Thomas Nicholson Urges Gradual Emancipation
Thomas Nicholson (1715–1780), a prominent landowner, merchant, Quaker missionary, and author in Perquimans County addressed an open letter to his co-religionists a year before the Western Quarter requested that the Yearly Meeting clarify the society's position on slave trading. The contents of Nicholson's letter, with its dual focus on the wrong that slavery does to the slave and the harm it does to the slaveholder, reflects the reform sentiment then spreading through American Quakerdom. Nicholson acknowledges the difficulty that the law presented to anyone seeking to free his slaves, but his proposal of a form of gradual emancipation did not offer a truly practical way around the legal hurdle.
Keywords: Thomas Nicholson, Perquimans, Yearly Meeting, Western Quarter, American Quakerdom, emancipation, co-religionists