The Anti-Slavery Friends in
By Lewis D. Savage
The early position of the Society of Friends (Quakers) as to slavery, for a time was like that of other religious groups of the day, they accepted it. The Negro slaves were generally well treated by the early Friends, and leaders like George Fox and William Penn and others considered the blacks to be human beings. They also pressed for slaves to be set free after a term of service.
Quakers Become Involved with Different Views towards Slavery
However, this is not the end of the story, for there was still much work to be done in helping free the slaves held by many other people. The Quakers gradually became involved in three anti-slavery movements: the Underground Railroad, the Colonization Society, and the Anti-Slavery Abolitionist Movement. These divergent views eventually brought about a considerable and unfortunate separation in the Society of Friends. In the Indiana Yearly Meeting with jurisdiction over the Iowa Quaker meetings of the time, this separation occurred in 1842- 1843.
Friends Meeting in
Quakers Struggle and Separate
over Slavery in the
after, the Indiana Yearly Meeting came out strongly against the anti-slavery
advocates, and began openly to support the Colonization Society position
supported by slave owners, the majority in Salem Friends Meeting in
There soon followed another complaint against Eli Jessup for "spending meeting hour in vain and unbecoming manner and identifying himself with those who have separated from us." Six members were added to the overseers to assist them in their work. The number of complaints increased rapidly, and were soon shortened to "non-attendance and out of unity."
The larger body of Salem Monthly Meeting of Friends in the next year or two disowned over 50 of their strongest and most active members including: Isaac and Phoebe Pidgeon, Eli Jessup, Henderson and Elizabeth Lewelling, John and Elvy Lewelling, William and Cyrena Lewelling, Elwood and Lydia Osborn, Amos Raley, Arron and Amy Dow, Marmaduke Jay, Charles and Ann Osborn, Charles Blackledge, James Comer, Elihu Frazier, Thomas Frazier, Abraham Gray, William Marshall, Francis Frazier, Isaac Frazier, Stephen Frazier, Gideon Frazier, Isaac Jones, John Frazier, Jonathan Frazier, Isaac Thornburg, and others.
Salem Anti-Slavery Friends Set Up in 1843 (The two foot strip)
disowned Friends met and organized what they called the Salem Monthly Meeting
of Anti-Slavery Friends. They purchased
land and built a new Meeting House one block east of the Henderson Lewelling house in
The Anti-Slavery or Abolitionist Friends continued to carry on their Underground Railroad activities, and it was in their Meeting House that the hearing was held about the Daggs runaways in June, 1848.
English Quakers Visit
Anti-Slavery Friends in
Another interesting incident which took place in the Salem Anti-Slavery Friends Meeting House was a meeting with a visiting deputation of English Friends, including George Stacey, William Forster, Josiah Forster and John Allen. George Stacey read a message from their London Yearly Meeting, in which the Anti-Slavery Friends were advised to discontinue their separate meetings and reunite themselves with the former group from which they had withdrawn. The Anti-Slavery Friends assured them that they would fail in their mission to reunite the two groups.
New Attitude Heals the Anti-Slavery Schism
But, another important step took place in the Indiana Yearly Meeting as Elijah Coffin's long dictatorial reign as presiding clerk came to an end, and his son, Charles F. Coffin, was appointed the new presiding clerk; he brought a marked change in attitude and spirit toward the Anti-Slavery Friends, and let them know that they would be welcome again in the Indiana Yearly Meeting.
in attitude and spirit reached to the local meetings and gradually the
Anti-Slavery Friends began to be welcomed back into the Salem Monthly Meeting
of Friends, beginning in 1848 and continuing until 1852 when
I wish to be reinstated in membership in the Society of Friends.
Action was also taken by the Monthly Meeting to open subscriptions for assistance of the Committee on people of color. With this action most of the Anti-Slavery Friends returned to the main body, or in years died, or moved to other communities. The Meeting House was sold for a dwelling, and in 1862, the burial ground was sold to Salem Monthly Meeting of Friends and thus the two portions were joined discontinuing the 2 foot strip.
Source of References:
The history of Quakerism - Russell Elbert
The Story of
The Rich Heritage of Quakerism - Williams, Walter R.
(Lewis D. Savage has been a life-long historian of