Page images
PDF
EPUB

adds, that “ after a due consideration of the matter, the meeting considering 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 language. “ And now dear Friends we impart unto you a concern

hat 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 limitation or time of redemption from that condition. This matter was laid before this meeting many years ago, and the thing in some degree discouraged, as may appear by a minute of our Yearly Meeting, (1696,) desiring all merchants and traders professing Truth among us, to write to their correspondents, 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 Meeting again moved, and Friends being more concerned with negroes in divers other provinces 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 therein, 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 learned from the epistle to London 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 dangerous 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, discouraging the importation. We know not of any Friend amongst us, that has any hand or concern 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 are 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.”

“The subject was again introduced from the subordinate meetings into Chester quarterly meeting, in 1715,

and the following minute forwarded to the Yearly Meeting : “Chester monthly meeting having laid before this meeting that they are under a great concern at Friends being concerned in importing and buying of negroes, and do request the concurrence of this meeting with them, that Friends be not concerned in the importing and bringing of them ; and Newark monthly meeting also requesting the discouraging of the same practice; this meeting taking the same into their serious and weighty consideration, it is the unanimous sense and judgment of this meeting, that Friends should not be concerned in the importing and bringing of negro slaves for the future; and that the same be laid before the next Yearly Meeting for their concurrence therein.” All that the Yearly Meeting was able to do at this time is expressed in the following minute of that year, (1715) : “ If any Friends are concerned in the importation of negroes, let them be dealt with and advised to avoid that practice, according to the sense of former meetings in that behalf; and that all Friends who have or keep negroes, do use and treat them with humanity and with a Christian spirit ; and that all do forbear judging or reflecting on one another, either in public or private, concerning the detaining or keeping them servants.”

The Friends of Chester quarterly meeting, not resting easy under this minute, renewed their solicitations in the following year. By minute of Fourth month, 25th, 1716, Chester monthly meeting desires that the quarterly meeting will take into their further consideration, the buying and selling of negroes, which gives great encouragement for the bringing of them in : and that no Friends be found in the practice of buying any

that shall be imported hereafter.” This minute was forwarded by the quarterly to the Yearly Meeting, where it met with but a cold reception, viz.

“ As to the proposal from Chester meeting about negroes, there being no more in it than was proposed to the last Yearly Meeting, this meeting cannot see any better conclusion, than what was the judgment of the last meeting, and therefore do confirm the same; and yet in condescension to such Friends as are straitened in their minds against the holding them, it is desired, that Friends generally do, as much as may be, avoid buying such negroes as shall hereafter be brought in, rather than offend any Friends who are against it; yet this is only caution and not censure.”

It thus appears that all that could at this time be gained, was to prohibit Friends from bringing in negroes from Africa or elsewhere, and to advise that they should not purchase such as were imported, and that they treat with humanity and in a Christian manner, those already in their possession.

The first step being thus taken, and the meeting not being prepared to go further, an interval of ten years occurs without any notice of the subject, but in which the sentiments of Friends appear to have been preparing for another advance in this righteous testimony.

In the Fifth month, 1729, the faithful Friends of Chester monthly meeting “ offer to the quarterly meeting, that inasmuch as we are restricted by a rule of discipline from being concerned in fetching or importing negro slaves from their own country, whether it is not as reasonable we should be restricted from buying of them when imported; and if so, and the quarterly

meeting see meet, that it may be laid before the Yearly Meeting for their approbation and concurrence.” The substance of this minute was adopted by the quarterly meeting, and sent to the Yearly Meeting of that year, (1729,) which deferred the consideration for one year, and in 1730, issued the following advice.

“ The Friends of this meeting resuming the consideration of the proposition of Chester meeting, relating to the purchasing of such negroes as may hereafter be imported; and having reviewed and considered the former minutes relating thereto, and having maturely deliberated thereon, are now of opinion, that Friends ought to be very cautious of making any such purchases for the future, it being disagreeable to the sense of this meeting. And this meeting recommends it to the care of the several monthly meetings, to see that such who may be, or are likely to be found in that practice, may be admonished and cautioned how they offend herein."

This advice was renewed in 1735, and repeated annually thereafter (with the exception of 1740,) until 1743; and it appears that reports were annually sent up, stating the care of the subordinate meetings in these particulars.

From the minutes of several of the meetings, it appears that frequent labour was extended from this time forward, to induce those who were in the way of buying or of selling slaves, to cease from the practice.

In the First month, 1738, Haddonfield quarterly meeting directed the monthly meetings to make inquiry into, and to answer in their reports, the situation of their members, “respecting the buying and selling slaves."

« PreviousContinue »