Quaker Heritage Press > Online Texts > The Old Discipline > Arbitrations


If occasions of differences arise between any of our members about their property, it is recommended that the parties proceed in the following manner:

Let the party who thinks him or herself aggrieved, calmly and kindly request the other to comply with the demand; and, if this be disputed, the complainant, or if he or she lives at too great a distance, some Friend whom they may authorise, should take with him one or two of the overseers, or other discreet Friends, and in their presence repeat the demand.

If this step also fails of the desired effect, the parties should be advised to choose a suitable number of Friends as arbitrators, and mutually engage by bond, or other written instrument adapted to the occasion, to abide by their determination.

Should this proposal be acceeded to, and arbitrators accordingly chosen; they ought, as speedily as circumstances will admit, to appoint time and place, and attend to the business without unnecessary delay; giving the parties a fair and full hearing in the presence of each other, but listening to neither of them apart, nor suffering their own sentiments to be known abroad till they have fully digested the subject, and come to a clear decision, which they should be careful to do within the time agreed on.

But, if either of the said parties shall refuse to submit the matter in dispute to arbitrators; or, when that is done, neglect to give his or her attendance when desired, without a sufficient reason being assigned; or not abide by their award when issued; in either of those cases, the offender should be complained of to the monthly meeting of which he or she is a member; and if they cannot be brought to a sense of their error, the said meeting should declare its disunion with them, unless such person make it evident to the satisfaction of the said meeting that the award is erroneous or unjust. In which case the matter in dispute may be referred either to the same, or other arbitrators as the meeting shall judge best; and their award shall be final. After which if either of the parties at variance, prove so regardless of peace and unity as not to acquiesce in such corrected determination, the monthly meeting they belong to should proceed to issue a testimony against him or her so refusing.

Where arbitrators are at a loss for want of legal knowledge, it may be proper for them, at the joint expense of the parties to take the opinion of counsel learned in the law, in order to come at a proper judgment in the matter referred to them. And that they may the better answer the end of their appointment, and be helpful in conciliating the minds of the parties, they ought not to consider themselves as advocates for those by whom they are chosen, but as men, whose duty it is to judge righteously, fearing the Lord. They should, as much as may be, shun all previous information respecting the case; or, having heard any thing on it, stand unbiassed thereby. They should reject no evidence or witness proposed; nor receive any but in the presence of both parties; and in their award, they need not assign any reason for their determinations.

And whereas there may be some circumstances even in disputed matters, wherein the foregoing wholesome method of proceeding cannot be complied with; such as, 1st. The party absconding, or leaving the country with design to defraud his or her creditors; or, 2d. That the going through the meetings, by the time it must necessarily take up, might be a manifest damage, to the creditor or claimant, by other peoples postponing him or her, as in cases of apparent danger of bankruptcy, or the party being overloaded with debts, and other creditors generally coming on; or, 3d. That there may be danger of future damage to such as submit thereto, as in the case of executors, administrators, or trustees; it may therefore be necessary, and it is advised, that the monthly meeting where such cases happen, do hold excused such as shall in the two first mentioned circumstances in this paragraph, appear to them to be really necessitated to proceed at law; and in the latter case of executors, administrators or trustees, where it shall appear to the meeting that our friendly way would be unsafe, such may be permitted to have the matter tried at law, with this caution, that the parties n both sides do behave towards each other in brotherly love, decency and moderation, without anger or animosity, which will be a becoming testimony even in courts, and show that nothing but the nature of the case, and our station in common with others, under the laws of the land, bring any of us there.

As it may sometimes occur that a member, either for want of a clear understanding of the business, or through an improper influence may present a complaint against another member, wherein the overseers, after fully hearing both parties, being decidedly of opinion that the case does not require a reference, they are to advise a speedy settlement thereof; which being ineffectual, and the complainant remaining dissatisfied therewith, he may have liberty to inform the preparative meeting where the other party is a member (without mentioning any name) that having a matter in dispute with one of their members, he is desirous of their assistance in order to a settlement thereof; -- the said meeting is then to appoint a judicious committee to inquire into the propriety of the matter being left to arbitration; if they should judge that the complaint ought to be referred, they are to advise that it be submitted accordingly; but if the said committee concur in judgment with the overseers, the complaint is to be dismissed.

It is desired that persons differing about worldly affairs, do as little as may be, engage friends in the ministry as arbitrators in such cases.

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