Memorial Against Slaveholding

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Memorial Against Slaveholding
Francis Daniel Pastorius, Garret Hendericks, Derick Op den Graeff, and Abraham Op den Graeff
A protest against slavery drawn up by Francis Daniel Pastorius in 1688 and signed by him and three other Quakers living in Germantown, Pennsylvania (now part of Philadelphia), on behalf of the Germantown Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends. It was forwarded to the monthly, quarterly, and yearly meetings without any action being taken on it. According to John Greenleaf Whittier, the original document was discovered in 1844 by the Philadelphia antiquarian Nathan Kite and published in The Friend (Vol. XVIII. No. 16). It was the first protest against African American slavery made by a religious body in the English colonies.

The document is dated "18. of the 2. month 1688;" but this was while England and its colonies still used the Julian calendar. While January 1 was observed as the beginning of the New Year, the "civil year" began on March 25. This raises the question of whether the date on the document should be rendered as February 18 or April 18. After England adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752, dates were moved forward eleven days, which would make the date in "new style" either February 29 (1688 was a leap year) or April 29. Katie Gerbner, author of a 2006 senior thesis at Columbia University entitled Origins of Abolitionism in America: The Germantown Petition Against Slavery, says that April 18 is the correct Julian date. That makes April 29, 1688, the date in our present calendar on which the protest was signed.

The original document had no title. The title used here is taken from a description of the document in Whittier's "Introductory Note" to The Pennsylvania Pilgrim. The document was signed at the home of Thones Kunders, one of the original Germantown settlers. The site is marked with a Pennsylvania historical marker erected in 1990.

This is to the monthly meeting hold at Rigert Warrells.

These are the reasons why we are against the traffick 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 & fainthearted are many on sea when they see a strange vassel - being afraid it should be a Turck, and they should be tacken, and sold for slaves into Turckey. Now what is this better done, as Turcks doe? yea, rather is it worse for them wch say they are Christians, for we hear that the most part of such Negers are brought heither against their will & consent and that many of them are stollen.

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 doe to all men licke as we will be done ourselves; macking 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 alicke? Here is liberty of conscience wch is right and reasonable; here ought to be likewise liberty of the body, except of evildoers, wch is an other case. But to bring men hither, or to robb and sell them against their will, we stand against. In Europe there are many oppressed for Conscience sacke; and here there are those oppressed wch are of a Black Colour.

and we who know that men must not comitt adultery, some doe comitt adultery in others, separating wifes from their housbands and giving them to others. and some sell the children of those poor Creatures to other men.

Ah ! doe consider well this things, you who doe it, if you would be done at this manner? and if it is done according Christianity? You surpass Holland and Germany in this thing. This mackes an ill report in all those Countries of Europe, where they hear off, that the Quackers doe here handel men licke they handel there the Cattle. and for that reason some have no mind or inclination to come hither. And who shall maintaine this your cause, or plaid for it? Truely we can not do so, except you shall inform us better hereoff, viz: that christians have liberty to practise this things.

Pray, what thing in the world can be done worse towards us, then if men should robb or steal us away, & sell us for slaves to strange Countries, separating housband from their wife and children. Being now this is not done at that manner we will be done at, therefore we contradict & are against this traffick of men body.

And we who profess that it is unlawfull to steal, must lickewise avoid to purchase such things as are stollen, but rather help to stop this robbing and stealing if possibel. and such men ought to be delivered out of the hands of the Robbers, & made free as well as in Europe. Then is Pensilvania to have a good report, in stead it hath now a bad one for this sacke in other Countries. Especially whereas the Europeans are desirous to know in what manner the Quackers doe rule in their Province, & most of them doe loock upon us with an envious eye. But if this is done well, what shall we say is done evill?

If once these slaves (wch they say are so wicked and stubbern men) should joint themselves, fight for their freedom and handel their masters & mastrisses, as they did handel them before; will these masters & mastrisses tacke the sword at hand and warr against these poor slaves, licke we are able to belive, some will not refuse to doe? or have these Negers 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 handel these blacks at that manner, we desire & require you hereby lovingly that you may informe 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, & satisfie lickewise our good friends and acquaintances in our natif Country, to whose it is a terrour, or fairfull thing that men should be handeld so in Pensilvania.

This is from our meeting at Germantown, hold the 18 of the 2 month, 1688, to be delivered to the Monthly Meeting at Richard Warrels.

gerret hendericks
derick up de graeff
Francis daniell Pastorius
Abraham up den graef
Monthly Meeting Response:

at our monthly meeting at Dublin, the 30 - 2 mo., 1688, we having inspected the matter above mentioned & considered of it we find it so weighty that we think it not Expedient for us to meddle with it here, but do Rather commit it to the consideration of the Quarterly meeting the tennor of it being nearly Related to the truth. On behalf of the monthly meeting,

Signed, P. Jo. Hart.
Quarterly Meeting Response:
This, above mentioned, was read in our quarterly meeting at Philadelphia, the 4 of the 4th mo. '88, and was from thence recommended to the Yearly Meeting, and the above said Derick, and the other two mentioned therein, to present the same to the above said meeting, it being a thing of too great a weight for this meeting to determine.

Signed by ord the meeting,

Anthony Morris.

[ Yearly Meeting Response:

At a Yearly Meeting held at Burlington the 5th day of the 7th month, 1688.

A Paper being here presented by some German Friends Concerning the Lawfulness and Unlawfulness of Buying and keeping Negroes, It was adjusted not to be so proper for this Meeting to give a Positive Judgment in the case, It having so General a Relation to many other Parts, and therefore at present they forbear It. ]

This work was published before January 1, 1923, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.