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Walking in the Way of Peace: Quaker Pacifism in the Seventeenth Century

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This book investigates the historical context, meaning, and expression of early Quaker pacifism in England and its colonies. Weddle focuses primarily on one historical moment—King Philip's War, which broke out in 1675 between English settlers and Indians in New England. Among the settlers were Quakers, adherents of the movement that had gathered by 1652 out of the religious and social turmoil of the English Civil War. King Philip's War confronted the New England Quakers with the practical need to define the parameters of their peace testimony —to test their principles and to choose how they would respond to violence. The Quaker governors of Rhode Island, for example, had to reconcile their beliefs with the need to provide for the common defense. Others had to reconcile their peace principles with such concerns as seeking refuge in garrisons, collecting taxes for war, carrying guns for self-defense as they worked in the fields, and serving in the militia.

Indeed, Weddle has uncovered records of many Quakers engaged in or abetting acts of violence, thus debunking the traditional historiography of Quakers as saintly pacifists. Weddle shows that Quaker pacifism existed as a doctrinal position before the 1660 crackdown on religious sectarians, but that it was a radical theological position rather than a pragmatic strategy. She thus convincingly refutes the Marxist argument that Quakers acted from economic and political, and not religious motives. She examines in detail how the Quakers' theology worked—how, for example, their interpretation of certain biblical passages affected their politics—and traces the evolution of the concept of pacifism from a doctrine that was essentially about protecting the state of one's own soul to one concerned with the consequences of violence to other human beings.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This is not simply another book on Quaker pacifism. Meredith Baldwin Weddle makes a persuasive case for revisiting the birth of the Quaker peace testimony and offers clues to explain the unstable nature of the Quaker witness to nonviolence in the last two centuries.... Her work is more than an addendum to correct an imbalance in the work of earlier historians. It is a more faithful account of the origin of Quaker pacifism itself."—The Historian

"[A] substantial, valuable addition to Quaker studies."Albion

"A significant contribution to understanding the complexity of early Quaker theology, especially in a trans-Atlantic context."—The Journal of Religion

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195131383
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 5/3/2001
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 368
  • Lexile: 1550L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Meredith Baldwin Weddle is an independent scholar who has taught at Yale, the State University of New York at Purchase, and Ahmadu Bello University in Nigeria.

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Table of Contents

Part One—The Peace Testimony
1. And the Shout of a King is Amongst Us
2. A Killinge Instrument We May Neither Forme, Nor Beare: The Peace Testimony
3. Fire at the Mast: The Practice of Peace
Part Two—New England
4. Bold Boyes and Blasphemers: Quakers in New England
5. The Habitation of the Hunted-Christ: Rhode Island and the Providence Plantations
6. Time of Motion and Danger: Reacting to the Fear of War, 1667-1673
7. Fighting Against the Minde of God: The 1673 Exemption
8. Sin and Flesh: The New England Tribes: Englishmen and Indians
Part Three—War
9. Midnight Shrieks and Soul-Amazing Moanes: The Rhode Island Government and King Philip's War
10. A Bulit Out of Everi Bush: War, Continued
11. To Looke to Our Selfes: Ascribing Motives to a Quaker Government in Wartime
12. Witnesses to the Life of Innocency: A Testimony from the Rhode Island Quakers
13. Run the Hazard: The Individual Quaker in King Philip's War
14. The Rectification of the Heart: Around the Periphery of War
15. All Things Have Their Beginnings Appendix 1. The 1660 Declaration Appendix 2. The 1673 Exemption Appendix 3. A Testimony From Us in Scorn Called Quakers Appendix 4. The Taste of the World in Our Own Mouths: Problems of Historical Interpretation

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