This article reconsiders the complex relationship between Quakers and African slavery during the early eighteenth century by examining a small contingent of Quaker merchants who directed the intercolonial African slave trade in Philadelphia. This is much more than an aberrant moment in the larger story of Quaker antislavery. The first two decades of the eighteenth century, when Quakers were the colony's largest slave owners and most active in the slave trade, witnessed the coalescence of a declining economic interest in the intercolonial slave trade and the emergence of an embryotic conversation about the morality of African slavery. Rather than focusing on the moral and religious critique of slavery, this article instead reorients our focus to the crucial role that practical considerations and economic motivations played in the evolution of antislavery among the Society of Friends.

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