Monday, September 22, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Francis Daniel Pastorius, Germantown Renaissance man, arrives in Philadelphia

Francis Daniel Pastorius was born in Sommerhausen, Germany, September 26th, 1651, and arrived in Philadelphia August 6, 1683. He moved to Germantown and became the leader, counselor, lawyer, teacher and conveyancer for his countrymen.

Francis Daniel Pastorius, Germantown Renaissance man, arrives in Philadelphia

Francis Daniel Pastorius (1651- c. 1719)
Francis Daniel Pastorius (1651- c. 1719)

Francis Daniel Pastorius was born in Sommerhausen, Germany, September 26th, 1651, and arrived in Philadelphia August 6, 1683. He moved to Germantown and became the leader, counselor, lawyer, teacher and conveyancer for his countrymen.

He was one of the best educated men in the colonies, being familiar with and writing fluently German, Italian, French, Dutch, English, Spanish, Greek and Latin.

He kept the records of the court, was bailiff of the borough, a justice of the peace and member of the Assembly, 1687 and 1691. He looked after the affairs of the Frankfort Company, the company owning the land comprised in Germantown, until 1700. He wrote a primer, which was the first original school book printed in Pennsylvania. Seven of his books were printed, besides which he left forty-three works in manuscript.

An ardent abolitionist, Francis Pastorius drafted the first protest against slavery in America while living in Germantown. He wrote it on behalf of three men and himself. (They all were members of the religious group called the Society of Friends (Quakers) and all lived in Germantown, having come to Pennsylvania only a few years before from their homeland, Germany.) He submitted it to the tiny Friends Meeting in Germantown in 1688 (Pastorius was the clerk of the Meeting). He wrote: 

"There is a saying that we shall do to all men like as we will be done ourselves; making no difference of what generation, descent or color they are. And those who steal or rob men, and those who buy or purchase them, are they not all alike?...

"Here is liberty of conscience, which is right and reasonable; here ought to be likewise liberty of ye body, except of evil-doers, which is another case. But to bring men hither, or to rob and sell them against their will, we stand against..."

The Friends of Germantown were far ahead of their time. Neither George Fox nor William Penn had gone so far. The monthly meeting which received the protest concluded: "we find it so weighty that we think it not expedient for us to meddle with it here, but do rather commit it to ye consideration of ye Quarterly Meeting..." The Quarterly gathering, in turn, recommended it to Yearly Meeting, "it being a thing of too great weight for this meeting to determine." The Yearly Meeting in September 1688 recorded: 

"A paper being here presented by some German Friends concerning the lawfulness and unlawfulness of buying and keeping negroes, it was adjudged not to be so proper for this Meeting to give a positive judgment in the case..."

By all standard measures, the Germantown protest failed. Nevertheless, the seed had been planted.

By 1696, the Yearly Meeting recorded: "It is the advice of this meeting that Friends be careful not to encourage the bringing in of any more negroes." In 1730 the Yearly Meeting declared new slave purchases to be "disagreeable to the sense of this meeting," and by 1758 it decreed: "If any professing with us should be concerned in importing, selling or purchasing slaves, the respective monthly meetings to which they belong should manifest their disunity with such persons."

Friends were well ahead of the general population in acknowledging the evil of slavery. By the time of the Revolution, slave-holding was ended among Friends.

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