In honor of Black History Month...

In honor of Black History Month, here is a fascinating look back at the first written protest against slavery in the New World, written here in our very own Germantown. (Even though, at that time, Germantown was a small hamlet many miles outside of Philadelphia, I'll apply our physical connection retroactively...)

The image you see above is the table on which this document was signed by witnesses, in good Friends is now in the collection of the Germantown Mennonite Meetinghouse, and may be seen there. (Some of these signatories had Mennonite background.)

Here's the text:

The First Protest Against Slavery in the New WorldGermantown, 1688

This is to ye monthly meeting held at Richard Worrell's.
These are the reasons why we are against the traffik 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 fearful and faint-hearted 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 doe? Yea, rather is it worse for them which say they are Christians, for we hear that ye most part of such negers are brought hitherto against their will and consent and that many of them are stolen. 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 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 alike? Here is liberty of conscience wch is right and reasonable; here ought to be likewise liberty of ye body, except of evil-doers, wch is an other 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 oppossd who are of a black colour. 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 these poor creatures to other men. Ah! doe consider well this thing, you who doe it, if you would be done at this manner? and if it is done according to 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 doe here handel men as they handle there ye cattle. And for that reason some have no mind or inclination to come hither. And who shall maintain this your cause, or pleid for it? Truly we can not 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 towards us, than if men should rob or steal us away, and sell us for slaves to strange countries; separating housbands from their wives and children. Being now this is not done in the manner we would be done at therefore we contradict and are against this traffic of men-body. And we who profess that it is not lawful 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 ye hands of ye robbers, and set 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 ye Europeans are desirous to know in what manner ye Quakers doe rule in their province — and most of them doe look 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 mastrisses as they did handel them before; will these masters and mastrisses take the sword at hand and warr against these poor slaves, licke, we are able to believe, 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 and 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, and satisfie likewise our good friends and acquaintances in our natif country, to whose it is a terror, or fairful thing that men should be handeld so in Pennsylvania.

This is from our meeting at Germantown, held ye 18 of the 2 month, 1688, to be delivered to the Monthly Meeting at Richard Worrell's.

Garret hendericks
derick up de graeff
Francis daniell Pastorius
Abraham up Den graef

(Pastorius was one of the men who welcomed the first Mennonites into the New World...including William Rittenhouse.)

Alicia  – (Wednesday, 15 February, 2006)  

I finally got a chance to read this in toto...fascinating stuff. I'm intrigued by the name "up de graeff"--I wonder if our neighbors the Updegroves had ancestors with this last name?

GIERSCHICK  – (Wednesday, 15 February, 2006)  

Exactly my question when I read it...I know that persons with that name came on the boat - don't remember its name - with the very first Mennonites to the New World, around the 1660's or so. And there were, as far as I know, only Quakers and Mennonites on that boat. So, I think it may have Dutch Mennonite roots way back, judging from the surname structure. Another reason I think this, is that William Rittenhouse (Rittenhausen), America's first papermaker and Mennonite pastor, was from a place that was Germany, but is now the Netherlands, I think. Therefore another Dutch name wouldn't be out of the question. Anyway...interesting stuff.

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