Quakers in Pennsylvania went on record as being the first to oppose slavery with their Germantown Petition of 1688, just six years after William Penn founded the colony.
Anthony Benezet, a Protestant Christian Huguenot, fled persecution in France to England, then migrated with his family to Philadelphia at age 17. He joined the Quakers and worked as a teacher. Beginning in 1750, after school hours, Anthony Benezet began bringing slave children into his home where he taught them to read. He also advocated for Indian natives and started the first school for girls in America in 1754. In 1758, at the yearly Quaker Meeting in Philadelphia, Anthony Benezet and Quaker John Woolman, convinced Quakers to publicly go on record as being officially against slavery.
In 1766, Benezet wrote in “Warning to Great Britain … of the Calamitous State of the Enslaved Negroes” that: “Slavery … contradicted the precepts and example of Christ? … Bondage … imposed on the Africans, is absolutely repugnant to justice … shocking to humanity, violative of every generous sentiment, abhorrent utterly from the Christian religion.”
In 1770, Anthony Benezet led Quakers to found the Negro School at Philadelphia, being encouraged by both Methodist founder John Wesley and Benjamin Franklin.
In 1772, Benezet condemned slavery in his tract “Account of Guinea … An Inquiry into the Rise & Progress of the Slave Trade, Its Nature & Lamentable Effects.”
After reading it, Patrick Henry came under conviction, writing to Robert Pleasants in 1773: “I take this opportunity to acknowledge ye receipt of Anthony Benezet’s book against the slave trade. I thank you for it. Would any one believe that I am a master of slaves of my own purchase? I am drawn along by ye general inconvenience of living without them; I will not, I cannot justify it.”
In 1775, Anthony Benezet helped found the Society for the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage, with 17 of the 24 founders being Quakers. It was the first society in America dedicated to abolishing slavery. In 1784, its name was changed to Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery & the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage. In 1787, Ben Franklin became its president.
Anthony Benezet’s English anti-slavery associate was Thomas Clarkson, a student at Cambridge University who was honored with first prize for writing “An Essay on the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species,” 1785, in which he wrote: “Slavery is … a crime, which being both of individuals and the nation, must sometime draw down upon us the heaviest judgment of Almighty God, who made of one blood all the sons of men, and who gave to all equally a natural right to liberty.”
In 1787, the Northwest Ordinance outlawed slavery in the territory which would become Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Quakers, who prohibited slavery among their members, formally petitioned the U.S. Congress on Feb. 11, 1790, to abolish slavery.
Richard Bassett, a signer of the Constitution from Delaware, converted to Methodism, freed all his slaves and paid them as hired labor.
In 1807, Congress passed the Slave Importation Act, prohibiting further importation of slaves. The U.S. Coast captured numerous slave trading ships. Francis Scott Key fought a seven-year legal battle to free the African slaves from the captured ship Antelope. With the help of Francis Scott Key, Congressman and former President John Quincy Adams fought the legal battle to free African slaves from the ship Amistad. Adams worked to end slavery by removing Congress’ Gag Rule.
Prior to the Civil War, 19 of the 34 states outlawed slavery:
- Pennsylvania 1787
- New Hampshire 1788
- Connecticut 1788
- Massachusetts 1788
- Rhode Island 1790
- Vermont 1791
- New York 1799
- Ohio 1803
- New Jersey 1804
- Indiana 1816
- Illinois 1818
- Maine 1820
- Michigan 1837
- Iowa 1846
- Wisconsin 1848
- California 1850
- Minnesota 1858
- Oregon 1859
- Kansas 1861
In 1850, Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act. A historical marker in Wisconsin reads: “Joshua Glover was a runaway slave who sought freedom in Racine. In 1854, his Missouri owner used the Fugitive Slave Act to apprehend him. This 1850 law permitted slave catchers to cross state lines to capture escaped slaves. Glover was taken to Milwaukee and imprisoned. Word spread about Glover’s incarceration and a great crowd (5,000) gathered around the jail demanding his release. They beat down the jail door and released Joshua Glover. He was eventually escorted to Canada and safety.
The Glover incident helped galvanize abolitionist sentiment in Wisconsin. This case eventually led the state supreme court to defy the federal government by declaring the Fugitive Slave Act unconstitutional.
Shorty afterwards, in 1854, Wisconsin citizens met in a schoolhouse in Ripon, Wisconsin, to form what would become the Republican Party. The original 1856 Republican platform was: “Resolved … it is both the right and the imperative duty of Congress to prohibit in the Territories those twin relics of barbarism – Polygamy and Slavery.”
The territories, after the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, were flooded with Democrat slaveholders who wanted to bring additional slave states into the Union. This led to years of violence, called “Bleeding Kansas.”
One of the founders of the Republican Party was U.S. Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts. Senator Sumner was vocal in his stand against slavery, accusing Democrats of having a “mistress … the harlot, Slavery.”
On May 22, 1856, Democrat Congressman Preston Brooks approached Charles Sumner as he sat at his desk in the Senate chamber and struck him with a thick gutta-percha cane with a gold head. Brooks continued to beat Charles Sumner till his desk, which had been bolted to the floor, was knocked over. Blinded by his own blood, Sumner attempted to get up and stagger away down the aisle, but Brooks kept striking him. When other Senators tried to rescue Sumner, Democrat Congressman Laurence Keitt brandished a pistol. Finally, Brook’s gutta-percha cane broke and Sumner lay motionless on the floor.
William Cullen Bryant, editor of the New York Evening Post, wrote of the Democrat South: “The South cannot tolerate free speech anywhere, and would stifle it in Washington with the bludgeon and the bowie-knife, as they are now trying to stifle it in Kansas by massacre, rapine, and murder. … Are we to be chastised as they chastise their slaves … a target for their brutal blows?”
After the Civil War, slavery was ended when Republicans pushed through the 13th Amendment, but Southern Democrat continued to discriminate against freed slaves. Republicans passed the 14th Amendment in 1868 to force states to give rights to freed slaves, and the 15th Amendment in 1870, to prohibit Democrat intimidation at polls.
In the 1960s, under LBJ, Democrats did a big switch in tactics from intimidation to entitlement, thus attempting to control minority votes through the Great Society Welfare State.
Charles Sumner died March 11, 1874, having never fully recovered from those injuries.
In 1853, Charles Sumner wrote the book “White Slavery in the Barbary States.” In it, he documented that throughout the Middle Ages, Muslim Barbary pirates raided coastal towns from the eastern Mediterranean to the Netherlands, and as far north as Iceland, carrying away white Europeans as slaves. They then sold them throughout the Ottoman Empire and the North African Barbary states of Morocco, Algiers, Salee, Oran, Tunis, Tripoli and Bacra, not stopping until forced to by the Barbary Pirate War of 1816.
Charles Sumner wrote: “The Saracens, with the Koran and the sword, potent ministers of conversion, next broke from Arabia, as the messengers of a new religion, and pouring along these shores, diffused the faith and doctrines of Mohammed … even … entered Spain, and … at Roncesvalles … overthrew the embattled chivalry of the Christian world led by Charlemange. (The Song of Roland) … Algiers, for a long time the most obnoxious place in the Barbary States of Africa, the chief seat of Christian slavery … the wall of the barbarian world. …”
Sumner continued: “And Cervantes, in the story of Don Quixote … give(s) the narrative of a Spanish captive who had escaped from Algiers. … The author is supposed to have drawn from his own experience; for during five and a half years he endured the horrors of Algerine slavery, from which he was finally liberated by a ransom of about six hundred dollars.”
Sumner stated: “Familiarity with that great story of redemption, when God raised up the slave-born Moses to deliver His chosen people from bondage, and with that sublimer story where our Saviour died a cruel death that all men, without distinction of race, might be saved, makes slavery impossible. …”
Sumner continued: “There is no reason for renouncing Christianity, or for surrendering to the false religions; nor do I doubt that Christianity will yet prevail over the earth as the waters cover the sea.”
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