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FIFTH MONTH, 1839.
A CAUTION TO FRIENDS.
Yearly Meeting Minute. It is considered a maxim in philosophy, that “like causes under similar circumstances, always produce like effects;” and Solomon probably alludes to the same thing where he says, “ The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which will be done."
If the premises are true, mankind may learn from what is past, to avoid those “causes" which have produced disastrous effects;” and “those things which have been” in time past, of a character inconsistent with the peaceable principles of the gospel of Christ, may be held up to view as a warning to those who profess to be under the gospel dispensation, lest they again “ be done” under like circumstances. In the early settlement of Pennsylvania, the civil government was chiefly in the hands of Friends and administered by them, both in a legislative and executive capacity. As the population increased, and many of a different character (as to pacific principles) became interested in the affairs of civil government, a difference in politics increased, until party strife prevailed on the subject of civil rights and the administration of state affairs. When political contest had arisen to such a height as to produce unchristian feelings of strife and contention, it would have been prudent-in Friends,
and consistent with the peaceable spirit of Christ
pointed country people,-Friends and others, of the opposite ticket, and with them they forced their way to the ballot-box. That blood was spilt, there can be no doubt; but the end was thought to justify the means.
Now, what real friend of Truth and peace, in the non-resisting spirit of the gospel, can believe that the maintenance of civil rights will sanction such violation of religious and pacific principles? But their feelings and passions had been wrought up, perhaps by months or years of political controversy previous to this scene of confusion, and opposing of evil with violence, even unto blood.
For how many years the election ground exhibited similar scenes of strife and confusion, previous to the American revolution, we cannot now say. The body of Friends were generally considered in favour of the old administration, till within a few years of that period. It is to be regretted that the leading influential members of society had not retired from the political contest, when they discovered (or might have discovered) the point to which a peaceable mind might proceed in support of its civil rights and privileges, without violating the principles of him who is often called our pattern, and who on an occasion of far greater extremity than a civil or contested election, taught his followers to cease from strife and opposition to a war spirit in this emphatic language, “ My kingdom is not of this world, else would my servants fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews.” Had Friends withdrawn from the civil conflict at the proper time, instead of contending the point as they did, at the polls, and by other political means, there is with us no doubt the society would have been less
molested, and many of its members would have suffered far less from the ruling party during the revolution.
But their sufferings by fines and imprisonment, and sometimes personal injury, were not all the afflictions and trials they met with, in and about the time of the revolution. Notwithstanding all their exertions to keep the government in their own hands, they lost it by overpowering numbers; and not only so, but in the strife and contest among politicians, many of the members of society espoused the cause of liberty (as it was called) and so far joined the political party opposed to what was described as British usurpation and oppression, that their votes were given in favour of a change of men and measures in the administration of the government of the colonies. It was no marvel that many of the junior members of society took a warm interest in the political contest. They had the examples of the elder ranks, as warm politicians—their passions were wrought up by the spirit of the times,—the public newspapers,—the political meetings and high coloured speeches, the pamphlets and other means of excitement used by statesmen and politicians. Hence, when hostilities commenced, and personal service was required, many Friends (or members of society) having become so deeply involved in party spirit and political measures, were ready to join the American ranks, and some espoused the British interest. Their pacific principles were abandoned, for the sake of what they were taught to believe was the cause of civil liberty. They enlisted as soldiers, or aided in various other ways to forward the independence of the United States. This occasioned much religious concern on the part of the society. One of its most distinguishing testimonies was prostrated by many of its acknowledged members and these of all ages and in various stations, though chiefly among the ardent younger class.
At the Yearly Meeting held in Philadelphia in the 9th month, 1775, this record was made: 6 After some time spent in a close attention to the sorrowful account given in the answers to the sixth query,
of the public deviation of many members from our peaceable principles and ancient testimony against war,-with which, the minds of Friends being deeply affected, and desirous that this important subject may be maturely weighed and considered, in hope that Divine wisdom may be given for administering counsel and help for the restoration of those who have thus deviated, and for the faithful maintenance of our christian testimony, it was agreed to adjourn till next morning; when, on further solid deliberation on the subject, a committee of twenty-six Friends was appointed to join another committee previously námed, in a further weighty consideration of the present state of our religious society, and of this important subject.”
The next day, the said committee communicated to the meeting in writing their united sense and judgment, as follows:
“ We have taken under our weighty consideration the sorrowful account given, of the public deviation of many professors of the Truth among us from our ancient testimony against war: and being favoured in our deliberations on this affecting subject with the calming influences of that love which desires and seeks for their convincement of their errors, and re