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Collection Reference Number GLC01021
From Archive Folder Documents Relating to 1776 
Title Extracts from minutes of the yearly meeting of Pennsylvania & New Jersey
Date 23-28 September 1776
Author Pemberton, James (1723-1809)  
Document Type Government document
Content Description Clerical copy certified by James Moon. Extracted and prepared by James Pemberton, clerk to the yearly meeting. States that Quakers should not participate in governments active in war, or contribute to the promotion of war through business or other activity. Condemns all forms of slavery and indentured servitude, and requires all Quakers to free anyone so held. All need to support religious education for children.
Subjects African American History  Religion  Quaker  Government and Civics  Military History  Revolutionary War  Indentured Servant  Emancipation  Children and Family  Education  
People Pemberton, James (1723-1809)  
Place written Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Theme Religion; Government & Politics; Children & Family; Education; The American Revolution; Slavery & Abolition; African Americans
Sub-collection The Gilder Lehrman Collection, 1493-1859
Additional Information Pemberton was a Quaker merchant and philanthropist. "How is it," the English essayist Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) asked at the start of the Revolution, "that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of Negroes?" Many British Tories taunted colonists with the jarring contradiction between their complaints about political oppression and the reality of chattel slavery. The American Revolution underscored the contradiction between a people torn between allegiance to high moral ideals and a base reality of racial domination. While it would be a mistake to underestimate the strength of slavery during the revolutionary period, there can be no doubt that slavery had begun to arouse concern in new ways. This concern was evident in the Continental Congress's agreement in 1774 to prohibit the importation of slaves; in the founding of the first antislavery society in Philadelphia in 1775; in Vermont's decision to explicitly exclude slavery in its Constitution of 1777; and Pennsylvania's enactment of the western hemisphere's first gradual emancipation act in 1780. Slavery posed special problems for Quakers, who strove to lead sinless lives. In 1774, the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting forbade Quakers from buying or selling slaves and required masters to free slaves at the earliest opportunity. Two years later, the meeting directed Friends to disown any Quakers who resisted pleas to manumit their slaves. For Quakers, as for many later abolitionists, slavery could never be reconciled with the Golden Rule or with the other bedrock Judeo-Christian precept that God "is no respecter of Persons"--or in other words, that worldly titles, status, and privilege do not matter in the ultimate scheme of things.
Copyright The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History
Module Settlement, Commerce, Revolution and Reform: 1493-1859
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