Why might the Founders feel affection for the Quakers? There was a radically decentralized, highly individualistic, anti-creedal, anti-clerical element of the Quakers that resonated with the Whig Zeitgeist. And for those Founders who believed government didn't need to support "true religion," the Quakers had that too. As Ben Franklin explains:
If Christian Preachers had continued to teach as Christ and his Apostles did, without Salaries, and as the Quakers now do, I imagine Tests would never have existed; for I think they were invented, not so much to secure Religion itself, as the Emoluments of it.
When a Religion is good, I conceive that it will support itself; and, when it cannot support itself, and God does not take care to support, so that its Professors are oblig'd to call for the help of the Civil Power, it is a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.Note Franklin's letter (October 9, 1780) was to the Arian Richard Price, who because of his Arianism would have flunked those religious tests the two of them complained about. Insofar as I understand the relationship of "Quaker doctrine" to the Trinity, their official doctrine is there is no doctrine.
Quakers of that time tended to believe in the Trinity but had no internal "confession" for it because they had no creeds. If the Spirit instructed the believer the Trinity existed, that was sufficient. If not, that was okay as well. The individual believer, exercising his privilege as a Priest would decide for himself.
When a Religion is good, I conceive that it will support itself; and, when it cannot support itself, and God does not take care to support, so that its Professors are oblig'd to call for the help of the Civil Power, it is a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.
This was Madison's argument, and Tocqueville credited the voluntary nature of Christianity--as opposed to state support in Europe--for religion's success in America. If there's a dip in Christianity in America today, in Europe, you can barely find it at all.
Jon – I agree with your Quaker = “Whig Zeitgeist” premise. But as usual when generically referring to “the Founders,” there was more diversity than uniformity in their views of Quakers. As you noted, those “major” founders who believed that religion would flourish more without government support – Franklin, Jefferson, and Madison – tended to praise Quakerism or positive Quaker influences on the governing of Pennsylvania. Madison’s January 1774 letter to William Bradford contains the most emotional words I’ve ever encountered in Madison’s usually dispassionate writings, when he praised PA for its “liberty of conscience” tradition, versus VA’s persecution of dissenters as, “that diabolical Hell conceived principle of persecution rages among some and to their eternal Infamy the Clergy can furnish their Quota of Imps for such business.”
But other significant founders – Washington, Adams and Paine – did not care much for Quakers, with their negative views ranging from grudging toleration (Washington) to outright disdain (Paine’s “Epistle to Quakers” diatribe appendix to “Common Sense”). See this recent article at the great All Things Liberty (American Revolution) website: http://allthingsliberty.com/2015/05/a-quaker-struggles-with-the-war/ for an example. As John L. Smith commented, “When on the floor of Congress, John Adams used the “religion card” in criticizing [Quaker John] Dickinson and his anti-war stance.”
As I commented, “During the War of Independence, when at least 20% of the American population were Loyalists/Tories, General Washington could neither comprehend nor appreciate that Quaker pacifism derived from their religious beliefs/testimonies, rather than their political leanings (which were Whiggish). He resented the Quakers’ refusal to help with the “common defense.” Long after the war, and following his inauguration in 1789, President Washington mellowed a bit, writing that, “Your principles and conduct are well known to me; and it is doing the people called Quakers no more than justice to say, that (except their declining to share with others the burden of the common defense) there is no denomination among us, who are more exemplary and useful citizens.” But in another letter the following year, amidst the very gradual abolition of slavery in the states north of Maryland, Washington was clearly peeved by Quaker abolitionism when he wrote, “The [anti-slavery] memorial of the Quakers (and a very mal-apropos one it was) has at length been put to sleep, and will scarcely awake before the year 1808 [when Congresses’ 20 year extension of the slave trade would end].
In regards to Quaker non-Trinitarianism, I recommend (via JSTOR) Unitarian Belief Among Early Quakers by PATRICK J. NUGENT, 1993, A Journal from the Radical Reformation, Spring 1993, Vol. 2, No. 3
Jon – I am only trying to shed more light on this topic, not refute your post. But I think the conclusion of Jane Calvert’s excellent article, QUAKER PENNSYLVANIA: REFUGE FROM PRIESTCRAFT? is very relevant (another “founder,” in this case, Samuel Adams, “vehemently denouncing” Quakers, along with the aforementioned Thomas Paine). I got it from the Internet at some point, but do not have a viable weblink to share.
“Early Americans were quite aware of the uniqueness of religious liberty in provincial Pennsylvania, but they were equally aware of the power Quakers wielded over the inhabitants in various aspects of their lives, which seemed to negate the very liberty that the Pennsylvania charter granted. The policy of religious liberty in Pennsylvania may even have been overshadowed in the eyes of its non-Quaker denizens by the near complete domination the Quakers exercised over the political establishment and civil society. The vehemence of Samuel Adams in denouncing the Quakers is an indication of the general suspicion under which they were held during the founding period:
These Quakers are in general a sly artful People, not altogether destitute, as I conceive, of worldly Views in their religious Profession. They carefully educate their Children in their own contracted Opinions and Manners, and I dare say they have in their Heads as perfect a System of Uniformity of Worship in their Way, and are busily employd about spiritual Domination as ever Laud himself was, but having upon professed Principle renouncd the Use of the carnal Weapon, they cannot consistently practice the too common Method made Use of in former times, of dragooning Men into sound Beliefe. …to destroy the peace of others who profess to have that sincere Affection to the Common Master, because they differ from him in Matters of mere opinion.219
Adams’ comparison of Quakers to Archbishop Laud, the very embodiment of priestcraft in seventeenth-century England, encapsulates the menace Quakers seemed to hold for the American cause. For every incident of praise bestowed on Pennsylvania for the salutary effects of religious liberty, there was one deriding Quakers for their hegemonic and religiously motivated control over the province. What is most important here is not the validity of the charges against the Quakers, but rather the popular opinion of them that existed before the writing of the Constitution. During the Revolution, their policy of religious liberty was virtually forgotten when they tried to exert the same kind of control over America as they had over Pennsylvania to obstruct the progress of independence. This political move, however, was not forgotten. In his diatribe against Quakers in Common Sense, Paine wished that “the example which ye have unwisely set, of mingling religion with politics, may be disavowed, and reprobated by every inhabitant of AMERICA.”220 It appears as though Paine got his wish. While Pennsylvania was undoubtedly a strong positive example of religious liberty, it was an equally strong negative example of the necessity of separation of church and state. As clear as it is that Pennsylvania was a salutary experiment in religious liberty, historians are wrong to credit Pennsylvania with separation of church and state. It did not exist there. Quaker Pennsylvania would have failed all the Supreme Court tests for disestablishment miserably. However, this very fact may have contributed to the existence of disestablishment in the United States.”
219 Samuel Adams to Peter Thacher, August 11, 1778. Letters, 10: 421.
220 Paine, Common Sense, 54.
JMS: No problem. I'll check those sources out.
"Note Franklin's letter (October 9, 1780) was to the Arian Richard Price, who because of his Arianism would have flunked those religious tests the two of them complained about."
FTR, Price would have passed Pennsylvania's religious test.
Pennsylvania: “No person who acknowledges the being of a God and a future state of rewards and punishments shall, on account of his religious sentiments, be disqualified to hold any office or place of trust or profit under this Commonwealth.”
What year did PA adopt that provision?
Pennsylvania; Declaration of Rights II (1776) "...Nor can any man, who acknowledges the being of a God, be justly deprived or abridged to any civil right as a citizen, on account of his religious sentiments or peculiar mode of religious worship."
Pennsylvania; Frame of Government, Section 10 (1776) "And each member [of the legislature]...shall make and subscribe the following declaration, viz.:
'I do believe in one God, the creator and governor of the universe, the rewarder to the good and the punisher of the wicked. And I do acknowledge the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by Divine inspiration.'"
Pennsylvania ; Article IX, Section 4 (1790) "that no person, who acknowledges the being of a God, and a future state of rewards and punishments, shall, on account of his religious sentiments, be disqualified to hold any office or place of trust or profit under this commonwealth."
Yes they replaced the 1776 test which offended among others Franklin and Price and replaced it with one both had no problems passing.
Pages 44-46 may be of interest.
It's true that in 1790, belief in the Bible was stricken; however, a motion to strike the entire religious test failed 376-7.
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