. 5
( 12)


of the proprietary “ were placing too much emphasis on the Inward Light,
which caused them to deny the signi¬cance of Christ himself. Keith had an
understanding of Quaker theology from the earliest days “ he was present
when the church government was established and the Discipline written. Early
Friends, we should remember, tested their understanding of the Light against
Scripture and emphasized the importance of Christ as a human being and
his presence through the Holy Spirit. This understanding alone, rather than
any man-made religious institution, de¬ned the doctrine of the Inward Light.
When the ecclesiastical government was established in the 1670s, it respected
this understanding of the Light (though not according to Wilkinson and Story),
while providing the additional guiding structure that came from a corporate

109 In a later essay, Butler notes that criticism of elite Friends was known prior to and independently
of Keith™s. See “Into Pennsylvania™s Spiritual Abyss: The Rise and Fall of the Later Keithians,
1693“1703,” PMHB vol. 101 (1977), 151“70.
110 Butler, “Gospel Order,” 433.
124 Quaker Constitutionalism in Theory and Practice

Although some have seen Keith as hyper-intellectual and fundamentally
misguided when it came to Quaker theology, it seems, rather, that Keith was
more in keeping with the Quakerism of the Friends™ early years than most of his
contemporaries.111 Many of the points Quakers have used to prove that Keith
was out of step with Friends in general “ including his intellectual approach to
Quakerism, his interest in Jewish mysticism, and his familiarity with German
mysticism “ actually show him to have had even stronger similarities with
esteemed Quaker leaders such as Fox and Barclay.112 In fact, in Keith™s brief,
unpublished tract, “Gospel Order Improved,” his purpose was to rekindle an
understanding among Friends of the aims and standards of these early Friends,
not to create some new form of Quakerism.113
Keith™s understanding of Quakerism clearly contrasted with that of many
of the elite Quaker members of the General Assembly. Some Pennsylvania
Friends had moved away from what had become the orthodox Quakerism
of the 1670s and had begun to insist “That the Light is suf¬cient without
anything else, thereby excluding the Man Christ Jesus without us, and his
Death & Sufferings, Resurrection, Ascention, Mediation & Intercession for
us in Heaven, from having any part or share in our Salvation; and thereby
making him only a Titular, but no real Saviour.”114 According to Keith, this
was a dangerous assertion. It essentially separated the guiding principles of
history, Scripture, and community from the Light and allowed the individual
to interpret the Light freely to his own advantage. The result, he believed, was
that some Friends in high places claimed to be able to understand the leadings
of the Light through their own abilities entirely. It became very easy, then, for
ministers and elders to place themselves above the body of Friends and bear rule
over them by claiming a higher understanding of God™s law. These ministers, he
charged, “uphold and defend [the elders] in their Tyrannical Usurpation over
your Consciences, as if ye were only to see with their Eyes, and hear with their
Ears, and not with your own, and that ye were to take all things without all
due Examination and Tryal, by implicit Faith, Papist-like, from them.”115 The
government of the Yearly Meeting in Philadelphia, Keith charged, had become a
dictatorship of sorts, rather than a uni¬ed fellowship of believers deciding their
path as one. The Yearly Meeting, he wrote, was “not any true Representative
of the Body [of Friends] . . . but a Party or Faction of people . . . against the
Truth”116 The problem was, as always, where authority lay.
Accordingly, Keith proposed a new organization for church government.
His vision of it had more structure “ a stronger, more imposing Discipline

111 Ethyn Williams Kirby, George Keith, 1636“1716 (New York: D. Appleton-Century Company,
112 Butler, “Gospel Order,” 432“33, 435.
113 Ibid., 436.
114 George Keith, An Appeal from the Twenty Eight Judges to the Spirit of Truth & True Judgment
in all Faithful Friends, called Quakers (Philadelphia, 1692), 5.
115 Ibid., 2.
116 Ibid.
Constituting a Quaker Government in Pennsylvania 125

and more dependence on knowledge and interpretation of Scripture “ but was
fundamentally more egalitarian and designed expressly to keep individuals
from claiming absolute power based on an irrefutable understanding of the
Although at ¬rst Keith con¬ned his criticisms to the religious sector, it was
not long, considering how closely they were connected, for civil crimes before
he extended them to the political. The fact that he was put on trial by Thomas
Lloyd, his main adversary in the dispute, must have encouraged this exten-
sion.117 In An Appeal from the Twenty Eight Judges (1692), Keith accused
Quaker magistrates loyal to Penn of betraying their religious principles while in
of¬ce. Not only, Keith charged, had tyrannical ministers threatened believers by
dominating processes within the church government, but they had encroached
upon the civil government in a manner most inappropriate to Friends. Much
like William Penn who challenged the English government on its mixing of
church and state, he asked “[w]hether there is any Example or [Precedent] for
it [in] Scripture, or in all Christendom, that Ministers should eagress [sic] the
Worldly Government, as they do here? which hath proved of a very evil Ten-
dency.”118 As if this were not bad enough, church government, Keith argued,
was coming to resemble the civil government “ authority from the top down.
The Keithian Controversy revealed that Quaker church government, as Quaker
civil government, had strayed from the original balance that it had as a represen-
tative democracy and was becoming an oligarchy “ or perhaps a dictatorship.
Keith was disowned by the meeting, but interestingly, it is not clear that
it was because of his theological assertions. It seems, rather, that it was his
“walking” that was the problem. He was warned about his deportment, but
he scorned descriptions of his “rude and unchristian-like behavior.”119 He
minimized such charges, attacked his opponents on doctrinal grounds, and,
adding abuse onto abuse, claimed that calling them “ignorant Heathens” was
not “railing or ungodly speech.”120 He accused them of prioritizing process
above Truth when he said they cared more that members “come to Meetings,
and use plain Language and plain Habit” than about what they believed. While
dissent was vital to the Quaker meeting, Friends were as concerned with the
process of dissent “ how one dissented “ as the ends. It may have been Keith™s
delivery of the message as much as the message itself that was offensive to
Thus, although Keith™s remedy for the church government was rejected by
London Yearly Meeting, and Keith himself was disowned, a change in civil
government was on the way.121

117 PWP, 3: 375, n. 6.
118 Keith, Appeal, 7.
119 Minutes from the Meeting of Ministers, March 5, 1692, in Frost, Keithian Controversy, 140.
120 George Keith, The plea of the innocent against the false judgment of the guilty . . . (Philadelphia,
1692), 7.
121 At this point in time, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting still generally deferred to the sense of London
Yearly Meeting.
126 Quaker Constitutionalism in Theory and Practice

The 1696 Frame of Government
The largest effect of the Keithian Controversy was still a few years away. In
the immediate future, great changes in the political situation in England were
about to affect Pennsylvania. By 1692, after the Glorious Revolution, William
and Mary were on the throne, and Penn was under suspicion of treason for his
former dealings with James II. It did not help matters for Penn that Pennsylvania
had gained a reputation as a disruptive, disorderly, and disobedient colony. Not
only did the Pennsylvania government ignore Penn™s laws and directives, it also
de¬ed the crown on a number of issues, including evading the laws in the
Navigation Acts, refusing to support the crown in its war with France, and
resisting to take or administer oaths.
Because of these circumstances, in 1692 William and Mary deprived Penn of
his government in Pennsylvania. Once he was removed, in 1693 Pennsylvania
was annexed to New York with Benjamin Fletcher, an Anglican military man,
as governor of both. Fletcher™s appointment was perceived as a threat by some
Quakers but a boon by others. Penn™s objection to Fletcher stemmed from his
concern that Quakers remain autonomous from the crown and preserve their
unique liberties, but other Friends “ those who had been swayed by Keith™s
arguments “ welcomed him as a reprieve from Penn and the domination of the
With Fletcher™s arrival in Pennsylvania, two parallel oppositional campaigns
were launched, both using established methods of Quaker resistance. First,
and most apparently, the Quaker elite “ Penn™s supporters “ embarked on
a program of obstruction against Fletcher.122 As they had with Blackwell,
they thwarted every attempt Fletcher made to achieve his political ends. Only
this time, Penn encouraged them. Since he was denied any part in his own
government by the crown, Penn reasoned that the remaining Quakers “must
have the part alone . . . to [stand] upon their Patent agst the commission of the
Gov. of N. York.” In an interesting twist in colonial governance in general, yet
in true Quaker form, Penn led the resistance against the governor, outlining
the legal steps they were to take should Fletcher threaten their interests: “draw
up yr exceptions descreetly & fully & Lay them before the Lords of Plantation
here, & frds concerned in the Province here will appear for the Prov. & if
that dont do, Westminster Hall, & if that fail, the hous of Lords will do us
right.”123 Although Penn did not write a public letter, preferring to “whisper
it to you by one of you,” Fletcher discovered a copy of a letter with similar
advice and was therefore well aware of these Quakers™ stance against him.124
According to Fletcher, they followed Penn™s instructions and did “as much in
theire [power] . . . to baffell my endeaviors . . . for theire Majesties service.”125

122 Nash, Quakers and Politics, 186.
123 Penn to Robert Turner, 29th of the 9th mo. 1692, PWP, 3: 356“57.
124 PWP, 3: 358, n.20, 377, n.5.
125 Benjamin Fletcher to Secretary of State, Aug. 18, 1693, quoted in Nash, Quakers and Politics,
Constituting a Quaker Government in Pennsylvania 127

The second oppositional campaign was the old familiar one. Members of the
Assembly had dismissed Penn as a threat and they continued their resistance to
him and the Council. This time, however, they had a sense of unity following
the Keithian Controversy. They also saw the opportunity for an ally in their
cause. Seeing a possibility of achieving otherwise-unreachable ends through
Fletcher, members of the Assembly (composed at this time of Keithian Quak-
ers and malcontented non-Quakers) had welcomed him to Philadelphia.126 Not
surprisingly then, as Fletcher went about the task of trying to govern the colony,
he favored the Assembly. In this way, Penn unwittingly played into the hands of
these radical Friends by instructing his supporters to resist Fletcher™s rule “ elite
Quakers shunned the of¬cial positions Fletcher offered them, leaving Fletcher
little choice but to bestow more power on the Assembly. Furthermore, Friends
who were once Council members retreated, taking up positions in the Assem-
bly, and thereby strengthening it. Fletcher all but disbanded the Provincial
Council and gave the Assembly the power to make legislation. Penn, realizing
his mistake, remarked on this most recent turn of events to his supporters that
“the advantage the disafected [am]ong us make by [the Keithian Controversy]
ag[ainst un]ity, against Frds haveing power, [against] me, & [you] in perticu-
lar are great & Lamentable . . . Oh! Sorrowfull Conclusion of 8 or nine years
In the summer of 1694, Penn reestablished good relations with the crown
and was reinstated as proprietor of the colony. William Markham, now deputy
governor, had the onerous task of trying to bring the colony back under pro-
prietary control. He attempted to reinstate the 1683 Frame that Fletcher had
abolished, but to no avail. By this time the Assembly was strong enough so as
to be nearly unstoppable in its progress toward complete control of the gov-
ernment. They wrote of the 1683 Frame that it “is not deemed in all Respects
Sutably Accomodated to our present Circumstances.”128 Instead, David Lloyd,
kinsman of Thomas Lloyd and speaker of the Assembly, argued for a “new
modelling” of government that of¬cially put almost the whole government into
the control of the Assembly.129 This was the most overt challenge to Penn™s
authority.130 But it was nothing new for the Assembly.131 During the Fletcher
years as the elite councilmen had joined the Assembly, they realized that their
best chance for provincial autonomy from royal or proprietary control was a
strong lower house.132 They accordingly took steps to secure their new-found

126 See The Address of some of the Peaceable and Well Affected Freeholders and Inhabitants of
the Town and County of Philadelphia (Philadelphia, 1693).
127 Penn to Friends in Pennsylvania, 11th of the 10th mo. 1693, PWP, 3: 383.
128 1696 Frame of Government, PWP, 3: 458.
129 See Norris Papers, Family Letters, I, 122. HSP.
130 PWP, 3:456.
131 See Nash, Quakers and Politics. He argues that it was “strikingly different” than other chal-
lenges (200).
132 Ibid., 201.
128 Quaker Constitutionalism in Theory and Practice

The 1696 Frame, while retaining some of the provisions from the 1683
Frame, made changes in Pennsylvania™s power structure. The most notable of
these was that the Assembly could now make laws. The new Frame decreed
that “the Representatives of the Freemen when mett in Assembly Shall have
power to prepare and propose to the Governour and Council all such Bills as
the Majour part of them shall at any time see needful to be past into Lawes.”
The role left to the governor and Council was “recommending to the Assembly
all such Bills as they shall think ¬tt to be past into Lawes.” But the Assembly
will only meet and confer with the Council on these matters “when desired” by
the Assembly.133 The popular Assembly ¬nally had in its grasp the power and
liberty it had been struggling for since the founding of the province “ almost.
It was still not of¬cial.
Meanwhile, Penn, distracted by deaths in his family, embattled by politics
in England, and fully aware of the fruitlessness of asserting his will “ or his
version of God™s will “ in Pennsylvania, did not do anything actively to resist
this new move. Though he did not reject the 1696 Frame outright, neither did
he sanction it. His only existing reference to it on record is vague. In a letter
to some leading Friends in of¬ce, he reasserted somewhat feebly that making a
charter was his “own peculier prerogative, devolved thereby from the Crown
upon” him in order to keep provincial laws “as neer as may be to those in
Eng[land].” The only concern he made plain was that Pennsylvania™s laws were
“too remote from wt other Colonys are in their Constitution[s]” and that this
might “furnish our enimys wth a weapon to wound us.”134 Quaker governance
was dangerous and unbalanced according to those of a Whiggish bent. Finally,
the 1696 Frame was instituted when Friends compelled Markham to accept
it by threatening to withhold funds to aid in the defense of New York “
a directive from the crown “ if he did not. They did this by claiming that,
because the 1683 Frame was invalid, they were not properly constituted as a
body and needed to be reconstituted to vote to give funds for New York.135
Markham refused their conditions and neither passed the new constitution nor
delivered funds to New York.
The late 1690s in Pennsylvania government were by no means quiet or har-
monious. The same struggles for power among Friends continued and were
complicated by an in¬‚ux of non-Quakers into the province, many of whom
sided with the “radical” faction of Friends. Increasingly, in these years as the
Assembly wrangled for its prerogatives, one man was coming to the fore as
its leader “ David Lloyd. Lloyd came to Pennsylvania in 1687 from Wales as
Penn™s trusted attorney general. In his forty-four-year career in Pennsylvania
government, he was the most important and certainly most controversial polit-
ical ¬gure.136 In 1691 he became convinced of Quakerism, and would later
133 1696 Frame of Government, PWP, 3: 462.
134 William Penn to Samuel Carpenter and Others, 1st of the 10th mo. 1697, PWP, 3: 531.
135 LL, 1: 528“29.
136 Ibid., 1: 490. See also Roy N. Lokken, David Lloyd: Colonial Lawmaker (Seattle: University
of Washington Press, 1959); H. Frank Eshleman, The Constructive Genius of David Lloyd in
Constituting a Quaker Government in Pennsylvania 129

be described by some as a “rigid Quaker.”137 During the early years of the
province as he was still de¬ning his political character, he played a crucial role
in government by supporting the Assembly in their bids for power and actively
aiding them by, among other things, writing the 1696 Frame of Government.
At this point in time, however, his biographers believe he “had shown lit-
tle indication of opposition to the proprietor or to the Quaker leadership.”138
Penn himself described Lloyd in glowing terms as “an honest man & the Ablest
Lawyer in that province, & a zealous Man for the Government.”139
Lloyd™s knowledge and skill as a lawyer both helped and hurt his advance-
ment in the province. It caused him to rise to great heights in the Pennsylvania
government. By virtue of being one of the few Quaker lawyers, and having an
aptitude for law and tenacious personality, Lloyd had made himself indispens-
able to the colonial legislative process. But this zeal and success also attracted
the notice of the English government in unfavorable ways. In disputes with the
crown over the regulation of trade, Lloyd championed colonists™ rights and
won great popularity among them. But he angered the Board of Trade, which
became intent not just on enforcing the law, but on removing Lloyd from
the scene. Penn found himself in an awkward position between the authority
of the crown and the rights and interests of his colonists as represented by
Lloyd. In 1699 the Board of Trade demanded that Penn remove him “not only
from the Place of Attorney General . . . but from all other publick Imployments
Whether or not Penn could have prevented Lloyd™s removal is debatable.
What can hardly be disputed, however, is that he executed the removal with
very little tact, and furthermore, appeared to betray Lloyd in his attempt to
appease the Board. Not only did he remove Lloyd from all his appointed
of¬ces, but in an un-Quakerly motion, he proceeded to prosecute him, mak-
ing no allowances for Lloyd to defend himself. Adding insult to injury, Penn
then removed Lloyd from his position on the Provincial Council and dele-
gated the job of informing him to Lloyd™s father-in-law.141 Among the many
unwise moves Penn made as proprietor, his treatment of David Lloyd in par-
ticular would shape the future of the colony in ways he did not intend. What
Penn failed to consider was that, although he could of¬cially strip Lloyd of
his titles, Lloyd™s quali¬cation as the most able legal mind in the province
guaranteed him a role in the government and a hand in the creation of future

Early Colonial Pennsylvania Legislation and Jurisprudence, 1686“1731 (Philadelphia: Penn-
sylvania Bar Association, 1910); Burton Alva Konkle, “David Lloyd, Penn™s Great Lawmaker,”
Pennsylvania History vol. 4, no. 3 (1937), 153“56.
137 LL, 1: 492.
138 Ibid.
139 William Penn to the House of Lords, 1 March 1697, PWP, 3: 486.
140 The Board of Trade to Penn, PWP, 3: 577.
141 LL, 1: 1: 493.
130 Quaker Constitutionalism in Theory and Practice

The 1701 Charter of Privileges
By 1701, the political events had conspired to create a very precarious situation
for Penn. His neglect of the colony, the appointment of foreign governors, the
Keithian Controversy, and his mistreatment of the foremost legal ¬gure in the
province all contributed to his loss of control of the government. Meanwhile,
since the founding of the colony, Quakers had been practicing self-government,
angling for ever-greater popular power, and exercising their unique process of
dissent and reform. This was the situation in Pennsylvania on the eve of the
creation of the Charter of Privileges, the Quakers™ sacred institution that would
be the foundation of the colony for the next seventy-¬ve years.
In 1699, after a ¬fteen-year absence, Penn returned to America. He planned
to spend several years restoring order to the colony and faith in his leadership.
But even if the developments of the last decades had not already converged to
make his job nearly impossible, new circumstances arising in England did. The
English government had begun aggressive action to take colonies away from
proprietors. The Reuni¬cation Bill, which was intended not to void the colonial
charters (as some Anglicans had wanted) but simply to remove all rights of a
proprietary governor, was introduced to the House of Lords in 1701. The
Quaker legal advocacy group in England, the Meeting for Sufferings, lobbied
against it and informed Penn of the danger.142 Although Penn had planned on
remaining in the colony for some time, he realized soon after his arrival that he
would need to sail for England as soon as possible. His concern was to preserve
his Quaker colony and the privileges to which the inhabitants had become
accustomed, most importantly, liberty of conscience. Penn wrote: “Can it enter
the head of any man of Common Sence knowing any thing of America that wee
came hither to be under a Kings Governour that is Mercenary[?] . . . are wee
come 3000 Miles into a Desart of only wild people as well as wild Beasts . . . to
have only the same priviledges wee had at home?”143
Penn saw this move by the English government as a direct, deliberate,
and speci¬c attack on the colonies of religious dissenters in America. “The
Design,” he explained, “seems to Lye against Proprietary Govmts upon the
foot of Dissent in Religion.” He argued, “[f]or Except for Carolina they
were all granted to Non Conformists and then the meaning is that no Dis-
senters Even in a Wilderness at 3000 Miles Distance & at the other End of
the world shall Enjoy the powers ¬rst granted them for their Incouragement
& Security in their Hasardous & most Expensive Enterprises.” Furthermore,
he believed that if other dissenters in America, especially the Baptists and
Independent Presbyterians suspected this, they would unite and “make a bold
Appearance & stand both within doors & without agst the progress of such a

142 PWP, 4: 64.
143 Penn to Charlwood Lawton, 18th of the 6th mo. 1701, PWP, 4:67.
144 Ibid., 4: 73.
Constituting a Quaker Government in Pennsylvania 131

In Pennsylvania the matter seemed dire. The threat from England necessi-
tated more stability in the colony than had ever existed and, most importantly,
a legitimate, functional constitution. By 1699 the colony had been without
an approved, written constitution for seven years since the 1683 Frame was
discarded and not replaced with any that satis¬ed Penn. If Penn would have
a chance of securing the colony™s political privileges against the crown, a new
charter would have to be drawn up in the two months before he left for Eng-
land. Penn was then caught in a dif¬cult position. He had come with the aim of
restoring his authority in the province, but since 1693 the Assembly had had
virtual control over the colony. Friends had gotten a taste of sovereignty and
were not about to relinquish it.
In relation to his colonists, where William Penn found himself in 1701
was exactly the position in which George Fox found himself a few decades
earlier during the Wilkinson-Story Controversy “ distrusted and resisted by
Friends intent on not being oppressed. In the ¬rst twenty years of Pennsylvania
government, Penn had attempted to realize his vision for the province, with
himself as its leader. From the beginning, the question of where authority lay
for Penn was clear. He had put the power to make laws and regulations in
the hands of an elite few and expected the people to disregard their God-given
powers of legal discernment and simply obey. Perhaps he should have known
better than to think a colony of Quakers would be so easily led. These people
had contested this kind of “top-down” delegation of power in their religious
lives, and it surely would not be tolerated in any holy political experiment.
In the eyes of his co-religionists, Penn had ceased to be a revered leader, and
instead took the shape of a tyrannical ruler. That he too was a Quaker mattered
less than that he was the one who wielded authority over them. Authority by
any human was to be questioned, and weighed against the authority of God
With his authority threatened both from above by the English government
and from below by his colonists, Penn did not have much time before he left
Pennsylvania to work out a plan that would balance his rights, interests, and
authority as the proprietor with those of his colonists, and at the same time
preserve the rights of the Quaker colony in the face of a royal threat. Just
over a year earlier, he had recognized that “Tho™ this be a Colonie of 19
years standing . . . we have yet much to do to establish its constitution . . . there
are in it Some Laws obsolete others hurtfull, others imperfect that will need
Improvement & it will be requisite to make some new ones . . . If . . . there be
anie thing that jars, alter itt.”145 Now his decision was to give the job to the
lesser of his adversaries “ his brethren in the Assembly. In a hurried address
to the General Assembly, Penn gave them carte blanche to write up whatever
sort of charter they liked. He told them to draft “some suitable expedient and
Provision for your safety, as well in your Privileges as Property, and you will

145 William Penn, “Speech to the Provincial Council,” April 1, 1700, PWP, 3: 590“91.
132 Quaker Constitutionalism in Theory and Practice

¬nd me ready to Comply with whatsoever may render us happy, by a nearer
Union of our Interest.”146 But those who had the future of Pennsylvania in
their hands were hardly concerned with Penn™s interests. They took him at his
word and, given this golden opportunity, they made the most it.
At this moment, all the factors of Pennsylvania™s short history converged “
the colonists™ discontent, their suspicion of authority, the religious differences
among Friends, and Penn™s mishandling of David Lloyd™s dismissal. With the
dissatis¬ed Keithians behind him, as well as most other Friends in of¬ce, Lloyd
drafted a charter that was radically different from Penn™s last constitution,
the 1683 Frame, and even more favorable to the Assembly than the 1696
Frame. This new charter codi¬ed the powers they had been exercising and
the arrangements they had established in recent years. In addition to securing
religious liberty in Pennsylvania once and for all, it abolished the Provincial
Council altogether as part of the legislative process, relegating it to being merely
an advisory body to the governor, and granted power to the Assembly, with
gubernatorial ascent, to make laws. Although there were still those loyal to
Penn in government at this time who might have looked out for his interests,
these Friends, like Penn, were concerned about the possibility of falling under
royal government and losing their liberty of conscience. The legacy of Fletcher™s
governorship and the current tense situation between proprietors and the crown
convinced them to go along with Lloyd and the “radical” faction in pushing
for this new charter. The Lloydians were mainly interested in a government
that would be out of Penn™s control. As James Logan, Penn™s loyal secretary
characterized it, “David [Lloyd] professes so much zeal for the public good
that . . . he has gained too great ascendant over the honest country members to
let thy interest be considered as it ought.”147
Very soon it became apparent to Penn that he had made himself extremely
vulnerable. As the Charter was being drawn up, Penn caught wind of rumors
about “wht D[avid] L[loyd] has declared as to my powrs in proprietary matters,
by wch I perceive tis publick.” On this point, he instructed James Logan to
“let [Lloyd] know my minde (occasionally) . . . while he is [on the] draught of
that scheam.”148 Further, he hoped Logan would “Ply David Lloyd discreetly;
dispose him to a proprietary plan, and the privileges requisite for the people™s
and Friends™ security.”149 But Logan must have had a more realistic sense of
the situation. He explained to Penn that the Provincial Council was helpless to
protect Penn™s interests “for they are looked upon as ill here as the Court party
[in England].”150

146 Minutes of the Provincial Council of the Province of Pennsylvania from the Organization to
the Termination of the Proprietary Government, vols. 1“4 (Philadelphia: Jo. Severn, 1852), 2:
147 Logan to Penn, 28th of the 7th mo. 1704, Penn-Logan Corresp., 1: 316.
148 Penn to Logan, 8 Sept. 1701, PWP, 4: 88.
149 Ibid., 6th of the 7th mo. 1701, Penn-Logan Corresp., 1: 52.
150 Logan to Penn, 3rd of the 8th mo. 1704, Penn-Logan Corresp., 1: 321.
Constituting a Quaker Government in Pennsylvania 133

Lloyd™s biographers believe that it is dif¬cult to know his deepest motives for
how and why he drafted the Charter as he did.151 Penn™s supporters believed
that Lloyd was driven by a deep-seated grudge against Penn for the rough treat-
ment he had received a few years earlier.152 While it seems this was certainly
a factor considering the vehement and calculated opposition Penn met from
Lloyd since his dismissal, it should not be forgotten that Lloyd had a history of
writing radical legislation that furthered popular rights. Although the grudge
he bore toward Penn may have focused his efforts, it cannot be considered his
only motive for leading the movement for popular government.
Regardless of Lloyd™s motives, Penn had been manipulated into acquiescence
to the Assembly™s will. Under pressure from all sides, Penn grudgingly signed
the Charter into law “ a decision he and his closest advisors would soon regret.
In what can only be called a peaceful coup d™etat, these dissenters among
Friends wrested all legislative prerogative away from the Provincial Council
and placed it squarely “ and legally “ in the hands of the popular Assembly. To
do this, they employed the same peaceful process that their brethren in England
had been using to resist unjust rulers and their laws. They did not overthrow
the government Penn had founded, they merely reorganized it; likewise, they
did not remove Penn, they simply made him irrelevant. And neither, as in most
other colonies, did these dissenters ever take up arms against their government.
At the moment the Charter was put in place, it became not just one of the
most signi¬cant examples of Quaker political ideals and process but also a
vehicle for promoting them until the American Revolution. Shortly after his
return to England, Penn wrote to James Logan, “I wish now I had never past
it . . . when my hasty goeing for wt obliged yt motion was unforeseen, when
those Laws & yt c[h]arter received their sanction from me.”153 He complained
to his con¬dant, “Let these ungrateful men see what I suffer for them . . . they
may meet with their match after a while that they have so basely treated me “
unworthy spirits!”154 At this point, the table had been fully turned, and now
William Penn and his ally against the radicals in the Assembly, Isaac Norris,
Sr., lamented that they were “Dissenters in our own country.”155 But of course,
all Friends might have described themselves thus.
Although hardly what Penn had in mind for his Quaker political experi-
ment, the polity that this charter constituted was more Quakerly than anything
he could have achieved by his own design. The distinctive character of Penn-
sylvania politics that would de¬ne the colony depended on two clauses in the
Charter, only one of which Penn had intended “ liberty of conscience and pop-
ular control of the legislative process. Aside from the implications these things

151 LL, 1: 494. Although authorship of the charter has not been established de¬nitively, it seems
clear that Lloyd had a great part in writing it. In 1704, Logan informed Penn that “bills are
all drawn by David Lloyd,” 28th of the 7th mo., Penn-Logan Corresp., 1: 316.
152 Ibid.
153 Penn to Logan, “Notes and Queries,” PMHB, vol. 7 (1883), 228“36.
154 Penn to Logan, 21st of the 4th mo. 1702, Penn-Logan Corresp., 1: 111.
155 Isaac Norris to Penn, 23rd of the 9th mo. 1710, Penn-Logan Corresp., 2: 431.
134 Quaker Constitutionalism in Theory and Practice

might have had for later constitutional thought, they were immensely impor-
tant for the immediate purposes of the Quaker government. The ¬rst clause
allowed inhabitants of the colony to be Quakers; the second allowed them to
act like Quakers in political of¬ce. The Charter, in other words, allowed polit-
ical legitimacy to be de¬ned in good measure by Quaker faith and practice. It
rede¬ned the very government itself. There would be no top-down imposition
of authority from remote rulers; legislation would evolve from the sense of the
Assembly, not the dictates of a governor or proprietor; each individual would
be allowed to follow instead the leadings of his conscience in matters of reli-
gion and politics; and peace, not war, would be pursued as a matter of policy.
Beyond strictly governmental activities, the Charter also allowed Friends to
determine to a great degree the civil law, social policies, and civic culture of
the province according to their theology and thereby minimize the in¬‚uence
of other non-Quaker groups and regulate individual behavior in the polity.
Friends in of¬ce were able to establish a political culture that was, according
to their opponents, Quakerized.156

The Charter was not fully “settled” for another twenty-¬ve years. The factions
that had existed before it was implemented, led by Lloyd and Logan, revived
after 1701 and struggled over whose interpretation of the Charter would pre-
vail. David Lloyd wrote to Penn that “I hold my self Obliged in Conscience”
to defend his views on the Charter.157 But by 1728, the Lloydian faction
had ¬nally adopted a more moderate tone and preached Quaker process and
unity to their opponents in their disputes. They argued that “all the proper
means for a Reconciliation were used by Us, and rejected by our Brethren
with Contempt,” and that “the Supporters of this Difference never intended
to redress our Grievances, by desiring Us to joyn them; but wanted our Con-
currence, only to reinstate themselves in a Capacity of Acting.” The Lloydians
¬nally “appealed to our Brethren” and proved that “[w]e are not singular in
Our interpretation of the Law.”158 The interpretation of this constitution was
¬nally set.
The Charter of Privileges was a unique document in colonial American gov-
ernment. It was not exceptional simply because it created the only major colo-
nial government with a unicameral legislature, thus granting more power to its
popular representatives than any other colonial charter; nor was it extraordi-
nary merely because it was the only colonial constitution with clauses guaran-
teeing religious liberty and constitutional amendment; nor was it remarkable
only for its longevity “ lasting seventy-¬ve years intact as the constitution
of Pennsylvania. It was also unique because it was a quintessentially Quaker

156 Jones, The Quakers in the American Colonies, 287.
157 David Lloyd to Penn, 19th of the 5th mo. 1705, PWP 4: 373.
158 David Lloyd, Defence of the Legislative Constitution, 7.
Constituting a Quaker Government in Pennsylvania 135

achievement. What makes the 1701 Charter a Quaker constitution “ and distin-
guishes it from other colonial constitutions “ is that it grew out of an established
process of peaceful dissent and resistance within the Society of Friends. The
process by which it came into being, how it was used once in place, and what
its advocates achieved for the province made manifest the internal procedures,
experiences, and theology of the Society of Friends in the seventeenth and eigh-
teenth centuries. The 1701 Charter was the culmination of a twenty-year period
of constitutional turmoil, and an even longer period of practiced resistance to
authority by members of the Society of Friends. In pushing for a constitution
that effectively placed power in the hands of the people and alienated their
leader, Quakers were repeating a pattern of behavior learned and practiced in
the earliest years of their existence in England.
This constitutional moment prepared and enabled Quakers to create a truly
Quaker colony. Over the next seventy-¬ve years, they expand their process
and principles with remarkable success to the entire province. How one de¬nes
success, is, of course, relative.

Civil Unity and “Seeds of Dissention” in the Golden Age
of Quaker Theocracy

Quakers in Pennsylvania spent their ¬rst forty years from the 1680s to the
1720s struggling among themselves to realize the ideal structure of a Quaker
civil government. As in the establishment of their ecclesiastical polity, there
were competing visions for how it should function. And as always, Friends
were attempting to determine the extent of popular participation and where
the locus of authority should be “ in the hands of the people themselves or with
their spiritually and politically elite representatives. The dispute within the civil
government, as we have seen, resolved itself in favor of the popular branch. The
Assembly united against Penn and his agents, considering them an oppressive
force, and effectively wrote them out of the constitution as lawmakers.
Until this point, we have considered the dif¬culties of applying Quaker
theologico-political theory at the highest levels of government. But Friends did
not con¬ne themselves to shaping merely the government, narrowly construed.
They were naturally concerned with the entire polity, which was increasingly
non-Quaker. The question now at hand is: What does a political theory that
mixes unity and dissent that was originated by a group on the fringes of political
power look like when it is subsequently established as the basis of a political
system “ when the group moves from challenging the state to controlling the
state? The short answer seems contradictory: It was at once coercive and
antiauthoritarian. While their theory maintained the delicate balance between
anarchy and tyranny, dissent and conformity, working it out in practice was
more dif¬cult.1

1 This chapter might well be paired with Richard R. Beeman™s Chapter 8, “The Paradox of Popular
and Oligarchic Behavior in Colonial Pennsylvania,” in The Varieties of Political Experience in
Eighteenth-Century America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005), 204“42.
The argument here accords with Beeman™s in identifying a “paradox” of Quaker Pennsylvania.
But this discussion is cast and elucidated differently. Beeman takes a more technical approach
in examining the dual oligarchic and popular political culture by dealing with such issues as
elections and governmental structures, whereas the present argument focuses on explaining how

Civil Unity and Dissention 137

Now, as they controlled their own civil government, we must consider
Quaker theologico-political behavior from two perspectives “ ¬rst in the rela-
tion of Friends to the inhabitants of Pennsylvania and, second, in their rela-
tionship to the political authorities above them, the proprietary and the crown.
In the ¬rst instance, in question are the policies, regulatory laws, and prac-
tices that Friends implemented to create Quakerly unity in the colony.2 In the
second, the discussion will treat how Quakers modeled their own behavior
for their constituents in their relationship with the proprietors of the colony.
Friends attempted to create Pennsylvania as a larger version of their own eccle-
siastical polity, governed by the same bureaucratic-libertine process. Because
the major events of Pennsylvania history have been treated in detail elsewhere,
this discussion will paint with broad strokes and touch on a few familiar and
some lesser known events in Pennsylvania history that exemplify the Quaker
culture and the tension in the different aspects of their theory and practice. The
discussion will turn on their public policy, both formal and informal.
Alan Tully has examined well the phenomenon of Quaker political culture
in Pennsylvania. He argues in Forming American Politics that Friends devel-
oped a political language and unique culture all their own, which he calls “civil
Quakerism.” He de¬nes the components of civil Quakerism as “a deep appre-
ciation of Pennsylvania™s unique constitution, liberty of conscience, provincial
prosperity, loosely de¬ned paci¬sm, rejection of a militia, and resistance to the
arbitrary powers of proprietors.” “Friends,” he writes, “developed civil Quak-
erism into a unique language of politics “ a provincial dialect as it were.”3
My argument follows his “ that Quakers actively disseminated this culture
beyond the bounds of their immediate Society and compelled conformity to it.
But I take the discussion a bit further and in a different direction in this and
the next chapters to explore some further implications of this missionizing for
Pennsylvanian and American politics.
More than simply describing the Quakers™ behavior and efforts at govern-
ing, this chapter will also deal with the response of non-Quaker observers of
their government and religion.4 Because, as we have seen, one of the Quakers™
goals was convincing people of the Truth of Quakerism, their public image was
crucial. As the Society coalesced in the mid-seventeenth century and developed
into the early eighteenth, public opinion about Friends was predominantly

Quaker theology was expressed and received to create simultaneous, and ultimately, con¬‚icting
cultures of unity and dissent.
2 A work that deals extensively with this topic is Jack D. Marietta and G. S. Rowe, A Trou-
bled Experiment: Crime and Justice in Pennsylvania, 1682“1800 (Philadelphia: University of
Pennsylvania Press, 2006). A discussion of the principles of ecclesiastical unity and decision
making translated into Pennsylvania political culture is in Herman Wellenreuther, “The Quest
for Harmony in a Turbulent World: The Principle of ˜Love and Unity™ in Colonial Pennsylvania
Politics,” PMHB vol. 108 (1983), 537“76.
3 Tully, Forming American Politics, 258.
4 See also Rebecca Larson, “From ˜Witches™ to ˜Celebrated Preachers™: The Non-Quaker Response
to the Women Ministers,” in Daughters of Light, 232“95.
138 Quaker Constitutionalism in Theory and Practice

negative. Quaker detractors recognized the dualism in Quaker thought and
action and demanded that members of the Society explain it. Robert Barclay
wrote his treatise on church government in part to answer those “that accuse
[Quakers] of Disorder and Confusion on the one hand, and from such as
Calumniate them with Tyranny and Imposition on the other.”5 By the mid-
eighteenth century, this dualism remained, but now, because of changes in
Quakerism and the world around them, opinion was polarized. Their gov-
erning style and policy continued to evoke similar harsh criticisms, but, as
the transatlantic intellectual climate evolved into the Enlightenment, a new
and extremely positive view emerged based on many of the exact same prac-
tices that continued to elicit condemnation. As we shall see, Quakers were a
polarizing force in proportion to the degree of in¬‚uence they exercised over
Pennsylvania civil society. And the more extreme the views, the more dif¬cult it
is to tell whether observers were commenting on reality or a “mirage.”6 It was
likely both when they noted “ and exaggerated “ those de¬ning and seemingly
contradictory features of theologico-political Quakerism “ unity and tyranny,
dissent and anarchy, and the distinctive testimonies that continued to provoke
animosity, and now also admiration. Either way, Quakerism was a force that
demanded recognition and, for the inhabitants of Pennsylvania, adaptation.

Quakers as Political Elders
Despite the struggle among Friends to decide the locus of power among them-
selves, there was no question in their minds about the role they would play
in relation to the general population, which was growing quickly to make
Quakers the minority in their own colony.7 An observer of Quakers and their
experiment in Pennsylvania found that “the change of the Climate [from Eng-
land to America], has in no wise changed the Spirit of Quakerism.”8 Insofar
as they considered the civil polity to be the ecclesiastical polity writ large, the
goal for Pennsylvania was the same as the goal of any Quaker meeting “ to
achieve a perfectly united godly society. Accordingly, Quakers, as the most
spiritually weighty in the province, were the appropriate leaders. As Tully
put it, “Quaker legislators accumulated [power] to prevent its abuse.”9 Thus

5 Barclay, Anarchy, title page.
6 Durand Echeverria, Mirage in the West: A History of the French View of American Society to
1815 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1968).
7 The massive in¬‚ux of immigrants was the cause of the Quakers™ minority. See Sally Schwartz,
“A Mixed Multitude”; Tully, Forming American Politics, 257. By contrast, according to LL, the
majority of the Assembly was clearly Quaker from the founding at least until 1756 (1: 801“06;
2: 1123“27). By 1750, Quakers were the third largest religious body in the colonies, exceeded
only by Anglicans and Congregationalists for number of churches. See Edwin Scott Gaustad,
Historical Atlas of Religion in America (New York: Harper and Row, 1962), 21“25, 92“96,
167, 169.
8 Edward Cockson, Rigid Quaker, Cruel Persecutor (London, 1705), 36.
9 Tully, Forming American Politics, 339.
Civil Unity and Dissention 139

although all freemen in Pennsylvania had a vote, only a few had divine com-
petence to rule.10 In the civil polity, as in the ecclesiastical, they believed that
“[God] hath laid Care upon some beyond others, who watch for Souls of their
Brethren, as they, that must give Account.”11 The Quaker Assembly cast itself
in relation to the populace the way the elite Provincial Council had to the
Assembly, before the Assembly nulli¬ed it “ as elders: They were collectively
“Brethren and Representatives of one body, only with {this} Difference that
wee may very well have the Elder Brothers place.”12 And their role was clear: In
1658 Edward Burrough explained that lawmakers should behave so that “the
people may receive examples of righteousness, and holy and lawfull walking
from their Conversations.”13 They must not act “contrary to the light in [their]
own conscience[s].”14 In 1687 Penn attempted to actualize this ideal when he
wrote to the Assembly, “lett the People Learn by your example as well as by
your powr the happy life of Concord.”15 As elders and ministers to the polity,
the Assembly thus had direction from Penn to use both persuasion (“example”)
and coercion (“powr”) for the development and security of the colony.
As discussed in Chapter 1, one of the prevailing concerns that shaped Quaker
behavior in the seventeenth century and that they carried to Pennsylvania was
the missionizing spirit. The Quaker impulse to reform and regulate the society
according to their religious principles was as old as Quakerism itself. But mis-
sionizing took on a new form in Pennsylvania, in keeping with the Quakers™
different worldly status as political insiders. It was no longer a “grassroots”
effort; it was institutionalized. Therefore, although not as apparent in the usual
ways, missionizing certainly was not gone. It had, on the contrary, become so
blatant that historians have not recognized it as such. Indeed, the Quaker gov-
ernment was the largest missionizing effort in American history.16 Similar to
the Puritan Massachusetts “city on a hill” mission, the Quakers came to Amer-
ica for a religious purpose “ to found a Christian colony and, more speci¬cally,
a Quaker colony. Unlike the Puritan experiment, however, Quakers sought

10 On the matter of voting, Quakers displayed the same penchant for encouraging individual
leadings and transparency through documentation as they did in other aspects of their religious
and political processes. Beeman explains that “the most notable feature of Pennsylvania election
laws . . . was the provision for written ballots” (209). Having the ballots in writing gave voters a
chance to re¬‚ect on their choices and “an opportunity to exercise political judgments free from
outside pressure” (ibid.).
11 Barclay, Anarchy, 9.
12 William Markham to William Penn, 21 July 1688, PWP, 3:196.
13 Edward Burrough, A Message for Instruction to all the Rulers, Judges, and Magistrates . . .
(1658), 1.
14 Ibid., 2.
15 Penn to the Commissioners of State, Feb. 1, 1687, PWP, 3: 145. Emphasis added.
16 Not only was Pennsylvania the largest colony, its efforts may have been signi¬cantly scaled
back from the Quakers™ original plans. According to John Pomfret, initially Pennsylvania was
merely part of a “grand strategy” by Friends to control a signi¬cant portion of America, from
New York to Maryland and west to the Ohio River. See John E. Pomfret, “The Proprietors of
the Province of West New Jersey, 1674“1702,” PMHB vol. 75 (1951), 117“46.
140 Quaker Constitutionalism in Theory and Practice

not to expel those who disagreed with them but rather to embrace and absorb
them. Moreover, they came not with an eye cast back to England with the intent
to reform a corrupt church, but rather on the future of their own province and
beyond.17 Compared to the Puritan endeavor, Quakers were more persistent
and energetic proselytizers. Their initial object was not simply to achieve con-
formity in action, but in conviction as well. Such an object was enabled by
the fact that they believed in universal salvation and human perfection, which
made many more people eligible to be Quakers than otherwise. Moreover, their
goals for convincing the world of Quakerism had changed since the seventeenth
century. They always believed that the Light was universally accessible, and
now, regardless of an individual™s profession, they believed he could ¬nd the
Light within without necessarily being a member of the Society of Friends.
Now they were less concerned that people be Quakers, as long as they acted
like Quakers. In other words, Friends believed that it was how one moved in
the world rather than the name of one™s sect that mattered. One disapproving
Frenchman claimed that “[t]his is their secret for one day becoming the masters
of the world.”18
One of the biggest misconceptions of Pennsylvania in our day is that it was
a bastion of separation of church and state and unfettered religious liberty.
It was, rather, in spite of the fact there was no of¬cially established church,
a powerful theocracy.19 While Puritan Massachusetts is usually what comes
to mind when we think of an early America theocracy, in that colony, in
some ways, there was a more distinct separation of church and state than in
Pennsylvania. Puritan leaders were clear that the religious ministers should
not also be political ministers.20 Most Quaker politicians, on the other hand,

17 Perry Miller, “Errand into the Wilderness,” in Errand into the Wilderness (Cambridge, MA:
Belknap Press, Harvard University, 1956), 1“15. On Penn™s “peaceable imperialism” in the
New World, see Fred Anderson and Andrew Cayton, Dominion of War: Empire and Liberty
in North America, 1500“2000 (New York: Viking, 2005), 54“103.
18 Gabriel Naud´ , Histoire abr´ g´ e de la naissance et du progr` s du Kouakerisme avec celle ses
e ee e
dogmas (1692) quoted in Edith Philips, The Good Quaker in French Legend (Philadelphia:
University of Pennsylvania Press, 1932), 29.
19 Tully argues that there was no separation of church and state. He ¬nds, however, that there was
less coercion than is suggested in the following argument (Forming American Politics, 115“16).
Some historians who have claimed that there was separation of church and state in Pennsylvania
are Sally Schwartz, “A Mixed Multitude,” 8, 22; John M. Murrin, “Religion and Politics from
the First Settlements to the Civil War,” in Mark A. Noll, ed., Religion and American Politics:
From the Colonial Period to the 1980s (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990), 19“43.
33; J. William Frost, A Perfect Freedom, passim. Another favorite claim of these and many
other studies is that Pennsylvania is a “microcosm of the story of religion in America” (Robert
T. Handy, “The Contribution of Pennsylvania to the Rise of Religious Liberty in America,”
in E. Otto Reimherr, ed., Quest for Freedom: Aspects of Pennsylvania™s Religious Experience
[Selinsgrove: Susquehanna University, 1987], 19“37, 20). The argument here agrees more with
Glenn T. Miller who speaks of the “informal establishment” in Religious Liberty in America:
History and Prospects (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1976), 52.
20 Perry Miller, “The Puritan State and Puritan Society,” in Errand into the Wilderness (Cam-
bridge, MA; Belknap Press, Harvard University, 1956), 148“52, 150; Morgan, The Puritan
Dilemma, 95“96.
Civil Unity and Dissention 141

assumed that there would be a tight, instrumental connection between the
governing structure of the meeting and that of the colony. It was the only
major colony in which the same people who held the leading positions in the
ecclesiastical polity also held the highest posts in the civil polity.21 The govern-
ment was essentially run by the meeting, with a built-in hierarchical structure
of monthly, quarterly, and yearly meetings to allow the theologico-political
leaders to percolate to the top. Throughout most of the eighteenth century,
Quaker candidates for the Assembly were selected by the religious meeting.22
As the century progressed, the in¬‚uence of the meeting on the political pro-
cess became more blatant, causing one critic to remark that “the yearly and
monthly Meetings of leading Quakers in this Province are not entirely for
spiritual Purposes; but that they are degenerated into political Cabals, held
the Week before our annual Election, to ¬x the Choice of Assembly-men, and
issue out their Edicts to the several Meetings in the Province.”23 Indeed, in
1710, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, the central Quaker governing structure
in the colonies, issued an epistle directing members to vote only for other
William Penn was in the minority when he disagreed with the mixing of
church and state. Early in Pennsylvania™s history, he expressed concern at this
trend of Quaker domination of the government. “We should look sel¬sh,” he
said, “& do that, wch we have cry™d out upon others for, namely, letting no
body touch wth Governmt but those of their own way.”25 The extent of Friends™
domination of the government can be ascertained from concerns expressed by
non-Quakers very early in the experiment. “There are grudges in some,” wrote
a devotee of Penn™s, “that none are put in places of power but friends.”26
Almost seventy years later a non-Friend complained that still “a great Majority
of one particular Persuasion, who are scarce a Fifth of the People of this
Province, and by their religious Principles unquali¬ed for Government, are
kept in the Assembly, by the in¬‚uence of the aforesaid Cabal, to the exclusion
of Men of superior Property and Quali¬cations.”27 These people worried about
“confusion and sad events” that might ensue if the proper “bounds and limits
of Ch[urch] and state” were not observed.28 Writing to William Penn in 1710,
Isaac Norris, Sr., summarized the dilemma of Quakers in government:

We are a mixed people, who all claim a right to use their own way. We say our principles
are not destructive or repugnant to Civil Government, and will admit of free liberty of

21 Rhode Island and New Jersey, also governed by Quakers, had similar overlap between ministers
and magistrates.
22 On the meeting structure and its relationship to the government, see LL, 2: 24.
23 William Smith, A Brief View of the Conduct of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, 1755), 21.
24 Ibid., 23“24.
25 William Penn to Jasper Blatt, February 5, 1683, PWP, 2: 347.
26 Holme to Penn, 25th of the 9th mo. 1686. PWP, 3: 131.
27 Smith, A Brief View of the Conduct of Pennsylvania, 19.
28 Holme to Penn, 25th of the 9th mo. 1686, PWP, 3: 131.
142 Quaker Constitutionalism in Theory and Practice

conscience to all; yet to me it appears . . . we must be either independent or entirely by
ourselves; or, if mixed, partial to our own opinion, and not allow liberty to others.29

But most Quakers did not see this dilemma. In some important ways, being
partial to their own opinions and not allowing liberty to others was the Quaker
agenda. Well before Pennsylvania was founded, Isaac Penington reminded his
readers of the purpose of government, writing, “remember this Word, Be sure
you smite none for Obedience to God. Limit not His holy Spirit in His People,
but limit the unclean and evil Spirit in those who manifest themselves not to be
his People. This is the true intent of Government.”30 What developed during
this period was a system that was, contrary to the Quaker theory of an ideal
government, not a spiritual aristocracy, but an oligarchy.31
The policy the Assembly pursued vis-a-vis its constituents has evoked widely
varied commentary from historians and contemporaries alike that reveals the
complexity of the Quaker approach to government. On the one hand, there
were those who criticized the Holy Experiment for exactly the same reasons
they did the Society of Friends. They were “cruel persecutors” in the eyes
of many, conducting their government as they did their religious meeting, by
imposing a severe discipline on all. And as their power stabilized and expanded,
they were charged with “priestcraft” by political opponents. Francis Bugg
claimed that the dominant Quaker faction was “Guilty of that Persecution
which they have condemn™d in others.”32 Similarly, Edward Cockson spoke
directly to the Quakers, arguing that “your Party have exceeded all Mankind
in the Extensions of their Persecutions.”33 Bugg claimed to see through the
surface image:

their Pretense, of Mercy, Justice, Peace, Freedom, Goodness, Righteousness, Meekness,
Temperance, Unity, Humility, Soberness, Constancy to Good Principles, &c. is nothing
but an Amusement, Deceit, Hypocrisy, and Gross Dissimulation; with a Design to
Engross and Translate the Government into their own Hands, and then to Exercise
both Cruelty and Injustice, Partiality and Persecution.34

But Quakers had partisans of their own. In the mid-eighteenth century, they
gained a mythical status among some observers of the colony. Their biggest fans

29 Isaac Norris to Penn, 23rd of the 9th mo. 1710, in Edward Armstrong, ed., Correspondence
between William Penn and James Logan, Secretary of the Province and Others (Philadelphia,
1870“72), 2: 431.
30 Isaac Penington, The Way of Life and Death Made Manifest, and Set Before Men (London,
1680), part I, 294.
31 On the Quaker oligarchy, see Tully, William Penn™s Legacy, and Richard Alan Ryerson, “Por-
trait of a Colonial Oligarchy: The Quaker Elite in the Pennsylvania Assembly, 1729“1776,”
in Bruce C. Daniels, ed., Power and Status: Of¬ce Holding in Colonial America (Middletown,
CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1986), 106“35.
32 Bugg, Hidden Things, 184.
33 Cockson, Rigid Quaker, Cruel Persecutor, 35.
34 Bugg, Quakerism Anatomized, 443.
Civil Unity and Dissention 143

were the French philosophes, for whom the Holy Experiment became a touch-
stone for the ideals of the Enlightenment.35 Historians of American politics,
even those who emphasize the in¬‚uence of the philosophes on the American
political ideas, seem to have overlooked their obsession with Quakerism.36 Yet
French anglophilia manifested itself most acutely in their interest in Quakers.
From the earliest days of the Society in the 1650s, the French had taken notice “
and Quakers had encouraged their notice “ of their peculiar breed of radical-
ism, which by the middle of the next century had blossomed into a tradition
of commentary that lasted into the twentieth century and spread well beyond
The philosophes praised Quaker Pennsylvania for embodying the Enlight-
enment. Quakers, it seemed, had invented the perfect civil society “ one that
would promote republican virtues of frugality, simplicity, equality, and peace.
Among the numerous French authors who wrote positively about les Trem-
bleurs are some of the best known, including Voltaire, Montesquieu, Bris-
sot, and Cr` vec“ur. Voltaire began the trend when he wrote in his Lettres
Philosophique that “William Penn might glory in having brought down upon
earth the so much boasted golden age, which in all probability never existed
but in Pensilvania.”37 The Encylopedists promoted Friends in several articles,
and Brissot championed them as “republicans” and “pure moralists,” writing,
“[t]his then is the sect for those States which would banish despotism, and all
other political crimes. It is the sect for republics; It is the sect for monarchies;
In a word, it is the sect for humanity. Since if Quakerism were universal, all
mankind would form but one loving and harmonious family.”38 In Letters
from an American Farmer, Cr` vec“ur discoursed on the idyllic homestead of
“enlightened botanist” John Bartram “ the pleasing simplicity of his speech
and manner, his kind treatment of his servants, and the profundity of a meet-
ing for worship with both silence and a female minister (Figure 2).39 Like the
Quakers™ opponents, the philosophes had their own agenda to promote and
Quakers seemed the best agents.
In answers to the charges of inappropriate mixing of religion and politics,
Quakers reconciled the dilemma of their authority in their own way. In a 1725
pamphlet, the Quaker author claimed, “I meddle not with Society: I only desire

35 Isaac Hunt, A Looking-Glass for Presbyterians. Or A brief examination of their loyalty, merit,
and other quali¬cations for government. With some animadversions on the Quaker unmask™d.
Humbly addres™d to the consideration of the loyal freemen of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia,
1764), 3.
36 There is only one monograph devoted entirely to the topic, Philips, The Good Quaker. See
also, Echeverria, Mirage in the West; Larson, Daughters of Light, 249“51; Bernard Fay, The
Revolutionary Spirit in France and America, trans. Ramon Guthrie (New York: Harcourt,
1927); William Pencak, “In Search of the American Character: French Travelers in Eighteenth-
Century Pennsylvania,” Pennsylvania History vol. 55, no. 1 (1988), 2“30.
37 Voltaire, Letters Concerning the English Nation (London, 1733), 30.
38 Jean-Paul Brissot de Warville, A Critical Examination, 14, 48.
39 J. Hector St. John Cr` vec“ur, Letters from an American Farmer, 197.
144 Quaker Constitutionalism in Theory and Practice

figure 2. “Quaqueresse.” (FHL)

its protection.”40 But the meaning of his statement depends on how one de¬nes
“meddle” and “protection.”

Liberty of Conscience as an Instrument of Proselytization
As we have seen, for Penn, protection came from civil unity, which was based on
liberty of conscience. This liberty was something in which all Christians could
unite and thus prevent the destruction of civil society through religious wars
and persecution. In short, the freedom of particular religious bodies depended
on the stability of civil government. Quakers generally agreed that civil union
equaled civil safety. And they all agreed that liberty of conscience was the
means. But there was a subtle yet important difference between how Penn
understood liberty of conscience and how Quaker politicians thought it should
function to produce unity. Penn believed that it would mean negative liberty
for all “ freedom from coercion. Through this liberty, Truth would naturally
¬nd its way. In some ways, this was also the view that Quaker politicians held.
40 Conference Between a Parish-Priest and a Quaker; Published for the preventing (if possible) the
vile deceits of priestcraft in America (Philadelphia, 1725), 26. In The Beginnings of Quakerism,
Quaker historian Braithwaite also claims that “The Quakers resolutely excluded compulsion
from the scheme of the Kingdom of God” (484).
Civil Unity and Dissention 145

But because Pennsylvania civil government was the ekkl¯ sia, they believed as
well that they should help people along on the way to Truth. They would
accomplish this “Concord” in two ways, as Penn said, though “example” and
“power” “ missionizing and regulation. The ¬rst way was persuasive, the other
coercive; and the line between the two methods was by no means distinct.
In order to “protect” the inhabitants of the colony and guide them along
the right path toward unity and Truth, Quakers needed to impose a number of
theological imperatives on the polity. These imperatives followed the Quaker
religious Discipline and were intended to create “holy conversation,” a society
of “orderly walkers.” They believed that the Assembly, as the elders, “may
and hath Power . . . to pronounce a positive Judgment, which no doubt will be
found obligatory upon all such who have Sense and Feeling of the mind of the
Spirit, though rejected by such as are not watchful, and so are out of the Feeling
and Unity of Life.”41 In short, they imposed their religious testimonies on civil
society. Because liberty of conscience was the ¬rst principle of the ecclesiastical
polity, so was it the most basic principle codi¬ed in the Quaker constitution.
And it served the same purpose “ to allow people to become Quakers. The hope
that lay behind liberty of conscience was that individuals, once freed from the
obligations of a state church, would eventually ¬nd their way to Quakerism.
Certainly Pennsylvania was in important ways the most ambitious experi-
ment in religious liberty in the world at the time.42 The diversity of the pop-
ulation, its relative harmony, and the entire lack of persecution of dissenters
either by the government or the inhabitants was noted by most who visited the
colony.43 Attending as many churches as possible while in Philadelphia was a
common pastime of tourists. William Black, a Scotsman visiting the colonies
in 1744, took the opportunity while in Philadelphia to attend the services of
Anglicans, Moravians, Presbyterians, “New Lights,” several Quaker meetings,
and a sermon by Gilbert Tennant. His experience was a positive one, and he
remarked that “I found everything come up to, or rather exceed the Character
I had often heard of Philadelphia.”44 In mid-century, Lawrence Washington
commented that Pennsylvania “has ¬‚ourished under that delightful liberty [of
conscience], so as to become the admiration of every man, who considers the
short time it has been settled.”45 For the philosophes, religious liberty was
the crowning glory of Pennsylvania. They saw it as a place not only without
the oppression of religion but, some believed, without theology at all. They

41 Barclay, Anarchy, 53.
42 It may be objected that Rhode Island was as free as Pennsylvania, but, of course, shortly after
Roger Williams founded it, it was taken over and dominated by Quakers until the end of the
colonial period.
43 See, for example, Andrew Burnaby, Travels through the Middle Settlements in North-America
in the years 1759 and 1760 with Observations upon the State of the Colonies (Ithaca, NY:
Cornell University Press, 1963), 58.
44 William Black, “The Journal of William Black,” PMHB vol. 1, no. 3 (1877), 233“49.
45 Lawrence Washington to John Hanbury, in The Writings of George Washington. Jared Sparks,
ed., (Boston: American Stationers™ Co., 1838), 2: 481.
146 Quaker Constitutionalism in Theory and Practice

celebrated the lack of priests or dogma of any kind, and there were no tithes,
no enforced church attendance, and no restrictions on any religious practice.
Some equated Quakerism with deism.
But as genuine as this religious liberty was, it was in some ways a super¬cial
quality of the colony; there was much more going on beneath the surface.
Pennsylvania was in reality far from “laissez-faire,” “complaisant,” or “less
concerned with religious structures” than its neighbors, as some historians
have described it.46 Frank Lambert has noted that Adam Smith himself found
Pennsylvania to be a religious model for his free market economic system; but
neither Smith nor the Quakers believed that “free” meant “unregulated.”47
The mistake scholars have made is in viewing Quaker liberty of conscience
through the lens of modern liberalism and assuming that it was legislated
purely as a negative freedom, in other words, that the Quaker government
would leave everyone alone to pursue his or her own religious course unguided.
Even William James was beguiled by what he imagined to be the modern,
individualistic sensibilities of Friends. In Varieties of Religious Experience he
wrote, “[S]o far as our Christian sects today are evolving into liberality, they are
simply reverting in essence to the position which Fox and the early Quakers long
ago assumed.” Quakerism, he concluded, was “impossible to overpraise.”48
But even the French did not ¬nd a separation of church and state “ they just
happened to approve of the religion they found there, which seemed to them a
kind of civil religion. Truth was not relative to Quakers; and if the conscience
could not be mastered, Quakers believed that it at least could be directed.
Thus liberty of conscience was understood by Quakers to be both a negative
liberty “ the freedom from obstacles to the Truth “ but also a positive liberty,
an opportunity for the individual to be guided toward Quakerism. Liberty
of conscience was only a part of the Quakers™ plan and only the ¬rst step

46 Most recently, see Marietta and Rowe, A Troubled Experiment, passim. Also see Benjamin
Hart, Faith and Freedom: The Christian Roots of American Liberty (San Bernardino: Here™s
Life Publishers, 1988), 197“206; Bonomi, Under the Cope of Heaven, 35; Daniel J. Elazar,
American Federalism: A View from the States, 3rd ed. (New York: Harper and Row, 1984),
115“17; and Donald S. Lutz, following Elazar in The Origins of the American Constitutionalism
(Baton Rouge: University of Louisiana Press, 1988), 54“56.
47 Frank Lambert, The Founding Fathers and the Place of Religion in America (Princeton, NJ:
Princeton University Press, 2003), 10, passim. For the same analogy, see, Bonomi, Under the
Cope of Heaven, 81.
48 William James, Varieties of Religious Experience (New York: Modern Library 1936), 7.
Although James and others who ¬nd a modern form of liberalism in Quakerism are mistaken,
it is clear that many of the “liberal” aspects of Quakerism were adopted by non-Quakers. A
concrete example is in their penology, which is discussed later in this chapter. While Quakers
did not institute lenient penal codes for humanitarian reasons, it is hard to conclude otherwise
than with Harry Elmer Barnes that “it is probable that the in¬‚uence of these Quaker laws and
theories did more than anything else to promote that movement for the liberalizing and human-
izing of the criminal codes in this country, which began immediately after the Revolution and
spread from Philadelphia throughout the United States.” Harry Elmer Barnes, The Evolution
of Penology in Pennsylvania (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1927), 27“28.
Civil Unity and Dissention 147

toward what their opponents called the “Quakerization” of Pennsylvania.49
In their own way, in the early years of the colony, Quakers established their
church de facto every bit as much as the Anglicans in Virginia or the Puritans
in Massachusetts established theirs de jure. It just so happened that liberty
of conscience was one of their most fundamental theological premises “ a
gateway belief, of sorts, and the most important proselytizing tool. In 1769 the
Pennsylvania Chronicle claimed approvingly that William Penn had said that
“liberty of conscience is the ¬rst step to have a religion.”50
This Quakerization was effected at all levels of the polity, beginning among
the ranks of the politicians. If Quakers knew that they needed Friends in the
Assembly, they also knew that they could not completely exclude people of
other persuasions. But they did need to weed out the un-Quakerly from the
Quakerly. Early on Penn objected to such practices and denied the legitimacy
of Friends™ use of their tenets as criteria to ¬lter or recruit rulers. He wrote,
“for that Right [to participate in government] is founded [upon] Civil & not
Spiritual Freedom.”51 But that is exactly the basis on which Friends de¬ned
eligibility for of¬ce “ at least unof¬cially. Politicians did not even have as much
constitutional religious liberty as others in Pennsylvania. All inhabitants were
granted liberty of conscience under the ¬rst four Frames of Government, but
in the 1701 Charter, liberty of conscience was changed to religious toleration
where public of¬cials were concerned. It stipulated that only Christians could
hold of¬ce.52
Despite the accolades bestowed by many visitors on the colony for the liberty
of conscience, others found it troubling as they recognized the advantage this
gave Quakers in winning converts to both their religious and their political
cause. One detractor claimed that “[b]y discouraging regular Ministers [of
other denominations], it gives the Quakers an Opportunity of making more
Proselytes.”53 “[I]t is a very great misfortune to us,” remarked an Anglican
clergyman in 1749, “that many of our people, having been born in the place &
converse always with Quakers, are so much tainted with their way of thinking
as to have very slight notions of an outward Visible Church & Sacraments
which gives ye Minister very great Trouble in many respects.”54 Another wrote

49 Richard Peters quoted in Tully, Forming American Politics, 274.
50 The Pennsylvania Chronicle; and Universal Advertiser, Monday, August 21, to Monday, August
28, vol. 3, no. 31 (1769), 256.
51 Schwartz, “A Mixed Multitude,” 30.
52 The charters can be found in the volumes 2“4 of The Papers of William Penn. See also Schwartz,
“A Mixed Multitude,” 32“33. Although there were very few non-Christians in the colonies,
and Quakers preferred to pass no laws against them, the crown compelled Pennsylvania to pass
laws banning Catholics, Jews, and atheists from full citizenship. These laws were not enforced.
See Bonomi, Under the Cope of Heaven, 36.
53 William Smith, A Brief State of the Province of Pennsylvania . . . In a Letter from a Gentleman
who has resided many Years in Pennsylvania to his Friend in London (London, 1755), 35.
54 Edgar L. Pennington, “The Work of the Bray Associates in Pennsylvania,” PMHB vol. 58,
no. 1 (1934), 1“25, 5.
148 Quaker Constitutionalism in Theory and Practice

that Quakers “were a Dread to all Christians, besides those of their own

Convincement through Benevolence
Liberty of conscience was the most important law that would “open the way”
for a uni¬ed, Quakerized populace, but it was not the only apparently negative
liberty intended for this purpose. There were other legal tools that Friends used
to bring people to Quakerism. These also understandably strike the modern
mind as liberal, and so they were in one respect. They were designed to free the
individual from worldly oppressions by providing the basic necessities for free-
dom “ food, shelter, clothing, education, sobriety, mental and physical health,
piety, and civic virtue. As similar as they appear to modern liberalism on the
surface, however, these were not humanitarian efforts; they were tools of con-
vincement.56 All of these liberating laws and policies were based solidly on the
Quaker ecclesiastical constitution, the Discipline. They dealt with, among other
things, how the state managed criminals, slaves, Indians, and the sick-poor.
The early penal codes and Quaker penology re¬‚ected both the Quakers™
collective experiences in the English and Massachusetts prisons and their own
treatment of members who had transgressed the religious Discipline in meeting.
They were forgiving and aimed more at rehabilitation “ a new concept in the
Western world “ than punishment. But, properly speaking, they were not so
much for rehabilitation as they were for regeneration. They were intended to
be more effective that the brutal punishments handed down by non-Quaker
authorities in other colonies. They worked on the conscience rather than the
body. In the Quaker meeting, for example, when an individual transgressed
the Discipline and was disowned, the meeting still retained ties with him and
attempted to “tender” his conscience to bring him back into membership. They
never gave up hope that the person might be truly and permanently convinced
of Quakerism. In the 1719 version of their ecclesiastical constitution, they
wrote, “[t]his is called our Discipline in the exercise whereof Persuasion and
gentle dealing is and ought to be our practice.”57 The same principle held in
Quaker civil society. Hardly a man was beyond hope for rejoining society.
Permanently banishing someone or killing him shut the door on any possible
55 Bugg, Quakerism Anatomized, 442.
56 As Sydney V. James argues, “[I]n the ¬rst century of Quakerism there was little evidence of
humanitarianism, apart from the desire to convert people . . . In modern usage, conferring the
bene¬t of one™s religion is not de¬ned as humanitarian charity.” James, A People among Peoples:
Quaker Benevolence in Eighteenth-Century America (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University
Press, 1963), 317. To be clear, this social control was not primarily a means to political
power; or, if so, the goal of political power was for the security of an overarching religious
purpose. For the debate on whether the benevolence of various religious dominations was from
humanitarian, religious, or self-interested motives, see Lois W. Banner, “Religious Benevolence
as Social Control: A Critique of an Interpretation,” Journal of American History vol. 60, no. 1
(1973), 23“41.
57 Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, Book of Discipline (1719), HQC.
Civil Unity and Dissention 149

spiritual convincement. There was no “warning out” of undesirables as there
was in Massachusetts.58 And although banishment was the punishment for
some crimes, it was not as harsh as in England, where the criminal must leave
or face death. Rather, it was in effect a pardon for a crime, with the provi-
sion the individual must quit the colony.59 Thus Quaker penalties were lenient
and aimed at regeneration of the individual rather than his exclusion from
society. In contrast to Massachusetts™ sixteen capital crimes, Pennsylvania only
had one, for murder (although treason remained punishable by death under
English common law), and, rather surprisingly, there were only two capital
punishments carried out in the ¬rst thirty-six years of Pennsylvania govern-
ment.60 The reason for this was that Friends believed that if they killed a man,
“he would have no time to repent.”61 Late in the eighteenth century, Quaker
prisons gained an international reputation for, among other innovations, their
rejection of corporal punishment, and their efforts to transform criminals into
good citizens. The Philadelphia Prison is the best example of Quaker prose-
lytizing through prison reform. Quaker principles and practices were in plain
view to visitors, who remarked on the benevolence of the unarmed guards,
the industrious and well-mannered inmates, the use of silence as an organiz-
ing principle, and the Quaker invention of solitary con¬nement as a time for
inmates to retreat inward to ¬nd the Light of God in their consciences.62 For
Quakers, “Emulation [was] a principle, and often an only incentive to a moral
While punishments in Pennsylvania always remained more lenient than those
in England or other colonies, they were not always as “easie” as they were in
the ¬rst few decades.64 When Pennsylvania was under the control of the royal
governor, Benjamin Fletcher, many of the laws were found to be too much out
of keeping with English laws. Then, and also later when Penn was afraid of
losing his government again in 1700, punishments became harsher. The pivotal

58 In Massachusetts, paupers and other suspicious individuals who wandered into towns were
warned by town leaders to leave or face imprisonment, forcible expulsion, or worse. See Ruth
Wallis Herndon, Unwelcome Americans: Living on the Margin in Early New England (Philadel-
phia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001).
59 Herbert William Keith Fitzroy, “The Punishment of Crime in Provincial Pennsylvania,” PMHB
vol. 60, no. 3 (1936), 242“269, 259“60.
60 Marietta and Rowe, A Troubled Experiment, 12, 35.
61 Thomas Chalkley, “The Journal of Thomas Chalkley,” Friends™ Library, 6: 73. See also John
Bellers, “Some Reasons Against Putting Felons to Death” in Essays about the poor, manufac-
tures, trade, plantations, & immorality (London, 1699), 17“20.
62 Robert Turnbull, A Visit to the Philadelphia Prison; Being an accurate and particular account
of the wise and humane administration adopted in every part of that building; containing also
an account of the Gradual Reformation, and Present Improved State, of the Penal Laws of
Pennsylvania: with observations on the impolicy and injustice of capital punishments. In a
Letter to a Friend (Philadelphia, 1796). It is probable that Turnbull™s account is somewhat
embellished, but the fundamentals are credible. On Quaker penal codes, penology, and prisons,
see Barnes, The Evolution of Penology in Pennsylvania.
63 Turnbull, A Visit to a Philadelphia Prison, 44.
64 Marietta and Rowe, A Troubled Experiment, passim.
150 Quaker Constitutionalism in Theory and Practice

moment in the penal code was the passage of the “Act for the advancement
of justice and the more certain administration thereof” in 1718. Twelve new
capital crimes were added, and punishments generally became more physically
severe, with an aim more toward deterring and punishing crimes than rehabil-
itating criminals. It is apparent why scholars of the Pennsylvania penal code
consider that the Quaker experiment failed in this regard.65
The Pennsylvania laws protecting non-whites were a product of the Quaker
missionizing impulse as well. Laws pertaining to Indian relations aimed at
convincement and were reproduced exactly from the religious Discipline.66
Friends had always sought good relations with Indians, and their interactions
are well documented in the primary literature.67 They also expected the same
good relations to exist between Indians and denizens of Pennsylvania “ whether
Quakers or not. Accordingly, in 1705“06 they instituted “[a]n act for the better
improving a good correspondence with the Indians.”68 It was important, they
believed, “that a friendship be cultivated between [the Queen™s] subjects and
the native Indians, the ¬rst possessors of these lands.”69 In 1685 they wrote one
of their earliest religious testimonies for the bene¬t of the Indians in the minutes
of PYM. “This Meeting doth unanimously agree, & give as their Judgment,”
Friends wrote, “that it is not Consistent with the Honour of Truth, for any that
makes Profession thereof, to sell Rum or other strong Liquors to the Indians,
because they use them not to moderation, but to Excess & Drunkenness.”70
In 1701 the Assembly then codi¬ed this testimony into civil law as “[a]n act
against selling rum and other strong liquors to the Indians.” This law spells
out even more fully than the meeting minutes the purpose and intent of the
regulation. Quakers were concerned for the welfare of the Indians over eco-
nomic gain for Anglo-Americans. The Indians, they explained, were “not yet
able to govern themselves in the use” of alcohol, “as by sad experience is too
well known . . . whereby they are not only liable to be cheated, and reduced to
great poverty and want, but sometimes in¬‚amed to destroy themselves and one

65 Ibid., 248“53. But it is important to note that Friends did not cease to be concerned about
religion or to encourage non-Quakers toward Quakerly behavior. It is, however, an indication
that they were willing to forego some aspects of the Discipline to secure others. It is an indi-
cation of a compromise with reality. While it is true that Quakers gave up on controlling the
now-diverse population to the extent they desired, this did not mean that they then reversed
themselves entirely and adopted a policy of laissez-faire.
66 On meeting discipline pertaining to Indians, see Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, Minutes, 1682“
1746, FHL.
67 For such a rich topic, there are surprisingly few scholarly monographs that deal with it in detail,
especially in the colonial period. However, almost all works on Quakers discuss their relations
with Indians. For a recent brief discussion of the relationship of Friends to Indians, see Anderson
and Cayton, Dominion of War, 54“103.
68 James T. Mitchell and Henry Flanders, eds., Statutes-at-Large of Pennsylvania from 1682“
1801 (Harrisburg, PA: Clarence M. Busch, State Printer of Pennsylvania, 1896“1911), 2: 229.
(Hereafter referred to as Statutes.)
69 Ibid.
70 Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, Minutes, 1682“1746, FHL.
Civil Unity and Dissention 151

another.”71 But equally important to Friends was that the Indians™ alcoholism
inhibited their acceptance of and adherence to Quakerism. Penn, his gover-
nors, and the popular representatives of the colony were “desirous to induce
the Indian nations to the love of the Christian religion, by the gentle, sober and
just manners of professed Christians (under this government) towards them.”
A main concern of Quaker politicians that they noted in the act itself was that
the Indians “be induced as much as may be by a kind and obliging treatment
to embrace the Christian religion.”72 Missionizing was thus, in a sense, a legal
Quakers also embraced Indians as part of their civil society as no other
governments did. Should any person commit bodily injury against an Indian,
the Indian was to be considered the same as “a natural-born subject of Eng-
land” and the perpetrator punished accordingly.73 Moreover, it was a crime
to “[spread] false news or stories as may alienate the minds of Indians or any
of them from this government.”74 They allowed them to serve as witnesses in
court in the second instance and considered in general that, as part of Quaker
civil society, their bad behavior would re¬‚ect on the colony as a whole. In
speci¬c, their abuse of alcohol and the ensuing unchristian acts would “plainly
tend to the great dishonor of God, scandal of the Christian religion, and hin-
drance to the embracing thereof, as well as drawing the judgments of God
upon the country.”75 The public, in short, was charged in several ways with
promoting the welfare of the Indians, even to the extent of a tax being levied
for maintaining the good relations in the form of treaties and gifts.76 Friendly
relations with Indians continued and grew throughout the eighteenth century.
Although philosophes found reason to rejoice at such amiable relations with
the Natives, settlers on the frontier believed that the Quakers compromised
their safety by engaging in “secret schemes” and “iniquitous practices” with
Similar to the laws protecting Indians, there were relatively gentle slave codes
and laws pertaining to free blacks in Pennsylvania. While the laws regulating the
behavior of blacks and prescribing their punishments were undoubtedly severe
by our standards, they were lenient and enlightened when compared with those
of the Southern colonies. For example, in Pennsylvania slaves were classi¬ed as
people, rather than property, and whites were subject to the same punishments
for killing a slave as a white person. Furthermore, blacks in Pennsylvania could
own property, be taught to read and write, hold any kind of job, and if they

71 Statutes, 2: 168.
72 Ibid., 2: 229.
73 Ibid.
74 Ibid.
75 Ibid., 2: 168“69.
76 Ibid., 2: 381.
77 Hugh Williamson, Plain Dealer: Or, a Few Remarks upon Quaker-Politicks, and their Attempts
to Change the Government of Pennsylvania. With some Observations on the false and abusive
Papers which they have lately published (Philadelphia, 1764), 3: 10.
152 Quaker Constitutionalism in Theory and Practice

were freed, they did not have to leave the colony.78 These laws were intended
to alleviate the oppression of these groups so that they could ¬nd their way
to Quakerism. It was in the mid-eighteenth century that Quakers began the
abolitionist movement among themselves and then, by the end of the century,
began to take their testimony to the public. They founded schools to educate
blacks and encouraged them to meet for religious purposes. But while they were
happy for the existence of black meetings, Friends were undecided whether they
should allow blacks to worship in their midst.79
Quakers also concerned themselves much with the sick-poor of the colony
(Figure 3). In the early decades of the eighteenth century, they directed their
relief efforts mainly toward convinced members of the Society of Friends. But as
the century and their proselytizing progressed, they expanded their concern to
the colony in general. They instituted several almshouses and the Pennsylvania
Hospital “ the ¬rst hospital in the colonies. Like the prisons, these institutions
were designed, when possible, to rehabilitate inmates and provide them the
necessary means to raise themselves up to a higher station in life. They were
provided food, shelter, clothing, and education and were taught skills that
would allow them to ¬nd work on the outside. The laws they established
enabled this regeneration both directly and indirectly. Funds raised from ¬nes
levied on individuals for breaking other laws “ especially those concerning
public morality “ were directed toward charitable causes. The statutes speci¬ed
that ¬nes collected from those convicted of swearing were used “for the use of
the poor.”80
In addition to the preceding measures, Quaker Pennsylvania led other
colonies in their organization of public efforts for reform and improvement.
Along with their observation of the diverse religious climate, visitors to Pennsyl-
vania also noted the remarkable number of voluntary associations. John Adams
noted with envy that Quaker Philadelphia surpassed Boston in its “charitable,
public foundations.”81 Likewise, Manasseh Cutler wrote, “Whatever may be
said of the private benevolence of the Philadelphians, there is certainly a greater

78 Nash and Soderlund, Freedom by Degrees, 12“13.
79 An important point to note is that while Friends were undoubtedly concerned about the well-
being of blacks for their sake, many were more concerned with the possibility of the necessary
cruelty of slave ownership making members of the Society of Friends stray from their Quakerly
principles of meekness, humility, and peaceful behavior. The mild slave codes and abolitionist
principles of some Pennsylvania Quakers was as much for the preservation and advancement of
Quakerism as for the well-being of blacks. On lenient slave codes in Pennsylvania, see Nash and
Soderlund, Freedom by Degrees, 12“13; on tension within the Society over slavery, see David
Brion Davis, The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press,
1966); see also, Thomas E. Drake, Quakers and Slavery in America (New Haven, CT: Yale
University Press, 1950); Jean Soderlund, Quakers and Slavery: A Divided Spirit (Princeton, NJ:
Princeton University Press, 1985).
80 Statutes, 2: 50.
81 John Adams quoted in Carl Bridenbaugh and Jessica Bridenbaugh, Rebels and Gentlemen:
Philadelphia in the Age of Franklin (New York: Oxford University Press, 1962), 229.
Civil Unity and Dissention 153

figure 3. “Quakers Giving Charity.” (In Edith Philips, The Good Quaker in French
Legend [Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1932], facing page 98; incor-
rectly cited as appearing in Raynal™s Histoire philosophique et politique des etablisse-
mens & du commerce des Europ´ ens dans les deux Indes [1770].)

display of public charity here than in any other part of America.”82 While vis-
iting the colonies, Brissot also observed that “˜[u]pon an attentive examination
of the contributions of their churches, schools, hospitals and other charita-
ble institutions, there appears a degree of philanthropy that should disarm
envy and ridicule.™”83 Their efforts began in England and were continued in
America.84 The dozens of organizations they established and directed included
libraries, schools, almshouses, learned societies, a hospital, ¬re companies, and
societies to aid oppressed groups such as slaves, “distressed prisoners,” and the
poor and to improve relations with the Indians through “paci¬c measures.”
Many of these societies were the ¬rst of their kind in the colonies, many of
them lasted well into the nineteenth century, and new ones were continually
established.85 Quakers set an example for their Evangelical counterparts who,

82 “New York and Philadelphia in 1787,” PMHB vol. 12, no. 1 (1888), 97“115, 114.
83 Brissot de Warville quoting “a Pennsylvanian,” in A Critical Examination, 49.
84 On their seventeenth-century activities, see Mack, Visionary Women, 4.
85 See James, A People among Peoples; Jean Barth Toll and Mildred S. Gillam, eds., Invisi-
ble Philadelphia: Community through Voluntary Organizations (Philadelphia: Atwater Kent
Museum, 1995).
154 Quaker Constitutionalism in Theory and Practice

once mobilized in the early nineteenth century, took the lead in establishing
reform societies of their own.
All of these laws and institutions demonstrate a sort of forgiveness and
optimism that we do not see among other religious groups and governments.
Because of Quakers™ belief in the possibility of human perfection, but also the
probability of imperfection, they were more inclined to see the unfortunate
as truly unfortunate rather than sinful. This benevolence cannot rightly be
called philanthropy, however, because it was not directed toward the man as
a creature but rather the salvation of his soul. It was a subtle paternalism
wielded by the elders of the meeting over their wayward brethren. The French
did not recognize the distinctive practices of Friends for what they were “
religious testimonies. They took them instead as ideal civic behavior. They
projected rationalism onto Pennsylvania, which turned Quaker proselytizing
into humanitarianism and spiritual egalitarianism into civil equality. Thus the
“Good Quaker” was born.86

Legal and Moral Guides toward Quakerism
The image some political historians have presented of Pennsylvania has been
through a lens distorted by modern priorities and understandings. Daniel
Elazar, for example, describes Pennsylvania™s as an “individualistic” politi-
cal culture with a government established “for strictly utilitarian reasons” and
with “no direct concern with questions of the good society.”87 Eighteenth-
century idealists made a similar mistake when they found the Quakers were
“without municipal government, without police, without any means of coer-
cion for the administration of the state.” But in this view it was not because
they were unconcerned with creating a good society, but rather it was their
“entirely moral” customs that naturally cultivated it.88
Yet if benevolence might be mistaken for liberalism, it would be hard to
reconcile this interpretation of Pennsylvania with much of Quaker legal and
cultural restriction. Pennsylvania™s lenient stance on some issues was only one
half of the equation for Quakerizing the colony. There was a manifestly pater-
nalistic quality to Quaker rule. Friends were well aware that for every liberty
granted, there was the potential of the abuse of that liberty89 or, more specif-
ically, the misperception that that liberty of conscience meant unfettered free-
dom to follow one™s own interpretation of God™s will. Barclay made it clear
that the church had authority over matters of the conscience and the power
to discipline members for transgression of divine order. He wrote, “That any
particular Persons de facto or effectually giving out a positive judgment, is not
86 Echeverria argues that “there is no evidence apart from the legend of the ˜Good Quaker™ that
the Physiocratic or Rousseauistic idealization of the American was as yet a popular concept
familiar to the general literate public” (Mirage in the West, 36).
87 Elazar, American Federalism, 115“17.
88 Brissot quoted in Philips, The Good Quaker, 121.
89 See also Schwartz, “A Mixed Multitude,” 31.
Civil Unity and Dissention 155

Incroaching nor Imposing upon their Brethren™s Consciences.”90 Friends under
the jurisdiction of PYM were reminded that “[t]he awful prudent and watchful
Conduct of our friends in early Days, did, and such always will, preach and
extend silently to the notice of all.”91 But in case this form of preaching by
example did not work on society at large, Friends would try another tack.
One highly visible way Pennsylvania took shape as a Quaker experiment
was in its regulatory laws. To counter the potential for licentiousness inherent
in their “liberal” policies, Friends in of¬ce attempted to regulate the polity the
way they regulated the meeting “ by imposing a strict communal discipline.92
Pennsylvania civil society was thus characterized as much by its restrictions as
its liberties. Opponents condemned the government in Pennsylvania because
of “the Quakers Tyrannical Reign, and Arbitrary Government; together with
their Persecutions, and Partial Proceedings in their Courts of Judicature.”93
Especially in the early part of the century, Friends concerned themselves
greatly with how people lived their lives down to the smallest detail of how they
entertained themselves, how they imbibed their drinks, how they conducted
themselves in the marketplace, how they dressed, and how they styled their
hair. Public morality was the subject of more than forty laws passed between
1682 and 1709.94 While the crown did not legitimate all of these laws, nor were
they reinstated throughout the entire colonial period, the restrictions Quaker
law and culture placed on public morality in Philadelphia shaped the culture
of the city for the entire colonial period. It was only after the Quaker Party
was forced from of¬ce and the Charter of Privileges abolished in 1776 that the
Quaker grasp on the city was truly loosened, though not broken.
The “excellent legislation,” as some saw it,95 in Pennsylvania ranged from
minor Quaker idiosyncrasies, such as requiring recognition of the numerical
naming of dates, to the more stringent codes on public behavior. Almost all
of these laws are directly traceable to the Quaker religious Discipline.96 Pre-
dictably, Quakers banned “rude or riotous sports, as prizes, stage-plays, masks,
revels, bull-baitings, cock-¬ghtings, [and] bon¬res.”97 A later rewrite of this law
added tennis to the litany of “riotous sports.” Similarly, the Quakers™ admo-
nition to the members of their Society in 1722 to avoid “impudent noisy &
indecent behaviour in Markets and other publick places” was translated into
laws against swearing, scolding, smoking, and dueling. But more distinctly

90 Barclay, Anarchy, 73.
91 Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, Minutes, 1682“1746, FHL.
92 Tolles, Meeting House and Counting House, 64.
93 Bugg, Quakerism Anatomized, 443.
94 LL, 1: 18. However, Marietta and Rowe demonstrate that the laws were largely unenforced in
the later period of Quaker rule.
95 Raynal quoted in Philips, The Good Quaker, 100.
96 For example, compare the religious rules in Philadelphia Yearly Meetings, Books of Discipline,
HQC, and Hugh Barbour and J. William Frost, “Chapter 10: A Disciplined Christian Life,” in
The Quakers, 107“17 with the civil law in Statutes and LL.
97 Statutes, 1: 5.
156 Quaker Constitutionalism in Theory and Practice

Quaker was their aversion to seemingly innocent activities such as toasting
healths. A law stated that “every person that shall drink healths which shall
promote excessive drinking” shall pay a ¬ne and do hard labor.98 Crevec“ur
found it pleasing not to be subjected to the “irksome labour of toasts” in
Bartram™s home.99 As the century progressed, Quakers also began to de¬ne


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