1688 Germantown Quaker Petition Against Slavery
GERMANTOWN, where the first protest against slavery was written in the new world, is a historic neighborhood in Northwest Philadelphia, PA. It was founded by German Quaker and Mennonite families from Krefeld, a city in North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany.
In 1688, the PETITION AGAINST SLAVERY was drafted by Francis Daniel Pastorius and signed by him and three other Quakers living in Germantown. The petition, based upon the bible’s golden rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” urged for the abolishment of slavery. It was also one of the first written public declarations of universal human rights. It argued that every human, regardless of belief, color, or ethnicity, had rights that should not be violated.
Remembrance of the Germantown Protest came to life again when celebrated American poet John Greenleaf Whittier in 1872 made Pastorius the hero of his narrative poem, “The Pennsylvania Pilgrim.” A Quaker-born abolitionist, Whittier directly addressed the meaning of Pastorius’s long forgotten legacy, ending his poem with the following words:
For, ere Pastorius left the sun and air,
God sent the answer to his life-long prayer;
The child [John Woolman] was born beside the Delaware,
Who, in the power a holy purpose lends,
Guided his people unto nobler ends,
And left them worthier of the name of Friends.
And to! the fulness of the time has come,
And over all the exile’s Western home,
From sea to sea the flowers of freedom bloom!
And joy-bells ring, and silver trumpets blow;
But not for thee, Pastorius! Even so
The world forgets, but the wise angels know.