John Woolman is as hardcore as a Quaker can be. (We saw him earlier in the year opposing dyed clothing. Here, in this passage, he wants to go to Barbados to preach against the slave trade -- but he's worried because the only way to get there is by a ship engaged in the slave trade. So he tells the owner:
If the trade to the West Indies were no more than was consistent with pure wisdom, I believe the passage-money would for good reasons be higher than it is now; and therefore, under deep exercise of mind, I have believed that I should not take advantage of this great trade and small passage-money, but, as a testimony in favor of less trading, should pay more than is common for others to pay if I go at this time.In other words, he buys an offset to make himself feel better. And the great part is that it just means more money for the very people whose profits, he feels, are immoral. But what is that compared to an easy conscience? He's also a good boycotter:
The oppression of the slaves which I have seen in several journeys southward on this continent, and the report of their treatment in the West Indies, have deeply affected me, and a care to live in the spirit of peace and minister no just cause of offence to my fellow-creatures having from time to time livingly revived in my mind, I have for some years past declined to gratify my palate with those sugars.(No lie, though: sugar production is still a bitch.) Also note the "livingly," which I love. It sounds religious. You know who else is old-fashioned, though, is God: "In the course of a few weeks it pleased the Lord to visit me with a pleurisy." The Lord doesn't work as much in pleurisy as he used to, preferring motorcycle crashes and domestic disputes in houses with firearms. So it's nice to see Him here in a more classic mode.
Meeting Woolman has been one of the pleasures of this project, and he embodies a paradox that's always fascinated me (maybe it's not really a paradox, though; maybe it's more like a "thing") -- which is that, he seems obviously to have been made crazy by religion, and yet, without religious crazies like this, we'd probably all just be keeping our head down and deploring slavery while shaking down our sugar packets.
I'm still holding on to my dyed clothing, though, particularly the T-shirts that are meant to be vaguely amusing and/or ironic. That's like wearing progress right there.