From Peace to Freedom

From Peace to Freedom

Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    From Peace to Freedom
    Book Description:

    In the first book to investigate in detail the origins of antislavery thought and rhetoric within the Society of Friends, Brycchan Carey shows how the Quakers turned against slavery in the first half of the eighteenth century and became the first organization to take a stand against the slave trade.

    Through meticulous examination of the earliest writings of the Friends, including journals and letters, Carey reveals the society's gradual transition from expressing doubt about slavery to adamant opposition. He shows that while progression toward this stance was ongoing, it was slow and uneven and that it was vigorous internal debate and discussion that ultimately led to a call for abolition. His book will be a major contribution to the history of the rhetoric of antislavery and the development of antislavery thought as explicated in early Quaker writing.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-18227-9
    Subjects: History, Religion, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-39)

    Almost everybody knows that Quakers were at the forefront of campaigns to abolish slavery and the slave trade. Rather fewer know how they came to hold that position. This book attempts to explain how Quakers turned against slavery, and it reveals that the process was neither easy nor inevitable. Instead, Quakers argued about the morality of slavery among themselves for more than a century before directing their antislavery arguments outward to the wider world. The book shows how Quaker settlers in seventeenth-century Barbados attempted unsuccessfully to reconcile Quaker beliefs with their desire to keep slaves, and how that debate spilled...

  5. CHAPTER ONE “The power that giveth liberty and freedom” BARBADOS, 1657–76
    (pp. 40-69)

    Quaker writing on slavery began in 1657 with a letter from England addressed to “Friends beyond sea.” The letter’s author was George Fox, the founder of the Society of Friends, and the ideas he tentatively expressed were challenged, revised, and finally reasserted by Fox himself in the light of his own personal experience on the plantation island of Barbados. As the words of the founder, Fox’s writings on slavery would later assume an importance to Quakers that perhaps outweighed what their actual length or content merited. Nevertheless, there can be no doubt that they would influence the thinking of the...

  6. CHAPTER TWO “We are against the traffik of men-body” PENNSYLVANIA, 1688–1700
    (pp. 70-104)

    The discussion about slavery that took place in seventeenth-century Barbados involved relatively few people, and was represented in relatively few texts. Quaker deliberations on slavery in Pennsylvania are not so conveniently self-contained. Seventy years elapsed between the first Pennsylvanian antislavery protests in the 1680s and the decision by the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting in the 1750s to ban Friends from buying slaves. In that time, Pennsylvanian Quakers left hundreds of records of their thoughts on slavery, ranging from passing references in minutes of meetings to eloquent discussions in lengthy books. Clearly, a detailed reading of all of the available texts would...

  7. CHAPTER THREE “The grief of divers friends” PENNSYLVANIA–LONDON–NEW JERSEY, 1711–19
    (pp. 105-142)

    By the start of the eighteenth century, Quakers in Pennsylvania had heard a range of arguments against slaveholding and slave trading. These arguments had led to the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting declaring that buying slaves should not be encouraged. Opposition to slave trading in this period can thus be viewed as a distinct position taken by a small but appreciable number of relatively influential Friends in and around Philadelphia. These individuals backed up their position by reference to a small but appreciable number of written texts. Although it would be decades before it would become the official firm “policy” of Quakers...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR “O unrighteous gain!” FROM RHETORIC TO RITUAL, 1727–43
    (pp. 143-176)

    By 1720, a public discourse of antislavery, as well as a submerged counter discourse, had been articulated in an increasingly sophisticated manner by Friends first in Barbados and later in Pennsylvania. It must have been clear to most Quakers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey in the 1720s, therefore, that slavery was not an unquestionable fact of nature but instead an artificial system that could be challenged and which had been challenged. This chapter explores both the discursive processes and, to a certain extent, the political processes by which Friends in the Delaware Valley moved from the messy compromise of 1716–...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE “A practice so repugnant to our Christian profession” PHILADELPHIA AND LONDON, 1753–61
    (pp. 177-220)

    This chapter examines the writings and arguments that finally convinced Quakers in Philadelphia and London to institute an enforceable ban on Friends participating in the slave trade. This transformation was completed within a decade. At the start of 1753, Philadelphia Quakers were still bound only by the Yearly Meeting’s advice of 1730 “to be very Cautious” about buying imported slaves. By 1761, Quakers on both sides of the Atlantic had agreed to prevent Friends from taking part in “the unchristian traffick of dealing in negroes.” In just eight years, the views of abolitionist Friends in the Delaware Valley had become...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 221-236)
  11. Bibliography of Works Cited
    (pp. 237-248)
  12. Index
    (pp. 249-257)