First Public Protest Against Slavery In America: 1688

April 18, 1688

On this day in 1688, four Germantown residents – Abraham Op den Graeff (my generation’s 9th great-grandfather), Dirck Op den Graeff (our 9th great uncle), Francis Pastorius, and Gerhard Hendricks – presented the first public protest against slavery in the colonies to the monthly meeting of Friends at Rigert Worrell’s. The following is what the protest said:

This is to ye Monthly Meeting held at Rigert Worrell’s.

These are the reason why we are against the traffick of mens-body as followeth: Is there any that would be done or handled at this manner, viz., to be sold or made a slave for all the time of his life? How fearfull & fainthearted are many on sea when they see a strange vassel, being afraid it should be a Turck, and they should be taken and sold for Slaves in Turckey. Now what is this better done as Turcks doe? Yea, rather is it worse for them, weh say they are Christians, for we hear that ye most part of such Negroes are brought hither against their will & consent, and that many of them are stollen. Now, tho’ 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 doe to all men licke as we will be done our selves: macking no difference of what generation, descent, or Colour they are. And those who steal or robb men, and those who buy or purchase them, are they not all alicke? Here is liberty of Conscience, wch is right & reasonable, here ought to be lickewise liberty of ye body, except of evildoers, wch is another case. But to bring men hither, or to robb and sell them against their will, we stand against.

In Europe there are many oppressed for Conscience sacke; and here there are those oppressed wch are of a black Colour. And we, who know that men must not committ adultery, some doe committ adultery in others, separating wifes from their housbands and giving them to others, and some sell the children of those poor Creatures to other men. Oh! doe consider well this things, you who doe it, if you would be done at this manner? and if it is done according Christianity? You surpass Holland & Germany in this thing. This mackes an ill report in all those Countries of Europe, where they hear off, that ye Quakers do here handle men, Licke they handle there ye Cattel; and for that reason some have no mind or inclination to come hither.

And who shall maintaine this your cause or plaid for it? Truely we cannot do so except you shall inform us better hereof, viz., that Christians have liberty to practise these things. Pray! What thing in the world can be done worse towarts us than if men should robb or steal us away & sell us for slaves to strange Countries, separating housbands from their wife & children.

Being now this is not done at that manner we will be done at, therefore we contradict & are against this traffick of men body. And we who profess that it is not lawfull to steal must lickewise avoid to purchase such things as are stollen, but rather help to stop this robbing and stealing if possibel and such men ought to be delivred out of ye hands of ye robbers and set free as well as in Europe. Then is Pensilvania to have a good report, in stead it hath now a bad one for this sacke in other Countries. Especially whereas ye Europeans are desirous to know in what manner ye Quakers doe rule in their Province, and most of them doe loock upon us with an envious eye. But if this is done well, what shall we say is done evil?

If once these slaves (wch they say are so wicked and stubborn men) should joint themselves, fight for their freedom and handel their masters and mistresses as they did handle them before, will these masters & mistrisses tacke the sword at hand & warr against these poor slaves, licke we are able to belive some will not refuse to doe? Or have these negers 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 handel these blacks at that manner, we desire & require you hereby lovingly that you may informe us herein, which at this time never was done, viz., that Christians have Liberty to do so, to the end we shall be satisfied in this point, & satisfie lickewise our good friends and acquaintances in our natif Country, to whom it is a terrour or fearfull thing that men should be handeld so in Pensilvania.

This is from our monthly meeting hold ye 18 of the 2 month 1688 to be delivred to the monthly meeting at Richard Warrel’s.

gerret hendericks, derrick op den graeff, Abraham op den graeff, Francis daniell Pastorius

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Reference: The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 4, 1880.

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