A Minute Against Slavery, Addressed to Germantown Monthly Meeting, 1688.
Daniel Pastorius, Garret Henderich, Derick Up den Graeff, and Abraham Up den Graef
April 18, 1688
This petition to disallow slave-owning was addressed to the Quakers of Germantown, Pennsylvania, only five years after the first settlers arrived. It was written by one of the four signers, Francis Daniel Pastorius, the founder and chief administrator of the settlement.
This is to the Monthly Meeting held at Richard Worrell’s.
These are the reasons why we are against the traffic of men-body, as followeth. Is there any that would be done or handled at this manner? viz., to be sold or made a slave for all the time of his life? How fearful and faint-hearted are many on sea, when they see a strange vessel, —being afraid it should be a Turk, and they should be taken, and sold for slaves into Turkey. Now [in] what [way] is this better done, [than] as Turks do? Yea, rather it is worse for them, which say they are Christians; for we hear that ye most part of such negroes are brought hither against their will and consent, and that many of them are stolen. Now, tho’ they are black, we can not conceive there is more liberty to have them slaves, as it is to have other white ones. There is a saying that we shall do to all men like as we will be done ourselves; making no difference of what generation, descent or color they are. And those who steal or rob men, and those who buy or purchase them, are they not all alike? Here is liberty of conscience which is right and reasonable; here ought to be liberty of the body, except of evil-doers, which is another case. But to bring men hither, or to rob and sell them against their will, we stand against. In Europe there are many oppressed for conscience’ sake; and here there are those oppressed which are of a black colour. And we who know that men must not commit adultery, —some do commit adultery, in separating wives from their husbands and giving them to others; and some sell the children of these poor creatures to other men. Ah! do consider well this thing, you who do it, if you would be done [in] this manner? And if it is done according to Christianity? You surpass Holland and Germany in this thing. This makes an ill report in all those countries of Europe, where they hear of, that the Quakers do here handle men as they handle there the cattle. And for that reason some have no mind or inclination to come hither. And who shall maintain this your cause, or plead for it. Truly we can not do so, except you shall inform us better hereof, viz., [why it is] that Christians have liberty to practice these things. 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 husbands from their wives and children. Being now that 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. And such men ought to be delivered out of the hands of the robbers, and set free as well as in Europe. Then is Pennsylvania to have a good report, instead it hath now a bad one for this sake in other countries. Especially whereas the Europeans are desirous to know in what manner the Quakers do rule in their province; —and most of them do look upon us with an envious eye. But if this is done well, what shall we say is done evil?
If once these slaves (which they say are so wicked and stubborn men) should join themselves, —fight for their freedom, —and handle their masters and mistresses as they did handle them before; will these masters and mistresses take the sword at hand and war against these poor slaves, like, we are able to believe, some will not refuse to do; or have these negroes not as much right to fight for their freedom, as you have to keep them slaves?
Now consider well this thing, if it is good or bad? And in case you find it to be good to handle these blacks at that manner, we desire and require you hereby lovingly, that you may inform us herein, which at this time never was done, viz., that Christians have such a liberty to do so—to the end we shall be satisfied in this point, and satisfy likewise our good friends and acquaintances in our native country, to who[m] it is a terror, or fearful thing, that men should be handled so in Pennsylvania.
This is from our meeting at Germantown, held the 18th of the 2nd month, 1688, to be delivered to the Monthly Meeting at Richard Worrell’s.
Derick up de Graeff
Francis Daniell Pastorius
Abraham up den Graef
Members of the Society of Friends profess pacifism, although at various times in their history, individual Quakers have broken with their fellows to bear arms.Return
The second month would have been April at this time, since the colonists used the Julian calendar.Return
For a facsimile image of the document, along with an exact transcription of the original text and a note on the dating, see: Hendericks, Gerret; Graeff, Derick up de; Pastorius, Francis Daniell, 1651-1719; Graef, Abraham up den. Quaker Protest Against Slavery in the New World, Germantown (Pa.) 1688-4-18. Haverford College Special Collections, manuscript collection 990 B-R, 2 pages. The transcription here is based on the slightly modernized version prepared for the website of the Germantown Mennonite Historic Trust by the conservators of the document, http://www.meetinghouse.info/1688-petition-against-slavery.html. We have further modernized spelling and punctuation.