08 October 2010

Turning the Tide in Human Tragedy

It's been said that bad theology results in bad practices, that orthodoxy ought to be  worked out in orthopraxy (that is, right beliefs need to be in concert with right behaviors). And, it's not news that the blight in US history was slavery. With this in mind, we have to admire the four Quaker men in Germantown, Pennsylvania who committed to paper their desire for slavery to be abandoned. Their desire was based partly in the inhumanity of slavery - and this inhumanity is not Christian behavior. These Quakers made this statement in 1688, nearly 100 years before the American Declaration of Independence.
More on the history from "Germantown Quaker Protests Slavery 1688" found:
http://news.haverford.edu/blogs/special/2009/08/17/germantown-quaker-protest-against-slavery-1688/
The Germantown Quaker Protest Against Slavery of 1688 is best known as the first organized protest against slavery to have been penned in North America. Written by four Germantown Quakers, this extraordinary document raises objections to slavery on both moral and practical grounds at a time that Pennsylvania Quakers were nearly unanimous in their acceptance of the institution of slavery.
It took another 88 years of activism among a growing number of Quakers before the Society of Friends would completely denounce slavery among its membership, and by this time the Germantown Quaker Protest had been completely forgotten. The document came to light again in 1844 and served as an important tool to the Quaker abolition movement of the 19th century.
It was misplaced in the 20th century and was only re-discovered in 2005 in the vault of the Arch Street Meeting House. This document is but one famous example of the extensive records of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, which are divided between Haverford’s Quaker Collection and Swarthmore’s Friends Historical Library. A larger image and transcript of the protest can be found in Triptych: the Tri-College Digital Library.

==========HERE IS THE TEXT: =============
"These are the reasons why we are against the traffik of men-body, as follows: 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 fearful & fainthearted are many on sea when they see a strange vessel. being afraid it should be a Turck, and they should be taken, and sold for slaves into Turckey. Now what is this better done, as Turcks do? yea, rather is it worse for them which 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 stolen.
Now 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 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 alick?
Here is liberty of conscience which is right and reasonable; here ought to be likewise liberty of the body, except of evildoers, whicch 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 colour. 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 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 their 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...
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 Robbers & made free, as well as in Europe.
Then [will]... Pensilvania have a good report, instead it has now a bad one for this sake in other Countries. Especially whereas Europeans are desirous to know in what manner 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 joint 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 negroes 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 informe 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 lickwise our good friends and acquaintances in our native Country, to whose it is a terrour, or fearful thing that men should be handled so in Pensilvania.
This is from our meeting at Germantown, hold ye 18 of the 2 month, 1688, to be delivered to the Monthly Meeting at Richard Warrels. Gerret Hendericks, Derick Up de Graeff, Francis Daniell, Pastorius Abraham Up den Graef at our monthly meeting at Dublin, ye 30 - 2 mo: 1688, we having inspected ye 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 ye consideration of ye Quarterly meeting ye tenor of it being nearly Related to the truth.
On behalf of ye monthly meeting,
Signed, P. Jo. Hart. This, above mentioned, was read in our quarterly meeting at Philadelphia, the 4 of ye 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 ye above said meeting, it being a thing of too great a weight for this meeting to determine."