would blossom into the temperance movement of the nineteenth century.100
Although some scholars now and then have considered Philadelphia to be
âthe most liberal and advanced city in the world before 1750, â˜the city of
ď¬rsts,â™â101 others see it as âbackwardâ when compared with artistic expres-
sion in Massachusetts, New York, and Carolina. âPrior to the middle of the
eighteenth century,â writes an historian of music, âQuaker inď¬‚uences had been
strong enough to repress almost wholly any public rendering of music outside
the churches, even to discourage individual efforts in the homes of citizens.â102
A similar, though more stringent prohibition existed against the theater. In
the religious discipline of Friends, it was written that none should âsuffer
Romances, play-books, or other vain or idle pamphlets in their house or fami-
lies.â103 Friends included theater in this category and extended the restriction
to the general public when they passed â[a]n act against riots, rioters, and
riotous sports, plays and gamesâ in 1710. Throughout their time in ofď¬ce,
Friends battled aggressively against the theater, a crusade that continued into
the nineteenth century.104 A visitor to Philadelphia in 1825 remarked that
âthose [buildings] for public purposes are superior in any point of style, to any
in the United States â“ excepting the Theatres.â105
Interestingly, after the barrage of laws passed early on, historians have noted
a surprising lack of legislation in the middle decades of the century.106 They
have suggested rightly that Friends expected regulation to come in other ways
than outward, top-down coercion. The ideal was that individuals would be
98 Ibid., 99.
99 Cr` vecĹ“ur, Letters from an American Farmer, 191.
100 Peter Thompson, ââ˜The Friendly Glassâ™: Drink and Gentility in Colonial Philadelphia,â PMHB
vol. 113, no. 4 (1989), 549â“73, 555. See also Thompson, Rum Punch and Revolution: Tav-
erngoing & Public Life in Eighteenth-Century Philadelphia (Philadelphia: University of Penn-
sylvania Press, 1999).
101 Thomas Clark Pollock, The Philadelphia Theatre in the Eighteenth Century (Philadelphia:
University of Pennsylvania Press, 1933), xv.
102 Harold D. Eberlein and Cortlandt Van Dyke Hubbard, âMusic in the Early Federal Era,â
PMHB vol. 69, no. 2 (1945), 103â“127, 105.
103 Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, Minutes, 1682â“1746, FHL.
104 John P. Sheldon, âA Description of Philadelphia in 1825,â PMHB vol. 60, no. 1 (1936), 74â“76,
76. This is in contrast to several other colonies, including New York and Virginia, where plays
were tolerated or encouraged as early as the seventeenth century. See George C. D. Odell,
Annals of the New York Stage (New York: Columbia University, 1927â“49), 1: 3â“31.
105 Sheldon, âA Description of Philadelphia,â 76.
106 Robert S. Hohwald, âThe Structure of Pennsylvania Politics, 1739â“1766â (Ph.D. Diss., Prince-
ton University, 1978); Tully, Forming American Politics, 339; Beeman, Varieties of Political
Civil Unity and Dissention 157
regulated by the Light. When that was unlikely, their preferred approach was
rather the âsoft persuasionâ of the sort Woolman exhibited when dealing with
slave owners; only, many people did not ď¬nd it so soft or beneď¬cent. Some
Quaker testimonies, while not codiď¬ed into law, were nonetheless enforced in
public forums, and to the great consternation of some non-Quakers. Where
Quakers were once excluded from participation in the political and judicial
systems for not taking oaths, they now excluded non-Quakers who would
not adopt this testimony. In 1740 future provincial secretary Richard Peters
complained that the Quaker magistrates of Chester County âhad the impru-
dence . . . to set a Juryman aside because he wouâ™d not take Afď¬rmation (there
being none present whose consciences as they say wouâ™d permit them to ten-
der an Oath).â A prominent non-Quaker warned them âof the Illegality of
their proceedingâ and told âthat by this means they took away the Security
the Law had provided for the Preservation of mens Lives Liberties & Proper-
ties.â It was the general belief at the time âthat every Person who was to give
Evidence in any cause should not be permitted to do so till he had given the
highest Test he couâ™d give of his Varacity.â Anything less than an oath would
not bind a man to honesty. The Quakers were accordingly âwarned . . . in a
very friendly manner of the ill use that People who are not of their Persuasion
wouâ™d make of such an unjustiď¬able step at this time.â But Friends paid no
heed and instead dismissed the ď¬rst man and âcallâ™d another who wouâ™d take
the Afď¬rmation.â It was this kind of behavior, this willful disregard of how
their testimonies might be abused in the wrong hands, that caused Peters to
believe that â[t]he Quakers in the Capacity of the Assemblymen have drawn
the Eyes of Mankind upon them & made themselves liable to many disadvan-
tageous Reď¬‚ections.â107 It was one thing to not swear an oath as a Quaker; it
was another to let non-Quakers go without swearing one. Expecting Quakerly
honesty from non-Quakers was, contemporaries thought, clearly naÂ¨ve at best,
and legal malpractice at worst.
As Quaker ofď¬cials were vigorous in shaping early Pennsylvania from the
top down, so were prominent Friends active in grassroots reform to mold the
society in the image of the meeting. Historian of Quaker penology Harry Elmer
Barnes notes that âthe Quakers did not rely merely on legal regulation to secure
a high degree of public morality, but resorted to an almost-Calvinistic type of
inquisitorial supervision over the morality of private citizens.â109 Where the
Quaker Discipline was not codiď¬ed into law, individual Friends took it upon
themselves to offer âclose hintsâ to non-Friends about deportment, clothing,
hairstyles, worldly possessions, pastimes, and other things that could, as far
as Friends were concerned, inhibit a personâ™s progress toward salvation.110
107 Richard Peters Letterbook, 1739â“41, 18, HSP.
108 For Quakers in the Assembly reprimanded for administering oaths to non-Quakers, see PA, 5:
109 Barnes, The Evolution of Penology in Pennsylvania, 32.
110 In their journals and letters, many Quakers write about giving such âhints.â See, for example,
Journal of George Churchman, 1759â“1813, passim, HQC.
158 Quaker Constitutionalism in Theory and Practice
George Churchman wrote in his journal about âa loving hint which I had to
give to a young man . . . relating to his fashionable coat, was well taken, & I
hope is likely to have some good effect.â Similarly, Warner Mifď¬‚in âtold a little
Girl, perhaps 9 years old, about the uncomeliness of having a Roller put in her
hair. Also to the mother he hinted the necessity of Care to direct the minds
of her Children in the right way whilst they are young & tender.â111 Friends
were not just concerned about spreading their message, however. They also
monitored the reactions of the recipients of their hints to see what inď¬‚uence
they might have had. In this particular case, Churchman noted with satisfaction
that âthis conversation appearâ™d to have some effect on the Child, so that when
a young woman went to comb & dress her hair as usual . . . she refused to have
the Roller put on, saying she did not want it anymore.â112
For Quakers, of course, public morality and dissent were intimately con-
nected. Dissent from ungodly behavior was, after all, a duty to the polity. This
ethic is exhibited nowhere more clearly than in the Quaker practice of boy-
cotting.113 Friends were not just some of the most successful merchants in the
colonies, they were also savvy consumers. They used their purchasing power
as a proselytizing tool. John Woolman, Benjamin Lay, Anthony Benezet, and
Joshua Evans were all prominent Friends who testiď¬ed against such practices as
using sugar and tea, wearing dyed clothing, eating meat, and riding in carriages
to advocate frugality over luxury, abolitionism over slavery, and humane treat-
ment of animals instead of abuse by refusing to spend their money on these
things or otherwise perpetuate their existence through consumption.114 In the
1730s, Benjamin Lay smashed his wifeâ™s tea set to protest the use of cane sugar
produced with slave labor,115 and later, toward the end of the century, Friends
tried to cultivate substitutes such as maple sugar.116 Joshua Evens also found
âinconsistencies in the use of East India Tea, and that it sprang from an evil
Rootâ in that poor people would sacriď¬ce food for the sake of indulging in vain
custom of tea drinking.117 They did these things publicly, and often endured
111 Journal of George Churchman, 7th mo. 27th day, 1806, 9: 69, HQC.
112 Ibid., 7th mo. 24th day, 1781, 4: 86, HQC.
113 There is no history of the boycott that treats pre-Revolutionary America. The most detailed
study of the idea of the boycott in American history merely mentions that the Sons of Liberty
used this resistance technique against the British. See Gary Minda, Boycott in America: How
Imagination and Ideology Shape the Legal Mind (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University
Press, 1999), 33â“34. In âNarrative of Commercial Life: Consumption, Ideology, and Commu-
nity on the Eve of the American Revolution,â WMQ 3rd ser., vol. 50, no. 3 (1993), 471â“501,
T. H. Breen notes that American historians have accepted the boycotts during the Revolution
as a matter of course. But, ignoring Quaker boycotts that began in the early eighteenth century,
he errs on the other side by assuming âtheir utter noveltyâ at the Revolution (486).
114 Nash and Soderlund, Freedom by Degrees; Phillips P. Moulton, ed., The Journal and Major
Essays of John Woolman (Richmond, IN: Friends United Press, 1989); and Journal of Joshua
Evans, FHL; Anthony Benezet, Memoirs of the Life of Anthony Benezet, Roberts Vaux, ed.
115 Nash and Soderlund, Freedom by Degrees, 49.
116 James Bringhurst to John Murray, 5th mo. 12th day 1790, Bringhurst Letters, FHL.
117 Journal of Joshua Evans, 14, FHL.
Civil Unity and Dissention 159
the ridicule of not just non-Quakers, but some of their own brethren as well.
Evans found that his principled vegetarianism caused his âchiefest friends to
stand aloof from me,â and that âthe Cross in wearing white Cloths was more
than I could bear.â118
Abbe Raynal proclaimed that â[n]ever perhaps had virtue inspired legislation
better designed to bring happiness to man.â119 For all this regulation, however,
both ofď¬cial and informal, according to some Quakers, the Holy Experiment
was not all that it could or should be where morality was concerned. There were
many so-called âwet Quakersâ â“ those who had become more concerned with
their worldly than their spiritual lives â“ and a substantial population of non-
Quakers whose consciences did not trouble them about drinking, dancing, or
playing tennis.120 In 1751 the minister Thomas Chalkley had a few complaints
about the spiritual condition of the colony, and everyone from the most humble
to the highest-ranking ofď¬cial bore responsibility for the depraved state of
affairs. Kept awake one night because of his concerns, he wrote:
[T]he Lord was angry with the People of Philadelphia and Pensylvania, because of the
great Sins and Wickedness which were committed by the Inhabitants, in Publick Houses,
and elsewhere: and that the Lord was angry with the Magistrates also, because they
use not their Power as they might do, in order to suppress Wickedness; and do not, so
much as they ought, put the Laws already made in Execution against Prophaneness and
Immorality: And the Lord is angry with the Representatives of the People of the Land,
because they take not so much care to suppress Vice and Wickedness.121
Chalkley reminisced longingly of the days when politicians would prowl the
streets, seeking out and admonishing transgressors of the civil and gospel order.
âIt is worthy of Commendation,â he opined, âthat our Governor, Thomas
Lloyd, sometimes in the Evening, before he went to Rest, usâ™d to go in Person
to Publick Houses, and order the People, he found there, to their own Houses,
till, at length, he was instrumental to promote better Order, and did, in a great
Measure, suppress Vice and Immorality in the City.â122
From the comments of visitors to Philadelphia, however, the Quaker laws
and customs were none too lax. They not only remarked on the religious diver-
sity but also the plainness of the clothing; the lack of seasonal and daily greet-
ings and polite customs such as removing the hat, the use of thee and thou, the
strangeness of antitoasting laws, and the lack of the arts and entertainment.123
The restrictions Quakers placed on the public culture shaped the province well
118 Ibid., 17, 12.
119 Raynal quoted in Echeverria, Mirage in the West, 73.
120 On âwet Quakers,â see Tolles, Meeting House and Counting House, 142.
121 Chalkley, âThe Journal of Thomas Chalkley,â 203â“4.
122 Ibid., 204.
123 An excellent source for observations on the Quakerization of Philadelphia is Paul Hubert
Smith, ed., Letters from the Delegates to Congress, 1774â“1789, 25 vols. (Summerď¬eld, FL:
Historical Database, 1995). (Hereafter referred to as Delegates.)
160 Quaker Constitutionalism in Theory and Practice
beyond the days when Quakers governed it. As late as the 1790s, a French-
man visiting Philadelphia believed that the âmelancholy customs of this cityâ
were a Quaker legacy.124 On the other hand, another visitor remarked in 1825
that âPhiladelphia is fortunate in having for its citizens so many quakers their
industry, sobriety, cleanliness, and steady habits, and honesty, are constantly
before other classes of citizens as examples, and cannot fail to be, in some
degree, contagious.â125 This contagion was exactly what Friends hoped for.
Even as Quakers were imposing restrictions on Pennsylvaniaâ™s inhabitants, they
were teaching them Quakerly behavior in another way. Like the ď¬rst years of
the colony, the middle decades were characterized by continual battles between
the Assembly and the proprietors and their deputies, which were increasingly
hostile to Quaker interests. Now, however, not only were the proprietors no
longer Quaker, they were Anglicans, and also the Quaker Assembly was now
uniď¬ed. Moreover, they were educating non-Quakers in their culture of dissent
and enlisting them in their campaign of resistance. So successful were Friends
in their attempts to excite partisanship that historians argue this period marks
the beginning of the identiď¬cation in the public mind of popular rights with the
so-called âQuaker Party.â126 On the other hand, some scholars have claimed
that Quaker Pennsylvania did not have a âstrong dissenting traditionâ when
compared to Calvinist or Anglican colonies. While it is true that in some
ways they did not âpresent as sharp a challenge to the established order,â as
the argument here will suggest, in other ways their dissent penetrated more
The era began with a conď¬‚uence of events. In the late 1730s, the Penn fam-
ily was emerging from a difď¬cult time ď¬nancially and legally and refocusing its
attention on Pennsylvania. Thomas Penn appointed George Thomas as lieu-
tenant governor in 1738. No great supporter of the Quakers, Thomas became
the ď¬rst leader of the growing challenge to Quaker hegemony â“ the Propri-
etary Party.128 Although Quakers had a long history of resisting proprietary
124 Quoted in Kenneth and Anna M. Roberts, trans. and eds., Moreau de St. MÂ´ ryâ™s American
Journey, 1793â“98 (Garden City, NJ: Doubleday, 1947), 280.
125 Sheldon, âA Description of Philadelphia,â 76.
126 Tully, Forming American Politics, 408â“10. The 1740s and 1750s were characterized by intense
strife with the proprietary governors. A synopsis of all the gubernatorial administrations and
the conď¬‚icts is in LL, 2: 57â“70. Because of the âinexhaustible points of contentionâ between
the two parties and the similar methods each used in all disputes to check one anotherâ™s power,
this discussion, for reasons explained later, focuses on the administration of George Thomas.
127 Richard Alan Ryerson, âPolitical Mobilization and the American Revolution: The Resistance
Movement in Philadelphia, 1765â“1776,â WMQ 3rd ser., vol. 31, no. 4 (1974), 556â“588, 584.
128 Beeman notes that the term party is not really applicable to those allied with the Proprietors
because they never formed a coherent identity as did the Quakers (Varieties of Political Experi-
ence, 208). To use this term is, indeed, in a sense, the imposition of an anachronism; however,
I will persist in using it as the actors used it themselves, as a synonym for faction.
Civil Unity and Dissention 161
authority, this new animosity was not between warring factions of Quaker
politicians. The new Proprietary faction, while only a loose coalition, consisted
of a good number of Presbyterians, Lutherans, and members of the German
reformed church, none of whom shared Quakersâ™ paciď¬st principles.
In addition to the challenge of the Proprietary faction, international tensions
began to intrude on Pennsylvania. Shortly after Thomasâ™s appointment, in
1739 the War of Jenkinsâ™s Ear began. The British sent orders for Pennsylvania
to contribute to raising forces to be sent to the Spanish West Indies. Thomas
responded by enlisting indentured servants belonging to prominent inhabitants,
including members of the Assembly. Also, there was a demand for domestic
forces as French and Spanish privateers began threatening the Pennsylvania
coast, which necessitated some action on the part of the Assembly to call a
militia or otherwise provide means for the defense of the colony.
But the most important development for the future of Quaker politics was
the election of John Kinsey to the Assembly in 1739. Kinsey dominated public
life in mid-century Pennsylvania.129 Indeed, he embodied Quaker theocracy.
In this one man, religion and politics converged and were used as means to
the same ends â“ the political autonomy of the Quakers and the dissemination
of their ethic. At one point or another, and often simultaneously, Kinsey held
all the highest posts in both church and state. He was variously speaker of
the Assembly, chief justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, acting trustee
of the General Loan Ofď¬ce, and provincial treasurer. But more than this, he
was also by all accounts an active Quaker. As the clerk of PYM, he was
the most prominent Quaker in the Delaware Valley. Signiď¬cantly, he held the
clerkship concurrently with the speakership of the Assembly, which allowed
him to promote Quaker politics from every angle.130 Kinsey was respected by
even his non-Quaker opponents as âthe Hinge on wch ye Quaker Politicks all
Provincial secretary Richard Peters observed that Kinsey âcan inď¬‚uence [the
Assembly] to do what he pleases.â His power was due to his ability to use
Quaker process to achieve political ends. Although Quakers had never discon-
nected religion and politics, Kinsey mixed them in a way that was different
from before. He turned Quakerism into a powerful political force by using
old modes of dissent and protest in new ways for the advantage of Quakers in
ofď¬ce. Under Kinseyâ™s tutelage, Quakers no longer used their testimonies merely
to advocate and secure religious liberties, but also to increase and retain politi-
cal power. The old testimonies were thus transformed as they became political
tools in the hands of skilled dissenters. Peters saw Kinseyâ™s ends clearly and
knew that â[h]e will never promote an Agreemt with ye Govr. nor a Coalition
129 For brief biographies of Kinsey, see Isaac Sharpless, Political Leaders, and LL, 2: 591â“607.
130 LL, 2: 593.
131 Richard Peters Letterbook, 1739â“43, 58â“59, HSP.
162 Quaker Constitutionalism in Theory and Practice
The Peace Testimony Reinvented
The most signiď¬cant political move Kinsey made during his career was to
appropriate the peace testimony for the purpose of retaining Quaker power
over the colony. For a brief period, and out of keeping with Quaker tradition,
Kinsey took this testimony to an extreme. Because it was at the heart of Quaker
theologico-politics as the doctrine that preserved their constitutional unity,
Kinseyâ™s actions had monumental consequences both for the Society of Friends
and the political culture of Pennsylvania.
Historically, Friends had two separate yet harmonious testimonies â“ those
concerning peace on the one hand and oneâ™s obligation to civil government
on the other.133 In the seventeenth century and through at least half of the
eighteenth, the peace testimony was a personal matter, not a matter of state.
For example, although a good Quaker could not take up arms himself against
his fellow man, he could, in good conscience, pay taxes for the necessary
defense of the state. This distinction allowed Quaker politicians to separate
their religious lives and their political lives to a certain degree, which in turn
enabled them to fulď¬ll a basic obligation to their constituents â“ protecting them
and their property. In the earlier years of Pennsylvania government, Quakers
gave money to either the crown or the governor to support defensive military
measures, and their actions were in keeping with traditional Quaker practice.134
Governor Thomas set Friends against him immediately when he responded
to the demands of the British government to raise a militia and meet the needs
of the vulnerable Pennsylvania coastline. His enlistment of indentured servants
angered the masters who saw it as an encroachment on their property rights.
But the militia bill Thomas wrote to raise forces within the colony challenged
Quaker power in more fundamental ways. It brought two important issues into
question â“ the extent of the peace testimony and the extent of Quaker control
over provincial affairs.
Friends moved aggressively to halt the progress of the bill. What was most
important to Kinsey and the Quakers in the Assembly was not whether the
colony should be defended from within, but who had the power to decide
on policy inside the colony. In the past, Friends had looked to the crown to
133 The following discussion draws on Herman Wellenreutherâ™s âThe Political Dilemma of the
Quakers in Pennsylvania, 1681â“1748,â PMHB vol. 94 (1970), 135â“72. See also Peter Brock,
Pioneers of the Peaceable Kingdom, 97â“99. Brock explains the following episode in Pennsyl-
vania history as exemplifying âthe basic difference of viewpoint between the two sides.â He
does not, as does Wellenreuther, identify the two conď¬‚icting testimonies. On the contrary, he
explains how the Quakers made their cases for the consistency of their behavior with regard
to giving money for âthe kingâ™s useâ in the past and ď¬nds that their argument âpossessed
greater validity than the governor was prepared to recognize.â His discussion does not take
into account any possible political motives for this apparent change in the use of the peace
testimony. For more on the peace testimony during this period, see Jack D. Marietta, âCon-
science, the Quaker Community, and the French and Indian War,â PMHB vol. 95 (1971),
134 Wellenreuther, âThe Political Dilemma of the Quakers,â 172.
Civil Unity and Dissention 163
provide defense from threats outside the colonyâ™s borders, but when threats
came from within, the Assemblymen wanted to reserve their right to determine
how to react. But the peace testimony had put the Quaker Assemblymen in
a bind. If they allowed the crown to come in to Pennsylvania and defend
their colony, they would be relinquishing a signiď¬cant degree of control. If,
on the other hand, they did any more than give money to the king, they
would be transgressing the peace testimony. Kinseyâ™s solution was to redeď¬ne
the testimony in hopes that their unity would result in a stronger Quaker
position. In order to assert their legislative prerogative, then, Friends dissented
from the governorâ™s and proprietorâ™s plans to prepare the colony for defense
and disobeyed their demands for funds by adapting the testimony for their
purposes. Now, for the ď¬rst time, the peace testimony would preclude giving
money for defense purposes.135
But ď¬rst, in order to ensure that they would be able to use the peace testimony
at all as a means of resistance, Kinsey had to make sure that enough Friends
were in ofď¬ce. Accordingly, before the 1739 election, Kinsey rallied the forces
with an epistle directing Friends to adhere steadfastly to the testimony as
pressure mounted from the crown and the governor for Friends to defend
Pennsylvania with military force.136 Once Friends were securely in ofď¬ce for
another term, they could then effect a transformation of the peace testimony
from a personal religious testimony into a form of collective political resistance.
No sooner had the Assembly convened for its ď¬rst session than the disobedience
began. In 1740, in response to Governor Thomasâ™s request for the Assembly
to impose a tax to support Britainâ™s war with Spain, Quakers argued:
We have ever esteemed it our Duty to pay Tribute to Caesar, and yield Obedience to the
Powers that God hath set over us, so far as our conscientious Perswasions will permit;
but we cannot preserve good Consciences, and come into the Levying of Money, and
appropriating it to the Uses recommended to us in the Governorâ™s Speech, because it
is repugnant to the religious Principles professed by the greater Number of the present
Assembly, who are of the People called Quakers.137
Therefore, rather than relinquish control by allowing outsiders to dictate inter-
nal decisions, Friends pled conscience, and used their stance on peace as a tool
to delineate the extent of their obedience. Now, for the ď¬rst time, the testimony
for peace became government policy, and the testimony for civil government
fell by the wayside.138
135 Ibid., 158.
136 Ibid., 158â“9; LL, 2: 593.
137 PA, 3: 2593.
138 Wellenreuther, âThe Political Dilemma of the Quakers,â 159. He explains that the consti-
tutional principle involved, on which the Quakers rested their case in all disputes with the
governor and the crown, was that only the representatives could decide on matters relating to
affairs within the colony. If the Quaker representatives had extended their demand for defense
by the crown to the area of Pennsylvania, then this would surely have affected the validity of
their claim to speak and decide on provincial matters.
164 Quaker Constitutionalism in Theory and Practice
While the philosophes and others who were removed from the threat of
attack in Pennsylvania praised Quaker paciď¬sm, this new interpretation and
use of the peace testimony was neither welcomed nor sanctioned by all inhab-
itants of Pennsylvania. In 1740 Thomas petitioned the Board of Trade to have
Quakers removed from ofď¬ce, and in 1741 a group of prominent non-Quaker
merchants petitioned the king to limit their power.139 Signiď¬cantly, there were
also many Friends who disapproved of the new interpretation. Before long,
weighty Friends levied criticisms against Kinsey for his âstubborn and provoca-
tive attitudeâ and his departure from the proper process of legal discernment.
âFor my own part,â wrote Quaker Justice Samuel Chew, âI look upon this
doctrine not only to be without warrant or colour, either from reason or rev-
elation, but in its consequences pernicious to society, and entirely inconsistent
with, and destructive of all civil government.â140 James Logan wrote a lengthy
letter in a similar vein to Friends, reminding them that âfriends have recom-
mended themselves to ye Govt . . . by complying with its Demands, in chearfully
contributing by ye paymt of their Taxes towds every War.â Furthermore, he
recommended that âall Such, who for Conscience Sake cannot joyn in a Law
for Self-Defence, Should, not only decline standing Candidates at the ensu-
ing Election for Representatives themselves, but also advise all others who are
equally Scrupulous to do the Same.â141
The extent to which Friends would go to preserve unity and power is evident
in an incident in a meeting for business. One week before the general election
in 1741, Logan presented PYM with an epistle on the defenselessness of the
province. Instead of letting him read it, the Meeting formed a committee to
see if the contents were appropriate for general consideration. After looking
it over, the committee decided it was not and was ostensibly better suited for
people who would understand the military and geographic issues it dealt with.
One member, however, dissented. He stood and observed that since it was
written by a weighty Friend and was meant âfor the Good of the Society at
these ď¬ckle & precarious Times,â it should be considered by the whole group.
But instead this Friend was rebuked and silenced. In the meeting, âJonathan
Bringhouse pluckâ™d him by the coat and told him with a sharp Tone of Voice,
â˜Sit thee down Robert, thou art single in that opinion.â™â142 Clearly some sorts
of dissent were no longer acceptable.
The new interpretation and use of the peace testimony did not last in the
short term. Within two years, the body of Friends reverted to their original
position on it, objected strongly to Kinseyâ™s actions, and the Assembly voted
139 LL, 2: 65, 72â“73.
140 Samuel Chew, The Speech of Samuel Chew, Esq. Chief Judge of the Counties of Newcastle,
Kent, and Sussex on Delaware. On the Lawfulness of Defence against an Armed Enemy.
Delivered from the Bench to the Grand Jury of the County of Newcastle, Nov. 21. 1741 (rpt.,
Philadelphia, 1775), 2.
141 James Logan, September 22, 1741, American Friends Letters, HQC.
142 Richard Peters Letterbook, 1739â“1743, 33, HSP.
Civil Unity and Dissention 165
to give money for defense after all.143 But Kinseyâ™s politicking had planted
seeds in a couple of fertile beds. First, his new version of the peace testimony
would soon become the accepted interpretation of it. And second, his use of
it set a powerful example for non-Quakers of how to dissent aggressively.
But more than that, and much more problematic, was that this example of
dissent expressed ambiguity â“ and perhaps ambivalence â“ about the testimony
that preserved the unity of the polity. The message Quakers sent was that the
testimony was something to be manipulated, and perhaps not taken seriously.
Both of these seeds would bear fruit in the next two decades.
What were ultimately at stake for the Quakers in their struggle with the pro-
prietors were their constitutional rights as they were embodied in the 1701
Charter. Early in 1742 an apparently minor controversy arose that exempliď¬es
the continuing pattern of Quaker resistance to government with the Charter at
the center of it all. The speciď¬cs of the original cause of this particular contro-
versy are relatively insigniď¬cant. They were instigated over who had the power
to appoint doctors to meet ships arriving in port with potentially sick immi-
grants. The Assembly had replaced a doctor appointed by the governor with
one of its own choosing. But the inď¬‚amed rhetoric and bitter acrimony of the
debate indicated that the matter went much deeper than the mere appointment
of a doctor. And eventually, in a heated exchange between Thomas and the
Assembly, led by Kinsey, the issue boiled down to its essence. For the Assem-
blymen, at stake was the sanctity of the Charter of Privileges, the preservation
of their liberties, and the deď¬nition of the legitimate boundaries of a potentially
arbitrary power; for the governor, it was the containment of a radical group
overstepping its proper bounds. Quakers saw it as maintaining constitutional
balance and keeping power in the rightful hands.
Thomas began with the now-usual accusation of the Assembly that in
appointing a different doctor they were trying to âseize all the Powers of Gov-
ernment into their own Hands.â144 Echoing Penn and his agents, he argued
that the Assemblymen were âassuming to themselves a Power the Law hath
not intrusted them with; is illegal and unwarrentable, a high Invasion of the
Powers of Government; and a very dangerous Example.â145 But it was the gov-
ernorâ™s mistake if he thought he could make any headway with an argument
based on the Charter. After having been in ofď¬ce only four years, he could not
hope to know how to use the Charter as well as Friends, who had created it
and used it for their advantage for nearly half a century; nor did he have their
training in the dissenting process. In their response to the governor, Quakers
claimed there was a âmanifest design against the Liberties of the Freemen of
143 Wellenreuther, âThe Political Dilemma of the Quakers,â 159.
144 PA, 4: 2740.
145 Ibid., 4: 2741.
166 Quaker Constitutionalism in Theory and Practice
this Province,â enumerated at length their constitutional rights, and chastised
him for his âunnatural Attack upon our Charter and Privileges.â146
They charged the governor with âclandestinely attempting to deprive [them]
of those religious and civil liberties which [he] had solemnly promised to sup-
port.â147 Meanwhile, as a petition was on its way to England, Richard Peters
reported that â[the Quakers] are not ashamed openly to usurp Powers they
have no Pretense of Claim to, & to endeavour without any regard to decency
& manners to reduce another part of ye Legislature wch by ye Constitution is
in all respects their equal & in many their super[ior].â148 But what had made
Thomas angry was that the Assembly had not been open in their protest either.
Contrary to appropriate Quaker process, it was they who had acted surrepti-
tiously; they had submitted their petition in secret and neglected to publish it in
the ofď¬cial proceedings or to deliver a copy to the governor. Not surprisingly,
Thomas denounced the petition as a âStab in the Dark, which was intended
both to Blast my Character and ruin my Fortune,â and he insisted the Quakersâ™
motives were merely to âprejudice [the Freemen of the Province] against me,
the seeds of Dissention have been plentifully sown.â149 Peters echoed Thomasâ™s
sentiments, writing to England that the Quakers âmust know ye Proprs. canâ™t
but see that they are attempting to strip their Govr. of ye most & essential Parts
of Govmt. & ye Person of Coll. Thomas they are doing him all the Injury they
But Friends, unperturbed by the accusations, calmly replied that âthe pre-
senting of Petitions is the Right of every of the Kingâ™s Subjects when they
think themselves aggrieved . . . It was intended neither â˜to Blast the Governorâ™s
Character,â™ nor â˜ruin his Fortuneâ™ . . . but to obtain Justice.â151 The criticisms
Thomas leveled at the Assembly sound the same as those always leveled at
Quakers for their lack of deference to secular authority. âYour Language and
Behaviour,â he said, âshew a contempt of his Majestyâ™s Sentiments, as well as
a Departure from the Decencies Observed by all other publick Bodies towards
Persons in Authority.â152 Clearly the Quakersâ™ degree of antiauthoritarianism
seemed to Thomas blatant and unusual in the context of colonial government.
The Quakers, meanwhile, denied their behavior was anything but decent and
proper and offered reasons for their actions: âPeople may, it is true, grow wan-
ton with Liberty,â Kinsey admitted. But he immediately turned the accusation
back on the governor, adding, âand Governors may play the Wanton with the
Liberties of the People.â For Quakers in Pennsylvania, it was at least as much
a function of their collective history as actual (or imagined) tyranny in their
own government that prompted their behavior. âThe Memory of what has
146 Ibid., 4: 2752 and 2757.
147 Ibid., 4: 2743.
148 Richard Peters Letterbook, 1739â“1743, 74, HSP.
149 PA, 4: 2744.
150 Richard Peters Letterbook, 1739â“1743, 74, HSP.
151 PA, 4: 2758.
152 Ibid., 4: 2743.
Civil Unity and Dissention 167
passed in our own Time,â he explains, âas well as History, afford us Examples
of both; and perhaps the latter are the most numerous.â Finally, to Thomasâ™s
complaint that he had been falsely charged with attempted tyranny, and that
he âis as much a Friend to Liberty as the most zealous Assertor of it,â the
Quakersâ™ ď¬‚ippant reply was, âActions speak louder than Words.â153
In this heated debate between the governor and the Assembly â“ ostensibly
over the appointment of a doctor â“ Thomas cut to the quick, placing the Quaker
assembly in a broader context and suggesting the underlying motive for their
Has the Honour of the Province been advanced . . . by the distinguishing Behaviour of
the Assembly here from all others in America? Have the odious Insinuations and bitter
Invectives thrown out against me, been of Use to convince the World of your Meekness
and Moderation, or have they been for the Reputation of the religious Society of which
you call yourselves Members? Perhaps you will say, it is enough to have opposed a
designing and arbitrary Governor: But this will be only calling Names without any
Proof of my being such a Person.154
Here Thomas identiď¬ed a twin Quaker concern â“ to resist authority and to
cultivate a public image that would convince non-Friends to join their political
cause, if not their religious society. His powers of observation about the Assem-
bly were fairly on the mark. He was fully aware, as he put it, that â[t]he Interest
of [the] Leaders . . . depend[s] upon keeping alive a Spirit of Faction.â155 Quak-
ers used their dissenting ethic to unite their supporters and pit them against
their perceived oppressors. Thus, when the Assembly was full of one sort of
people, it could easily dominate all the interests of the colony. To this end,
public relations played a vital role in Friendly politics. Richard Peters made
note of the Quakersâ™ cultivation of partisanship as well: âHere they stick at
nothing to preserve the Affections of ye People & by being a low weak sort of
Men do strangely impose upon them, in short they have their Ear & can by
that means give the best face to ye worst designs.â156
With the extreme tension between the Assembly and the governor, the 1742
election was a pivotal one for both parties. Both used the best means at their
disposal to win: The Quakers used their bureaucracy; the Proprietary, on the
other hand, resorted to violence. As for the Quakers, in one of the most blatant
examples of the use of his religious ofď¬ce for political ends, Kinsey functionally
merged the meetinghouse with the state house. Again, Richard Peters reported
that â[w]e have another Difď¬culty to cope with. It is yt a [Letter] is come from
Friends in Britain to Friends here earnestly exhorting them to return none to
the Assembly but contientious Friends who will be sure to support ye Cause
of Truth agst the violent Attack made on it by ye Govr & [his] Friends.â Such
a directive from London Friends would have been newsworthy enough. But
153 Ibid., 4: 2762.
154 PA, 4: 2748. Emphasis added.
155 Ibid., 4: 2769.
156 Richard Peters Letterbook, 1739â“43, 102, HSP.
168 Quaker Constitutionalism in Theory and Practice
it was where the letter was read that attracted the most attention. Peters was
troubled âThat this [Letter] came to Jon Kinsey as Clerk of ye yearly Meeting
& that he openâ™d it and read it in ye Lobby of ye Assembly Room & that it was
subscribâ™d by a large number of Hands.â157 As far as Kinsey was concerned,
the desired effect was achieved when Quakers were elected by a substantial
margin over other candidates for the Assembly.
The election was itself an indicator of the climate in Pennsylvania, as the
Proprietary faction took an even less honorable route to resist the Quakersâ™
tactics. âOn ye Morning of ye Election,â wrote Richard Peters, â40 or 50
Sailors appearâ™d abt 7 a Clock at Andrew Hamiltonâ™s Warf with Clubbs in
their Hands & s[aid]d to one another; Now my lads mind your mark, A plain
coat & broad hat.â They were warned by some Quakers âto disperse, & give no
disturbance to Peoples Minds, who were going to do one of ye most important
Things to the good of ye Publick that is to elect their Representatives, & yt if
they came near ye place of Election they woud be committed to Jayle & severely
punished.â Before long, however, the sailors began beating people with their
clubs. The sailors âpromised to give up their Clubs & separate if he [Quaker
Edward Shippen] wouâ™d give them a Drink.â When no liquor was forthcoming,
this enragd the Sailors to that degree yt they went to ye place of Election & in one
Minute disperâ™d 500 Dutch & others, knockâ™d all down that were upon ye Stairs & laid
abt â˜em in ye most Shocking manner Eye ever beheld, it was realy a frightful sight & I
expect numbers woud have been killd: for besides their Sticks ye Sailors threw whole
Bricks at ye El[ec]t[ion] House Door where ye innocent Country People were giving in
their Tickets, tho whether ye Sailors or ye Freeholders ď¬rst threw Bricks is uncertain.
Peters concluded grimly that since the election riot was widely considered to
have been orchestrated by supporters of the Proprietary, âit will turn greatly to
ye prejudice of ye Publickâ against them. â[F]or ye leading men in ye Assembly
will think they are now more than ever at liberty to gratify their Resentmt agst
ye Proprs & instead of doing ye Business of ye Country.â158 In conď¬rmation
of Petersâ™s fears, Isaac Norris, Jr., prominent member of the Assembly, wrote
in a letter four days later that
the Dangr. among our selves seems to be pretty much over for in our last Electn that
party [the proprietary] has not only lost in every where to a prodigious dissproportn in
all ye Counties . . . but have brot. such a reproach upon the heads of ye party as they
will never clear themselves from and I think have effectually secured the Electn agt
[them]selves for the future.159
157 Ibid., 128. See also, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, Minutes, 1739â“41, HQC.
158 Richard Peters Letterbook, 1739â“1743, 134â“38, HSP. It should be noted that in the heat of
the moment, a few young Quakers forgot their testimony of peace and joined in beating the
sailors â“ but only after the sailors had been safely apprehended by the authorities.
159 Isaac Norris Letterbook, 1719â“1756, November 21, 1742, HSP.
Civil Unity and Dissention 169
As Norris hoped and Peters feared, this incident settled the question of the
Quaker Partyâ™s dominance in Pennsylvania for the remainder of the colonial
period.160 Peters cautioned the proprietors in 1742 that Friends were united
amongst themselves, they had united the people, and they were busy using their
bureaucratic skills for resistance and the security of their liberties. âThey are
contriving all sorts of Bills yt they think will give you uneasiness & they have
by the impudence of ye last Election gainâ™d a deeper hold of ye common People
than ever & can never be shaken unless they quarrel with one another.161
From this point on until the eve of the American Revolution, their hegemony
provoked frequent attacks, but these too only strengthened it.
Despite their dominance, Quakers continued to use their testimonies to resist
the government and accrue more power. A seemingly insigniď¬cant testimony
serves to illustrate the new lengths to which Quakers â“ and especially Kinsey
â“ would go to use traditional Quaker means for new political ends. In 1745
Kinsey recounted a discussion with Isaac Norris about whether or not to remove
their hats when meeting with Governor Thomas. âI said, in Effect, as follows:
That our not putting off our hats to the Governor was not for want of true
respect &c. to a Gentleman in his Station, but from principle.â The principle
at stake as far as Kinsey was concerned was not as it had been traditionally
for Friends, spiritual equality. Rather, he believed that if the Quakers should
be made by the governor to remove their hats in his presence, âsuch an act of
[the governor] would be Afď¬rming overall a power he had not.â The principle
was political power. Norris, on the other hand, was not entirely comfortable
with Kinseyâ™s testimony in this case and âseemed inclinable to permitt our hatts
to be taken of[f].â In a more conciliatory vein, Norris argued: âThat it might
be said the law assumes no superiority, that [the governor] was bare himself
and directing us to be Uncovered was putting up only in Equal condition with
himself.â But Kinsey would have none of it. As far as he was concerned, whether
to remove their hats or not had to be their own free choice. If they were ordered
to do it, all suggestion of equality of power would be destroyed. He asserted,
âtho the Gov. himself might of shew make it his choice to be uncovered, yet as
we were principally against it, and it could not be done with our consent, to
suffer it to be done by order was plainly giving up the Equality we had a right
Some historians have questioned the sincerity of Kinseyâ™s hat testimony.
The biographical dictionary Lawmaking and Legislators, for example, details
a similar incident involving Kinsey and Governor William Keith in 1730. While
160 Although Quakers dominated the Assembly for the entire life of the colony, during the 1740s
it was almost complete when âQuaker majorities ranged as high as 90 percent.â LL, Figure
III. Religious Afď¬liation of Assemblymen by Assembly (1710â“1756), 2: 132â“33. See also
Isaac Norris Letterbook, 1719â“1756, HSP; Tully, William Pennâ™s Legacy, 28â“29; Pemberton
Papers, 3:36, HSP; PA, 3: 2663; Richard Peters Letterbook, 1739â“1743, HSP; Philadelphia
Yearly Meeting, Minutes, 1741, HQC.
161 Richard Peters, Letterbook, 1739â“1743, 153, HSP.
162 Journal of John Kinsey, FHL.
170 Quaker Constitutionalism in Theory and Practice
arguing a court case before Keith, Kinsey also refused to uncover his head and
was forcibly removed from the court. In the wake of the incident, Quakers
united behind Kinsey, and Philadelphia Quarterly Meeting condemned Keith
for violating Kinseyâ™s religious liberty. The editors of the volume speculate
whether Kinsey was merely âgrandstandingâ for political purposes.163 Whereas
some see Quaker testimonies as insincere, others see them as too sincere. Daniel
Boorstin argues that Friends adhered to their principles and testimonies too
rigidly to be effective governors. â[T]he Quakers weakened themselves not by
being false to their teachings, but by being too true to them,â he says.164
But both of these assessments miss the point. What neither takes into account
is the use and purpose of the testimonies for Friends. Boorstin believed that
at this time âthe Quakerâ™s refusal to remove his hat became as arrogant and
purposeless as the non-Quakerâ™s insistence on hat-honor.â165 On the contrary,
however, there was a great purpose behind it. Testimonies had always been a
mode of dissent; they were the Quakersâ™ traditional mode of political expres-
sion before they held ofď¬ce. They were a form of protest, a statement of justice,
an indication of their antiauthoritarianism, and a statement of corporate soli-
darity. And then, during the mid-eighteenth century, they also became a tool for
retaining and solidifying political unity and power. Kinseyâ™s actions, admits the
biographical dictionary, âenhanced [his] reputation among the Quakers and
increased his notoriety in generalâ and furthered his political career.166 How
much Kinseyâ™s actions were motivated by faith or mercurial ends it is impossi-
ble to determine.167 There is no doubt, however, that he used the testimony to
the political advantage of the Quaker Party. Quaker critics, at least, recognized
it as such. Quakers, writes Bugg,
tell us that they were raised contrary to all Men, and as such cannot seek to Authority.
But how their Practice gives the Lie to their Principles, I shall shew anon. You see also
they stand in Opposition to Parliaments, Judges, and Courts of Judicature. Thatâ™s true
enough, They Teach also, That there are no Superior Orders of Men; this is a right
levelling Principle, and they conform to it by their sturdy Practice of their Hats.168
On the eve of the French and Indian War in 1755, with tensions over defense
high in Pennsylvania, a particularly virulent attack on Friends exempliď¬es both
Quakersâ™ political strategies and the security of their power. It came in the
form of a pamphlet written by Anglican clergyman William Smith, and appar-
ently commissioned by the Proprietary, called A Brief State of the Province
of Pennsylvania. Smith was the Quakersâ™ most vocal and vitriolic critic since
163 LL, 2: 592.
164 Boorstin, The Americans, 42.
165 Ibid., 41.
166 LL, 2: 592.
167 In fact, there is good reason to believe that Kinseyâ™s motives were self-interested. After his death,
it was discovered that he embezzled a signiď¬cant amount of money from the government. LL,
168 Bugg, Quaker Anatomized, 390.
Civil Unity and Dissention 171
Francis Bugg at the turn of the century. In an attempt to persuade Pennsyl-
vanians and the crown that Quakers were not ď¬t to govern, he wrote A Brief
State to expose their alleged political malfeasance: their failure to defend the
colony from attacks by the French; their use of religion for political ends; their
exploitation of the Germans to consolidate their power; and their inappropriate
amount of legislative power. In addition to exemplifying one pole of the senti-
ment on Quakers, Smithâ™s pamphlet, rather than proving the incompetence of
Quaker politicians as he intended, instead gives us a view into the workings of
the Quaker Party and an indication of the political aptitude of its members.
In the early years of Pennsylvania, Smith explained, the government, though
run by Quakers, was âconducted with great Mildness and Prudence.â The rea-
son he gave for this was that they had not âas yet conceived any Thoughts of
turning Religion into a political scheme for Power.â169 Now, however, that
they were â[p]ossessed of such unrestrained Powers and Privileges, they seem
quite unrestrained; are factious, contentious, and disregard the Proprietors and
their Governors. Nay, they seem even to claim a kind of Independence of
their Mother-Country, despising the Orders of the Crown.â170 By this time,
he claimed, â[t]he Powers they enjoy are extraordinary, and some of them so
repugnant, that they are the Source of the greatest Confusion in the Govern-
ment.â âIn some Instances,â he clariď¬ed, referring to the unicameral system in
Pennsylvania, âthey have both a legislative and executive Power.â171 By now,
of course, charges of political and religious impropriety were nothing new to
It was not only the fact that Quakers had this extraordinary power that
antagonized Smith; it was also how they had gotten it. First, they made inap-
propriate use of their religion. Smith was fully convinced âthat most of the
Quakers without Doorsâ acted âfrom Conscience and their religious Tenets;
but for those within Doors, I cannot but ascribe their Conduct rather to Inter-
est than Conscience.â172 Commenting unfavorably on the overlap in Quaker
Society between religion and politics, Smith also observed the convenient tim-
ing of PYM and the annual elections. He claimed that âthey entered into
Cabals in their yearly Meeting, which is convened just before the Election, and
being composed of Deputies from all the monthly Meetings in the Province,
is the ď¬nest Scheme that could possibly be projected, for conducting political
Intrigues, under the mark of Religion.â173
Second, Quakers made use of new and unorthodox techniques to sway the
popular vote in their favor. âIn order to keep their Seats in the Assembly,â Smith
complained, âthey have not only corrupted the Principles of the Germans; but,
to be consistent with their Interest, they must strive to keep these poor People in
169 Smith, Brief State, 5.
170 Ibid., 10.
171 Ibid., 5.
172 Ibid., 15.
173 Ibid., 26.
172 Quaker Constitutionalism in Theory and Practice
figure 4. Quakers, allied with Indians, oppressing the German and Scotch-Irish settlers
(1764). âThe German bleeds & bears ye Furs/Of Quaker Lords & Savage Curs/Thâ™
Hiberian frets with new Distaster/And kicks to ď¬‚ing his broadbrimâ™d Master/But help at
hand Resolves to hold down/Thâ™ Hiberianâ™s Head or tumble all down.â The scene shows
a Quaker and an Indian riding a German and a Scotch-Irishman like horses. The Quaker
is wearing spurs and the Indianâ™s knapsack has the initials of Israel Pemberton on it,
one of the most powerful Quaker merchants in the province. Another Quaker Party
member, probably Benjamin Franklin, holds a paper saying: âResolved, ye Propr[ietor]
a knave & tyrant.â (LCP)
the same dark State, into which they have endeavored to sink them.â174 Smith
and others accused Quakers of lying to the Germans about the allegedly tyran-
nical intentions of the Proprietors. Similarly, another anti-Quaker pamphlet a
few years later lamented that âthe unhappy Germans . . . have been blindly led
into your schemes, and patiently groanâ™d under the burthenâ175 (Figure 4).
Exactly how Quakers lured the unsuspecting Germans into a âcabalâ with
them seems to have been as much a source of admiration for Smith as something
despicable. As in their early campaigns for liberty of conscience in England,
Friends made ample use of printed materials to convince people to their way
174 Ibid., 32.
175 Williamson, The Plain Dealer, 1: 9.
Civil Unity and Dissention 173
of thinking. Smith focused on this as the most egregious â“ and ingenious â“
of the Quakersâ™ schemes. The Quakers enlisted the help of a German printer
to promote the Quaker Party position and gain votes among the German
population of the colony. âIn consequence of this, the Germans, who had
hitherto continued peaceful, without meddling in Elections, came down in
Shoals, and carried all before them. Near 1,800 of them voted in the County
of Philadelphia, which threw the Balance on the side of the Quakers.â176 But
Smith seemed perturbed because the Quakers had used a creative and aggressive
technique for spreading political propaganda and mobilizing the popular vote,
while the traditional techniques of the Proprietary Party had failed. â[I]t is by
means of their hireling Printer, that they represent all regular Clergymen as Spies
and Tools of State, telling the People that they must not regard any Thing their
Ministers advise concerning Elections.â177 This, according to Smith, was âthe
evil Genius of the Quakersâ in action.178 âThe Quakers, having found out this
Secret, have ever since excluded all other Persuasions from the Assembly.â179
But Quaker supporters would not take this criticism passively. In An Answer
to an Invidious Pamphlet, an anonymous supporter of the Quakers responded
to Smithâ™s accusations predictably, claiming that â[his] scheme is altogether
particular, and consists solely in . . . strip[ping] the Quakers of the rights and
privileges, and submit[ting] them to the arbitrary will of their governors.â180
Furthermore, their unique privileges not only kept the proprietors at bay, but
also distinguished Pennsylvania from her less-fortunate neighbors. â[H]ow nec-
essary [these privileges] are to the well-being of the colony,â concluded the
author, âappears from the confusion and discontents which some neighboring
provinces, at certain times, have laboured under for want of them.â181
Shortly after the publication of Smithâ™s invective, Isaac Norris was appar-
ently unsurprised by the nature of the attack, centering as it did on the supposed
insincerity of the religious principles of Quaker politicians. âThe cloaking of
our Parsimony under Disguises of Religious scruple,â he wrote offhandedly
in his letterbook, âhas been ye General misrepresentation of us every where.â
Concerning the grounds on which Smith attacked them â“ for allegedly failing
to provide funds for the defense of the colony â“ Norris responded with con-
crete ď¬gures: â[W]e have Evinced the Contrary at ye Expense of near 70,000
already seasonably applied & Extending for ye kings use. What more could be
Expected from us[?]â182
Rather than address Smithâ™s diatribe point by point, Norris seemed more
interested in the potential damage â“ or lack of it â“ that Smith might do to
the public reputation and efď¬cacy of the Quaker Party. â[Y]e violent Spirit of
176 Smith, Brief State, 27.
177 Ibid., 33.
178 Ibid., 32.
179 Ibid., 28.
180 An Answer to an Invidious Pamphlet, intituled, A Brief State . . . (London, 1755), 3.
181 Ibid., 4.
182 Isaac Norris Letterbook, 1719â“1756, May 24, 1755, 76, HSP.
174 Quaker Constitutionalism in Theory and Practice
Smithâ™s Pamphlet to ruin [the Quakers] at a blow is a scheme that has by no
means been calmly considered or digestedâ by his readers.183 Conď¬dent in the
strength of his party, Norris concluded that Smith would be easily dismissed
ď¬rst as a âTool [of the proprietors] to Propagate the Doctrine wherever he
can here & in the neighboring Governmts.â But also, his threat was minimal
because âhis Character with all here is at a low Ebb every way.â184 Such
attacks, therefore, while calculated to undermine the strength and stability of
the Quaker Party, instead had the opposite effect. When any âsilly Parson
Preaches against ye Quakers,â he observed, âThey are only Contemned for
it by the Greater part of their Congregation.â Because of this, he continued,
the Quaker Party had been very successful in garnering support from other
religious and ethnic groups in Pennsylvania: â[T]he Church of England &
Quakers continue on very strong Terms of Union for ye Whole & themselves
in Particular, without any formal Cabals for that Purpose. â“ And ye Dutch
[Germans] joyn them in dread of an Arbitrary Govermt.â185
After Smithâ™s pamphlet in 1755, Norris elaborated: âI have an inclina-
tion . . . to explain our Parties here, if they can be called such, for I think I may
say, ye Province was never more united . . . than at Present.â186 In response to
Smithâ™s charge that Quakers âout of doorsâ were of another mind from Quak-
ers behind the State House doors, he continued: âYe People are very unanimous
without Doors and ye Assembly without any Dissenting Voices among Them-
selves.â187 Part of the reason for this unity had to do with the composition of
the Assembly. âThe Frontier of Lancaster, composed of all sorts of â“ Presby-
terians & Independents, of all sorts of Germans & some Church of England â“
Elections have chosen all their Representatives out of ye Quakers, thoâ™ there are
scarcely One hundred of that Profession in the whole Country.â188 The sum
of this great political unity for Norris was that now â[w]hatevr Opposit[ion]
the Ass[embly] meet from the Govr & his advisors we have the [advantage] of
being of one mind in almost all debates among ourselves.â189
This unity of Quakers, both in and out of politics, and with other sects
and ethnic groups, was essential to broaden their support and to secure their
agenda. Norris considered it âAbsolutely Necessary to keep ye Quakers as a
Ballance here.â190 What he meant was that the Quaker Party was the bal-
ast, the trimmer, against the encroachments of the proprietors and the keep-
ers of order. âI look upon ye Quaker System in Pensyl[vania] in a Political
view,â he explained, âwch if overturned, at least at presnt would introduce
183 Ibid., April 29, 1755, 71.
184 Ibid., May 18, 1755, 72.
185 Ibid., April 29, 1755, 71.
187 Ibid., May 18, 1755, 72.
188 Ibid., October 5, 1755, 83.
189 Ibid., October 26, 1741, 10.
190 Ibid., April 29, 1755, 71.
Civil Unity and Dissention 175
figure 5. âQuiet Quaker Quashing Quarrelsome Quidnunc.â (John Cowie and
William Hammond, Alliterative Anomalies for Infants and Invalids [New York: Dodd,
Mead & Co., 1913].)
violent Convulsions in this prov[ince] unless we are to be a Governmt of meer
farce.â191 Norris continued, âthis Colony (till it is out of their Power to help it)
will not be Governed by Proprietary Instructions secreted from them with all
ye arts of a Romish Inquisition & possibly almost as severe.â192 Norris made
good use of Whig oppositional rhetoric â“ the threat from a remote power that
is tinged with popery â“ with Quaker process and resistance techniques. It is
not surprising that everything the opposition did to try to discredit the Quaker
Party backď¬red and instead only made it stronger. Looking back on the colo-
nial period, John Adams remarked, âI have witnessed a Quaker despotism
in Pennsylvania.â193 By contrast, Frenchman Charles CÂ´ sar Robin wrote that
Pennsylvania was âthe most virtuous colony that history had ever known.â194
The image that persisted in the American mind into the twentieth century seems
to agree with both interpretations (Figure 5).
191 Ibid., May 24, 1755, 75.
193 John Adams quoted in James H. Hutson, The Founders on Religion: A Book of Quotations
(Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005), 183.
194 Charles CÂ´ sar Robin quoted in Echeverria, Mirage in the West, 107.
176 Quaker Constitutionalism in Theory and Practice
By this period, Quakerism had moved beyond the bounds of the Society of
Friends, and even the Quaker Assembly, to become something much broader.
Isaac Norris summarized the Quaker theologico-political agenda at mid-
century: âWe have now very much thrown our Disputes from being a Quaker
cause to a Cause of Liberty and the Rights derived to us by our Charter & our
Laws.â195 But although the cause was broader, it was not less Quakerly. Each
pole of the commentary, while too extreme to be trusted on its own, when
paired with its opposite reveals some aspects of Quaker theologico-politics.
Whether the comments were positive or negative, they demonstrate how the
peculiar dualism in their theory was expressed practically and the deep impres-
sion their policies made on non-Quakers. The Holy Experiment was a test in
balancing unity and dissent. Leaving judgment to their contemporaries as to
the beneď¬ts or detriments of Quakerism for Pennsylvania society, it is probably
fair to say that Quakers succeeded in their endeavor to achieve the balance â“
at least temporarily. They dominated the Assembly during this period and cre-
ated a civic and political culture based on their principles. The balance was
achieved, however, not by a meeting in the middle, but by signiď¬cant weight
on either extreme. How well they were able to preserve the unity and teach the
dissent will become apparent in the next years.
195 Isaac Norris Letterbook, 1719â“1756, May 18, 1755, 73, HSP.
The Fruits of Quaker Dissent
Political Schism and the Rise of John Dickinson
During the heyday of Quakerism in the mid-eighteenth century, the practical
necessities of governing began to challenge the applicability of Quaker theory.
Even as their politicking was unifying the province, Quakersâ™ own theologico-
political cohesion was beginning to falter, and the dual ethic of unity and dissent
that they had encouraged began to evolve in unexpected ways. Attributable
mainly to John Kinseyâ™s machinations in the 1740s, during the 1750s and
1760s, political Quakerism, or, more accurately at this point, Quaker-informed
political behavior, began to separate into three roughly deď¬ned categories.
These I will call âwithdrawing,â1 âradical,â and âtraditional.â The main point
of difference among them concerned the peace testimony in all its facets.
The withdrawers, whom most historians have taken to represent all of Quak-
erism from 1765 on, adopted Kinseyâ™s restrictive interpretation of the peace
testimony and, in what is known as the âQuaker Reformation,â rejected any
dealings with war.2 Contrary to Kinseyâ™s brand of politics, however, they went
further and also rejected ofď¬ce-holding and civic agitation as incompatible with
their principles. Far from being a âconservativeâ sort of Quakerism, as we
might be tempted to call it, this was rather a new form that departed from the
beliefs of the founders and historic theologico-politics of Quakers. In searching
for a renewed purity in their Society, these Friends were coming to emphasize
the unity of Quakerism against the outside world. They were a growing minor-
ity in PYM and their interpretation of Quakerism would eventually dominate
the Society permanently, but not until after the Revolution. The leaders of this
faction were men such as Israel Pemberton, clerk of the meeting.
The radical strain of Quaker-informed politics was, by contrast, in a sense
a truly conservative one, albeit unconsciously. These Friends (still in good
standing during this period) and their non-Quaker supporters seemed to revive
1 Following Garry Wills in A Necessary Evil.
2 For the most thorough discussion of this episode, see Jack D. Marietta, The Reformation of
American Quakerism, 1748â“1783 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1984).
178 Quaker Constitutionalism in Theory and Practice
the earliest expression of Quakerism, before the peace testimony was adopted.
They were more atomistic and contentious in the public sphere, and they had
little use for the peace testimony in any of its expressions. They did not respect
the sanctity of the constitution, nor would they eventually have qualms about
taking up arms for their cause. Dissent characterized their behavior more than
unity. Benjamin Franklin, himself not a Quaker, represented this faction. In the
1760s, Joseph Galloway also appeared to be a proponent of it.3
While both the withdrawers and radicals departed from how Quakerism had
been expressed for the past ninety-some years, there also remained a traditional
strain of Quaker-informed theory. Friends and their followers who exempliď¬ed
this strain held to the pre-Kinseyan interpretation of the peace testimony and
did not shun ofď¬ce holding or vigorous engagement in the public sphere; they
tried to maintain the role of trimmer by respecting the sanctity of the constitu-
tion while also agitating peacefully for rights. Isaac Norris, Jr., now speaker of
the Assembly, blended this and the radical strain without much difď¬culty. For
a time in the 1770s, Joseph Galloway ď¬t uncomfortably in this category. But
the best, although imperfect, exemplar was John Dickinson. Though neither a
Quaker nor ultimately a paciď¬st, he was nonetheless the most visible and artic-
ulate spokesman for the traditional theory and action from the 1760s through
the Founding period.
These categorizations are admittedly inadequate tools intended to describe
only generally the bent of each group. Moreover, they were hardly static, as
adherents of each sometimes straddled the blurry lines. But the general contours
hold and help explain the political developments in Pennsylvania and America
at the end of the colonial period and into the early years of the Republic.4
The following pages will describe how these three strains became distinct from
one another beginning in the late 1750s, culminating in early 1760s with an
incident known as the Campaign for Royal Government. Most importantly,
3 Joseph Galloway is a complex character and one who deserves more attention than he will
receive in this study. The scholarship on Galloway, now aged, gives unsatisfying analysis of his
political theory. Some historians have identiď¬ed his thought as Whiggish, which cannot explain
his Loyalism in the Revolution. A lapsed Quaker, Galloway held some fundamental principles
of traditional Quaker thinking, but rejected others. This and the next chapter will touch lightly
on his stance in order to clarify the traditional Quaker position in the Revolutionary period. On
Galloway, see Benjamin Newcomb, Franklin and Galloway: A Political Partnership (New Haven,
CT: Yale University Press, 1972); Julian P. Boyd, Anglo-American Union: Joseph Gallowayâ™s
Plans to Preserve the British Empire, 1774â“1788 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press,
1941); John E. Ferling, The Loyalist Mind: Joseph Galloway and the American Revolution
(University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1977); and Robert M. Calhoon, ââ˜I have
Deduced Your Rights:â™ Joseph Gallowayâ™s Concept of His Role, 1774â“1775,â The Loyalist
Persuasion and Other Essays (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1989), 74â“93.
4 It is not the purpose of this study to deď¬ne âtrueâ Quakerism or to determine in each case who
was a ârealâ Quaker and who was not. It is simply to identify and describe different modes
of discourse that grew from Quakerism and discuss how they were manifest and by whom.
Likewise, there is no intent to label participants beyond how they identiď¬ed themselves or were
viewed by their contemporaries.
Political Schism and Rise of John Dickinson 179
they will serve as a prelude to the following chapters by chronicling the rise
of John Dickinson to the leadership of the traditional faction of the Quaker
Growing Tensions within Political Quakerism
The discomfort with politics of the Friends who would become the withdrawers
began when John Kinsey was in ofď¬ce. Part of the problem was that Kinseyâ™s
tactics seemed too extreme â“ there was too much politicking. But taken in
perspective, Kinsey was no more âGovernmentish,â as William Penn put it,
than the Quakers who had established and settled the Charter of Privileges,
although he may have been better at it. By the 1740s some adversaries were
making a distinction among Quakers between âthat People in Generalâ and
the âvery small number of the most Zealous & bigotedâ who were pushing the
Quaker Party agenda.5
Kinseyâ™s reading of the London Yearly Meeting epistle in the State House
admonishing Friends to keep other Friends in power might have been a turning
point for some. And opponents kept a close eye out for chinks in the Quaker
armor. Richard Peters speculated that the incident âmay perhaps startle sev-
eral Quakers.â Yet he was also fully aware of Kinseyâ™s leverage in Quaker
circles and suspected that there were those âwho dislike ye present Set & woud
lend an helping hand to remove them, but may be afraid to stir after such an
Injunction.â6 Similarly, during the same few years when the Kinsey-led Assem-
bly petitioned the king in secret for the removal of Governor Thomas, Peters
observed that â[t]heir Report is so full of gross abuse & rude Invective[s] yt
several of their staunch Friends blame them openly as a set of People who
act from a Spirit of Resentment more than ye Publick Good: of this num-
ber are . . . men of considerable consequence in their respective Meetings.â7
William Smith agreed hopefully that the behavior of the Quaker politicians in
Pennsylvania was causing a rift in the transatlantic unity of the Society. â[T]hus
their whole Conduct has been of a piece in this Country,â he wrote, âthoâ™ I am
well-assured it is very much disapproved of and condemned by their Brethren
the Quakers in England.â8
Isaac Norris, Jr., meanwhile, continued to justify the extreme actions of the
Assembly on the grounds that they were preserving the principles embodied
in the 1701 Charter of Privileges. âA Governmt founded on the Principle of
Liberty,â he explained, âseems to imply the Exercise of all the Powers necessary
for the good of the Society, and it is allowed by great Authorities that the Crown
5 John Dickinson, Manuscript Notes on Pennsylvania Law, 1766, vol. 29, RRL/HSP. This doc-
ument is the transcript of the proceedings before the Board of Trade in London relating to the
Quaker government of Pennsylvania copied by John Dickinson.
6 Richard Peters Letterbook, 128, HSP.
7 Ibid., 85.
8 Smith, Brief State, 22.
180 Quaker Constitutionalism in Theory and Practice
in appointing Governors over his Colonies cannot divest them of it, much less
can it be supposed that any inferior jurisdiction can do it.â9
While the dualism of Quaker unity and dissent could be reconciled, albeit
precariously, by the peace testimony, the separation of the groups resulted in the
disconnection of these two ideological strains and would have major implica-
tions for the immediate safety of the Quaker constitution as well as longer-term
effects on the broader political culture prior to the American Revolution.
The Continuing Dilemma of Paciď¬sm
A continual point of contention both among Friends and non-Friends was the
use, or, as some saw it, the abuse of the peace testimony for political purposes
in the early 1740s in the War of Jenkinsâ™s Ear. If there was a single issue that
caused the tension between Quakers in- and out-of-doors, it was this. This
tension began to surface during the Kinsey administration as he manipulated
the testimony aggressively for retaining Quaker power in the colony. At that
time, however, Friends who were uncomfortable with the manipulation, but
sincere about peace and political engagement, were not yet ready to give up
control of the government. With Kinseyâ™s death in 1750, Israel Pemberton
inherited a considerable amount of power as clerk of PYM and put forth a new
paciď¬st ticket to try to repopulate the Assembly with less disruptive Friends. He
might have succeeded if he had also held, as Kinsey did, the speakership of the
Assembly. But that position went to Isaac Norris, Jr., who also used Kinseyâ™s
When the issue of war and defense surfaced again, it proved a breaking point
for some Friends. In 1754 with the French and Indian War threatening Penn-
sylvania, the crown ordered the Assembly to provide funds for the defense of its
province. This should not have caused a great problem for Quaker politicians;
they had resumed giving money for the kingâ™s use. Rather than simply passing a
bill to raise the money, they saw another political opportunity â“ to control the
ď¬nances of the province completely. They wrote an appropriations bill to ob-
lige the king, but included in it âself-servingâ provisions that would allow them
complete power for deciding how the money was spent. The plan was that the
governor would be forced to pass the bill or appear to be disobeying the
crown.11 To the Assemblyâ™s surprise, however, Governor Hamilton vetoed
the bill. In their indignation, the Assembly wrote another of their inď¬‚amed
9 Isaac Norris Letterbook, May 25, 1755, 77, HQC.
10 Bauman, For the Reputation of Truth, 11.
11 Marietta, The Reformation of American Quakerism, 139. Common in other colonies as well,
this tactic of trying to control the ď¬nances of the province through the passage of appropriations
bills was nothing new. According to Lawmaking and Legislators, Friends had been using this
technique to manipulate the governors and proprietor since the 1690s. Governor William
Markham âwas forced to accept the enactment of a new constitution, the Frame of Government
of 1696, in order to obtain a grant of additional funds to aid in the defense of New York.â LL,
Political Schism and Rise of John Dickinson 181
petitions to the crown, insinuating that their civil and religious privileges were
being trampled upon.12 Then, in a move that was exactly the opposite of Kin-
seyâ™s in the 1740s â“ refusing to give money at all and claiming paciď¬sm as the
reason â“ they established a committee themselves and, rather than giving the
money to the king âfor his purposes,â they paid the committee directly to buy
provisions for royal soldiers.13 They did this in order to ingratiate themselves
with the crown, and in doing so, they blatantly ignored the traditional distinc-
tions Quakers had made between things belonging to Caesar and God. As Jack
Marietta put it, âThe assemblymen were not rendering to Caesar; they were
The actions of the Assembly highlighted the fundamental dilemma paciď¬sts
must face when they control a civil government â“ their duty to protect its inhab-
itants. Norris himself seemed genuinely to desire a world in which Quakerly
peace would prevail. âCould the world be brought into a general System of
Peace,â he wrote, âthe avowed Principles of this Colony would certainly be
very agreeable to the Christian profession in its greater purity.â Unfortunately,
the reality of the situation was otherwise, and Norris explained that âas that
prospect is very distant,â the Assembly had a political obligation to uphold.
â[W]hile we hold our share of Governmt,â Norris explained, âit becomes nec-
essary for our Assemblys whose immediate concern it is to Tax themselves and
their Constituents, to contribute the means of supporting it in the best manner
we can.â But for the moment, in spite of the transgression of the historic inter-
pretation of the peace testimony that was taking place, Norris was conď¬dent it
was not a serious problem. âSome of our members at ď¬rst hesitated upon the
mode of [defending the colony] but,â he said, âupon examination I presume
all were made easy.â15
The Political Schism
But Norris was mistaken about the ease with which his brethren accepted
the decision of the Assembly on defense. They, in fact, did not. Whatever the
motives of the Assembly, that they were transgressing the peace testimony
while claiming that their religious rights were being violated by the governor
made them hypocrites in the eyes of many, including their brethren.16 This
incident would become increasingly problematic for a number of members of
the Society over the next few months. As far as they were concerned, Quak-
ers in ofď¬ce were being too fractious and disrespectful both to the authorities
and the Society. Accordingly, in May of 1756, PYM wrote an epistle to Lon-
don Meeting for Sufferings concerning its position in relation to the political
12 PA, 5: 3703â“13.
13 PA, 5: 3841, and Marietta, The Reformation of American Quakerism, 140.
14 Marietta, The Reformation of American Quakerism, 141.
15 Isaac Norris Letterbook, May 25, 1755, 77, HQC.
16 Marietta, The Reformation of American Quakerism, 140.
182 Quaker Constitutionalism in Theory and Practice
situation in the province. It was a revealing document. Their ď¬rst concern was
âto give the Proprietaries some Assurance that whatever may be the Sentiments
and Conduct of others, there is a considerable number of Friends who sincerely
desire by following those Things which make for peace to revive and preserve
our Friendship with them.â This was a drastically new tone toward the Pro-
prietary. Philadelphia Friends could be certain that their message would assure
a sharp distinction between them and members of the Quaker Party. Second,
they wanted âto avert the Consequences we apprehend from the Assemblyâ™s
address to the King.â They were afraid, they explained, that the London Meet-
ing and the Proprietors âmight be induced to judge the Sentiments of Friends
here to be different from what we hope and believe they are.â In other words,
they did not want anyone to mistake what they wrote for âa vindication of the
Conduct of the Assembly.â Neither did they want the behavior of the Assembly
construed as âbeing consonant to our religious Sentiments or agreeable to us
in every Instance.â But the most powerful statement in the epistle was yet to
come. In a move calculated to seal the break between the Religious Society of
Friends and the Quaker Party, they wrote:
[I]t hath been clear that human contrivances and policy have been too much depended
on and such measures pursued as have ministered causes of real sorrow to the Faithful,
so that we think it is necessary that the same distinction may be made among you
and out to be here between the Acts and Resolutions of the Assembly of this Province
thoâ™ the majority of them are our Brethren in profession and our Acts as a Religious
To prove their sincerity, the truly faithful âappear by freely resigning or parting
with these temporal Advantages and Privileges we have heretofore enjoyed, if
they cannot be preserved without violation of that Testimony on the Faithful
maintaining of which our true peace and Unity depends.â This epistle was
signed by some of the most prominent Quakers of the day, including Israel
Pemberton and Anthony Benezet. In short, many Friends came to believe as
Samuel Fothergill would put it later, that â[t]he Assembly have sold their
testimony as Friends to the peopleâ™s fears.â18
The event that followed marked a signiď¬cant moment in Quaker history, the
âQuaker Reformation.â It should be considered both a political and a religious
event. In 1756 several Quaker members of the Assembly abdicated their seats
in the House. Norris did not seem surprised when he recorded that â[s]ix of
our Members of Assembly (all friends) have resigned their Seats in ye House,
& I have this day Issued writs for a new Election.â Eventually, ten Friends
abdicated ofď¬ce that year. Norris, ever the politician, even claimed that the
voluntary resignation of the Assemblymen could be considered a victory of
sorts for the Quaker Party â“ it was proof against the governorâ™s charge âthat
17 PYM to London Meeting for Sufferings, 5th mo. 1756, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, Minutes,
18 Samuel Fothergill, âThe Life of Samuel Fothergill,â Friendsâ™ Library, 9: 170.
Political Schism and Rise of John Dickinson 183
[Quakers] use all arts to Possess and are tenacious of the Power they acquire
by every stratagem & all ye Inď¬‚uence they are masters of.â He concluded that
â[s]uch facts [their] Resignation must confute with great force, for facts my
frd are stubborn things.â19 Benjamin Franklin, a rising ď¬gure in Pennsylvania
politics and one who had less regard for the peace testimony than Norris, wrote
triumphantly that â[a]ll the Stiffrumps except One, that could be suspected
of opposing the Service from religious Motives, have voluntarily quitted the
Assembly.â20 But while Norris and others downplayed the turmoil caused
by Friends leaving ofď¬ce, John Pemberton commented that the events âhave
producâ™d a greater & more fatal change both with respect to our State of
affairs in general & among us as a Society than Seventy preceding years.â21 The
way events unfolded after the âReformation,â it would seem that Pembertonâ™s
assessment was the more accurate one.
Reď¬‚ecting on his civic duty during this tumultuous time and comparing
himself to his brethren, Norris wrote, âMy own thoughts of the duties of a
publick Character may probably be more enlarged than those of some of my
very worthy Frds and Acquaintances.â Taking what was considered a worldly
path by many Friends, Norris explained that â[m]y own inclinations for many
years have been strongly bent upon retreat and the publick station I suffer
myself to hold arises from a Duty I apprehend every member of Society owes
to the Publik when that Duty becomes binding upon him by the voluntary call of
others.â22 This penchant for withdrawal from the public sphere for the sake of
purity, while not historically an aspect of traditional Quaker behavior â“ as Penn
had advised his children, they should assume ofď¬ce if God called them to â“ was
nonetheless an inclination that many Quakers, even more aggressive politicians
such as Norris, struggled against.23 On the other hand, it must have been clear,
even to Norris, that his Assembly had set a dangerous precedent in allowing
19 Isaac Norris Letterbook, June 16, 1756, 100, HQC.
20 Benjamin Franklin, quoted in LL, 2: 71. See also PA, 4: 565â“66.
21 John Pemberton to John Fothergill, November 27, 1755, Pemberton Papers, XI, 20, HSP.
Scholars dispute the character of their withdrawal from government. Marietta writes that
âthese Friends did not espouse abandoning government in order to escape being tainted by
the world beyond the Society of Friends. Instead, they had a vision that more might be done
for society, or its suffering members, from a private station and in a philanthropic wayâ (The
Reformation of American Quakerism, 136). It is no doubt true that Friends continued to work
for the improvement of society out of ofď¬ce and to engage politically. In their own terms,
however, it is hard to understand their withdrawal from government as anything but a protest
against the political world and a quest for purity. Frederick Tolles ď¬nds that Friends left ofď¬ce
because political power forced them to dilute their religious testimony. âThe exercise of political
power involved compromise,â he writes, which in turn necessitated âsome abatement of Quaker
ideasâ (Tolles, Quakers and the Atlantic Culture, 50).
22 Isaac Norris Letterbook, May 25, 1755, 77, HQC.
23 It is worth noting, however, that many gentlemen considered public service a burden of their
rank in society, and something they performed only out of a sense of obligation to those beneath
them. The desire to withdraw into private life, then, did not belong exclusively to Quakers. On
the duty of gentlemen to hold ofď¬ce, see Gordon Wood, The Radicalism of the American
Revolution (New York: Vintage Books, 1993), 77â“92.
184 Quaker Constitutionalism in Theory and Practice
Friends to prepare actively for war. With their ascendance into a leadership
role, navigating between extremes of quietism and violence was becoming
more difď¬cult for Quakers to maintain amongst themselves and enforce in
Dissemination of the Quaker Ethic of Dissent and the Rise of the Radicals
Those who abdicated might have been able to assuage their consciences and
ensure their own purity by removing themselves from the corrupt atmosphere
of the Assembly, but at that moment they also ceased to take responsibility for
the culture of dissent that they had created. When the most paciď¬c Friends left
ofď¬ce, they took much of their peace testimony with them. As we have seen, this
testimony was more than simply a stance against war; it was a code of behav-
ior for Friends and restraining mechanism on the libertinism inherent in their
theologico-political theory and practice. It circumscribed individualsâ™ dealings
with one another and helped preserve the unity of the polity. Historically, the
peace testimony did not necessarily restrain Friends from enthusiastic politick-
ing and sometimes vicious partisanship. But until now, it had served its purpose
in preserving the fundamental constitution of the Quaker polity. From their
earliest dealings with the civil governments of England, Massachusetts, and
Pennsylvania, Quakers continually struggled against the authorities to secure
their liberties and privileges. Yet, as we have seen, they restricted their behavior
to include only reform of the government, not its overthrow. Although there
was more turmoil and clamor for rights in the Pennsylvania government than
might have been expected in a Quaker colony, it was also the colony with the
strongest assembly, with the one of the oldest constitutions, and it was the only
one of the major colonies in which political change through violence or threat
of violence had not been attempted.24 But now, in 1756, there was a funda-
mental change in Pennsylvania. Over the previous seventy years, Friends had
created an extremely active culture of political dissent, and then in the space
of two years, they suddenly removed the two biggest checks on it â“ the peace
testimony and then themselves as models for and enforcers of the Quaker pro-
cess of dissent. They left more hawkish Friends and their supporters to guide
Mistakes some scholars have made are assuming, ď¬rst, that the Assem-
blymen who withdrew represented the predominant strain of Quakerism in
government, and second, that the abdication of these Friends meant the end of
all Quaker participation in politics and civic life. A number of Quaker politi-
cians in good standing with PYM did continue to hold ofď¬ce and wield power
after 1756, and many Friends continued their engagement in the civil sphere for
political causes. Scholars have not considered the import of the political culture
that survived the partial Quaker abdication. Not only did a distinctive culture
24 Greene, âThe Growth of Political Stability: An Interpretation of Political Development in the
Anglo American Colonies, 1660â“1760,â in Negotiated Authorities, 131â“62.
Political Schism and Rise of John Dickinson 185
remain, it continued stronger than ever, but now trifurcated in traditional, rad-
ical, and withdrawing forms. It is the radical culture and the practices that we
will turn to next. Grown from the dissenting culture of the previous decades,
as evidenced by the Paxton Riot, it would ultimately be something against
which the withdrawing Quakers would protest vehemently â“ the American
A perennial problem of Quakerism has always been how to keep people
from adopting the liberating aspects of the doctrine of the Inward Light, while
at the same time respecting the other fundamental aspects of Quakerism such as
peace, unity, and ecclesiastical authority. Since the earliest days, Friends strug-
gled to make people both in- and outside of their Society understand the true
meaning of the Light. The Quaker process of discerning Godâ™s will through the
Light was liberating, but also limiting. As individuals were freed from worldly
authority, they were subject to Godâ™s law as it was interpreted by the body
of the meeting. Even among Friends, however, this had not always been clear.
Many of the ď¬rst Friends were formerly Ranters and Levellers, who were seen
as radical individualists with little sense of political obligation. William Penn
chided the Ranters, saying, âThey would have had every man independent,
that as he had the [Light] in himself, he should stand and fall to that, and
nobody elseâ and that they âweakly mistook good order in the government of
church affairs for discipline in worship.â26 When too many people persisted in
identifying Quakerism with Ranterism, Robert Barclay attempted to distance
Friends from them and advocate a stronger church government in The Anar-
chy of the Ranters. More than a century later, one of the chief concerns of
the prominent eighteenth-century minister George Churchman was that âthose
who are unfaithful to that which opens the inward eye, and discover what is
necessary to be followed, are liable to start aside, grow unruly and testy.â27
If it was difď¬cult to make convinced Friends aware of the true meaning of the
Inward Light with all its implications for the community, it was doubly hard
to pass along this sense to non-Friends. Quakers continually confronted this
problem in their proselytizing. Puritans in seventeenth-century New England,
for example, misunderstood what Friends meant by the Light of Christ within.
They were certain that Quakers considered themselves to be Christ and
denounced them as heretics, and arrogant ones at that. At the turn of the nine-
teenth century, respected Friend James Bringhurst expressed his concern about
non-Friends misunderstanding the Quaker message. âI ď¬nd it is the case,â he
said, âthat many [people] at times attend [meeting] who are afraid of the cross
in being members and therefore can indulge in their own ways.â And, he adds,
25 Hutson, Pennsylvania Politics, 4. Beeman describes it not as a dissenting culture but as a
âpopularâ culture. It appears we mean the same thing â“ the (inadvertent) cultivation by Quakers
of a radical strain of behavior that challenged their hegemony. I ď¬nd it useful to be more speciď¬c
about the character of that culture to elucidate its connection to Quaker theologico-political
26 Hill, The World Turned Upside Down, 253.
27 Journal of George Churchman, 7th mo. 23rd day, 1804. 8: 95, HQC.
186 Quaker Constitutionalism in Theory and Practice
these people have âbrought Friends into disrepute.â28 For Bringhurst, what was
important was not that the attenders were not becoming convinced Friends,
but rather that they were adopting some aspects of Quakerism â“ the readily
appealing ones â“ and leaving the burdensome ones behind. But many Quakers
either did not acknowledge or recognize the relationship of their encourag-
ing individuals to âfollow the Truth in [oneâ™s] own heartâ and the âgrievous
refractory libertine spiritâ that resulted from it.29 This same misappropriation
of Quaker principles is evident in mid-eighteenth-century Pennsylvania politics.
The Quakers were more successful than they probably ever imagined at
disseminating some of their principles and promoting their unique political
style. âCivil Quakerismâ was not just commented on by denizens of Pennsyl-
vania, it was adopted. Early in the history of the province, Isaac Norris, Sr.,
identiď¬ed a troubling attitude in the Assembly. He observed to Penn in 1709
that âa strange, unaccountable humour, [has] almost become a custom now,
[of] straining and resenting everything, of creating monsters and then com-
bating them.â30 By 1742, Governor Thomas noted during his battle with the
Assembly that âthe seeds of Dissention have been plentifully sownâ by Quaker
politicians.31 By the late 1740s, they had blossomed. It was clear that the mis-
sionizing was working â“ at least in part. Observers noted that there were men
âwho call . . . [themselves] Quaker but hath not the least appearance of one of
that Stamp either in Garb, Conversation, or Behaviour.â32 Likewise, historians
have acknowledged this dissemination of the Quaker ethic of resistance and
dissent in general, claiming that Quakerism was sometimes used as a âvehicle
for rebellionâ by women who wanted to âdeny the male-dominated spiritual
and civil regimeâ or by young men rebelling against parental authority.33
Quakers had perhaps not expected such a degree and kind of success; or,
if they did, they had not prepared for it. During this period, the âseeds of
Dissentionâ had sprouted and begun to bear fruit â“ or as a Quaker oppo-
nent described the Quakerized politicians, â[b]astards begot by the Quakers
on the body politic.â34 In the government as well as in their religious meet-
ing, they were aware that some of their doctrines were ârejected by such as
are not watchful, and so [these people] are out of the Feeling and Unity of
Life.â35 As the Quaker cause expanded beyond narrow Quaker interests to
the âgeneral cause of liberty,â so were their cause, manner, and some of their
28 James Bringhurst to Thomas Pole, 12th mo. 29th day 1802, Bringhurst Letters, FHL.
29 William Reckitt, âLife of William Reckitt,â Friendsâ™ Library, 9: 65 and 72.
30 Isaac Norris to Penn, 2nd of the 10th mo., 1709, Penn-Logan Corresp., 2: 417.
31 PA, 4: 2744.
32 Robert Jenney, October 1748, cited in Tully, Forming American Politics, 298.
33 See Carla Gardina Pestana, âThe City upon a Hill under Siege: The Puritan Perception of the
Quaker Threat to Massachusetts Bay, 1656â“1661,â The New England Quarterly vol. 56, no. 3
(1983), 323â“53, 348. Also, Hill, The World Turned Upside Down, 311.
34 Lynford Lardner to Richard Penn, March 7, 1758, quoted in Tully, Forming American Politics,
35 Barclay, Anarchy, 53.
Political Schism and Rise of John Dickinson 187
method adopted by broader interests out of keeping with Quakerism. Indeed,
as Alan Tully has described, wherever the Quakersâ™ opponents were successful
in making head-way against them, it was because they had adopted the Quak-
ersâ™ modus operandi.36 Clearly, Friends had limited control over who adopted
their political ideology and style or how it was used once it left the immediate
bounds of their Society. The solution was relatively simple in their religious
polity: discipline or disown the person who âscattereth himself.â37 But they
could not purify civil society by simply exiling undesirables as Puritans did. In
the ď¬rst place, this was not the Quaker way. In the second, the political culture
was now replete with these scattering types who were impossible to extricate.
By the 1760s, even when many âQuakerâ politicians were not actually
Quakers, they were still persistently identiď¬ed as such by their Proprietary
opponents.38 Evidence of the conď¬‚ation of the Society of Friends with the
Quaker Party can be seen clearly in the political fallout from the 1764 incident
with the Paxton Boys, the only violent challenge to the Pennsylvania govern-
ment. In the wake of the French and Indian War, tensions were high between
Indians, who were frustrated by their treatment from the British, and fron-
tiersmen, who were unprotected by the Assembly. These non-Quaker settlers
believed the Assembly was giving preferential treatment to the Indians. The
hostile Ottawa Tribe attacked the whites, and the frontiersmen took up arms
to protect themselves. Ultimately, the colonists ended up slaughtering numer-
ous members of the Conestoga Tribe, a peaceful group of Christian Indians
whom they believed were spies for the hostile tribes. The Paxton Boys, as the
rioters became known, then marched on Philadelphia, intent on overthrow-
ing the Quaker regime. Then, in a response that only fueled the charges of
hypocrisy against Friends, some radical Quakers and their supporters took up
arms themselves, and prepared to meet the Paxtons in the city.39
The Paxton incident is signiď¬cant in several ways. First, what it shows us
immediately is the clear link in the public mind between members of the Society
of Friends and the Quaker Party. Second, as will be discussed further later, the
upheaval contributed to the growing rift between Quaker and non-Quaker
factions within the Assembly. And third, as will be developed in the next
chapters, this split metamorphosed into groups that would contend bitterly
against each other during the Revolutionary period.
The pamphlet war and the series of political cartoons published after the
incident show that there was no distinction made between the Quakers and
the Quaker Party. In the cartoons, all of the peculiarities of dress and speech
associated with Friends were portrayed in the caricatures of Quaker politicians
engaging in illicit dealings with one another, heavy drinking, oppression of the
36 Tully, Forming American Politics, 258.
37 Barclay, Anarchy, 49.
38 Richard Alan Ryerson ď¬nds that in 1764, 42 percent of the Assembly was Quaker. âPortrait of
a Colonial Oligarchy,â in Power and Status, 112.
39 For a detailed account of the incident, see Brooke Hindle, âThe March of the Paxton Boys,â
WMQ 3rd ser., vol. 3, no. 4 (1946), 461â“86.
188 Quaker Constitutionalism in Theory and Practice
figure 6. A 1764 political cartoon depicting the tensions between the Quaker govern-
ment and the Paxton Boys. The Quakers (in broad-brimmed hats) are shown groping an
Indian woman and arming themselves against the frontiersmen as Benjamin Franklin,
one of the leaders of the Quaker Party, watches from behind the scenes. âAn Indian
Squaw King Wampum spies/Which makes his lustful passions rise./But while he doth a
friendly Jobb, /She dives her hand into his Fob./And thence conveys as we are told;/His
Watch whose Cases nâ™ere of Gold./When Dangers threaten tis mere nonsense:/To talk of
such a thing as Conscience./To Arms to Arms with one Accord,/The Sword of Quakers
and the Lord./Fill Bumpers then of Rum or Arrack:/Weâ™ll drink Success to the new Bar-
rack./Fight Dog! Fight Bear! Youâ™re all my Friend[s]./By you I shall attain my Ends:/For I
can never be content/Till I have got the Government./But if from this Attempt I fall,/Then
let the Devil take you all.â (LCP)
Germans, and lewd acts with a half-clad Indian woman (Figure 6). A similar
conď¬‚ation occurs in The Quaker Unmaskâ™d, the most inď¬‚amed pamphlet on
the Paxton incident. The pamphleteers did not even bother to use the name
Quaker Party, and instead merely referred to the Quakers or the Society.40
This confusion was no doubt compounded â“ and perhaps even cultivated â“ by
one of the leaders of the Quaker Party at the time, Benjamin Franklin.
40 For a discussion of the pamphlet war and the accompanying cartoons, see Alison Olson, âThe
Pamphlet War over the Paxton Boys,â PMHB vol. 123, nos. 1/2 (1999), 31â“55.
Political Schism and Rise of John Dickinson 189
Though frequently mistaken in popular culture today for a Friend, Franklin
was not. In fact, he disagreed with some of the most basic Quaker principles,
most importantly, paciď¬sm. Moreover, as we shall presently see, his political
style put him at odds with many of the truly Quaker politicians. But he learned
well from Quakers. His autobiography is rich with accounts of the Quaker
inď¬‚uences on this thought and behavior. No doubt because of this inď¬‚uence,
he was an excellent politician. When it served his purposes, he took what he
needed from Quakerism and left the rest. The most obvious evidence of this is
when he dressed and acted like a Quaker for calculated effect. During his travels