ePub 版

Pennsylvania in country districts where the Quaker element constituted nearly the whole population.*

The Friends had a testimony against courts of law, at least till all other methods had been tried. They provided tribunals of their own, unbound by any legal trammels, to decide differences among Friends by considerations of the equities of cach particular case.+ Such decisions cost

finally, if satisfactory, received, that all the children were educated, that certificates of good standing were granted to members changing their abodes, that marriages and burials were simply and properly performed, and that records were fully and accurately kept. Under these were the Preparative Meetings.

Philadelphia Yearly Meeting dates back to 1681, when a number of Friends mct at Burlington on “ the 31st day of the 6th month" (August). Oscillating for a time between Burlington and Philadelphia, it finally settled down to regular seasons in Penn's city. The territory embraced monthly meetings on both sides of the Delaware River in New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania, and later some in Maryland.

Had all the inhabitants been Friends and amenable to their discipline, very little civil government would have been needed in internal affairs. The work of the legislature might have been devoted mainly to questions involving titles, etc., to property, and courts of law would have been shorn of nearly all their criminal and much of their civil business, while sheriffs and policemen, jails and punishments might almost have been omitted as unnecessary. Indeed this was practically the case for some decades in

* “ The flock committed to my charge is indeed small, but God be thanked generally sound, which is as much as can well be expected, considering the genius of the bulk of the people among whom we live. I need not tell you that Quakerism is generally preferred in Pennsylvania, and in no county of the province does the haughty tribe ap. pear more rampant than where I reside (Chester), there being by a modest computation 20 Quakers besides dis. henters to one true church-man."-December 30th, 1712, Papers Relating to the Church in Pennsylvania,” page 89.

+" That if any personal difference doth arise among Friends, that they may be speedily advised to refer it to one or two honest Friends, and if it cannot be ended, then to lay it before the preparative meetings to whom they belong for the speedy ending of the same."-Chester Quar. terly Meeting Minutes, 3, IX., 1701. In these minutes the old spelling is not followed.

“It's the sense and agreement of this meeting according to the agreenient of the Yearly Meeting of London in the year 1697, when any Friends have any difference one with the other (if they do not agree it between themselves) that they first speedily refer it to indifferent, impartial, and judicious friends, mutually chosen between them, and to

nothing, arrived at substantial justice, and left the disputants in an amicable frame of mind totards each other and the arbitrators. The early minutes of the monthly and quarterly meetings contain abundance of descriptions of such cases. After tracing the matter through several successive meetings, the account usually ends with the statement that all parties are satisfied.* This result was the more easily arrived at be

causo in most quarrels, errors exist on both sides, sometimes of action, sometimes only of hasty or derogatory words, and all parties could be induced not only to make financial restitution, but also to present the proper apologies and admissions. It is these small occasions of difference which often seriously mar the good fellowship of a neighborhood, and the plan of the Friends was admirably adapted to settle them in their

stand to their award if they agree to make any, but if they do not agree, then either party may have liberty to bring their said difference to the preparative meetings to which both of them belong, and if they do not end it in mutual satisfaction, then they may have liberty to appeal to the monthly mecting, and so farther."- Ibid., 2, IX., 1702.

•...“ Difference between C. E. of one party and G. H. and R. W. of the other party, about the throwing down of some old ruins of a mill dam, which difference was debated in this meeting, and the said parties mutually referring the determination thereof to the meeting, which is that C. E. shall pay the court charges on G. H.'s account and two-thirds of the charges on R. W.'s account, and that G. H. and R. W. acknowledge that they were too forward in doing what they did without the said C. E.'s leave; and that the said C. E. shall acknowledge to this meeting his forwardness in prosecuting of them by law without the consent of the meeting. They jointly acknowledge their satisfaction."-Chester Quarterly Meeting, 7, VI., 1699.

“L. B. brought in his paper of condemnation for quar. reling and fighting with some of the servants; and at his request it was read and accepted, and he advised to read it

according both in the meeting and court."-Bucks Quarterly Meeting, 1684.

" - complain against some of our young Friends to assenting and assisting to a forward and unadvised action in going to correct a man for beating his wife, which practice is contrary to our principles; for which the said per. sons have offered their acknowledgnient for their offence, which is accepted."-Concord Monthly Meeting, 1740.

" The difference between J. R. and W. W. offered to the meeting in order to compose the same. W. W. ac. knowledgeth he spoke foolishly in comparing him to a London pickpocket and the like, and sorry for the same, which J. R. did accept of, desiring and intending hereby that there be an end of strife from the beginning to this day.”—Chester Monthly Meeting, 6, IX., 1686.

“Friends, Whereas I contended with my neighbor for what I apprehended to be my right, by endeavoring to turn a certain stream of water into its natural course, till it arose to a personal difference; in which dispute I gave way to a warmth of temper, so far as to put my friend into the pond; for which action of mine, being contrary to the good order of Friends, I am sorry, and desire through Divine assistance to live in unity with him for the future." -Wilmington Monthly Meeting, 1751.

initial stages. Should the arbitrament be refused, there remained only the recourse of separation from the Society; but this was only resorted to after every endeavor was made for months together to bring the offender to terms. In rare cases it was necessary to have a judicial decision, especially where one party was not a member.*

The business matters of Friends were looked into, where any possibility of danger existed. It was felt that the body had a responsibility for the conduct of each individual which it could not evade. Most cautiously was the duty performed. Advice was offered by “concerned Friends "; finally the power of the meeting was invoked, and only after months of earnest labor in the case of a refractory member was “ disown

ment” resorted to. The advice* of the higher mcetings finally crystallized into a requirement for each monthly meeting to answer three times a year, plainly and honestly, the query, " Are Friends punctual to their promises and just in the payment of their debts ?" A man observed to be going into business beyond his ability to manage, or so largely as to detract from his attention to meeting matters, was warned in advance of a possible calamity, and often saved himself. All preference to creditors or tendency to save anything from a business failure was sufficient cause for extended “labour” on the part of Friends, to be followed either by repentance or disownment.

Nor were moral delinquencics which involved directly the offender only ever passed over if they came to the ears of the meeting. The early records contain but little reference to any.

*“ J. C. haring not made satisfaction according to the last monthly meeting's order, therefore this meeting leaves J. W. to his liberty to take his course with him at law."Chester Monthly Meeting.

+“ Pursuant to an order from the Quarterly Meeting this meeting appoints and - to inspect into the concerns of Friends whom they have any suspicion of any Friends going backwards in their outward concerns, 80 as to bring reproach upon Truth and damage to the credi. tors."-Chester Monthly Meeting, 25, X., 1710.

* "Advised that all Friends be very careful in making and vending all provisions and other commodities for transportation, taking care that the same be good and of due fineness, measure and weight."-Yearly Meeting, 1713.

+" Inasmuch as I have bought a piece of land in Chester contrary to the advice of Friends, for which I am sorry, and acknowledge I should not have done it."-Chester Monthly Meeting, 27, XI., 1683.

« 上一頁繼續 »