A Portraiture of Quakerism, Volume I (of 3)
by Thomas Clarkson
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Taken from a View of the Education and Discipline, Social Manners, Civil and Political Economy, Religious Principles and Character, of the Society of Friends









Amusements distinguishable into useful and hurtful—the latter specified and forbidden.


SECT. I.—Games of chance forbidden—history of the origin of some of these.

SECT. II.—Forbidden as below the dignity of the intellect of man, and of his christian character.

SECT. III.—As producing an excitement of the passions, unfavourable to religious impressions—historical anecdotes of this excitement.

SECT. IV.—As tending to produce, by the introduction of habits of gaming, an alteration in the moral character.


SECT. I.—Music forbidden—instrumental innocent in itself, but greatly abused—the use of it almost inseparable from its abuse at the present day.

SECT. II.—Quakers cannot learn instrumental on the usual motives of the world—nor consider it as a source of moral improvement, or of solid comfort to the mind—but are fearful that, if indulged in, it would interfere with the Christian duty of religious retirement.

SECT III.—Quakers cannot learn vocal, because, on account of its articulative powers, it is capable of becoming detrimental to morals—its tendency to this, as discoverable by an analysis of different classes of songs.

SECT IV.—The preceding the arguments of the early Quaker—but the new state of music has produced others—these explained.

SECT V.—An objection stated to the different arguments of the Quakers on this subject—their reply.


SECT I.—The Theatre forbidden—short history of its origin—and of its state and progress.

SECT II.—Manner of the drama objected to by the Quakers—as it personates the characters of others—and it professes to reform vice.

SECT III.—Contents of the drama objected to—as they hold our false sentiments—and weaken the sinews of morality.

SECT IV.—Theater considered by the Quakers to be injurious to the happiness of man, as it disqualifies him for the pleasure of religion.

SECT V.—To be injurious to the happiness of man, as it disqualifies him for domestic enjoyments.

SECT VI.—Opinions of the early Christians on this subject.


SECT. I.—Dancing forbidden—light in which this subject has been viewed both by the ancients and the moderns—Quakers principally object to it, where it is connected with public assemblies—they conceive it productive, in this case, of a frivolous levity, and of an excitement of many of the evil passions.

SECT. II—These arguments of the Quakers, on dancing, examined in three supposed cases put to a moral philosopher.

SECT. III.—These arguments further elucidated by a display of the Ball-room.


Novels forbidden—considered by the Quakers as producing an affectation of knowledge—a romantic spirit—and a perverted morality.


SECT. I—Diversions of the field forbidden—general thoughtlessness upon this subject—sentiments of some of our best poets—law of the Quakers concerning it.

SECT. II.—Consistency of this law examined by the morality, which is inculcated by the Old Testament.

SECT. III.—Examined by the morality of the New—these employments, if resorted to as diversions, pronounced, in both cases, to be a breach of a moral law.


Objections to the preceding system, which includes these different prohibitions, as a system of moral education.


SECT. I.—Reply of the Quakers to these objections.

SECT. II.—Further reply of the Quakers on the same subject.

* * * * *



SECT. I.—Outlines of the discipline of the Quakers.

SECT. II.—Manner of the administration of this discipline.

SECT. III.—Charges usually brought against the administration of it—observations in answer in these charges.

SECT. IV.—The principles of this discipline applicable to the discipline of larger societies, or to the criminal codes of states—beautiful example in Pennsylvania.


Monthly court or meeting of the Quakers for the purposes of their discipline—nature and manner of the business transacted there.


Quarterly court or meeting for the same purposes—nature and manner of the business there.


Annual court or meeting for the same purposes—nature and manner of the business there—striking peculiarities in this manner—character of this discipline or government.


Excommunication or disowning—nature of disowning as a punishment.



SECT. I.—Dress—extravagance of the dress of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries—plain manner in which the grave and religious were then habited—the Quakers sprang out of these.

SECT. II.—Quakers carried with them their plain dresses into their new society—extravagance of the world continuing, they defined the objects of dress as a Christian people—at length incorporated it into their discipline—hence their present dress is only a less deviation from that of their ancestors, than that of other people.

SECT. III.—Objections of the world to the Quaker dress—those examined—a comparison between the language of Quakerism and of Christianity on this subject—opinion of the early Christians upon it.


Furniture—the Quakers use plain furniture—reasons for their singularities in this respect.


SECT. I.—Language—Quakers have altered the common language—substitution of Thou for You—reasons for this change—opinions of many learned men concerning it.

SECT. II.—Various other alterations made—as in titled of address—and of honour—reasons for these changes.

SECT. III.—Another alteration—as in the names of the days and the months—reasons for this change—various new phrases also introduced.

SECT. IV.—Objections by the world against the alteration of Thou for You.

SECT. V.—Against that of titles of address and honour.

SECT. VI.—Against that of the names of the days and months.

SECT. VIII.—Advantages and disadvantages of these alterations by the Quaker language.


Address—common personal gestures or worldly ceremonies of address forbidden—no exception in favour of royalty—reasons against the disuse of these.


Manners and conversation—hospitality and freedom in Quakers' houses—their conversation more limited than that of others—subjects of conversation examined in our towns—and in the metropolis—extraordinary circumstance that takes place occasionally in the company of the Quakers.


Customs before meals—ancients made an oblation to Vesta—moderns have substituted grace—account of a Quaker-grace.


Customs at and after meals—Quakers never drink healths or toasts—various reasons for their disuse of these customs—and seldom allow women to retire after dinner and leave the men drinking—Quakers a sober people.



From the year 1787, when I began to devote my labours to the abolition of the slave trade, I was thrown frequently into the company of the people, called Quakers, these people had been then long unanimous upon this subject. Indeed they had placed it among the articles of their religious discipline. Their houses were of course open to me in all parts of the kingdom. Hence I came to a knowledge of their living manners, which no other person, who was not a Quaker, could have easily obtained.

As soon as I became possessed of this knowledge, or at least of so much of it, as to feel that it was considerable, I conceived a desire of writing their moral history. I believed I should be able to exhibit to the rest of the world many excellent customs, of which they were ignorant, but which it might be useful to them to know. I believed too, that I should be affording to the Quakers themselves, some lessons of utility, by letting them see, as it were in a glass, the reflection of their own images. I felt also a great desire, amidst these considerations, to do them justice; for ignorance and prejudice had invented many expressions concerning them, to the detriment of their character, which their conduct never gave me reason to suppose, during all my intercourse with them, to be true.

Nor was I without the belief, that such a history might afford entertainment to many. The Quakers, as every body knows, differ more than even many foreigners do, from their own countrymen. They adopt a singular mode of language. Their domestic customs are peculiar. They have renounced religious ceremonies, which all other christians, in some form or other, have retained. They are distinguished from all the other islanders by their dress. These differences are great and striking. And I thought therefore that those, who were curious in the development of character, might be gratified in knowing the principles, which produced such numerous exceptions from the general practices of the world.

But though I had conceived from the operation of these sentiments upon my mind, as long ago as I have stated, a strong desire to write the moral history of the Quakers, yet my incessant occupations on the subject of the slave-trade, and indisposition of body afterwards, in consequence of the great mental exertions necessary in such a cause, prevented me from attempting my design. At length these causes of prevention ceased. But when, after this, the subject recurred, I did not seem to have the industry and perseverance, though I had still the inclination left, for the undertaking. Time, however, continued to steal on, till at length I began to be apprehensive, but more particularly within the last two years, that, if I were to delay my work much longer, I might not live to begin it at all. This consideration operated upon me. But I was forcibly struck by another, namely, that, if I were not to put my hand to the task, the Quakers would probably continue to be as little known to their fellow-citizens, as they are at present. For I did not see who was ever to give a full and satisfactory account of them. It is true indeed, that there are works, written by Quakers, from which a certain portion of their history, and an abstract of their religious principles, might be collected; but none, from whence their living manners could be taken. It is true also that others, of other religious denominations, have written concerning them; but of those authors, who have mentioned them in the course of their respective writings, not one, to my knowledge, has given a correct account of them. It would be tedious to dwell on the errors of Mosheim, or of Formey, or of Hume, or on those to be found in many of the modern periodical[1] publications. It seemed, therefore, from the circumstance of my familiar intercourse with the Quakers, that it devolved upon me particularly to write their history. And I was the more confirmed in my opinion, because, in looking forward, I was never able to foresee the time when any other cause would equally, with that of the slave-trade, bring any other person, who was not of the society, into such habits of friendship with the Quakers, as that he should obtain an equal degree of knowledge concerning them with myself. By this new consideration I was more than ordinarily stimulated, and I began my work.

[Footnote 1: I must except Dr. Toulmin's revision of Neal's history of the Puritans. One or two publications have appeared since, written, in a liberal spirit, but they are confined principally to the religious principles of the Quakers.]

It is not improbable but some may imagine from the account already given, that this work will be a partial one, or that it will lean, more than it ought to do, in favour of the Quakers. I do not pretend to say, that I shall be utterly able to divest myself of all undue influence, which their attention towards me may have produced, or that I shall be utterly unbiased, when I consider them as fellow-labourers in the work of the abolition of the slave-trade; for if others had put their shoulders to the wheel equally with them on the occasion, one of the greatest causes of human misery, and moral evil, that was ever known in the world, had been long ago annihilated, nor can I conceal, that I have a regard for men, of whom it is a just feature in their character, that, whenever they can be brought to argue upon political subjects, they reason upon principle, and not upon consequences; for if this mode of reasoning had been adopted by others, but particularly by men in exalted stations, policy had given way to moral justice, and there had been but little public wickedness in the world. But though I am confessedly partial to the Quakers on account of their hospitality to me, and on account of the good traits in their moral character, I am not so much so, as to be blind to their imperfections. Quakerism is of itself a pure system, and, if followed closely, will lead towards purity and perfection; but I know well that all, who profess it, are not Quakers. The deviation therefore of their practice from their profession, and their frailties and imperfections, I shall uniformly lay open to them, wherever I believe them to exist. And this I shall do, not because I wish to avoid the charge of partiality, but from a belief, that it is my duty to do it.

The society, of which I am to speak, are called[2] Quakers by the world, but are known to each other by the name of friends, a beautiful appellation, and characteristic of the relation, which man, under the christian dispensation, ought uniformly to bear to man.

[Footnote 2: Justice Bennet of Derby gave the society the name of Quakers in the year 1650, because the founder of it ordered him, and those present with him, to tremble at the word of the Lord.]

The Founder of the society was George Fox He was born of "honest and sufficient parents," at Drayton in Leicestershire, in the year 1624. He was put out, when young, according to his own account, to a man, who was a shoe-maker by trade, and who dealt in wool, and followed grazing, and sold cattle. But it appears from William Penn, who became a member of the society, and was acquainted with him that he principally followed the country-part of his master's business. He took a great delight in sheep, "an employment," says Penn, "that very well suited his mind in some respects, both for its innocency and its solitude, and was a just figure of his after ministry and service."

In his youth he manifested a seriousness of spirit, not usual in persons of his age. This seriousness grew upon him, and as it encreased he encouraged it, so that in the year 1643, or in the twentieth year of his age, he conceived himself, in consequence of the awful impression he had received, to be called upon to separate himself from the world, and to devote himself to religion.

At this time the Church of England, as a Protestant church, had been established; and many, who were not satisfied with the settlement of it, had formed themselves into different religious sects. There was a great number of persons also in the kingdom, who approving neither of the religion of the establishment, nor of that of the different denominations alluded to, withdrew from the communion of every visible church. These were ready to follow any teacher, who might inculcate doctrines that coincided with their own apprehensions. Thus for a way lay open among many for a cordial reception of George Fox. But of those, who had formed different visible churches of their own, it may be observed, that though they were prejudiced, the reformation had not taken place so long, but that they were still alive to religious advancement. Nor had it taken place so long, but that thousands were still very ignorant, and stood in need of light and information on that subject.

It does not appear, however, that George Fox, for the first three years from the time, when he conceived it to be his duty to withdraw from the world, had done any thing as a public minister of the gospel. He had travelled from the year 1643 to 1646, through the counties of Warwick, Leicester, Northampton, and Bedford, and as far as London. In this interval he appears to have given himself up to solemn impressions, and to have endeavoured to find out as many serious people as he could, with a view of conversing with them on the subject of religion.

In 1647 he extended his travels to Derbyshire, and from thence into Lancashire, but returned to his native county. He met with many friendly people in the course of this journey, and had many serious conversations with them, but he never joined in profession with any. At Duckenfield, however, and at Manchester, he went among those, whom he termed "the professors of religion," and according to his own expressions, "he staid a while and declared truth among them." Of these some were convinced but others were enraged, being startled at his doctrine of perfection. At Broughton in Leicestershire, we find him attending a meeting of the Baptists, at which many of other denominations were present. Here he spoke publicly, and convinced many. After this he went back to the county of Nottingham. And here a report having gone abroad, that he was an extraordinary young man, many, both priests and people, came far and near to see him.

In 1648 he confined his movements to a few counties. In this year we find him becoming a public character. In Nottinghamshire he delivered himself in public at three different meetings, consisting either of priests and professors, as he calls them, or professors and people. In Warwickshire he met with a great company of professors, who were praying and expounding the scriptures, in the fields. Here he discoursed largely, and the hearers fell into contention, and so parted. In Leicestershire he attended another meeting, consisting of Church people, Presbyterians, Independents, and Baptists, where he spoke publicly again. This meeting was held in a church. The persons present discoursed and reasoned. Questions were propounded, and answers followed. An answer given by George Fox, in which he stated that "the church was the pillar and ground of truth, and that it did not consist of a mixed multitude, or of an old house, made up of lime, stones, and wood, but of living stones, living members, and a spiritual household, of which Christ was the head," set them all on fire. The clergyman left the pulpit, the people their pews, and the meeting separated. George Fox, however, went afterwards to an Inn, where he argued with priests and professors of all sorts. Departing from thence, he took up his abode for some time in the vale of Beevor, where he preached Repentance, and convinced many. He then returned into Nottinghamshire, and passed from thence into Derbyshire, in both which counties his doctrines spread. And, after this, warning Justices of the Peace, as he travelled along, to do justice, and notoriously wicked men to amend their lives, he came into the vale of Beevor again. In this vale it was that he received, according to his own account, his commission from divine authority, by means of impressions on his mind, in consequence of which he conceived it to be discovered to him, among other things, that he was "to turn the people from darkness to the light." By this time he had converted many hundreds to his opinions, and divers meetings of Friends, to use his own expression, "had been then gathered."

The year 1649 was ushered in by new labours. He was employed occasionally in writing to judges and justices to do justice, and in warning persons to fulfil the duties of their respective stations in life.

This year was the first of all his years of suffering. For it happened on a Sunday morning, that, coming in sight of the town of Nottingham, and seeing the great church, he felt an impression on his mind to go there. On hearing a part of the sermon, he was so struck with what he supposed to be the erroneous doctrine it contained, that he could not help publicly contradicting it. For this interruption of the service he was seized, and afterwards confined in prison. At Mansfield again, as he was declaring his own religious opinions in the church, the people fell upon him and beat and bruised him, and put him afterwards in the stocks. At Market Bosworth he was stoned and driven out of the place. At Chesterfield he addressed both the clergyman and the people, but they carried him before the mayor, who detained him till late at night, at which unseasonable time the officers and watchmen put him out of the town.

And here I would observe, before I proceed to the occurrences of another year, that there is reason to believe that George Fox disapproved of his own conduct in having interrupted the service of the church at Nottingham, which I have stated to have been the first occasion of his imprisonment. For if he believed any one of his actions, with which the world had been offended, to have been right, he repeated it, as circumstances called it forth, though he was sure of suffering for it either from the magistrates or the people. But he never repeated this, but he always afterwards, when any occasion of religious controversy occurred in any of the churches, where his travels lay, uniformly suspended his observations, till the service was over.

George Fox spent almost the whole of the next year, that is, of the year 1650, in confinement in Derby Prison.

In 1651, when he was set at liberty, he seems not to have been in the least disheartened by the treatment he had received there, or at the different places before mentioned, but to have resumed his travels, and to have held religious meetings, as he went along. He had even the boldness to go into Litchfield, because he imagined it to be his duty, and, with his shoes off to pronounce with an audible voice in the streets, and this on the market-day, a woe against that city. He continued also to visit the churches, as he journeyed, in the time of divine service, and to address the priests and the people publicly, as he saw occasion, but not, as I observed before, till he believed the service to be over. It does not appear, however, that he suffered any interruption upon these occasions, in the course of the present year, except at York-Minster; where, as he was beginning to preach after the sermon, he was hurried out of it, and thrown down the steps by the congregation, which was then breaking up. It appears that he had been generally well received in the county of York, and that he had convinced many.

In the year 1652, after having passed through the shires of Nottingham and Lincoln, he came again into Yorkshire. Here, in the course of his journey, he ascended Pendle-Hill. At the top of this he apprehended it was opened to him, whither he was to direct his future steps, and that he saw a great host of people, who were to be converted by him in the course of his ministry. From this time we may consider him as having received his commission full and complete in his own mind. For in the vale of Beevor he conceived himself to have been informed of the various doctrines, which it became his duty to teach, and, on this occasion, to have had an insight of the places where he was to spread them.

To go over his life, even in the concise way, in which I have hitherto attempted it, would be to swell this introduction into a volume. I shall therefore, from this great period of his ministry, make only the following simple statement concerning it.

He continued his labours, as a minister of the gospel, and even preached, within two days of his death.

During this time he had settled meetings in most parts of the kingdom, and had given to these the foundation of that beautiful system of discipline, which I shall explain in this volume, and which exists among the Quakers at the present day.

He had travelled over England, Scotland, and Wales. He had been in Ireland. He had visited the British West-Indies, and America. He had extended his travels to Holland, and part of Germany.

He had written, in this interval, several religious books, and had addressed letters to kings, princes, magistrates, and people, as he felt impressions on his mind, which convinced him, that it become his duty to do it.

He had experienced also, during this interval, great bodily sufferings. He had been long and repeatedly confined in different gaols of the kingdom. The state of the gaols, in these times, is not easily to be conceived. That of Doomsdale at Launceston in Cornwall, has never been exceeded for filth and pestilential noisomeness, nor those of Lancaster and Scarborough-castles for exposure to the inclemency of the elements. In the two latter he was scarcely ever dry for two years; for the rain used to beat into them, and to run down upon the floor. This exposure to the severity of the weather occasioned his body and limbs to be benumbed, and to swell to a painful size, and laid the foundation, by injuring his health, for future occasional sufferings during the remainder of his life.

With respect to the religious doctrines, which George Fox inculcated during his ministry, it is not necessary to speak of them here, as they will be detailed in their proper places. I must observe, however, that he laid a stress upon many things, which the world considered to be of little moment, but which his followers thought to be entirely worthy of his spiritual calling. He forbade all the modes and gestures, which are used as tokens of obeisance, or flattery, or honour, among men. He insisted on the necessity of plain speech or language. He declaimed against all sorts of music. He protested against the exhibitions of the theatre, and many of the accustomary diversions of the times. The early Quakers, who followed him in all these points, were considered by some as turning the world upside down; but they contended in reply, that they were only restoring it to its pure and primitive state; and that they had more weighty arguments for acting up to their principles in these respects, than others had for condemning them for so doing.

But whatever were the doctrines, whether civil, or moral, or religious, which George Fox promulgated, he believed that he had a divine commission for teaching them, and that he was to be the RESTORER of Christianity; that is, that he was to bring people from Jewish ceremonies and Pagan-fables, with which it had been intermixed, and also from worldly customs, to a religion which was to consist of spiritual feeling. I know not how the world will receive the idea, that he conceived himself to have had a revelation for these purposes. But nothing is more usual than for pious people, who have succeeded in any ordinary work of goodness, to say, that they were providentially led to it, and this expression is usually considered among Christians to be accurate. But I cannot always find the difference between a man being providentially led into a course of virtues and successful action, and his having an internal revelation for it. For if we admit that men may be providentially led upon such occasions, they must be led by the impressions upon their minds. But what are these internal impressions, but the dictates of an internal voice to those who follow them? But if pious men would believe themselves to have been thus providentially led, or acted upon, in any ordinary case of virtue, if it had been crowned with success, George Fox would have had equal reason to believe, from the success that attended his own particular undertaking, that he had been called upon to engage in it. For at a very early age he had confuted many of the professors of religion in public disputations. He had converted magistrates, priests, and people. Of the clergymen of those times some had left valuable livings, and followed him. In his thirtieth year he had seen no less than sixty persons, spreading, as ministers, his own doctrines. These, and other circumstances which might be related, would doubtless operate powerfully upon him to make him believe, that he was a chosen vessel. Now, if to these considerations it be added, that George Fox was not engaged in any particular or partial cause of benevolence, or mercy, or justice, but wholly and exclusively in a religious and spiritual work, and that it was the first of all his religious doctrines, that the spirit of God, where men were obedient to it, guided them in their spiritual concerns, he must have believed himself, on the consideration of his unparalleled success, to have been providentially led, or to have had an internal or spiritual commission for the cause, which he had undertaken.

But this belief was not confined to himself. His followers believed in his commission also. They had seen, like himself, the extraordinary success of his ministry. They acknowledged the same internal admonitions, or revelations of the same spirit, in spiritual concerns. They had been witnesses of his innocent and blameless life. There were individuals in the kingdom, who had publicly professed sights and prophecies concerning him. At an early age he had been reported, in some parts of the country, as a youth, who had a discerning spirit. It had gone abroad, that he had healed many persons, who had been sick of various diseases. Some of his prophecies had come true in the lifetime of those, who had heard them delivered. His followers too had seen many, who had come purposely to molest and apprehend him, depart quietly, as if their anger and their power had been providentially broken. They had seen others, who had been his chief persecutors, either falling into misfortunes, or dying a miserable or an untimely death. They had seen him frequently cast into prison, but always getting out again by means of his innocence. From these causes the belief was universal among them, that his commission was of divine authority; and they looked upon him therefore in no other light, than that of a teacher, who had been sent to them from heaven.

George Fox was in his person above the ordinary size. He is described by William Penn as a "lusty person." He was graceful in his countenance. His eye was particularly piercing, so that some of those, who were disputing with him, were unable to bear it. He was, in short, manly, dignified, and commanding in his aspect and appearance.

In his manner of living he was temperate. He ate sparingly. He avoided, except medicinally, all strong drink.

Notwithstanding the great exercise he was accustomed to take, he allowed himself but little sleep.

In his outward demeanour he was modest, and without affectation. He possessed a certain gravity of manners, but he was nevertheless affable, and courteous, and civil beyond the usual forms of breeding.

In his disposition he was meek, and tender, and compassionate. He was kind to the poor, without any exception, and, in his own society, laid the foundation of that attention towards them, which the world remarks as an honour to the Quaker-character at the present day. But the poor were not the only persons, for whom, he manifested an affectionate concern. He felt and sympathized wherever humanity could be interested. He wrote to the judges on the subject of capital punishments, warning them not to take away the lives of persons for theft. On the coast of Cornwall he was deeply distressed at finding the inhabitants, more intent upon plundering the wrecks of vessels that were driven upon their shores, than upon saving the poor and miserable mariners, who were clinging to them; and he bore his public testimony against this practice, by sending letters to all the clergymen and magistrates in the parishes, bordering upon the sea, and reproving them for their unchristian conduct In the West-Indies also he exhorted those, who attended his meetings to be merciful to their slaves, and to give them their freedom in due time. He considered these as belonging to their families, and that religious instruction was due to these, as the branches of them, for whom one day or other they would be required to give a solemn account. Happy had it been, if these christian exhortations had been attended to, or if those families only, whom he thus seriously addressed, had continued to be true Quakers; for they would have set an example, which would have proved to the rest of the islanders, and the world at large, that the impolicy is not less than the wickedness of oppression. Thus was George Fox probably the first person, who publicly declared against this species of slavery. Nothing in short, that could be deplored by humanity, seems to have escaped his eye; and his benevolence, when excited, appears to have suffered no interruption in its progress by the obstacles, which bigotry would have thrown in the way of many, on account of the difference of a persons country, or of his colour, or of his sect.

He was patient under his own sufferings. To those, who smote his right cheek, he offered his left; and, in the true spirit of christianity, he indulged no rancour against the worst of his oppressors. He made use occasionally of a rough expression towards them; but he would never have hurt any of them, if he had had them in his power.

He possessed the most undaunted courage; for he was afraid of no earthly power. He was never deterred from going to meetings for worship, though he knew the officers would be there, who were to seize his person. In his personal conversations with Oliver Cromwell, or in his letters to him as protector, or in his letters to the parliament, or to king Charles the second, or to any other personage, he discovered his usual boldness of character, and never lost, by means of any degrading flattery, his dignity as a man.

But his perseverance was equal to his courage; for he was no sooner out of gaol, than he repeated the very acts, believing them to be right, for which he had been confined. When he was forced also out of the meeting-houses by the officers of justice, he preached at the very doors. In short, he was never hindered but by sickness, or imprisonments, from persevering in his religious pursuits.

With respect to his word, he was known to have held it so sacred, that the judges frequently dismissed him without bail, on his bare promise that he would be forth coming on a given day. On these occasions, he used always to qualify his promise by the expression, "if the Lord permit."

Of the integrity of his own character, as a christian, he was so scrupulously tenacious, that, when he might have been sometimes set at liberty by making trifling acknowledgements, he would make none, least it should imply a conviction, that he had been confined for that which was wrong; and, at one time in particular, king Charles the second was so touched with the hardship of his case, that he offered to discharge him from prison by a pardon. But George Fox declined it on the idea, that, as pardon implied guilt, his innocence would be called in question by his acceptance of it. The king, however, replied, that "he need not scruple being released by a pardon, for many a man who was as innocent as a child, had had a pardon granted him." But still he chose to decline it. And he lay in gaol, till, upon a trial of the errors in his indictment, he was discharged in an honourable way.

As a minister of the gospel, he was singularly eminent. He had a wonderful gift in expounding the scriptures. He was particularly impressive in his preaching; but he excelled most in prayer.

Here it was, that he is described by William Penn, as possessing the most awful and reverend frame he ever beheld. His presence, says the same author, expressed "a religious majesty." That there must have been something more than usually striking either in his manner, or in his language, or in his arguments, or in all of them combined, or that he spoke "in the demonstration of the spirit and with power," we are warranted in pronouncing from the general and powerful effects produced. In the year 1648, when he had but once before spoken in public, it was observed of him at Mansfield, at the end of his prayer, "that it was then, as in the days of the apostles, when the house was shaken where they were." In the same manner he appears to have gone on, making a deep impression upon his hearers, whenever he was fully and fairly heard. Many clergymen, as I observed before, in consequence of his powerful preaching, gave up their livings; and constables, who attended the meetings, in order to apprehend him, felt themselves disarmed, so that they went away without attempting to secure his person.

As to his life, it was innocent. It is true indeed, that there were persons, high in civil offices, who, because he addressed the people in public, considered him as a disturber of the peace. But none of these ever pretended to cast a stain on his moral character. He was considered both by friends and enemies, as irreproachable in his life.

Such was the character of the founder of Quakerism, He was born in July 1624, and died on the thirteenth of November 1690, in the sixty-seventh year of his age. He had separated himself from the word in order to attend to serious things, as I observed before, at the age of nineteen, so that he had devoted himself to the exercises and services of religion for no less a period than forty-eight years. A few hours before his death, upon some friends asking him how he found himself, he replied "never heed. All is well. The seed or power of God reigns over all, and over death itself, blessed be the Lord." This answer was full of courage, and corresponded with that courage, which had been conspicuous in him during life. It contained on evidence, as manifested in his own feelings, of the tranquillity and happiness of his mind, and that the power and terrors of death had been vanquished in himself. It shewed also the ground of his courage and of his confidence. "He was full of assurance," says William Penn, "that he had triumphed over death, and so much so, even to the last, that death appeared to him hardly worth notice or mention." Thus he departed this life, affording an instance of the truth of those words of the psalmist, "Behold the upright, for the end of that man is peace."






* * * * *

George Fox never gave, while living, nor left after his death, any definition of Quakerism. He left, however, his journal behind him, and he left what is of equal importance, his example. Combining these with the sentiments and practice of the early Quakers, I may state, in a few words, what Quakerism is, or at least what we may suppose George Fox intended it to be.

Quakerism may be defined to be an attempt, under the divine influence, at practical christianity as far as it can be carried. Those, who profess it, consider themselves bound to regulate their opinions, words, actions, and even outward demeanour, by christianity, and by christianity alone. They consider themselves bound to give up such of the customs, or fashions of men, however general, or generally approved, as militate, in any manner, against the letter or the spirit of the gospel. Hence they mix but little with the world, that they may be less liable to imbibe its spirit. Hence George Fox made a distinction between the members of his own society and others, by the different appellations of Friends, and People of the world. They consider themselves also under an obligation to follow virtue, not ordinarily, but even to the death. For they profess never to make a sacrifice of conscience, and therefore, if any ordinances of man are enjoined them, which they think to be contrary to the divine will, they believe right not to submit to them, but rather, after the example of the apostles and primitive christians, to suffer any loss, penalty, or inconvenience, which may result to them for so doing.

This then, in a few words, is a general definition of [3]Quakerism. It is, as we see, a most strict profession of practical virtue under the direction of christianity, and such as, when we consider the infirmities of human nature, and the temptations that daily surround it, it must be exceedingly difficult to fulfil. But, whatever difficulties may have lain in the way, or however, on account of the necessary weakness of human nature, the best individuals among the Quakers may have fallen below the pattern of excellence, which they have copied, nothing is more true, than that the result has been, that the whole society, as a body, have obtained from their countrymen, the character of a moral people.

[Footnote 3: I wish to be understood, in writing this work, that I can give no account that will be applicable to all under the name of Quakers. My account will comprehend the general practice, or that which ought to be the practice of those, who profess Quakerism.]

If the reader be a lover of virtue, and anxious for the moral improvement of mankind, he will be desirous of knowing what means the Quakers have used to have preserved, for a hundred and fifty years, this desirable reputation in the world.

If we were to put the question to the Quakers themselves for their own opinion upon it, I believe I can anticipate their reply. They would attribute any morality, they might be supposed to have, to the Supreme Being, whose will having been discovered by means of the scriptures, and of religious impressions upon the mind, when it has been calm, and still, and abstracted from the world, they have endeavoured to obey. But there is no doubt, that we may add, auxiliary causes of this morality, and such as the Quakers themselves would allow to have had their share in producing it, under the same influence. The first of these may be called their moral education. The second their discipline. The third may be said to consist of those domestic, or other customs, which are peculiar to them, as a society of christians. The fourth of their peculiar tenets of religion. In fact, there are many circumstances interwoven into the constitution of the society of the Quakers, each of which has a separate effect, and all of which have a combined tendency, towards the production of moral character.

These auxiliary causes I shall consider and explain in their turn. In the course of this explanation the reader will see, that, if other people were to resort to the same means as the Quakers, they would obtain the same reputation, or that human nature is not so stubborn, but that it will yield to a given force. But as it is usual, in examining the life of an individual, to begin with his youth, or, if it has been eminent, to begin with the education he has received, so I shall fix upon the first of the auxiliary causes I have mentioned, or the moral education of the Quakers, as the subject for the first division of my work.

Of this moral education I may observe here, that it is universal among the society, or that it obtains where the individuals are considered to be true Quakers. It matters not, how various the tempers of young persons may be, who come under it, they must submit to it. Nor does it signify what may be the disposition, or the whim, and caprice of their parents, they must submit to it alike. The Quakers believe that they have discovered that system of morality, which christianity prescribes; and therefore that they can give no dispensation to their members, under any circumstances whatever, to deviate from it. The origin of this system, as a standard of education in the society, is as follows.

When the first Quakers met in union, they consisted of religious or spiritually minded men. From that time to the present, there has always been, as we may imagine, a succession of such in the society. Many of these, at their great meetings, which have been annual since those days, have delivered their sentiments on various interesting points. These sentiments were regularly printed, in the form of yearly epistles, and distributed among Quaker families. Extracts, in process of time, were made from them, and arranged under different heads, and published in one book, under the name of [4]Advices. Now these advices comprehend important subjects. They relate to customs, manners, fashions, conversation, conduct. They contain of course recommendations, and suggest prohibitions, to the society, as rules of guidance: and as they came from spiritually minded men on solemn occasions, they are supposed to have had a spiritual origin. Hence Quaker parents manage their youth according to these recommendations and prohibitions, and hence this book of extracts (for so it is usually called) from which I have obtained a considerable portion of my knowledge on this subject, forms the basis of the moral Education of the Society.

[Footnote 4: The Book is intitled "Extracts from the minutes made, and from the advices given, at the yearly Meeting of the Quakers in London, since its first Institution."]

Of the contents of this book, I shall notice, while I am treating upon this subject, not those rules which are of a recommendatory, but those, which are of a prohibitory nature. Education is regulated either by recommendations, or by prohibitions, or by both conjoined. The former relate to things, where there is a wish that youth should conform to them, but where a trifling deviation from them would not be considered as an act of delinquency publicly reprehensible. The latter to things, where any compliance with them becomes a positive offence. The Quakers, in consequence of the vast power they have over their members by means of their discipline, lay a great stress upon the latter. They consider their prohibitions, when duly watched and enforced, as so many barriers against vice or preservatives of virtue. Hence they are the grand component parts of their moral education, and hence I shall chiefly consider them in the chapters, which are now to follow upon this subject.



Moral Education of the Quakers—amusements necessary for youth—Quakers distinguish between the useful and the hurtful—the latter specified and forbidden.

When the blooming spring sheds abroad its benign influence, man feels it equally with the rest of created nature. The blood circulates more freely, and a new current of life seems to be diffused, in his veins. The aged man is enlivened, and the sick man feels himself refreshed. Good spirits and cheerful countenances succeed. But as the year changes in its seasons, and rolls round to its end, the tide seems to slacken, and the current of feeling to return to its former level.

But this is not the case with the young. The whole year to them is a kind of perpetual spring. Their blood runs briskly throughout. Their spirits are kept almost constantly alive; and as the cares of the world occasion no drawback, they feel a perpetual disposition to cheerfulness and to mirth. This disposition seems to be universal in them. It seems too to be felt by us all; that is, the spring, enjoyed by youth, seems to operate as spring to maturer age. The sprightly and smiling looks of children, their shrill, lively, and cheerful voices, their varied and exhilarating sports, all these are interwoven with the other objects of our senses, and have an imperceptible, though an undoubted influence, in adding to the cheerfulness of our minds. Take away the beautiful choristers from the woods, and those, who live in the country, would but half enjoy the spring. So, if by means of any unparalleled pestilence, the children of a certain growth were to be swept away, and we were to lose this infantile link in the chain of age, those, who were left behind, would find the creation dull, or experience an interruption in the cheerfulness of their feelings, till the former were successively restored.

The bodies, as well as the minds of children, require exercise for their growth: and as their disposition is thus lively and sportive, such exercises, as are amusing, are necessary, and such amusements, on account of the length of the spring which they enjoy, must be expected to be long.

The Quakers, though they are esteemed an austere people, are sensible of these wants or necessities of youth. They allow their children most of the sports or exercises of the body, and most of the amusements or exercises of the mind, which other children of the island enjoy; but as children are to become men, and men are to become moral characters, they believe that bounds should be drawn, or that an unlimited permission to follow every recreation would be hurtful.

The Quakers therefore have thought it proper to interfere on this subject, and to draw the line between those amusements, which they consider to be salutary, and those, which they consider to be hurtful. They have accordingly struck out of the general list of these such, and such only, as, by being likely to endanger their morality, would be likely to interrupt the usefulness, and the happiness, of their lives. Among the bodily exercises, dancing, and the diversions of the field, have been proscribed; among the mental, music, novels, the theatre, and all games of chance, of every description, have been forbidden. These are the principal prohibitions, which the Quakers have made on the subject of their moral education. They were suggested, most of them, by George Fox, but were brought into the discipline, at different times, by his successors.

I shall now consider each of these prohibitions separately, and I shall give all the reasons, which the Quakers themselves give, why, as a society of Christians, they have, thought it right to issue and enforce them.


Games of chance—Quakers forbid cards, dice, and other similar amusements—also, concerns in lotteries—and certain transactions in the stocks—they forbid also all wagers, and speculations by a monied stake—the peculiar wisdom of the latter prohibition, as collected from the history of the origin of some of the amusements of the times.

When we consider the depravity of heart, and the misery and ruin, that are frequently connected with gaming, it would be strange indeed, if the Quakers, as highly professing Christians, had not endeavoured to extirpate it from their own body.

No people, in fact, have taken more or more effectual measures for its suppression. They have proscribed the use of all games of chance, and of all games of skill, that are connected with chance in any manner. Hence cards, dice, horse-racing, cock-fighting, and all the amusements, which come under this definition, are forbidden.

But as there are certain transactions, independently of these amusements, which are equally connected with hazard, and which individuals might convert into the means of moral depravity and temporal ruin, they have forbidden these also, by including them under the appellation of gaming.

Of this description are concerns in the lottery, from which all Quakers are advised to refrain. These include the purchase of tickets, and all insurance upon the same.

In transactions of this kind there is always a monied stake, and the issue is dependent upon chance. There is of course the same fascinating stimulus as in cards, or dice, arising from the hope of gain. The mind also must be equally agitated between hope and fear; and the same state of desperation may be produced, with other fatal consequences, in the event of loss.

Buying and selling in the public stocks of the kingdom is, under particular circumstances, discouraged also. Where any of the members of the society buy into the stocks, under the idea, that they are likely to obtain better security, or more permanent advantages, such a transfer of their property is allowable. But if any were to make a practice of buying or selling, week after week, upon speculation only, such a practice would come under the denomination of gaming. In this case, like the preceding, it is evident, that money would be the object in view; that the issue would be hazardous; and, if the stake or deposit were of great importance, the tranquillity of the mind might be equally disturbed, and many temporal sufferings might follow.

The Quakers have thought it right, upon the same principle, to forbid the custom of laying wagers upon any occasion whatever, or of reaping advantage from any doubtful event, by a previous agreement upon a monied stake. This prohibition, however, is not on record, like the former, but is observed as a traditional law. No Quaker-parent would suffer his child, nor Quaker-schoolmaster the children entrusted to his care, nor any member another, to be concerned in amusements of this kind, without a suitable reproof.

By means of these prohibitions, which are enforced, in a great measure, by the discipline, the Quakers have put a stop to gaming more effectually than others, but particularly by means of the latter. For history has shewn us, that we cannot always place a reliance on a mere prohibition of any particular amusement or employment, as a cure for gaming, because any pastime or employment, however innocent in itself, may be made an instrument for its designs. There are few customs, however harmless, which avarice cannot convert into the means of rapine on the one hand, and of distress on the other.

Many of the games, which are now in use with such pernicious effects to individuals, were not formerly the instruments of private ruin. Horse-racing was originally instituted with a view of promoting a better breed of horses for the services of man. Upon this principle it was continued. It afforded no private emolument to any individual. The by-standers were only spectators. They were not interested in the victory. The victor himself was remunerated not with money, but with crowns and garlands, the testimonies of public applause. But the spirit of gaming got hold of the custom, and turned it into a private diversion, which was to afford the opportunity of a private prize.

Cock-fighting, as we learn from AElian, was instituted by the Athenians, immediately after their victory over the Persians, to perpetuate the memory of the event, and to stimulate the courage of the youth of Greece in the defence of their own freedom; and it was continued upon the same principle, or as a public institution for a public good. But the spirit of avarice seized it, as it has done the custom of horse-racing, and continued it for a private gain.

Cards, that is, European cards, were, as all are agreed, of an harmless origin. Charles the sixth, of France, was particularly afflicted with the hypochondriasis. While in this disordered state, one of his subjects invented them, to give variety of amusement to his mind. From the court they passed into private families. And here the same avaricious spirit fastened upon them, and, with its cruel talons, clawed them, as it were, to its own purposes, not caring how much these little instruments of cheerfulness in human disease were converted into instruments for the extension of human pain.

In the same manner as the spirit of gaming has seized upon these different institutions and amusements of antiquity, and turned them from their original to new and destructive uses, so there is no certainty, that it will not seize upon others, which may have been innocently resorted to, and prostitute them equally with the former. The mere prohibition of particular amusements, even if it could be enforced, would be no cure for the evil. The brain of man is fertile enough, as fast as one custom is prohibited, to fix upon another. And if all the games, now in use, were forbidden, it would be still fertile enough to invent others for the same purposes. The bird that flies in the air, and the snail, that crawls upon the ground, have not escaped the notice of the gamester, but have been made, each of them, subservient to his pursuits. The wisdom, therefore, of the Quakers, in making it to be considered as a law of the society, that no member is to lay wagers, or reap advantage from any doubtful event, by a previous agreement upon a monied stake, is particularly conspicuous. For, whenever it can be enforced, it must be an effectual cure for gaming. For we have no idea, how a man can gratify his desire of gain by means of any of the amusements of chance, if he can make no monied arrangements about their issue.


The first argument for the prohibition of cards, and of similar amusements, by the Quakers, is—that they are below the dignity of the intellect of man, and of his moral and christian character—sentiments of Addison on this subject.

The reasons, which the Quakers give for the prohibition of cards, and of amusements of a similar nature, to the members of their own society, are generally such as are given by other Christians, though they make use of one, which is peculiar to themselves.

It has been often observed, that the word amusement is proper to characterize the employments of children, but that the word utility is the only one proper to characterize the employment of men.

The first argument of the Quakers, on this subject, is of a complexion, similar to that of the observation just mentioned. For when they consider man, as a reasonable being, they are of opinion, that his occupations should be rational. And when they consider him as making a profession of the Christian religion, they expect that his conduct should be manly, serious, and dignified. But all such amusements, as those in question, if resorted to for the filling up of his vacant hours, they conceive to be unworthy of his intellect, and to be below the dignity of his Christian character.

They believe also, when they consider man as a moral being, that it is his duty, as it is unquestionably his interest, to aim at the improvement of his moral character. Now one of the foundations, on which this improvement must be raised, is knowledge. But knowledge is only slowly acquired. And human life, or the time for the acquisition of it, is but short. It does not appear, therefore, in the judgment of the Quakers, that a person can have much time for amusements of this sort, if he be bent upon obtaining that object, which will be most conducive to his true happiness, or to the end of his existence here.

Upon this first argument of the Quakers I shall only observe, lest it should be thought singular, that sentiments of a similar import are to be found in authors, of a different religious denomination, and of acknowledged judgment and merit. Addison, in one of his excellent chapters on the proper employment of life, has the following observation: "The next method, says he, that I would propose to fill up our time should be innocent and useful diversions. I must confess I think it is below reasonable creatures, to be altogether conversant in such diversions, as are merely innocent, and have nothing else to recommend them, but that there is no hurt in them. Whether any kind of gaming has even thus much to say for itself I shall not determine: but I think it is very wonderful to see persons of the best sense passing a dozen hours together in shuffling and dividing a pack of cards, with no other conversation, but what is made up of a few game-phrases, and no other ideas, but those of red or black spots ranged together in different figures. Would not a man laugh to hear any one of this species complaining that life is short?"


Cards on account of the manner in which they are generally used, produce an excitement of the passions—historical anecdotes of this excitement—this excitement another cause of their prohibition by the Quakers, because it unfits the mind, according to their notions, for the reception of religious impressions.

The Quakers are not so superstitious as to imagine that there can be any evil in cards, considered abstractedly as cards, or in some of the other amusements, that have been mentioned. The red or the black images on their surfaces can neither pollute the fingers, nor the minds, of those who handle them. They may be moved about, and dealt in various ways, and no objectionable consequences may follow. They nay be used, and this innocently, to construct the similitudes of things. They may be arranged, so as to exhibit devices, which may be productive of harmless mirth. The evil, connected with them, will depend solely upon the manner of their use. If they are used for a trial of skill, and for this purpose only, they will be less dangerous, than where they are used for a similar trial, with a monied stake. In the former case, however, they may be made to ruffle the temper, for, in the very midst of victory, the combatant may experience defeat. In the latter case, the loss of victory will be accompanied by a pecuniary loss, and two causes, instead of one, of the excitement of the passions, will operate at once upon the mind.

It seldom happens, and it is much to be lamented, either that children, or that more mature persons, are satisfied with amusements of this kind, so as to use them simply as trials of skill. A monied stake is usually proposed, as the object to be obtained. This general attachment of a monied victory to cards is productive frequently of evil. It generates often improper feelings. It gives birth to uneasiness and impatience, while the contest is in doubt, and not unfrequently to anger and resentment, when it is over.

But the passions, which are thus excited among youth, are excited also, but worked up to greater mischief, where grown up persons follow these amusements imprudently, than where children are concerned. For though avarice, and impatience, and anger, are called forth among children, they subside sooner. A boy, though he loses his all when he loses his stake, suffers nothing from the idea of having impaired the means of his future comfort, and independence. His next week's allowance, or the next little gift, will set him right again. But when a grown up person, who is settled in the world, is led on by these fascinating amusements, so as to lose that which would be of importance to his present comfort, but more particularly to the happiness of his future life, the case is materially altered. The same passions, which harass the one, will harass the other, but the effects will be widely different. I have been told that persons have been so agitated before the playing of the card, that was to decide their destiny, that large drops of sweat have fallen from their faces, though they were under no bodily exertions. Now, what must have been the state of their minds, when the card in question proved decisive of their loss? Reason must unquestionably have fled. And it must have been succeeded instantly either by fury or despair. It would not have been at all wonderful, if persons in such a state were to have lost their senses, or, if unable to contain themselves, they were immediately to have vented their enraged feelings either upon themselves, or upon others, who were the authors, or the spectators, of their loss.

It is not necessary to have recourse to the theory of the human mind, to anticipate the consequences, that would be likely to result to grown up persons from such an extreme excitement of the passions. History has given a melancholy picture of these, as they have been observable among different nations of the world.

The ancient Germans, according to Tacitus, played to such desperation, that, when they had lost every thing else, they staked their personal liberty, and, in the event of bad fortune, became the slaves of the winners.

D'Israeli, in his curiosities of literature, has given us the following account. "Dice, says he, and that little pugnacious animal, the cock, are the chief instruments employed by the numerous nations of the east, to agitate their minds, and ruin their fortunes, to which the Chinese, who are desperate gamesters, add the use of cards. When all other property is played away, the Asiatic gambler does not scruple to stake his wife, or his child, on the cast of a dye, or on the strength and courage of a martial bird. If still unsuccessful, the last venture is himself."

"In the island of Ceylon, cock-fighting is carried to a great height. The Sumatrans are addicted to the use of dice. A strong spirit of play characterizes the Malayan. After having resigned every thing to the good fortune of the winner, he is reduced to a horrid state of desperation. He then loosens a certain lock of hair, which indicates war and destruction to all he meets. He intoxicates himself with opium, and working himself to a fit of frenzy, he bites and kills every one, who comes in his way. But as soon as ever this lock is seen flowing, it is lawful to fire at the person, and to destroy him as soon as possible."

"To discharge their gambling debts, the Siamese sell their possessions, their families, and at length themselves. The Chinese play night and day, till they have lost all they are worth, and then they usually go and hang themselves. In the newly discovered islands of the Pacific Ocean, they venture even their hatchets, which they hold as invaluable acquisitions, on running matches. We saw a man, says Cooke, in his last voyage, beating his breast and tearing his hair in the violence of rage, for having lost three hatchets at one of these races, and which he had purchased with nearly half of his property."

But it is not necessary to go beyond our own country for a confirmation of these evils. Civilized as we are beyond all the people who have been mentioned, and living where the Christian religion is professed, we have the misfortune to see our own countrymen engaged in similar pursuits, and equally to the disturbance of the tranquillity of their minds, and equally to their own ruin. They cannot, it is true, stake their personal liberty, because they can neither sell themselves, nor be held as slaves. But we see them staking their comfort, and all their prospects in life. We see them driven into a multitude of crimes. We see them suffering in a variety of ways. How often has duelling, with all its horrible effects, been the legitimate offspring of gaming! How many suicides have proceeded from the same source! How many persons in consequence of a violation of the laws, occasioned solely by gaming, have come to ignominious and untimely ends!

Thus it appears that gaming, wherever it has been practised to excess, whether by cards, or by dice, or by other instruments, or whether among nations civilized or barbarous, or whether in ancient or modern times, has been accompanied with the most violent excitement of the passions, so as to have driven its votaries to desperation, and to have ruined their morality and their happiness.

It is upon the excitement of the passions, which must have risen to a furious height, before such desperate actions as those, which have been specified, could have commenced, that the Quakers have founded their second argument for the prohibition of games of chance, or of any amusements or transactions, connected with a monied stake. It is one of their principal tenets, as will be diffusively shewn in a future volume, that the supreme Creator of the universe affords a certain portion of his own spirit, or a certain emanation of the pure principle, to all his rational creatures, for the regulation of their spiritual concerns. They believe, therefore, that stillness and quietness, both of spirit and of body, are necessary for them, as far as these can be obtained. For how can a man, whose earthly passions are uppermost, be in a fit state to receive, or a man of noisy and turbulent habits be in a fit state to attend to, the spiritual admonitions of this pure influence? Hence one of the first points in the education of the Quakers is to attend to the subjugation of the will; to take care that every perverse passion be checked; and that the creature be rendered calm and passive. Hence Quaker children are rebuked for all expressions of anger, as tending to raise those feelings, which ought to be suppressed. A raising even of their voices beyond due bounds is discouraged, as leading to the disturbance of their minds. They are taught to rise in the morning in quietness, to go about their ordinary occupations with quietness, and to retire in quietness to their beds. Educated in this manner, we seldom see a noisy or an irascible Quaker. This kind of education is universal among the Quakers. It is adopted at home. It is adopted in their schools. The great and practical philanthropist, John Howard, when he was at Ackworth, which is the great public school of the Quakers, was so struck with the quiet deportment of the children there, that he mentioned it with approbation in his work on Lazarettos, and gave to the public some of its rules, as models for imitation in other seminaries.

But if the Quakers believe that this pure principle, when attended to, is an infallible guide to them in their religious or spiritual concerns; if they believe that its influences are best discovered in the quietness and silence of their senses; if, moreover, they educate with a view of producing such a calm and tranquil state; it must be obvious, that they can never allow either to their children, or to those of maturer years, the use of any of the games of chance, because these, on account of their peculiar nature, are so productive of sudden fluctuations of hope, and fear, and joy, and disappointment, that they are calculated, more than any other, to promote a turbulence of the human passions.


Another cause of their prohibition is, that, if indulged in, they may produce habits of gaming—these habits after the moral character-they occasion men to become avaricious—dishonest—cruel—and disturbers of the order of nature—observations by Hartley from his essay on man.

Another reason, why the Quakers do not allow their members the use of cards, and of similar amusements, is, that, if indulged in, they may produce habits of gaming, which, if once formed, generally ruin the moral character.

It is in the nature of cards, that chance should have the greatest share in the production of victory, and there is, as I have observed before, usually a monied stake. But where chance is concerned, neither victory nor defeat can be equally distributed among the combatants. If a person wins, he feels himself urged to proceed. The amusement also points out to him the possibility of a sudden acquisition of fortune without the application of industry. If he loses, he does not despair. He still perseveres in the contest, for the amusement points out to him the possibility of repairing his loss. In short, there is no end of hope upon these occasions. It is always hovering about during the contest. Cards, therefore, and amusements of the same nature, by holding up prospects of pecuniary acquisitions on the one hand, and of repairing losses, that may arise on any occasion, on the other, have a direct tendency to produce habits of gaming.

Now the Quakers consider these habits as, of all others, the most pernicious; for they usually change the disposition of a man, and ruin his moral character.

From generous-hearted they make him avaricious. The covetousness too, which they introduce as it were into his nature, is of a kind, that is more than ordinarily injurious. It brings disease upon the body, as it brings corruption upon the mind. Habitual gamesters regard neither their own health, nor their own personal convenience, but will sit up night after night, though under bodily indisposition, at play, if they can only grasp the object of their pursuit.

From a just and equitable they often render him a dishonest person. Professed gamesters, it is well known, lie in wait for the young, the ignorant, and the unwary: and they do not hesitate to adopt fraudulent practices to secure them as their prey. In toxication has been also frequently resorted to for the same purpose.

From humane and merciful they change him into hard hearted and barbarous. Habitual gamesters have compassion foe neither men nor brutes. The former they can ruin and leave destitute, without the sympathy of a tear. The latter they can oppress to death, calculating the various powers of their declining strength, and their capability of enduring pain.

They convert him from an orderly to a disorderly being, and to a disturber of the order of the universe. Professed gamesters sacrifice every thing, without distinction, to their wants, not caring if the order of nature, or if the very ends of creation, be reversed. They turn day into night, and night into day. They force animated nature into situations for which it was never destined. They lay their hands upon things innocent and useful, and make them noxious. They by hold of things barbarous, and render them still more barbarous by their pollutions.

Hartley, in his essay upon man, has the following observation upon gaming.

"The practice of playing at games of chance and skill is one of the principal amusements of life. And it may be thought hard to condemn it as absolutely unlawful, since there are particular cases of persons, infirm in body and mind, where it seems requisite to draw them out of themselves by a variety of ideas and ends in view, which gently engage the attention.—But the reason takes place in very few instances.—The general motives to play are avarice, joined with a fraudulent intention explicit or implicit, ostentation of skill, and spleen, through the want of some serious, useful occupation. And as this practice arises from such corrupt sources, so it has a tendency to increase them; and indeed may be considered as an express method of begetting and inculcating self-interest, ill will, envy, and the like. For by gaming a man learns to pursue his own interest solely and explicitly, and to rejoice at the loss of others, as his own gain, grieve at their gain, as his own loss, thus entirely reversing the order established by providence for social creatures."


Music forbidden—general apology for the Quakers on account of their prohibition of so delightful a science—music particularly abused at the present day—wherein this abuse consists—present use of it almost inseparable from the abuse.

Plato, when he formed what he called his pure republic, would not allow music to have any place in it. George Fox and his followers were of opinion, that it could not be admitted in a system of pure Christianity. The modern Quakers have not differed from their predecessors on this subject; and therefore music is understood to be prohibited throughout the society at the present day.

It will doubtless appear strange that there should be found people, to object to an art, which is capable of being made productive of so much pleasurable feeling, and which, if it be estimated either by the extent or the rapidity of its progress, is gaining in the reputation of the world. But it may be observed that "all that glitters is not gold." So neither is all, that pleases the ear, perfectly salubrious to the mind. There are few customs, against which some argument or other may not be advanced: few in short, which man has not perverted, and where the use has not become, in an undue measure, connected with the abuse.

Providence gave originally to man a beautiful and a perfect world. He filled it with things necessary and things delightful. And yet man has often turned these from their true and original design. The very wood on the surface of the earth he has cut down, and the very stone and metal in its bowels he has hewn and cast, and converted into a graven image, and worshipped in the place of his beneficent Creator. The food, which has been given him for his nourishment, he has frequently converted by his intemperance into the means of injuring his health. The wine that was designed to make his heart glad on reasonable and necessary occasions, he has used often to the stupefaction of his senses, and the degradation of his moral character. The very raiment, which has been afforded him for his body, he has abused also, so that it has frequently become a source for the excitement of his pride.

Just so it has been, and so it is, with music at the present day.

Music acts upon our senses, and may be made productive of a kind of natural delight, for in the same manner as we receive, through the organ of the eye, a kind of involuntary pleasure, when we look at beautiful arrangements, or combinations, or proportions, in nature, and the pleasure may be said to be natural, so the pleasure is neither less, nor less involuntary, nor less natural, which we receive, through the organ of the ear, from a combination of sounds flowing in musical progression.

The latter pleasure, as it seems natural, so, under certain limitations, it seems innocent. The first tendency of music, I mean of instrumental, is to calm and tranquillize the passions. The ideas, which it excites, are of the social, benevolent, and pleasant kind. It leads occasionally to joy, to grief, to tenderness, to sympathy, but never to malevolence, ingratitude, anger, cruelty, or revenge. For no combination of musical sounds can be invented, by which the latter passions can be excited in the mind, without the intervention of the human voice.

But notwithstanding that music may be thus made the means both of innocent and pleasurable feeling, yet it has been the misfortune of man, as mother cases, to abuse it, and never probably more than in the present age. For the use of it, as it is at present taught, is almost inseparable from its abuse. Music has been so generally cultivated, and to such perfection, that it now ceases to delight the ear, unless it comes from the fingers of the proficient. But great proficiency cannot be obtained in this science, without great sacrifices of time. If young females are to be brought up to it, rather as to a profession, than introduced to it as a source of occasional innocent recreation, or if their education is thought most perfect, where their musical attainments are the highest, not only hours, but even years, must be devoted to the pursuit. Such a devotion to this one object must, it is obvious, leave less time than is proper for others, that are more important. The knowledge of domestic occupations, and the various sorts of knowledge, that are acquired by reading, must be abridged, in proportion as this science is cultivated to professional precision. And hence, independently of any arguments, which the Quakers may advance against it, it must be acknowledged by the sober world to be chargeable with a criminal waste of time. And this waste of time is the more to be deprecated, because it frequently happens, that, when young females marry, music is thrown aside, after all the years that have been spent in its acquisition, as an employment, either then unnecessary, or as an employment, which, amidst the new cares of a family, they have not leisure to follow.

Another serious charge may be advanced against music, as it is practised at the present day. Great proficiency, without which music now ceases to be delightful, cannot, as I have just observed, be made without great application, or the application of some years. Now all this long application is of a sedentary nature. But all occupations of a sedentary nature are injurious to the human constitution, and weaken and disorder it in time. But in proportion as the body is thus weakened by the sedentary nature of the employment, it is weakened again by the enervating powers of the art. Thus the nervous system is acted upon by two enemies at once, and in the course of the long education necessary for this science, the different disorders of hysteria are produced. Hence the females of the present age, amongst whom this art has been cultivated to excess, are generally found to have a weak and languid constitution, and to be disqualified, more than others, from becoming healthy wives, or healthy mothers, or the parents of a healthy progeny.


Instrumental forbidden—Quakers cannot learn it on the motives of the world—it is not conducive to the improvement of the moral character—affords no solid ground of comfort—nor of true elevation of mind—a sensual gratification—remarks of Cowper—and, if encouraged, would interfere with the duty recommended by the Quakers, of frequent religious retirement.

The reader must always bear it in his mind, if the Quakers should differ from him on any particular subject, that they set themselves apart as a christian community, aiming at christian perfection: that it is their wish to educate their children, not as moralists or as philosophers, but as christians; and that therefore, in determining the propriety of a practice, they will frequently judge of it by an estimate, very different from that of the world.

The Quakers do not deny that instrumental music is capable of exciting delight. They are not insensible either of its power or of its charms. They throw no imputation on its innocence, when viewed abstractly by itself; but they do not see anything in it sufficiently useful, to make it an object of education, or so useful, as to counterbalance other considerations, which make for its disuse.

The Quakers would think it wrong to indulge in their families the usual motives for the acquisition of this science. Self-gratification, which is one of them, and reputation in the world, which is the other, are not allowable in the Christian system. Add to which that where there is a desire for such reputation, an emulative disposition is generally cherished, and envy and vain glory are often excited in the pursuit.

They are of opinion also, that the learning of this art does not tend to promote the most important object of education, the improvement of the mind. When a person is taught the use of letters, he is put into the way of acquiring natural, historical, religious, and other branches of knowledge, and of course of improving his intellectual and moral character. But music has no pretensions, in the opinion of the Quakers, to the production of such an end. Polybius, indeed relates, that he could give no solid reason, why one tribe of the Arcadians should have been so civilized, and the others so barbarous, but that the former were fond, and the latter were ignorant of music. But the Quakers would argue, that if music had any effect in the civilization, this effect would be seen in the manners, and not in the morals of mankind. Musical Italians are esteemed a soft and effeminate, but they are generally reputed a depraved people. Music, in short, though it breathes soft influences, cannot yet breathe morality into the mind. It may do to soften savages, but a christian community, in the opinion of the Quakers, can admit of no better civilization, than that which the spirit of the supreme being, and an observance of the pure precepts of christianity, can produce.

Music, again, does not appear to the Quakers to be the foundation of any solid comfort in life. It may give spirits for the moment as strong liquor does, but when the effect of the liquor is over, the spirits flag, and the mind is again torpid. It can give no solid encouragement nor hope, nor prospects. It can afford no anchorage ground, which shall hold the mind in a storm. The early christians, imprisoned, beaten and persecuted even to death, would have had but poor consolation, if they had not had a better friend than music to have relied upon in the hour of their distress. And here I think the Quakers would particularly condemn music, if they thought it could be resorted to in the hour of affliction, in as much as it would then have a tendency to divert the mind from its true and only support.

Music, again, does not appear to them to be productive of elevated thoughts, that is, of such thoughts as raise the mind to sublime and spiritual things, abstracted from the inclinations, the temper, and the prejudices of the world. The most melodious sounds that human instruments can make, are from the earth earthly. But nothing can rise higher than its own origin. All true elevation therefore can only come, in the opinion of the Quakers, from the divine source.

The Quakers therefore, seeing no moral utility in music, cannot make it a part of their education. But there are other considerations, of a different nature, which influence them in the same way.

Music, in the first place, is a sensual gratification. Even those who run after sacred music, never consider themselves as going to a place of devotion, but where, in full concert, they may hear the performance of the master pieces of the art. This attention to religious compositions, for the sake of the music, has been noticed by one of our best poets.

"and ten thousand sit, Patiently present at a sacred song, Commemoration-mad, content to hear, O wonderful effect of music's power, Messiah's eulogy for Handal's sake!" COWPER.

But the Quakers believe, that all sensual desires should be held in due subordination to the pure principle, or that sensual pleasures should be discouraged, to much as possible, as being opposed to those spiritual feeling, which constitute the only perfect enjoyment of a christian.

Music, again, if it were encouraged in the society, would be considered as depriving those of maturer years of hours of comfort, which they now frequently enjoy, in the service of religion. Retirement is considered by the Quakers as a christian duty. The members therefore of this society are expected to wait in silence, not only in their places of worship, but occasionally in their families, or in their private chambers, in the intervals of their daily occupations, that, in stillness of heart, and in freedom from the active contrivance of their own wills, they may acquire both directions and strength for the performance of the duties of life. The Quakers therefore are of opinion, that, if instrumental music were admitted as a gratification in leisure hours, it would take the place of many of these serious retirements, and become very injurious to their interests and their character as christians.


Vocal music forbidden—singing in itself no more immoral than reading —but as vocal music articulates ideas, it may convey poison to the mind —some ideas in songs contrary to Quaker notions of morality—as in hunting songs—or in baccanalian—or in martial—youth make no selection —but learn off that fall in their way.

It is an observation of Lactantius, that the "pleasures we receive through the organ of the ears, may be as injurious as those we receive, through the organ of the eyes." He does not, however, consider the effect of instrumental music as much to be regarded, "because sounds, which proceed from air, are soon gone, and they give birth to no sentiments that can be recorded. Songs, on the other hand, or sounds from the voice, may have an injurious influence on the mind."

The Quakers, in their view of this subject, make the same distinction as this ancient father of the church. They have a stronger objection, if it be possible, to vocal, than to instrumental music. Instrumental music, though it is considered to be productive of sensual delight, is yet considered as incapable, on account of its inability to articulate, or its inability to express complex ideas, of conveying either unjust or impure sentiments to the mind. Vocal, on the other hand, is capable of conveying to it poison of this sort. For vocal music consists of songs, or of words musically expressed by the human voice. But words are the representatives of ideas, and, as for as these ideas are pure or otherwise, so far may vocal music be rendered innocent or immoral.

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