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62 BULLETIN OF FRIENDS' HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. THE FREE PRODUCE ASSOCIATION OF FRIENDS OF PHILADELPHIA. By Watson W. Dewees. At the annual meeting of the Friends' Historical Association for 1924 there was presented an interesting memorial of the past, unique in character, and of considerable historical value. The recent history of the relic was stated to be as follows : Howard W. Taylor, a paper manufacturer of Philadelphia, was the donor. A workman engaged in sorting bales of waste paper, preparatory to its use again, came upon a stout minute book, which seemed almost too good to be destroyed. It was shown to Howard W. Taylor, who rescued it from threatened disintegration, and eventually offered it to the Historical Association. It proved to be the "Minutes of the Board of Managers of the Free Produce Association of Friends of Philadelphia" covering a period from 1845 to 1852. Before entering upon any examination of the contents of this leather bound volume of minutes, it may be worth while to glance briefly at the circumstances which brought it into existence. We of this generation recall with difficulty the fact that African slavery was once an established factor in social life in Pennsylvania and that even Friends in good standing held slaves. The first protest against the system was the remonstrance drawn up by Francis Daniel Pastorius of Germantown in 1688. The whole story of how this paper was forwarded to the Monthly Meeting in Philadelphia and there suppressed may be learned from Whittier 's " Pennsylvania Pilgrim." x fully prepared card index of Quaker records has greatly assisted me; John Russell Hayes and Laura Beardsley of Swarthmore College who have been at some pains to enable me to use the library on a holiday; Dr. R. W. Kelsey, of Haverford College, who has kindly mailed books to me, and Professor A. H. Quinn of the University of Pennsylvania, who told me some facts regarding the early stage in Philadelphia. 1 It is an interesting coincidence that Howard W. Taylor, before mentioned , is a lineal descendant of the Garrett Hendricks whose name heads the list of signers of the Pastorius remonstrance of 1688. THE FREE PRODUCE ASSOCIATION OF FRIENDS.63 But the coolness and indifference of Philadelphia Friends of colonial days did not settle the question for all time. Among a tender-spirited people the wrong of human slavery could not be ignored. For long years it continued to crop out in the official utterances of the Society. The future historian must needs trace the peaceable growth of a moral sentiment and the steady pressure which finally led to a real reform. The records of the Yearly Meeting show the steady growth of anti-slavery sentiment. First there were advices with regard to the treatment of African servants , recognition that they had souls to be saved, that parental and family feelings among them should be kept in mind, and finally doubts began to be expressed as to the justice of the system. It was half a century before the views of Pastorius and his friends began to have strong endorsement. By the middle of the eighteenth century John Woolman and others were openly preaching against African slavery, and even invading the South with their message. Then the Yearly Meeting began to advise emancipation , then to insist upon it, and finally committees visited those who did not freely respond to the growing concern of the Society at large. Finally, at almost the same time that the " Ordinance of 1787 " declared the territory northwest of the Ohio River forever free, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting made the holding of slaves a disownable offence. Thus the Society officially purged itself of the iniquitous system. For long years after that, the members continued to answer a query as to whether they "bore a faithful testimony against slavery." In the period before the civil war, it was a rare thing for a Friend to vote politically to sustain the proslavery interests in national affairs. Gradually there grew in the minds of tender-spirited members of the Society a feeling of uneasiness. Wearing clothing and eating food produced by slave labor did not seem to be bearing a " faithful testimony " against the slavery system...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1934-1504
Print ISSN
0033-5053
Pages
pp. 62-66
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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