Quakers in Pennsylvania went on record as being the first to oppose slavery with their Germantown Petition of 1688, just six years after William Penn founded the colony. In 1776, Quakers prohibited members from owning slaves.
Pennsylvania’s Ben Franklin was the first president of the first anti-slavery society in the United States. On Feb. 11, 1790, Quakers petitioned the U.S. Congress to abolish slavery. In 1787, the Northwest Ordinance outlawed slavery in the territory which would become Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Richard Bassett, a signer of the Constitution from Delaware, converted to Methodism, freed all his slaves and paid them as hired labor. In 1807, Congress passed the Slave Importation Act, prohibiting further importation of slaves, with the U.S. Coast patrolling to capture slave trading ships. Former President John Quincy Adams fought to end slavery by removing Congress’ Gag Rule, and defending the Africans in the Amistad case.
Prior to the Civil War, 19 of the 34 States outlawed slavery:
- Pennsylvania 1787
- New Hampshire 1788
- Connecticut 1788
- Massachusetts 1788
- Rhode Island 1790
- Vermont 1791
- New York 1799
- Ohio 1803
- New Jersey 1804
- Indiana 1816
- Illinois 1818
- Maine 1820
- Michigan 1837
- Iowa 1846
- Wisconsin 1848
- California 1850
- Minnesota 1858
- Oregon 1859
- and Kansas 1861
In 1856, U.S. Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts helped found the Republican Party to preserve natural marriage and defend the value of human life, stating in its original platform: “Resolved … it is both the right and the imperative duty of Congress to prohibit in the Territories those twin relics of barbarism – Polygamy and Slavery.”
Senator Charles Sumner took a vocal stand against slavery, accusing Democrats of having a mistress … the harlot, Slavery.”
On May 22, 1856, Democrat Congressman Preston Brooks approached Charles Sumner as he sat at his desk in the Senate chamber and struck him with a thick gutta-percha cane with a gold head. Preston Brooks beat Charles Sumner till his desk, which had been bolted to the floor, was knocked over. Blinded by his own blood, Sumner got up, staggered down the aisle as Brooks continued striking him. Finally, Brook’s gutta-percha cane broke and Sumner lay motionless on the floor. When other Senators tried to rescue Sumner, Democrat Congressman Laurence Keitt brandished a pistol.
William Cullen Bryant, editor of the New York Evening Post, wrote of the Democrat South: “The South cannot tolerate free speech anywhere, and would stifle it in Washington with the bludgeon and the bowie-knife, as they are now trying to stifle it in Kansas by massacre, rapine, and murder. … Are we to be chastised as they chastise their slaves … a target for their brutal blows?”
Charles Sumner died March 11, 1874, having never fully recovered from those injuries.
Charles Sumner stated: “Familiarity with that great story of redemption, when God raised up the slave-born Moses to deliver His chosen people from bondage, and with that sublimer story where our Saviour died a cruel death that all men, without distinction of race, might be saved, makes slavery impossible. …”
Charles Sumner continued: “There is no reason for renouncing Christianity, or for surrendering to the false religions; nor do I doubt that Christianity will yet prevail over the earth as the waters cover the sea.”
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