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In the Seventh month of that year, the monthly meetings reported that they were mostly clear of buying and selling slaves.
That this labour was not ineffectual, and that it was not confined to a single quarterly meeting, is apparent from the following minute.
“ Divers Friends in this meeting," says the Yearly Meeting of 1738, “expressed their satisfaction in find. ing by the reports of the quarterly meetings, that there is so little occasion of offence given by Friends concerning the encouraging the importing of negroes ; and this meeting desires the care of Friends in their quarterly and monthly meetings, in this particular, may be continued." ”
In the year 1743, the following query was adopted, and directed to be regularly answered :*
“ 11th. Do Friends observe the former advice of our Yearly Meeting, not to encourage the importation of negroes ; nor to buy them after imported ?"
* The meetings for discipline in the Society of Friends, are of four grades, Preparative, Monthly, Quarterly and Yearly. The first prepare the business for the Monthly Meetings, which may be considered the executive part of the Society ; the Quarterly Meetings exercise a supervisory care over the Preparative and Monthly, which are subordi. nate to them, and the Yearly Meeting includes the whole; exercising a general care over all departments of the Society, and making all the rules for its government. The queries are answered by the inferior to the superior meetings, and relate to the due attendance of the members at meetings for Divine worship and for the transaction of the discipline; to the maintenance of love and unity; the proper religious and literary instruction of the children; the care of the poor; the observance of temperance, and of moderation in business, inanner of living, &c.; the due support of discipline, and of the various Christian testimonies which the Society believes itself called to uphold. The answers to these que. ries are annually sent up to the Yearly Meeting, so as to place before that body the religious condition of all its subordinate branches.
In 1755, this query was thus modified: “ 10th. Are Friends clear of importing or buying
; possessed of by inheritance or otherwise; endeavouring to train them up in the principles of the Christian religion ?"
While the Society was thus clearing itself of the importing, and selling and purchasing of negroes, the concern was spreading on account of slavery itself, and Friends in various quarters, felt more and more deeply, its utter repugnance to the spirit of the gospel. Among the foremost of these were John Woolman and Anthony Benezet, whose writings a few years subsequent to this period, had so great an influence upon public sentiment. John Woolman's attention was more particularly turned to this subject in the year 1742, in consequence of being requested by his employer to write a bill of sale for a negro woman whom he had sold. The thought of writing an instrument of slavery for one of his fellow creatures was uneasy to him; yet through weakness he yielded; but at the execution of it was so afflicted in his mind, that he felt constrained in the presence of his employer and the purchaser, to declare his belief that slave keeping was a practice inconsistent with the Christian religion. From this time forward, he was a constant and earnest pleader with his brethren for the liberty of the slave.
In the year 1754, he published his Considerations on the Keeping of Negroes, which was widely and usefully circulated among Friends.
In the same year, an epistle to its members, the substance of which was sent up from Philadelphia
monthly meeting, and which is supposed to have been from the pen of Anthony Benezet, was issued by the Yearly Meeting. This paper shows the increasing hold which the subject had taken of the Society, and is a document well worthy of being again revived. It is as follows:
“Dear Friends. It hath frequently been the concern of our Yearly Meeting, to testify their uneasiness and disunity with the importation and purchasing of negroes and other slaves, and to direct the overseers of the several meetings, to advise and deal with such as engage therein; and it hath likewise been the continued care of many weighty Friends, to press those that bear our name, to guard as much as possible, against being in any respect concerned in promoting the bondage of such unhappy people; yet as we have with sorrow to observe, that their number is of late increas. ed amongst us, we have thought proper to make our advice and judgment more public, that none may plead ignorance of our principles therein ; and also again earnestly exhort all, to avoid in any manner encouraging that practice, of making slaves of our fellow creatures.
“Now, dear Friends, if we continually bear in mind the royal law of doing to others as we would be done by,' we should never think of bereaving our fellowcreatures of that valuable blessing, liberty, nor endure to grow rich by their bondage. To live in ease and plenty, by the toil of those, whom violence and cruelty have put in our power, is neither consistent with Christianity nor common justice; and we have good reason to believe, draws down the displeasure of heaven; it being a melancholy, but true reflection, that where
slave keeping prevails, pure religion and sobriety decline; as it evidently tends to harden the heart, and render the soul less susceptible of that holy spirit of love, meekness and charity, which is the peculiar character of a true Christian. How then can we, who have been concerned to publish the gospel of universal love and peace among mankind, be so inconsistent with ourselves, as to purchase such who are prisoners of war, and thereby encourage this anti-Christian practice: and more especially as many of those poor creatures are stolen away, parents from children and children from parents; and others, who were in good circumstances in their native country, inhumanly torn from what they esteemed a happy situation, and compelled to toil in a state of slavery, too often extremely cruel. What dreadful scenes of murder and cruelty those barbarous ravages must occasion, in the country of those unhappy people, are too obvious to mention. Let us make their case our own, and consider what we should think, and how we should feel, were we in their circumstances. Remember our blessed Redeemer's positive command, to do unto others as we would have them to do unto us ;' and that with what measure we meet, it shall be measured to us again. And we intreat all to examine, whether the purchasing of a negro, either born here, or imported, doth not contribute to a further importation, and consequently to the upholding all the evils above mentioned, and promoting man-stealing,—the only theft which by the Mosaic law was punished with death. He that stealeth a man and selleth him, or if he be found in his hands, he shall surely be put to death.'-Exod. xxi. 16.
“ The characteristic and badge of a true Christian, is love and good works. Our Saviour's whole life on earth, was one continued exercise of them. •Love one another,' says he, as I have loved you.' How can we be said to love our brethren, who bring, or for selfish ends, keep them in bondage? Do we act consistent with this noble principle, who lay such heavy burthens on our fellow creatures ? Do we consider that they are called, and sincerely desire that they may become heirs with us in glory; and rejoice in the liberty of the sons of God, whilst we are withholding from them the common liberties of mankind? Or can the Spirit of God, by which we have always professed to be led, be the author of those oppressive and unrighteous measures? Do we not thereby manifest, that temporal interest hath more influence on our conduct herein, than the dictates of that merciful, holy, and unerring Guide ?
“ And we likewise earnestly recommend to all who have slaves, to be careful to come up in the performance of their duty towards them; and to be particularly watchful over their own hearts; it being by sorrowful experience remarkable, that custom, and a familiarity with evil of any kind, have a tendency to bias the judgment, and deprave the mind; and it is obvious, that the future welfare of these poor slaves who are now in bondage, is generally too much disregarded by those who keep them. If their daily task of labour be but fulfilled, little else perhaps is thought of; nay, even that which in others would be looked upon with horror and detestation, is little regarded in them by their masters, such as the frequent separation of husbands from wives, and wives from husbands, whereby they are tempted to break their marriage