Long before the United States formally became a nation, the Quakers, a devout group of Christians, declared the evil of slavery and called for its end. In 1688 the Quakers wrote the first anti-slavery literature in America, the Germantown Quaker Petition Against Slavery. This document is known as one of the earliest written documents declaring universal human rights for all kinds of people. It repeatedly quotes Jesus’s phrase “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” also known as the Golden Rule.
In 1783, a group of 273 Quaker Christians petitioned Britain to outlaw slavery in all its territories, citing “the Christian Faith” and declaring that slavery goes against “the Gospel” of Jesus.
Quaker Christians played such an important role in ending slavery throughout the world that their names come up over and over again when researching “abolition” (the ending of slavery). They joined forces with Christians of other denominations to lead a historic campaign to uproot and end slavery in the British territories, including colonies in the Americas. The Quakers argued that “a nation professing the Christian Faith should” work with God’s “principles of humanity and justice” to view slavery as “a cruel treatment of this oppressed race.”