, against the prevalent cruelty and inhumanity with which negro slaves were then treated in that island, and urged their gradual emancipation.
His letter implies that some of his disciples were slaveholders.
Yet it was not till 1727 that the yearly meeting of the whole society in London
declared “the importing of negroes from their native country and relations, by Friends, not a commendable
or allowable practice.”
Nearly thirty years before, the yearly meeting in Philadelphia
(1696) took a step in advance of this, admonishing their members to be careful not to encourage the bringing in
of any more negroes
, and that those who have
negroes be careful of them, bring them to meeting, etc., etc. It thus appears that Quakers, like other Christians, were then not only slaveholders, but engaged in the Slave-Trade.
In 1754, the American Quakers
had advanced to the point of publicly recommending their societies to “advise and deal with such as engage in” the Slave-Trade.
Again: slaveholding Quakers were urged — not to emancipate their slaves — but to care for their morals, and treat them humanely.
The British Quakers
came up to this mark in 1758--four years later; and more decidedly in 1761 and 1763.
In 1774, the Philadelphia
meeting directed that all persons engaged in any form of slave-trading be “disowned;” and in 1776 took the decisive and final step by directing “that the owners
of slaves, who refused to execute the proper instruments for giving them their freedom, be disowned likewise.”
This blow hit the nail on the head.
In 1781, but “one case” requiring discipline under this head was reported; and in 1783, it duly appeared that there were no
slaves owned by its members.1
The coincidence of these later dates with the origin, progress, and close of our Revolutionary struggle, is noteworthy.
The New York and Rhode Island
yearly meetings passed almost simultaneously through the same stages to like results; that of Virginia
pursued a like course; but, meeting greater obstacles, was longer in overcoming them.
It discouraged the purchasing
of slaves in 1766; urgently recommended manumission in 1773; yet, so late as 1787, its annual reports stated that some members still held slaves.
But it is understood that Slavery and Quakerism, throughout the South
, had very little communion or sympathy after the Revolution, and were gradually and finally divorced so early as 1800.
Hence, as Slavery grew stronger and more intolerant there, Quakerism gradually faded out; so that its adherents were probably fewer in that section in 1860 than they had been eighty years before.
Of other religious denominations, none of the more important and popular, which date back to the earlier periods of our colonial history, can show even so fair a record as the above.
By the Roman Catholics
and Protestant Episcopalians, generally, Slaveholding has never been, and is not yet, considered inconsistent with piety, and a blameless, exemplary, Christian life.
Individuals in these, as in other communions, have conspicuously condemned and earnestly opposed Human Slavery; but the general influence of these churches in our country, and especially of their