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injunction was added to the long list relating to slavery. It was then announced that all children of emancipated slaves should be tenderly advised, and that a suitable education should be freely provided for them.
The decree of absolute emancipation had now gone forth, but the complete abolition of slavery was not so speedily accomplished as some of the Friends in their eagerness desired. The reasons for the delay were many and various. Prominent among them was the fact that the slave owner, even if inclined to liberate his slaves, had many impediments besetting his path. Besides having to struggle against great pecuniary loss, he was compelled to contend with obstacles that the law imposed. To see the difficulty superimposed by legislation upon emancipation, we need only to turn the leaves of some of the colonial statute books. In Pennsylvania, where the law was probably the most favorable in this respect, the individuals liberating their slaves were obliged to enter into bond for the payment of £30, so as to provide for the possibility of the freedman becoming chargeable for maintenance.
As early as the year 1759, however, Woolman had said, “the case is difficult to some who have slaves, but if such set aside all self interest, and come to be weaned from the desire of getting estates, or even from holding them together, when truth requires the contrary, I believe way will so open that they will know how to steer through those difficulties.” 1 True to his prophetic assertion, the way did open ; or, to speak more accurately, the Quakers blazed out for themselves a path in this as yet untrodden forest. Notwithstanding all the pecuniary and legal obstructions that seemed to block the way, they could not be restrained from doing what they were convinced was morally right. Many manumitted their slaves without the slightest regard to possible consequences. Others, while performing the same meritorious action, afforded the most splendid illustrations of philanthropy. They not only consented to surrender their property—thereby incurring the penalties attending manumission—but they also calculated and gave (deducting the cost of food and clothing) what was due the slaves for wages from the beginning of their servitude to the very day when their liberation was declared. This was done in many instances. The case of Warner Mifflin, who paid all his adult slaves on their discharge the sum which arbitrators mutually chosen awarded them, may be selected as a concrete example.
1 Journal, p. 136.
While the Society was thus performing its duty to the slaves and free people of color within their jurisdiction, a desire began to awaken among its members for the extinction of slavery throughout the length and breadth of America. From this time on, formal memorials and remonstrances relative to this subject were repeatedly laid before persons placed in high authority as well as before the public at large. Petitions were frequently presented to Congress, and other legislative bodies, praying for the total suppression of this barbarity. But the Quakers did not confine exclusively their exertions to such efforts. They went further. Not content with manumitting their own negroes, they even endeavored to liberate all the people of color that chanced to come within the boundaries of their State.
General Washington, writing from Mount Vernon under the date April 12, 1786, speaks of the case of a certain Mr. Dably, residing at Alexandria, whose slave had escaped to Philadelphia, and “whom a society of Quakers in the city, formed for such purposes, have attempted to liberate.” From Mr. Dably's account of the occurrence, General Washington concluded “ that this society is not only acting repugnantly to justice, so far as its conduct concerns strangers, but in my opinion impoliticly with respect to the State, the city in particular, without being able, except by acts of tyranny and oppression, to accomplish its own ends." The expression of such opinions, however, caused the Quakers little, if any, concern. They were firmly persuaded that even if their endeavors were not in strict conformity with human legislation that their conduct was approved by a higher, by a divine mandate, and this was of infinitely more importance to them.
1 These efforts were not to go unrewarded. Influenced mainly by the unceasing endeavors of the Quakers, the Legislature of Pennsylvania passed an act abolishing slavery in the year 1780.
*Sparks, Washington, IX, 158.
The year 1778 marks the consummation of the struggle. At this time, as far as the author's reading extends, there was not a slave in the possession of an acknowledged Quaker within the confines of the State of Pennsylvania.
By way of recapitulation, it should be remarked that the obnoxious practice of slave-holding had apparently obtained a footing among the members of the Society before they awoke to a realization of the iniquity of the institution. Those of their number who had always been convinced of its sinfulness, never tired of declaiming against its unlawfulness and urging the utter repugnance of slavery to a high religious profession. But the enthusiasm of these social reformers was invariably tempered with Christian prudence and forbearance. Their method of procedure was always characterized by discretion as well as by perseverance. Persuasion constituted the only weapon employed against those whom they believed to be in error. Compulsion was never resorted to. Day after day, month after month, year after year, did they patiently exhort and labor with their wayward brethren who persisted in retaining their fellow creatures in a state of bondage. From first to last the abolitionists among the Friends sought by example and argument to induce the colonists, especially the members of their own denomination, to abstain from any participation in this traffic in humanity. Though often discouraged, they did not grow weary in well-doing, and in due season the harvest was reaped ; for, after a lapse of nearly a century of uninterrupted endeavor, their efforts were crowned with glorious success. Then was secured the end after which they had striven so long and faithfully—the recognition that all men are by nature free and equal.
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