Monday, May 26, 2008

Notes on the Quakers in colonial Long Island

There was not the seperation of church and state that we know today, political and religous leaders were the same people in colonial times. There were laws about church construction and attendance. Newcomers were screened before they could settle in a community, sometimes they would be forced to move on. The Quakers were widely persecuted and were not allowed into many communities. They were "fined, imprisoned, whipped, shorn of their ears, had their tongues bored with hot irons and put to death." (Bookbinder, 47). On Long Island, Peter Stuyvesant made it a crime to give the Quakers shelter, talk to them, or bring them into the area by ship.

There were some residents how opposed this discrimination. In 1657, the Flushing Remonstrance was issued objecting to the anti-Quaker laws on moral grounds. Stuyvesant responded by outlawing town meetings in Flushing. He also banished a Quaker leader, but was rebuked by the West India Company, whose position was similar to that of the group in Flushing.

The Quakers recieved better treatment from the English. George Fox, founder of the Quakers, visited Long Island in 1672. His visit included Shelter Island, a Quaker haven.

The Quakers were persecuted because of their beliefs. Their refusal to take oaths was seen as a defiance of authority and as subversive. Bookbinder says that the Quakers were "not always orderly. For example, they sometimes would 'bear testimony' by running naked through the streets, cursing all who differed with them." I wonder what that means exactly.

Source: Bookbinder, Bernie. Long Island: People and Places, Past and Present. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1983 (Illustrations © 1983 Newsday)

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Notes on slavery on Long Island

The Dutch introduced slavery on Long Island in 1626. They had asked the Dutch East India Company for indentured servants, but were turned down. Instead, they chose to imitate the colonists of Virginia and use African slave labor. By 1700, the proportion of slaves to free people was greater on LI than in Virginia. A 1732 census showed 7,232 slaves to 40,048 white colonists. All slaves were highly valued. It became something of a status symbol to own slaves, even some Quakers engaged in the practice. The Quakers were the among the first on Long Island to call for slavery's abolition. Slavery on the island peaked around the time of the revolution, shortly after which the ideas of freedom pervaded throughout Long Island communities. Slavery was legally ended in New York in 1827, although it was carried out in secrecy by parts of the maritime community near Fire Island until the Civil War.

Indentured servants, mostly from England, were also used. They often worked and lived in harsher conditions than slaves and many did not survive their term of servitude. This was because their employers knew they would not be around for more than a few years and they had no motivation to ensure their health and well being.

Source: Bookbinder, Bernie. Long Island: People and Places, Past and Present. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1983 (Illustrations © 1983 Newsday)

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