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A Visit to the United States in 1841 online

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of upright Friends, our religious society were brought to a
united and settled judgment as a body, that personal slavery,
both in its origin and its results, was so great an evil, that
it could be tolerated by no mitigation of its hardship; and they
felt the demands of equity to be so urgent upon them, that they
were concerned to enjoin it upon Friends every where, by a ready
compliance with such reasonable duty, to cease to do evil, by
immediately releasing those they held as slaves. Their own hands
being cleansed from this pollution, they felt it to be laid upon
them, plainly and faithfully, to labor with their countrymen to
bring them to a full understanding of the requiring of the
Divine law, and to press it upon them to act up to its
commandments. In the love of God, they were bold, both in your
country and in ours, to plead the cause of the oppressed with
those in power. We believe, and we would wish to speak of it
with modesty and humility, that their faithfulness, in
connection with the exertions of humane and devoted men of other
Christian communities, were instrumental to bring about the
abolition of the slave trade, as well as the extinction of

"We are reverently impressed with a sense of the prerogatives of
the Great Head of the Church, to dispose of his servants, and to
employ their time, and every talent which he has intrusted them,
in such a way and manner as may consist with the purposes of his
wisdom and love. It is the concern of this Meeting, that all our
dear friends may carefully seek each to know his Lord's will,
and to ascertain his individual path of duty; at the same time
we desire to encourage one another to simple obedience to that
which in the true light may be made manifest to them; and each
to an unflinching and uncompromising avowal of his allegiance to
his Lord in all things.

"We observe with satisfaction and comfort, in the epistles from
your Yearly Meetings, which have been read in this Meeting, that
there is a very general acknowledgment of concern on this
important subject. It has often been a prominent feature in the
brotherly correspondence which subsists between us. The
expression of your encouragement in times past, has been helpful
to us, and in the trials and difficulties you have had to
endure, our hearts have been brought into fellow feeling with
you. In this work of justice and love, we have long labored
together. It has helped to strengthen the bond of our union; and
in the fresh sense of this Christian fellowship, as it is now
renewed amongst us, we offer you, beloved friends, the warm
expression of our sympathy, and our strong desire for your help
and encouragement. So far removed as we are from the scene of
slavery, we are aware that we can but imperfectly appreciate
either the sufferings of the slave, or the trials of those who
live in the midst of such oppression; nor do we believe that we
can fully appreciate either the labors of faithful Friends in
your land, or the obstacles and discouragements which have been
thrown in their way.

"The brief review we have taken of the history of our Society,
in reference to this deeply interesting subject, and the feeling
which prevails with us, under a sense of the enormity of the
evil, urges us, and we desire that it may have the same effect
upon you, still to persevere; and in every way that may be
pointed out to us of the Lord, that we may continue to expose
the evil of this unjust interference with the natural and social
rights of man. Time is short, the day is spending fast with
every one of us, and we had need to use diligence in the work of
our day. We know the high authority under which we are commanded
to 'love our neighbor as ourselves.' It is our desire on our own
account, and in this exercise of mind we believe, dear friends,
that you are one with us, that in our efforts to discharge the
duties laid upon us, we may watch against a hopeless and
distrustful spirit in times of discouragement. And O that in his
great mercy and love towards his poor afflicted and helpless
children, it might please Him to hasten the coming of that day,
even to this generation of the enslaved in your land, in which
every yoke shall be broken and the oppressed go free.

"If, in this righteous cause, we move in the leading of our
Lord, we may humbly trust that he, with whom there is no respect
of persons, who careth for the sparrows and feedeth the ravens,
will grant to his dependent ones the help and support of his
Holy Spirit, and enable them, in the face of every opposition,
to do that which is made known to them as his will.

"With the enlarged views entertained by Friends of the mercy and
love of our heavenly Father towards his children of every nation
and tongue all the world over, we desire to press it upon you
still to labor for the removal of all those unjust laws and
limitations of right and privilege consequent upon the
unwarrantable distinction of color - a distinction which has
brought so much suffering upon those settled in different parts
of the Union, and which we think must conduce to the
strengthening of the prejudices of former years, and to retard
the work of emancipation.

"It is affecting to us to think with what astonishing rapidity
slavery is extending itself upon the Continent of North America,
and how from year to year the slave population is increasing
among you. Our spirits are oppressed with a sense of the
magnitude of the evil; we tremble at the awful consequence
which, in the justice and wisdom of Almighty God, may ensue to
those who persist in the upholding of it. We commend the whole
subject to your most serious attention, and desiring that divine
wisdom may be near to help in your deliberations upon it,

"We bid you, affectionately, farewell.

"Signed in and on behalf of the Meeting, by


"_Clerk to the Meeting this year_."



The following extract from Clarkson's "Memoirs of the Public and Private
Life of William Penn," will show how the society of Friends, at a very
early period, became unwarily entangled with the practice of slave
holding; and also that the unchristian nature of it was immediately
perceived by the more spiritual minded among them. It will serve also to
prove that the testimony of Friends against slavery is no novelty, but
is coeval with its rise as a distinct religious body. The measures
proposed by William Penn on this subject, are an honorable testimony to
the comprehensive benevolence of that truly great and magnanimous
legislator, yet they fell short of the exigencies of the case, and of
what Christian people required; consequently what good they directly
effected was local and temporary. Viewed as the germ of subsequent
anti-slavery enterprises of the last century, in Europe and America,
their interest and importance cannot be too highly estimated.

"I must observe, that soon after the colony (Pennsylvania) had
been planted, that is, in the year 1682, when William Penn was
first resident in it, some few Africans had been imported, but
that more had followed. At this time the traffic in slaves was
not branded with infamy, as at the present day. It was
considered, on the other hand, as favorable to both parties: to
the American planters, because they had but few laborers, in
comparison with the extent of their lands; and to the poor
Africans themselves, because they were looked upon as persons
redeemed out of superstition, idolatry, and heathenism. But
though the purchase and sale of them had been admitted with less
caution upon this principle, there were not wanting among the
Quakers of Pennsylvania those who, soon after the introduction
of them there, began to question the moral licitness of the
traffic. Accordingly, at the Yearly Meeting for Pennsylvania,
held in 1688, it had been resolved, on the suggestion of
emigrants from Crisheim, who had adopted the principles of
William Penn, that the buying, selling, and holding men in
slavery, was inconsistent with the tenets of the Christian
religion. In 1696, a similar resolution had been passed at the
Yearly Meeting of the same religious society for the same
province. In consequence, then, of these noble resolutions, the
Quakers had begun to treat their slaves in a different manner
from that of other people. They had begun to consider them as
children of the same great Parent, to whom fraternal offices
were due; and hence, in 1698, there were instances where they
had admitted them into their meeting houses to worship in common
with themselves.[A]

[Footnote A: "I cannot help copying into a note an anecdote from
Thomas Story's Journal for this year (1698). 'On the 13th,' says
he, 'we had a pretty large meeting, where several were tendered,
among whom were some negroes. And here I shall observe, that
Thomas Simons having several negroes, one of them, as also
several belonging to Henry White, had of late come to meetings,
and having a sense of truth, several others thereway were
likewise convinced, and like to do well. And the morning that we
came from Thomas Simons's, my companion speaking some words of
truth to his negro woman, she was tendered; and as I passed on
horseback by the place where she stood weeping, I gave her my
hand, and then she was much more broken: and finding the day of
the Lord's tender visitation and mercy upon her, I spake
encouragingly to her, and was glad to find the poor blacks so
near the truth and reachable.' She stood there, looking after us
and weeping, as long as we could see her. I had inquired of one
of the black men how long they had come to meetings, and he said
'they had always been kept in ignorance, and disregarded as
persons who were not to expect any thing from the Lord, till
Jonathan Taylor, who had been there the year before, discoursing
with them, had informed them that the grace of God, through
Christ, was given also to them; and that they ought to believe
in and be led and taught by it, and so might come to be good
Friends, and saved as well as others. And on the next occasion,
which was when William Ellis and Aaron Atkinson were there, they
went to meetings, and several of them were convinced.' Thus one
planteth and another watereth, but God giveth the increase."]

"William Penn was highly gratified by the consideration of what
has been done on this important subject. From the very first
introduction of enslaved Africans into this province, he had
been solicitous about their temporal and eternal welfare. He had
always considered them as persons of the like nature with
himself; as having the same desire of pleasure and the same
aversion from pain; as children of the same Father, and heirs of
the same promises. Knowing how naturally the human heart became
corrupted and hardened by the use of power, he was fearful lest,
in time, these friendless strangers should become an oppressed
people. Accordingly, as his predecessor, George Fox, when he
first visited the British West Indies, exhorted all those who
attended his meetings for worship there, to consider their
slaves as branches of their own families, for whose spiritual
instruction they would one day or other be required to give an
account, so William Penn had, on his first arrival in America,
inculcated the same notion. It lay, therefore, now upon his mind
to endeavor to bring into practice what had appeared to him to
be right in principle. One of them was to try to incorporate the
treatment of slaves, as a matter of Christian duty, into _the
discipline of his own religious society_; and the other, to
secure it among others in the colony of a different religious
description, _by a legislative act_. Both of these were
necessary. The former, however, he resolved to attempt first.
The Society itself had already afforded him a precedent, by its
resolutions in 1688 and in 1696, as before mentioned, and had
thereby done something material in the progress of the work. It
was only to get a minute passed upon their books to the intended
effect. Accordingly, at the very first Monthly Meeting of the
Society, which took place in Philadelphia in the present year,
he proposed the subject. He laid before them the concern which
had been so long upon his mind, relative to these unfortunate
people; he pressed upon them the duty of allowing them as
frequently as possible to attend their Meetings for worship, and
the benefit that would accrue to both, by the instruction of
them in the principles of the Christian religion. The result
was, that a Meeting was appointed more particularly for the
negroes, once every month; so that besides the common
opportunities they had of collecting religious knowledge, by
frequenting the places of worship, there was one day in the
month, in which, as far as the influence of the Monthly Meeting
extended, they could neither be temporally nor spiritually
overlooked. At this Meeting also, he proposed means, which were
acceded to, for a more frequent intercourse between Friends and
the Indians; he (William Penn,) taking upon himself the charge
of procuring interpreters, as well as of forwarding the means
proposed." - Vol. II. pp. 218-222.




"The Committee charged with promoting the Gradual Improvement
and Civilization of the Indian Natives, report: -

"That although they have given attention to this interesting
concern, there are but few subjects in their operations, since
the last report, which require notice. The Indians have been in
a very unsettled condition during the past year, in consequence
of the embarrassment and distress produced by the ratification
of the treaty, and their uncertainty as to the best course to be
pursued by them in their trying and perplexing circumstances.
They still cling to the hope that they shall be able to ward off
the calamity which threatens them, either through the favorable
disposition of the new Administration and Senate, to give their
case a re-hearing, or by an Appeal to the Supreme Court of the
United States. Small as the hope afforded by these sources may
appear to a disinterested observer, they are buoyed up by it,
and seem as unwilling as ever, to look toward relinquishing
their present homes.

"In a communication addressed to the committee, dated
Tunesassah, Fifth Month 24th, 1840, signed by ten chiefs, they
say, 'Although, the information of the ratification of the
treaty is distressing to us, yet it is a satisfaction to hear
from you, and to learn that you still remember us in our
troubles, and are disposed to advise and assist us. The
intelligence of the confirmation of the treaty caused many of
our women to shed tears of sorrow. We are sensible that we stand
in need of the advice of our friends. Our minds are unaltered on
the subject of emigration.' Another dated Cold Spring, Twelfth
Month 8th, 1840, holds this language: 'Brothers, we continue to
feel relative to the treaty as we have ever felt. We cannot
regard it as an act of our nation, or hold it to be binding on
us. We still consider, that in justice, the land is at this time
as much our own as ever it was. We have done nothing to forfeit
our right to it; and have come to a conclusion to remain upon it
as long as we can enjoy it in peace.' 'We trust in the Great
Spirit: to Him we submit our cause.'

"A letter from the Senecas, residing at Tonawanda, was addressed
to the Committee, from which the following extracts are taken:

"'By the help of the Great Spirit we have met in open
council this 23d day of the Fifth Month, 1840, for the
purpose of deliberating on the right course for us to
pursue under the late act of the government of the
United States relating to our lands. Brothers, we are in
trouble; we have been told that the President has
ratified a treaty, by which these lands are sold from
our possession. We look to you and solicit your advice
and your sympathy under the accumulating difficulties
that now surround us. We feel more than ever, our need
of the help of the great and good Spirit, to guide us
aright. May his council ever preserve and direct us all
in true wisdom.

"'It is known to you, brothers, that at different times
our people have been induced to cede, by stipulated
treaties, to the government of the United States,
various tracts of our territory, until it is so reduced
that it barely affords us a home. We had hoped by these
liberal concessions to secure the quiet and unmolested
possession of this small residue, but we have abundant
reason to fear that we have been mistaken. The agent and
surveyor of a company of land speculators, known as the
Ogden Company, have been on here to lay out our land
into lots, to be sold from us to the whites. We have
protested against it, and have forbidden their

"'Brothers, what we want, is that you should intercede
with the United States government on our behalf. We do
not want to leave our lands. We are willing that the
emigrating party should sell out their rights, but we
are not willing that they should sell ours.

"'Brothers, we want the President of the United States
to know that we are for peace; that we only ask the
possession of our just rights. We have kept in good
faith all our agreements with the government. In our
innocence of any violation we ask its protection. In our
weakness we look to it for justice and mercy. We desire
to live upon our lands in peace and harmony. We love
Tonawanda. It is the residue left us of the land of our
forefathers. We have no wish to leave it. Here are our
cultivated fields, our houses, our wives and children,
and our firesides - and here we wish to lay our bones in

"'Brothers, in conclusion, we desire to express our
sincere thanks to you for your friendly assistance in
times past, and at the same time earnestly solicit your
further attention and advice. Brothers, may the Great
Spirit befriend you all - farewell.'

"Desirous of rendering such aid as might be in our power, a
correspondence has been held with some members of Congress, on
the subject of the treaty, and other matters connected with it;
and recently, two of our number visited Washington, and were
assured by the present Secretary of War, under whose immediate
charge the Indian affairs are placed, that it was his
determination, and that of the other officers of the government,
to give to the treaty, and the circumstances attending its
procurement, a thorough examination; and to adopt such a course
respecting it, as justice and humanity to the Indians would

"The friends who have for several years resided at Tunesassah
still continue to occupy the farm, and have charge of the saw
and grist mills and other improvements. The farm, during the
past year, has yielded about thirty-five tons of hay, two
hundred bushels of potatoes, one hundred bushels of oats, and
one hundred bushels of apples. Notwithstanding the unsettlement
produced by the treaty during the past season, the Indians have
raised an adequate supply of provisions to keep them comfortably
during the year; and they manifest an increased desire to avoid
the use of ardent spirits, and to have their children educated.
In their letter of the Twelfth Month last, the chiefs say, 'We
are more engaged to have our children educated than we have
heretofore been. There are at this time three schools in
operation on this reservation, for the instruction of our

"Our friend, Joseph Batty, in a letter dated 28th of Second
Month last, says, 'The Indians have held several temperance
councils this winter. The chiefs - with the exception of two, who
were not present - have all signed a pledge to abstain from the
use of all intoxicating liquors, and appear engaged to bring
about a reform among their people; but the influence of the
whites among them is prejudicial to their improvement in this
and other respects.'

"By direction of the Committee,


"_Philadelphia, 4th Month 15th, 1841_."



The following particulars of this memorable person are chiefly taken
from a work, now very scarce, entitled "The Life of Elisha Tyson, the
Philanthropist, by a Citizen of Baltimore."

"The eldest known ancestor of Mr. Tyson was a German Quaker,
converted to the faith of Fox by the preaching of William Penn.
Persecuted by the government of his native country for his
religion, he gathered up his all and followed Penn to England;
with whom, and at whose request, he afterwards embarked for
America, and was among the first settlers of Pennsylvania. He
established himself within what are now called the environs of
Philadelphia, married the daughter of an English settler, and
became the happy father of sons and daughters. From these, many
descendants have been derived.

"Elisha Tyson was one of the great grandsons in direct descent
of the German Quaker, and was born on the spot which he had
chosen for his residence. The religion and virtues of this
ancestor were instilled into the minds of his children and
children's children, to the third and fourth generation - not by
transmission of blood, but by the force of a guarded and a
Christian education. In the subject of this memoir, they blazed
forth with superior lustre. From his infancy he was conspicuous
in his neighborhood for that benevolence of heart and
intrepidity of soul, which so highly distinguished him in after

In his early manhood he removed to Baltimore, in the slave State of
Maryland. Here, from his first residence, he took an active part in
various benevolent and public spirited enterprises, although he had to
struggle with early difficulties, having no resources for his support
but honesty, industry, and perseverance. The cause of the oppressed
slaves very soon engaged his attention, and his unwearied exertions in
their behalf ceased not till the close of a long and energetic life. In
the following quotation, describing the American slave trade, although
the past tense is employed by his biographer, yet if Louisiana be
substituted for Georgia, the whole representation is true of the present
time. That dreadful traffic has increased many fold since the date here
alluded to, at which E. Tyson's career of benevolence commenced.

"Even the most creditable merchants felt no compunction in speculating
in the flesh and blood of their own species. These articles of
merchandize were as common as wheat and tobacco, and ranked with these
as a staple of Maryland. This state of things was naturally productive
of scenes of cruelty. Georgia was then the great receptacle of that
portion of these unfortunate beings, who were exported beyond the limits
of their native soil; and the worst name given to Tartarus itself could
not be more appalling to their imaginations than the name of that sister

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Online LibraryJoseph SturgeA Visit to the United States in 1841 → online text (page 18 of 26)