Early American History Seminar: Michael Goode, University of Illinois at Chicago

Early American History and Culture Seminar
Wednesday, February 17, 2010

5:30 pm to 7:00 pm

“An Exhortation Among Friends: The Problem of Slavery in Early Quaker Pennsylvania”
Michael Goode, University of Illinois at Chicago

This paper explores the Quaker opposition to slavery and the slave trade in Pennsylvania during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Contrary to their historical reputation as abolitionists, the Society of Friends in early Pennsylvania owned slaves and were deeply engaged in the slave trade. The introduction of slavery into the province, however, profoundly conflicted with provincial Friends’ attempts to create a peaceable colony rooted in their “Gospel Order” values and distinctive patriarchal Christian worldview. One of the earliest Quaker critics of slavery was George Keith, a Scottish-born minister whose vision of Gospel Order initiated a serious schism within Pennsylvania Quakerism in 1691. In ways underappreciated by historians, the Keithian schism touched off a debate over slavery that resonated with Anglo-American moral commentators who viewed the growth of unfree labor in the Atlantic as inherently cruel and barbaric.