concern to attend them ceased, and that his mind was made easie in his present condition. 

At another time when he had, during some days, been under great distress of body, I went to see him, and he said that under the most trying times, he had a trust in the mercies of the Lord, and that these afflictions, to him were a great blessing, for which he was very thankful. 

That he was Sencible of many imperfections, which at times had attended him, but found the mercies of the Lord flow forth like the opening of a Fountain, and that he had no trust in anything, but in this only. He made mention of a sence he had of the greatness of God[’]s Love which to him had appeared as a boundless Ocean, and again repeated his Sight

Page 58

thereof in a manner which manifested an inward awfulness of Soul. 

After this he gathered bodily strength a little, so that he sometimes rode out, and one pleasent day as he rode on a slow walk, he in a reverent manner made mention to me of the beauty of this visible creation, and signified that as men came to be restored to perfect uprightness in living, they might enjoy sweetness and innocent delight, in things pertaining to this life. 

After this he soon grew weaker again, and I going to see him got there, I believe, about five hours before he departed. 

He appeared in a meek, quiet state of mind & was glad to see me, having before exprest a desire of an oportunity with me; and we being left in private, he said, It hath been the most humbling time that ever I passed through, and I find nothing to trust in, but in the mercies of the Lord, and I believe the Lord will prepare a place of rest for me. He said ^Signified^ that through Divine Love, his heart hath been brought into

Page 59

very great tenderness, and Sympathising love with his fellow creatures,. 

Then he exprest a lively concern, that the active members in our Society might keep to the Spirit of Truth in their living, and outward concerns, and that he having been much exercised in an inward Sympathy with the oppressed, felt that concern still to live in his mind. 

He appeared apprehensive that his change was now near, and said he had no desire to live longer in this world. 

Soon after this he was in much bodily pain, & said I have greatly desired a Support that I may bear these heavy pains with patience, and said I have felt many pains in my life, but these pains are different from any that I ever felt before. 

Which petition the Lord was mercifully pleased to grant, So that no Signs of murmuring appeared on him.  

His Speech soon after failed, under the pangs of death, and at length he did not appear to have

Page 60

much pain; but to outward appearance breathed quiet, and easie, for half an hour or more, and departed like one going to Sleep, on the 4th day, 11th mo; 1771, in the evening ^aged about 47–^ John Woolman   

EARLY ACCESS:  Transcription is under editorial review and may contain errors.
Please do not cite or otherwise reproduce without permission.