Saturday, February 16, 2008

Slavery and the 1782 Annual Meeting

In their treatment of minorities Brethren counseled one another not to hold slaves. Christopher Sauer, Jr. spoke in his newspaper against the selling of people into slavery (see February 15 entry). The Brethren asked anyone who wanted to join the church to give up their slaves. When John van Laschet of the Conestoga congregation was discovered to be holding a slave, the Annual Meeting of 1782 asked him to release the woman and her children.

Concerning the unchristian Negro slave trade, it has been unanimously considered that it cannot be permitted in any way in the church, that a member should or could purchase Negroes, or keep them as slaves. But concerning Brother John van Laschet, who had bought a considerable time ago a Negro woman ... it is the united and earnest counsel of the brethren that the said Brother L shall let the old Negro woman go free from this time on, and shall tell her that she is free; but if she will not leave him after he has given her liberty, then he may enter into a contract with her for her wages. But this setting free or emancipation shall be done before some brethren, as witnesses of the transaction. Concerning the children, it is also unitedly considered that he is to free the children at the age of twenty-one years, and is to have them schooled, and provided with (food), clothing, and bedding during the time, as it is just and proper; and when they are twenty-one years old he is to give them free (new) outfits of clothing....

Source: A Self-Instruction Guide Through Brethren History, Donald E. Miller