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Slavery and the Meetinghouse

The Quakers and the Abolitionist Dilemma, 1820-1865

Ryan P. Jordan

Publication Year: 2007

Ryan P. Jordan explores the limits of religious dissent in antebellum America, and reminds us of the difficulties facing reformers who tried peacefully to end slavery. In the years before the Civil War, the Society of Friends opposed the abolitionist campaign for an immediate end to slavery and considered abolitionists within the church as heterodox radicals seeking to destroy civil and religious liberty. In response, many Quaker abolitionists began to build "comeouter" institutions where social and legal inequalities could be freely discussed, and where church members could fuse religious worship with social activism. The conflict between the Quakers and the Abolitionists highlights the dilemma of liberal religion within a slaveholding republic.

Published by: Indiana University Press

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pp. ix-xiii

This book explores the manner in which the Society of Friends (Quakers) translated their critique of state-sanctioned force into political practice when confronting the antebellum American movement for immediate emancipation. The Society of Friends, both in the United States and in Great Britain, had represented the vanguard of opposition to slavery during the late eighteenth...

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pp. xiii-xiv

This book dates from my time at the University of California, Los Angeles, and without the early encouragement of Joyce Appleby, I would not have thought to stick with the topic of Quakers and abolitionists as a graduate student. At Princeton, my dissertation advisor, James McPherson, made helpful comments on several drafts of this project from its earliest stages. Thanks also to Sean Wilentz, Christine...

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Introduction: Quakers, Slavery, and the “Peaceable Kingdom”

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pp. 1-23

For some, the term “Quaker” conjures up images of Edward Hicks’s nineteenth- century paintings depicting the “Peaceable Kingdom.” Based on Isaiah’s prophesies concerning the ultimate victory of the Christian “Prince of Peace,” Hicks’s paintings exempli¤ed the Quaker hope in the oneness of humanity and nature with God. In the peaceable kingdom, con®ict and strife caused by human frailty had been banished, and...

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1. Quaker Gradualists and the Challenge of Abolitionism

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pp. 24-40

In addition to the dif¤culties facing Quaker gradualists in the slave states by the early 1830s, the majority of Friends living in the northeastern and midwestern states had to contend with the widespread controversy generated by the American Anti-Slavery Society’s petition and postal campaigns during the middle years of the decade. Urban riots and threats of disunion from slaveholding congressmen seemed to follow the new immediatist...

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2. Slavery, Religious Liberty, and the “Political” Abolitionism ofthe Indiana Anti-Slavery Friends

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pp. 41-66

The steady escalation of disputes over slavery between Quaker abolitionists and their more conservative brethren soon led to divisions between the reformers and their coreligionists. The

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3. Friends and the “Children of Africa”: Quaker Abolitionists Confront the Negro Pew

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pp. 67-80

Throughout the antebellum era, radical anti-slavery Quakers sought to rede¤ ne the meaning and organization of church membership by demanding church leaders end worldly hierarchies that impeded the realization of God’s kingdom in this world. Like their activist counterparts in other Protestant denominations, Quaker abolitionists believed that their church should speak out against or work to eliminate racial prejudice...

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4. “Progressive” Friends and the Government of God

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pp. 81-103

By the end of the 1840s, Hicksite Friends confronted efforts by abolitionists to align their meetings with the political agenda of the American Anti-Slavery Society. The evolving and ultimately opposing positions of members of the American Anti-Slavery Society and Hicksite leaders vis-àvis anti-slavery demonstrated the extremely contested legacy of the Hicksite “reformation” of the Society of Friends. As a type of Quakerism...

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5. Quaker Pacifism and Civil Disobedience in the Antebellum Period

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pp. 104-121

The search for new forms of religious community that would serve an abolitionist-led revolution in American race relations encouraged Quaker members of groups such as the Anti-Slavery Friends, Progressive Friends, and Congregational Friends to advance peaceful strategies for civil disobedience against slaveholding government. In many ways, the intractability of antebellum American politicians regarding the slavery issue...

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Conclusion: “Fighting Quakers,” Abolitionists, and the Civil War

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pp. 122-134

Since the founding of the American republic, the image of the Quaker has oscillated between representations of virtue and caricatures of hypocrisy. As a religious group vocal in its opposition to things such as slavery, capital punishment, luxuriant living, and war, the Society of Friends has often possessed a presence in American life larger than its numbers. For some writers, the Quakers symbolized all that was good in a society that allowed...


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pp. 135-153


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pp. 155-179


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pp. 162-175

E-ISBN-13: 9780253117090
E-ISBN-10: 0253117097
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253348609

Page Count: 200
Illustrations: 8 b&w photos
Publication Year: 2007