Who Were the First Whites to Come Out Against Slavery in America?
On this day in 1688, the very first formal protest against slavery came from a group one would rarely think of as being any type of activist or abolitionist organization; it was the Quakers!
Yes, the Quakers, the Religious Society of Friends, were the first to officially, as an organization, denounce slavery and the slave trade. Or to use their words, "the traffick of mens-body". (Quaker Roots, 2006)
"These are the reasons why we are against the traffick of men-body, as followeth…There is a saying, that we shall doe to all men like as we will be done ourselves; making no difference of what generation, descent or colour they are. And those who steal or robb men, and those who buy or purchase them, are they not all alike? Here is liberty of conscience, wch is right and reasonable; here ought to be likewise liberty of ye body, except of evil-doers, wch is an other case. But to bring men hither, or to rob and sell them against their will, we stand against…Ah! Doe consider well this thing, you who doe it, if you would be done at this manner? And if it is done according to Christianity?…Pray, what thing in the world can be done worse towards us, than if men should rob or steal us away, and sell us for slaves to strange countries; separating housbands from their wives and children. Being now this is not done in the manner we would be done at therefore we contradict and are against this traffic of men-body. And we who profess that it is not lawful to steal, must, likewise, avoid to purchase such things as are stolen, but rather help to stop this robbing and stealing if possible." (Quaker Roots, 2006)
The petition was passed on to the Quarterly and Yearly Meetings. Although it did not result in a sudden dramatic shift in owning slaves among Quakers, the 'Germantown Protest' did however start a ball rolling, which ended in 1776 with virtually all Quakers in the Philadelphia area refusing to own slaves.(Quaker Roots, 2006)
The Germantown Protest, the first formal protest by an organized white body in English America, made by the Religious Society of Friends, the Quakers, February 18, 1688. (BlackFacts.com, 1997)
Thanks to "kleinefische" for her wonderful work on the blog Quaker Roots - I know I learned a lot!
First Formal Protest Against Slavery. (1997). Retrieved February 18, 2014, from Blackfacts.com: http://www.blackfacts.com/fact/aa3465fc-750f-4787-baac-1db1c6172a95
kleinefische. (2006, November 18). Quaker Roots. Retrieved February 18, 2014, from QuakerRoots.blogspot.com: http://quakerroots.blogspot.com/