Germantown, Pennsylvania 1688
This is to the monthly meeting held at Roger Warrells. These are the reasons why we are against the traffic of men-body, as followeth: Is there any that would be done or handled in this manner? viz., to be sold or made a slave for all the time of his life? How fearful & 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 is it worse for them which say they are Christians, for we hear that the most part of such negros are brought hither against their will & consent and that many of them are stolen. Now though they are black, we cannot conceive there is more liberty to have them slaves, as it is to have other white ones. 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 colour 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 likewise liberty of the body, except of evildoers, which is another case. 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. And we who know that men must not commit adultery, some do commit adultery in others, separating wives from their husbands and giving them to others. And some sell the children of those poor creatures to other men. Ah! do consider well this things, you who do it, if you would be done at this manner? and if it is done according Christianity? You surpass Holland and Germany in this thing. This makes an ill report in all those countries of Europe, where they hear off, that ye Quakers do here handle men like they handle there the cattle. And for that reason some have no mind or inclination to come hither. And who shall maintain this your cause, or plead for it?
Truly we cannot do so, except you shall inform us better hereof, viz: that Christians have liberty to practice these things. Pray, what thing in the world can be done worse towards us, then if men should rob or steal us away & sell us for slaves to strange countries, separating husband from their wife and children. Being now this is not done at that manner we will be done at, therefore we contradict & are against this traffic of men body. And we who profess that it is unlawful to steal, must likewise avoid to purchase such things as are stolen, but rather help to stop this robbing and stealing if possible. and such men ought to be delivered out of the hands of he robbers & made free as well as in Europe.
Then is Pennsylvania to have a good report, instead it hath now a bad one for this sake in other countries. Especially whereas the Europeans are desirous to know in what manner the Quakers do rule in their province, & most of them do look upon us with an envious eye. But if this is done well, what shall we say is done evil? If once these slaves (which they say are so wicked and stubborn men) should join themselves, fight for their freedom and handle their masters & mistresses, as they did it, handle them before; will these masters & mistresses take the sword at hand and war against these poor slaves, like we are able to believe, some will not refuse to do? Or have these negros not as much right to fight for their freedom, as you have to keep them slaves?
Now consider well this thing, if it is good or bad? and in case you find it to be good to handle these Blacks at that manner, we desire & require you hereby lovingly that you may inform us herein, which at this time never was done, viz. that Christians have such a liberty to do so. To the end we shall be satisfied in this point, & satisfied likewise our good friends and acquaintances in our native country, to whose it is a terror, or fearful thing that men should be handled so in Pennsylvania.
This is from our meeting at Germantown, held the 18th of the 2nd month, 1688, to be delivered to the Monthly Meeting at Richard Warrels.
Derick up de Graeff
Francis Daniell Pastorius
Abraham up den Graef
At our monthly meeting at Dublin, the 30th – 2nd month 1688, we having inspected the matter above mentioned & considered of it we find it so weighty that we think it not expedient for us to meddle with it here, but do rather commit it to the consideration of the Quarterly Meeting the tenor of it being nearly related to ye truth.
On behalf of ye monthly meeting,
Signed, P. Jo. Hart.
This, above mentioned, was read in our quarterly meeting at Philadelphia, the 4th day of the 4th mo. 1688, and was from thence recommended to the Yearly Meeting, and the above said Derick, and the other two mentioned therein, to present the same to the above said meeting, it being a thing of too great a weight for this meeting to determine. Signed by order the meeting, Anthony Morris.
For more information, see the Wikipedia article on this petition.
This is widely considered the first formal protest against the institution of slavey by a religious body in the world.