Letter from John Eliot Protesting against Selling Indians as Slaves

To the Honorable the Governor[1] and Council sitting at Boston 
 
The humble petition of John Eliot sheweth that the terror of selling away such Indians unto the islands[2] for perpetual slaves, who shall yield up themselves to your mercy, is like to be an effectual prolongation of the war and such an exasperation of them, as may produce we know not what evil consequences upon all the land.  Christ hath said “Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.”[3]  This usage of them is worse than death (to put to death men that have deserved to die is an ordinance of God and a bleſſing is promised to it).  It may be done in faith.  The design of Christ in these last days is not to extirpate nations, but to gospelize them. He will spread the Gospel round the world about (Revelation 11:15)[4] the kingdom of the world are become the kingdoms of the Lord and of his Christ.   His sovereign hand, a grace, hath brought the Gospel into those dark places of the earth.  When we came, we declared to the world, and it is recorded, yea, we are engaged by our letters patent from the King’s Majesty, that the endeavor of the Indians conversion, not their extirpation, was one great end of enterprise in coming to these ends of the earth.     
 
The Lord hath so succeeded that work, as that (by his grace) they have the Holy Scriptures in sundry of themselves able to teach their countrymen the good knowledge of God.  The light of the Gospel is risen among those that sat in darkness and in the region of the shadow of death, and however some of them have refused to receive the Gospel and now are incensed in their spirits unto a war against the English, yet by that good promise (Proverbs 2 . 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6, etc.)[5].  I doubt not but the moaning of Christ is to open a door for the free passage of the Gospel among them and that the Lord will fulfill that word (Psalm 6)[6] yet have I set for my king, my anointed, on my holy hill of Zion, though some rage at it.  My humble request is that you would follow Christ his design in this matter to promote the free passage of religion among them and not to destroy them.  To send them away from the light of the Gospel, which Christ hath graciously given them unto a place, a state, a way of spiritual darkness to the eternal ruin of their souls is (as I apprehend) to act contrary to the mind of Christ. God’s command is that we should enlarge the kingdom of Jesus Christ (Isaiah 54:2)[7] enlarge the place of thy tent.  It seemeth to me that to sell them away for slaves is to hinder the enlargement of his kingdom.  How can a Christian soul yield to act in casting away their souls for which Christ hath, with an eminent hand, provided an offer of the Gospel?  To sell souls for money seemeth to me a dangerous merchandize.  If they deserve to die, it is far better to be put to death under godly Governors, who will take religious care that means may be used that they may die penitently.  To sell them away from all means of grace, which Christ hath provided means of grace for them is the way for us to be active in the destroying their souls, when we are highly obliged to seek their conversion and salvation and have opportunity in our hands so to do (Deuteronomy 23:15,16).[8] A fugitive servant from a pagan master might not be delivered to his master but be kept in Israel for the good of his soul.   How much less lawful is it to sell away souls from under the light of the Gospel into a condition where their souls will be utterly lost, so far as appeareth unto man?  All men (of reading) condemn the Spaniard for cruelty upon this point in destroying men and depopulating the land.  The country is large enough.  Here is land enough for them and us too. (Proverbs 14:28)[9]. in the multitude of people is the king’s honor, it will be much to the glory of Christ to have many brought in to worship his great name.
 
I beseech the Honored Council to pardon my boldness and let the case of conscience be discussed orderly before the thing be acted.  Cover my weakness and weigh the reason and religion that laboreth in this great case of conscience.
 
[John Eliot]
August 13, 1675
 
Cataloguing: 173
 

[2] Most likely Eliot meant the islands around Boston, like Deer Island. However, captured Indians were also brought to islands far outside of New England, especially to the Caribbean, and as distant as the Azores, Spain, and Morocco.
[3] Matthew 5:7
[4] “And the seuenth Angel sounded, and there were great voyces in heauen, saying, The kingdomes of this world are become the kingdomes of our Lord, and of his Christ, and he shall reigne for euer and euer.” 
Revelation 11:15, King James Bible Online, https://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/1611_Revelation-11-15/
[5] Proverbs 2, King James Version, King James Bible Online, https://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/1611_Proverbs-Chapter-2/
[6] Psalm 6, King James Version, King James Bible Online,  https://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/1611_Psalms-Chapter-6/
[7] “Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtaines of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes.”
Isaiah 54:2, King James Version, King James Bible Online, https://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/1611_Isaiah-54-2/
[9] “In the multitude of people is the king's honour: but in the want of people is the destruction of the prince.” Proverbs 14:28, King James Version, King James Bible Online,