To the Public. There Has Been a Design Formed … to Send the Gospel to Guinea

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To the Public. There Has Been a Design Formed … to Send the Gospel to Guinea  (1776) 
Ezra Stiles and Samuel Hopkins

A circular letter reporting on the organization in British colonial America of a Christian mission to West Africa, during the American Revolutionary War, and soliciting further financing of the project.

John Quamine or Quamino, the Rhode Island freedman who had been kidnapped and sold into slavery as a youth when his African family sent him to New England for schooling, did not succeed in returning to the Gold Coast to begin proselytizing. In pursuit of prize money that would have allowed him to pay for his wife's emancipation he entered service on a British privateer and was killed in his first engagement.[1][2]

This document is number 14803 in Evans's American Bibliography, with the following entry:

Hopkins, Samuel
Address to the public. [Concerning the sending of black freemen to the coast of Africa. Signed by Ezra Stiles, and Samuel Hopkins.]
Newport: Printed by Solomon Southwick. April 10th, 1776. pp. 8. 8vo.
  1. Meuwese, Mark & Fortin, Jeffrey A. (2013), Atlantic Biographies: Individuals and Peoples in the Atlantic World, Leiden: Brill, p. 116, ISBN 9789004259713 
  2. Piersen, William Dillon (1988), Black Yankees : the development of an Afro-American subculture in eighteenth-century New England, Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, p. 58, ISBN 0870235877 


There has been a design formed, and some attempts have lately been made, to send the gospel to Guinea, by encouraging and furnishing two men to go and preach the gospel to their brethren there : And a memorial was drawn up some time since with this view ; and a number of copies in manuscript were dispersed, which is now offered to the public.

TO all who are desirous to promote the kingdom of Christ on earth, in the salvation of sinners, the following narrative and proposal are offered, to excite and solicit their charity and prayers.

'There are two negro men, members of the first congregational church in Newport, on Rhode-Island, named Bristol Yamma, and John Quamine, who were hopefully converted some years ago : and have from that time sustained a good character as christians, and have made good proficiency in christian knowledge. The latter is son of a rich man in Annamaboe, and was sent by his father to this place for an education among the English, and then to return home : Which the person to whom he was committed engaged to perform, for a good reward. But instead of being faithful to his trust, he sold him as a slave for life. But God in his providence has put it in the power of both of them to obtain their freedom. They joined in purchasing a ticket in a lottery, which drew a prize of 300 dollars. With this, and some other helps, they have purchased their liberty. The former is, however, fifty dollars in debt, as he could not purchase his freedom under 200; which he must procure by his labour, unless relieved by the charity of others.

 ʻ These persons, thus acquainted with christianity, and apparently devoted to the service of Christ, are about thirty years old : have good natural abilities ; are apt, steady and judicious, and speak their native language ; the language of a numerous, potent nation in Guinea, to which they both belong. They are not only willing, but very desirous to quit all worldly prospects and risque their lives, in attempting to open a door for the propagation of christianity among their poor, ignorant, perishing, heathen brethren.

 ʻ The concurrence of all these things has led to set on foot a proposal to send them to Africa, to preach the gospel there, if upon trial they shall appear in any good measure qualified for this business. In order to this they must be put to school, and taught to read and write better than they now can ; and be instructed more fully in divinity, &c. And if, upon trial, they appear to make good proficiency ; and shall be thought by competent judges to be fit for such a mission, it is not doubted that many may be procured, sufficient to carry the design into execution.

 ʻ What is now wanted and asked, is money to pay the debt mentioned, and to support them at school to make the trial, whether they may be fitted for the proposed mission. Whatever shall be given to this end, and put into the hands of the subscribers, they engage faithfully to improve to this purpose only, and to promote the proposed mission, according to their best discretion ; and to be at all times ready to give an account to those who desire it, of all they shall receive, and the manner in which it has been expended.

 ʻ As God has in his providence so far opened the way to this, by raising up these persons, and ordering the remarkable, concurring circumstances and events which have been mentioned ; and there is, most probably, no other instance in America, where so many things conspire to point out a mission of this kind, with such encouragement to pursue it; may it not be hoped it will have the patronage and assistance of all the pious and benevolent ?

 ʻ And it is humbly proposed to those who are convinced of the iniquity of the slave trade ; and are sensible of the great inhumanity and cruelty of enslaving so many thousands of our fellow men every year, with all the dreadful and horrid attendants ; and are ready to bear testimony against it in all proper ways, and do their utmost to put a stop to it : Whether they have not a good opportunity of doing this, by chearfully contributing, according to their ability, to promote the mission proposed : And whether this is not the best compensation we are able to make the poor Africans, for the injuries they are receiving constantly by this unrighteous practice, and all its attendants.

 ʻ But, aside from this consideration, may it not be hoped that all who are heartily praying, ʻThy kingdom come,’ will liberally contribute to forward this attempt to send the glorious gospel of the blessed God, to the nations who now worship false gods, and dwell in the habitations of cruelty, and the land of the shadow of death : Especially, since the King of Zion has promised that whosoever parts with any thing in this world, for the kingdom of God’s sake, shall receive manifold more in this present time ; and in the world to come, life everlasting.

Newport, Rhode-Island,
August 31, 1773.

Ezra Stiles,

Samuel Hopkins.’

  In consequence of this proposal, numbers have generously contributed to promote the design ; and we have received £.102 1 4 3 lawful money ; of which £.55 8 0 3 has been given in New-England ; £.30 sterling has been given by the society in Scotland for propagating christian knowledge : And a gentleman in London has sent us £.5 sterling. And we have had encouragement both from Scotland and England, that more would be given, if wanted, and the proposed mission should take place. But all intercourse with Great-Britain is now cut off.

  We have had the approbation of a number of gentlemen who have seen the proposal. The presbytery of New-York, and the associated ministers of several counties in Connecticut, have wrote us, highly approving of the design. Mr. Forrest, clerk of the society in Scotland, mentioned above, writes in the following words.

 ʻ The perusal of this memorial gave great satisfaction to the Directors, while it excited their admiration at the various secret and seemingly most unlikely means, whereby an all-wise Providence sees meet to accomplish his gracious purposes. At the same time they rejoiced at the fair prospect now afforded to extend the Mediator's kingdom to those nations who dwell, at present, in the habitations of cruelty, and in the land of the shadow of death. After saying so much, it is almost unnecessary to add, that the plan suggested in your memorial,---received the warmest approbation of the directors of the society ; and that they highly applauded your pious zeal in this matter, which they earnestly wish and hope may be crowned with success.’

  The following is an extract of a letter on the ſubject of this proposed misson, from an African, Phillis Wheatley, dated Boston, February 9, 1774.

 ʻ I have received a paper, by which I understand there are two Negro men, who are desirous of returning to their native country, to preach the gospel. What I can do in influencing my christian friends and acquaintance to promote this laudable design, shall not be wanting. My heart expanded with sympathetic joy to see, at a distant time, the thick cloud of ignorance dispersing from the face of my benighted country. Europe and America have long been fed with the heavenly provision : And I fear they loath it ; while Africa is perishing with a spiritual famine. O that they could partake of the crumbs, which fall from the table of these distinguished children of the kingdom !

 ʻ I hope that which the divine, royal Psalmist says by inspiration, is now on the point of being accomplished, viz. ʻEthiopia shall soon stretch forth her hands unto God.

  The two men abovementioned have been at school, and under instruction most of the time since the date of the above proposal. They have spent one winter at Princeton, under the care of Dr. Witherspoon, president of the college there. And they have made such proficiency, and are in such a measure qualified for the mission proposed, that they would enter upon it directly, were there opportunity to send them to Africa, (which there is not at present, by reason of the state of our public affairs) and had we money sufficient to furnish them for this purpose.

  Since this design has been on foot, means have been used to get intelligence of John Quamine's family, by writing to Philip Quaque, a black, and native of Guinea, who is missionary from the society in London for propagating the gospel in foreign parts, and resides at Cape Coast Castle ; relating to him the manner of his being brought from Guinea ; and sending his description of his father's family, and informing that he was now free, and had thoughts of returning to his native country, &c. In answer to which he writes as follows.  ʻ It is with inexpressible pleasure and satisfaction I acquaint you, that my enquiries after the friends and relations of that gentleman, have not been fruitless, but have met with the desired success. The minute account he entertains you with, of his family and kindred, is just : For by enquiring I have found his father’s name to be the same which you mention, who has been dead many years. His mother’s name is as you have wrote it, who is still alive ; and whom I had the pleasure of seeing. But the bowels of maternal affection, in truth do I declare it, seem ready to burst ; and break forth in tears of joy, like Jacob, when he heard that his beloved son Joseph was yet alive. The joy is kindled, on the occasion, in expectation of seeing once more the fruit of her loins, before she with her grey hairs goes to the grave, throws her into extacies, resembling Jacob’s : And in raptures she breaks forth and says, ʻIt is enough ! My son is yet alive ! I hope, by God's blessing, to see him before I die !’ His uncle is called by the same name mentioned in your favor. In short, every circumstance is agreeable to the description given me in your letter.

 ʻ A great personage of his family, whose name is Oforee, and now enjoys his father’s estate, desires, with great importunity, that I would earnestly petition you that he may be returned to them, as soon as may be ; and promises that nothing shall be wanting to make him, and all about him, comfortable and happy, among his own kindred. And the whole family unanimously join in requesting me to render you all the grateful acknowledgements and thanks they are able to return, for your paternal care and affection exercised towards him ; and beg me to tell you, that as it is not in their power to requite you for all your trouble, they therefore hope that the good God of Heaven will recompence you hereafter, for your labor of love bestowed on him.’

  In a letter of a later date, he writes in the following manner.

 ʻ The mother is still looking with impatience for the return of her son, once dead and lost. She, and the principal cousin, who possesses the estate of his father, join in earnestly entreating you would, in your christian love and charity to them, send the lad again, that he may receive their cordial embraces, looking upon themselves sufficient to support him.

 ʻ I received the charitable proposals ; and sincerely thank you therefor. And I am joyful to hear that there are Africans with you, who partake of the blessings of the gospel, and in time may be the means of promoting the greatest and best interest of Africans here. I wish to God for it’s speedy accomplishment, when the nation who are now called not the children of Jehovah, shall become the prophets of the Lord, and the children of the living God. May the benediction of the Almighty prosper all their undertakings, to the saving of many souls !’

  A native of Annamaboe has lately arrived at Newport, who is a free man, and appears to be a sensible, inquisitive person, and is recommended by the captain he came with, as a man of integrity and good behaviour. He is a relation of John Quamine’s, and well acquainted with his family, and confirms the above account. He expresses a desire to learn to read, &c., and to he instructed in the christian religion ; sensible that he and his countrymen are ignorant of the way in which men may find favor with God ; and that they stand in need of a revelation from him, in order to know what he requires of them. He says, he has heard we have such a revelation among us, and he desires to know what it contains. He informs, that he knows of a number of youths at Annamaboe, who have a great desire to learn to read and write, &c. and would come into these parts for that end, were they not afraid of being cheated and sold. He appears pleased with the proposal to send blacks to teach his people, and thinks they will be kindly received, and attended to.

  There is another black, named Salmar Nuba, a member of the second congregational church, in Newport, who is promising as a person of a good genius, and giving evidence of real piety. He is about twenty years old, and has lately had his freedom given to him. He is greatly desirous and engaged, in some way to promote the spread of the gospel among the Africans. We think there is good encouragement to be at the expence of fitting him for a missionary, or a schoolmaster among them.

  What has been given to promote this design is nearly expended already, a particular account of the expences, any one who pleases may see at any time. Money is now wanted still to carry it on—to support these men, till they have an opportunity to go to Guinea—to furnish them with necessaries for their voyage and mission—to set up schools to teach the youth and children, if a way shall open for this ; and for any other services to promote this important design, as God in his providence shall point out the way.

  Since it has pleased God so far to succeed this design in his providence, and in such a remarkable manner to open the way, from step to step, and give such hopeful prospects, and good encouragement to pursue it, we think it our duty still to prosecute it, and ask the benefactions of all who shall be willing to promote an undertaking, in itself so benevolent ; and which, though small in its beginning, may hopefully issue in something very great, and open the way to the happiness and salvation of multitudes ; yea, of many nations, who are now in the most miserable state, ready to perish in the darkness of heathenism.

  We beg leave also to observe, that the present state of our publick affairs, is so far from being a reason for neglecting this proposal, that it seems rather to afford strong motives to encourage it : For while we are struggling for our civil and religious liberties, it will be peculiarly becoming and laudable to exert ourselves to procure the same blessings for others, so far as it is in our power. And when God is so remarkably interposing, and ordering such a series of events in our favor, in this time of general distress, is there not a special call to pay this tribute to him, according as he has prospered us, as one likely method to obtain the continuance of his favor and protection ?

Newport, April 10, 1776

Ezra Stiles,

Samuel Hopkins.