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124QUAKERHISTORY The Relation of the Quakers to the American Revolution. By Arthur J. Mekeel. (Washington, D.C.: University Press of America, 1979. Pp. vii, 368. $12.00) This book is a study of the relationship of the Society of Friends in America to the developing constitutional crisis between the colonies and Britain, after 1763, and to the Revolution which ensued. When the British government began policies of colonial taxation and economic restrictions the Friends engaged in bitter protests along with their fellow colonists. They engaged in opposition to the Stamp Act and the Townshend Duties though they avoided any action which might lead to violence, but as the years wore on and the crisis deepened it appeared to many Friends that violence was inevitable. When it came, at Lexington and Concord, and the colonists began talking about independence from the mother country, the Quakers took a position against this idea, one consistent with their religious beliefs, which would make them exceedingly unpopular with many of their neighbors. The attitude they adhered to, throughout die whole Revolutionary period, was based primarily upon two conceptions, one governmental and the other religious. As long as a government acted in accordance with their consciences and beliefs they would obey it; if government acted odierwise they would engage in passive disobedience. Believing that government was divinely instituted they avoided any action designed to destroy any regime. This belief did not preclude their continuing allegiance to a government, even while protesting peacefully against its actions. From the religious standpoint they were unalterably opposed to war in any form, to bearing arms, paying substitutes to fight in their stead, paying taxes to support war, or joining in any celebration of victory. Some Friends, but not all, refused to accept colonial currency on the grounds that it was printed to further war efforts. In addition they refused to affirm allegiance to the newly formed states. These principles were not subjected to a severe test until the outbreak of hostilities in 1775. Then, throughout the colonies the Friends adhered to their beliefs with a remarkable steadfastness. Not all did so, however. When anyone, often with great reluctance, failed to conform to the Quaker testimony, he was "dealt with" in meeting and sometimes disowned. Of the 2350 disciplined, 1724 were disowned, most of them for performing military service. Some of these dissenters, choosing not to join other church groups, and others of no particular religious persuasion, joined together to form a quasi-Quaker organization that came to be known as the Free Quakers. Strongest in Pennsylvania, but with a few adherents in New England, the new society never acquired many members, and by die 183Os no more meetings were held. Although Mr. Mekeel deals with the experiences of Quakers in all of the colonies, more attention is paid to the situation in Pennsylvania than elsewhere. The reason for this is obvious: "die Quakers in Pennsylvania constituted.the largest and most influential section of the Society of Friends in America [and] their advice and action gave the cue for the conduct and attitudes of other colonial Friends." By 1760 Philadelphia, as the leading colonial commercial center, was in the hands of merchants largely dominated by affluent Quaker families. As merchants they opposed British BOOK REVIEWS AND NOTES125 policies unfavorably affecting trade, while taking a conservative position in regard to any action affecting the constitutional foundations of the province. This fear of an internal revolution, which might well endanger their privileges and rights under Penn's charter, made them oppose any break between die colonies and Britain. When the Continental Congress met in Philadelphia the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting issued an epistle pledging its loyalty and allegiance to the King. The local Friends also opposed the Continental Association. On January 20, 1776, the Philadelphia Meeting for Sufferings, in an effort to prevent Pennsylvania from supporting the radical cause, issued an Ancient Testimony which renewed allegiance to the King and opposed independence. This statement roused the ire of the patriots and brought the accusation that the Friends were dabbling in politics. They had made their position known, though, and it guided their actions throughout the Revolution. In writing this book the author has done...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1934-1504
Print ISSN
0033-5053
Pages
pp. 124-125
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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