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constitution, in which she wrote that the Concessions “naturally re¬‚ected Quaker ideology”
and remains “the clearest expression of the liberal aspirations of mid-century revolutionaries”
(Caroline Robbins, “William Penn, Edward Byllynge and the Concessions of 1677,” in The
4 Quaker Constitutionalism and John Dickinson

work on early modern politics has followed this assumption. Although there
are many studies of the in¬‚uence of the political world on Quakerism and their
practical politics in Pennsylvania,8 there are few studies on the relationship
of Quaker theology to their political thought,9 fewer still on the signi¬cance
of their thought and practice for the American polity,10 and none on their
collective understanding of a constitution.11


West Jersey Concessions and Agreements of 1676/77: A Roundtable of Historians, Occasional
Papers No. 1 [Trenton, NJ: New Jersey Historical Commission, 1979], 17“23. 19, 23). Those
following her earlier thought include Christopher Hill, The World Turned Upside Down:
Radical Ideas during the English Revolution (New York: The Viking Press, 1972), 327; Boorstin,
The Americans, 68; J. G. A Pocock, “Interregnum and Restoration,” in The Varieties of British
Political Thought, 1500“1800 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 155; Wills, A
Necessary Evil.
8 Frederick B. Tolles, Meeting House and Counting House: The Quaker Merchants of Colonial
Pennsylvania, 1682“1763 (New York: W. W. Norton, 1948); Gary B. Nash, Quakers and Pol-
itics: Pennsylvania, 1681“1726 (Princeton, 1968; rpt. Boston: Northeastern University Press,
1993); James H. Hutson, Pennsylvania Politics, 1740“1770: The Movement for Royal Gov-
ernment and Its Consequences (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1972); Alan Tully,
Forming American Politics: Ideals, Interests, and Institutions in Colonial New York and Penn-
sylvania (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994); and Tully, William Penn™s Legacy:
Politics and Social Structure in Provincial Pennsylvania, 1726“1755 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins
University Press, 1977).
9 A useful work by Herman Wellenreuther discusses of the in¬‚uence of Quaker theology and
ecclesiology in Pennsylvania government: Glaube und Politik in Pennsylvania, 1681“1776:
¨
Die Wandlungen der Obrigkeitsdoktrin und des Peace Testimony der Quaker (Koln: Bohlau,
¨ ¨
1972). This study presents in impressive detail the dif¬culties Quakers confronted in reconciling
their political authority with their peace testimony. Richard Bauman gives an analysis of various
forms of Quaker political engagement in Pennsylvania as based on their different understandings
and expressions of Quaker principles in For the Reputation of Truth. Other studies examine
the political thought of William Penn, but with little or no attention to his Quakerism. See
Edwin Corbyn Obert Beatty, William Penn as Social Philosopher (New York: Columbia Uni-
versity Press, 1939); Mary Maples Dunn, “William Penn, Classical Republican,” PMHB vol. 81
(1957), 138“56 and William Penn: Politics and Conscience (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University
Press, 1967). A work that begins to address the religious aspects of Penn™s political thought is
Melvin B. Endy, William Penn and Early Quakerism (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press,
1973).
10 The only work on this is Tully™s Forming American Politics: Ideals, Interests, and Institutions
in Colonial New York and Pennsylvania (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977).
A work that seems as though it will engage a discussion of Quaker political theory and its
implications for America is E. Digby Baltzell™s Puritan Boston and Quaker Philadelphia: Two
Protestant Ethics and the Spirit of Class Authority and Leadership (New York: The Free Press,
1979). However, he purports to analyze Quaker conceptions of government by saying that theirs
were purely negative and therefore made no substantive contribution to American political
culture. A brief but important corrective to this thesis is put forth by Stephen A. Kent and
James V. Spickerd, “The ˜Other™ Civil Religion and the Tradition of Radical Quaker Politics,”
Journal of Church and State vol. 36, no. 2 (1994), 374“87. This piece addresses a few of the
constitutional innovations of Quakers and the importance of Quaker antiauthoritarianism for
American political culture.
11 Richard Alan Ryerson gives us a glimpse into William Penn™s constitutional thought, but he
not does extend his analysis to the rest of the Society, nor does he address the theological
Introduction 5

Robbins™s assertion that Quakers can be neglected depends, of course, on
how one de¬nes “political agitations.” If they are understood exclusively as
armed revolts or violent riots, then she is correct. For most of their existence,
Quakers have been paci¬sts, refusing to engage in armed warfare even to
defend their own colony of Pennsylvania. It is likely that one of the main
reasons for their exclusion from American political historiography is their
stance as conscientious objectors in the Revolution and the specter of Loyalism
this conjured up in the minds of their critics then and since. But, as we shall
see, although revolution, mob action, and other sorts of violent behavior were
an important part of early modern political culture, they were not the only
extra-legal mode of redressing grievances.12
Ironically, despite the assumption of Quaker quietism, another common mis-
understanding of Quakerism is that it is simply a radical form of Puritanism.13
Among early modern religions, Puritanism has received the most attention
from political historians. To be sure, Quakerism arose during the Puritan
Revolution, and there are some important theological and temperamental
characteristics that Quakers shared with Puritans. The most important trait for
this study is political aggression, a quality wholly lacking in most expressions of
Anabaptism. Because so much attention has gone to the political in¬‚uences of
reformed Calvinism on Western political thought, it then seems that, by exten-
sion, Quakerism has also been treated. But when scholars de¬ne Quakerism in
this way, they obscure any separate contribution. Although this study does not

underpinnings. See Ryerson, “William Penn™s Gentry Commonwealth: An Interpretation of the
Constitutional History of Early Pennsylvania,” Pennsylvania History vol. 61, no. 4 (1994), 393“
428. Only once have I come across the term Quaker constitutionalism outside of my own work.
In less than three pages on the theological foundations of Pennsylvania, Barbara Allen describes
with remarkable accuracy “ although perhaps attributing too much to Penn “ several of the
fundamental premises of Quaker theologico-political thought. See Barbara Allen, Tocqueville,
Covenant, and the Democratic Revolution: Harmonizing Earth with Heaven (Lanham, MD:
Lexington Books of Rowman & Little¬eld Publishers, 2005), 51“53.
12 Most studies of dissent and protest in America, especially early America, focus on the violent
expressions of mobbing and rioting. See, for example, William Pencak, Matthew Dennis, and
Simon P. Newman, eds., Riot and Revelry in Early America (University Park: Penn State
University Press, 2003); Wayne E. Lee, Crowds and Soldiers in Revolutionary North Carolina:
The Culture of Violence in Riot and War (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2001); Paul A.
Gilje, Rioting in America, Interdisciplinary Studies in History (Bloomington and Indianapolis:
Indiana University Press, 1996); John Phillip Reid, In a Rebellious Spirit: The Argument of
Facts, the Liberty Riot, and the Coming of the American Revolution (University Park: Penn
State University Press, 1979); Pauline Maier, From Resistance to Revolution: Colonial Radicals
and the Development of the American Opposition to Britain, 1765“1776 (New York: W. W.
Norton & Co., 1991).
13 Many major works, both by Quakers and non-Quakers, have put forth this interpretation. See,
for example, Sydney E. Ahlstrom, A Religious History of the American People (New Haven, CT:
Yale University Press, 1972), 130, 134, 177“78, 208“09; and, among others, the most in¬‚uential
study of early Quakerism, Barbour™s The Quakers in Puritan England, 2, passim. See also James
F. Maclear, “Quakerism and the End of the Interregnum: A Chapter in the Domestication of
Radical Puritanism,” Church History vol. 19 (1950), 240“70. For a detailed refutation of this
interpretation, see Melvin B. Endy, “Puritanism, Spiritualism, and Quakerism.”
6 Quaker Constitutionalism and John Dickinson

undertake a detailed comparison of Quakerism and Puritanism, it demonstrates
that on several key points, Quaker theology and practice were importantly
different from reformed Calvinism. Insofar as these two religious systems
differed, so did the political theories and institutions that grew from them.
Quakers were therefore neither Anabaptists nor reformed Calvinists. They
were torn between their Anabaptist roots, which inclined them to reject gov-
ernment, of¬ce holding, civic engagement, and war, and the Calvinism at their
nascence that drove them into the political arena. This dualism in Quakerism is
something that Friends have always tried with varied success to balance. Con-
sequently, there is a certain schizophrenia about Quakerism “ a people militant
at times in their insistence on peace and extreme in their moderation. Through-
out this study we see Quakers both as individuals and as a body struggling
to reconcile this and other competing and sometimes-contradictory aspects of
their identity.
This study has three overarching purposes “ to describe Quaker constitu-
tional theory; to identify the practical expressions of this theory; and to explain
the thought and action of Founding Father John Dickinson within this tradi-
tion, using him as the best, though imperfect exemplar of it in early America.

In the late-seventeenth century, the Religious Society of Friends originated a
unique theory of a civil constitution and a philosophy of civic engagement that
they practiced and actively disseminated beyond their Society for the next three
hundred years. Their political thought and action was inextricably connected
to their theology, the form and function of their ecclesiastical constitution,
and appropriate behavior within their faith community, all of which this study
will engage in detail. The most important practical expression of this theory
was peaceful resistance to government to effect constitutional change. Of the
possible methods of peaceful protest, civil disobedience was the most extreme.
It is thus a main theme of this work. The study follows the development and
use of this method and others by Quakers in Interregnum and Restoration
England, through the American Revolution with Dickinson as its foremost
advocate, and, in an epilogue, up to its articulation by Martin Luther King,
Jr., in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. In doing so, it offers the ¬rst
exposition of Quaker constitutional thought, the ¬rst discussion of the Quaker
foundations of American civil disobedience, and the ¬rst coherent analysis of
John Dickinson™s political thought.
The most familiar concept in this study, civil disobedience, warrants some
attention at the outset. Although since the 1960s it has become a widely
accepted form of civic engagement, it is often misunderstood. Scholars and
the public alike confuse it with other modes of dissent, both violent and non-
violent, which is not surprising, since the various forms of resistance overlap.
Thus a few words by way of de¬nition of civil disobedience and a brief overview
of its relationship to Quaker constitutional theory are in order.
Although the de¬nition of civil disobedience has been in contention over
the years, it is most generally accepted to be a public, nonviolent, submissive
transgression of law. This is to say, it is an act performed out in the open; it
Introduction 7

does neither physical nor mental harm to people or property; and the actor
accepts the punishment for the act. Breaking the law in this case must also be
intentional, not inadvertent. Finally, it must be committed with the intent to
educate and persuade the general public to the position of the disobedient. The
¬gures whom scholars consider to be the major thinkers on the matter and who
have received almost exclusive attention, Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.,
concurred with this de¬nition.14 Civil disobedience also presumes a number of
other political requisites. There must be a democratic element of the system
that assumes the people have a say in the laws. The act must be for the public
good rather than private or sectarian interests. There also must be a substantial
degree of stability in the polity. And, most importantly, for it to be legitimate,
there must be a sense of moral obligation to the constitution and government.
There is, in other words, no basis for dissent in anarchy.
There are also other forms of political resistance that are similar to, but not
the same as, civil disobedience. Many of these have aspects in common with
civil disobedience, but they leave out some elements. They include actions or
nonactions that range from legal and peaceful to overtly violent and illegal,
such as obstructionism, evasion, nonresistance, and revolution. Some speci¬c
examples are voting, disseminating political literature, boycotts, sit-ins and
marches, rioting, tax evasion, manipulation of the legal system, withdrawal of
¬nancial or other assistance, bombing of public buildings, and overthrow of
the government. For reasons that are fairly clear, these actions usually do not
meet the criteria for civil disobedience “ some of them break no laws,15 some
are violent and destructive, some are clandestine, and some show no sense of
political obligation.
Civil disobedience can also be exercised by various means. It can be direct
or nondirect action, persuasive or coercive. In direct action, the disobedient
breaks the speci¬c law he believes to be unjust. In nondirect action, he breaks
laws that are not directly related to the speci¬c injustice he is protesting, except
perhaps symbolically, in order to disrupt the system and bring attention to his
cause. Also, civil disobedience is a form of pressure, but that pressure can be
manifested in different ways. It can be gently educative or persuasive when it
seeks to convert the community to the position of the disobedient; or it can be
coercive when it uses the body of the disobedient as a means to make people
behave contrary to their inclinations. It cannot be violent. But, as will become
clear, violence is a concept that can be broadly construed.16

14 This de¬nition describes the theory and action of King and Gandhi, but not, for reasons I explain
in the epilogue, Henry David Thoreau. The classic statement is from Martin Luther King,
Jr., Letter from a Birmingham City Jail (Philadelphia: American Friends Service Committee,
1963).
15 This is to say that they do not break contemporary American laws. In seventeenth-century
England or other countries today with fewer civil liberties, many of these nonviolent forms of
protest might have been or may be illegal, which would then allow them to ¬t into the category
of civil disobedience.
16 James F. Childress, Civil Disobedience and Political Obligation: A Study in Christian Social
Ethics (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1971), 27“32.
8 Quaker Constitutionalism and John Dickinson

The scholarship on civil disobedience, most of which was produced in the
late 1960s and early 1970s in the wake of the Civil Rights Movement, usually
begins with Thoreau and ends with King.17 Much of it takes little account of
religion in general or, if so, demonstrates a serious ignorance of the history of
peace churches and the origins of paci¬sm in America; and the scholarship is
decidedly anemic without Quakerism.18 It was Quakers who were the ¬rst prac-
titioners of this technique. Rather than follow the lead of their Puritan cousins
in challenging the government, Quakers took another tack and became more
than just the mild-mannered advocates of religious liberty that they have been
portrayed to be, but something other than revolutionaries. Since their begin-
ning, they were among the most radical and best organized political groups in
Interregnum and Restoration England. Not only did they take part in political
agitations, but they were, as far as their contemporaries were concerned, a
menace to civil government to rival any “ even Ranters and Catholics. They are
proof against J. G. A. Pocock™s claim that there was a “disappearance of sectar-
ian radical culture” after the Interregnum.19 Moreover, they were among the

17 For a fuller analysis of the tenets of civil disobedience, as well as the debate over the de¬nition,
see Harry Prosch, “Toward an Ethic of Civil Disobedience,” Ethics vol. 77, no. 3. (1967),
176“192; Wilson Carey McWilliams, “Civil Disobedience and Contemporary Constitutional-
ism: The American Case,” Comparative Politics vol. 1, no. 2 (1969), 211“27; Hugo Adam
Bedau, ed., Civil Disobedience: Theory and Practice (New York: Pegasus, 1968); Howard
Zinn, Disobedience and Democracy: Nine Fallacies on Law and Order (New York: Vintage
Books, 1968); Childress, Civil Disobedience; Marshall Cohen, “Liberalism and Civil Disobe-
dience,” Philosophy and Public Affairs vol. 1, no. 3 (1972), 283“314; John Rawls, A Theory
of Justice (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1971), 322; Hugo Adam Bedau, Civil
Disobedience in Focus (New York: Routledge, 1991). See also the American Philosophical
Association Eastern Division Symposium on Political Obligation and Civil Disobedience, Fifty-
Eighth Annual Meeting, Atlantic City, NJ, December 27“29, 1961, the papers from which are:
Richard A. Wasserstrom, “Disobeying the Law,” The Journal of Philosophy vol. 58, no. 21(Oct.
12, 1961), 641“53; Hugo A. Bedau, “On Civil Disobedience,” The Journal of Philosophy
vol. 58, no. 21 (Oct. 12, 1961), 653“65; Stuart M. Brown, Jr., “Civil Disobedience,” The
Journal of Philosophy vol. 58, no. 22 (Oct. 26, 1961), 669“81. Many other works purportedly
on the topic take an uncomplicated approach and, without setting forth a de¬nition, mistakenly
treat any sort of resistance to government as civil disobedience. One example is Mary K. Bonsteel
Tachau, “The Whiskey Rebellion in Kentucky: A Forgotten Episode of Civil Disobedience,”
Journal of the Early Republic vol. 2, no. 3 (1982), 239“59.
18 In Advocates of Peace in Antebellum America (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992),
Valeri Zigler explores the paci¬st movement in Antebellum America, but without attention to
its Quaker roots. Maurice Isserman ¬nds that “American paci¬sm was largely an offshoot of
evangelical Protestantism.” If I Had a Hammer . . . The Death of the Old Left and the Birth
of the New Left (New York: Basic Books, 1987), 127. Although he is right to argue that
the peace movement of the early nineteenth century had a signi¬cant evangelical component,
its progenitors acknowledged their debt to the two-hundred years of Quaker paci¬sm that had
come before. See Peter Brock, Radical Paci¬sts in Antebellum America (Princeton, NJ: Princeton
University Press, 1968). Of the few works that recognize Quakers, two are by Straughton
Lynd, including Nonviolence in America: A Documentary History (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill,
1966); and Intellectual Origins of American Radicalism (New York: Pantheon Books, 1968).
19 J. G. A. Pocock, “Radical Criticisms of the Whig Order in the Age between Revolutions,” in
Margaret Jacobs and James Jacobs, eds., The Origins of Anglo-American Radicalism (London:
George Allen & Unwin, 1984), 33“57, 33.
Introduction 9

leaders in the early resistance movement against Britain in the Revolution. But
they agitated without violence. They were paci¬sts, but by no means passive;
as John Dickinson put it, they were turbulent, but paci¬c. In their own peculiar
way, they instigated a most signi¬cant and effective kind of political agitation
and were the ¬rst contributors to a distinctive mode of thought and behavior
within the Anglo-American dissenting tradition. A Milton scholar writing in
1896 also noted this Quaker contribution and found that it “has never been
suf¬ciently acknowledged.”20 His observation holds true still.
If Quakers were quietists or self-interested sectarians, their exclusion from
this historiography on this subject would be warranted. But their protest always
had a political purpose. The main form of protest with which Quakers are asso-
ciated is conscientious objection, a form of dissent that is usually distinguished
from civil disobedience. Scholars rightly argue that in order for protest to be
properly de¬ned as civil disobedience, the goal of the disobedient must be not
only for the protection and salvation of his own soul but also for the well-being
and reform of the political society in which he lives. They make a distinction
between civil disobedience as a political protest and conscientious objection, or
resistance required by faith.21 About religious conscientious objectors, writes
James Childress, “the agent is not trying to effect general social change, but
rather to ˜witness™ to his personal values and perhaps to secure a personal
exemption for himself. There is no effort at persuasion or coercion.”22 But
of course, “witnessing” requires an audience “ or a jury. In all their protests,
Quakers witnessed before the court of public opinion with the intent to per-
suade non-Quakers to their position. It was a form of proselytizing. To be sure,
they wanted to absolve themselves from any implication in ungodly activity;
but at the same time their goal was to set an example for others to follow, to
testify for God™s law through social and political reform. This study will show
that the Quakers™ intentions were far from merely self-interested, either person-
ally or for their Society “ they were for the public welfare. Indeed, throughout
much of American history, most outsiders were fully aware of the Quakers™
intentions and bristled at them.23
In each phase of their incarnation “ from “grassroots” activists in England,
to politicians in colonial Pennsylvania, and back to activists after the American
Revolution “ Quakers expressed all forms of nonviolent resistance with varying

20 David Masson, The Life of John Milton: Narrated in Connexion with the Political, Ecclesiasti-
cal, and Literary History of His Time (1896; rpt. New York: Peter Smith, 1945), 6: 587“88.
21 See, for example, Rawls, A Theory of Justice, in his de¬nition of civil disobedience and consci-
entious refusal, 319“26.
22 Childress, Civil Disobedience, 24.
23 Indeed, Childress™s statement should be quali¬ed in a signi¬cant way. There are certainly some
religious sects, including many of those who are in the Anabaptist tradition such as the Amish
and Mennonites who ¬t this description. Like the Quakers, most conscientious objectors from
the early Christians onward have used their position as a means of publicizing their convictions
and converting others to their stance. Such is the fundamental proselytizing impulse in paci¬sm
itself. See Devere Allen, ed., Paci¬sm in the Modern World (New York: Garland Publishing,
1972) and Peter Brock, Paci¬sm in Europe to 1914 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press,
1972).
10 Quaker Constitutionalism and John Dickinson

emphasis on each tactic depending on the tenor of the situation. Sometimes the
lines between their tactics blurred. It was not unusual that they used various
techniques simultaneously, and it is sometimes dif¬cult to distinguish one form
from another. Their spheres of action “ social, religious, economic, and polit-
ical “ were also con¬‚ated. This is especially true where civil laws were either
unclearly de¬ned or undistinguished from social norms and customs. Beyond
their political resistance, then, Quakers engaged in social resistance in which
they did not necessarily break any laws but rather challenged entrenched behav-
iors and institutions. The punishments for these actions were often as bloody
as those meted out by the state for civil disobedience, and Quakers embraced
their martyrdom enthusiastically.
Thus, far from being “withdrawers” from political society, Quakers tradi-
tionally sought to make their religious convictions public in order to convince,
or coerce when necessary and possible, non-Quakers to share their vision of
the world and their mode of engagement with it.24 Because of this concern for
missionizing, Friends were also very savvy about how to use various media
at their disposal to shape their perception by non-Friends. Accordingly, an
important subtheme of this study is the Quakers™ public image. We will see
how Quakers manipulated their image and how, with the changing sociopo-
litical climate, the public perception of them evolved “ albeit unevenly “ from
extremely negative to very positive. I argue that the shift in the public image of
Quakerism indicates a degree of success in their missionizing.
Because political obligation, a commitment to preserving the constituted
polity, is the foundation on which civil disobedience rests, the analysis here
necessarily focuses on the Quaker understanding of a civil constitution.25 The
Quaker theory of a civil constitution demands respect for the constituted polity
and its founding principles. The respect is premised on a belief that the power
in the polity resides with the people “ all the people “ and that they are bound
to participate in it according to the rule of law; that is to say, individuals should
be governed by a process that is internalized in the individual, but might be
enforced from without if necessary. They must contribute to the welfare of
the polity through word and deed, and do so in a way that will preserve the
harmony in the polity while furthering its ends. The Quaker theory is a mode
of constitutional interpretation that values original intent and requires written
codi¬cation of them, but recognizes that a paper constitution is merely an

24 Throughout I will make a distinction between what I call traditional Quaker thought and
activism and newer modes that did not comport with Quakers™ historical behavior and theology
as it arose in the mid-seventeenth century.
25 A good deal of the work on political obligation was produced alongside the literature on civil dis-
obedience. A few of these are Michael Walzer, Obligations: Essays on Disobedience, War, and
Citizenship (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1971); Rawls, A Theory of Justice; Bently LeBaron,
“Three Components of Political Obligation,” Canadian Journal of Political Science / Revue
canadienne de science politique vol. 6, no. 3 (1973), 478“93; Karen Johnson, “Perspectives
on Political Obligation: A Critique and a Proposal,” The Western Political Quarterly vol. 27,
no. 3 (1974), 520“35.
Introduction 11

expression of the founding ideals of liberty, unity, and peace. The constitution is
a representation of the polity itself, which is a living entity. The theory therefore
presumes the need for evolution in a constant process of realizing the founding
ideals. The people individually and collectively assume their imperfection while
striving for perfection.
Not surprisingly considering the peculiarity of religious Quakerism, the
action that grew from this theologico-political theory was something strange
in the early modern period. Though many “Quaker” political goals were the
same as those of other Englishmen of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries “
security of civil liberties, a limited, constitutional government, a measure of
popular participation, and a peaceful and moral society “ Quakers™ means to
these ends differed markedly from others and signi¬ed priorities not shared by
most Englishmen. Moreover, the means were often more important than the
ends. If incorrect means “ such as violence, which could mean even excessively
disruptive words “ were used, not only would the results be illegitimate, the
polity might be fatally destabilized by them.
The hallmark of Quaker constitutionalism that gave rise to civil disobedience
was a twin emphasis on constitutional unity and perpetuity and a peaceful
process of rights advocacy and reform. Such was the Quaker sense of political
obligation that their dissent was carefully undertaken with meticulous attention
to the stability of the polity. For Quakers, the unity of a constituted polity,
ecclesiastical or civil, was sacred; but so was dissent. How they balanced these
two seemingly irreconcilable imperatives forms a main theme of this study.
Quakers were cautious in their advocacy even of peaceful dissent. They knew
that civil disobedience itself was a powerful tool that could lead to violent
action by those uncommitted to paci¬sm and could threaten the stability of the
government. Quaker action was situated on a continuum of nonviolent protest,
and their mantra was moderation.26 Their protest techniques ranged from less
to more disruptive depending on how stable the state was and the extent of their
own power in relation to it. They tempered their civil disobedience accordingly
with other modes of nonviolent resistance to remain moderate in action even
as they made radical demands for individual liberties. In no case was violent
disruption of the existing system through rioting, rebellion, or regicide ever
acceptable. Unlike their Puritan counterparts, Quakers denied the legitimacy
of any theory of revolution. Conversion (or “convincement,” as Quakers would
say) and persuasion were always the way, although the exact meaning of
these terms in the Quaker application of them is relative, and sometimes they
crossed the line into coercion. Theoretically, at least, they desired to apply the


26 Political moderation has a long history with many sources. Robert M. Calhoon™s broad discus-
sion in Political Moderation in America™s First Two Centuries (New York: Cambridge University
Press, 2008) investigates many of them. As perhaps the most thorough work on Anglo-American
moderation, it serves well as a companion to the present study, which highlights only one strain.
Calhoon identi¬es this particular brand of moderation as based on the concept of love in the
late-seventeenth century.
12 Quaker Constitutionalism and John Dickinson

minimum amount of pressure with the end goal always to effect a voluntary
and permanent change in the worldview of non-Quakers. This way they would

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