Charles Wetherill

Wetherill, Charles. History of The Religious Society of Friends Called by Some The Free Quakers, in the City of Philadelphia. Philadelphia: Printed for the Society, 1894, Number 3 of an edition limited to 800 copies, signed by Charles Wetherill.]

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That in a law of this state passed on the Thirteenth day of June, 1777, entitled, "An Act obliging the male white inhabitants of this state to give assurances of allegiance to the same," etc., it is declared that, "allegiance and protection are reciprocal, and that those who will not bear the former, are not (and ought not to be) entitled to the latter:" the first part of which declaration is the great and solid basis upon which civil society is established. That the good people of Pennsylvania considering the said declaration, not as unmeaning words, but as holding out and inviting all to a most important compact, essential to their well being: and which on the part of the state, was intended faithfully and inviolably to be preserved, solemnly gave those "assurances of allegiance,'' which entitled them to protection. That your memorialists, being among those who have thus entered this important compact, consider this right of protection thus gained to be in value beyond estimation. And that as the state is bound by the most solemn engagements to afford that protection to those who have given allegiance; so it is the indispensable duty of every man to claim and assert his title to it whenever any of his rights are invaded.
That your memorialists justly considering this honorable house as the representatives of the state, from which they were of right entitled to claim protection, presented their petition, representing in effect, that great numbers of freemen had been disowned by the people called Quakers, under various pretences, especially during the struggle of this great revolution, and stating four distinct cases; viz.
They have been disowned for having given allegiance to the state in compliance with the laws.
For holding offices under the state, and under the united states.
For bearing of arms in the defence of our invaded country
altho the laws of the state enjoined and required it of us. And for the payment of taxes required by law.
And they further represented, in effect, that a number of persons so disowned and cut off from religious communion and fellowship with those among whom they had been educated, collecting together, and being sensible of the duty of public worship, agreed to worship apart from those who had disowned them, in the meeting houses built by our common ancestors, at such times as not to interrupt or prevent those who had disowned them, from a common use of the same houses:--That the peaceable means adopted to obtain for that purpose the use of those meeting houses had been ineffectual, and treated by the leaders of the monthly meeting of Philadelphia, and others, with a total disregard: That certain men among them, assumed and exercised a pretended right to refuse, or tonight as of favour, at their discretion and pleasure, the internment of the dead in the burying ground granted in common to their and our ancestors, and gave instances of the most insulting and intolerable abuse of that assumed power; that the petitioners were then ready to give the most full, clear, and unequivocal testimony of each and every fact stated in the said representation. That the said petitioners conceiving themselves of right entitled to protection, and their case a new one, "arising out of a great revolution which the laws have not provided for," and therefore "proper for the consideration of the legislature," and confiding in the justice and wisdom of the house, prayed leave to bring in a bill, in effect, to supply the deficiency of the laws, in a case which had not, and scarce possibly could have been foreseen, and thereby secure to them the rights and privileges which were thus withheld from them. A prayer so just and reasonble, it was hoped and expected would have been readily granted; but the petitioners were abashed when they read in the minutes of the house, that their petition was "referred to the committee of grievances;" as if their complaint had been against officers acting under the government, and abusing the authorities of it.
That your memorialists having seen the "address and memorial on behalf of the people called Quakers" signed by "John Drinker, clerk," which has been presented to the general assembly, remark, that the most material facts stated in the aforesaid petition, are admitted, and others equivocally denied, that the addressers assert their right of disowning, threaten to publish the causes for which many of the petitioners had been disowned, and refer this honorable house to a decision which they hope the house will think "a just and expedient" answer to our said petition.
Your memorialists will not waste the time of this honourable house in minute observations upon an address artfully calculated to lead from the point in question, which is not an enquiry whether religious societies may disown their members for immoral acts; but whether a religious society, disowning their members for complying with the laws of their country, in those great and important points on which its liberty and happiness essentially and absolutely depend, may at their will and pleasure, withhold from the persons so disowned, the use of the places of worship, burial grounds, etc., provided for them by their ancestors: and in case of any society, under pretence of religion, attempting so to do whether the state is not bound to make laws to secure those rights to such persons as have given allegiance to it, and thereby prevent the injustice attempted against them.
How far the quotation from Locke, cited in the address will apply to these questions, your memorialists are well content that this honourable house shall decide, without a single remark thereon from us, and on the threat of publishing the causes of disowning, we shall make no other observation, than this single truth, that the subscribers to the said petition, are friends to the revolution, of established character, many of them well known to the members of this hqnourable house, and have nothing to fear from such threats.
Your memorialists observe, that the interment of Molesworth, alluded to in the petition, is said in the address to have been "known to a very few at the time," but the fact is otherwise: he was interred by a formal written order, signed by the overseers, and his funeral was attended by a very great number of the people of that society--which is too notorious to need proof,--and respecting the fact of their refusing to inter another person because he had borne arms and been concerned in war, we are ready to give the clearest evidence; and as to threats of violence in the interment of two children, it is untrue, and we are ready to shew, that far from proposing anything of that sort, the first magistrate of the city, was called upon to witness, that no riot or unlawful violence of any kind was committed.
The decision referred to in the address, and recommended as a just and expedient answer from this honourable house to the petitioners, we hope and confide will be well considered before it is adopted: we pray leave to recite it; it is in the following words: "And when Gallio was the deputy of Achaia, the Jews made insurrection with one accord against Paul, and brought him to the judgment seat; saying, This fellow persuadeth men to worship God contrary to the law, and when Paul was now about to open his mouth, Gallio said unto the Jews, if it were a matter of wrong, or wicked lewdness, O ye Jews, would that I should bear with you. But if it be a question of words and names, and of your law look ye to it, for I will be no judge of such matters; and he drave them from the judgment seat." Acts xviii, 12 to 16.
We ask in what part of our petition have we charged the people called Quakers with "persuading men to worship God contrary to law," or what "questions of words and names" have we proposed ? What is there contained in the petition on which such insinuated charges can in any sort be founded ? the complaint thereto made is clearly stated to be a "matter of wrong" which Gallio declares ought to be heard, and we pray leave to make a few short remarks on the answer recommended.
We ask, what have the petitioners done that should induce the honourable house to drive them from before it? The sentence of Gallio stands approved because the Jews had done wrong to Paul; but what wrong have we done to the addressers? they do not even pretend any: but suppose the case before Gallio had been parallel with ours: that the Roman empire had been invaded, that the Jews had countenanced or abetted the enemy, while they were desolating the country with fire and sword, that Paul born a jew had taken part with the empire and exposed his life in its defence; that the Jews for that reason, but under the pretence of religion, had expelled Paul from among them, and secluded him from the occasional use of the sepulchres of his ancestors, and other rights descended to him, and that thus circumstanced, Paul had appealed to Caesar's deputy for protection, and that instead of affording him protection, Gallio had driven Paul from before the judgment seat; what would Caesar have said to Gallio for such a flagrant abuse and foolish violation of his trust? Would not Caesar have put Gallio to death? If the meeting for sufferings appointed by that part of the people called Quakers, who have disowned us, think it their duty to offer their advice to this honourable house, as to what answer it shall give to our petition, they ought to consider this case. But we should deem ourselves highly criminal, if we entertained the most distant thought, that this honourable house would adopt so unjust a sentence.
We have hitherto forborne to urge this matter upon this honourable house, interesting as it is to us, because of the unusual weight of business which has pressed upon the house: but we should be wanting in due respect, if we permitted the subject to remain in its present state, so as to leave an impression of doubt upon the minds of any, whether this house would extend to the petitioners that protection to which they are of right so clearly entitled.
But if those facts stated in the petition, and conceded in the address and memorial, are not deemed amply sufficient to induce the house to grant the prayer of the petition, we are ready to prove every fact alleged by us: and if those are not deemed sufficient, we suggest the following, which will place the conduct of the leaders of the society of the people called Quakers, attached to the cause of our enemies in its true point of view: we say, of the leaders, because it is a well known fact, that a great number of the independent part of that people, have under peculiar difficulties arising from their situation and connections, done honour to themselves by the most spirited efforts in the cause of their country.
Cadwallader Dickinson of Philadelphia was disowned for sitting as a juryman on the trial of John Roberts and Abraham Carlile, on a charge of high treason, of which they were convicted, and for which they suffered death, although he was requested to serve on that duty by a relation of one of those men. On the other hand the persons so charged, found guilty and executed, or one of them, were expressly acknowledged to be members of the said society, and were not disowned for their treason.
We are ready to offer to this honourable house the testimony of a man of established good reputation, in support of the following fact, viz:
A testimony, as they term it, prepared for disowning a member for bearing of arms, and read in a meeting of business in Philadelphia, was so expressed as to censu re the joining of the American army: it was remarked by one present, that the bearing of arms was a sufficient cause for disowning, but that the joining of either side in the contest need not make any part of the charge. To this it was replied, that the person charged, had by joining the American army, added to the fault of bearing arms, the crimes of treason and rebellion. Whereupon another person present expressed great concern, that such a sentiment should be delivered in the meeting, and at the same time declaring, that he considered the government of the state to be so far established, as to claim his respect and acknowledgement. Whereupon an eminent speaker in that society declared "That he hoped there was not another man in that meeting who entertained a like sentiment; that he (the person who had expressed that "sentiment) put him in mind of the vicar of Bray:" here the debate ended and the words censuring the joining of the American army were continued, as expressing the sentiments of that people! We have forborne to give the names of the persons concerned in this transaction, because we do not wish to alledge them as charges against individuals, but we are ready to give them, whenever we shall be required so to do.
The public testimonies of those people, published at different times, are known to all, and need not be here recited; but it is perhaps not known to many, that those people in their meetings for business, quarterly, half-yearly, and yearly, put the following query, in effect: Are friends careful not to defraud the King of his dues? and we believe this query is still continued! And it is worthy of remark, that, even in the address and memorial to this honourable house, they avoid any acknowledgement of the right of government, and speak of them as men "who are in the exercise of the powers of government," and yet notwithstanding such strong and full evidences, these people have the assurance publicly to declare, that "no just cause of offence will be found against them in the general :" appear before this honourable house, and not only claim its protection, while they withhold their allegiance and disclaim the revolution and government; but also claim a right of punishing those who yield allegiance, by depriving them of their rights descending from their ancestors.
They have even made it a condition of persons having taken allegiance to the state, marrying among them, that that allegiance shall be renounced, and the certificate thereof returned. Of which strange fact we are ready to give full proof. These men, we say, come before this honourable house, claim the right of disfranchising hundreds of the freemen of the state, for having faithfully discharged, in the time of her distress, the great duties which they owed to their country, and withhold from them their property, peculiarly valued by all men, and appropriating that property to their own sole use; and when appeal is made to the legislature of the state, and protection asked, in terms the most decent and respectful, these men take upon them to recommend as a "proper" and "expedient" answer that we should "be driven from before" you, unheard. And, if possible, to add to the insult, while they withhold our just rights, calmly recommend us to observe the command, which forbids to "covet that which is our neighbour's."
What people of any age or country, have ever yet been found, who would suffer their houses of worship, and the bones of their ancestors to be violated and torn from them without the most desperate resistance? We know of none. Nor do we know what we have done, or omitted to do, that should induce any to think that we should on the present occasion, be more tame and submissive than the most abject of mankind. In order to shew our real situation we beg leave to recite a recent fact:--a minister of the gospel, long in high estimation among the people called Quakers, was disowned by that people in the state of Massachusetts Bay, for no other cause than for having published, as his opinion, that that people, consistent with their religious profession may pay their taxes for the stapport of government: came to this state on a religious visit to those who have been disowned here, and having appointed a meeting for worship, to be held in the meeting house at Merion, the key was obtained from the keeper, and the house opened for that purpose, when two of the leading members of that meeting came about the time appointed for holding the meeting, locked up the house, took away the key and prevented the meeting from being held: yet so late as the years 1777 and 1778, all the meeting houses in the state were opened to a preacher from England, then here, although it is generally understood that he considered, and on all occasions, public and private, spoke of the present revolution as a rebellion. If indeed your memorialists are mistaken in their claim of right to protection in the enjoyment of the meeting houses and burial grounds obtained by their ancestors, and that those of the people called Quakers, who have discountenanced the present revolution, have a divine right, or any other right, to supercede the law of the land, and to punish those who pay obedience to it, by depriving them of any of their rights and privileges, let it be so said: but your memorialists think it their duty to reiterate the prayer of their former petition.
"We pray this honourable house, in whose justice and wisdom we confide, will grant leave to bring in a bill for recognizing the right of persons disowned by the people called Quakers, to hold in common with others of that society, the meeting houses, school houses, burying grounds, lots of land, and other the estates held by that people as a religious society, and to recognize their right to search, examine, and take copies of the records, books, and papers of the said society from time to time, for the purpose of ascertaining descents, and securing their rights and other purposes as they may have occasion, and to enable those so disowned to purchase and hold such estates as other religious societies are by law entitled to hold and enjoy."
And whatever may be the determination of this honourable house in other respects, they further pray, that this memorial and remonstrance may be entered upon the journals of the house, in order that hereafter, we may have recourse to authentic records for proof of our having thus early made a claim of right, and done everything in our power to do consistent with the peace of civil society for obtaining a declaration of that right by law; that from authentic record, the People of Pennsylvania, and the states in union, the literati of Europe, and posterity, may judge of our situation and be enabled justly to decide upon such further measures as may hereafter become necessary to obtain those rights, which we can never consent to have coercively taken away, or withheld from us.


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