Famous Quaker

> Another treasure from the Fiske-Harris collection is Anthony Benezet’s Observations on the inslaving, importing and purchasing of negroes, initially published in 1759. This is the second edition, published the next year.

Few religious groups distinguished themselves more for their opposition to slavery than the Society of Friends, or “Quakers.” Founded in England in the middle of the 17th century, the Friends had come to America in large numbers, particularly to Pennsylvania.

Anthony Benezet (1713–1784), born in France to wealthy Huguenots, emigrated with his family to Philadelphia in 1731 and soon became a Quaker. After an unsatisfying stint as a merchant, Benezet became a schoolteacher and, later, a reformer and abolitionist. His first publication opposing slavery formed part of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Society of Friends in 1754, entitled An epistle of caution and advice, concerning the buying and keeping of slaves. His second published piece, and his first individual effort, is shown here.

“Allow me, gentle reader, to recommend to thy serious consideration, a practice that prevails among several nations who call themselves Christians . . . in which we as a nation are deeply engaged, & which is of such a nature, as that nothing can be more . . . stained with a deeper dye of injustice, cruelty and oppression, I mean the SLAVE TRADE, the purchasing and bringing the poor negroes from their native land, and subjecting them to a state of perpetual bondage.”

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