Posted by: Democratic Thinker | May 4, 2011

Francis Daniel Pastorius—Protest Against Slavery

American Correspondence

In 1688, Francis Daniel Pastorius, founder of Germantown, Pennsylvania, presents a missive to the English Friends chiding them for their quiet acquiescence to African slavery in the colony. The original is in his own handwriting.

Follow our footsteps, men of coming years! Where we have failed to do Aright, or wisely live, Be warned by us, the better way pursue, And knowing we were human, even as you, Pity us and forgive!—Franz Daniel Pastorius, Grund und Lager Buch, “Address to Posterity.”

Protest Against Slavery.


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

THESE are the reasons why we are against the traffick of men 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 tacken and sold for slaves into Turckey. Now what is this better done as Turcks doe? yea rather is it worse for them, wch say they are Christians; for we hear that ye most part of such Negers are brought heither 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; making 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 alike? Here is liberty of Conscience, wch is right & reasonable; here ought to be lickewise liberty of ye body, except of evildoers, wch is an other 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 comitt adultery, some doe comitt 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 and Germany in this thing. This mackes an ill report in all those Countries of Europe, where they hear off, that ye Quackers doe here handel men licke they handel 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 can not do so, except you shall inform us better hereoff, viz: that christians have liberty to practise this things. Pray! What thing in the world can be done worse towards us, then if men should robb or steal us away, & sell us for slaves to strange Countries, separating housband from their wifes & 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 possible; and such men ought to be delivered out of ye hands of ye Robbers & and sett free as well as in Europe. Then is Pennsilvania to have a good report, instead it hath now a bad one for this sacke in other Countries. Especially whereas ye Europeans are desirous to know in what manner ye Quackers doe rule in their Province; & most of them doe loock upon us with an envious eye. But if this is done well, what shall we say is done evill?

If once these slaves, (:wch they say are so wicked and stubbern men) should joint themselves, fight for their freedom and handel their masters & mastrisses as they did handel them before; will these Masters and mastrisses tacke the sword at hand & warr against these poor slaves, liске 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 here in, 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, & satisfie lickewise our good friends & acquaintances in our natif Country, to whose it is a terrour or fairfull thing that men should be handeld so in Pensilvania.

This is from our Meeting at Germantown held ye 18. of the 2. month 1688. to be delivred to the Monthly Meeting at Richard Warrel’s.

gerret hendericks

Derick up de Graeff

Francis Daniell Pastorius

Abraham op Den graef.


At our monthly meeting at Dublin, ye 30—2 mo: 1688 we having inspected ye matter above mentioned & considered of it, we finde it so weighty that we think it not Expedient for vs to meddle with it here, but do Rather comit it to ye consideration of ye Quarterly meeting; ye tennor of it being nearly Related to ye truth.

On behalfe of ye monthly meeting.

Signed, P Jo: Hart.


This, above mentioned was read in our quarterly meetting at Philadelphia, the 4 of ye 4th mo 88 and was from thence recommended to the Yearly Meetting and the abovesaid Derick and the other two mentioned therein to present the same to ye Abovesaid meetting it being a thing of too great A weight for this meeting to determine.

Signed by order of ye meetting

Anthony Morris.

[NOTE: Both the Monthly Meeting and Quarterly Meeting appended their replies to the original missive.]


Minute of Burlington Yearly Meeting Minute on the above Protest:

At a Yearly Meeting held at Burlington the 5th day of the 7th month, 1688.

A Paper being here presented by some German Friends Concerning the Lawfulness and Unlawfulness of Buying and keeping Negroes, It was adjudged not to be so proper for this Meeting to give a Positive Judgment in the Case, It having so General a Relation to many other Parts, and therefore at present they forbear It.



Related posts: