Christians pioneered Anti-Slavery Movement: Quaker Anthony Benezet to JQA to Republican Senator Charles Sumner - American Minute with Bill Federer

Some Anti-Slavery Champions: Quaker Anthony Benezet to Republican Senator Charles Sumner - American Minute with Bill Federer

Who were the first to champion abolishing slavery in America?
-- The Christian settlers in Pennsylvania!
Quakers, Pietist Lutherans and Mennonites went on record as being the first to oppose slavery in America with their Germantown Petition of 1688, just 6 years after William Penn founded the colony.
The Germantown Quaker Petition Against Slavery, submitted by Francis Daniel Pastorius and three others, was the first American document protesting slavery:
It stated:
"How fearful and fainthearted are many on sea, when they see a strange vessel, --being afraid it should be a Turk, and they should be taken, and sold for slaves into Turkey.
... Now what is this better done, as Turks do?
Yea, rather it is worse for them, which say they are Christians; for we hear that ye most part of such negroes are brought hither against their will and consent, and that many of them are stolen ...
There is a saying that we shall do to all men like as we will be done ourselves; making no difference of what generation, descent or color they are.
And those who steal or rob men, and those who buy or purchase them, are they not all alike?
Here is liberty of conscience which is right and reasonable; here ought to be liberty of ye body ... But to bring men hither, or to rob and sell them against their will, we stand against.
... In Europe there are many oppressed for conscience sake; and here there are those oppressed which are of a black color ...
This makes an ill report in all those countries of Europe, where they hear of, that ye Quakers do here handle men as they handle there ye cattle ...
We ... are against this traffic of men-body.
And we who profess that it is not lawful to steal, must, likewise, avoid to purchase such things as are stolen ... Then is Pennsylvania to have a good report ... in what manner ye Quakers do rule in their province."
Quakers had the courage to stand against slavery, even though the government of England financially benefited from it.
In the early 1700s, many colonies tried ending slavery but Queen Anne would not allow it.
The monarchy of England was part owner in the Royal African Company, which since its founding in 1660, shipped more slaves to the Americas than any other entity.
Anthony Benezet, a Protestant Christian Huguenot, fled persecution in France to England, then migrated with his family to Philadelphia at age 17.
He joined the Quakers and worked as a teacher.
Beginning in 1750, after school hours, Anthony Benezet began bringing slave children into his home where he taught them to read.
He also advocated for Indian Natives and started the first school for girls in America in 1754.
In 1758, at the yearly Quaker Meeting in Philadelphia, Anthony Benezet and Quaker John Woolman, convinced Quakers to publicly go on record as being officially against slavery.
In 1764, James Otis wrote in "The Rights of the British Colonies Asserted and Proved":
"The grant of GOD Almighty ... has given to all men a natural right to be free ...
Colonists ... are men, the common children of the same Creator ...
Nature has placed all such in a state of equality and perfect freedom ... Colonists are by the law of nature freeborn, as indeed all men are, white or black.
No better reasons can be given for enslaving those of any color than such as Baron Montesquieu has humorously given as the foundation of that cruel slavery exercised over the poor Ethiopians, which threatens one day to reduce both Europe and America to the ignorance and barbarity of the darkest ages.
... Does it follow that tis right to enslave a man because he is black?
Will short, curled hair like wool ... help the argument?
Can any logical inference in favor of slavery be drawn from a flat nose, a long or a short face? ...
(Slave) trade ... is the most shocking violation of the law of nature ... and makes every dealer in it a tyrant, from the director of an African company to the petty chapman (merchant) in needles and pins on the unhappy coast.
It is a clear truth that those who everyday barter away other men's liberty will soon care little for their own ...
... In the province of the Massachusetts Bay ... colonists, black and white, born here are freeborn British subjects, and entitled to all the essential civil rights ...
Has this whole continent of ... millions of good, loyal, and useful subjects, white and black ... the election of one member of the House of Commons? ...
No man can take my property from me without my consent: if he does, he deprives me of my liberty and makes me a slave."
In 1766, Anthony Benezet wrote in "Warning to Great Britain ... of the Calamitous State of the Enslaved Negroes" that:
"Slavery ... contradicted the precepts and example of Christ? ...
Bondage ... imposed on the Africans, is absolutely repugnant to justice ... shocking to humanity, violative of every generous sentiment, abhorrent utterly from the Christian religion."
In 1770, Benezet led Quakers to found the Negro School at Philadelphia, being encouraged by both Methodist founder John Wesley and Benjamin Franklin.
In 1770, free black John Marrant heard evangelist George Whitefield during the Great Awakening Revival.
He converted, but was soon rejected by his family, so he wandered to live in the woods, being befriended by the Cherokee and learned their language.
As Revolutionary tensions grew, British incited the Cherokee chief who arrested Marrant and almost executed him.
Marrant preached to Gospel to the chief, who converted, and set him free to preach among the Cherokee, as well as the Creek, Catawba and Housaw.
John Marrant returned to South Carolina to preach among slaves when the British impressed him into their navy. He was taken to England where he preached for years and later in Nova Scotia.
His life story was written in A Narrative of the Lord’s Wonderful Dealings with John Marrant-A Black, which went through 17 editions.
In 1772, Benezet condemned slavery in his tract "Account of Guinea ... An Inquiry into the Rise & Progress of the Slave Trade, Its Nature & Lamentable Effects."
After reading it, Patrick Henry came under conviction, writing to Robert Pleasants in 1773:
"I take this opportunity to acknowledge ye receipt of Anthony Benezet's book against the slave trade. I thank you for it. Would any one believe that I am a master of slaves of my own purchase?
I am drawn along by ye general inconvenience of living without them; I will not, I cannot justify it."
Patrick Henry became one of the most out-spoken Virginia founding fathers in actively condemning slavery, as being “inconsistent with the Bible, and destructive to morality.”
In 1778, Henry successful lobbied the Virginia Legislature to cease the importation of slaves.
Jefferson wrote that Henry was “even more determined in his opposition to slavery then the rest of us.”
Jefferson's original rough draft of the Declaration of Independence contained a line condemning the slave trade of King George's Royal African Company:
"He has waged cruel war against human nature itself ... in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither ...
suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce determining to keep open a market where MEN should be bought and sold."
Unfortunately, the delegates from South Carolina and Georgia objected.
Since the Declaration needed to be unanimous, and at the same time news arrived causing panic that the British were preparing to attack New York, the lines against slavery were deleted from the Declaration.
Betsy Ross, who sowed an American flag, was a Quaker.
As the Quakers were on record as being wholeheartedly against slavery, the flag could be considered as early an anti-slavery symbol.
In 1775, Anthony Benezet helped found the Society for the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage, with 17 of the 24 founders being Quakers.
It was the first society in America dedicated to abolishing slavery.
In 1784, its name was changed to Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery & the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage.
In 1787, Ben Franklin became its president.
Pennsylvania passed a law in 1780 ending slavery:
"Negroes, and mulattos, as others ... after the passing of this Act, shall not be ... slaves."
Anthony Benezet's English anti-slavery associate was Thomas Clarkson, a student at Cambridge University who was honored with first prize for writing "An Essay on the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species," 1785, in which he wrote:
"Slavery is ... a crime, which being both of individuals and the nation, must sometime draw down upon us the heaviest judgment of Almighty God, who made of one blood all the sons of men, and who gave to all equally a natural right to liberty."
In 1773, freed slaves George Liele and David George organized the Silver Bluff Baptist Church in Beach Island, South Carolina, considered one of the first black congregations in America.
When the Revolutionary War threatened, Liele began a church in Savannah, Georgia, meeting in Jonathan Bryan’s barn.
One of Bryan’s slaves, Andrew Bryan, converted, was freed, and became the pastor of the congregation –– First Bryan Baptist Church –– one of the first black Baptist churches in North America.
Another early black congregation met in 1774 on the plantation of Colonel William Byrd III. It grew into the First Baptist Church of Petersburg, Virginia, where, in 1865, Virginia’s first Republican convention was held.
As the Revolution grew more intense, George Liele, in 1783, evacuated with his wife, and his four children to Jamaica. He baptized hundreds, and by 1814 had organized over 8,000 members into numerous Baptist churches.
In 1787, the Northwest Ordinance outlawed slavery in the territory which would become Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.
"Black Harry" Hosier preached to crowds in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Boston, Connecticut, Philadelphia, Delaware, Baltimore and New York, and was described by historians as: “... a renowned camp meeting exhorter, the most widely known black preacher of his time, and arguably the greatest circuit rider of his day.”
Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration, described Hosier’s preaching as the greatest he had ever heard. His sermon “The Barren Fig Tree,” in 1781, became the first sermon by a black preacher that was printed.
“Black Harry” Hosier and another famous black preacher, Richard Allen, were at the winter meeting of 1784, where the Methodist Church officially separated from the Church of England to form its own denomination.
Richard Allen, a freed slave, became a licensed exhorter in 1783, and preached in Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland.
He formed a church in 1794, known as Mother Bethel, with the dedication being preached by circuit-riding Methodist Bishop Francis Asbury. It is the oldest parcel of real estate in the United States owned continuously by African Americans. George Washington and Dr. Benjamin Rush contributed to Allen’s church.
In 1816, Allen led in the forming of an entirely new denomination, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, which was the first African–American denomination organized in the United States.
Allen gave his approval for Jarena Lee to become the first woman to receive “authorization” to preach.
Allen supported missionary Rev. Scipio Beanes in Haiti, 1827, and other missionaries from San Domingo to Africa.
Richard Bassett, a Signer of the Constitution from Delaware, converted to Methodism, freed all his slaves and paid them as hired labor.
On February 3, 1790, less than three months before he died, Franklin petitioned Congress to ban slavery:
"For promoting the Abolition of Slavery, the relief of free Negroes unlawfully held in bondage, & the Improvement of the Condition of the African Races ... an Association was formed ... in this state by a number of her citizens of various religious denominations for promoting the abolition of Slavery ...
A just and accurate conception of the true principles of liberty ... by the blessing of Divine Providence, have been successfully directed to the relieving from bondage a large number of their fellow Creatures of the African Race ...
.. That mankind are all formed by the same Almighty Being, alike objects of His care and equally designed for the enjoyment of happiness the Christian Religion teaches us to believe and the political creed of America fully coincides ... that these blessings ought rightfully to be administered, without distinction of Color, to all descriptions of People ... that equal liberty ... is still the birthright of all men ...
They earnestly entreat your serious attention to the subject of Slavery ... restoration of liberty to those unhappy Men, who alone, in this land of Freedom, are degraded into perpetual Bondage ... groaning in servile subjection, that you will devise means for removing this ... promote mercy and justice towards this distressed Race, and ... for discouraging every species of traffick in the Persons of Our Fellow Men.
--Philadelphia February 3, 1790
B. Franklin."
In 1807, Congress passed the Slave Importation Act, signed by Jefferson, which prohibited further importation of slaves.
The U.S. Coast captured numerous slave trading ships.
Francis Scott Key fought a seven year legal battle to free the African slaves from the captured ship Antelope.
With the help of Francis Scott Key, Congressman and former President John Quincy Adams fought the legal battle to free African slaves from the ship Amistad.
Adams worked to end slavery by removing Congress' Gag Rule.
Prior to the Civil War, 19 of the 34 States outlawed slavery:
  • Pennsylvania 1787,
  • New Hampshire 1788,
  • Connecticut 1788,
  • Massachusetts 1788,
  • Rhode Island 1790,
  • Vermont 1791,
  • New York 1799,
  • Ohio 1803,
  • New Jersey 1804,
  • Indiana 1816,
  • Illinois 1818,
  • Maine 1820,
  • Michigan 1837,
  • Iowa 1846,
  • Wisconsin 1848,
  • California 1850,
  • Minnesota 1858,
  • Oregon 1859,
  • Kansas 1861.

In 1850, the Democrat-controlled Congress passed the infamous Fugitive Slave Act.
A historical marker in Wisconsin reads:
"Joshua Glover was a runaway slave who sought freedom in Racine. In 1854, his Missouri owner used the Fugitive Slave Act to apprehend him. This 1850 law permitted slave catchers to cross state lines to capture escaped slaves. Glover was taken to Milwaukee and imprisoned.
Word spread about Glover's incarceration and a great crowd (5,000) gathered around the jail demanding his release. They beat down the jail door and released Joshua Glover. He was eventually escorted to Canada and safety.
The Glover incident helped galvanize abolitionist sentiment in Wisconsin. This case eventually led the state supreme court to defy the federal government by declaring the Fugitive Slave Act unconstitutional."
Shorty afterwards, in 1854, Wisconsin citizens met in a schoolhouse in Ripon, Wisconsin, to form what would become the Republican Party.
The original 1856 Republican platform was:
"Resolved ... it is both the right and the imperative duty of Congress to prohibit in the Territories those twin relics of barbarism -- Polygamy and Slavery."
The territories, after the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, were flooded with Democrat slaveholders who wanted to bring additional slave states into the Union. This led to years of violence, called "Bleeding Kansas."
One of the founders of the Republican Party was U.S. Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts.
In 1841, he argued before the Massachusetts Supreme Court, Roberts v. Boston, to end racial segregation in schools.
His efforts eventually led the Massachusetts Legislature to integrate schools in 1855.
When the Democrat Party pushed through the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act, Senator Sumner gave a three hour speech condemning it.
When the Kansas-Nebraska Act, promoted by Democrat Senator Stephen Douglas and Democrat Congressman Andrew Butler, passed in 1856, Sumner denounced it, accusing Democrats of having a "mistress ... the harlot, Slavery."
On May 22, 1856, Andrew Butler's cousin, Democrat Congressman Preston Brooks approached Charles Sumner as he sat at his desk in the Senate chamber and struck him with a thick gutta-percha cane with a gold head.
Brooks continued to beat Charles Sumner till his desk, which had been bolted to the floor, was knocked over.
Blinded by his own blood, Sumner attempted to get up and stagger away down the aisle, but Brooks kept striking him.
When other Senators tried to rescue Sumner, Democrat Congressman Laurence Keitt brandished a pistol.
Finally, Brook's gutta-percha cane broke and Sumner lay motionless on the floor.
William Cullen Bryant, editor of the New York Evening Post, wrote of the Democrat South:
"The South cannot tolerate free speech anywhere, and would stifle it in Washington with the bludgeon and the bowie-knife, as they are now trying to stifle it in Kansas by massacre, rapine, and murder ...
Are we to be chastised as they chastise their slaves ... a target for their brutal blows?"
After the Civil War, slavery was ended when Republicans pushed through the 13th Amendment, but Southern Democrat continued to discriminate against freed slaves.
Republicans passed the 14th Amendment in 1868 to force States to give rights to freed slaves.
In 1870, Republicans passed the 15th Amendment in 1870, to prohibit Democrats from intimidating blacks at polling places.
In the 1960s, under LBJ, Democrats did the big switch from "intimidation" to "entitlement," as a way to control minority voters through the Great Society Welfare State entitlement programs.
Charles Sumner died MARCH 11, 1874, having never fully recovered from his injuries.
Condemning slavery in all its forms, Charles Sumner wrote In 1853 the book White Slavery in the Barbary States.
In it, he documented that throughout the Middle Ages, Muslim Barbary pirates raided coastal towns from the eastern Mediterranean to the Netherlands, and as far north as Iceland, carrying away white Europeans as slaves.
They then sold them throughout the Ottoman Empire and the North African Barbary states of Morocco, Algiers, Salee, Oran, Tunis, Tripoli and Bacra, not stopping until forced to by the Barbary Pirate War of 1816.
Charles Sumner wrote:
"The Saracens, with the Koran and the sword, potent ministers of conversion, next broke from Arabia, as the messengers of a new religion, and pouring along these shores, diffused the faith and doctrines of Mohammed ... even ... entered Spain, and ... at Roncesvalles ... overthrew the embattled chivalry of the Christian world led by Charlemange. (The Song of Roland) ...
Algiers, for a long time the most obnoxious place in the Barbary States of Africa, the chief seat of Christian slavery ... the wall of the barbarian world ..."
Sumner continued:
"And Cervantes, in the story of Don Quixote ... give(s) the narrative of a Spanish captive who had escaped from Algiers ...
The author is supposed to have drawn from his own experience; for during five and a half years he endured the horrors of Algerine slavery, from which he was finally liberated by a ransom of about six hundred dollars."
Sumner stated:
"Familiarity with that great story of redemption, when God raised up the slave-born Moses to deliver His chosen people from bondage,
and with that sublimer story where our Saviour died a cruel death that all men, without distinction of race, might be saved, makes slavery impossible ..."
Sumner continued:
"There is no reason for renouncing Christianity, or for surrendering to the false religions; nor do I doubt that Christianity will yet prevail over the earth as the waters cover the sea."
American Minute is a registered trademark of William J. Federer. Permission granted to forward, reprint, or duplicate.
Image Credits: Public Domain; Description: Anthony Benezet instructing colored children; Date: before 1850; Source: Historical poetical and pictorial American scenes / by J.W. Barber, 1850;

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  • James Mark Matics on

    I like the old format with all the wonderful pictures. Please change it bac if you can.

  • Ken Simmen on

    Your essays on African American history is “meat in due season.” An abundance of distorted interpretations was being released as curriculum in schools. Our FL Governor has taken action to stop the provocative CRT studies in our state. The NAACP and other organized groups are trying to inflame the black people against him. One of their pastors said to me, “He is forbidding black history from being taught in schools & not letting them teach about slavery.” I have emailed forward to that pastor several of your essays in the past couple months. He is head of an association of black pastors in our town. Your careful scholarship of primary sources on the subject has come through just in time and could dissolve prejudices that were starting to harden in their hearts. Thank God. I do thank God for your ministry and pray for you often. The pen is mightier than the sword! “Nothing is perfectly known which has not been masticated by the teeth of disputations” said Robert Sorbonne.

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