and the
Pure Principles of Morality
The Sure Foundation on Which We Must Build.

Productions from the pen of
Mrs. Maria W. Steward,
Widow of the late James W. Steward, of Boston.


Feeling a deep solemnity of soul, in view of our wretched
and degraded situation, and sensible of the gross ignorance
that prevails amongst us, I have thought proper thus publicly
to express my sentiments before you. I hope my friends will
not scrutinize these pages with too severe an eye, as I have
not calculated to display either elegance or taste in their composition,
but have merely written the meditations of my
heart as far as my imagination led; and have presented them
before you, in order to arouse you to exertion, and to enforce
upon your minds the great necessity of turning your attention
to knowledge and improvement.

I was born in Hartford, Connecticut, in 18031803; was left an
orphan at five years of age; was bound out in a clergyman’s
family; had the seeds of piety and virtue early sown in my
mind; but was deprived of the advantages of education, though
my soul thirsted for knowledge. Left them at 15 years of
age; attended Sabbath Schools until I was 20; in 18261826, was
married to James W. Steward; was left a widow in 18291829; was,
as I humbly hope and trust, brought to the knowledge of the
truth, as it is in Jesus, in 18301830; in 18311831, made a public profession
of my faith in Christ.

From the moment I experienced the change, I felt a strong
desire, with the help and assistance of God, to devote the remainder
of my days to piety and virtue, and now possess that
spirit of independence, that, were I called upon, I would willingly
sacrifice my life for the cause of God and my brethren.

All the nations of the earth are crying out for Liberty and
Equality. Away, away with tyranny and oppression! And 1 A1v 2
shall Afric’s sons be silent any longer? Far be it from me to
recommend to you, either to kill, burn, or destroy. But I
would strongly recommend to you, to improve your talents: let
not one lie buried in the earth. Show forth your powers of
mind. Prove to the world, that
“Though black your skins as shades of night, Your hearts are pure, your souls are white.”

This is the land of freedom. The press is at liberty.
Every man has a right to express his opinion. Many think,
because your skins are tinged with a sable hue, that you are
an inferior race of beings; but God does not consider you as
such. He hath formed and fashioned you in his own glorious
image, and hath bestowed upon you reason and strong powers
of intellect. He hath made you to have dominion over the
beasts of the field, the fowls of the air, and the fish of the sea.
He hath crowned you with glory and honor; hath made you
but a little lower than the angels; and, according to the Constitution
of these United States
, he hath made all men free and
equal. Then why should one worm say to another, “Keep
you down there, while I sit up yonder; for I am better than
’Tis not the color of the skin that makes the man,
but it is the principles formed within the soul.

Many will suffer for pleading the cause of oppressed Africa,
and I shall glory in being one of her martyrs; for I am firmly
persuaded, that the God in whom I trust is able to protect me
from the rage and malice of mine enemies, and from them that
will rise up against me; and if there is no other way for me to
escape, he is able to take me to himself, as he did the most noble,
fearless, and undaunted David Walker.

Never will virtue, knowledge, and true politeness
begin to flow, till the pure principles of
religion and morality are put into force.

My respected Friends,

I feel almost unable to address you; almost incompetent to
perform the task; and, at times, I have felt ready to exclaim,
O that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of
tears, that I might weep day and night, for the transgressions
of the daughters of my people. Truly, my heart’s desire and
prayer is, that Ethiopia might stretch forth her hands unto
God. But we have a great work to do. Never, no, never
will the chains of slavery and ignorance burst, till we become
united as one, and cultivate among ourselves the pure principles A2r 3
of piety, morality, and virtue. I am sensible of my ignorance;
but such knowledge as God has given to me, I impart
to you. I am sensible of former prejudices; but it is high
time for prejudices and animosities to cease from amongst
us. I am sensible of exposing myself to calumny and reproach;
but shall I, for fear of feeble man who shall die, hold
my peace? shall I, for fear of scoffs and frowns, refrain my
tongue? Ah, no! I speak as one that must give an account at
the awful bar of God; I speak as a dying mortal, to dying
mortals. O, ye daughters of Africa, awake! awake! arise!
no longer sleep nor slumber, but distinguish yourselves.
Show forth to the world that ye are endowed with noble and
exalted faculties. O, ye daughters of Africa! what have ye
done to immortalize your names beyond the grave? what examples
have ye set before the rising generation? what foundation
have ye laid for generations yet unborn? where are our
union and love? and where is our sympathy, that weeps at
another’s wo, and hides the faults we see? And our daughters,
where are they? blushing in innocence and virtue? And
our sons, do they bid fair to become crowns of glory to our
hoary heads? Where is the parent who is conscious of having
faithfully discharged his duty, and at the last awful day of account,
shall be able to say, “Here, Lord, is thy poor, unworthy
servant, and the children thou hast given me?”
And where are
the children that will arise, and call them blessed? Alas, O
God! forgive me if I speak amiss: the minds of our tender
babes are tainted as soon as they are born; they go astray,
as it were, from the womb. Where is the maiden who will
blush at vulgarity? and where is the youth who has written
upon his manly brow a thirst for knowledge; whose ambitious
mind soars above trifles, and longs for the time to come, when
he shall redress the wrongs of his father, and plead the cause
of his brethren? Did the daughters of our land possess a
delicacy of manners, combined with gentleness and dignity;
did their pure minds hold vice in abhorrence and contempt;
did they frown when their ears were polluted with its vile
accents, would not their influence become powerful? would not
our brethren fall in love with their virtues? Their souls would
become fired with a holy zeal for freedom’s cause. They
would become ambitious to distinguish themselves. They
would become proud to display their talents. Able advocates
would arise in our defence. Knowledge would begin to flow,
and the chains of slavery and ignorance would melt like wax
before the flames. I am but a feeble instrument. I am but
as one particle of the small dust of the earth. You may frown
or smile. After I am dead, perhaps before, God will surely A2v 4
raise up those who will more powerfully and eloquently plead
the cause of virtue and the pure principles of morality than
I am able to do. O Virtue! how sacred is thy name! how
pure are thy principles! Who can find a virtuous woman? for
her price is far above rubies. Blessed is the man who shall
call her his wife; yea, happy is the child who shall call her
mother. O woman, woman, would thou only strive to excel
in merit and virtue; would thou only store thy mind with useful
knowledge, great would be thine influence. Do you say,
you are too far advanced in life now to begin? You are not
too far advanced to instil these principles into the minds of
your tender infants. Let them by no means be neglected.
Discharge your duty faithfully in every point of view: leave
the event with God. So shall your skirts become clear of
their blood.

When I consider how little improvement has been made
the last eight years; the apparent cold and indifferent state of
the children of God; how few have been hopefully brought to
the knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus; that our young
men and maidens are fainting and drooping, as it were, by the
way-side for the want of knowledge;—when I see how few
care to distinguish themselves either in religious or moral
improvement, and when I see the greater part of our community
following the vain bubbles of life with so much eagerness,
which will only prove to them like the serpent’s string upon the
bed of death, I really think we are in as wretched and miserable
a state as was the house of Israel in the days of Jeremiah.

I suppose many of my friends will say, “Religion is all your
I hope my conduct will ever prove me to be what I
profess, a true follower of Christ: and it is the religion of Jesus
alone, that will constitute your happiness here, and support
you in a dying hour. O then do not trifle with God and your
own souls any longer. Do not presume to offer him the very
dregs of your lives; but now, whilst you are blooming in health
and vigor, consecrate the remnant of your days to him. Do
you wish to become useful in your days and generation? Do
you wish to promote the welfare and happiness of your friends,
as far as your circle extends? Have you one desire to become
truly great? O, then, become truly pious, and God will
endow you with wisdom and knowledge from on high. “Come, turn to God, who did thee make, And at his presence fear and quake Remember him now in thy youth, And let thy soul take hold of truth. A3r 5 The devil and his ways defy; Believe him not, he doth but lie; His ways seem sweet; but youth, beware! He for thy soul hath laid a snare.”

Religion is pure; it is ever new; it is beautiful; it is all that
is worth living for; it is worth dying for. O, could I but see
the church built up in the most holy faith; could I but see men
spiritually minded, walking in the fear of God, not given to
filthy lucre, not holding religion in one hand and the world in
the other, but diligent in business, fervent in spirit, serving
the Lord, standing upon the walls of Zion, crying to passers
by, “Ho every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and
he that hath no money; yea, come and buy wine and milk
without money and without price”
“Turn ye, turn ye, for why
will ye die?”
—could I but see mothers in Israel, chaste, keepers
at home, not busy bodies, meddlers in other men’s matters,
whose adorning is of the inward man, possessing a meek
and quiet spirit, whose sons were like olive-plants, and whose
daughters were as polished corner-stones; could I but see
young men and maidens turning their feet from impious ways,
rather choosing to suffer affliction with the people of God than
to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; could I but see the
rising youth blushing in artless innocence; then could I say,
Now, Lord, let thine unworthy handmaiden depart in peace,
for I have seen the desire of mine eyes, and am satisfied.


O Lord God, the watchmen of Zion have cried peace,
peace, when there was no peace; they have been, as it were,
blind leaders of the blind. Wherefore has thou so long withheld
from us the divine influences of thy Holy Spirit? Wherefore
has thou hardened our hearts and blinded our eyes? It
is because we have honored thee with our lips, when our
hearts were far from thee. We have polluted thy sabbaths,
and even our most holy things have been solemn mockery to
thee. We have regarded iniquity in our hearts, therefore
thou wilt not hear. Return again unto us, O Lord God, we
beseech thee, and pardon this the iniquity of thy servants.
Cause thy face to shine upon us, and we shall be saved. O
visit us with thy salvation. Raise up sons and daughters unto
Abraham, and grant that there might come a mighty shaking
of dry bones amongst us, and a great ingathering of souls.
Quicken thy professing children. Grant that the young may
be constrained to believe that there is a reality in religion,
and a beauty in the fear of the Lord. Have mercy on the
benighted sons and daughters of Africa. Grant that we may A3v 6
soon become so distinguished for our moral and religious improvements,
that the nations of the earth may take knowledge
of us; and grant that our cries may come up before thy throne
like holy incense. Grant that every daughter of Africa may
consecrate her sons to thee from the birth. And do thou, Lord,
bestow upon them wise and understanding hearts. Clothe us
with humility of soul, and give us a becoming dignity of manners:
may we imitate the character of the meek and lowly
Jesus; and do thou grant that Ethiopia may soon stretch forth
her hands unto thee. And now, Lord, be pleased to grant
that Satan’s kingdom may be destroyed; that the kingdom of
our Lord Jesus Christ may be built up; that all nations and
kindreds and tongues’ and people might be brought to the
knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus, and we at last meet
around thy throne, and join in celebrating thy praises.

I have been taking a survey of the American people in my
own mind, and I see them thriving in arts, and sciences, and in
polite literature. Their highest aim is to excel in political,
moral and religious improvement. They early consecrate their
children to God, and their youth indeed are blushing in artless
innocence: they wipe the tears from the orphan’s eyes, and
they cause the widow’s heart to sing for joy! and their poorest
ones, who have the least wish to excel, they promote! And
those that have but one talent, they encourage. But how very
few are there amongst them that bestow one thought upon the
benighted sons and daughters of Africa, who have enriched
the soils of America with their tears and blood! few to promote
their cause, none to encourage their talents. Under these circumstances,
do not let our hearts be any longer discouraged;
it is no use to murmur nor to repine; but let us promote
ourselves and improve our own talents. And I am rejoiced to
reflect that there are many able and talented ones amongst us,
whose names might be recorded on the bright annals of fame.
But, “I can’t,” is a great barrier in the way. I hope it will
soon be removed, and “I will,” resume its place.

Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any
people. Why is it, my friends, that our minds have been blinded
by ignorance, to the present moment? ’Tis on account of
sin. Why is it that our church is involved in so much difficulty?
’Tis on account of sin. Why is it that God has cut
down, upon our right hand and upon our left, the most learned
and intelligent of our men? O, shall I say, it is on account
of sin! Why is it that thick darkness is mantled upon every
brow, and we, as it were, look sadly flawed-reproduction4 words A4r 7
is on account of sin. O, then, let us bow before the Lord our
God, with all our hearts, and humble our very souls in the
dust before him; sprinkling, as it were, ashes upon our heads,
and awake to righteousness and sin not. “The arm of the Lord
is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither is his ear heavy,
that it cannot hear; but it is your iniquities that have separated
you from me”
, saith the Lord. “Return, O ye backsliding
, and I will return unto you, and “ye shall be my people,
and I will be your God”

O, ye mothers, what a responsibility rests on you! You have
souls committed to your charge, and God will require a strict
account of you. It is you that must create in the minds of
your little girls and boys a thirst for knowledge, the love
of virtue, the abhorrence of vice, and the cultivation of a pure
heart. The seeds thus sown will grow with their growing
years; and the love of virtue thus early formed in the soul
will protect their inexperienced feet from many dangers. O,
do not say, you cannot make any thing of your children; but
say, “with the help and assistance of God, we will try”. Do not
indulge them in their little stubborn ways; for a child left to
himself, bringeth his mother to shame. Spare not, for their
crying; thou shalt beat them with a rod, and they shall not
die; and thou shalt save their souls from hell. When you
correct them, do it in the fear of God, and for their own good.
They will not thank you for your false and foolish indulgence;
they will rise up, as it were; and curse you in this world, and,
in the world to come, condemn you. It is no use to say, you
can’t do this, or, you can’t do that: you will not tell your Maker
so, when you meet him at the great day of account. And
you must be careful that you set an example worth of following,
for you they will imitate. There are many instances,
even amongst us now, where parents have discharged their
duty faithfully, and their children now reflect honor upon their
gray hairs.

Perhaps you will say, that many parents have set pure examples
at home, and they have not followed them. True, our
expectations are often blasted; but let not this dishearten you.
If they have faithfully discharged their duty, even after they
are dead, their works may live: their prodigal children may
then return to God, and become heirs of salvation: if not, their
children cannot rise and condemn them at the awful bar of

Perhaps you will say, that you cannot send them to high
schools and academies. You can have them taught in the first
rudiments of useful knowledge, and then you can have private
1 wordflawed-reproduction who will instruct them in the higher branches and A4v 8
their intelligence will become greater than ours, and their
children will attain to higher advantages, and their children still
higher; and then, though we are dead, our works shall live—
though we are mouldering, our names shall not be forgotten.

Finally, my heart’s desire and prayer to God is, that there
might come a thorough reformation amongst us. Our minds
have too long grovelled in ignorance and sin. Come, let us
incline our ears to wisdom, and apply our hearts to understanding:
promote her, and she shall exalt thee; she shall bring
thee to honor when thou dost embrace her. An ornament of
grace shall she be to thy head, and a crown of glory shall she
deliver to thee. Take fast hold of instruction; let her not go;
keep her, for she is thy life. Come, let us turn unto the Lord
our God, with all our heart and soul, and put away every unclean
and unholy thing from amongst us, and walk before the
Lord our God, with a perfect heart, all the days of our lives:
then we shall be a people with whom God shall delight to
dwell; yea, we shall be that happy people whose God is the

I am of a strong opinion, that the day on which we unite,
heart and soul, and turn our attention to knowledge and improvement,
that day the hissing and reproach amongst the
nations of the earth against us will cease. And even those
who now point at us with the finger of scorn, will aid and befriend
us. It is of no use for us to sit with our hands folded,
hanging our heads like bulrushes, lamenting our wretched
condition; but let us make a mighty effort, and arise; and if
no one will promote or respect us, let us promote and respect

The American ladies have the honor conferred on them,
that by prudence and economy in their domestic concerns, and
their unwearied attention in forming the minds and manners
of their children, they laid the foundation of their becoming
what they now are. The good women of Wethersfield,
, toiled in the blazing sun, year after year, weeding
onions, then sold the seed and procured money enough to
erect them a house of worship; and shall we not imitate their
examples, as far as they are worthy of imitation? Why cannot
we do something to distinguish ourselves, and contribute some
of our hard earnings that would reflect honor upon our memories,
and cause our children to arise and call us blessed?
Shall it any longer be said of the daughters of Africa, “they
have no ambition, they have no force”
? By no means. Let
every female heart become united, and let us raise a fund
ourselves; and at the end of one year and a half we might be B1r 9
able to lay the corner-stone for the building of a High School,
that the higher branches of knowledge might be enjoyed by
us; and God would raise us up, and enough to aid us in our
laudable designs. Let each one strive to excel in good
housewifery, knowing that prudence and economy are the
road to wealth. Let us not say, we know this, or, we know
that, and practise nothing; but let us practise what we do

How long shall the fair daughters of Africa be compelled
to bury their minds and talents beneath a load of iron pots
and kettles? Until union, knowledge and love begin to flow amongst
us. How long shall a mean set of men flatter us with their
smiles, and enrich themselves with our hard earnings,— their
wives’ fingers sparkling with rings, and they themselves
laughing at our folly? Until we begin to promote and patronize
each other. Shall we be a by-word amongst the nations any
longer? Shall they laugh us to scorn forever? Do you ask,
What can we do? Unite, and build a store of your own, if you
cannot procure a license. Fill one side with dry goods, and
the other with groceries. Do you ask, where is the money?
We have spent more than enough for nonsense, to do what
building we should want. We have never had an opportunity
of displaying our talents; therefore the world thinks we know
nothing. And we have been possessed of by far too mean
and cowardly a disposition, though I highly disapprove of an
insolent or impertinent one. Do you ask the disposition I
would have you possess? Possess the spirit of independence.
The Americans do, and why should not you? Possess the
spirit of men, bold and enterprising, fearless and undaunted.
Sue for your rights and privileges. Know the reason that
you cannot attain them. Weary them with your importunities.
You can but die, if you make the attempt; and we shall certainly
die if you do not. The Americans have practised
nothing but head work these 200 years, and we have done
their drudgery. And is it not high time for us to imitate their
examples, and practise head work too, and keep what we
have got, and get what we can? We need to think that
any body is going to feel interested for us, if we do not feel
interested for ourselves. That day we, as a people, hearken
unto the voice of the Lord our God, and walk in his ways and
ordinances, and become distinguished for our ease, elegance
and grace, combined with other virtues,—that day the
Lord will raise us up, and enough to aid and befriend us, and
we shall begin to flourish.

B1v 10

Did every gentleman in America realize, as one, that they
had got to become bondmen, and their wives, their sons, and
their daughters, servants forever to Great Britain, their very
joints would become loosened, and tremblingly would smite
one against another; their countenance would be filled with
horror; every nerve and muscle would be forced into action;
their souls would recoil at the very thought; their hearts
would die within them, and death would be far more preferable.
Then why have not Afric’s sons a right to feel the same?
Are not their wives, their sons, and their daughters, as dear
to them as those of the white man’s? Certainly, God has not
deprived them of the divine influences of his Holy Spirit, which
is the greatest of all blessings, if they ask him. Then why
should man any longer deprive his fellow-man of equal rights
and privileges? Oh America, America, foul and indelible is
thy stain! Dark and dismal is the cloud that hangs over thee,
for thy cruel wrongs and injuries to the fallen sons of Africa.
The blood of her murdered ones cries to heaven for vengeance
against thee. Thou art almost become drunken with the blood
of her slain; thou hast enriched thyself through her toils and
labours; and now thou refuseth to make even a small return.
And thou hast caused the daughters of Africa to commit whoredoms
and fornications; but upon thee be their curse.

O, ye great and mighty men of America, ye rich and powerful
ones, many of you will call for the rocks and mountains to
fall upon you, and to hide you from the wrath of the Lamb,
and from him that sitteth upon the throne; while many of the
sable-skinned Africans you now despise, will shine in the kingdom
of heaven as the stars forever and ever. Charity begins
at home, and those that provide not for their own, are worse
than infidels. We know that you are raising contributions to
aid the gallant Poles; we know that you have befriended Greece
and Ireland; and you have rejoiced with France, for her heroic
deeds of valor. You have acknowledged all the nations
of the earth, except Hayti; and you may publish, as far as the as the
east is from the west, that you have two millions of negroes,
who aspire no higher than to bow at your feet, and to court
your smiles. You may kill, tyrannize, and oppress as much
as you choose, until our cry shall come up before the throne
of God; for I am firmly persuaded, that he will not suffer you
to quell the proud, fearless, and undaunted spirits of the Africans
forever; for in his own time, he is able to plead our
cause against you, and to pour out upon you the ten plagues of
Egypt. We will not come out against you with swords and
staves, as against a thief; but we will tell you that our souls
are fired with the same love of liberty and independence with B2r 11
which your souls are fired. We will tell you that too much of
your blood flows in our veins, and too much of your color in
our skins, for us not to possess your spirits. We will tell you,
that it is our gold that clothes you in fine linen and purple, and
causes you to fare sumptuously every day; and it is the blood of
our fathers and the tears of our brethren that have enriched
your soils. And we claim our rights. We will tell you,
that we are not afraid of them that kill the body, and after
that can do no more; but we will tell you whom we do fear.
We fear him who is able, after he hath killed, to destroy both
soul and body in hell forever. Then, my brethren, sheathe
your swords, and calm your angry passions. Stand still, and
know that the Lord he is God. Vengeance is his, and he will
repay. ’Tis a long lane that has no turn. America has risen
to her meridian. When you begin to thrive, she will begin to
fall. God hath raised you up a Walker and a Garrison. Though
Walker sleeps, yet he lives, and his name shall be had in everlasting
remembrance. I, even I, who am but a child, inexperienced
to many of you, am a living witness to testify unto you
this day that I have seen the wicked in great power, spreading
himself like a green bay tree, and lo, he passed away; yea, I
diligently sought him, but he could not be found; and it is
God alone that has inspired my heart to feel for Afric’s woes.
Then fret not yourselves because of evil doers. Fret not yourselves
because of the men who bring wicked devices to pass;
for they shall be cut down as the grass, and wither as the green
herb. Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in
the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Encourage the noble-
hearted Garrison. Prove to the world that you are neither
orang-outangs, nor a species of animals, but that you possess
the same powers of intellect as those of the proud-boasting

I am sensible, my brethren and friends, that many of you have
been deprived of advantages, kept in utter ignorance, and that
your minds are now darkened; and if any of you have attempted
to aspire after high and noble enterprises, you have met with
so much opposition that your souls have become discouraged.
For this very cause, a few of us have ventured to expose our
lives in your behalf, to plead your cause against the great; and
it will be of no use, unless you feel for yourselves and your little
ones, and exhibit the spirits of men. Oh, then, turn your
attention to knowledge and improvement; for knowledge is
power. And God is able to fill you with wisdom and understanding,
and to dispel your fears. Arm yourselves with the
weapons of prayer. Put your trust in the living God. Persevere
strictly in the paths of virtue. Let nothing be lacking B2v 12
on your part; and, in God’s own time, and his time is certainly
the best, he will surely deliver you with a mighty hand and
with an outstretched arm.

I have never taken one step, my friend, with a design to
raise myself in your esteem, or to gain applause. But what I
have done, has been done with an eye single to the glory of
God, and to promote the good of souls. I have neither kindred
nor friends. I stand alone in your midst, exposed to the
fiery darts of the devil, and to the assaults of wicked men.
But though all the powers of earth and hell were to combine
against me, though all nature should sink into decay, still
would I trust in the Lord, and joy in the God of my salvation.
For I am fully persuaded, that he will bring me off conqueror,
yea, more than conqueror, through him who hath loved me and
given himself for me.


“God is a spirit, just and wise; He knows our inmost minds: In vain to heaven we raise our cries, And leave our souls behind. Nothing but truth before his throne With honor can appear: The painted hypocrites are known By the disguise they wear. Their lifted eyes salute the skies, Their bended knees the ground; But God abhors the sacrifice Where not the heart is found. Lord, search my heart, and try my reins, And make my soul sincere; So shall I stand before thy throne, And find acceptance there.” Watts.