Taking a Stand Against Slavery

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Quaker Petition to abolish slavery sent to the Delaware General Assembly in late 1785. This document was one of the first anti-slavery petitions submitted to the State legislature.

Taking a Stand Against Slavery


Some Quakers were slave owners in the 18th century. Many found the practice to be abhorrent and decided that slavery should be abolished. The first step was for their own members to free their slaves and in 1777, the Quakers discussed at meeting what should be done. By the yearly meeting of 1778, it was decided that slaveholders would be expelled and they should not hire slaves to work for them.

This is one of many petitions that were presented to the Delaware General Assembly to abolish slavery in Delaware. The state did pass a law in 1787 that weakened slavery. It banned the sale of slaves out of the state except when granted by a court. This petition was one of the first anti-slavery petitions sent to the Delaware General Assembly. It was read to the Assembly on January 9, 1786.

This petition can be found in the Legislative Papers Collection. These papers were generated by the General Assembly. The collection includes accounts, acts and bills, communications, elections, petitions, resolutions, reports and summons.