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A Portraiture of Quakerism Volume Ii Part 3

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And here I may observe, that though there are trades, which may be innocent in themselves, yet Quakers may make them objectionable by the manner in which they may conduct themselves in disposing of the articles which belong to them. They can never pa.s.s them off, as other people do, by the declaration that they are the fashionable articles of the day.

Such words ought never to come out of Quakers' mouths; not so much because their own lives are a living protest against the fashions of the world, as because they cannot knowingly be instrumental in doing a moral injury to others. For it is undoubtedly the belief of the Quakers, as I had occasion to observe in a former volume, that the following of such fashions, begets a worldly spirit, and that in proportion as men indulge this spirit, they are found to follow the loose and changeable morality of the world, instead of the strict and steady morality of the gospel.

That some such positions as these may be fixed upon for the farther regulation of commercial concerns among the Quakers, is evident, when we consider the example of many estimable persons in this society.

The Quakers, in the early times of their inst.i.tution, were very circ.u.mspect about the nature of their occupations, and particularly as to dealing in superfluities and ornaments of the person. Gilbert Latey was one of those who bore his public testimony against them. Though he was only a tailor, he was known and highly respected by king James the Second. He would not allow his servants to put any corruptive finery upon the clothes which he had been ordered to make for others. From Gilbert Latey I may pa.s.s to John Woolman. In examining the Journal of the latter I find him speaking thus: "It had been my general practice to buy and sell things really useful. Things that served chiefly to please the vain mind in people, I was not easy to trade in; seldom did it; and whenever I did, I found it weaken me as a Christian." And from John Woolman I might mention the names of many, and, if delicacy did not forbid me, those of Quakers now living, who relinquished or regulated their callings, on an idea, that they could not consistently follow them at all, or that they could not follow them according to the usual manner of the world. I knew the relation of a Quaker-distiller, who left off his business upon principle. I was intimate with a Quaker-bookseller. He did not give up his occupation, for this was unnecessary; but he was scrupulous about the selling of an improper book. Another friend of mine, in the society, succeeded but a few years ago to a draper's shop.

The furnishing of funerals had been a profitable part of the employ. But he refused to be concerned in this branch of it, wholly owing to his scruples about it. Another had been established as a silversmith for many years, and had traded in the ornamental part of the business, but he left it wholly, though advantageously situated, for the same reason, and betook himself to another trade. I know other Quakers, who have held other occupations, not usually objectionable by the world, who have become uneasy about them, and have relinquished them in their turn.



These n.o.ble instances of the dereliction of gain, where it has interfered with principle, I feel it only justice to mention in this place. It is an homage due to Quakerism; for genuine Quakerism will always produce such instances. No true Quaker will remain in any occupation, which he believes it improper to pursue. And I hope, if there are Quakers, who mix the sale of objectionable with that of the other articles of their trade, it is because they have entered into this mixed business, without their usual portion of thought, or that the occupation itself has never come as an improper occupation before their minds.

Upon the whole, it must be stated that it is wholly owing to the more than ordinary professions of the Quakers, as a religious body, that the charges in question have been exhibited against such individuals among them, as have been found in particular trades. If other people had been found in the same callings, the same blemishes would not have been so apparent. And if others had been found in the same, callings, and it had been observed of these, that they had made all the beautiful regulations which I have shown the Quakers to have done on the subject of trade, these blemishes would have been removed from the usual range of the human vision. They would have been like the spots in the sun's disk, which are hid from the observation of the human eye, because they are lost in the superior beauty of its blaze. But when the Quakers have been looked at solely as Quakers, or as men of high religious profession, these blemishes have become conspicuous. The moon, when it eclipses the sun, appears as a blemish in the body of that luminary. So a public departure from publicly professed principles will always be noticed, because it will be an excrescence or blemish, too large and protuberant, to be overlooked in the moral character.

CHAP. V.

_Settlement of differences--Quakers, when they differ, abstain from violence--No instance of a duel--George For protested against going to law, and Recommended arbitration-Laws relative to arbitration--Account of an arbitration-society, at Newcastle upon Tyne, on Quaker-principles --Its dissolution--Such societies might be usefully promoted._

Men are so const.i.tuted by nature, and their mutual intercourse is such, that circ.u.mstances must unavoidably arise, which will occasion differences. These differences will occasionally rouse the pa.s.sions; and, after all, they will still be to be settled. The Quakers, like other men, have their differences. But you rarely see any disturbance of the temper on this account. You rarely hear intemperate invectives. You are witness to no blows. If in the courts of law you have never seen their characters stained by convictions for a breach of the marriage-contract, or the crime of adultery; so neither have you seen them disgraced by convictions for brutal violence, or that most barbarous of all Gothic customs, the duel.

It is a lamentable fact, when we consider that we live in an age, removed above eighteen hundred years from the first promulgation of Christianity, one of the great objects of which was to insist upon the subjugation of the pa.s.sions, that our children should not have been better instructed, than that we should now have to behold men, of apparently good education, settling their disputes by an appeal to arms.

It is difficult to conceive what preposterous principles can actuate men, to induce them to such a mode of decision. Justice is the ultimate wish of every reasonable man in the termination of his casual differences with others, But, in the determination of cases by the sword, the injured man not unfrequently falls, while the aggressor sometimes adds to his offence, by making a widow or an orphan, and by the murder of of a fellow-creature. But it is possible the duellist may conceive that he adds to his reputation by decisions of this sanguinary nature. But surely he has no other reputation with good men, than that of a weak, or a savage, or an infatuated creature; and, if he fells, he is pitied by these on no other motive than that of his folly and of his crime. What philosopher can extol his courage, who, knowing the bondage of the mind while under the dominion of fashion, believes that more courage is necessary in refusing a challenge, than in going into the field? What legislator can applaud his patriotism, when he sees him violate the laws of his country? What Christian his religion, when he reflects on the relative duties of man, on the law of lore and benevolence that should have guided him, on the principle that it is more n.o.ble to suffer than to resist, and on the circ.u.mstance, that he may put himself into the doubly criminal situation of a murderer and a suicide by the same act?

George Fox, in his doctrine of the influence of the spirit as a divine teacher, and in that of the necessity of the subjugation of the pa.s.sions in order that the inward man might be in a fit state to receive its admonitions, left to the society a system of education, which, if acted upon, could not fail of producing peaceable and quiet characters; but foreseeing that among the best men differences would unavoidably arise from their intercourse in business and other causes, it, was his desire that these should be settled in a Christian manner. He advised therefore that no member should appeal to law; but that he should refer his difference to arbitration, by persons of exemplary character in the society. This mode of decision appeared to him to be consistent with the spirit of Christianity, and with the advice of the apostle Paul, who recommended that all the differences among the Christians of his own time should be referred to the decision of the saints, or of such other Christians, as were eminent for their lives and conversation.

This mode of decision, which began to take place among the Quakers in the time of George Fox, has been continued by them to the present day.

Cases, where property is concerned to the amount of many thousands, are determined in no other manner. By this process the Quakers obtain their verdicts in a way peculiarly satisfactory. For law-suits are at best tedious. They often destroy brotherly love in the individuals, while they continue. They excite also, during this time, not unfrequently, a vindictive spirit, and lead to family-feuds and quarrels. They agitate the mind also, hurt the temper, and disqualify a man for the proper exercise of his devotion. Add to this, that the expenses of law are frequently so great, that burthens are imposed upon men for matters of little consequence, which they feel as evils and inc.u.mbrances for a portion of their lives; burthens which guilt alone, and which no indiscretion, could have merited. Hence the Quakers experience advantages in the settlement of their differences, which are known but to few others.

The Quakers, when any difference arises about things that are not of serious moment, generally settle it amicably between themselves; but in matters that are intricate and of weighty concern, they have recourse to arbitration. If it should happen, that they are slow in proceeding to arbitration, overseers, or any others of the society, who may come to the knowledge of the circ.u.mstance, are to step in and to offer their advice. If their advice is rejected, complaint is to be made to their own monthly meeting concerning them; after which they will come under the discipline of the society, and if they still persist in refusing to settle their differences or to proceed to arbitration, they may be disowned. I may mention here, that any member going to law with another, without having previously tried, to accommodate matters between them according to the rules of the society, comes under the discipline in like manner.

When arbitration is determined on, the Quakers are enjoined to apply to persons of their own society to decide the case. It is considered, however, as desirable, that they should not trouble their ministers, if they can help it, on these occasions, as the minds of these ought to be drawn out as little as possible into worldly concerns. If Quakers, however, should not find among Quakers such as they would choose to employ for these purposes, or such as may not possess skill in regard to the matter in dispute, they may apply to others out of the society, sooner than go to law.

The following is a concise statement of the rules recommended by the society, in the case of arbitrations.

Each party is to choose one or two friends as arbitrators, and all the persons, so chosen, are to agree upon a third or a fifth. The arbitrators are not to consider themselves as advocates for the party by whom they were chosen, but as men, whose duty it is to judge righteously, fearing the Lord. The parties are to enter into engagements to abide by the award of the arbitrators. Every meeting of the arbitrators is to be made known to the parties concerned, till they have been fully heard. No private meetings are allowed between some of the arbitrators, or with one party separate from the other, on the business referred to them. No representation of the case of one party, either by writing or otherwise, is to be admitted, without its being fully made known to the other; and, if required, a copy of such representation is to be delivered to the other party. The arbitrators are to hear both parties fully, in the presence of each other, whilst either has any fresh matter to offer, for a time mutually limited. In the case of any doubtful point of law, the arbitrators are jointly to agree upon a case, and consult counsel. It is recommended to arbitrators to propose to the parties, that they should give an acknowledgment in writing, before the award is made; that they have been candidly and fully heard.

In the same manner as a Quaker proceeds with a Quaker in the case of any difference, he is led by his education and habits to proceed with others, who are not members of the same society. A Quaker seldom goes to law with a person of another denomination, till he has proposed arbitration. If the proposal be not accepted, the Quaker has then no remedy but the law. For a person, who is out of the society, cannot be obliged upon pain of disownment, as a Quaker may, to submit to such a mode of decision, being out of the reach of the Quaker-discipline.

I shall close my observations upon this subject, by giving an account of an inst.i.tution for the accommodation of differences, which took place in the year 1793, upon Quaker principles.

In the town of Newcastle upon Tyne, a number of disputes were continually arising on the subject of shipping concerns, which were referred to the decision of the laws. These decisions were often grievously expensive. They were, besides, frequently different from what seafaring persons conceived to be just. The latter circ.u.mstance was attributed to the ignorance of lawyers in maritime affairs. Much money was therefore often expended, and no one satisfied. Some Quakers, in the neighbourhood, in conjunction with others, came forward with a view of obviating these evils. They proposed arbitration as a remedy. They met with some opposition at first, but princ.i.p.ally from the gentlemen of the law. After having, however, shown the impropriety of many of the legal verdicts that had been given, they had the pleasure of seeing their plan publicly introduced and sanctioned. For in the month of June, 1793, a number of gentlemen, respectable for their knowledge in mercantile and maritime affairs, met at the Trinity-hall in Newcastle, and a.s.sociated themselves for these and other purposes, calling themselves "The Newcastle upon Tyne a.s.sociation for general Arbitration."

This a.s.sociation was to have four general meetings in the year, one in each quarter, at which they were to receive cases. For any urgent matter, however, which might occur, the clerk was to have the power of calling a special meeting.

Each person, on delivering a case, was to pay a small fee. Out of these fees the clerk's salary and incidental expenses were to be paid. But the surplus was to be given to the poor.

The parties were to enter into arbitration-bonds, as is usual upon such occasions.

Each party was to choose out of this a.s.sociation or standing committee, one arbitrator for himself, and the a.s.sociation were to choose or to ballot for a third. And here it will be proper to observe, that this standing a.s.sociation appeared to be capable of affording arbitrators equal to the determination of every case. For, if the matter in dispute between the two parties were to happen to be a mercantile question, there were merchants in the a.s.sociation: If a question relative to shipping, there were ship-owners in it: If a question of insurance, there were insurance-brokers also. A man could hardly fail of having his case determined by persons who were competent to the task.

Though this beautiful inst.i.tution was thus publicly introduced, and introduced with considerable expectations and applause, cases came in but slowly. Custom and prejudice are not to be rooted out in a moment.

In process of time, however, several were offered, considered, and decided, and the presumption was, that the inst.i.tution would have grown with time. Of those cases which were determined, some, relating to ships, were found to be particularly intricate, and cost the arbitrators considerable time and trouble. The verdicts, however, which were given, were in all of them satisfactory. The Inst.i.tution, at length became so popular, that, incredible to relate, its own popularity destroyed it! So many persons were ambitious of the honour of becoming members of the committee, that some of inferior knowledge, and judgment, and character, were too hastily admitted into it. The consequence was, that people dared not trust their affairs to the abilities of every member: and the inst.i.tution expired, after having rendered important services to numerous individuals who had tried it.

When we consider that this inst.i.tution has been tried, and that the scheme of it has been found practicable, it is a pity that its benefits should have been confined, and this for so short a period, to a single town. Would it not be desirable, if, in every district, a number of farmers were to give in their names to form a standing committee, for the settlement of disputes between farmer and farmer? or that there should be a similar inst.i.tution among manufacturers, who should decide between one manufacturer and another? Would it not also be desirable, if, in every parish, a number of gentlemen, or other respectable persons, were to a.s.sociate for the purpose of accommodating the differences of each other? For this beautiful system is capable of being carried to any extent, and of being adapted to all stations and conditions of life. By these means numerous little funds might be established in numerous districts, from the surplus of which an opportunity would be afforded of adding to the comforts of such of the poor, as were to distinguish themselves by their good behaviour, whether as labourers for farmers, manufacturers, or others. By these means also many of the quarrels in parishes might be settled to the mutual satisfaction of the parties concerned, and, in so short a s.p.a.ce of time, as to prevent them from contracting a rancorous and a wounding edge.

Those, on the other hand, who were to a.s.sist in these arbitrations, would be amply repaid; for they would be thus giving an opportunity of growth to the benevolence of their affections, and they would have the pleasing reflection, that the tendency of their labours would be to produce peace and good will amongst men.

CHAP. VI.

SECT. I.

_Management of the poor--Quakers never seen as beggars--George Fox began the provision for the Quaker-poor--Monthly meetings appoint overseers--Persons pa.s.sed over are to apply for relief and the disorderly may receive it in certain cases--Manner of collecting for the poor--If burthensome in one monthly meeting, the burthen shared by the quarterly--Quakers gain settlements by monthly meetings, as the other poor of the kingdom, by parishes._

There are few parts of the Quaker-const.i.tution, that are more worthy of commendation, than that which relates to the poor. All the members of this society are considered as brethren, and as ent.i.tled to support from one another. If our streets and our roads are infested by miserable objects, imploring our pity, no Quaker will be found among them. A Quaker-beggar would be a phenomenon in the world.

It does not, however, follow from this account, that there are no poor Quakers, or that members of this society are not born in a dependent state. The truth is, that there are poor as well as rich, but the wants of the former are so well provided for, that they are not publicly seen, like the wants of others.

George Fox, as he was the founder of the religion of the Quakers, I mean of a system of renovated Christianity, so he was the author of the beautiful system by which they make a provision for their poor. As a Christian, he considered the poor of every description, as members of the same family, but particularly those, who were of the household of faith. Consistently with this opinion, he advised the establishment of general meetings in his own time, a special part of whose business it was to take due care of the poor. These meetings excited at first the vigilance and anger of the magistrates; but when they came to see the regulations made by the Quakers, in order that none of their poor might become burthensome to their parishes, they went away--whatever they might think of some of their new tenets of religion--in admiration of their benevolence.

The Quakers of the present day consider their poor in the same light as their venerable elder, namely, as members of the same family, whose wants it is their duty to relieve; and they provide for them nearly in the same manner. They intrust this important concern to the monthly meetings, which are the executive branches of the Quaker const.i.tution.

The monthly meetings generally appoint four overseers, two men and two women, over each particular meeting within their own jurisdiction, if their number will admit of it. It is the duty of these, to visit such of the poor as are in membership, of the men to visit the men, but of the women sometimes to visit both. The reason, why this double burthen is laid upon the women-overseers, is, that women know more of domestic concerns, more of the wants of families, more of the manner of providing for them, and are better advisers, and better nurses in sickness, than the men. Whatever these overseers find wanting in the course of their visits, whether money, clothes, medicine, or medical advice and attention, they order them, and the treasurer of the monthly meetings settles the different accounts. I may observe here, that it is not easy for overseers to neglect their duty; for an inquiry is made three times in the year, of the monthly meetings by the quarterly, whether the necessities of the poor are properly inspected and relieved[5]. I may observe also that the poor, who may stand in need of relief, are always relieved privately, I mean, at their respective homes.

[Footnote 5: In London a committee is appointed for each poor person.

Thus, for example, two women are appointed to attend to the wants and comfort of one poor old woman.]

It is however possible, that there may be persons, who, from a variety of unlocked for causes, may be brought into distress, and whose case, never having been suspected, may be pa.s.sed over. But persons, in this situation, are desired to apply, for a.s.sistance. It is also a rule in the society, that even persons whose conduct is disorderly, are to be relieved, if such conduct has not been objected to by their own monthly meeting. "The want of due care, says the book of Extracts, in watching diligently over the flock, and in dealing in due time with such as walk disorderly, hath, brought great difficulties on some meetings; for we think it both unreasonable and dishonourable, when persons apply to monthly meetings for relief in cases of necessity, then to object to them such offences as the meeting, through neglect of its own duty, hath suffered long to pa.s.s by, unreproved and unnoticed."

The poor are supported by charitable collections from the body at large; or, in other words, every monthly meeting supports its own poor. The collections for them are usually made once a month, but in some places once a quarter, and in others at no stated times but when the treasurer declares them necessary, and the monthly meeting approves. Members are expected to contribute in proportion to their circ.u.mstances; but persons in a low situation, and servants, are generally excused upon these occasions.

It happens in the districts of some monthly meetings, that there are found only few persons of property, but a numerous poor, so that the former are unable to do justice in their provision for the latter. The society have therefore resolved, when the poor are too numerous to be supported by their own monthly meetings, that the collection for them shall be made up out of the quarterly meeting, to which the said monthly meeting belongs. This is the same thing as if any particular parish were unable to pay the rates for the poor, and as if all the other parishes in the county were made to contribute towards the same.

On this subject I may observe, that the Quaker-poor are attached to their monthly meetings, as the common poor of the kingdom are attached to their parishes, and that they gain settlements in these nearly in the same manner.

SECT. II.

_Education of the children of the poor particularly insisted upon and provided for by the Quakers--The bays usually pat out to apprenticeship--The girls to service--The latter not sufficiently numerous for the Quaker-families, who want them--The rich have not their proper proportion of these in their service--Reasons of it--Character of the Quaker poor._

As the Quakers are particularly attentive to the wants of the poor, so they are no less attentive to the education of their offspring. These are all of them to receive their education at the public expense. The same overseers, as in the former case, are to take care of it, and the same funds to support it. An inquiry is therefore made three times in the year into this subject. "The children of the poor, says the book of Extracts, are to have due help of education, instruction, and necessary learning. The families also of the poor are to be provided with Bibles, and books of the society, at the expense of the monthly meetings. And as spine members may be straitened in their circ.u.mstances, and may refuse, out of delicacy, to apply for aid towards the education of their children, it is earnestly recommended to friends in every monthly meeting, to look out for persons who may be thus straitened, and to take care that their children shall receive instruction: and it is recommended to the parents of such, not to refuse this salutary aid, but to receive it with a willing mind, and with thankfulness to the great author of all good."

When the boys have received their necessary learning, they are usually put out as apprentices to husbandry or trade. Domestic service is generally considered by their parents as unmanly, and as a nursery for idleness. Boys too, who can read and write, ought to expect, with the accustomed diligence and sobriety of Quakers, to arrive at a better situation in life. The girls, however, are destined in general for service: for it must be obvious, whatever their education may be, that the same number of employments is not open to women as to men. Of those again, which are open, some are objectionable. A Quaker-girl, for example, could not consistently be put an apprentice to a Milliner.

Neither if a cotton-manufactory were in the neighbourhood, could her parents send her to such a nursery of debauchery and vice. From these and other considerations, and because domestic employments belong to women, their parents generally think it advisable to bring them up to service, and to place them in the families of friends.

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A Portraiture of Quakerism Volume Ii Part 3 summary

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