<< . .

. 22
( : 44)



. . >>

bill to raise the money, they saw another political opportunity “ to control the
¬nances of the province completely. They wrote an appropriations bill to ob-
lige the king, but included in it “self-serving” provisions that would allow them
complete power for deciding how the money was spent. The plan was that the
governor would be forced to pass the bill or appear to be disobeying the
crown.11 To the Assembly™s surprise, however, Governor Hamilton vetoed
the bill. In their indignation, the Assembly wrote another of their in¬‚amed

9 Isaac Norris Letterbook, May 25, 1755, 77, HQC.
10 Bauman, For the Reputation of Truth, 11.
11 Marietta, The Reformation of American Quakerism, 139. Common in other colonies as well,
this tactic of trying to control the ¬nances of the province through the passage of appropriations
bills was nothing new. According to Lawmaking and Legislators, Friends had been using this
technique to manipulate the governors and proprietor since the 1690s. Governor William
Markham “was forced to accept the enactment of a new constitution, the Frame of Government
of 1696, in order to obtain a grant of additional funds to aid in the defense of New York.” LL,
2: 71.
Political Schism and Rise of John Dickinson 181

petitions to the crown, insinuating that their civil and religious privileges were
being trampled upon.12 Then, in a move that was exactly the opposite of Kin-
sey™s in the 1740s “ refusing to give money at all and claiming paci¬sm as the
reason “ they established a committee themselves and, rather than giving the
money to the king “for his purposes,” they paid the committee directly to buy
provisions for royal soldiers.13 They did this in order to ingratiate themselves
with the crown, and in doing so, they blatantly ignored the traditional distinc-
tions Quakers had made between things belonging to Caesar and God. As Jack
Marietta put it, “The assemblymen were not rendering to Caesar; they were
Caesar.”14
The actions of the Assembly highlighted the fundamental dilemma paci¬sts
must face when they control a civil government “ their duty to protect its inhab-
itants. Norris himself seemed genuinely to desire a world in which Quakerly
peace would prevail. “Could the world be brought into a general System of
Peace,” he wrote, “the avowed Principles of this Colony would certainly be
very agreeable to the Christian profession in its greater purity.” Unfortunately,
the reality of the situation was otherwise, and Norris explained that “as that
prospect is very distant,” the Assembly had a political obligation to uphold.
“[W]hile we hold our share of Governmt,” Norris explained, “it becomes nec-
essary for our Assemblys whose immediate concern it is to Tax themselves and
their Constituents, to contribute the means of supporting it in the best manner
we can.” But for the moment, in spite of the transgression of the historic inter-
pretation of the peace testimony that was taking place, Norris was con¬dent it
was not a serious problem. “Some of our members at ¬rst hesitated upon the
mode of [defending the colony] but,” he said, “upon examination I presume
all were made easy.”15

The Political Schism
But Norris was mistaken about the ease with which his brethren accepted
the decision of the Assembly on defense. They, in fact, did not. Whatever the
motives of the Assembly, that they were transgressing the peace testimony
while claiming that their religious rights were being violated by the governor
made them hypocrites in the eyes of many, including their brethren.16 This
incident would become increasingly problematic for a number of members of
the Society over the next few months. As far as they were concerned, Quak-
ers in of¬ce were being too fractious and disrespectful both to the authorities
and the Society. Accordingly, in May of 1756, PYM wrote an epistle to Lon-
don Meeting for Sufferings concerning its position in relation to the political

12 PA, 5: 3703“13.
13 PA, 5: 3841, and Marietta, The Reformation of American Quakerism, 140.
14 Marietta, The Reformation of American Quakerism, 141.
15 Isaac Norris Letterbook, May 25, 1755, 77, HQC.
16 Marietta, The Reformation of American Quakerism, 140.
182 Quaker Constitutionalism in Theory and Practice

situation in the province. It was a revealing document. Their ¬rst concern was
“to give the Proprietaries some Assurance that whatever may be the Sentiments
and Conduct of others, there is a considerable number of Friends who sincerely
desire by following those Things which make for peace to revive and preserve
our Friendship with them.” This was a drastically new tone toward the Pro-
prietary. Philadelphia Friends could be certain that their message would assure
a sharp distinction between them and members of the Quaker Party. Second,
they wanted “to avert the Consequences we apprehend from the Assembly™s
address to the King.” They were afraid, they explained, that the London Meet-
ing and the Proprietors “might be induced to judge the Sentiments of Friends
here to be different from what we hope and believe they are.” In other words,
they did not want anyone to mistake what they wrote for “a vindication of the
Conduct of the Assembly.” Neither did they want the behavior of the Assembly
construed as “being consonant to our religious Sentiments or agreeable to us
in every Instance.” But the most powerful statement in the epistle was yet to
come. In a move calculated to seal the break between the Religious Society of
Friends and the Quaker Party, they wrote:

[I]t hath been clear that human contrivances and policy have been too much depended
on and such measures pursued as have ministered causes of real sorrow to the Faithful,
so that we think it is necessary that the same distinction may be made among you
and out to be here between the Acts and Resolutions of the Assembly of this Province
tho™ the majority of them are our Brethren in profession and our Acts as a Religious
Society.17

To prove their sincerity, the truly faithful “appear by freely resigning or parting
with these temporal Advantages and Privileges we have heretofore enjoyed, if
they cannot be preserved without violation of that Testimony on the Faithful
maintaining of which our true peace and Unity depends.” This epistle was
signed by some of the most prominent Quakers of the day, including Israel
Pemberton and Anthony Benezet. In short, many Friends came to believe as
Samuel Fothergill would put it later, that “[t]he Assembly have sold their
testimony as Friends to the people™s fears.”18
The event that followed marked a signi¬cant moment in Quaker history, the
“Quaker Reformation.” It should be considered both a political and a religious
event. In 1756 several Quaker members of the Assembly abdicated their seats
in the House. Norris did not seem surprised when he recorded that “[s]ix of
our Members of Assembly (all friends) have resigned their Seats in ye House,
& I have this day Issued writs for a new Election.” Eventually, ten Friends
abdicated of¬ce that year. Norris, ever the politician, even claimed that the
voluntary resignation of the Assemblymen could be considered a victory of
sorts for the Quaker Party “ it was proof against the governor™s charge “that

17 PYM to London Meeting for Sufferings, 5th mo. 1756, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, Minutes,
1747“79, FHL.
18 Samuel Fothergill, “The Life of Samuel Fothergill,” Friends™ Library, 9: 170.
Political Schism and Rise of John Dickinson 183

[Quakers] use all arts to Possess and are tenacious of the Power they acquire
by every stratagem & all ye In¬‚uence they are masters of.” He concluded that
“[s]uch facts [their] Resignation must confute with great force, for facts my
frd are stubborn things.”19 Benjamin Franklin, a rising ¬gure in Pennsylvania
politics and one who had less regard for the peace testimony than Norris, wrote
triumphantly that “[a]ll the Stiffrumps except One, that could be suspected
of opposing the Service from religious Motives, have voluntarily quitted the
Assembly.”20 But while Norris and others downplayed the turmoil caused
by Friends leaving of¬ce, John Pemberton commented that the events “have
produc™d a greater & more fatal change both with respect to our State of
affairs in general & among us as a Society than Seventy preceding years.”21 The
way events unfolded after the “Reformation,” it would seem that Pemberton™s
assessment was the more accurate one.
Re¬‚ecting on his civic duty during this tumultuous time and comparing
himself to his brethren, Norris wrote, “My own thoughts of the duties of a
publick Character may probably be more enlarged than those of some of my
very worthy Frds and Acquaintances.” Taking what was considered a worldly
path by many Friends, Norris explained that “[m]y own inclinations for many
years have been strongly bent upon retreat and the publick station I suffer
myself to hold arises from a Duty I apprehend every member of Society owes
to the Publik when that Duty becomes binding upon him by the voluntary call of
others.”22 This penchant for withdrawal from the public sphere for the sake of
purity, while not historically an aspect of traditional Quaker behavior “ as Penn
had advised his children, they should assume of¬ce if God called them to “ was
nonetheless an inclination that many Quakers, even more aggressive politicians
such as Norris, struggled against.23 On the other hand, it must have been clear,
even to Norris, that his Assembly had set a dangerous precedent in allowing

19 Isaac Norris Letterbook, June 16, 1756, 100, HQC.
20 Benjamin Franklin, quoted in LL, 2: 71. See also PA, 4: 565“66.
21 John Pemberton to John Fothergill, November 27, 1755, Pemberton Papers, XI, 20, HSP.
Scholars dispute the character of their withdrawal from government. Marietta writes that
“these Friends did not espouse abandoning government in order to escape being tainted by
the world beyond the Society of Friends. Instead, they had a vision that more might be done
for society, or its suffering members, from a private station and in a philanthropic way” (The
Reformation of American Quakerism, 136). It is no doubt true that Friends continued to work
for the improvement of society out of of¬ce and to engage politically. In their own terms,
however, it is hard to understand their withdrawal from government as anything but a protest
against the political world and a quest for purity. Frederick Tolles ¬nds that Friends left of¬ce
because political power forced them to dilute their religious testimony. “The exercise of political
power involved compromise,” he writes, which in turn necessitated “some abatement of Quaker
ideas” (Tolles, Quakers and the Atlantic Culture, 50).
22 Isaac Norris Letterbook, May 25, 1755, 77, HQC.
23 It is worth noting, however, that many gentlemen considered public service a burden of their
rank in society, and something they performed only out of a sense of obligation to those beneath
them. The desire to withdraw into private life, then, did not belong exclusively to Quakers. On
the duty of gentlemen to hold of¬ce, see Gordon Wood, The Radicalism of the American
Revolution (New York: Vintage Books, 1993), 77“92.
184 Quaker Constitutionalism in Theory and Practice

Friends to prepare actively for war. With their ascendance into a leadership
role, navigating between extremes of quietism and violence was becoming
more dif¬cult for Quakers to maintain amongst themselves and enforce in
their polity.


Dissemination of the Quaker Ethic of Dissent and the Rise of the Radicals
Those who abdicated might have been able to assuage their consciences and
ensure their own purity by removing themselves from the corrupt atmosphere
of the Assembly, but at that moment they also ceased to take responsibility for
the culture of dissent that they had created. When the most paci¬c Friends left
of¬ce, they took much of their peace testimony with them. As we have seen, this
testimony was more than simply a stance against war; it was a code of behav-
ior for Friends and restraining mechanism on the libertinism inherent in their
theologico-political theory and practice. It circumscribed individuals™ dealings
with one another and helped preserve the unity of the polity. Historically, the
peace testimony did not necessarily restrain Friends from enthusiastic politick-
ing and sometimes vicious partisanship. But until now, it had served its purpose
in preserving the fundamental constitution of the Quaker polity. From their
earliest dealings with the civil governments of England, Massachusetts, and
Pennsylvania, Quakers continually struggled against the authorities to secure
their liberties and privileges. Yet, as we have seen, they restricted their behavior
to include only reform of the government, not its overthrow. Although there
was more turmoil and clamor for rights in the Pennsylvania government than
might have been expected in a Quaker colony, it was also the colony with the
strongest assembly, with the one of the oldest constitutions, and it was the only
one of the major colonies in which political change through violence or threat
of violence had not been attempted.24 But now, in 1756, there was a funda-
mental change in Pennsylvania. Over the previous seventy years, Friends had
created an extremely active culture of political dissent, and then in the space
of two years, they suddenly removed the two biggest checks on it “ the peace
testimony and then themselves as models for and enforcers of the Quaker pro-
cess of dissent. They left more hawkish Friends and their supporters to guide
the polity.
Mistakes some scholars have made are assuming, ¬rst, that the Assem-
blymen who withdrew represented the predominant strain of Quakerism in
government, and second, that the abdication of these Friends meant the end of
all Quaker participation in politics and civic life. A number of Quaker politi-
cians in good standing with PYM did continue to hold of¬ce and wield power
after 1756, and many Friends continued their engagement in the civil sphere for
political causes. Scholars have not considered the import of the political culture
that survived the partial Quaker abdication. Not only did a distinctive culture

24 Greene, “The Growth of Political Stability: An Interpretation of Political Development in the
Anglo American Colonies, 1660“1760,” in Negotiated Authorities, 131“62.
Political Schism and Rise of John Dickinson 185

remain, it continued stronger than ever, but now trifurcated in traditional, rad-
ical, and withdrawing forms. It is the radical culture and the practices that we
will turn to next. Grown from the dissenting culture of the previous decades,
as evidenced by the Paxton Riot, it would ultimately be something against
which the withdrawing Quakers would protest vehemently “ the American
Revolution.25
A perennial problem of Quakerism has always been how to keep people
from adopting the liberating aspects of the doctrine of the Inward Light, while
at the same time respecting the other fundamental aspects of Quakerism such as
peace, unity, and ecclesiastical authority. Since the earliest days, Friends strug-
gled to make people both in- and outside of their Society understand the true
meaning of the Light. The Quaker process of discerning God™s will through the
Light was liberating, but also limiting. As individuals were freed from worldly
authority, they were subject to God™s law as it was interpreted by the body
of the meeting. Even among Friends, however, this had not always been clear.
Many of the ¬rst Friends were formerly Ranters and Levellers, who were seen
as radical individualists with little sense of political obligation. William Penn
chided the Ranters, saying, “They would have had every man independent,
that as he had the [Light] in himself, he should stand and fall to that, and
nobody else” and that they “weakly mistook good order in the government of
church affairs for discipline in worship.”26 When too many people persisted in
identifying Quakerism with Ranterism, Robert Barclay attempted to distance
Friends from them and advocate a stronger church government in The Anar-
chy of the Ranters. More than a century later, one of the chief concerns of
the prominent eighteenth-century minister George Churchman was that “those
who are unfaithful to that which opens the inward eye, and discover what is
necessary to be followed, are liable to start aside, grow unruly and testy.”27
If it was dif¬cult to make convinced Friends aware of the true meaning of the
Inward Light with all its implications for the community, it was doubly hard
to pass along this sense to non-Friends. Quakers continually confronted this
problem in their proselytizing. Puritans in seventeenth-century New England,
for example, misunderstood what Friends meant by the Light of Christ within.
They were certain that Quakers considered themselves to be Christ and
denounced them as heretics, and arrogant ones at that. At the turn of the nine-
teenth century, respected Friend James Bringhurst expressed his concern about
non-Friends misunderstanding the Quaker message. “I ¬nd it is the case,” he
said, “that many [people] at times attend [meeting] who are afraid of the cross
in being members and therefore can indulge in their own ways.” And, he adds,

25 Hutson, Pennsylvania Politics, 4. Beeman describes it not as a dissenting culture but as a
“popular” culture. It appears we mean the same thing “ the (inadvertent) cultivation by Quakers
of a radical strain of behavior that challenged their hegemony. I ¬nd it useful to be more speci¬c
about the character of that culture to elucidate its connection to Quaker theologico-political
practice.
26 Hill, The World Turned Upside Down, 253.
27 Journal of George Churchman, 7th mo. 23rd day, 1804. 8: 95, HQC.
186 Quaker Constitutionalism in Theory and Practice

these people have “brought Friends into disrepute.”28 For Bringhurst, what was
important was not that the attenders were not becoming convinced Friends,
but rather that they were adopting some aspects of Quakerism “ the readily
appealing ones “ and leaving the burdensome ones behind. But many Quakers
either did not acknowledge or recognize the relationship of their encourag-
ing individuals to “follow the Truth in [one™s] own heart” and the “grievous
refractory libertine spirit” that resulted from it.29 This same misappropriation
of Quaker principles is evident in mid-eighteenth-century Pennsylvania politics.
The Quakers were more successful than they probably ever imagined at
disseminating some of their principles and promoting their unique political
style. “Civil Quakerism” was not just commented on by denizens of Pennsyl-
vania, it was adopted. Early in the history of the province, Isaac Norris, Sr.,
identi¬ed a troubling attitude in the Assembly. He observed to Penn in 1709
that “a strange, unaccountable humour, [has] almost become a custom now,
[of] straining and resenting everything, of creating monsters and then com-
bating them.”30 By 1742, Governor Thomas noted during his battle with the
Assembly that “the seeds of Dissention have been plentifully sown” by Quaker
politicians.31 By the late 1740s, they had blossomed. It was clear that the mis-
sionizing was working “ at least in part. Observers noted that there were men
“who call . . . [themselves] Quaker but hath not the least appearance of one of
that Stamp either in Garb, Conversation, or Behaviour.”32 Likewise, historians
have acknowledged this dissemination of the Quaker ethic of resistance and
dissent in general, claiming that Quakerism was sometimes used as a “vehicle
for rebellion” by women who wanted to “deny the male-dominated spiritual
and civil regime” or by young men rebelling against parental authority.33
Quakers had perhaps not expected such a degree and kind of success; or,
if they did, they had not prepared for it. During this period, the “seeds of
Dissention” had sprouted and begun to bear fruit “ or as a Quaker oppo-
nent described the Quakerized politicians, “[b]astards begot by the Quakers
on the body politic.”34 In the government as well as in their religious meet-
ing, they were aware that some of their doctrines were “rejected by such as
are not watchful, and so [these people] are out of the Feeling and Unity of
Life.”35 As the Quaker cause expanded beyond narrow Quaker interests to
the “general cause of liberty,” so were their cause, manner, and some of their

28 James Bringhurst to Thomas Pole, 12th mo. 29th day 1802, Bringhurst Letters, FHL.
29 William Reckitt, “Life of William Reckitt,” Friends™ Library, 9: 65 and 72.
30 Isaac Norris to Penn, 2nd of the 10th mo., 1709, Penn-Logan Corresp., 2: 417.
31 PA, 4: 2744.
32 Robert Jenney, October 1748, cited in Tully, Forming American Politics, 298.
33 See Carla Gardina Pestana, “The City upon a Hill under Siege: The Puritan Perception of the
Quaker Threat to Massachusetts Bay, 1656“1661,” The New England Quarterly vol. 56, no. 3
(1983), 323“53, 348. Also, Hill, The World Turned Upside Down, 311.
34 Lynford Lardner to Richard Penn, March 7, 1758, quoted in Tully, Forming American Politics,
157.
35 Barclay, Anarchy, 53.
Political Schism and Rise of John Dickinson 187

method adopted by broader interests out of keeping with Quakerism. Indeed,
as Alan Tully has described, wherever the Quakers™ opponents were successful
in making head-way against them, it was because they had adopted the Quak-
ers™ modus operandi.36 Clearly, Friends had limited control over who adopted
their political ideology and style or how it was used once it left the immediate
bounds of their Society. The solution was relatively simple in their religious
polity: discipline or disown the person who “scattereth himself.”37 But they
could not purify civil society by simply exiling undesirables as Puritans did. In
the ¬rst place, this was not the Quaker way. In the second, the political culture
was now replete with these scattering types who were impossible to extricate.
By the 1760s, even when many “Quaker” politicians were not actually
Quakers, they were still persistently identi¬ed as such by their Proprietary
opponents.38 Evidence of the con¬‚ation of the Society of Friends with the
Quaker Party can be seen clearly in the political fallout from the 1764 incident
with the Paxton Boys, the only violent challenge to the Pennsylvania govern-
ment. In the wake of the French and Indian War, tensions were high between
Indians, who were frustrated by their treatment from the British, and fron-
tiersmen, who were unprotected by the Assembly. These non-Quaker settlers
believed the Assembly was giving preferential treatment to the Indians. The
hostile Ottawa Tribe attacked the whites, and the frontiersmen took up arms
to protect themselves. Ultimately, the colonists ended up slaughtering numer-
ous members of the Conestoga Tribe, a peaceful group of Christian Indians
whom they believed were spies for the hostile tribes. The Paxton Boys, as the
rioters became known, then marched on Philadelphia, intent on overthrow-
ing the Quaker regime. Then, in a response that only fueled the charges of
hypocrisy against Friends, some radical Quakers and their supporters took up
arms themselves, and prepared to meet the Paxtons in the city.39
The Paxton incident is signi¬cant in several ways. First, what it shows us
immediately is the clear link in the public mind between members of the Society
of Friends and the Quaker Party. Second, as will be discussed further later, the
upheaval contributed to the growing rift between Quaker and non-Quaker
factions within the Assembly. And third, as will be developed in the next
chapters, this split metamorphosed into groups that would contend bitterly
against each other during the Revolutionary period.
The pamphlet war and the series of political cartoons published after the
incident show that there was no distinction made between the Quakers and
the Quaker Party. In the cartoons, all of the peculiarities of dress and speech
associated with Friends were portrayed in the caricatures of Quaker politicians
engaging in illicit dealings with one another, heavy drinking, oppression of the
36 Tully, Forming American Politics, 258.
37 Barclay, Anarchy, 49.
38 Richard Alan Ryerson ¬nds that in 1764, 42 percent of the Assembly was Quaker. “Portrait of
a Colonial Oligarchy,” in Power and Status, 112.
39 For a detailed account of the incident, see Brooke Hindle, “The March of the Paxton Boys,”
WMQ 3rd ser., vol. 3, no. 4 (1946), 461“86.
188 Quaker Constitutionalism in Theory and Practice




figure 6. A 1764 political cartoon depicting the tensions between the Quaker govern-
ment and the Paxton Boys. The Quakers (in broad-brimmed hats) are shown groping an
Indian woman and arming themselves against the frontiersmen as Benjamin Franklin,
one of the leaders of the Quaker Party, watches from behind the scenes. “An Indian
Squaw King Wampum spies/Which makes his lustful passions rise./But while he doth a
friendly Jobb, /She dives her hand into his Fob./And thence conveys as we are told;/His
Watch whose Cases n™ere of Gold./When Dangers threaten tis mere nonsense:/To talk of
such a thing as Conscience./To Arms to Arms with one Accord,/The Sword of Quakers
and the Lord./Fill Bumpers then of Rum or Arrack:/We™ll drink Success to the new Bar-
rack./Fight Dog! Fight Bear! You™re all my Friend[s]./By you I shall attain my Ends:/For I
can never be content/Till I have got the Government./But if from this Attempt I fall,/Then
let the Devil take you all.” (LCP)


Germans, and lewd acts with a half-clad Indian woman (Figure 6). A similar
con¬‚ation occurs in The Quaker Unmask™d, the most in¬‚amed pamphlet on
the Paxton incident. The pamphleteers did not even bother to use the name
Quaker Party, and instead merely referred to the Quakers or the Society.40
This confusion was no doubt compounded “ and perhaps even cultivated “ by
one of the leaders of the Quaker Party at the time, Benjamin Franklin.

40 For a discussion of the pamphlet war and the accompanying cartoons, see Alison Olson, “The
Pamphlet War over the Paxton Boys,” PMHB vol. 123, nos. 1/2 (1999), 31“55.
Political Schism and Rise of John Dickinson 189

Though frequently mistaken in popular culture today for a Friend, Franklin
was not. In fact, he disagreed with some of the most basic Quaker principles,
most importantly, paci¬sm. Moreover, as we shall presently see, his political
style put him at odds with many of the truly Quaker politicians. But he learned
well from Quakers. His autobiography is rich with accounts of the Quaker
in¬‚uences on this thought and behavior. No doubt because of this in¬‚uence,
he was an excellent politician. When it served his purposes, he took what he
needed from Quakerism and left the rest. The most obvious evidence of this is
when he dressed and acted like a Quaker for calculated effect. During his travels
to France as an ambassador for the American colonies in the 1770s, Franklin
presented himself as a Quaker.41 Designing to reap the advantages of the French
obsession with Quakerism and their association of it with republican virtue,
Franklin dressed in the plain Quaker costume, adopted the grave simplicity
of Quaker manners (only to the extent that it would amuse the French court,
that is), and made no efforts to correct misperceptions that he was not a
member of the Society. “This Quaker wears the full costume of his sect,”
proclaimed one Frenchman.42 With this sort of blatant manipulation of the
Quaker image, Franklin was not beloved among Friends. It was he, partnered
with Joseph Galloway, who would lead the Assembly into the controversy over
royal government.
Yet even as Quaker-informed politics was splitting into the extremes of
withdrawal and radicalism, we can see the persistence of a traditional strain of
thought and behavior. There were a few men, who, although not necessarily
formally af¬liated with the Quaker religious Society, represented the historic
Quaker cause more than many of their own members. The most important of
these men for the next several decades was John Dickinson.


John Dickinson™s Quaker Connections

<< . .

. 22
( : 44)



. . >>