A letter to the Bishop

Transcription of an anonymous petition from an enslaved person in Virginia, addressed to the ‘arch Bishop of London’, 4 August 1723.

The letter from an enslaved person to the ‘Lord arch Bishup of Lonnd’. Image courtesy Lambeth Palace Library FP XVII fol 167-8


August the forth I723  
to The Right  Raverrand father in god my Lord  
arch Bishop of Lonnd  
this coms to sattesfie your honour that there  
is in this Land of verJennia a Sort of people  
that is Calld molatters which are Baptised and brouaht  
up in the way of the Christan faith  
and followes the wayes and Rulles of the Chrch of England  
and sum of them has white fathars and sum  
white mothers and there is in this Land  
a Law or act which keeps and makes them  
and there seed SLaves forever – –  
and most honoured sir a mongst the Rest of your  
Charitabell acts and deed wee your humbell  
and poore partishinners doo begg Sir your  
aid and assisttancce in this one thing which Lise  
as I doo understand in your LordShips brest  
which is that your honour will  
by the help of our Suffervering Lord King George  
and the Rest of the Rullers will Releese us out of  
this Cruell Bondegg and this wee beg for  
Jesus Christs his Sake who has commaded  
us to seeke first the kingdom of god and  
all things shall be addid un to us 

and here it is to bee notd that one brother  
is a SLave to another and one Sister to anothe  
which is quite out of the way and as for  
mee my selfe I am my brothers  
SLave but my name is Secrett  

and here it is to bee notd againe that wee  
are commandded to keep holey theSabbath day  
and wee doo hardly know when it comes  
for our task mastrs are has hard with  
us as the Egypttions was with the  
Chilldann of Issarall god be marcifll unto us  

FOLIO 167v

here follows our  
Sevarity and Sorrowfull Sarvice we are hard used  
up on Every account wee in the first place  
wee are in Ignorance of our Salvation  
and in the next place wee are kept out  
of the Church and matrimony  
is deenied us  
and to be plain they doo Look no more  
up on us then if wee ware dogs  
which I hope when these Strange  
Lines comes to your Lord Ships hands  
will be Looket in to  
and here wee beg for Jesus Christe 
his Sake that as your honour do hope  
for the marcy of god att the day of death  
and the Redemtion of our Savour  
Christ that when this comes to your  
Lord Ships hands your honour wll Take Sum  
pitty of us who is your humble butt  
Sorrowfull portitinors  
and Sir wee your humble perticners do humblly  
beg the favour of your Lord Ship that your honour  
will grant and Settell one thing upon us which  
is that our childarn may be broatt up in  
the way of the Christtian faith and our desire  
is that they may be Larnd the Lords prayer  
the creed and the ten commandements  
and that they may appeare Every Lord’s day att  
Church before the  Curatt to bee Exammond  
for our desire is that godllines Shoulld abbound  
amongs us and wee desire that our Childarn  
be putt to Scool and and Larnd to Reed through  
the Bybell  


which is all att prasant with our  
prayers to god for itts good Success  
before your honour these from your humbell Servants  
in the Lord  
my Riting is vary bad I whope yr honour  
will take the will for the deede  
I am but a poore SLave that  
writt itt and has no other time  
butt Sunday and hardly that att Sumtimes  
September the 8th I723  
To the Right Reverrand father in  god  
my Lord arch bishup of  
London these with care  
wee dare nott Subscribe any mans name to this  
for feare of our masters for if they knew  
that wee have Sent home to your honour 
 wee Should goo neare to Swing upon the  
gallass tree 

With thanks to Lambeth Palace Library staff for the transcription.