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THE HICKSITE SEPARATION ON NANTUCKET By Robert J. Leach* The tragedy of the Great Schism of 1827-1828 had its limited repercussion in New England primarily on the meetings on the island of Nantucket. Fortunately for us, one of the main participants , Obed Macy, was not only a sensitive Quaker elder, but an historian. His history of Nantucket is generally welcomed as the best of pre-twentieth century accounts. During the Hicksite controversy Friend Obed kept, his own running commentary contemporaneously with the events, beginning in the autumn of 1828 and ending in the autumn of 1835. This account, labelled "A Compendium, or abstract history, or a narrative of the Monthly Meeting on Nantucket toward their members—commenced in the eleventh month 1828,"1 indicates by its inception that Obed Macy was aware that troubles were brewing for Quakerism on the island. Macy was no ordinary member. He had been clerk of the original Nantucket Monthly Meeting thirty years earlier when forty years old. He had served actively in every phase of monthly meeting appointments. His portrait reveals an open sensitive countenance fiamed in appropriate Quaker simplicity. The great separation did not come unknown and unexpected upon the Island Quaker establishment. The Friends there had welcomed Hannah Jenkins Barnard, a minister from Hudson Monthly Meeting in New York, itself almost a colony of Nantucket , shortly before her fateful trip to the British Isles where her * Robert Leach, recently retired from the staff of the International School in Geneva, has done much research in Nantucket history. The current article is based on a similar shorter account published earlier in Nantucket History but herein extensively revised and expanded. In consultation with the author the editor has done extensive research in the minutes of those meetings in New England Yearly Meeting that were concerned with the happenings discussed and has incorporated the findings as appropriate in the article. Elizabeth Moger, Keeper of Records of the Haviland Records Room of New York Yearly Meeting, has investigated the actions of the Westbury Quarterly Meeting and New York Yearly Meeting (Hicksite) for their part in the affair, for which assistance both the author and the editor are extremely grateful. Witii the results of these researches the full story of the events described can now be told. A brief account of this episode is to be found in Alexander Starbuck's The History of Nantucket (Boston, 1924), pp. 538-540. 31 32Quaker History advanced views on the question of the divine inspiration of the Old Testament led to her disownment.2 This controversial event occurred in 1800, not long after Nantucket Monthly Meeting had set off its northern portion as Nantucket Monthly Meeting for the Northern District in 1794. A new meetinghouse (56'x38') had been built on Broad Street in 1792, and later the same year the old meetinghouse had been reconstructed on Main and Pleasant streets. The latter was presumably a larger structure than the North Meetinghouse as the membership of the two monthly meetings stood at approximately 500 and 800 respectively in 1794. The American Revolution had deprived the Newport, Rhode Island, Meeting of the pre-eminence that body had exercised in New England Quakerism for a century, and it looked for a moment as though Nantucket Monthly Meeting might become the new center of leadei-ship. Resistance against this was strong in Providence Monthly Meeting where Moses Brown was a leading member . His only rival, William Rotch, had emigrated first to Dunkirk in France at the end of the Revolution, and then in 1795 he had returned to New Bedford which soon succeeded Nantucket as the new center of the whaling industry. The New Bedford Meeting had taken on monthly meeting status in 1792 and it soon became the successor of Newport as the center of New England Quakerism. Subsequently New Bedford Friends established a secondary Friends' Academy and William Rotch, Jr., one of their leading members, became yearly meeting clerk.3 Meanwhile the growth of Unitarianism had struck at the privileged position of the "standing order" in Massachusetts. In 1805 Harvard College had gone over to- the radicals, followed by twenty of the original twenty-five Puritan churches near Boston, and in...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1934-1504
Print ISSN
0033-5053
Pages
pp. 31-53
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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