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COLONEL WASHINGTON AND THE QUAKER CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTORS By Peter Brock* Stephen B. Weeks in his well-known account of Southern Quaker history refers briefly to the sufferings of seven young Virginia Friends conscripted into the militia in the spring of 1756 to serve under Colonel George Washington at Winchester, then situated on the Western frontier. "This," wrote Weeks, "was probably the severest trial through which Virginia Friends were called to go" on account of their peace testimony. Weeks based his account mainly on the manuscript records of Virginia Yearly Meeting.1 Further information on the subject has been derived from the published papers of Governor Dinwiddie2 and of Washington .3 The story as it appeared to the young men themselves is told in the manuscript "Narrative" printed below as Document B, which to the best of my knowledge is being published here for the first time.4 The accompanying letter (Document A) of the young men's mentor Edward Stabler,6 while it appeared indeed in a Quaker periodical of the last century, seems worthy of republication, especially as it is probably unknown to most readers of this journal. * Peter Brock, Associate Professor of History at Columbia University, is now engaged in writing a history of pacifism. 1 Stephen B. Weeks, Southern Quakers and Slavery (Baltimore, 1896), pp. 175, 176. 2 Robert Dinwiddie (1693-1770), Lieutenant-Governor of Virginia, 17511758 . He was particularly interested in the promotion of British imperial interests in the Ohio valley. 3 See, for example, Paul F. Boiler, Jr., "George Washington and the Quakers," Bulletin of Friends Historical Association, XLIX (I960), 69, 70 (also in his book George Washington and Religion (Dallas, Texas, 1963), pp. 128-129). 4MS in the Charles Roberts Autograph Collection, Haverford College Library. 5 Reprinted in The British Friend (Glasgow), May 1, 1889, p. 105, from the Manchester Guardian. The letter is taken from Edward Stabler's letterbook, then evidently in the possession of his descendants. Edward Stabler, Sr., was born in York (England) of Quaker parentage and emigrated as a young man to America in 1753. Settling first in Philadelphia, he later removed to Petersburg, Virginia, where he became a highly respected merchant and a prominent member of Virginia Yearly Meeting. See William Stabler, A Memoir of the Life of Edward Stabler (Philadelphia, 1846), pp. 13-15, where a few particulars are given concerning the elder Edward Stabler. 12 Washington and the Quaker C.O.'s13 The outbreak of the French and Indian War in 1755, the subsequent defeat of General Braddock by the French, and the exposure of the province's Western frontier to the attacks of hostile Indians had caused the Virginia Assembly to pass more stringent militia regulations. Section X of its act of March 1756, which superseded militia legislation of the previous August, equally unsatisfactory from Friends' point of view, laid down that, if the quota for the state militia could not be filled by voluntary enlistment , a ballot should be held among the single able-bodied males to choose every twentieth man for active service within the boundaries of the province.6 Exemption could be obtained on payment of the sum of ten pounds or by providing a substitute , both of which alternatives were against Friends' peace principles and practice. Though this was not specifically stated in the act, the intention of the Assembly was to send the new recruits to reinforce twenty-four-year-old George Washington, who in the previous year had been promoted to the rank of colonel and put in command of the provincial militia with his headquarters at Winchester. The approach of hostilities and the passing of new and more stringent militia legislation by the Assembly had aroused apprehension among Virginia Friends that a new period of persecution was at hand. At their Yearly Meeting, held at Curies7 early in June 1756, a committee was appointed to watch the situation and to take what steps might be necessary in dealing with the authorities. Already, barely a week before Yearly Meeting had assembled, seven young members belonging to Cedar Creek Monthly Meeting8 had been placed under arrest for refusal to comply with the new militia regulations. (It is their¬ęSee William Waller...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1934-1504
Print ISSN
0033-5053
Pages
pp. 12-26
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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