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The Friend : a religious and literary journal (Volume 16) online

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And what if they were of Ham's stock, and
were to be servants of servants ? hath not that
been fulfilled upon them? and must that yoke
always rest upon their bodies, or rather be laid
upon Ham's spirit wherever it is? and doth
not Christ take away that wall of partition
between people and people ? and is it not now
that God is no respecter of persons, but of
every nation, tongue and people, he that fears
God and works righteousness shall find mercy ?
and should not we show forth the mercies and
kindness of God to our fellow-creatures? And
doth not the prophet say the Lord will stretch
forth his hand to Ethiopia, and will set up his
altar in Egypt, which David several times calls
the land of Ham ? And Christ's command is
to do to others as we would have them to do
to us; and which of you all would have the
blacks or others to make you their slaves
without hope or expectation of freedom or
liberty? Would not this he an aggravation
upon your minds that would outbalance all
other comforts? So make their conditions
your own; for a good conscience void of
oflence, is of more worth than all the world,
and Truth must regulate all wrongs and wrong

'J'hese extracts prove that the sin of slave-
holding was seen in its true light by some of
the most eminent of our early Friends. That
many bore a faithful testimony from that time
forward, will be shown from the official re-
cords of the Society.

At the Yearly Meeting of Pennsylvania and
New Jersey, held in 1688, a paper was



" presented by some German Friends concern-
Jog the lawfulness and unlawfulness of buying
and keeping of negroes ; it was adjudged not
to be so proper for this meeting to give a posi-
tive judgment in the case, it having so general
a relation to many other parts, and therefore
at present they forbear it."

Diligent search has been made at various
times for the paper spoken of in the above
extract, and there is reason to fear that it is
no longer extant. The German Friends who
presented it are understood to have been
emigrants from Kreisheim, who had establish-
ed themselves in the neighbourhood of Ger-

The first official step of the Society in re-
gard to trading in negroes, appears to have
been taken by the Yearly .Meeting of 1696,
which issued the following advice to its mem-
bers. " Whereas, several papers have been
read relating to the keeping and bringing in of
negroes : which being duly considered, it is
the advice of this meeting, that Friends be
careful not to encourage the bringing in of
any more negroes; and that such that have
negroes, be careful of them, bring them to
meetings, have meetings with them in iheir
families, and restrain them from loose and
lewd living as mucli as in them lies, and
from rambling abroad on First-days or other

William Penn felt and mourned over the
state of the slaves, but his attempts to improve
their condition by legal enactments were de-
feated in the House of Assembly. The fol-
lowing minute of the Monthly Meeting of Phi-
Jadelphia made in 1700, bears witness to his
zeal for their welfare. " Our dear Friend and
governor having laid before this meeting a
concern that hath laid upon his mind for some
time concerning the negroes and Indians, that
Friends ought to be very careful in discharg-
ing a good conscience towards them in all
respects, but more especially for the good of
their souls, and that they might as frequent
as may be, come to meetings upon First-days,
upon consideration whereof this meeting con-
cludes to appoint a meeting for the negroes,
to be kept once a month, &c., and that their
masters gave notice thereof in their own fami-
lies, and be present with them at the said
meetings as frequent as may be."

The Quarterly Meeting of Chester was at
that time the most southern branch of the
Yearly Meeting of Pennsylvania, and com-
prised all the meetings south of Philadelphia
Quarter, as far as Hopewell in Virginia. The
attention of its members was early turned to
this subject, and in the Sixth month, 1711,
the following minute of that Quarter was sent
up to the Yearly Meeting.

" Chester Monthly Meeting's representatives
reminded this meeting that their meeting was
dissatisfied with Friends buying and cncour.
aging the bringing in of negroes, and desires
the care and notice of the Yearly Meeting ;
and the above particulars to be according tc
order, presented by the representatives of this
meeting in writing to the next Yearly Meet,
ing." The Yearly IMeetiog of that year no.
tices this minute, and adds, that " after a due
consideration of the matter, the meeting con.

sidering that Friends in many other places are
concerned in it as much as we are, advises
that Friends may be careful, according to a
former minute of this Yearly Meeting, (1696,)
not to encourage the bringing in of any more;
and that all merchants and factors write to
their correspondents to discourage them from
sending any more."

In the following year, (1712,) the Yearly
Meeting in its Epistle to the London Yearly
Meeting, expressed its concern on the subject
of slavery, and pointed out the causes of the
increase of slaves, in the following strong lan-
guage. " And now, dear Friends, we impart
unto you a concern that hath rested on our
minds for many years, touching the importing
and having negro slaves, and detaining them
and their posterity as such, without any limi-
tation or time of redemption from that condi-
tion. This matter was laid before this meet-
ing many years ago, and the thing, in some
degree, discouraged, as may appear by a
minute of our Yearly Meeting, (1696,) desir-
ing all merchants and traders professing
Truth among us, to write to their correspon-
dents, that they send no more negroes to be
disposed of as above ; yet, notwithstanding, as
our settlements increased, so other traders
flocked in amongst us, over whom we had no
gospel authority, and such have increased and
multiplied negroes amongst us, to the grief of
divers Friends, whom we are willing to ease,
if the way might open clear to the satisfaction
of the general ; and it being last Yearly Meet-
ing again moved, and Friends being more
concerned with negroes in divers other pro-
vinces and places, than in these, we thought it
too weighty to come to a full conclusion
therein; this meeting therefore desires your
assistance by way of counsel and advice there-
in, and that you would be pleased to take the
matter into your weighty consideration, after
having advised with Friends in the other
American provinces, and give us your sense
or advice therein."

The tenor of the advice given may be learn-
ed from the Epistle to Loudon of the Yearly
Meeting of 1714.

" We also kindly received your advice
about negro slaves, and we are one with you
that the multiplying of them may be of dan-
gerous consequence, and therefore a law was
made in Pennsylvania, laying a duty of twenty
pounds upon every one imported there, which
law the Queen was pleased to disannul. We
could heartily wish that a way might be found
to stop the bringing in more here ; or, at least,
that Friends may be less concerned in buying
or selling of any that may be brought in ; and
hope for your assistance with the government,
if any farther law should be made, discour-
aging the importation. We know not of any
Friend amongst us, that has any hand or con-
cern in bringing any out of their own country ;
and we are of the same mind with you, that
the practice is not commendable nor allowable
amongst Friends; and we take the freedom
to acquaint you, that our request unto you
was, that you would be pleased to consult or
advise with Friends in other plantations,
where they arc more numerous than with us;
because they hold a correspondence with you

but not with us, and your meeting may better
prevail with them, and your advice prove
more effectual."

(To be coniinued.)

For " The Friend. "

It is said, that every generation considers
its own age as an extraordinary era. This
may arise in part from the fact, that events
which transpire under our own notice, and in
which we feel a personal interest, produce a
deeper impression on the mind, than siniilar
occurrences known only from the page of his-
tory. But after making all reasonable allow-
ance on this score, we think, that comparing
the history of the past, with the events of the
present, it must be admitted that we live in a
remarkable period. If we confine our view
to the present condition of professing Chris-
tendom only, we shall find it surpassing any
Ibrmer age in the momentous and startling in-
dications which are every where forcing them-
selves into notice. It may not inappropriate-
ly be called the age of religious delusions.
The ingenuity of man seems put to the rack,
to discover some new and easier way to the
kingdom of heaven, or some modification of
" the good old way," which may remove its
asperities, expand the straitness of its gate,
and widen the narrowness of its bounds, so as
to relieve the flesh of the crosses and mortifi-
cations which this antiquated path has ever
occasioned to those who have safely trodden
it to eternal life and glory.

New sects are rising up, setting forth strange
doctrines ; others are reviving the errors and
corruptions of the darkest ages; party strug-
ling against parly ; and almost every religious
denomination distracted by some controversy
involving points of faith or practice.

No serious observer of the times can enter-
tain a doubt that all these commotions, pain-
ful as they seem to us, and much as they are
to be deplored in some of their consequences;
under the overruling power of a gracious Pro-
vidence, are conducing to the spread of gospel
Truth ; are a part of that mighty shaking
which the Sovereign Head of the church has
determined to bring upon all the systems of
human contrivance, that those things which
can be shaken may be removed, and that those
which cannot be shaken, may not only remain,
but be universally diffused among mankind.
The pillars of priestcraft are tottering; and
the rest which the lovers of ease have been
taking in a religion of forms and ceremonies,
which amuses the head, while it leaves the
heart unchanged, is in the way

Online LibraryRobert SmithThe Friend : a religious and literary journal (Volume 16) → online text (page 143 of 154)