With a Little Help from the Friends: The Quaker and Tactical Contexts of Anthony Benezet's Abolitionist Publishing


ON THE MORNING OF NOVEMBER 14, 1766, some Philadelphia Quakers hastened to prepare a parcel to put in the hands of John Griffith, a traveling minister who was about to board a ship that day and return to England. Griffith had arrived in Philadelphia in September 1765, and over the next year he visited Quaker meetings up and down the Atlantic seaboard from North Carolina to New Hampshire, taking their spiritual pulse, preaching the gospel, and calling for a revival of vital piety among Friends. By September 1766 he felt that his work was finished, and so he informed the ministers and elders of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting on the twenty-seventh of that month of his desire to return home. Three men were duly appointed to write a certificate for Griffith "Expressive of Our Unity with his Gospel Labours among us," one of whom was Anthony Benezet, the schoolmaster, reformer, and pamphleteer.  Benezet was attending the Yearly Meeting as a representative of the Burlington (New Jersey) Quarterly Meeting along with his friends John Smith, a councilor in New Jersey's royal government, and John Woolman, the pioneering antislavery reformer, among others. Certificate in hand, Griffith learned that the ship Phoebe would shortly be departing for London, and so he booked passage aboard her and arrived at Dartmouth, England, on Christmas Day after a six-week voyage.