and improving the condition of the free people of Association of Friends for promoting the abolition.

An address to the Society of Friends online

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AN ADDRESS



THE SOCIETY OF FRIENDS,



ON THE SUBJECT OF






BY



"THE ASSOCIATION OF FRIENDS FOR PROMOTING

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THE ABOLITION OF SLAVERY," &c.



PHILADELPHIA :

MERRJHEW AND THOMPSON, PRINTERS,

No. 7 Carter's Alley.

1842.



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ADDRESS.



jJear Friends :

It is with the deepest interest, that we feel
called upon to address you on the subject of American Slavery.
Intimately connected with the happiness of nearly three millions
of our fellow-men, it is entitled, at all times, to our serious con-
sideration : — while the increased attention with which it is now regard-
ed by the greater portion of the community, and the high importance
which it has assumed in connection with the religious feeling of the
country, render it, at the present moment, a subject of peculiar im-
portance. The spirit of freedom and the spirit of oppression are
aroused in our land — and as the contest which they are waging for
the mastery is constantly growing more determined, it becomes the
duty of each one to consider, whether he is not bound to raise his
voice « for the law and the testimony," and, like the ancient pro-
phet, to plead with the oppressor for the emancipation of his brethren.

Of the sinfulness of slaveholding we do not deem it necessary to
speak in this communication. That every man has the right to en-
joy personal freedom — and that it is wrong to deprive him of the free
exercise of that right ; — these are propositions which are already too
fully settled in the public mind to need that we should here attempt
to sustain them. The dictates of our reason — the feelings of our
nature — and the law of God written on our conscience — all con-
demn the enslaving of our brother, and demand his unconditional
liberation. Of the duty of striving for the attainment of this object — and
of the means we should adopt for the success of our efforts ; — these are
subjects which are presented to the thoughtful mind, and to which
we would now invite your serious consideration,

We urge the duty of laboring for the abolition of slavery from the
unchangeable character of the system. It is the constant destruction
of the happiness of the slave. It is the violation of his natural and
inalienable rights. It is the continual robbery of the fruits of his toil.
It is the unceasing degradation of his immortal mind. It is the
making merchandize of a being created in the Divine image, and
crowned with glory and honor. To endeavor to promote its overthrow,
therefore, we are called upon, by the love which we bear to our brother,
and bv the regard which we entertain for the law of our common



Father. Convinced of the sinfulness of slaveholding, we are under
the highest obligations of enlightened duty to labor for its abolition.
There is a law written on every heart which commands us to love
whatever we believe to be right, and calculated to add to the amount
of human happiness — and to condemn that which we conceive to be
wrong, and inconsistent with the rational enjoyment of our fellow-
men; — which leads us to lend our support to every movement which
is intended to promote the welfare of the world — and to strive for the
overthrow of every institution which has a tendency to increase the
sufferings of her unhappy children.

Wherever the captive is pining in his chain — wherever the sorrow-
ing is mourning for a comforter — wherever the widow is weeping for
the departed, or the fatherless is sighing in the depths of his affliction ;
— there are we led by « the still, small voice" within us — by the law
of the Highest written on the soul, to devote our energies, and exert
every power to give freedom to the oppressed — to offer consolation
to the unhappy — to manifest sympathy for the widow, and show pro-
tection to the friendless orphan. The right and the duty of laboring
for the welfare of our fellow-men commence with our own creation.
We were born to do good to the world — to love our neighbor — to in-
crease his happiness, and guard him from trial and danger. The de-
sire to promote his welfare is written in the feelings and sympathies
which constitwte a portion of our nature, and we are false to those
feelings and sympathies when we inquire, as did one of old, "Am I my
brother's keeper 1" We have with him a common hope and a com-
mon inheritance, and our earthty pilgrimage should be one of mutual
support and mutual dependence.

Nor is this merely the dictate of our natural feeling. It is an ob-
ligation imposed upon us by the precepts of our religion. To feed
the hungry — to clothe the naked — to visit the sick — to comfort the
distressed — to remember those in bonds as bound with them ; — these
are duties enjoined upon us by the teachings of the blessed Redeemer.
Their faithful performance is essential to the perfection of the Chris-
tian character, and the promised reward of faithfulness is an entrance
with him into the kingdom of Heaven. His own life was the ful-
filling of the law of love to his brethren. His was an errand to save
the souls of men. For this purpose, came he into the world. Yet
would he pause by the wayside to heal the sick — to give sight to the
blind — and to administer relief and consolation to the poor and deso-
late. Let us learn by his teaching and by his example, that love to
our fellow-men, and love to our Heavenly Father go hand in hand
together ; that a continual regard for their happiness, and a constant



endeavor to promote their welfare, are in accordance with our reve-
rence for His Name, and our desire to fulfil His law ; and that our
lives, to be acceptable before Him, should be devoted as well to the
relief of His suffering poor as to the preaching of His most glorious
Word.

Nor should we be unmindful of the character of our religious pro-
fession. We claim to have taken higher and better ground than other
denominations. Our Society arose amid the oppressions which were
tolerated by the church, and its distinguishing feature has been in the
efforts which it has made for the promotion of reform in the views
and practices of the world. Many of its members, with more or less
faithfulness, have ever maintained a testimony against those evils
which have arrested the prosperity, blighted the happiness,
and destroyed the peace of the human family. When they have be-
held war passing over the earth with giant strides, striking down the
form of vigorous manhood, and ruining the hopes of the dependant
parent, the sorrowing wife and the helpless children — when they have
beheld oppression extending its power over millions of their fellow-
men, degrading the mind of the slave, robbing him of the produce of
his labor, and violating, in his person, those rights which belong to
humanity, and may not be destroyed — when they have beheld in-
temperance exerting its influence in the community, searing the intel-
lect, and sowing the seeds of disease, decay, and premature death ; —
they have borne their testimony against them, in the light of Chris-
tian truth, as contrary to the interests of the human race and the
Divine law written on the heart. They have labored, in the manner
which they believed appointed, for their overthrow, and to the faith-
fulness which they have manifested in thus obeying the requirements
of duty, are we chiefly indebted, under Providence, for the efforts
which many in the community are now making for the abolition of
those systems of unmeasured evil.

But with those faithful laborers have not passed away the duties
which they performed. The evils which they endeavored to abolish
are still exercising their influence in society; and that to which your
attention has been directed, has day by day increased in strength and
multiplied its power. Its character is still the same, and the necessity
and obligation of striving for its abolition has not been diminished. —
The reverence which we owe to Him who created of one blood all
the nations of men, and regards with equal favor the freeman and the
slave ;— the love which we bear to Him, who took upon himself the
despised form of a servant, and, in the name of the Father, preached
deliverance to the captive, and the opening of the prison to those that



6

were bound ; — the respect which we owe to the memories and the
bright example of those early Friends who breasted the storm of popu-
lar odium, and, in opposition to their own personal interests, faithful-
ly maintained their testimony against slaveholding ; — the sympathy
which we feel for nearly three millions of our fellow men, who are
oppressed in body and degraded in mind, who know no friend, and
hear no comforter, who have no joy in the present, and entertain no
hope for the future ; — every feeling and every inducement which
would lead us to the performance of our duty ; — all these impel us to
labor with unceasing diligence, with unfading determination, with de-
voted sincerity, for the overthrow of American slavery.

The measures we should adopt for the attainment of this object,
will readily be conceived by those who reflect upon the influences
which uphold the system. Pride, prejudice, and the love of power —
these may help to sustain it; — but the chief inducement to its con-
tinuance, is the pecuniary gain resulting from the uncompensated la-
bor of the bondman. Our first effort, therefore, should be to with-
draw all support from slaveholding, as far as possible, by refusing to
consume its productions. Such a course is demanded, not only by
our desire to have no connection with the evil, but also by our regard
for the consistency of our action, as members of the Society of
Friends — for no trade is more fraudulent than that of slavery, and
no goods are more unjustly obtained than those wrung from the un-
willing bondman; — and by the influence which it will have upon the
community, in manifesting, through the frequent sacrifice of our own
convenience and enjoyment, the sincerity of our opinions, and afford-
ing, to a great degree, the evidence of the justice of the views which
we entertain. It will be constantly showing to the world that we
are conscientiously opposed to slaver} 7 , and enforcing our sentiment
by the most effectual of all means — the consistency and purity of our
own action. Wherever we go — in every situation in which we may
be placed — the opportunity will be afforded us, to maintain our right-
eous testimony, and to endeavor to convince those with whom we
have connection, of its justice and its truth. And in thus laboring
for the conversion of the public mind, we would be pursuing the most
effectual means in our power for the promotion of our object. Self
interest is the influence which induces the enslaving of our fellow
men ; but the oppression could not long continue, if public opinion
should be directed against it, and in favor of its immediate abolition.
The slaveholder would be moved by the popular sentiment. His
mind would be acted upon by the mind of the community. He would
be convinced by the influences around him, of the sinfulness and of



the inexpediency of slaveholding, and would be compelled by his
sense of duty, by his regard for his own interests, and by his desire
for the respect of his fellow-men, to consent to emancipation.

To the changing and purifying of public opinion, therefore, we
would chiefly devote our attention, and the means we would adopt
for this purpose are such as have hitherto been pursued for the ad-
vancement of moral reform in the world. By upholding our princi-
ples at the domestic fireside, in the social circle, and in the more ex-
tended gathering — by maintaining our testimony in our ordinary pur-
suits, in our every day intercourse, and in our moral and religious
connections — by embracing every proper opportunity to sustain the
truth of the doctrines which we profess, and to show that their ten-
dency will be to promote the interest of every portion of society, we
should, with the Divine blessing, be enabled to convince those with
whom we have connection, of the justice of our enterprise, and to
lead them to labor, in the same manner, for the accomplishment of
our purpose. Mind would be influenced by mind — and the effect of
our labors would be witnessed in the continual advancement of pub-
lic opinion to a more just and perfect standard — and in the exertion
of that public opinion to induce the slaveholder to renounce his claim
to all right of property in human flesh and blood.

If we needed any other evidence than our reason and sense of duty,
to convince us of the expediency and propriety of these measures,
we would refer to the progress which has been made, through their
influence, in the advancement of this cause during the past ten years.
At the commencement of that period, the anti-slavery question was
regarded with but little interest by the community. The great mass
of the people were too deeply insensible of its high importance, or
too much devoted to their own personal interests, to inquire into is,
character, or to give it their consideration ; while, at the same time
they gave the weight of their countenance and sanction to slavery, by
showing the highest personal friendship and regard to those who
were its willing and unblushing supporters, and admitting them, with
willing cheerfulness, to the privileges of their religious communion :
And the Society of Friends, from various influences, had ceased to
maintain an active testimony against the system, apparently regard-
ing it as an evil to be deplored, rather than to be abolished through
the aid of their influence or exertion. Any open hostility to slavery,
was regarded with but little attention, and when the movement in
favor of its immediate abolition was commenced, it was considered in
the popular estimation, to be of but little practical moment. — But, it
soon came to be regarded with feelings of deeper interest. The cha-



8

racter of slavery was fully opened to the view of the public mind,
and, with each succeeding year, those who have labored for its aboli-
tion have been strengthened by the increase of their numbers, and by
the extension of their influence in society- They have been support-
ed by the inward consciousness, that truth and righteousness have
been on their side — and through all their labor, they have been sus-
tained in the assurance that they have been favored with the Divine
blessing.

Thus supported and thus sustained, they have pursued the work to
which they believed themselves called in the beginning. They have
engaged in unceasing exertion. They have consented to repeated
personal sacrifice. They have endured bitter persecution, even from
their fellow-laborers in the Christian vineyard. — And the influence of
their efforts is now acknowledged throughout every part of our coun-
try. They are no longer a despised and powerless band. They are
regarded with respect by every portion of the community, and their
power is feared by those who are interested in the continuance of
slavery. The progress which they have made in their work has been
unequalled by the advancement of any other similar branch of reform,
and should strengthen us to pursue the same means, as far as may be
consistent with our convictions of duty, for the attainment of the
same end — in the confidence, that they who labor in the name of the
Highest, and in the cause of His oppressed and suffering children,
shall labor not in vain.

On behalf of a meeting of " The Association of Friends for pro-
moting the abolition of slavery, and improving the condition of the
free people of color," held at Green Street Meeting House, Phila-
delphia, the tenth of Fifth Month, 1842.

CALEB CLOTHIER, ) . 7
SARAH M. PALMER, C °' er



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Online Libraryand improving the condition of the free people of Association of Friends for promoting the abolitionAn address to the Society of Friends → online text (page 1 of 1)