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Letter of Sterling Ruffin to Thomas Ruffin, June 9, 1804


Letter of Sterling Ruffin to Thomas Ruffin, June 9, 1804


This person letter written by Sterling Ruffin, Thomas Ruffins father, was part of an on going series of letters between Sterling and Thomas while Thomas was in school at Princeton. Sterling responed in this letter to earlier conversations regarding Thomas' sentiment towards Slavery. While Thomas had expressed concern for the treatment of slaves and the institution of slavery, Sterling began to console Thomas and attempted to explain possible solutions to get rid of of slaves without indangering the white race. Sterling explained that the instituion of slavery should not be blamed on the their present generation because slaves were imposed on their society without consent. Futhermore, Sterling tells Ruffin that he looks to the future with pleasure in hopes that the "Merciful Creator" would spark a universal revival in the hearts on men which would result in equality for slaves.


Sterling Ruffin


Ruffin, Sterling. Sterling Ruffin to Thomas Ruffin, June 9, 1804. The Papers of Thomas Ruffin, edited by J. G. De Roulhac Hamilton, 54-55. Raleigh: Edwards & Broughton Printing Co, 1918




Cooper, Blake




Brunswick, Virginia

Original Format



From Sterling Ruffin. [Brunswick, June, 1804]

I have no apology to offer for not complying with the promise made in my last, of writing again, in a few days, except that I wish'd to have forwarded you a small B. Note, for fear, from some unforeseen event, it might be serviceable to you; as yet, I have not been able to procure one; and as I find from your last which has come to hand, you are anxious to receive the promis'd one, I now do myself the pleasure of gratifying your wishes.

I was not surpris'd at reading your sentiments on Slavery, as I was well aware of the impressions which a different mode of treatment than that pursued in Virginia, would make on a Heart, which I hop'd was capable at all times of sympathizing in the misfortunes of a fellow mortal; and would as the mind matur'd, and contemplated the miserable situation of these unhappy beings, feel most sensibly for them; but alas! like all others who are not entirely void of every spark of Sensibility, you feel for them, lament, greatly lament their uncommon hard fate, without being able to devise any means by which it may be ameliorated! That they are a great civil, political, and moral evil no Person will deny, but how to get rid of them, is a question which has imploy'd many much more expansive than mine, without fixing on any rational, or probable means to make their situation more comfortable, without endangering the political safety of the State, and perhaps Jeopardising the lives, property, and everything sacred and dear of the Whites. You will not pretend to throw blame on the present generation, for the situation of these unhappy domestics, for as they are impos'd on us, and not with our consent, the thing is unavoidable. You will perhaps ask why we do not treat them with more humanity? the answer is obvious: the fewer there are of this description intermix'd with the Whites, the more they are under our immediate eye, and the more they partake of the manners and habits of the whites, and thereby require less rigidness of treatment to get from them, those services which are absolutely necessary for their support and very existence. Unhappy for us and them, there are too many with us to render a tolerably free intercourse of sentiment possible, and of course their minds have degenerated into as abject slavery as their persons; and as there is no tye of gratitude or affection on their parts towards their masters, nothing is to be expected from them, but as fear, servile fear operates on them, which produces a sluggishness of action, which must be increased momentarily by a greater degree of fear, with a greater degree of personal attention on our parts. It has been one of many benefits which has resulted to Society form the Christian Religion to expose the impropriety of keeping our Brothers in bondage, and however we may at present justify ourselves from the peculiar situation of our Country consider'd politically; I cannot but look forward with pleasure to the time, when an Alwise, and Merciful Creator will by a more universal revival of his blessed Religion prepare the Hearts of all men to consider each other as Brothers, and put us more equallity even in temporal things--When this much to be wish'd for period will arrive, or what will be the means adopted for a general emancipation, I do not pretend do divine; but that such a time will be, I have little doubt.

Tom you cannot conceive the happiness that I receive in believing from your letters that you begin to see the necessity and reality of Religion; believe me my Son, who have had a fair opportunity of estimating the pleasure of Sin, (by enjoying all the comforts that independance and the things of this world cold bestow unconnected with a Spiritual love for the giver of these blessings) that there is no comparison between the real solid happiness of a life spent in faith, bringing forth the fruits of the Spirit, and a hope growing therefrom that [Rest of letter missing.]

[Address: Princeton.]


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Sterling Ruffin, Letter of Sterling Ruffin to Thomas Ruffin, June 9, 1804, Civil War Era NC, accessed May 26, 2024,