John Woolman and The Abolition of Slavery

Essay by xuxoloveUniversity, Master'sA+, May 2004

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John Woolman was born in a Quaker family in New Jersey and lived from 1720-1772. In 1756 he began to write his journal where he spoke out in a piece entitled "Some Consideration on the Keeping of Negroes". His writing is exceptional because of the simplicity and lure. Woolman's attraction is his clear motive and sympathy toward the African-Americans. I will maintain in this paper that the Quakers, and specifically the abolitionist Woolman, were not feeble pacifists, but brilliant warriors.

Woolman had a passion for the freedom of the slaves. He observed how the slaves were treated and it hurt him:

"But the general disadvantage which these poor Africans lie under in an enlightened Christian country have often filled me with real sadness, and been like undigested matter on my mind."

This shows Woolman's and all the other Quakers' passion for people. The Quakers were well known for their acceptance for all colors, races, and creeds.

They would sit in circles at their meetings in order to make everyone equal and to eliminate the hierarchy. Woolman felt very moved by the Lord to help the African-Americans and fight a battle for them through his words. Woolman points out that the United States is an "enlightened Christian country", therefore should know better than to oppress an entire race and that it sits like a "piece of undigested matter" on his mind, meaning it is disgusting and lingering to him. People with a conscience and sympathy towards a mistreated people can feel very unclean as Woolman describes.

Woolman uses Genesis 3:20: "Adam named his wife Eve because she would become the mother of all the living," to show that all of humankind was of "one blood." This is a very eye opening point for any God fearing person who considers the...