The 1688 Germantown Quaker Petition Against Slavery

Abolition and protests against slavery have been thoroughly documented since its inception. One of the earliest recorded protests like this date back to 1688 with the Quakers from Germantown, which is now part of Philadelphia. Also known as the "Society of Friends," four men from the religious organization wrote a document detailing their dissent against the practice. The petition was titled "GERMANTOWN FRIENDS' PROTEST AGAINST SLAVERY, 1688" and is also the first American document condemning slavery.

The paper was drafted by German attorney Francis Daniel Pastorius along with three other Friends on behalf of their Quaker Germantown Meeting, according to the National Park Service. They also used the Bible's Golden Rule as a basis to abolish slavery in the colony. "There is a saying, that we shall doe to all men like as we will be done ourselves; making no difference of what generation, descent or colour they are," they wrote. "And those who steal or robb men, and those who buy or purchase them, are they not all alike?"

The men presented the document at the Monthly Meeting, where the leaders decided that their reasoning was "fundamental and just." The Meeting told the four men that they would discuss it further and sent it to the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. Issues arose when they weighed the colony's economic stability, which depended on slavery. The Yearly Meeting decided to bring the issue to the London Yearly Meeting, but historical records show no mention of the petition on the minutes.

Today, the original document resides at Haverford College Quaker and Special Collections. It was re-discovered in a deteriorated condition in March 2005.

Photo: Getty Images

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