Saturday, November 8, 2008

Voices Against Slavery - Anthony Benezet

Voices Against Slavery - Part 1
Here is another book on the subject of slavery.

Voices Against Slavery - Ten Christians who spoke out for freedom
Catherine House

Anthony Benezet

"I believe that all persons, but more especially the youth, ought to know by what wicked and corrupt views and methods the slave trade is carried on, and the curse that will attend those who, for selfish ends, engage in it in any degree whatever."

- Anthony Benezet
December 1757

John Benezet was a Heugenot - a Protestant Christian in France. He was able to escape from France with his family and resettle in England. Anthony was one of his sons.

After a few years in England, the family decided to emigrate to the new world colonies in America. There, the family continued to prosper as merchants.

Anthony became increasingly restless, feeling that God had something else for him, a different calling on his life. He wished to become a teacher, and at the age of 25 was finally able to follow that call.

He made many reforms at the local school, including throwing away the sticks that were used to punish the children if they got out of line. He used such means of correction as staying after school to work, rather than the usual beatings that were common in most schools.

He then started an evening school for the children of freed African slaves.

At some point - the book doesn't give the year - a group of Acadian refugees from Nova Scotia arrived in Philadelphia where the Benezets lived. John took action to help these people. They had been forced off their lands by the British.

There was a breakout of smallpox on the ships, so the people were not allowed to leave the ships until the illenss had run its course. Anthony got them clothing, blankets, and coffins.

Others who arrived by ship in Philadelphia were slaves or freed slaves from Africa and the West Indies. He began to study the issue of slavery, and was shocked at what he discovered.

During the 1750s, he began to write pamphlets exposing the evils of the slave trade and the cruel treatment that these people were subjected to.

He said, "And who are these people whom the planters are treating with such cruelty? They are his brothers! His neighbors! They are the children of our heavenly Father, for whom Christ died. One day each slave owner will have to give an account to God. How will they explain what they have done?"

p. 22

The Quakers became the first Christian group that outlawed slavery among their church members.

In 1780, the commonwealth of Pennsylvania passed the Gradual Abolition of Slavery Act, largely because of the efforts of the Quakers like Benezet. In Britain, Benezet's writings were having an impact, too.

He died in 1784 at the age of 71, and many of those African Americans he taught to read came to pay homage to this man. His wife of many years, Joyce, was at his side when he died.

Another patriarch of liberty passed to his reward...

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