“Love to Justice, and a Wish to Promote It:” The Politics of Slavery in New Jersey 1770-1775


  • Bruce A. Bendler




In November 1773, a bill to forbid the importation of slaves into New Jersey, and ease the colony’s rigid requirements for manumission, was introduced in the colonial Assembly. This effort was led by Quakers who opposed slavery, but realized that full and immediate abolition was not politically possible. They thus chose the more politically realistic objectives of placing restrictions on slave importation and easing requirements for manumission. Because of growing opposition to even those measures, the bill failed to win passage. This paper argues that efforts to enact this bill formed part of a well-coordinated effort to restrict slavery in late colonial New Jersey, led by Samuel Allinson of Burlington and his allies in the colonial Assembly. Allinson also secured the support of noted abolitionists Anthony Benezet of Philadelphia and Granville Sharp of England. Furthermore, he employed rhetoric in his efforts to restrict slavery similar to that employed in concurrent protests against British encroachments on colonial liberties. Although the bill did not pass, Allinson’s correspondence with Benezet and Sharp, the numerous petitions presented in its support, and the publications urging its enactment, prove that there was a serious and well-organized movement in New Jersey to restrict slavery just before the Revolution, with the ultimate goal of its abolition.