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A Portraiture of Quakerism Volume I Part 7

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This idea of George Fox and of Edward Burroughs seems to have been adopted or patronized by the Poet Cowper.

"Thus harmony, and family accord, Were driven from Paradise; and in that hour The seeds of cruelty, that since have swell'd To such gigantic and enormous growth, Were sown in human natures fruitful soil.

Hence date the persecution and the pain, That man inflicts on all inferior kinds, Regardless of their plaints. To make him sport, To gratify the frenzy of his wrath, Or his base gluttony, are causes good, And just, in his account, why bird and beast Should suffer torture--"

Thus the Quakers censured these diversions from the first formation of their society, and laid down such moral principles with respect to the treatment of animals, as were subversive of their continuance. These principles continued to actuate all true Quakers, who were their successors; and they gave a proof, in their own conduct, that they were influenced by them, not only in treating the different animals under their care with tenderness, but in abstaining from all diversions in which their feelings could be hurt. The diversions however, of the field, notwithstanding that this principle of the brute-creation had been long recognized, and that no person of approved character in the society followed them, began in time to be resorted to occasionally by the young and thoughtless members, either out of curiosity, or with a view of trying them, as means of producing pleasure. These deviations, however from the true spirit of Quakerism became at length known. And the Quakers, that no excuse might be left to any for engaging in such pursuits again, came to a resolution in one of their yearly meetings, giving advice upon the subject in the following words.

[8]"We clearly rank the practice of hunting and shooting for diversion with vain sports; and we believe the awakened mind may see, that even the leisure of those whom providence hath permitted to have a competence of worldly goods, is but ill filled up with these amus.e.m.e.nts. Therefore, being not only accountable for our substance, but also for our time, let our leisure be employed in serving our neighbour, and not in distressing the creatures of G.o.d for our amus.e.m.e.nt."



[Footnote 8: Book of Extracts.]

I shall not take upon me to examine the different reasons upon which we find the foundation of this law. I shall not enquire how far a man's substance, or rather his talent, is wasted or misapplied, in feeding a number of dogs in a costly manner, while the poor of the neighbourhood may be starving, or how far the galloping after these is in the eye of christianity a misapplication of a person's time. I shall adhere only to that part of the argument, how far a person has a right to make a [9]pleasure of that, which occasions pain and death to the animal-creation: and I shall shew in what manner the Quakers argue upon this subject, and how they persuade themselves, that they have no right to pursue such diversions, but particularly when they consider themselves as a body of professing christians.

[Footnote 9: The Quakers and the poet Cowper likewise, in their laudable zeal for the happiness of the brute-creation, have given an improper description of the nature of the crime of these diversions. They have made it to consist in a man's deriving pleasure from the sufferings of the animals in question, whereas it should have been made to consist in his making a pleasure of a pursuit which puts them to pain. The most abandoned sportsman, it is to be presumed, never hunts them because he enjoys their sufferings. His pleasure arises from considerations of another nature.]

SECT. II.

_Diversions of the field judged first by the morality of the Old Testament--original charter to kill animals--condition annexed to it--sentiments of Cowper--rights and duties springing from this charter--violation of it the violation of a moral law--diversions in question not allowable by this standard._

The Quakers usually try the lawfulness of field-diversions, which include hunting and shooting, by two standards, and first by the morality of the old Testament.

They believe in common with other christians, that men have a right to take away the lives of animals for their food. The great creator of the universe, to whom every thing that is in it belongs, gave to Noah and his descendants a grant or charter for this purpose. In this charter no exception is made. Hence wild animals are included in it equally with the tame. And hence a hare may as well be killed, if people have occasion for food, as a chicken or a lamb.

They believe also that, when the creator of the universe gave men dominion over the whole brute-creation, or delivered this creation into their hands, he intended them the right of destroying such animals, as circ.u.mstances warranted them in supposing would become injurious to themselves. The preservation of themselves, which is the first law of nature, and the preservation of other animals under their care, created this new privilege.

But though men have the power given them over the lives of animals, there is a condition in the same charter, that they shall take them with as little pain as possible to the creatures. If the death of animals is to be made serviceable to men, the least they can do in return is to mitigate their sufferings, while they expire. This obligation the Supreme Being imposed upon those, to whom he originally gave the charter, by the command of not eating their flesh, while the life's blood was in it. The Jews obliged all their converts to religion, even the proselytes of the gate, who were not considered to be so religious as the proselytes of the covenant, to observe what they called the seventh commandment of Noah, or that "they should[10] not eat the member of any beast that was taken from it, while it was alive." This law therefore of blood, whatever other objects it might have in view, enjoined that, while men were engaged in the distresing task of taking away the life of an animal, they should respect its feelings, by abstaining from torture, or all unnecessary pain.

[Footnote 10: It seems almost impossible, that men could be so depraved, as to take flesh to eat from a poor animal, while alive, and yet from the law enjoined to proselytes of the gate it is probable, that it was the case. Bruce, whose travels into Abyssynia are gaining in credit, a.s.serts that such customs obtained there. And the Harleian Miscellany, vol. 6. P. 126, in which is a modern account of Scotland, written in 1670, states the same practice as having existed in our own island.]

[11]On Noah, and in him on all mankind The Charter was conferr'd, by which we hold The flesh of animals in fee, and claim O'er all we feed on pow'r of life and death.

But read the instrument, and mark it well.

The oppression of a tyrannous control Can find no warrant there. Feed then, and yield Thanks for thy food. Carnivorous, through sin, Feed on the slain; but spare the living brute.

[Footnote 11: Cowper.]

From this charter, and from the great condition annexed to it, the Quakers are of opinion that rights and duties have sprung up; rights on behalf of animals, and duties on the part of men; and that a breach of these duties, however often, or however thoughtlessly it may take place, is a breach of a moral law. For this charter did not relate to those animals only, which lived in the particular country of the Jews, but to those in all countries wherever Jews might exist. Nor was the observance of it confined to the Jews only, but it was to extend to the Proselytes of the covenant and the gate. Nor was the observance of it confined to these Proselytes, but it was to extend to all nations; because all animals of the same species are in all countries organized alike, and have all similar feelings; and because all animals of every kind are susceptible of pain.

In trying the lawfulness of the diversions of the field, as the Quakers do by this charter, and the great condition that is annexed to it, I purpose, in order to save time, to confine myself to hunting, for this will appear to be the most objectionable, if examined in this manner.

It must be obvious then, that hunting, even in the case of hares, is seldom followed for the purposes of food. It is uncertain in the first place, whether in the course of the chase they can be preserved whole when they are taken, so as to be fit to be eaten. And, in the second, it may be observed, that we may see fifty hors.e.m.e.n after a pack of hounds, no one of whom has any property in the pack, nor of course any right to the prey. These cannot even pretend, that their object is food, either for themselves or others.

Neither is hunting, where foxes are the objects in view, pursued upon the principle of the destruction of noxious animals. For it may be observed, that rewards are frequently offered to those, who will procure them for the chase: that large woods or covers are frequently allotted them, that they may breed, and perpetuate their species for the same purposes, and that a poor man in the neighbourhood of a foxhunter, would be sure to experience his displeasure, if he were caught in the destruction of any of these animals.

With respect to the mode of destroying them in either of these cases, it is not as expeditious, as it might be made by other means. It is on the other hand, peculiarly cruel. A poor animal is followed, not for minutes, but frequently for an hour, and sometimes for hours, in pain and agony. Its sufferings begin with its first fear. Under this fear, perpetually accompanying it, it flies from the noise of horses, and hors.e.m.e.n, and the cries of dogs. It pants for breath, till the panting becomes difficult and painful. It becomes wearied even to misery, yet dares not rest. And under a complication of these sufferings, it is at length overtaken, and often literally torn to pieces by its pursuers.

Hunting therefore does not appear, in the opinion of the Quakers, to be followed for any of those purposes, which alone, according to the original charter, give mankind a right over the lives of brutes. It is neither followed for food, nor for prevention of injury to man, or to the creatures belonging to him. Neither is life taken away by means of it, as mercifully as it ought to be, according to the meaning of the[12]

great condition. But if hunting be not justifiable, when examined upon these principles, it can never be justifiable in the opinion of the Quakers, when it is followed on the principle of pleasure, all destruction of animal-life upon this last principle, must come within the charge of wanton cruelty, and be considered as a violation of a moral law.

[Footnote 12: The netting of animals for food, is perfectly un.o.bjectionable upon these principles.]

SECT. III.

_Diversions of the field judged by the morality of the New-Testament--the renovated man or christian has a clearer knowledge of creation and of its uses--he views animals as the creatures of G.o.d--hence he finds animals to have rights independently of any written law--he collects again new rights from the benevolence of his new feelings--and new rights again from the written word of revelation._

The Quakers try the lawfulness of these diversions again by the morality of the New-Testament They adopt, in the first place, upon this occasion, the idea of George Fox and of Edward Burroughs, which has been already stated; and they follow it up in the manner which I shall now explain.

They believe that a man under the new covenant, or one who is really a christian, is a renovated man. As long as Adam preserved his primeval innocence, or continued in the image of his Maker, his spiritual vision was clear. When he lost this image, it became dim, short, and confused.

This is the case, the Quakers believe, with every apostate or wicked man. He sees through a vitiated medium. He sees of course nothing of the harmony of the creation. He has but a confused knowledge of the natures and ends of things. These natures and these ends he never examines as he ought, but in the confusion of his moral vision, he abuses and perverts them. Hence it generally happens, that an apostate man is cruel to his brute. But in proportion as he is restored to the divine image, or becomes as Adam was before he fell, or in proportion as he exchanges earthly for spiritual views, he sees all things through a clearer medium. It is then, the Quakers believe, that the creation is open to him, and that he finds his creator has made nothing in vain. It is then that he knows the natures of things; that he estimates their uses and their ends, and that he will never stretch these beyond their proper bounds. Beholding animals in this sublime light, he will appreciate their strength, their capacities, and their feelings; and he will never use them but for the purposes intended by providence. It is then that the creation will delight him. It is then that he will find a growing love to the animated objects of it. And this knowledge of their natures, and this love of them, will oblige him to treat them with tenderness and respect. Hence all animals will have a security in the breast of every christian or renovated man against oppression or abuse. He will never destroy them wantonly, nor put them to unnecessary pain. Now the Quakers are of opinion, that every person, who professes christianity, ought to view things as the man, who is renovated, would view them, and that it becomes them therefore in particular, as a body of highly professing christians, to view them in the same manner. Hence they uniformly look upon animals, not as brute-machines, to be used at discretion, but as the creatures of G.o.d, of whose existence the use and intention ought always to be considered, and to whom duties arise out of this spiritual feeling, independently of any written law in the Old-Testament, or any grant or charter, by which their happiness might be secured.

The Quakers therefore, viewing animals in this light, believe that they are bound to treat them accordingly. Hence the instigation of two horses by whips and spurs for a trial of speed, in consequence of a monied stake, is considered by the Quakers to be criminal. The horse was made for the use of man, to carry his body and to transport his burdens; but he was never made to engage in painful conflicts with other horses on account of the avarice of his owner. Hence the pitting together of two c.o.c.ks for a trial of victory is considered as equally criminal. For the c.o.c.k, whatever may be his destined object among the winged creation, has been long useful to man in awakening him from unseasonable slumber, and in sounding to him the approach of day. But it was never intended, that he should be employed to the injury and destruction of himself, or to the injury and destruction of his own species. In the same manner the Quakers condemn the hunting of animals, except on the plea of necessity, or that they cannot be destroyed, if their death be required, in any other way. For whatever may be their several uses, or the several ends of their existence in creation, they were never created to be so used by man, that they should suffer, and this entirely for his sport. Whoever puts animals to cruel and unnatural uses, disturbs, in the opinion of the Quakers, the harmony of the creation, and offends G.o.d.

The Quakers in the second place, are of opinion that the renovated man must have, in his own benevolent spirit, such an exalted sense of the benevolent spirit of the Creator, as to believe, that he never const.i.tuted any part of animated nature, without a.s.signing it its proper share of happiness during the natural time of its existence, or that it was to have its moment, its hour, its day, or its year of pleasure. And, if this be the case, he must believe also, that any interruption of its tranquillity, without the plea of necessity, must be an innovation of its rights as a living being.

The Quakers believe also, that the renovated man, who loves all the works of the creator, will carry every divine law, which has been revealed to him, as far as it is possible to be carried on account of a similarity of natures through all animated creation, and particularly that law, which forbids him to do to another, what he would dislike to be done unto himself. Now this law is founded on the sense of bodily, and on the sense of the mental feelings. The mental feelings of men and brutes, or the reason of man and the instinct of animals, are different.

But their bodily feelings are alike; and they are in their due proportions, susceptible of pain. The nature therefore of man and of animals is alike in this particular. He can antic.i.p.ate and know their feelings by his own. He cannot therefore subject them to any action unnecessarily, if on account of a similar construction of his own organs, such an action would produce pain to himself. His own power of feeling strongly commands sympathy to all that can feel: and that general sympathy, which arises to a man, when he sees pain inflicted on the person of any individual of his own species, will arise, in the opinion of the Quakers, to the renovated man, when he sees it inflicted on the body of a brute.

CHAP. VIII.

_Objections started by philosophical moralists to the preceding system of education--this system a prohibitory one--prohibitions sometimes the cause of greater evil than they prevent--they may confuse morality--and break the spirit--they render the vicious more vicious--and are not to be relied upon as effectual, because built on a fake foundation--ignorance no guardian of virtue--causes, not sub-causes, are to be contended against --no certain security but in knowledge and a love of virtue--prohibitions, where effectual, produce but a sluggish virtue._

I have now stated the princ.i.p.al prohibitions, that are to be found in the moral education of the Quakers, and I have annexed to these the various reasons, which the Quakers themselves give, why they were introduced into their society. I have therefore finished this part of my task, and the reader will expect me to proceed to the next subject. But as I am certain that many objections will be started here, I shall stop for a few minutes to state, and to consider them.

The Quakers differ on the subject of moral education, very materially from the world, and indeed from those of the world, who having had a more than ordinarily liberal education, may be supposed to have, in most cases, a more than ordinarily correct judgment. The Quaker system, as we have seen, consists princ.i.p.ally of specific prohibitions. These prohibitions again, are extended occasionally to things, which are not in themselves vicious. They are extended, again, to these, because it is possible that they may be made productive, of evil. And they are founded apparently on the principle, that ignorance of such things secures innocence, or that ignorance, in such cases, has the operation of a preventive of vice, or a preservative of virtue.

Philosophical moralists on the other hand, are friends to occasional indulgences. They see nothing inherently or necessarily mischievous, either in the theatre or in the concert-room, or in the ball-room, or in the circulating library, or in many other places of resort. If a young female, say they, situated in a provincial town, were to see a play annually, would it not give her animation, and afford a spring to her heart? or if a youth were to see a play two or three times in the year, might not his parents, if they were to accompany him, make it each time, by their judicious and moral remarks, subservient to the improvement of his morals? neither do these moralists antic.i.p.ate any danger by looking to distant prospects, where the things are innocent in themselves. And they are of opinion, that all danger may be counteracted effectually, not by prohibitory checks and guards, but by storing the mind with knowledge, and filling it with a love of virtue. The arguments therefore, which these will advance against the system of the moral education of the Quakers, may be seen in the following words.

"All prohibitions, they contend, should be avoided, as much as possible, in moral education; for prohibitions may often become the cause of greater immorality, than they were intended to prevent. The fable of the hen, whose very prohibition led her chickens to the fatal well, has often been realized in life, there is a certain curiosity in human nature to look into things forbidden. If Quaker youth should have the same desires in this respect as others, they cannot gratify them but at the expence of their virtue. If they wish for novels, for example, they must get them clandestinely. If to go to the theatre, they must go in secret. But they must do more than this in the latter case, for as they would be known by their dress, they must change it for that of another person. Hence they may be made capable of intrigue, hypocrisy, and deceit."

"Prohibitions, again, they believe, except they be well founded, may confound the notions of children on the subject of morality; for if they are forbidden to do what they see worthy and enlightened persons do, they may never know where to fix the boundaries between vice and virtue."

"Prohibitions, again, they consider, if made without an allowance of exceptions, as having a tendency to break the spirit of youth. Break a horse in the usual way, and teach him to stop with the check of the reins, and you break him, and preserve his courage. But put him in a mill to break him, and you break his life and animation. Prohibitions therefore may hinder elevated feeling, and may lead to poverty and sordidness of spirit."

"Prohibitions, again, they believe, if youth once depart from the right way, render them more vicious characters than common. This arises from the abruptness or suddenness of transition. For having been shut up within narrow boundaries for a part of their lives, they go greater lengths, when once let loose, than others, who have not been equally curbed and confined."

"But while they are of opinion, that prohibitions are likely to be thus injurious to Quaker-youth, they are of opinion, that they are never to be relied upon as effectual guardians of morality, because they consider them as built upon false principles."

"They are founded, they conceive, on the principle, that ignorance is a security for innocence, or that vice is so attractive, that we cannot resist it but by being kept out of the way. In the first case, they contend that the position is false; for ignorant persons are of all others the most likely, when they fall into temptations, to be seduced, and in the second, they contend that there is a distrust of divine providence in his moral government of the world."

"They are founded, again, they conceive, on false principles, inasmuch as the Quakers confound causes with sub-causes, or causes with occasions. If a person, for example, were to get over a hedge, and receive a thorn in his hand, and die of the wound, this thorn would be only the occasion, and not the cause of his death. The bad state in which his body must have been, to have made this wound fatal, would have been the original cause. In like manner neither the theatre, nor the ball-room are the causes of the bad pa.s.sions, that are to be found there. All these pa.s.sions must have existed in persons previously to their entrance into these places. Plays therefore, or novels, or public dances, are only the sub-causes, or the occasions of calling forth the pa.s.sions in question. The real cause is in the infected state of the mind, or in the want of knowledge, or in the want of a love of virtue."

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A Portraiture of Quakerism Volume I Part 7 summary

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