From Peace to Freedom


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Quaker Rhetoric and the Birth of American Antislavery, 1657-1761

Brycchan Carey

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In the first book to investigate in detail the origins of antislavery thought and rhetoric within the Society of Friends, Brycchan Carey shows how the Quakers turned against slavery in the first half of the eighteenth century and became the first organization to take a stand against the slave trade.

Through meticulous examination of the earliest writings of the Friends, including journals and letters, Carey reveals the society’s gradual transition from expressing doubt about slavery to adamant opposition. He shows that while progression toward this stance was ongoing, it was slow and uneven and that it was vigorous internal debate and discussion that ultimately led to a call for abolition. His book will be a major contribution to the history of the rhetoric of antislavery and the development of antislavery thought as explicated in early Quaker writing.

Brycchan Carey is currently reader in English literature, Kingston University, London. He is the author of British Abolitionism and the Rhetoric of Sensibility: Writing, Sentiment, and Slavery, 1760–1807.

“This is a story that has not been told before…a significant accomplishment and contribution to our understanding of Quaker and abolitionist history.”—Laura M. Stevens, University of Tulsa

"Brycchan Carey’s From Peace to Freedom is a significant contribution to the historiography of the early transatlantic antislavery movement. Combining lucid rhetorical and literary textual analysis with archival historical research, Carey makes a compelling case for how and why the evolution of Quaker opposition to slavery from 1657 to 1761 laid the necessary groundwork for the seemingly sudden rise of the transatlantic antislavery movement in the last quarter of the eighteenth century and beyond."—Vincent Carretta, University of Maryland

"Timely and very important, this book demonstrates how over nearly a century Quakers constructed a corporate discourse of anti-slavery and how that discourse became the basis for all later anti-slavery sentiment in America. . . . A model of fine scholarship."—B. P. Dandelion, University of Birmingham
From Peace to Freedom is a bracing and welcome addition to the literature on Quaker antislavery activism and writing.”—William and Mary Quarterly

‘Carey’s style is engaging and readable, his considered interpretation of the sources emphasises their intertextual nature. Alongside this, his examination of the minutes of the Quaker meetings gesture towards the role of discussion and debate in the formulation of rhetoric. With generous quotations from rare or inaccessible documents, this offers a detailed insight into how the Quakers in America laid down a rhetorical foundation, which later went on to influence antislavery arguments in Britain.’—Katie Donington, History Today

“This readable and important book is a welcome addition to the history of antislavery work.”—The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography


“We all are indebted to Carey’s diligent mind and skillful hands.”—Quaker Theology

From Peace to Freedom is essential to understanding the origins and impact of antislavery thought in the Society of Friends.”—The Historian

“Insightful and accessible. . . . From Peace to Freedom is essential to understanding the origins and impact of antislavery thought in the Society of Friends.”—Carol Faulkner, The Historian

ISBN: 9780300180770
Publication Date: November 27, 2012
272 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4