Germantown, Pennsylvania and Slavery – 1688

William Penn established the colony of Pennsylvania in 1682 and because of what he had observed and personally experienced back in Europe, he declared it to be a place where citizens would elect their representatives, where fair trials would exist, and where there would be a separation of church and state.

Among the first to settle in Pennsylvania were Mennonites and Quakers from a region of Germany.  Both groups had experienced persecution for their faiths and were attracted by Penn’s promise of religious freedom. Upon arrival, they bought farmland and established the community of Germantown, near Philadelphia.

Although slavery was well established in the Americas, including Pennsylvania, these new immigrants didn’t think it fit in with the tenets of The Golden Rule. There is evidence that Penn was not opposed to slavery but never the less, the Quakers of Germantown appealed to the local Quaker Meeting and argued that slavery should not be permitted in their community.

On February 18, 1688, the community agreed and issued the first formal anti-slavery resolution in the American colonies. It did not abolish slavery in Pennsylvania, that would take another century. By the time of the American Civil War, however, most Quakers had come to oppose slavery and were major supporters of the movement to abolish it.







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