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L’Amérique et le France

IV. Religion, révolution, contre-révolution

Quaker Women in the American Revolution : a study of Quaker Neutrality

Laurie Wolberg

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1During the American Revolution, the Society of Friends demanded that its members adhere to the strict neutrallity proscribed by the sect’s religious tenets. The small percentage of Quakers who joined or aided either the British or the Continentals were disowned. The majority of Quakers appear to have been true to the Society’s peace testimony and refused to support the war in any form. Were they neutral in mind as well? It would seem that they were not and that Quakers, like their fellow colonists, did choose sides emotionally. Evidence to support this thesis can be found in the journals written by Quaker women during the Revolution.

  • 1 Richard BAUMAN, For the Reputation of Truth, Politics, Religion and Conflict Qmonq the Pennsylvania (...)

2The Revolution was in many ways a civil war. For the colonists whose roots were English, it was an emotional time. Neutrality was not a popular nor an acceptable mode of behavior and was, therefore, a difficult position for the Quakers to maintain. Because of the Society’s peace testimony, Quakers could neither join the militia, hire a substitute, pay taxes, use Continental currency, take oaths of allegiance, nor pay fines1. It is not surprising that Quakers were considered to be disloyal by the patriotic population. As a result, the Quakers were prosecuted and sometimes persecuted for their stand. In spite of this difficult situation, most Quakers remained scrupulously neutral. However, these were turbulent times and it is implausible that the Quakers could have remained emotionally neutral.

3The pre-war and war years were traumatic ones for the Society of Friends, but for the Quakers the war cannot be viewed as one overall picture. The situation varied in each colony. In Pennsylvania, the sufferings were harshest because there the percentage of Quakers was high. It was there that the Quakers had been most influential in the past, and there that the Quakers had most vehemently opposed a separation from the mother country.

4There were many reasons why the Quakers would have been drawn to the British. Quaker antecedents were in Great Britain where the faith had been founded and the Quakers had remained closely allied with their English co-religionists. In addition, for the Quaker hierarchy in Pennsylvania the war brought a final end to the political power which they had wielded since 1682. For the Quaker mercantile princes, of whom there were many, the severance of ties with Great Britain meant financial difficulties. Therefore, it would seem that the Quakers lobbied against independence, not only because war was an anthema to them, but for other reasons as well. Once the war was joined, Bristish victory surely would have seemed to be in Quaker interests. However there were Quakers who, although they did not actually join the Patriots, were attracted to the American cause. This was not only because of the questions of liberty and representation, but because America, not England, was their home.

  • 2 Robert SAYRE, "The Proper Study : Autobiographies in American Studies," The American Autobiography, (...)

5In pursuit of the question : "Were Quakers emotionally neutral ?", the diaries written by Quaker women during this period, are an invaluable source. Robert Sayre in an essay on the use of autobiography in American Studies suggests that autobiography is an invaluable tool for historians2. However the use of autobiography in the pursuit of historical truth does present problems. One of the most serious of these problems is the diferentiation between fact and fiction. Autobiographers can be secretive, deceptive and inaccurate. However when used with caution and when checked against other sources, the use of autobiographical material is instructive and rewarding.

  • 3 Howard BRINTON, Varieties of Religious Experience Among Friends, Wallingford, Pennsylvania, Pendle (...)
  • 4 Estelle JELINEK, "Introduction", Women’s Auyobiography, Estelle Jelinek, ed. Bloomington, Universit (...)

6Why in the study of Quaker neutrality are the diaries written by females more valuable than those written by males? As Howard Bronton notes in his work on Quaker journals, most Quakers wrote very little that did not pertain ot inner life3. This is true of both male and female Quakers. The diaries of Quaker men who lived and wrote during the Revolution do provide information on the question of neutrality but it is marginal. It must be noted that the majority of the diaries of women are also almost devoid of information that is of interest to this paper. If they were ministers, like their male counterparts, they were only interested in religion. In general even lay diarists seemed to be primarily concerned with recording deaths, obituaries and the weather. Estelle Jelinek is concerned with female autobiography4. She maintains that female autobiography is very different from male autobiography and should be judged accordingly. She suggests that although neither gender is willing to readily divulge real feelings, women are more apt to delve deeper into subjective and emotional matters. In addition she points out that journals and diaries, as an autobiographical form seem to suit females. The four women to be discussed in this paper are exceptional women whose journals were unusually valuable as aids in historical research.

7 The four Quaker diarists chosen for this study were from Philadelphia and its environs. They provide a vivid and comprehensible picture of Quaker attitudes during the Revolution. Their journals suggest that although most Quakers were genuine pacifists and neutral in action, emotionally, many were pro-British and some were pro-rebel. Elizabeth Drinker and Sally Logan Fisher, both unfaillingly neutral in deed, were emotionally pro-British. Margaret Morris was ambivalent, her original sympathy for the British changed to a feeling of allegiance to the American cause. Sally Wister was vehemently pro-American. Four diaries are, admittedly, not a large sample, but they are too impressive in their contribution not to be considered significant.

8All of these women were remarkably independent, capable women. Perhaps this is traceable to the special place that Quaker women held within the society from the time of its founding. Perhaps it is characteristic of a group of colonial women who when faced with the responsibility of living without a partner, managed well on their own. One is reminded of Abigail Adams, the wife of John Adams and not a Quaker. They certainly were talented diarists. This alone sets them apart from the average woman : colonial, Quaker or otherwise. Their journals are proof of the uniqueness.

  • 5 Kenneth A. RADBILL, "The Ordeal of Elizabeth Drinker", Pennsylvania History, 1980, 42 [2], p. 147.

9Although Elizabeth Drinker would not have admitted it, she was a "pro-British” neutral. She was born in 1734 and began her journal in 1759 at the age of twenty-five. Drinker kept her journal continuously until her death in 1807. All but the years 1789-88, which were accidently destroyed, are available in an edition edited by her great-grandson, Henry Biddle, in 1889. Much of the diary was devoted to the ordinary events in the life of an aristocratic, Quaker family in Philadelphia. Her entries increased in frequency when the British occupation of Philadelphia began in the autumn of 17775. Drinker was the native-born daughter of a prosperous Philadelphia shipowner who had immigrated from Ireland. In 1761, at the age of twenty-seven, she married the influential and wealthy Quaker, Henry Drinker. Henry was a land speculator, iron manufacturer and partner in the shipping firm of James and Drinker. Because of his influence and his political clash with the radicals in the 70’s, he was one of the Quakers exiled to Virginia.

  • 6 Elizabeth DRINKER, "Extracts from the Journal of Elizabeth Drinker form 1759-1807. A. D.," Henry Bi (...)

10Elizabeth Drinker intended her diary "for memorandums, nor is it anything else. Ye habit of scribbling something every night led me on…. " She continued "… yet I was never prone to speak my mind, much less to write or record anything that might at a future day give pain to anyone"6. Drinker endeavored to report rather than to judge. In her own mind, she was impeccably conscientious in refraining from taking sides. Yet unconsciously she revealed her pro-British leanings. Her sentiments, unsurprising for a wealthy Philadelphia Quaker, were understandably reinforced by her husband’s incarceration.

11Sarah Logan Fisher, although technically a neutral, was a committed supporter of the British position and should be termed a "neutral loyalist." Unlike Elizabeth Drinker, she made no attempt to hide her thoughts. She was interested in the political events of the times and did not distance herself form them in any way. In spite of her technical neutrality, her commiment to the British cause gave her writings a very unpacific tone. She wished nothing other than a complete British victory. Although a committed Quaker, her words belie a "Quakerish" turn of mind.

  • 7 Nicholas B. WAINWRIGHT, "A Diary of Trifling Occurences : Philadephia 1776-1778," Pennsylvania Maga (...)

12Sarah Fisher, born in 1753, was a member of the exceptional Logan family and through them was related to most of Philadelphia Quaker aristocracy7. At the age of twenty-one, she married Thomas Fisher who was ten years her senior. With her marriage to Fisher, she allied her family to the Fisher clan who, although they had arrived in Philadelphia only in 1746, had quickly prospered. Sarah was never robust or healthy but she bore three children. She was pregnant with the third child when she began her diary at the age of twenty-five. Sarah Fisher died of illness in 1798, at the age of forty-five.

  • 8 Ibid., p. 411.

13Fisher’s diary consists of twenty-five small notebooks, mainly devoted to recouting domestic, social and family matters. The volume that is of interest here covers the period from October 1776 and ends when Howe left Philadelphia in June 1778. Sarah Fisher remained in Philadelphia for this entire period, as did Elizabeth Drinker, and she too, left a wonderful and informative picture of the city during the Revolution. A woman of strong opinions, she never tried to conceal her feelings. Thomas was a conservative and a pacifist and his sympathies were with England.8 He committed himself to some of the most umncompromising positions in the Quaker community, and this position seemed to have targeted him for harsh treatment from the patriots. His wife, influenced by both his position and her own background, desperately yearned for a Bristish victory.

14Sarah Fisher’s husband was exiled to Virginia along with Henry Drinker. Unlike Elizabeth Drinker, whose anti-American sentiments were intensified by her husband’s exile, one feels with Fisher that her pro-British sentiments were just as strong before Thomas’ arrest as after. Sarah Fisher was representative of Quakers who short of actually committing acts of loyalism, could not have been more extreme in the spectrum of pro-British sentiment.

15Margaret Morris, like Elizabeth Drinker, was ostensibly faithful to her Quaker principles and remained neutral. As a pacifist she could not support either side, but she made no conscious effort to suppress her feelings or hide her allegiances. Whereas Elizabeth Drinker endeavored to hide her emotional affinity to the British because of her religious commitment to neutrality, Margaret Morris was very candid about her feelings. Unlike Sarah Fisher, she was never vehemently pro-English and anti-American. It appears to the reader that, like her Quaker neighbors, initially Margaret Morris’ sympathies were with the British. However very soon, her attachment to her own country rather than the mother country became obvious and Morris began to express sympathy for the Patriots. Margaret Morris should be termed an "ambivalent neutral".

16Only a fragment of the original journal remains. It covers the period from December 1776 to June 1778 and was written by Morris for her sister who was living in Montgomery Square, Philadelphia. This journal has neither the scope of Drinker’s Journal nor the emotional outpourings of Fisher’s, but it is an informative and lively picture of the war, written by a woman whose views are very different from those of the other two women.

  • 9 Margaret MORRIS, "The Revolutionary Journal of Margaret Morris, of Burlignton, N. J., December 6, 1 (...)

17Margaret Hill Morris was the daughter of Richard Hill, a physician and trader, and Deborah Moore, a grand-daughter of Thomas Lloyd, a friend of William Penn9, Margaret was born in 1737 in Maryland, but when her parents left for Madera to try to solve their financial problems, she was sent to Philadelphia to live with a sister who although only sixteen, was already married. At twenty-one, she married Anthony Morris, a merchant descended form a Quaker family who had come to Pennsylvania at the time of William Penn. He died four years later, leaving her only moderately well off and with four young children, one bonr posthumously. She then moved to Burlington, New Jersey and lived with her youngest sister who was married to George Dilliwyn, a Quaker preacher. George was often away and the two women, in the years covered by the journal, lived primarily alone.

18Margaret Morris was not just a relator of facts, she was a commentator, and the most telling feature of her journal was her unwitting identification with the patriots. Her original enthusiasm for the entrance of the British into the area quickly dissipated, not from disillusion with the British, but from an inability to remain aloof from the American cause.

19Sally Wister’s journal differs from the other three journals. She began her journal when she was only sixteen years old. Although an intelligent girl and a competent and talented observer of the Revolutionary events that surrounded her, she was not a mature woman weighed down by personal problems and responsibilites. Therefore the tone and character of the journal are very different from the Drinker, Fisher and Morris diaries.

  • 10 Sally WISTER, A True Narrative Being a Quaker Maiden’s Account of her Experiences with Officers of (...)

20During this period, Sally and her family moved to North Wales in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania10. In Sally’s journal, one becomes familiar with the manners and style of living of a class of liberal, aristocratic Quakers. Since Sally was primarily interested in relating her experiences with the officers of the American army who were quartered with her family, it is through her that the reader is able to become acquainted with these men. Although Sally did meet senior officers, some of whom were to become governors of their home states, Sally was more interested in the junior officers. Her lively, spirited and humorous accounts provide a pleasant tool for learning more about the Revolution and the relationship of a certain group of Quakers to it.

21Sally Wister was an uninhibited supporter of the American cause. It is obvious from the journal that her immediate family and relatives were also pro-American. Her unabashedly open and enthusiatic support of the Americans was colored by the stand taken by the more mature members of her family and by her fondness for the young American officers who were quartered at her home. Quaker principles of neutrality did not prevent Sally Wister form being openly "pro-American."

22In a more detailed study, reference would be made to the many contributions these women made to the understanding of the Revolutionary era. These women chronicled Philadelphia at war, painted a picture of the manners of their time and, in addition, provided revealing self-portraits. However the pursuit of the question of emotional commitment to one of the combatants is the issue to be studied here. When these journals are diagnosed with reference to attitude to combatants and Revolutionary personalities, it becomes evident that Quakers did choose sides. The study of the diaries of these four women enhances the understanding of the mentality of Quakers who during the Revolution remained "neutral" but in reality, could not avoid making an emotional commitment.

  • 11 Elizabeth Drinker, Biddle, ed., p. 46 ; and, for the following quotations of E. D., ibid., p. 50, 5 (...)

23Elizabeth Drinker, notwithstanding her attempt to remain neutral, after her husband’s arrest and exile to Virginia, could no longer suppress either her emotions or her attitudes to the new rulers. On September 9, when visiting Henry on the eve of his banishmnt, she wrote that she had found the prisoners finishing "a Protest against the tyrannical conduct of ye present wicked rulers"11. There were rumors that the English were momentarily expected to enter the city. On September 12, she wrote, "Congress, Council &c. are flown." There is a hint of satisfaction in Washington having been "routed" rather than "beaten" and Congress having "flown" rather than "leaving in haste." On September 23, there is a feeling of approaching liberation in her phrasing. "It is rumored and gains credit, that ye English have actually crossed the Schuylkill and are on their way towards us." Her feelings do not have to be guessed at when reading her September 26 entry. "Well ! Here are ye English in earnest ; … What a satisfaction would it be to our dear absent friends could they but be informed of it ; our end of ye Town has appeared the greater of this day like ye first day of ye week." Apparently Elizabeth’s neighbors were also pleased with the new situation. Converseley, active supporters of the patriots were in a more precarious position. "Most of our warm people are gone off, tho’ there are many who continue here that I should have not have expected." Elizabeth disassociated herself from the "warm people" and expected the British occupation to suit the Quakers quite well.

24Elizabeth Drinker disliked and distrusted the Americans and was always ready to believe the worst of them. She accepted as fact that the Americans "intentions were to destroy the Town." On September 30, she reported that "ye americans are skulking near and about Frankford." The Americans did not send advanced patrols. They "skulked" and "lurked." On October 4, she reported the Battle of Germantown with great sadness and concern for the loss of life on both sides. Yet, here again her choice of words is revealing. "Ye last account towards evening was that ye English were pursuing Washington’s troops who are very numerous and that they were flying before them." She reported that "Burgoyne with 5000 men, has surrendered. "Only the Americans "flew". The English "surrendered". Throughout her diary Elizabeth referred to the Americans in the same derogatory manner.

25When the British evacuated Philadelphia, it was clear that Elizabeth Drinker did not want them to leave. Many of her friends decided to leave with the British. She wrote that "Many in Town are in much affliction at this time-some quite otherwise." The Drinkers and many of their friends can be counted with those who were unhappy. She wrote on June 19, "Ye English have in reality left us, and the other party taken possession."

  • 12 Nicholas B. WAINWRIGHT, p. 419, and, for the following quotations of S. F., ibid., p. 420, 425, 434 (...)

26Sarah Fisher was openly pro-British and although she found it emotionally difficult to cope with the situation after her husband’s exile, her anti-rebel feelings were fully developed before his arrest. She made no attempt to be neutral. When she reported on Washington’s victory in December 1776, she attributed the victory to the insufficient numbers of English and Hessian troops, rather that to any expertise on the side of the Continentals. She continued, "This piece of news greatly elated our Whigs, & much depressed the Tories…. ". Sarah Fisher sincerely hoped and believed that before long General Howe would "subdue their rebellious spirit & give them little reason to rejoice".12 Neither did she make any attempt to be neutral when she made the following entries. She reported a rumor that the Americans were on their way to Princeton "intending to make an entire conquest of the English, if they can." On the next day she assumed that since she had heard nothing to the contrary that the Americans had been surrounded and had "nobody left to tell the tale."

27Early in the next year her cousin, Charles Read, brought her "very encouraging accounts from the English army…. " He said that they were "in high health and spirits, & laugh at all our boasted conquests." As the year progressed, she closely followed English troop movements, but was repeatedly disappointed because they never came "to our deliverance." In spite of her fears and anxieties on the day that her husband left Philadelphia to begin his exile, she was somewhat cheered by the following news : "I cannot help remarking that the very day our dear friends were sent away Washington met with a great defeat near Wilmington, & yesterday the remains of his army crossed the Schuylkill in great haste."

28On September 26, all her waiting was ended and she saw "a most pleasing sight." Enoch Story, an aquaintance of the Fishers, as well as the Drinkers, entered "town leading the soldiers of the light horse in clean dress & their bright swords glittering in the sun.” Next came Lord Cornwallis, followed by a band and soldiers "who looked very clean & healthy & a remarkable solidity was on their countenances, no wanton levity, or indecent mirth, but a gravity well becoming the occasion seemed on all their faces." "Thus, "she wrote, "was this large city surrendered to the English without the least opposition whatever which I thought called for great humility & deep gratitude on our parts." This was in great contrast to her comments in June 1778 when she feared the Americans return and wrote this entry. "This morning about 6 grenadiers & light infantry left us, & in less than a quarter of an hour the Americans were in the city. Judge, O any impartial person, what were my feelings at this time."

  • 13 Margaret MORRIS, Margaret Morris, Her Journal, with Biographical Sketch and Notes, John Jackson, ed (...)

29Margaret Morris’ attitude was completely different from the two previous women. As a religious Quaker, she endeavored to be neutral and yet, when the war began her natural inclination, like her co-religionists, was to be pro-British. She wrote that the town was full of "Tory Hunters" and she labelled the Continentals as "the Enemy." She was willing to hide her friend, Dr. Odell, an avowed Tory, in her home. She was pleased to have been able to help a friend and at the same time to outwit the patriots.13 She wrote that there was "more news, great news-very great news… the British troops actually at Mount Holly.” The Hessians who were also at Mount Holly, "behaved civily, to the People, excepting only a few persons who were in actual rebellion…. " Margaret obviously did not consider herself one of them. On the 17th, she noted that "our Refugee gone off today out of reach of Gondolas, and Tory Hunters… much talk of the enemy…." The Hessians left the area but on their return she wrote : "… Bless me, great news indeed… Why the Hessians are actually just here." She was advised to hide valuables but she knew that the Hessians "pillaged none but Rebels and we were not such."

30Then quite suddenly, there was a change in Margaret Morris’ writings. For the first time, the American soldiers were referred to as "our Officers." She reported the poor state of affairs of the Continental Army, and called them "our ragged troops." She jestingly suggested that the British would "be scared" because they had never had to fight "Naked Men." She also reported a skirmish between "our Men" and the Hessians and noted that the Hessians retreated but that "21 of our men were killed." However on the 23rd, things did not go well for the Continentals and "tis reported we lost 10 men, & that our troops are totally routed." The Gondolas were to lie in "readiness to receive our Men, should they be put to flight." On the 25 the the Hessians were still at Mount Holly " & our Men are in possesion of Chruch Hill." She no longer thought kindly of the Hessians who were "in liquor" and had "pillaged." Her involvement with the Americans became more marked as the occupation of the town continued. She became increasingly sympathetic to the American cause and more friendly with the individual soldiers. However, she did not forget her Quaker beliefs and interspersed her entries with her feelings about war and her trust in God. She seemed pleased by the American victory at Trenton on Christmas 1776 but wrote : "The loss on our side not known." She rued the fact that on Christmas Day "instead of good will, envy and hatred seem to be the ruling passions in the breasts of thousands."

  • 14 Sally WISTER, Amusing scenes of the Revolution, Journal of A Young Lady, Kept for the amusement of (...)

31In truth, Sally Wister’s main interest in the American officers with whom she had contact, was romantic. At their farm, the family led a comfortable life free from scarcities and largely free from the dangers of military confrontations. However, this was the area where many of the American troops were quartered and both armies did pass through or near the family property. In her very early entries, she reported that the family had heard from neighbors that Howe was approaching Philadelphia and Washington was in Montgomery county, "so we expected to be in the midst of one mary or t’other. " When some soldiers dressed in blue and red approached her home, she feared that they were British, but "The men, to our great joy, were Americans, and but 4 in all! 114.

32The adjectives Sally used to describe the American officers is an indication of her attitude. "Co. Wood, besides being… amiable… tall… genteel… The cause he is fighting for alone tears him from the society of an amiable wife… Col. Line… agreeable, he entertains the highest notions of honour, … sensible, humane, and a brave officer…. "There is pride in her talk of "our army." She had heard that there was "a party of the enemy gone over the Schuylkill ; so our army went to look at them!" In Sally’s case, there is not doubt that the English were "the enemy." When towards the end of her journal, she is able to report that the English had left Philadelphia, Sally wrote that it was, "… impossible! " It was "charmante !… They have gone !! Past a doubt." She exclaimed : "… and may they never return! " This was in sharp contrast to Drinker and Fisher who welcomed the English entrance into Philadelphia as saviors and were depressed by the re-entry of the Americans.

  • 15 Drinker, Biddle, ed., p. 93, 113, 114.

33The different attitudes of the four women toward the prominent personalities of the era is also significant. Elizabeth Drinker went to Washington’s headquarters to plead for the release of the Virginia Exiles. Drinker, in contrast to most of her contemporaries, was not impressed with the General’s appearance or bearing. She did find Wahsington’s wife to be "a sociable, pretty kind of woman".15 However when Martha Washington was in Philadelphia, and invited Elizabeth Drinker to join her for tea, Drinker declined. She had little respect for any of the patiot leaders and sarcastically wrote : "Our great men, or ye men in Power, are quarreling very much among themselves." In her mind, they were hardly great men.

  • 16 Nicholas B. WAINWRIGHT, p. 418, 429.

34Sarah Logan, many months after hostilities had begun and independence had been declared, attended a monthly meeting. There the congregation was urged not to "join in present measures… Wm. Brown preached a very excellent sermon and prayed for the King".16 For Sarah Logan there was no contradiction in the advice not to join in the present measure and also to pray for the King. She attributed the highest character to General Howe and called him amiable, cautious, tender and humane."… how fit to rule is such a man…. " Washington, in contrast, had "a heart depraved by ambition… an ambition that wishes to raise his own fortune by the ruin of those whose souls have too much virtue not to oppose the violent and wicked measures now carrying."

  • 17 Drinker, Biddle ed., p. 236-237, 295.
  • 18 Nicholas B. WAINWRIGHT, p. 420.

35Although both Drinker and Fisher read everything that Thomas Paine wrote, neither could tolerate him nor his opinions. Perhaps the fact that he was an ex-Quaker, influenced them. Drinker called him "a time serving fellow." She felt he could be "bribed" and "flattered" by either side.17 "The wise, the virtuous, the informed, see through him ; but the ignorant, the weak, the vicious readily fall into his snare." To Fisher, The Crisis, was "a most violent, seditious, treasonable paper…. "18

  • 19 Margaret MORRIS, Jackson, ed., p. 62, 65-66, 71-72.

36Margaret Morris, as a more objective observer, commented on the leaders of both sides. She saw the tragedy of the war. She was moved by the death of all the soldiers and "sympathized with their mothers."19 Upon hearing of the death of Colonel Mifflen, the commander of the Town and a disowned Quaker, she was truly saddened. Her growing identification with the Americans did not cloud her judgement. Apparently Washington had refused Howe’s request for a cease fire to bury the dead and care for the wounded. Disturbed by this news she wrote : "What a woeful tendency war has, to harden the human heart against the tender feelings of humanity…. 1 She had no sympathy for two highly ranked Continental officers who contemplated defection to the British. She wrote that in her "heart" she "despised them."

  • 20 Sally WISTER, from mss., N. P., N. D., p. 19, 20.

37Sally Wister, in addition ot her praise for the American officers, made only two references to Revolutionary personalities. In her last entry, she wrote of Washington : "Our brave and heroic GENERAL WASHINGTON… Each day he acquires an adiition to his goodness."20 In the same entry she noted that she had heard reports of General Arnold’s "good character." After his betrayal became known, she was compelled to add a footnote to her journal. "Since my writing of the above, Gen’l Arnold has forfeited all right to a good character, by the shameful desertion of his country’s cause, joining the British, accepting a command, and plundering and distressing the Americans."

38This is a picture of Quakers very different from that encountered when reading histories of the Quakers during this period. The behavior of the Quakers before, and during the Revolution cannot be described as neutral, unless neutrality is defined by refusal to bear arms. Although this is not an adequate definition, it seems to be the definition that most historians accept. The purpose of this study is not to accuse the Quakers of Toryism. Nor is it to prove that they were in quiet sympathy with the radicals. Rather it is to show that the Quakers, like their fellow Americans, were unable to avoid an emotional commitment during the Revolutionary era, and to suggest that a good method for researching this question is through womens’ diaries. The range of Quaker attitudes was broad and after studying these diaries it is difficult to describe Quaker behavior as strictly neutral. Both prior to and during the war, Quaker leaders in Philadelphia upheld positions which cannot be defined as neutral. Neutrality was enforced by disowning and therefore, the majority of Quakers who were faithful to pacifism and to the Quaker way of life, adhered to the directives of the Quaker hierarchy. However this did not necessarily attest to their concurrence with all the views espoused by the Quaker leadership. It appears that Quakers, like their fellow colonists, could not escape an emotional commitment to one of the comabatants. Short of bearing arms they did respond to the conflict. They did choose sides. Prior to the study of the journals of the four Quaker women, the lack of Quaker "neutrality" during the Revolution had to be considered an historical impression. Analysis of the journals of Elizabeth Drinker, Sarah Logan Fisher, Margaret Morris, and Sally Wister provides evidence that Quakers could not avoid emotional commitments, and that these ranged from pro-rebel to pro-Loyalist.


1 Richard BAUMAN, For the Reputation of Truth, Politics, Religion and Conflict Qmonq the Pennsylvania Quakers 1750-1800, Baltimore and London, John Hopkins Press, 1971. Arthur J. MEKEEL, The Relation of the Quakers to the American Revolution, Washington, D. C., University Press of American, 1979.
There are many histories of the Quakers during the Revolution. I list these two books because Bauman presents excellent sociological analysis of the Quaker leadership. Mekeel offers the most current and comprehensive coverage.

2 Robert SAYRE, "The Proper Study : Autobiographies in American Studies," The American Autobiography, Albert Stone, ed., Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, Prentice-Hall, 1981.

3 Howard BRINTON, Varieties of Religious Experience Among Friends, Wallingford, Pennsylvania, Pendle Hill Publications, 1972, p. VII.

4 Estelle JELINEK, "Introduction", Women’s Auyobiography, Estelle Jelinek, ed. Bloomington, University of Indiana Press 1980.

5 Kenneth A. RADBILL, "The Ordeal of Elizabeth Drinker", Pennsylvania History, 1980, 42 [2], p. 147.

6 Elizabeth DRINKER, "Extracts from the Journal of Elizabeth Drinker form 1759-1807. A. D.," Henry Biddle ed., Philadelphia, J. B. Lippcncott Compagny, 1889, p. 355.

7 Nicholas B. WAINWRIGHT, "A Diary of Trifling Occurences : Philadephia 1776-1778," Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 1958 ; 82 [’], p. 411-414. Biographical information can be found on these pages.

8 Ibid., p. 411.

9 Margaret MORRIS, "The Revolutionary Journal of Margaret Morris, of Burlignton, N. J., December 6, 1776 to June 11, 1776," Bulletin of Friends’ Historical Society. 1919 [9], p. 2-4. Biographical information can be found on these pages.

10 Sally WISTER, A True Narrative Being a Quaker Maiden’s Account of her Experiences with Officers of the Continetal Army, 1777-1778, Albert Cook Myers, ed. Philadelphia, Ferris and Leach, 1902. Biographical information can be found in this edition.

11 Elizabeth Drinker, Biddle, ed., p. 46 ; and, for the following quotations of E. D., ibid., p. 50, 51, 52, 53, 54-6, 62, 104, 106.

12 Nicholas B. WAINWRIGHT, p. 419, and, for the following quotations of S. F., ibid., p. 420, 425, 434, 447, 450, 465.

13 Margaret MORRIS, Margaret Morris, Her Journal, with Biographical Sketch and Notes, John Jackson, ed. (Philadelphia, George S. MacManus Company, 1949), pp. 47-49, and for the following quotations of M. M., ibid., p. 49, 50, 51, 52, 55-57, 58.

14 Sally WISTER, Amusing scenes of the Revolution, Journal of A Young Lady, Kept for the amusement of her Friend Deborah Norris, afterwaords the wife of Dr. George Logan of Stenton, Pennsylvania, signed Sally WISTER, together with a letter from Martha Washington, New York, 1789, p. 2. The following quotations of S. W. are from p. 3-4, 9, 19.

15 Drinker, Biddle, ed., p. 93, 113, 114.

16 Nicholas B. WAINWRIGHT, p. 418, 429.

17 Drinker, Biddle ed., p. 236-237, 295.

18 Nicholas B. WAINWRIGHT, p. 420.

19 Margaret MORRIS, Jackson, ed., p. 62, 65-66, 71-72.

20 Sally WISTER, from mss., N. P., N. D., p. 19, 20.


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