So the first anti-slavery publication was published in 1700. It was called “The Selling Of Joseph” by Samuel Sewall. He was a wealthy Boston merchant and chief justice of the Massachusetts Superior Court. What did this publication advocate?
WARREN: So Samuel Sewall’s an interesting guy. He was involved in the Salem witchcraft trials, and he was the only judge to later publicly recant his participation in those trials. He stood up in front of a congregation and apologized. He said he was wrong. So he’s a man given to self reflection. He’s not above humbling himself in public. And he writes this pamphlet called “The Selling Of Joseph” in which he says, basically, he’s troubled by the numbers of slaves that he sees in Boston and he wonders if this is an OK thing. And he says, no, it’s not, that this is not God’s work, that we’re bringing these slaves and then we’re not helping them and it’s wrong.
And it’s a startling pamphlet to read. What’s more interesting to me – so people often put him in sort of – he’s the origin of a lineage of Northern anti-slavery sentiment. But what’s more interesting to me is that he’s actually, for his time, wrong. A man named John Saffin responds to him and rebuts him point for point. And according to the thought of the time, Saffin is right. He says, no, what are you talking about? There’s a hierarchy in the world. God developed this hierarchy. Some people are born to serve, and this is them and the Bible justifies this.
He says, moreover, it’s not wrong to take them from Africa because we’re Christianizing them, you know, what do you mean that that isn’t right? Of course we’re saving them.
And Sewall’s pamphlet falls into oblivion, really. It’s not, (laughter), it’s not welcomed by anyone in the region. His own son later advertises for slaves. So even in his own family, he has little effect.