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Teaching of the Spirit, Exemplified in the History of Two Slaves

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Post-war anti-slavery tract, published by the Society of Friends (Philadelphia: Tract Association of Friends, 1870). Digitized by the Antislavery Literature Project.

This brief 4-page religious tract was typical of religious anti-slavery literature produced by the Society of Friends. The Tract Association of the Society of Friends published a wide variety of pietistic literature, beginning in 1816 and continuing until the present day; it is one of the oldest continuously operating publishers in the United States. The great majority of the Tract Association’s literature was on spiritual and theological topics, but during the antebellum period there were regular publications of religiously-oriented appeals against slavery. For further information, see Edwin Bronner, “Distributing the Printed Word: The Tract Association of Friends, 1816-1966” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 91 (1967) 3:342-354.

The Teaching of the Spirit employs witness accounts of Quaker missionaries traveling in North Carolina and Virginia to exemplify the Friends’ doctrine of quiet spiritual forbearance in the face of worldly tribulations. This pacifistic anti-slavery that emphasized spiritual self-integrity as opposition to slavery was in the tradition of Benjamin Lundy, a leading early nineteenth-century Quaker opponent of U.S. slavery. Such views sought, as in this tract, examples that demonstrated the spiritual nobility of slaves, Indians, the poor, and others whose oppressed social conditions were lightened and lives strengthened through manifestations of the divine spirit.

The present text lists no author and employs only identifying initials for Quaker witnesses, perhaps in observance of Quaker emphasis on spiritual and social humility.

— Joe Lockard