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as administered simply was, “ Dost thou, A. B., . solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm - ?" To which the answer is to be " yea” or “yes."
The Yearly Meeting this year expresses its satisfaction at the favorable turn of affairs. It calls attention to the fact that the preamble to the act says : “It is evident that the said people called Quakers have not abused the liberty or indulgences allowed to them by law," and urges that the further liberties be so used as to justify this favorable notice.
The expense of securing the ratification of the act must have been considerable, for we find records in several, perhaps all, the meetings* advising subscriptions towards the funds raised for the purpose.
Oaths, however, were still administered and taken by those who had no scruples, and the two systems did not work side by side without friction. In 1732 Chester Quarterly Meeting asked whether justices in a mixed court are responsible for the acts of the body in administering oaths,
and also whether clerks who are Friends can carry out orders to swear witnesses. The Yearly Meeting decided negatively in the latter case. In the former it determined that Quaker justices should have no part in such administration. If, however, there are enough other justices to make the act legal without their concurrence they may retain their places without sacrifice of principle.
There seemed, however, no way to allow a conscientious Quaker to serve as a judge or other official from whom the right to take an oath could be claimed. One such place after another they resigned, at their own motion or the urgency of the meeting. Some retained the office and disobeyed instructions, and in some places the difficulty of securing competent officials not Quakers disposed the meetings to look leniently on the offenders.
One of the “queries" answered three times a year by all the meetings was, “ Do you maintain a faithful testimony against oaths,” and other specified Quaker immoralities. Towards the middle of the century there were many exceptions in the matter of administering oaths.* The cases
• "Ordered by the Quarterly Meeting (Bucks), that every Monthly Meeting shall make a subscription towards the cbarge of gaining the royal absent to the Affirmation Act w others have done." 1726.
* " That Friends are generally pretty clear with respect to military service, defrauding the King of his duties, pay. ment of church rates so-called, or being concerned in
were taken up one by one by the monthly meet. ings, under directions from the Yearly Meeting.* This body also advised its members not to vote for Quakers for such offices. Many were induced to decline to serve,and a very general refusal to accept judgeships and magistracies resulted.
It may seem strange that a belief so unanimously accepted as a cardinal ethical principle, should after the lapse of a century have to be
prize goods, or goods unlawfully imported; though not from the administering of oaths." Bucks Q. M., 28, VIII., 1760.
inculcated upon unwilling members as a condition to the continuance of fraternal relations. Its triumph in Pennsylvania and in a modified way in England was so sccure, that in the minds of most of them the sufferings of their ancestors were justificd by the result. The Society as a whole apparently never wavered in its support. No corporate defection ever resulted from it. The responsibility of government, the duties and privileges of place, brought the Quakers incidentally to the stand where they must adhere to convictions or to office. The decision went forth, as clear as a bell, to hold no office and give no vote which would render nugatory the unchanging testimony of the fathers, and a certain line of offices knew no Quaker incumbents even in communities almost unanimously of their persuasion. The few exceptions to this wero, after a long time of unsuccessful kindly discipline, disowned by the Society.
The laws of Pennsylvania, of the States in general, and of the United States, are practically those to which the agitation of the question brought the Pennsylvanians in 1725. They amount to freedom to choose between oath and affirmation on the part of the taker, but no such freedom on the part of the
*" Recommended that the care of Friends, where occasion requires it, may be exerted to labor in Christian love, to convince such of their error who are deficient in respect to our testimony against oaths, and that where these endeavors prove unsuccessful, that Friends proceed according to our discipline ; and it is likewise further de. sired that all Friends may be particularly careful that they be not accessory in promoting or choosing their brethren in such offices which may subject them to the temptation of deviating from our Christian testimony in this or any other branch thereof." Yearly Meeting, 1762.
+“ I. T. so far condemns his having administered an oath, as to declare himself determined not to accept of any oflice for the future which may subject him to the necessity of doing it, and that he now sees the practice inconsistent both with the rules of the Society and the convictions of his own mind.”
Middletown M. M., 1762.
giver. The law for which the Quakers pressed so assiduously as the best possible under the circumstances allowed all denominations except their own to hold judicial positions. Their ideal was doubtless expressed in the original law of 1682, but having been beaten out of this by the pressure of opposing interests fortified by English authority, they retained what they could, and secured to all the future the liberty to have their yea counted as yea and their nay as nay without the implied invocation of a curse for every falsehood, or the irreverent use of a sacred name in every formal proceeding of the courts.
This was purchased coincidently with if not consequent upon the sacrifice of another principle, which most people would judge of equal importance with that against oaths.
The “Great Law" of 1682, passed under the impulse of the influence of William Penn and his immediate friends, reduced the death penalty to cases of treason and murder (practically to the one crime of malicious murder only). This stood till 1718. There does not appear to have been any alarming increase of crime, though numerous reports were sent to England by enemies of the Provincial government, tending to show in
security of life and property as a result of too great leniency. While we have no evidence that Penn changed his mind on the subject of capital punishment, he frequently wrote urging a vigorous enforcement of laws against criminals, as one means of aiding him in defending the good name of the Province.
In 1715 a prominent citizen, Jonathan Hayes, was murdered in Chester county. This was while the affirmation question was unsettled, just after Governor Gookin had decided that the English disqualifying law applied to Pennsylvania. As judges, and probably witnesses and part of the jury, would have to be Quakers, who refused to be sworn, the prisoners were released on bail for about three years. In the meantime Governor Keith came into power, and he and his Council considered their case.* It was said that immunity had encouraged crime. They appealed to England, but before the appeal could be heard the sentence was executed.
The affair made a great excitement, especially in England, which was studiously fanned by the anti-Quaker party in Pennsylvania. That the lives of Englishmen could be taken by an unsworn jury was considered monstrous.
• Colonial Records, III., page 32.