Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Americans: The Colonial Experience. Part 2. The Inwanrd Plantation: The Quakers of Pennsylvania

Chapter 6.  Quest for Martyrdom

  • Set of attitudes which fit textbook definition (myth) of American democracy
    • belief in equality
    • informality
    • toleration
    • general creed, rigidly and obstinately adhered to
  • Those who ventured to New England were not warmly greeted
    • Puritans wanted to keep their community pure
    • encountered a similar singlemindedness of another orthodoxy
    • legal penalties against intruders were increased (a misguided approach, as the store of Mary Dyer shows)

Chapter 7.  Trials of Governing:  The Oath.
  • life in Europe had not trained Quakers to understand government responsibility
    • America was a new experiment
    • and, for them, a failure in this regard
  • contempt for rank and custom
    • refusal to remove hat
    • drab costume
    • became known as peculiar people
  • while Quaker dogma became more fixed and uncompromising, Puritanism became more compromising
  • Quakers' weaknesses and undoings in a community building program
    • farmlessness
    • mysticism
    • insistence on personal rectitude and purity
    • became too true to their teachings
  • first half-century of Pennsylvania history was prosperous
  • Quakers' refusal to take oaths (p. 43-48)

Chapter 8.  Trials of Governing:  Pacifism
  • colonial wars
    • becoming an integral part of European politics
    • ideal environment for testing Quaker principles
    • two early wars where Quakers refused to act
      • King William's War -- 1689
      • Queen Anne's War (War of the Spanish Succession, c. 1713
    • major test
      • King Georges War (war of Austrian succession)
      • struggle between non-Quaker governor and Quaker community
      • emergence of compromise leadership under Ben Franklin, which eventually displaced the rigid rule of Quaker minority
    • Franklin's conclusions
      • duty of government to protect its people
      • Quakers should withdraw and let others rule and defend colony

Chapter 9.  How Quakers Misjudged the Indians
  • view of Indian similar to attitude toward war
    • unrealistic
    • inflexible
    • based on false premise about human nature
  • increasing, westward-flowing population
    • passing like a tidal wave over Indian lands
    • mighty force meeting a long-unmoved body
    • Quaker policy demonstrated a spectacular lack of practical vision
  • appropriation of money to Indians led to purchase of guns (by Indians) and massacre of Irish and German settlers sin western Pennsylvania
  • mid 1750's led to a growing and unprecedented division of sentiment within Quaker community
  • preoccupation with principles blinded them to the most obvious facts.  Noble intentions only led to meddling activities.

Chapter 10.  The Withdrawal
  • In 1756, despite growing opposition, Quakers were still in power
  • six leading Quakers in Assembly resign on June 4, 1756
    • stormy 75 years of Quaker rules ended
    • to many the accusation that "to govern is absolutely repugnant to the avowed principles of Quakerism" was confirmed
    • abdication of political power by the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, the highest authority of Quakers in Pennsylvania
    • one of Quaker's more practical decisions, though their naivete was demonstrated by their secret desire to return to power with the peace of 1760
  • remained neutral during Revolutionary War
    • charges of fanaticism in 1756
    • charges of treason in 1776
  • after withdrawal from government, Quakers turned inward to purify their sect
    • attempted to build a wall against alien influences
    • humanitarian currents grew stronger as political ones weakened
      • joined in the abolitionist movement
      • building of hospitals
      • humanizing prisons and insane asylums
Chapter 11.  The Curse of Perfectionism
  • self-purity and perfectionism
    • preoccupation (obsession) with the purity of their souls
    • occasionally, Quakers in power seemed more concerned with their own principles rather than with welfare (or survival) of the province itself
    • chose a solution to a problem which kept themselves pure, sometimes at the expense of others
      • oaths -- sacrifice of criminal laws
      • militarism -- massacre of hundreds in western Pa.
    • turning inward blinded them to certain facts
      • character of the Indians
      • threat of western borderlands
      • self-interest of other men
  • Cosmopolitanism
    • subject to constant persuasion, surveillance and scrutiny from afar
      • powerful ruler of London Yearly Meeting
      • Society of Friends had  become an international conspiracy for peace and primitive Christmas perfection
      • emissaries from London tried to shape Pennsylvania policy in they interests of the international Quaker community
      • pushed towards rigid orthodoxy
    • close ties to England
      • strengthened Quakerism
      • weakened influence in American society
  • Insularity
    • geographical
      • did not move westward from original settlement
      • learned or comprehended no new attitudes about their surroundings
      • became "dissenters in our own country"
    • instead of going to their unenlightened neighbors, they traveled from one Meeting to another to sage society from trifling faults
    • made a dogma out of the absence of dogm a
      • to them, a true Christian should have no creed
      • haunted by fear that every compromise was a defeat, that to modity anything might be to lose everything

Page 1 of a book review from the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, January 1960.

Related post:
The Americans: The Colonial Experience by Daniel Boorstin (Part One, Outlined).  (12/8/2014)

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