Letter from Rev. John Waring to Robert Carter Nicholas (April 20, 1768)


In a letter to Robert Carter Nicholas, dated April 20, 1768, the Reverend John Waring responds to an invoice for 30£ for a year of operating a school in Williamsburg for the children of enslaved African Americans. Waring was the secretary of the Associates of Dr. Bray, the English philanthropic group that funded the school. Nicholas and the Reverend William Yates were the school’s administrators.


April 20, 1768


I had your Favour dated 1st. December last, which I laid before the Associates, & also have honoured your Draft for 30£ which You say is not the whole Expence of the School for the last Year, & that You will draw for Remainder per Next. The Associates are thankful to You for the Care You take in superintending the Negroe School, but when they first began this charitable work at Williamsburgh They did not intend to allow more than 20£ Sterling a year for its Support, & were in hopes that if that Salary were not sufficient, what was further wanting wou’d have been supplied by the charitable Contribution of the Inhabitants for whose Benefit this Institution was intended: They now find, by an Increase of Salary, & the Addition of Rent, your School stands them in more than 30£ Sterling whereas no other School costs us more than 20£ Sterling, Books excepted.

I am therefore directed to acquaint You, that the Associates have resolved to allow no more than 25£ Sterling to your School from Mid-summer next, & hope that if any thing more be wanting, it will be supplied by Contributions from Williamsburgh. Indeed, considering the Nature & tendency of this Institution, it might have been reasonably expected that such a Scheme would have met with liberal Encouragement on the Spot, without being indebted to Strangers for its Support; for I cannot but be of Opinion, & herein I am not Singular, it was the Opinion of the Father of the Faithful, that a master is as much bound to have his Slaves instructed in the way of Salvation, as his own Children; & that if he doth not use his best Endeavours herein, he will have a dreadful Account to give at the last Day. I further think that in point of worldly Wisdom, ever Master woud wish to have his Slaves to be good Christians, for certainly persons who have lively Impressions of the tremendous Sanctions of our Religion are more likely to make honest faithful & industrious Slaves, than those who have no fear of God, & act only as Eye Servants, aw’d only by fear of corporal punishment. Moreover, how can Gentlemen on Your Side the Water expect that We on this shou’d Subscribe two, three, or four Guineas a Year apiece, as I have for many Years, to promote the Instruction of the Slaves of those Masters, who themselves will contribute Nothing to it. This Conduct of the Masters appears unaccountable, & I wish our Brethren in America woud consult their own Honour a little more in this respect, & join their Contributions to ours in that most divine Imployment, viz., instructing the Ignorant in the way of Salvation. I am perswaded that if one or two Gentlemen wou’d begin a Subscription many others woud follow the Exmaple. The Salary was raised from 20£ to 25£ & the Rent allowed without our Consent previously obtained, unless I forgot myself, & we acquiesced, in hopes that the Masters of the Salves woud in a little time find it to be their Interest as well as Duty to ease us of a part if not the whole of the Expence, that we might be At Liberty to extend the like Benefit to some other place. As You have given Us Credit for Rent, we shall repay You up to 24th. of June next, before which time I hope this will come to your hands. And Be pleased to draw on me for the Arrears due & half a Years Salary. And afterwards I am ordered to pay no more than at the Rate of 25£ Sterling by the Year.

I wrote to Mr. Yates, when you first Joined him with yourself, to request him occasionally to visit the School & examine what progress the Children make in Christian Knowledge, & to favour Us with a particular Account of it, but never have received a Line from Him. For our Subscribers have a right to know whether their good Intentions are in any measure answered, which is the chief motive they can have to continue their Subscriptions. And therefore I am directed to request that either You or He will indulge Us once, if not twice a Year with an exact Account in general of the Childrens Progress in reading, Saying their Catechism & Prayers, of their attendance at publick worship & behaviour there: Such an Account wou’d do honour to the worthy Inspectors as well as be satisfactory to the Subscribers, & tho’ the School may be much in the Same State from time to time, yet it may be very proper to repeat the same particulars, which will always appear new to the Readers. The Associates have charged me with their affectionate Respects to yourself & Mr. Yates. I am Sir Your most humble Servant

Jn. Waring

April 20. 1768

At Mr. Birds Ave Mary Lane London

APA Citation:
Waring, John. Letter from Rev. John Waring to Robert Carter Nicholas (April 20, 1768). (2020, December 07). In Encyclopedia Virginia.
MLA Citation:
Waring, John. "Letter from Rev. John Waring to Robert Carter Nicholas (April 20, 1768)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (07 Dec. 2020). Web. 24 May. 2024
Last updated: 2021, January 28
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