Next trait is that of a money-getting spirit—Probability of the truth of this trait examined—An undue eagerness after money not unlikely to be often the result of the frugal and commercial habits of the society—but not to the extent, as insisted on by the world—This eagerness, wherever it exists, seldom chargeable with avarice.
The next trait in the character of the Quakers is that of a money-getting spirit, or of a devotedness to the acquisition of money in their several callings and concerns.
This character is considered as belonging so generally to the individuals of this society, that it is held by the world to be almost inseparable from Quakerism. A certain writer has remarked, that they follow their concerns in pursuit of riches, "with a step as steady as time, and with an appetite as keen as death."
I do not know what circumstances have given birth to this trait. That the Quakers are a thriving body we know. That they may also appear, when known to be a domestic people, and to have discarded the amusements of the world, to be more in their shops and counting-houses than others, is probable. And it is not unlikely, that, in consequence of this appearance, connected with this worldly prosperity, they may be thought to be more intent than others upon the promotion of their pecuniary concerns. There are circumstances, however, belonging to the character and customs of the society, which would lead to an opposite conclusion. The Quakers, in the first place, are acknowledged to be a charitable people. But if so, they ought not to be charged, at least, with that species of the money-getting spirit, which amounts to avarice. It is also an undoubted fact, that they give up no small portion of their time, and put themselves to no small expence, on account of their religion. In country places they allot one morning in the week, and in the towns generally two, besides the Sunday, to their religious worship. They have also their monthly meetings, and after these their quarterly, to attend, on account of their discipline. And this they do frequently at a great distance, and after a considerable absence as tradesmen, from their homes. I do not mean to insinuate by this latter instance, that men become pious, and therefore proof against the influence of money, exactly in proportion as they attend their religious meetings, but that, where they are voraciously intent upon the getting of money, they could hardly be expected to make such a sacrifice of their time.
But whatever may be the appearance on either side, the question is, whether the imputation of the trait, which is now under our consideration, be founded in fact. What circumstances make in favour of it? What circumstances make against it? And which of these preponderate on the whole?
We may say then, at the first sight, that the precepts of Quakerism make decidedly against it. And we may say again, that it ought to be expected, that all those principles and circumstances, which have an influence in the production of moral character, or of such a character as belongs to the Quakers as a body, should work together either towards its prevention or its cure.
On the other hand, if we examine the situation of the society, we shall find circumstances, the operation of which is directly in favour of such a trait.
And first, in looking into the human heart, we seem to discover a circumstance, which, on account of the situation alluded to, may operate as a spring in producing it. Men, generally speaking, love consequence. Now the Quakers, though they have consequence in their own society, have none in the world. They can be neither legislators nor magistrates. They can take no titles to distinguish them. They pass therefore in the world, like the common and undistinguished herd, except from the circumstances of their dress. But riches give all men consequence. And it is not clear to me, but that this circumstance may have its operation on the minds of some who are called Quakers, in contributing to the production of the money-getting spirit, inasmuch as it may procure them a portion of estimation, which they cannot otherwise have, while they remain in their own body.
In looking again into the human heart, we find another, and this a powerful spring, connected with the situation of the society, for the production of such a trait.
The Quakers, as I have observed before, are mostly in trade. Now they are generally a sedate, thoughtful, sober, diligent, and honest people. It is not then too much to say, with these qualifications, that they will be as successful in trade as others. Hence their incomes will be as great, in proportion to their capitals, as those of others, from the same source.
But let us look for a moment at their outgoings. They neither spend nor lose their money at cards, or at horse-races, or by any other species of gaming. They do not waste their substance either in drinking at taverns or at home. Not having, in general, an enlarged education, or a taste for literature, they have no expensive libraries. They buy no costly paintings. They neither powder their hair, nor dress in a splendid manner. They use no extravagant furniture. They keep no packs of hounds for their diversion. They are never seen at the theatres. They have neither routes, balls, nor music meetings. They have neither expensive liveries nor equipages. Hence it must follow, that their outgoings, as far as their living is concerned, cannot in general be as great as those of others in a similar condition of life. But if their inlets are greater than their outlets of money, when compared with those of other persons, a greater overplus of money beyond the expences of living, will be the constant result, or there will be a greater increasing accumulation of money, upon the whole, than falls within the possession of others. Now a question arises here, founded on a knowledge of the infirmity of our nature. Are men likely, in general, constituted as they are, to see the golden idol constantly rising in dimensions before them, and to refrain front worshipping it, or, are they likely to see it without a corruption of their moral vision? It is observed by one of the scriptural writers, "A merchant shall hardly keep himself from doing wrong, and a huckster shall not be free from sin." And where is it, that this old saying, except the mind be strongly fortified by religion, will not be found equally true in the present, as in former times? The truth is, that the old maxim, Creseit amor nummi quantum ipsa pecunia creseit, is a just one. That is, it is true, "that the coming in of money in an undue proportion begets the love of it", that the love of money again leads to the getting of more; that the getting of more again generally increases the former love. And hence a round is kept up of circumstances and feelings, till a money-getting spirit creeps into the character of him, who is placed in a situation so unfortunate for the purity of his heart.
[Footnote 40: Ecclesiasticus xxvi. 29.]
These then are the acting and the counteracting circumstances on both sides. Which of the two are likely to be predominant, we must conjecture. When men have become full grown Quakers, the latter will lose their power. But where they have not (and it is to be presumed that there are many in the society who have not reached this stature, and many again who bear only the name of their profession) they will frequently prevail. I own I fear that precepts, though there may be a general moral bias, will not always be found successful against those, which are considered to be the most powerful of the temptations, to which our nature is exposed. I own, when I consider that the Quakers, in consequence of their commercial and frugal habits, have greater pecuniary accumulations before their eyes than others in a similar condition of life, when I consider how few are able to bear these accumulations without moral injury to themselves, and that even the early Christians began to relax in their character when they begun to be prosperous, I am of opinion, that there is some foundation far the existence of such a spirit, though not to the extent, as insisted on by the world; or, that there is in the society, notwithstanding the many bright and amiable exceptions that are to be found in it, greater eagerness after wealth than is consistent with its religious profession. And to this opinion I am inclined from another consideration, which cannot be overlooked in the present case. The book of Extracts itself acknowledges the existence of such a spirit, for it characterises it under the name of "hastening to be rich," and it calls it "a growing evil."
But when I say that I so for accede to the opinion of the world, as to allow that the money-getting spirit may be fixed upon a part of the society, I feel that I ought to make a proper distinction concerning it. I must observe, that the money-getting spirit, wherever it may be chargeable upon Quakers, seldom belongs to that species which is called avarice. It is by no means incongruous to suppose, that there may be in the same person an unreasonable love of money, and yet a shew of benevolence. The money-getting spirit will have a different effect, as it operates upon different persons. Upon those, who have been brought up in an ignorant and unfeeling manner, it will operate to make them hoard their substance, and to keep it exclusively to themselves. But it will not always hinder those who have been humanely educated, though it may lead them to unreasonable accumulations, from dispensing a portion of their gains. In the first instance it is highly criminal, because it keeps the whole of its talent in a napkin. In the second, though less criminal, it is greatly to be deplored, but more particularly in a Quaker, who, making a higher profession of Christianity than many others, ought to give to the world the example of a purer mind.
Farther observations on the subject of the former trait—Practicable methods suggested for its extirpation—These methods not destructive, but promotive, of the temporal interests of the members of this society, and consistent with the religion they profess.
As the Quakers appear to me, in consequence of their commercial and frugal habits, to be in danger of contracting a money-getting spirit, and as this spirit is the worst feature that can exist in the Quaker character, I shall allot a few pages to the farther consideration of the subject, with a view of the prevention of such an evil.
That it is the worst feature that can exist in the character of the society, I repeat. It is worse than a want of knowledge, or than superstition, because these relate to the understanding, while this is confined to the heart. It renders the system of the moral education of the Quakers almost nugatory. For what is the use of keeping the mind in a state of spiritual purity by means of prohibitions, or by attempting to shut it out from the knowledge of corruptive amusements, if it be afterwards to be rendered impure by the love of money? It occasions them again to bear their testimony as it were against their own religion. For a Quaker is not in the situation of on ordinary person. He looks upon himself as a highly professing Christian; as one, who is not to conform to the fashions of the world; as one, who is to lead a life of self-denial; as one, who is to go forward in virtue, his belief being that of a possibility of perfection even in the present life. He considers himself too as a representative of the early Christians, and holds himself ready to follow them by the bearing of his testimony, into suffering, and even unto death. But what Christian can harbour a money-getting spirit, or be concerned in an extensive accumulation of wealth? If a Quaker therefore should go into the common road, and fall down before the idol mammon, like any other ordinary person, how can the world give him any pretension but to an ordinary religion?
My object in the present consideration of the subject, will be to shew the Quakers in general, and those in particular who may need it, some practical cure for this evil, and to convince them, that the mode of effecting it will not be detrimental to the temporal interests of their families, but promotive of their spiritual, and consistent with the religion they profess.
The first method, which I would recommend to those who are in trade, and who know their own habits of life, and the extent of their families, would be to fix upon a certain sum, which they may think sufficient for a future decent and moderate competency, and to leave off business, as soon as this should be obtained. Such a step would be useful. It would be making room for others to live as well as themselves. It would be honourable, for it would be generous. And it would operate as a certain preventive of the money-getting spirit, as well as of the imputation of it. For if such a retreat from trade, were laid down and known as a general custom of the society, the Quakers might bid their hearts rise in defiance against the corruptions of money, and their reputation against the clamours of the world.
This step, hard and difficult as it may appear to those who are thriving in the world, is, notwithstanding, not a novel one, if we may judge either by the example of many of the pure minded Christians of other denominations, or by that of many estimable persons in this society. John Woolman, among many others, was uneasy on account of his business "growing cumbersome," for so he expresses it, lest it should hurt the purity of his mind. And he contracted it, leaving himself only enough of it, and this by the labour of his own hands, for a decent support. And here I might mention other individuals of this society, if I had no objection to offend the living by praise, who, following his example, have retired upon only a moderate competency, though in the way of great accumulations, for no other reason than because they were afraid, lest such accumulations should interfere with their duty, or injure their character, as Christians.
But if this measure should not be approved of under an idea that men ought to have employments for their time, or that in these days of increasing taxes and of progressively expensive living, they cannot specify the sum that may be sufficient for their future wants, I have another to propose, in consequence of which they may still follow their commercial pursuits, and avoid the imputation in question. I mean that the Quakers ought to make it a rule, after the annual expences of living have been settled, to lay by but small savings. They ought never to accustom their eyes to behold an undue accumulation of money, but liberally to deal it out in charity to the poor and afflicted in proportion to their gains, thus making their occupations a blessing to mankind. No other measure will be effectual but this, if the former be not resolved upon, while they continue in trade. Their ordinary charity, it is clear, will not do. Large as it may have been, it has not been found large enough to prove a corrective of this spirit in the opinion of the world. Indeed, it matters not how large a charitable donation may seem, if we view it either as a check upon this spirit, or as an act of merit, but how large it is, when compared with the bulk of the savings that are left. A hundred pounds, given away annually in benevolence, may appear something, and may sound handsomely in the ears of the public. But if this sum be taken from the savings of two thousand, it will be little less than a reproach to the donor as a Christian. In short, no other way than the estimation of the gift by the surplus-saving will do in the case in question. But this would certainly be effectual to the end proposed. It would entirely keep down the money-getting spirit. It would also do away the imputation of it in the public mind. For it is impossible in this case, that the word Quakerism should not become synonimous with charity, as it ought to be, if Quakerism be a more than ordinary profession of the Christian religion.
Now these methods are not chimerical, but practicable. There can be no reasonable objection against them, because they allow of the acquisition of a decent and moderate competency. The only one that can be started will be, that Quakers may injure the temporal interests of their children, or that they cannot, upon this plan, leave them independent at their deaths ...
That independence for children is the general aim of the world, I know well. But I know also, in reply to this objection, that Christianity has no such word as independence in her book. For of what do people wish to make their children independent? Certainly not of Providence, for that would be insanity indeed. Of the poor then shall I say? That is impossible, for how could they get their daily bread? Of the rich, then, like themselves? That would be folly, for where would they form their friendships or their connubial connections, in which they must place a portion of the happiness of their lives? Do they wish then to make them independent of society at large, so as not to do it good? That is against all religion. In short it is impossible, while we exist in this life, to be independent one of another. We are bound by Christianity in one great chain, every link of which is to support the next; or the band is broken. But if they mean by independence such a moneyed situation as shall place their children out of the reach of the frowns, and crosses, and vicissitudes of the world, so that no thought or care shall be necessary for the means of their own livelihood, I fear they are procuring a situation for them, which will be injurious even to their temporal interests as men.
The matter then seems to me to be brought to this question, whether it is better, I mean as a general proposition, to bring up children with the expectation of such a moderate portion of wealth, that they shall see the necessity of relying upon their own honest endeavours and the Divine support, or to bring them up with such notions of independence, that, in the pride and exultation of their hearts, they may be induced to count themselves mighty, and to lose sight of the power and providence of God?
If we were to look into the world for an answer to this question, we should find no greater calamity than that of leaving to children an affluent independence. Such persons, when grown up, instead of becoming a blessing, are generally less useful than others. They are frequently proud and haughty, fancying themselves omnipotent, they bid defiance to the opinions of the virtuous part of the community. To the laws of honour and fashion they pay a precise obedience, but trample under foot, as of little consequence, the precepts of the Christian religion. Having sensual gratifications in their power, they indulge to excess. By degrees they ruin their health and fortunes, and get wisdom by experience, when it is too late to use it. How many young persons have I known, and I wish I could make a different statement, whose ruin originated wholly in a sense of their own independence of the world!
Neither, if we look into the society of the Quakers, shall we find a different account. It is undoubtedly true, though there are many amiable exceptions, that the worst examples in it are generally among the children of the rich. These presently take wings, and fly away, so that, falling into the corruptive and destructive fashions of the times, their parents have only been heaping up riches; not knowing who were to gather them. And here it may be remarked, that the Quaker education, by means of its prohibitions, greatly disqualifies its young members, who may desert from the society, from acting prudently afterwards. They will be, in general, but children, and novices in the world. Kept within bounds till this period, what is more probable than that, when they break out of them, they will bunch-into excess. A great river may be kept in its course by paying attention to its banks, but if you make a breach in these restrictive walls, you let it loose, and it deluges the plains below.
In short, whether we turn our eyes to the Quaker society, or to the world at large, we cannot consider an affluent independence as among the temporal advantages of youth. And as they, who only leave their children a moderate portion of substance, so that they shall see the necessity of relying upon their own honest endeavours, and the Divine support, act wisely in their own generation, so they act only consistently with the religion they profess. For what does the religion of the Quakers hold out to them as the best attainment in life? Is it not spiritual knowledge? Is it not that knowledge, which shall fit them best for the service of their Maker? But such knowledge is utterly unattainable while a money-getting spirit exists; for it has been declared by the highest authority, that we cannot serve God and mammon.
Another trait is that of a want of animation or affection—This an appearance only, and not a reality, arising from a proper subjugation of the passions—from the prohibitions relative to dress—and address—and the amusements of the world.
It is said next of the Quakers, that they are a cold and inanimate people; and that they have neither the ordinary affection, nor the gradation of affection, of other people.
I may immediately pronounce upon this trait, that it is merely an outward appearance. The Quakers have as warm feelings as the rest of their countrymen. Their love of their fellow-creatures, more conspicuous in them than in many others, as has been amply shewn, gives them a claim to the possession of warm and affectionate feeling. The Quakers too have the character of a domestic people; but surely, if they do not possess affection, and this in a very high degree, they must have miserable homes. There is indeed a want of gradation in their affections, which may be traced upon some occasions. In making their wills, for example, they are not apt to raise up an eldest son to the detriment of the rest of their offspring. And this certainly is a proof, that they do not possess the gradation of affection of many other people! Happy is it for their own comfort and the welfare of their families, that they give this proof to the world of this equal affection for their children.
That this trait is only an appearance, and not a reality, I shall shew, by staring many outward circumstances, in the Quaker constitution, which may be preventive of apparent animation, but which can have no influence on the heart.
We must all of us be sensible, that both opinions and customs have an influence on the warmth or coldness of our characters. Who would expect, if two faithful portraits could have been handed down to us from antiquity, to find the same gravity or coldness of countenance and manners in an Athenian, as in a Spartan? And in the same manner who can expect, that there will not be a difference in the appearance of Quakers and other people?
The truth is, that the discipline and education of the Quakers produce an appearance of a want of animation, and this outward appearance the world has falsely taken as a symbol of the character of the heart. Can we expect that a due subjugation of the passions, which is insisted upon in true Quaker families, will give either warmth to the countenance, or spirit to the outward manners? Do not the passions animate, and give a tone to the characters of men? Can we see then the same variety of expression in the faces of the Quakers as in those of others on this account? The actions of men, again, enliven their outward appearances, but Quakers, being forbidden to use the address of the world, can assume no variety of action in their intercourse with others. The amusements, again, of the world, such as of music and the theatre, reach the mind, and, animating it, give a greater expression to the countenance, on which the contemplation afterwards produces a similar though a slighter effect. But in what Quakers can you see sensibility from the same cause? The dress too, of the members of this society gives them an appearance of gravity and dulness. It makes them also shy of their fellow citizens. But gravity, and dulness, and shyness, have generally, each of them, the appearance of coldness of manners.
Another trait is that of evasiveness in speech—This an appearance only, arising from a peculiar regard to truth—and from a caution about the proper use of words, induced by circumstances in the discipline, and by the peculiarities in the Quaker language.
It is alleged against the Quakers, as another bad trait in their character, that they are not plain and direct, but that they are evasive in their answers to any questions that may be asked them.
There is no doubt but that the world, who know scarcely any thing about the Quakers, will have some reason, if they judge from their outward manner of expression, to come to such a conclusion. There is often a sort of hesitation in their speech, which has the appearance of evasiveness. But though there may be such an appearance, their answers to questions are full and accurate when finally given; and unquestionably there is no intention in them either to hold back any thing, or to deceive.
This outward appearance, strange to relate, arises in part from an amiable trait in the character of the Quakers!! Their great desire to speak the truth, and not to exceed it, occasions often a sort of doubtfulness of speech. It occasions them also, instead of answering a question immediately, to ask other questions, that they may see the true bearings of the thing intended to be known. The same appearance of doubt runs also through the whole society in all those words which relate to promises, from the same cause. For the Quakers, knowing the uncertainty of all human things, and the impossibility of fulfilling but provisionally, seldom, as I have observed before, promise any thing positively, that they may not come short of the truth. The desire therefore of uttering the truth has in part brought this accusation upon their heads.
Other circumstances also to be found within the Quaker constitution have a tendency to produce the same effect.
In their monthly and quarterly and annual meetings for discipline, they are taught by custom to watch the propriety of the expressions that are used in the wording of their minutes, that these may accurately represent the sense of the persons present. And this habit of caution about the use of words in the affairs of their own society naturally begets a caution concerning it also in their intercourse with the world.
The peculiarities of their language produce also a similar circumspection. For where people are restrained from the use of expressions which are gene rally adopted by others, and this in the belief that, as a highly professing people, they ought to be watchful over their words as well as their actions, a sort of hesitation will accompany them, or a sort of pause will be perceptible, while they are choosing as it were the proper words for a reply to any of the questions that may be asked them.
Another trait is that of shyness—This an appearance only, arising from the former trait—and from that of coldness of manners—and from the great sobriety of the Quaker character.
Another bad trait, which the world has fixed upon the Quakers, is that of being a sly people. This trait has been long given them. We find it noticed by Pope:
"The Quaker sly, the Presbyterian sour."
This charge is grounded on appearances. It arises in part from the last mentioned trait in their character; for if men be thought cautious in the use of their words, and evasive in their answers, whether they be so or not, they will be marked as sly.
It arises again from the trait of want of animation or of coldness of manners. For if men of good understanding, in consequence of the subjugation of their passions, appear always to be cool, they will have an appearance of wariness.
It arises again from the great sobriety of the Quakers. For where men are always sober, they appear to be always on their guard, and men, who are always on their guard, are reputed cunning.
These circumstances of coolness and sobriety, when called into action, will only confirm the world in the opinion of the existence of the trait in question. For it will not be easy to deceive a man of but moderate understanding, who never loses his senses either by intoxication or by passion. And what man, in such habits, will not make a better bargain than one who is hot in his temper, or who is accustomed to be intoxicated?
Hence the trait arises from appearances, which are the result of circumstances, favourable to the morality of the Quaker character.
Last bad trait is a disregard of truth—Apparent rise of this trait—Falsehood of it probable from considerations on the language of the Quakers—from their prohibition of detraction—their rejection of romantic books—their punctuality to words and engagements—and their ideas with respect to the unlawfulness of civil oaths.
The last charge against the Quakers will be seen in a vulgar expression, which should have had no place in this book, if it had not been a saying in almost every body's mouth. The expression, is, "Though they will not swear, they will lie."
This trait has arisen in part from those different circumstances, which have produced the appearance of evasiveness. For if people are thought evasive, they will always be thought liars. Evasiveness and lying are almost synonimous terms. It is not impossible also, if Quakers should appear to give a doubtful answer, that persons may draw false conclusions from thence, and therefore may suppose them to have spoken falsely. These two circumstances of an apparent evasiveness, and probably of a deduction of conclusions from doubtful or imaginary premises, have, I apprehend, produced an appearance, which the world has interpreted into evil.
No trait, however, can be more false than this. I know of no people, who regard truth more than the Quakers. Their whole system bends and directs to truth. One of the peculiarities of their language, or their rejection of many of the words which other people use, because they consider them as not religiously appropriate to the objects of which they are the symbols, serves as a constant admonition to them to speak the truth.
Their prohibition of all slanderous reports, as mentioned in a former volume, has a tendency to produce the same effect; for detraction is forbidden partly on the idea, that all such rumours on character may be false.
They reject also the reading of plays and novels, partly under a notion, that the subjects and circumstances in these are fictitious, and that a taste therefore, for the reading, of these, if acquired, might familiarize their youth with fictions, and produce in them a romantic and lying spirit.
It is a trait, again, in the character of the Quakers, as we have seen, that they are remarkable for their punctuality in the performance of their words and engagements. But such punctuality implies neither more nor less, than that the words spoken by Quakers are generally fulfilled; and, if they are generally fulfilled, then the inference is, that all such words have been generally truths.
To this I may add, that the notions of the Quakers on the subject of oaths, and their ideas of the character which it becomes them to sustain in life, must have a powerful effect upon them in inducing an attention to the truth; for they consider Jesus Christ to have abolished civil oaths, because he wished to introduce a more excellent system than that of old, that is, because he meant it to be understood by his disciples, that he laid such an eternal obligation upon them to speak truth, that oaths were to be rendered unnecessary, where persons make a profession of his religion.
Character of the Quaker women—This differs a little from that of the men—Women share in the virtues of the former—but do not always partake of all their reputed imperfections—are not chargeable with a want of knowledge—nor with the money-getting spirit—Modesty a feature in their character.
Having now amply enquired into the character of the men, I shall say a few words on the subject of that of the women of this society. For though it might be supposed at the first sight (the Quakers being cast as it were in one mould) that the same character would attach to both, yet it must be obvious, on farther consideration, that it cannot be wholly applicable to the female sex.
It may be laid down as a position, that the women of this society share in the virtues of the men. They possess their benevolence, their independence of mind, and the other good traits in their moral character. But they do not always partake of all their reputed imperfections.
The want of knowledge, which was reckoned among the failings of the men, can have no room as a charge against the women.
For, first, let us compare the Quaker women with the Quaker men. Now it generally happens in the world, that men have more literary knowledge than women, but this is not so generally the case in this society. As the women here are not taken from their books, like the men, at an early age, and put into trade, they have no bar, like these, to the farther improvement of their minds. They advance often in the acquisition of knowledge, while the latter, in consequence of their attention to business, are kept stationary. Hence it almost uniformly happens, that they are quite as well informed, and that they have as great a variety of knowledge as these, so that they suffer no disparagement, as the women of the world do, by a comparison with the other sex.
Neither will the Quaker women be considered as deficient in knowledge, if compared with women of other religious denominations. It is too much the practice, but particularly in the higher circles, to educate females for shew. We too seldom see a knowledge of the domestic duties. To dance well, to sing well, and to play well, these are the usual accomplishments that are insisted on, and they are insisted upon with an earnestness, as if they included all the valuable purposes of life. Thus the best part of youth is spent in the acquirement of trivial things: or rather the acquirement of such things takes up so much time, as to leave but little for the moral and intellectual improvement of the mind. The great object, on the other hand, of the education of the Quaker females, is utility and not shew. They are taught domestic economy, or the cares and employments of a house. They are taught to become good wives and good mothers. Prohibited the attainments of music and dancing, and many of the corruptive amusements of the world, they have ample time for the improvement of the understanding. Thus they have in general as good an education as other females, as far as literary acquirements are concerned; so that, whether they are compared with Quaker men, or with the other women of the island, they will not incur the imputation of a deficiency of knowledge.
It must be obvious too, that the money-getting spirit, which the world has fixed upon as a trait in the character of some of the men, can seldom be a trait in that of the women of this society. For men are the principals in trade. They lay their plans for the getting of money. They see the accumulating surplus rise. They handle it. They count it. They remember it. The women, on the other hand, see it only in the disposition of their husbands or parents, who make probably a larger allowance for domestic wants or gratifications than before. Hence a charge cannot be so frequently brought against them of a want of that spiritual mindedness, which is the great characteristic of Quakerism, as they have but little to do with the mammon of the world.
To these exceptions in Quaker women from the reputed imperfections of Quaker men, I cannot help adding in this place, that the females of this society are peculiarly distinguishable for that which has been at all times considered as one of the brightest ornaments of their sex. Modesty is particularly conspicuous in their looks and in their whole outward demeanour. It is conspicuous in their conversation. It is conspicuous also in their dress. And here it may not be improper to observe, that, whatever objections may be made to the Quaker apparel, it is estimable, as far as it gives this appearance of modesty to the females who wear it, or rather as far as it hinders them from wearing the loose and indelicate garments, which are frequently worn, without any scruple, by many of the females of the world.
Quaker women, besides their private, have a public character—Low light in which women have been held—Importance given them by chivalry—and by the revival of learning in Europe—and by the introduction of Christianity—but still held in an inferior light—Quakers have given them their due importance in society—Influence of their public character on their minds.
The Quaker women, independently of their private, have that which no other body of women have, a public character. This is a new era in female history. I shall therefore make a few observations on this, before I proceed to another subject.
It is melancholy, when we look into the history of women, to see the low estimation in which they have been held from the earliest times. It is possible, because they have not possessed the strength of constitution, that they may have been thought not to have had the intellect of men. It is possible, because domestic cares and the rearing of children have been consigned to them, that other occupations may not have been considered as falling within the province of their stations. But whatever may have been the causes, polygamy or concubinage has unquestionably been the greatest, in hindering women from occupying an useful, dignified, and important station in society. This custom has held them up as little better than slaves, or than living toys or play-things. And this custom has prevailed over a great portion of the globe from times of the earliest antiquity to the present day.
Among the many circumstances which contributed to give importance to women in Europe, we may reckon the introduction of chivalry. Honour and humanity were the characteristics of this institution. Hence weakness was to be protected by it. And as weakness was more particularly the lot of women, so these became more peculiarly the objects of its care. Hence women began to feel a consequence, which had been hitherto denied them. They were treated with politeness and tenderness by all, and men began to be even solicitous of their applause. But though this was the case, chivalry did not elevate them beyond a certain height. It rendered a polite attention to them essential. But this attention was an homage to the weakness of females, and not to their intellect. It presupposed no capacity of usefulness in them, for every thing, in fact, was to be done for them, and they were to do but little for themselves.
The revival of learning in the twelfth century was another cause of adding to the importance of women. As men became more learned, they began to respect the power of the human understanding. They began to be acquainted, by means of history, with the talents of women in former ages. They began to give a better education to their families. These circumstances produced a more enlarged opinion of female genius. Hence learning became an instrument of giving new consequence to women. But it gave it to them on a principle different from that of chivalry: for whereas chivalry insisted upon a polite attention to them on account of the weakness of their constitutions, learning insisted upon it on account of the strength of their understanding, or because they were intellectual and reasonable beings. But that which contributed most to make women important in society, was the introduction of the Christian religion. By the mild spirit which it diffused, it produced a certain suavity of behaviour towards them. By the abolition of polygamy it allowed of no division of a man's love among many women, but limited it to one. Thus it made one woman dearer than another, and of course every individual woman of consequence. By the abolition of polygamy, it added to their consequence again, by raising them from the rank of slaves to that of the companions of men. This importance it increased again by the inculcation of specific duties towards them, and by the doctrine, that, as all, without exception, were equally accountable for their actions, and the Divine Being was no respecter of persons, so all, whether men or women, were of equal importance in his sight.
But though Christianity has operated, as it always will, where it is felt in the heart, to the production of a tender attention to women, and to the procuring of an honourable station for them in society, we have yet to lament, that this operation has not been more general, considering our public profession of this religion, than we find it at the present day. Women are still seldom appreciated as they ought to be. They are still weighed in a different scale from men. Their education is still limited, as if their understandings, notwithstanding the honourable testimony which history has borne concerning them, were incapable of high attainments. If homage be paid to their beauty, very little is paid to their opinions. Limits also are assigned to the sphere of their utility. To engage in other pursuits than they do would be thought strange. In short, the education they receive marks the inferior situation for which they are considered to be designed. Its tendency is mostly to outward shew. Formed like dolls or play-things, which are given to children to captivate by outside appearances, they are generally rendered incapable of exhibiting great talents, or of occupying an important station in life.
But it seems to have been reserved for the Quakers us a religious body, to insist upon that full practical treatment and estimation of women, which ought to take place wherever Christianity is professed. They have accordingly given to the females of their own society their proper weight in the scale of created beings. Believing them to have adequate capacities, and to be capable of great usefulness, they have admitted them to a share in the administration of almost all the offices which belong to their religious discipline, so that, independently of their private, they have a public character, like the men.
In the first volume, I had occasion to observe, when treating on the subject of the discipline, that representatives were chosen by the men out of their own body to the different meetings which were then named. Just so it is with the Quaker women. Representatives are appointed out of these by the other women on similar occasions. I stated also that, at certain times, the men assembled by themselves; that they discussed the business that came before them; that they replied to those who supported opposite opinions to their own; and that the young men were present during these discussions. So it is with the women. They sit in council by themselves. They argue and reply in like manner. The young females are also present. I stated also, that during these meetings of the men, one of them held the office of drawing up and recording the minutes of the proceedings or resolutions that had taken place. The women also appoint one of their own body to the same office. I stated again, that, in these meetings of the men, some were chosen as a committee to act in particular cases. So also are women chosen to act as a committee by their own meetings. I explained the nature of the office of overseer, and I observed that there were overseers among the men. There are also overseers among the women. I explained the nature of the office of elder, and I observed that there were elders among the men. The women have their elders likewise. The men were said to preach as in other societies. The women are permitted to preach also. In short, if the men consider themselves to be qualified for any office belonging their religious discipline, they believe their women to be equally capable of holding the same. No distinction is made as to the powers of usefulness between the men and the women of this society. There are few offices held by men, but there is a corresponding one for those of the other sex.
[Footnote 41: The principal exceptions are, that they are not correspondents, arbitrators, legislators, or on committees of appeal.]
The execution of these and other, public offices, by which the Quaker women have an important station allotted them in society, cannot but have an important influence on their minds. It gives them, in fact, a new cast of character. It imparts to them, in the first place, a considerable knowledge of human nature. It produces in them thought, and foresight, and judgment. It creates in them a care and concern for the distressed. It elevates their ideas. It raises in them a sense of their own dignity and importance as human beings, which sets them above every thing that is little and trifling, and above all idle parade and shew. Fond as they are of the animal creation, you do not see them lavishing their caresses on lap-dogs, to the contempt of the poor and miserable of their own species. You never see them driving from shop to shop to make up a morning's amusement, by examining and throwing out of order the various articles of tradesmen, giving them great trouble, and buying nothing in return. You never find them calling upon those whom they know to be absent from their homes, thus making their mimic visits, and leaving their useless cards. Nothing, in short, so ridiculous or degrading, is known among them. Their pursuits are rational, useful, and dignified. And they may be said in general to exhibit a model for the employment of time, worthy of the character they profess.
MISCELLANEOUS PARTICULARS RELATIVE TO THE QUAKERS
Quakers a happy people—Subordinate causes of this happiness—namely, their comfortable situation—their attachment to domestic life—their almost constant employment—this happiness not broken like that of others, by an interruption of the routine of constituted pleasures—or by anger and other passions or by particular enquiries and notions about religion.
If a person were to judge of the Quakers by the general gravity of their countenances, and were to take into consideration, at the same time, the circumstance, that they never partook of the amusements of the world, in which he placed a part of his own pleasures, he would be induced to conclude, that they had dull and gloomy minds, and that they could not be upon the whole a happy people. Such a conclusion, however, would be contrary to the fact. On my first acquaintance with them I was surprised, seeing the little variety of their pursuits, at the happiness which they appeared to enjoy, but as I came to a knowledge of the constitution and state of the society, the solution of the problem became easy.
It will not be difficult to develope the subordinate causes of this happiness. To shew the first of these, I shall view the society in the three classes of the rich, the middle, and the poor. Of the rich, I may observe, that they are not so affluent in general as the rich of other bodies. Of the middle, that they are upon the whole in better circumstances than others of the same class in life. Of the poor, that they are not so poor as others in a similar condition. Now the rich in the Quaker society have of course as many of the comforts of life in their power as they desire. The middle classes in this society have more of these than the middle classes of other denominations. The poor in the same society have also more of these, in consequence of the handsome provision which is made for them, than others in a similar situation with themselves. There is therefore upon the whole a greater distribution of the comforts of life, among all the ranks of this society, than is to be found in any other community, in proportion to their numbers. But this superior state, in point of comfortable circumstances, ought to be undoubtedly a source of superior happiness. For where the comforts of life are wanting, it is in vain to suppose men can be happy, unless their minds are more than usually comforted by their religion.
[Footnote 42: Religion, which includes positive virtues, and an absence from vices, joined to a peaceful conscience and a well grounded hope of a better life, is the first and greatest cause of happiness, and may belong to all. But I confine myself, in this chapter, to such causes only as may be called subordinate, and in which the Quakers are more particularly concerned.]
Another source of their happiness may be found in their domestic situation. The Quakers, as I have observed before, in consequence of denying themselves the pleasures of the world, have been obliged to cherish those which are found in domestic life. In the fashionable world, men and their wives seldom follow their pleasures together. They resemble the little wooden figures of the man and the woman, which, by moving backwards and forwards in a small painted house, denote the changes of the weather. While one of these is within, the other is out of doors. But this is not the case with the Quakers. The husband and wife are not so easily separable. They visit generally together. They are remarked as affectionate. You never hear of intrigues among them. They are long in each others society at a time, and they are more at home than almost any other people. For neither the same pleasures, nor the same occupations, separate these as others. The husband is never seen at a play, nor at a tavern, nor at a dance. Neither the naval nor the military profession summons him abroad. He is seldom concerned in voyages as a mariner. Hence he must of necessity be much at home. Add to this, that the Quakers have generally families, with the power of providing for them. But these circumstances render their homes agreeable to them, and increase their domestic delights.
A third source of the happiness of the Quakers arises from the circumstance of their being almost constantly employed. Few are so miserable as those who have nothing to do, or who, unable to find employment, feel a dull vacuum in their time. And the converse of this proposition is equally true, that the time of those flies pleasantly away, who can employ it rationally. But there is rarely such a being among the Quakers as a lazy person, gaping about for amusement. Their trades or callings occupy the greater portion of their time. Their meetings of discipline, as has been already shewn, occupy their time again. The execution of the various offices to which they may be appointed, such as of overseers, or elders, or committee-men, or arbitrators in disputes, occupies more. Few Quakers, but particularly the more respectable, have many vacant hours. And here it may not be improper to remark, that the discipline of the society, organized as it is, is productive of a cheerful and friendly intercourse of the members, or of a sociable manner of spending their time, one with another. The monthly meetings usually bring two or three particular meetings together. The members of these, when they have dispatched their business, retire to the houses of their friends, where they take their refreshment, and indulge in the pleasures of conversation. The quarterly meetings again bring the monthly meetings of the county into one. Here again, when the business is over, they partake of a similar repast. Hence a renewal of conversation and of friendship. The yearly meeting again brings many, from the quarterly together. And here the Quakers from all parts of the kingdom have an opportunity of seeing and conversing with one another. I may add too, that many individuals in the interim, who travel, whether on business or on pleasure, or on religious errands, enlarge this friendly intercourse; for few Quakers pass through the towns where Quakers live, without calling upon these, so that there are many sources within the customs and constitution of the society, that are productive of cheerful hours.
[Footnote 43: It may be mentioned here, that the Quakers acknowledge their relations to a much farther degree of consanguinity, than other people. This relationship, where it can be distinctly traced, is commemorated by the appellation of cousin. This custom therefore is a cause of endearment when they meet, and of course of additional pleasure.]
But here it will probably be said, that these sources of happiness, which have been hitherto described, are common to many others. I grant they are to individuals, but not to communities at large. No society has probably so many of the comforts of life in its power, number for number, and rank for rank, as that of the Quakers. None probably so wholly domestic. None, where the members of it have such frequent intercourse with each other, or where they are so connected in the bonds of brotherly love, and none, as far as I know men, who have such constant employment for their time.
Having explained some of those, which may be considered as positive sources of happiness to the Quakers, I shall now shew what may be causes of unhappiness to others, and that the Quakers seldom partake of these. Such an exposition, however strange it may appear at the first sight, will be materially to the point. For though an exemption from the causes of the uneasiness of others can never be admitted as a proof of the existence of positive enjoyment among the Quakers, yet if the latter have solid sources of happiness of their own, and these are not in any material degree diminished by the causes of the uneasiness of the former, there will be left to them, because there will be no drawback, a certain portion of happiness with less alloy. And here it is obvious at the first sight, that the Quakers have not the same, nor so many wants as others, with respect to their pleasures, and that they do not admit the same things to be component parts of them. Hence they have not the same causes of uneasiness from the chance of interruption. Hence also their happiness is more in their own power. What individual can annihilate the comforts which arise from their own industry, or their domestic enjoyments, or their friendly intercourse with each other, or their employments, which arise from their discipline, and from their trade and callings? But how easily are many of the reputed enjoyments of the world to be broken? Some people place their happiness in a routine of constituted pleasures. In proportion as these have been frequently resorted to, they will have got into the habit as the necessary enjoyments of life. Take away then from persons in such habits the power of these their ordinary gratifications, and you will make them languid, and even wretched. There will be a wide chasm, which they will not know how to fill up; a dull vacuum of time, which will make their existence insipid; a disappointment, which will carry with it a lacerating sting. In some of the higher circles of life, accustomed to such rounds of pleasure, who does not know that the Sunday is lamented as the most cruel interrupter of their enjoyments?—No shopping in the morning—no theatre or route in the evening—Nothing but dull heavy church stares them in the face. But I will not carry this picture to the length to which I am capable. I shall only observe that, where persons adopt a routine of constituted pleasures, they are creating fictitious wants for themselves, and making their own happiness subject to interruption, and putting it into the power of others. The Quakers, however, by the total rejection of all the amusements included in the routine alluded to, know nothing of the drawbacks or disadvantages described.
The Quakers again are exempt from several of the causes of uneasiness, which attach to the world at large. Some go to the gaming-table, and ruin themselves and their families, and destroy the peace of their minds. But the Quakers are never found injuring their fortunes or their happiness by such disreputable means.
Others disturb the harmony of their lives by intemperate sallies of passion. It has been well observed, that, whatever may be the duration of a man's anger, so much time he loses of the enjoyment of his life. The Quakers, however, have but few miserable moments on this account. A due subjugation of the passions has been generally instilled into them from early youth. Provocation seldom produces in them any intemperate warmth, or takes away, in any material degree, from the apparent composure of their minds.
Others again, by indulging their anger, are often hurried into actions of which the consequences vex and torment them, and of which they often bitterly repent. But the Quakers endeavour to avoid quarrelling, and therefore they often steer clear of the party and family feuds of others. They avoid also, as much as possible, the law, so that they have seldom any of the lawsuits to harass and disturb them, which interrupt the tranquillity of others by the heavy expence, and by the lasting enmities they occasion.
The Quakers again are exempt from many of the other passions which contribute to the unhappiness of the world at large. Some men have an almost boundless ambition. They are desirous of worldly honours, or of eminent stations, or of a public name, and pursue these objects in their passage through life with an avidity which disturbs the repose of their minds. But the Quakers scarcely know any such feeling as that of ambition, and of course scarcely any of the torments that belong to it. They are less captivated by the splendour of honours than any other people, and they had rather live in the memory of a few valuable friends, than be handed down to posterity for those deeds, which generally constitute the basis of public character.
Others again, who cannot obtain these honourable distractions, envy those who possess them. They envy the very coronet upon the coach, as it passes by. But the Quakers can have no such feelings as these. They pass in their pilgrimage through life regardless of such distinctions, or they estimate them but as the baubles of the, day. It would be folly therefore to suppose, that they could be envious of that which they do not covet.
The Quakers again are exempt from some of the occasions of uneasiness which arise to others from considerations on the subject of religion. Some people, for example, pry into what are denominated mysteries. The more they look into these, the less they understand them, or rather, the more they are perplexed and confounded. Such an enquiry too, while it bewilders the understanding, generally affects the mind. But the Quakers avoid all such curious enquiries as these, and therefore they suffer no interruption of their enjoyment from this source. Others again, by the adoption of gloomy creeds, give rise frequently to melancholy, and thus lay in for themselves a store of fuel for the torment of their own minds. But the Quakers espouse no doctrines, which, while they conduct themselves uprightly, can interrupt the tranquillity of their lives. It is possible there may be here and mere an instance where their feelings may be unduly affected, in consequence of having carried the doctrine of the influence of the Spirit, as far as it relates to their own condition, beyond its proper bounds. But individuals, who may fell into errors of this nature, are, it is to be hoped, but few; because any melancholy, which may arise from these causes, must be the effect, not of genuine Quakerism, but of a degenerate superstition.
Good, which the Quakers have done as a society upon earth—by their general good example—by shewing that persecution for religion is ineffectual—by shewing the practicability of the subjugation of the will of man—the influence of Christianity on character—the inefficacy of capital punishments—the best object of punishment—the practicability of living, either in a private or a public capacity, in harmony and peace—the superiority of the policy of the Gospel over the policy of the world.
When we consider man as distinguished from other animals by the rational and spiritual faculties which he possesses, we cannot but conceive it to be a reproach to his nature, if he does not distinguish himself from these, or, if he does not leave some trace behind him, that he has existed rationally and profitably both to himself and others. But if this be expected of man, considered abstractedly as man, much more will it be expected of him, if he has had the advantages of knowing the doctrines of Christianity, and the sublime example of the great Author of that religion. And the same observation, I apprehend, will hold true with respect to societies of men. For if they have done no good during their existence, we cannot see how they can escape censure, or that it would not have been better that they had not existed at all. This consideration leads me to enquire, what good the Quakers have done since their institution, as a society, upon earth.
It was said of the Quakers in George Fox's time, after their character had been established, that, "if they did not stand, the nation would run into debauchery." By this I apprehend it was meant, that it was a desirable thing to have a people to look up to, who, residing in the 'midst of a vicious community, professed to be followers of that which was right, and to resist the current of bad example in their own times; or that such a people might be considered as a leaven, that might leaven the whole lump, but that, if this leaven were lost, the community might lose one of its visible incitements to virtue. Now in this way the Quakers have had a certain general usefulness in the world. They have kept more, I apprehend, to first principles, than any other people. They have afforded a moral example. This example ought to have been useful to others. To those who were well inclined, it should have been as a torch to have lighted up their virtue, and it should have been a perpetual monument for reproof to others, who were entering upon a career of vice.
The first particular good, after the general one now stated, which the Quakers have done, has been, that they have shewn to those who have been spectators of their conduct, that all persecution for matters of religion, as it is highly criminal in the eyes of the Supreme Being, so it is inadequate to the end proposed. This proposition, indeed, seems to be tolerably Well understood at the present day. At least they whose minds have been well informed, acknowledge it. The history of martyrdom, by which we learn how religion soars above all suffering, how the torments inflicted on the body are unable to reach the mind, how the moral Governor of the world reigns triumphant upon earth, how tyranny and oppression fall prostrate before virtue, losing their malignant aim, has been one, among other causes, of this knowledge. But as history is known but to few, and is not remembered by all, the Quakers are particularly useful by holding up the truth of the proposition to our daily sight, that is, by the example they continue to afford us of bearing their testimony in all cases where the civil magistrate is concerned on the one hand, and their consciences on the other.
A second good, which the Quakers have done, is by shewing, as a whole body, the power of Christianity in the subjugation of the will of men, and its influence on their character.
They are living proofs, in the first instance, that human nature is not the stubborn thing, which many have imagined it to be; that, however it may be depraved, it is still corrigible; and that this correction is universally practicable, for that there are as various dispositions in this society as in any other in proportion to its numbers. They shew, that Christianity can alter the temper, that it can level enmities, and that there is no just occasion for any to despair. And they are living proofs, in the second, as to what kind of character Christianity, where it is rightly received, will produce; They are living proofs, that it can produce sobriety, inoffensiveness, simplicity, charity, peace, and the domestic and other virtues. Now though every private Christian can shew in himself an example of these effects, yet the Quakers shew it, not by producing solitary instances, but as a body; the temper of the great mass of their members being apparently cast in the same mould, and their character, as a society, being acknowledged to be that of a moral people.
And here I cannot but stop for a moment to pay a just tribute to the Quaker system, as one of the best modes of the Christian Religion; for whether the doctrines which belong to it, or whether the discipline which it promotes, or whether both of them conjointly, produce the effects which have been just related, certain it is, that they are produced. But that system of religion is surely the most excellent, which produces, first, the greatest, and, secondly, the most universal effect upon those who profess it. For what is the use of any particular creed, or where is the advantage of any one creed above another, if it cannot give the great characteristic marks of a Christian, a subjugated mind and a moral character? What signifies the creed of any particular description of Christian professors, if it has no influence on the heart, or if we see professors among these giving way to their passions, or affording an inconsistent example to the world.
[Footnote 44: Many of the Quakers in America, influenced by custom, Adopted the practice of holding slaves. But on a due recurrence to their principles they gave freedom to these unconditionally, thus doing another public good in the world, and giving another example of the power of religion on the mind.]
The Quakers have given, again, in the reforms, which, in the first volume, I described them to have introduced into legislation, a beautiful and practical lesson of jurisprudence to the governors of all nations. They have shewn the inefficacy of capital punishments; that the best object in the punishment of offenders is their reformation; that this accords best with the genius and spirit of the Christian Religion; and that while such a system, when followed, restores the abandoned to usefulness in society, it diminishes the number of crimes.
[Footnote 45: See Vol. I, Sect. 4, p. 198.]
They have shewn again, by their own example, that it is not so difficult for men to live peaceably together, as has been usually believed; and they have exhibited the means by which they have effected this desirable end in life. And as they have proved, that this is practicable in private, so they have proved, as has appeared in this volume, that it is practicable in public life, or, which is the same thing, they have shewn, that in the intercourse which exists between nations, there is no necessity for wars.
They have shewn and established again by the two latter instances, both of which relate to government, a proposition which seems scarcely to be believed, if we judge by the practice of statesmen, but the truth of which ought for ever to be insisted upon, that the policy of the Gospel is superior to the policy of the world.
This is a portion of the good which the Quakers have done since their appearance as a society in the world. What other good they have done it is not necessary to specify. And as to what they would do, if they were permitted to become universal legislators, it may be a pleasing subject for contemplation, but it does not fall within the limits of the present chapter.
General opinion, that the Quakers are on the decline as a society—Observations upon this subject—Opinion believed, upon the whole, to be true—Causes of this supposed declension—Mixed marriages—Tithes—Pursuit of trade, as connected with the peculiar habits of the society, and a residence in the towns—Education.
I have often heard it suggested as matter for conversation, whether the Quakers were increasing or decreasing in their number, and the result has always been an opinion, that they were a declining body.
When we consider the simplicity and even philosophy of the Quaker religion, the preservation it affords against the follies and difficulties of life, and the happiness to which it ultimately leads, we shall wonder that the progress of the society, in point of number, has not been greater than we find it. And when we consider, on the other hand, how difficult it is to be a Quaker, how much it is against the temper and disposition of man to be singular, or to resist the tide of custom and fashion, and to undergo an ordeal of suffering on these accounts, we shall wonder that it has not been long ago extinct.
That many are disowned by the society, in consequence of which its numbers are diminished, is true. That others come into it from other quarters, by which an increase is given to it, independently of its own natural population, is true also. But whether the new members exceed the disowned, or the disowned the new, is the question to be resolved. Now no people have had better opportunities of ascertaining this point, than the Quakers themselves. By means of their monthly meetings they might with ease have instituted a census on a given day. They might have renewed such a census. They might have compared the returns in every case. But as no such census has ever been made, the Quakers themselves, though they have their ideas, cannot speak with particular accuracy, on this subject.
The general opinion, however, is, and the Quakers, I apprehend, will not deny but lament it, that those who go out of the society are upon the whole more numerous than those who come into it by convincement, and therefore that there is, upon the whole, a decrease among them.
Of the truth of this opinion, some have adduced as a proof, that the quarterly meetings have been reduced to three fourths of their original number. But this is not to be considered as a certain criterion of the fact. For it is by no means uncommon to find, if the Quakers decrease in one county, that they increase in another. It has also been adduced, that many particular meetings have been broken up, or that meeting-houses in the country are standing deserted, or without Quakers to worship in them. But neither can this be considered as any infallible proof of the point. For it frequently happens, that if the Quakers become less numerous in any particular village, they become more so in some of the towns of the same county. Thus no true judgment can be formed upon these principles. The Quaker population, in this respect, on account of its movements, resembles the sea, which, while it loses on one part of its shores or boundaries, gains upon another.
There are, however, considerations, which may be more decisive of the fact.
In the time of George Fox the number of those converted to his principles was immense. This number, if we consult all the facts that might be adduced on the occasion, continued to be large in after times. Now it must be observed, that the Quakers are a sober and temperate people, that they generally marry at a proper age, and that they have large families. It is therefore impossible, if the descendants of the early Quakers had continued in the society, that their number should not have been much larger than we find it at the present day, and, if so, there must have been a secession or an expulsion, amounting, notwithstanding all influx by conversion, to a decrease.
[Footnote 46: Although the remark may be just, that in the time of George Fox "a great number were converted to his principles," yet a small portion of those were actually received into membership, and the same remark may correctly be made even in the present day: as it is believed that immense numbers are convinced of the truth as held by the Quakers, but owing to their "not being willing to undergo an ordeal of suffering on account of their principles," a small portion of those apply to be admitted into the society. AMERICAN EDITOR.]
It is obvious again that the Quakers, in consequence of their industry and their frugal habits, must almost unavoidably grow rich. Now if the descendants of the early Quakers had remained in the society, we should have seen more overgrown fortunes in it, than among others in proportion to their numbers. But this is contrary to the fact. The very richest, as the world now goes, would not be considered to be particularly rich; and it is a truth that those who are affluent among them have generally been the founders, by means of their industry and integrity, of their own fortunes.
It is, again, a matter of observation among the Quakers, now grown into a truth, that if men grow rich in the society, their grand-children generally leave it. But surely this amounts to a confession, that in a particular part of the society there are the seeds of a regular and successive decrease.
That the Quakers then upon the whole are a declining body, there can be no doubt. While I state it, I lament it. I lament that there should be any diminution of number among those who have done so much good in the world, and who have so justly obtained the reputation of a moral people. This consideration will lead me to enquire into the causes of this decline. It will impel me also to enquire into the means of remedy. How far I may be successful in the latter attempt, I am unable to say. But it will always be a pleasing consideration to me, to have tried to prevent the decrease of a virtuous people.
[Footnote 47: Against this decrease we cannot set off any great increase by admission into membership. The dress, the language, the fear of being singular, the discipline with its various restraints, the unwillingness of men to suffer where suffering can be avoided, these and other circumstances are great impediments in the way of an entrance into this society; and to this I may add, that applications for admission into it are not always complied with.]
With respect then to the causes of this decline, to which I shall confine myself in this chapter, they will be found in the causes of disownment. Now of these, some may be called original and immediate, and others original and remote.
Of original and immediate, the first is what the Quakers call mixed marriage. It has been before stated, that those who marry out of the society are disowned, and the reasons for such disownments have been given.
A second will be found in tithes. They who pay these are ultimately disowned. And they are disowned as well for the payment of lay-tithes, as of those which are ecclesiastical.
Of the original and remote, a very prolific cause is the pursuit of trade, connected as it is with the peculiar habits of the society, and a residence in the towns.
[Footnote 48: Owing perhaps to the causes alleged by the author, the society may have decreased in England, yet it is certain that in this country the number of Quakers has very considerably increased. AMERICAN EDITOR.]
To shew this I must observe, first, that the poor, comparatively speaking, are seldom disowned, for they know that they shall never be so well provided for in any other society. I must observe again, that the members of the middle classes are also, comparatively speaking, but seldom disowned. These must live by trade, but if so, they cannot be better off than as Quakers. The direct conclusion then, from these observations, will be, that the greater number of those who are disowned, will be found among the rich, or among such as are growing rich. Hence it appears, that, as far as this original and remote cause is concerned, my enquiry must be, how it happens, that members of this particular class should be excluded from membership more than those of any other.
[Footnote 49: I by no means intend to say, that the poor do not remain in the society from an attachment to its principles, but that this may be a political motive also.]
In answer to this enquiry I must say, as I have observed before, that Quakers in trade, having as good abilities, and as much diligence and integrity as others, will succeed as well as others in it, but that, having less sources of outgoings, their savings will be generally greater. Hence they will have before their eyes the sight of a greater accumulation of wealth. But in proportion as such accumulation of substance is beheld, the love of it increases. Now while this love increases, or while their hearts are unduly fixed on the mammon of the world, they allow many little inconsistencies in their children to escape their reproof. But, besides this, as the religion and the love of the mammon of the world are at variance, they have a less spiritual discernment than before. Hence they do not see the same irregularities in the same light. From this omission to check these irregularities on the one hand, and from this decay of their spiritual vision on the other, their children have greater liberties allowed them than others in the same society. But as these experience this indulgence, or as these admit the customs and fashions of the world, they grow more fond of them. Now, as they live in towns, the spark that is excited is soon fanned into a flame. Fashions and fashionable things, which they cannot but see daily before their eyes, begin to get the dominion. When they are visited by wholesome advisers, they dislike the interference. They know they shall be rich. They begin to think the discipline of the society a cruel restraint. They begin to dislike the society itself, and, committing irregularities, they are sometimes in consequence disowned. But, if they should escape disownment themselves, they entail it generally upon their children. These are brought up in a still looser manner than themselves. The same process goes on with these as with their parents, but in a still higher degree, till a conduct utterly inconsistent with the principles of the society occasions them to be separated from it. Thus in the same manner, as war, according to the old saying, begets poverty, and poverty peace, so the pursuit of trade, with the peculiar habits of the society, leads to riches, riches to fashion and licentiousness, and fashion and licentiousness to disownment, so that many Quakers educate their children as if there were to be no Quakers in the second generation from themselves. And thus, though, strictly speaking, irregularities are the immediate occasion of these disownments, they are ultimately to be attributed to the original and remote cause as now described.
[Footnote 50: I hope I shall not be understood as involving the rich in a promiscuous censure. I know as amiable examples among these and among their children, as among others of the society. But we must naturally expect more deviations among the rich, number for number, than among others.]
That this is by no means an unreasonable account, I shall shew in some measure by an appeal to facts. The American Quakers sprang from the English. The English, though drained in consequence, were still considerable, when compared with the former. But it is remarkable, that the American Quakers exceed the English by at least five times their number at the present day. Now it must undoubtedly be confessed, that the Americans have advantages, as far as this fact is concerned, which the English have not. They have no tithes as a cause of disownment. Their families also, I believe, increase more rapidly. Many persons also, as will be the case in a country that is not fully settled, live in the neighbourhoods of the Quakers, but at a distance from those of other religious denominations, and therefore, wishing to worship somewhere, seek membership with them. But I apprehend that a great cause of this disparity of number lies in this difference of the situation of the two, that whereas the great Quaker population in England is in the towns with but a remnant in the country, the great Quaker population in America is in the country with but a remnant in the towns. And that the Americans themselves believe, that the place of the residence of their members is connected in some measure with the increase and decrease of their society, it is fair to presume, from this circumstance, that, in several of the quarterly meetings in America, advice has been given to parents to bring up their children in the country, and, as little as possible, in the towns.
[Footnote 51: The number of the Quakers is undoubtedly great in one or two of the cities in America, but the whole town-population is not great, when compared with the whole country-population there.]
Another of the original and remote causes is education. This, as it becomes promotive of the diminution of the society, is of two kinds. The first may be called alien. The second is such as is afforded in the society itself.
Some parents, growing rich, and wishing to give their children a better education, than they can get in their own schools, send them to others to be instructed. Now the result has not been desirable, where it has been designed, that such children should be continued Quakers. For how is a poor solitary Quaker boy to retain the peculiarities belonging to his religious profession, in the face of the whole school? Will not his opinions and manners be drowned as it were in the torrent of the opinions and manners of the rest? How can he get out of this whirlpool pure? How, on his return, will he harmonize with his own society? Will not either he, or his descendants, leave it? Such an education may make him undoubtedly both a good and an enlightened man, and so far one of the most desirable objects in life will have been accomplished, but it certainly tends to destroy the peculiar institution of Quakerism.
The education, which is afforded in the society itself, is divisible again into two kinds, into that which is moral or religious, and into that which is literary or philosophical.
It must undoubtedly be confessed, in looking into that which is moral or religious, that sufficient care is not always taken with regard to youth. We sometimes see fathers and sons, and mothers and daughters, so different in their appearance and deportment, that we should scarcely have imagined them to be of the same family. I am not now speaking of those parents, who may live in the towns, and who may be more than ordinarily devoted to the mammon of the world, but of some who, living both in town and country, give an example of a liberal and amiable spirit, and of a blameless conduct to the world. That the former should neglect and lose sight of their offspring, when their moral vision is clouded by an undue eagerness after money, is not to be wondered at, but that the latter should do it, is surprising. It is certainly true that some of these are too indulgent in their families, contrary to the plan and manner of their own education, or that they do not endeavour to nip all rising inconsistencies in the bud. The consequence is, that their children get beyond control in time, when they lament in vain their departure from the simplicity of the society. Hence the real cause of their disownment, which occasionally follows, is not in the children running out of bounds, but in the parents running out of bounds in the manners of their children. And here I may add, that some parents, dwelling too much on the disuse of forms in religion, because such disuse is inculcated by their own doctrines, run into the opposite extreme, and bring up their children in too much ignorance of the general plan of Christianity, as it is laid down in the letter of the scriptures.
With respect to education, as for it is literary or philosophical, it is frequently sufficient for those upon whom it is bestowed. But it does not appear to me to be carried to its proper extent, in the case of the children of the rich, when I consider how friendly it might be made towards the promotion of virtue. Some, we know, growing wealthy, have had children when they were poorer, and, when in this poorer state, they have given them an education which has been suitable to it, not calculating upon their future rise in life. But their children, having had such a limited education, have not had that which has been proper for their subsequent station in life. Others again, who have been born in better circumstances, have, on account of an undue depreciation of human knowledge, educated their children as improperly for their station as the former. The children then, in both these cases, have not had an education sufficient, with the prospect of riches before them, to keep them out of the way of harm. They have not had, in addition to any religious instruction, that taste given them for sublime pursuits, which should make them despise those which were frivolous. Thus many of the corruptive opinions, fashions, and amusements of the world have charmed them. Giving way to these, they have been overcome. When overcome, they have run into excesses, and for these excesses they have been disowned. But surely, with a better education, they would have thought all such corruptive opinions, fashions, and amusements, as below their notice, and unworthy of their countenance and support.
Supposed remedies for the diminution of some of these causes—Regulations in the case of mixed marriages—Measures to be adopted in the pursuit of trade—Education, as it is moral or religious, to be more strictly enforced in some families—as it is literary or philosophical, to be carried to a greater extent among the children of the rich—Object of this latter education—Nature of it as consisting both knowledge and prohibitions—How it would operate against the fascinating allurements of the world, or to the end proposal.
I Purpose now to suggest, as briefly as I can, such opinions, as, if adopted, might possibly operate as remedies to some of the evils which have been described. In doing this I am aware of the difficulties that await me. I am sensible that I ought not to be too sanguine as to the result of all my observations upon this subject and yet, I cannot but think, that I may be successful in some of them. Arduous, however, as the task, and dubious as my success may be, I am encouraged, on the prospect of being but partially useful, to undertake it.
On the first of the original and immediate causes which have been mentioned, I mean mixed marriages, I shall have but little to say. I do not see how it is possible, while the society means to keep up a due subordination among its members, not to disown such as may marry out of it. In mixed families, such as these marriages produce, it is in vain to expect that the discipline can be carried on, as has been shewn in the second volume. And, without this discipline, the society would hardly keep up, in the extensive manner it does, the character of a moral people. I think, however, that some good might be done by regulations to be universally observed. Thus they, who are deputed to inform the disowned of their exclusion from membership, should be of the most amiable temper and conciliatory manners. Every unqualified person should be excluded from these missions. Permission should be solicited for both the married persons to be present on such occasions. It is difficult to estimate the good effect which the deputed, if of sweet and tender dispositions, or the bad effects which the deputed, if of cold and austere manners, might have upon those they visited, or what bias it might give the one in particular, who had never been in membership, for or against the society. Permission also might be solicited, even when the mission was over for future friendly opportunities or visits, which would shew in the society itself a tender regard and solicitude for the welfare of its former members. It is not at all improbable, from the impression which such apparent regard and solicitude might occasion, that the children of the visited, though not members, might be brought up in the rules of membership. And finally it appears to me to be desirable, that the disowned, if they should give proof by their own lives and the education of their children, of their attachment to the principles of the society, and should solicit restoration to membership, should be admitted into it again without any acknowledgment of past errors, and wholly as new and convinced members.
With respect to the second of the immediate and original causes, which is to be found in tithes, I may observe that it is, as for as I can collect, but a small and an inferior one, few being disowned on this account, and still fewer now than formerly. It would be desirable, however, few as these instances may be, to prevent them. But I fear that no remedy can be pointed out, in which the Quakers would acquiesce, except it could be shewn, that a distinction might be made between the payment of ecclesiastical and lay-tithes, which would not interfere with the great tenets of the society on this subject.
A third cause of disownment, but this belongs to the original and remote, was shewn to be the pursuit of trade, connected as it is with the peculiar habits of the society and a residence in the towns. I may propose as remedies for this, first, that parents should be careful to exhibit a good example to their children. Secondly, as I have before observed, that they should prescribe to themselves moderation in the acquisition of wealth, either by relinquishing trade at a given time, or by dealing out the profits of it more liberally than common in the way of benevolence, so that their children, in each case, may never have the misfortune of the prospect of a large moneyed independence before their eyes. Or lastly, that they should give them a better education than they do at present, on which subject, according to the prescribed order of things, I am now to speak.
A fourth cause then, but this belongs also to the original and remote, was shewn to exist in education. And education, as it was promotive of the diminution of the society, was of two kinds.
With respect to that part of it which is alien, the remedy is easy. There has been great difficulty in procuring proper schoolmasters, I mean such as have been Quakers. Two reasons may be given for this. The first is, that the society having been backward in affording due encouragement to learning, few of any great literary acquisitions have been brought up in it. The second is, that persons have found, that they could make much less of their time in such a line of employment than in the way of trade. But surely the Quakers, as a body in comfortable and independent circumstances, might easily remedy the evil. Does not a man, who devotes his time to the instruction of youth, deserve to be made as comfortable as the man who sells silver utensils, or bracelets, or ear-rings, or other articles of trade? Is there any comparison between the moral usefulness of these? Is there any profession more useful than that which forms the youthful mind? or rather, is it not the most important profession in the state?
[Footnote 52: It is but justice to the Quakers to observe, that they are taking more pains than formerly in the promotion of this object. I am told that there are more private seminaries now kept by Quakers for the education of the youth of their own society, than even before the institution of Ackworth school.]
With respect to the education which is acquired in the society itself, the remedy is not difficult. This education was shewn to be of two kinds.
On that part of it, which is moral or religious, I may observe, that the remedy is in the parents themselves. The first thing to be recommended is an universal vigilance over the disposition and manners of children, so that no censurable appearance, whether in temper or in conduct, may be allowed to pass without suitable notice or reproof, or that the bud, which promises to be corruptive of morals, should no sooner make its appearance, than it should be cut off. In cases of so much importance, as where the happiness both of parents and children is concerned, the former should be peculiarly circumspect. They should not talk about things, but insist upon them, on all proper occasions. They should not point out, but redress. They should not lop off the branches, but lay the axe to the root. And surely youth is the best season for such wholesome interference. It is, in the first place, the season in which a remedy is practicable; for we are assured, "if we train up a child in the way he should go, that, when he is old, he will not depart from it." It is, secondly, the season in which it is most practicable; for can we hope to bend the tree so easily to our form, as the sapling from whence it came? and, thirdly, it is the season in which it is practicable only, for will not a small irregularity grow, if uncontrolled, to a greater? Will not one irregularity also, if not properly checked, give birth to others? And may not these be so incorporated into the inner man in a course of time, that it may be as difficult for parents to eradicate them, as for the Ethiopian to change his colour, or the leopard his spots? But surely the Quakers ought to know the impropriety of undue indulgences in their families, as well as any other people? Is not the early subjugation of the will a doctrine more particularly adopted by them as a society? Without such a subjugation do they not conceive the mind to be in an unfit state to receive the admonitions of the pure principle, and of course to make a true proficiency in religion? Do they not consider themselves also as a highly professing people, and do they not know that the world expects more from them than from others? But how can their children ever perpetuate this extraordinary character after them, or shew that their parents possessed it, unless they are brought up in a peculiarly guarded manner? In addition to these observations it may be recommended, that parents should be careful to give their children what may be called a literal instruction in Christianity, in contradistinction to pure theism, or to those doctrines which they conceive may come from the teachings of the Holy Spirit, so that they may have a more intimate knowledge of all their principles, as a Christian body.
With respect to that part of education which may consist of knowledge as it is literary or philosophical, I conceive it might be attended with advantage to carry it to a greater extent than has hitherto been practised in the society, but particularly the latter. Nothing is so delightful to youth as experimental philosophy, by which they see the causes of things unfolded to their view. No science takes their attention more, or inclines them, in the farther pursuit of it, to be satisfied with home. And yet I doubt whether this branch of learning be not almost wholly neglected in the Quaker schools. The education which is received in the society, as it consists of the two kinds of knowledge described, is not, in my apprehension, carried far enough, so as to suit the peculiar situation of the children of the rich. These are they, who are most in danger. These are they, who, having the prospect of wealth before them, have the prospect of being able to procure destructive pleasures. These are they, who, having the prospect of independence, do not fear the opinion of the world or the loss of reputation in it, like those, who have their livelihood to obtain by their own industry. Now it should be the particular object of the education of these, as indeed it should be of all rich persons, so to instruct them, that, while they are obliged to live in the world, they may be enabled to live out of it, or deny it; so that, when seated amidst its corrupt opinions, amusements, and fashions, they should estimate them as below their notice, and as utterly unworthy of their countenance and support.