<< . .

. 21
( : 44)

. . >>

they stand in Opposition to Parliaments, Judges, and Courts of Judicature. That™s true
enough, They Teach also, That there are no Superior Orders of Men; this is a right
levelling Principle, and they conform to it by their sturdy Practice of their Hats.168

On the eve of the French and Indian War in 1755, with tensions over defense
high in Pennsylvania, a particularly virulent attack on Friends exempli¬es both
Quakers™ political strategies and the security of their power. It came in the
form of a pamphlet written by Anglican clergyman William Smith, and appar-
ently commissioned by the Proprietary, called A Brief State of the Province
of Pennsylvania. Smith was the Quakers™ most vocal and vitriolic critic since

163 LL, 2: 592.
164 Boorstin, The Americans, 42.
165 Ibid., 41.
166 LL, 2: 592.
167 In fact, there is good reason to believe that Kinsey™s motives were self-interested. After his death,
it was discovered that he embezzled a signi¬cant amount of money from the government. LL,
2: 604“05.
168 Bugg, Quaker Anatomized, 390.
Civil Unity and Dissention 171

Francis Bugg at the turn of the century. In an attempt to persuade Pennsyl-
vanians and the crown that Quakers were not ¬t to govern, he wrote A Brief
State to expose their alleged political malfeasance: their failure to defend the
colony from attacks by the French; their use of religion for political ends; their
exploitation of the Germans to consolidate their power; and their inappropriate
amount of legislative power. In addition to exemplifying one pole of the senti-
ment on Quakers, Smith™s pamphlet, rather than proving the incompetence of
Quaker politicians as he intended, instead gives us a view into the workings of
the Quaker Party and an indication of the political aptitude of its members.
In the early years of Pennsylvania, Smith explained, the government, though
run by Quakers, was “conducted with great Mildness and Prudence.” The rea-
son he gave for this was that they had not “as yet conceived any Thoughts of
turning Religion into a political scheme for Power.”169 Now, however, that
they were “[p]ossessed of such unrestrained Powers and Privileges, they seem
quite unrestrained; are factious, contentious, and disregard the Proprietors and
their Governors. Nay, they seem even to claim a kind of Independence of
their Mother-Country, despising the Orders of the Crown.”170 By this time,
he claimed, “[t]he Powers they enjoy are extraordinary, and some of them so
repugnant, that they are the Source of the greatest Confusion in the Govern-
ment.” “In some Instances,” he clari¬ed, referring to the unicameral system in
Pennsylvania, “they have both a legislative and executive Power.”171 By now,
of course, charges of political and religious impropriety were nothing new to
Quaker politicians.
It was not only the fact that Quakers had this extraordinary power that
antagonized Smith; it was also how they had gotten it. First, they made inap-
propriate use of their religion. Smith was fully convinced “that most of the
Quakers without Doors” acted “from Conscience and their religious Tenets;
but for those within Doors, I cannot but ascribe their Conduct rather to Inter-
est than Conscience.”172 Commenting unfavorably on the overlap in Quaker
Society between religion and politics, Smith also observed the convenient tim-
ing of PYM and the annual elections. He claimed that “they entered into
Cabals in their yearly Meeting, which is convened just before the Election, and
being composed of Deputies from all the monthly Meetings in the Province,
is the ¬nest Scheme that could possibly be projected, for conducting political
Intrigues, under the mark of Religion.”173
Second, Quakers made use of new and unorthodox techniques to sway the
popular vote in their favor. “In order to keep their Seats in the Assembly,” Smith
complained, “they have not only corrupted the Principles of the Germans; but,
to be consistent with their Interest, they must strive to keep these poor People in

169 Smith, Brief State, 5.
170 Ibid., 10.
171 Ibid., 5.
172 Ibid., 15.
173 Ibid., 26.
172 Quaker Constitutionalism in Theory and Practice

figure 4. Quakers, allied with Indians, oppressing the German and Scotch-Irish settlers
(1764). “The German bleeds & bears ye Furs/Of Quaker Lords & Savage Curs/Th™
Hiberian frets with new Distaster/And kicks to ¬‚ing his broadbrim™d Master/But help at
hand Resolves to hold down/Th™ Hiberian™s Head or tumble all down.” The scene shows
a Quaker and an Indian riding a German and a Scotch-Irishman like horses. The Quaker
is wearing spurs and the Indian™s knapsack has the initials of Israel Pemberton on it,
one of the most powerful Quaker merchants in the province. Another Quaker Party
member, probably Benjamin Franklin, holds a paper saying: “Resolved, ye Propr[ietor]
a knave & tyrant.” (LCP)

the same dark State, into which they have endeavored to sink them.”174 Smith
and others accused Quakers of lying to the Germans about the allegedly tyran-
nical intentions of the Proprietors. Similarly, another anti-Quaker pamphlet a
few years later lamented that “the unhappy Germans . . . have been blindly led
into your schemes, and patiently groan™d under the burthen”175 (Figure 4).
Exactly how Quakers lured the unsuspecting Germans into a “cabal” with
them seems to have been as much a source of admiration for Smith as something
despicable. As in their early campaigns for liberty of conscience in England,
Friends made ample use of printed materials to convince people to their way

174 Ibid., 32.
175 Williamson, The Plain Dealer, 1: 9.
Civil Unity and Dissention 173

of thinking. Smith focused on this as the most egregious “ and ingenious “
of the Quakers™ schemes. The Quakers enlisted the help of a German printer
to promote the Quaker Party position and gain votes among the German
population of the colony. “In consequence of this, the Germans, who had
hitherto continued peaceful, without meddling in Elections, came down in
Shoals, and carried all before them. Near 1,800 of them voted in the County
of Philadelphia, which threw the Balance on the side of the Quakers.”176 But
Smith seemed perturbed because the Quakers had used a creative and aggressive
technique for spreading political propaganda and mobilizing the popular vote,
while the traditional techniques of the Proprietary Party had failed. “[I]t is by
means of their hireling Printer, that they represent all regular Clergymen as Spies
and Tools of State, telling the People that they must not regard any Thing their
Ministers advise concerning Elections.”177 This, according to Smith, was “the
evil Genius of the Quakers” in action.178 “The Quakers, having found out this
Secret, have ever since excluded all other Persuasions from the Assembly.”179
But Quaker supporters would not take this criticism passively. In An Answer
to an Invidious Pamphlet, an anonymous supporter of the Quakers responded
to Smith™s accusations predictably, claiming that “[his] scheme is altogether
particular, and consists solely in . . . strip[ping] the Quakers of the rights and
privileges, and submit[ting] them to the arbitrary will of their governors.”180
Furthermore, their unique privileges not only kept the proprietors at bay, but
also distinguished Pennsylvania from her less-fortunate neighbors. “[H]ow nec-
essary [these privileges] are to the well-being of the colony,” concluded the
author, “appears from the confusion and discontents which some neighboring
provinces, at certain times, have laboured under for want of them.”181
Shortly after the publication of Smith™s invective, Isaac Norris was appar-
ently unsurprised by the nature of the attack, centering as it did on the supposed
insincerity of the religious principles of Quaker politicians. “The cloaking of
our Parsimony under Disguises of Religious scruple,” he wrote offhandedly
in his letterbook, “has been ye General misrepresentation of us every where.”
Concerning the grounds on which Smith attacked them “ for allegedly failing
to provide funds for the defense of the colony “ Norris responded with con-
crete ¬gures: “[W]e have Evinced the Contrary at ye Expense of near 70,000
already seasonably applied & Extending for ye kings use. What more could be
Expected from us[?]”182
Rather than address Smith™s diatribe point by point, Norris seemed more
interested in the potential damage “ or lack of it “ that Smith might do to
the public reputation and ef¬cacy of the Quaker Party. “[Y]e violent Spirit of

176 Smith, Brief State, 27.
177 Ibid., 33.
178 Ibid., 32.
179 Ibid., 28.
180 An Answer to an Invidious Pamphlet, intituled, A Brief State . . . (London, 1755), 3.
181 Ibid., 4.
182 Isaac Norris Letterbook, 1719“1756, May 24, 1755, 76, HSP.
174 Quaker Constitutionalism in Theory and Practice

Smith™s Pamphlet to ruin [the Quakers] at a blow is a scheme that has by no
means been calmly considered or digested” by his readers.183 Con¬dent in the
strength of his party, Norris concluded that Smith would be easily dismissed
¬rst as a “Tool [of the proprietors] to Propagate the Doctrine wherever he
can here & in the neighboring Governmts.” But also, his threat was minimal
because “his Character with all here is at a low Ebb every way.”184 Such
attacks, therefore, while calculated to undermine the strength and stability of
the Quaker Party, instead had the opposite effect. When any “silly Parson
Preaches against ye Quakers,” he observed, “They are only Contemned for
it by the Greater part of their Congregation.” Because of this, he continued,
the Quaker Party had been very successful in garnering support from other
religious and ethnic groups in Pennsylvania: “[T]he Church of England &
Quakers continue on very strong Terms of Union for ye Whole & themselves
in Particular, without any formal Cabals for that Purpose. “ And ye Dutch
[Germans] joyn them in dread of an Arbitrary Govermt.”185
After Smith™s pamphlet in 1755, Norris elaborated: “I have an inclina-
tion . . . to explain our Parties here, if they can be called such, for I think I may
say, ye Province was never more united . . . than at Present.”186 In response to
Smith™s charge that Quakers “out of doors” were of another mind from Quak-
ers behind the State House doors, he continued: “Ye People are very unanimous
without Doors and ye Assembly without any Dissenting Voices among Them-
selves.”187 Part of the reason for this unity had to do with the composition of
the Assembly. “The Frontier of Lancaster, composed of all sorts of “ Presby-
terians & Independents, of all sorts of Germans & some Church of England “
Elections have chosen all their Representatives out of ye Quakers, tho™ there are
scarcely One hundred of that Profession in the whole Country.”188 The sum
of this great political unity for Norris was that now “[w]hatevr Opposit[ion]
the Ass[embly] meet from the Govr & his advisors we have the [advantage] of
being of one mind in almost all debates among ourselves.”189
This unity of Quakers, both in and out of politics, and with other sects
and ethnic groups, was essential to broaden their support and to secure their
agenda. Norris considered it “Absolutely Necessary to keep ye Quakers as a
Ballance here.”190 What he meant was that the Quaker Party was the bal-
ast, the trimmer, against the encroachments of the proprietors and the keep-
ers of order. “I look upon ye Quaker System in Pensyl[vania] in a Political
view,” he explained, “wch if overturned, at least at presnt would introduce

183 Ibid., April 29, 1755, 71.
184 Ibid., May 18, 1755, 72.
185 Ibid., April 29, 1755, 71.
186 Ibid.
187 Ibid., May 18, 1755, 72.
188 Ibid., October 5, 1755, 83.
189 Ibid., October 26, 1741, 10.
190 Ibid., April 29, 1755, 71.
Civil Unity and Dissention 175

figure 5. “Quiet Quaker Quashing Quarrelsome Quidnunc.” (John Cowie and
William Hammond, Alliterative Anomalies for Infants and Invalids [New York: Dodd,
Mead & Co., 1913].)

violent Convulsions in this prov[ince] unless we are to be a Governmt of meer
farce.”191 Norris continued, “this Colony (till it is out of their Power to help it)
will not be Governed by Proprietary Instructions secreted from them with all
ye arts of a Romish Inquisition & possibly almost as severe.”192 Norris made
good use of Whig oppositional rhetoric “ the threat from a remote power that
is tinged with popery “ with Quaker process and resistance techniques. It is
not surprising that everything the opposition did to try to discredit the Quaker
Party back¬red and instead only made it stronger. Looking back on the colo-
nial period, John Adams remarked, “I have witnessed a Quaker despotism
in Pennsylvania.”193 By contrast, Frenchman Charles C´ sar Robin wrote that
Pennsylvania was “the most virtuous colony that history had ever known.”194
The image that persisted in the American mind into the twentieth century seems
to agree with both interpretations (Figure 5).

191 Ibid., May 24, 1755, 75.
192 Ibid.
193 John Adams quoted in James H. Hutson, The Founders on Religion: A Book of Quotations
(Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005), 183.
194 Charles C´ sar Robin quoted in Echeverria, Mirage in the West, 107.
176 Quaker Constitutionalism in Theory and Practice

By this period, Quakerism had moved beyond the bounds of the Society of
Friends, and even the Quaker Assembly, to become something much broader.
Isaac Norris summarized the Quaker theologico-political agenda at mid-
century: “We have now very much thrown our Disputes from being a Quaker
cause to a Cause of Liberty and the Rights derived to us by our Charter & our
Laws.”195 But although the cause was broader, it was not less Quakerly. Each
pole of the commentary, while too extreme to be trusted on its own, when
paired with its opposite reveals some aspects of Quaker theologico-politics.
Whether the comments were positive or negative, they demonstrate how the
peculiar dualism in their theory was expressed practically and the deep impres-
sion their policies made on non-Quakers. The Holy Experiment was a test in
balancing unity and dissent. Leaving judgment to their contemporaries as to
the bene¬ts or detriments of Quakerism for Pennsylvania society, it is probably
fair to say that Quakers succeeded in their endeavor to achieve the balance “
at least temporarily. They dominated the Assembly during this period and cre-
ated a civic and political culture based on their principles. The balance was
achieved, however, not by a meeting in the middle, but by signi¬cant weight
on either extreme. How well they were able to preserve the unity and teach the
dissent will become apparent in the next years.
195 Isaac Norris Letterbook, 1719“1756, May 18, 1755, 73, HSP.

The Fruits of Quaker Dissent
Political Schism and the Rise of John Dickinson

During the heyday of Quakerism in the mid-eighteenth century, the practical
necessities of governing began to challenge the applicability of Quaker theory.
Even as their politicking was unifying the province, Quakers™ own theologico-
political cohesion was beginning to falter, and the dual ethic of unity and dissent
that they had encouraged began to evolve in unexpected ways. Attributable
mainly to John Kinsey™s machinations in the 1740s, during the 1750s and
1760s, political Quakerism, or, more accurately at this point, Quaker-informed
political behavior, began to separate into three roughly de¬ned categories.
These I will call “withdrawing,”1 “radical,” and “traditional.” The main point
of difference among them concerned the peace testimony in all its facets.
The withdrawers, whom most historians have taken to represent all of Quak-
erism from 1765 on, adopted Kinsey™s restrictive interpretation of the peace
testimony and, in what is known as the “Quaker Reformation,” rejected any
dealings with war.2 Contrary to Kinsey™s brand of politics, however, they went
further and also rejected of¬ce-holding and civic agitation as incompatible with
their principles. Far from being a “conservative” sort of Quakerism, as we
might be tempted to call it, this was rather a new form that departed from the
beliefs of the founders and historic theologico-politics of Quakers. In searching
for a renewed purity in their Society, these Friends were coming to emphasize
the unity of Quakerism against the outside world. They were a growing minor-
ity in PYM and their interpretation of Quakerism would eventually dominate
the Society permanently, but not until after the Revolution. The leaders of this
faction were men such as Israel Pemberton, clerk of the meeting.
The radical strain of Quaker-informed politics was, by contrast, in a sense
a truly conservative one, albeit unconsciously. These Friends (still in good
standing during this period) and their non-Quaker supporters seemed to revive

1 Following Garry Wills in A Necessary Evil.
2 For the most thorough discussion of this episode, see Jack D. Marietta, The Reformation of
American Quakerism, 1748“1783 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1984).

178 Quaker Constitutionalism in Theory and Practice

the earliest expression of Quakerism, before the peace testimony was adopted.
They were more atomistic and contentious in the public sphere, and they had
little use for the peace testimony in any of its expressions. They did not respect
the sanctity of the constitution, nor would they eventually have qualms about
taking up arms for their cause. Dissent characterized their behavior more than
unity. Benjamin Franklin, himself not a Quaker, represented this faction. In the
1760s, Joseph Galloway also appeared to be a proponent of it.3
While both the withdrawers and radicals departed from how Quakerism had
been expressed for the past ninety-some years, there also remained a traditional
strain of Quaker-informed theory. Friends and their followers who exempli¬ed
this strain held to the pre-Kinseyan interpretation of the peace testimony and
did not shun of¬ce holding or vigorous engagement in the public sphere; they
tried to maintain the role of trimmer by respecting the sanctity of the constitu-
tion while also agitating peacefully for rights. Isaac Norris, Jr., now speaker of
the Assembly, blended this and the radical strain without much dif¬culty. For
a time in the 1770s, Joseph Galloway ¬t uncomfortably in this category. But
the best, although imperfect, exemplar was John Dickinson. Though neither a
Quaker nor ultimately a paci¬st, he was nonetheless the most visible and artic-
ulate spokesman for the traditional theory and action from the 1760s through
the Founding period.
These categorizations are admittedly inadequate tools intended to describe
only generally the bent of each group. Moreover, they were hardly static, as
adherents of each sometimes straddled the blurry lines. But the general contours
hold and help explain the political developments in Pennsylvania and America
at the end of the colonial period and into the early years of the Republic.4
The following pages will describe how these three strains became distinct from
one another beginning in the late 1750s, culminating in early 1760s with an
incident known as the Campaign for Royal Government. Most importantly,

3 Joseph Galloway is a complex character and one who deserves more attention than he will
receive in this study. The scholarship on Galloway, now aged, gives unsatisfying analysis of his
political theory. Some historians have identi¬ed his thought as Whiggish, which cannot explain
his Loyalism in the Revolution. A lapsed Quaker, Galloway held some fundamental principles
of traditional Quaker thinking, but rejected others. This and the next chapter will touch lightly
on his stance in order to clarify the traditional Quaker position in the Revolutionary period. On
Galloway, see Benjamin Newcomb, Franklin and Galloway: A Political Partnership (New Haven,
CT: Yale University Press, 1972); Julian P. Boyd, Anglo-American Union: Joseph Galloway™s
Plans to Preserve the British Empire, 1774“1788 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press,
1941); John E. Ferling, The Loyalist Mind: Joseph Galloway and the American Revolution
(University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1977); and Robert M. Calhoon, “˜I have
Deduced Your Rights:™ Joseph Galloway™s Concept of His Role, 1774“1775,” The Loyalist
Persuasion and Other Essays (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1989), 74“93.
4 It is not the purpose of this study to de¬ne “true” Quakerism or to determine in each case who
was a “real” Quaker and who was not. It is simply to identify and describe different modes
of discourse that grew from Quakerism and discuss how they were manifest and by whom.
Likewise, there is no intent to label participants beyond how they identi¬ed themselves or were
viewed by their contemporaries.
Political Schism and Rise of John Dickinson 179

they will serve as a prelude to the following chapters by chronicling the rise
of John Dickinson to the leadership of the traditional faction of the Quaker

Growing Tensions within Political Quakerism
The discomfort with politics of the Friends who would become the withdrawers
began when John Kinsey was in of¬ce. Part of the problem was that Kinsey™s
tactics seemed too extreme “ there was too much politicking. But taken in
perspective, Kinsey was no more “Governmentish,” as William Penn put it,
than the Quakers who had established and settled the Charter of Privileges,
although he may have been better at it. By the 1740s some adversaries were
making a distinction among Quakers between “that People in General” and
the “very small number of the most Zealous & bigoted” who were pushing the
Quaker Party agenda.5
Kinsey™s reading of the London Yearly Meeting epistle in the State House
admonishing Friends to keep other Friends in power might have been a turning
point for some. And opponents kept a close eye out for chinks in the Quaker
armor. Richard Peters speculated that the incident “may perhaps startle sev-
eral Quakers.” Yet he was also fully aware of Kinsey™s leverage in Quaker
circles and suspected that there were those “who dislike ye present Set & woud
lend an helping hand to remove them, but may be afraid to stir after such an
Injunction.”6 Similarly, during the same few years when the Kinsey-led Assem-
bly petitioned the king in secret for the removal of Governor Thomas, Peters
observed that “[t]heir Report is so full of gross abuse & rude Invective[s] yt
several of their staunch Friends blame them openly as a set of People who
act from a Spirit of Resentment more than ye Publick Good: of this num-
ber are . . . men of considerable consequence in their respective Meetings.”7
William Smith agreed hopefully that the behavior of the Quaker politicians in
Pennsylvania was causing a rift in the transatlantic unity of the Society. “[T]hus
their whole Conduct has been of a piece in this Country,” he wrote, “tho™ I am
well-assured it is very much disapproved of and condemned by their Brethren
the Quakers in England.”8
Isaac Norris, Jr., meanwhile, continued to justify the extreme actions of the
Assembly on the grounds that they were preserving the principles embodied
in the 1701 Charter of Privileges. “A Governmt founded on the Principle of
Liberty,” he explained, “seems to imply the Exercise of all the Powers necessary
for the good of the Society, and it is allowed by great Authorities that the Crown

5 John Dickinson, Manuscript Notes on Pennsylvania Law, 1766, vol. 29, RRL/HSP. This doc-
ument is the transcript of the proceedings before the Board of Trade in London relating to the
Quaker government of Pennsylvania copied by John Dickinson.
6 Richard Peters Letterbook, 128, HSP.
7 Ibid., 85.
8 Smith, Brief State, 22.
180 Quaker Constitutionalism in Theory and Practice

in appointing Governors over his Colonies cannot divest them of it, much less
can it be supposed that any inferior jurisdiction can do it.”9
While the dualism of Quaker unity and dissent could be reconciled, albeit
precariously, by the peace testimony, the separation of the groups resulted in the
disconnection of these two ideological strains and would have major implica-
tions for the immediate safety of the Quaker constitution as well as longer-term
effects on the broader political culture prior to the American Revolution.

The Continuing Dilemma of Paci¬sm
A continual point of contention both among Friends and non-Friends was the
use, or, as some saw it, the abuse of the peace testimony for political purposes
in the early 1740s in the War of Jenkins™s Ear. If there was a single issue that
caused the tension between Quakers in- and out-of-doors, it was this. This
tension began to surface during the Kinsey administration as he manipulated
the testimony aggressively for retaining Quaker power in the colony. At that
time, however, Friends who were uncomfortable with the manipulation, but
sincere about peace and political engagement, were not yet ready to give up
control of the government. With Kinsey™s death in 1750, Israel Pemberton
inherited a considerable amount of power as clerk of PYM and put forth a new
paci¬st ticket to try to repopulate the Assembly with less disruptive Friends. He
might have succeeded if he had also held, as Kinsey did, the speakership of the
Assembly. But that position went to Isaac Norris, Jr., who also used Kinsey™s
When the issue of war and defense surfaced again, it proved a breaking point
for some Friends. In 1754 with the French and Indian War threatening Penn-
sylvania, the crown ordered the Assembly to provide funds for the defense of its
province. This should not have caused a great problem for Quaker politicians;
they had resumed giving money for the king™s use. Rather than simply passing a

<< . .

. 21
( : 44)

. . >>