These protests against illicit enslavement would be repeated in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. A particularly dramatic confrontation took place in Havana, where the deputy to the Bishop of Cuba in 1681 excommunicated two Capuchin missionaries who had begun urging slaveholders to liberate their slaves and had denied absolution to those who refused. In 1686, their views on slavery came to the attention of the papacy, which just then was contemplating a very rare instance of antislavery mobilization in colonial Brazil. Lourenco Da Silva de Mendouca, the mixed-race procurator of the black and mulatto Christian brotherhoods in Iberia and Brazil, had travelled to Rome at the behest of other free Christians of colour hoping to bring an end to the enslavement of Africans baptized in the faith. These Capuchin and Christian African appeals together produced a sustained enquiry by the cardinals assembled in the Propaganda Fide which led in turn to what the historian Richard Gray has described as 'the most significant debate ever held within the curia concerning the injustices of the Atlantic slave trade'. The outcome was a formal declaration by the Holy Office in 1686 that endorsed each of the antislavery propositions put forward by the excommunicated Capuchin missionaries. But that judgement could bring no major adjustment to how the slave trade or slavery operated while the crowns of Spain and Portugal exercised final authority over their American colonies. It would be the last antislavery statement to emerge from Rome for a century and a half.5
Antislavery opinion circulated rather more extensively in the British settlements in North America and the Caribbean founded in the seventeenth century - within communities that allowed more room for the articulation of dissent and the exploration of heterodox opinion. In England, the occasional criticism of colonial slavery before and during the early eighteenth century took shape most commonly in the imaginative literature preoccupied with tensions between primitive innocence and European luxury. In the Americas, by contrast, antislavery sentiment emerged out of more specific social conflicts between the pursuit of religious purity and the more pervasive commitment to the acquisition of wealth. The faultlines developed most consistently and consequentially within the Religious Society of Friends, where a belief in continuing revelation, an impulse to challenge an accommodation with worldly aims and institutions, and the comparatively limited influence of spiritual elders combined to encourage dissenters within the Society to confront publicly the Quaker majority that profited from slave labour. A similar concern with how the owning of slaves might cause spiritual and moral harm to the owners of slaves would move several Anglican philanthropists in the 1730s and 1740s to fight on behalf of the short-lived ban on slaveholding in the new
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