Among mid-19th century New England Quakers, were the writings of Robert Barclay associated more with the Gurneyites or the Wilburites?  Am I correct in assuming they were not associated with Hicksites?

Also, does "Orthodox" apply to New England Gurneyites of that era, and "Conservative" to Wilburites?

Was John Greenleaf Whittier orthodox or conservative?

Thank you for helping me understand which New England Friends identified most strongly with Barclay circa 1850 and the correct usage of orthodox and conservative in that era.

Views: 2327

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

 David Seaman wrote: "Those who followed Hicks became termed Hicksites and his critics termed Orthodox Friends, each faction considering itself to be the rightful expressions of the legacy of the founder of Friends, George Fox.   The split was not entirely doctrinal; it was also based on socioecomnic factors, with Hicksite Friends being mostly poor and rural, with Orthodox Friends being mostly urban and middle class.   Many of the rural country Friends kept to Quaker traditions of plain speech and plain dress, both long abandoned by Quakers in the towns and cities."

David's account draws heavily on Robert W Doherty's The Hicksite Separation: Rutgers University Press, (1967).  Doherty's study was based solely on Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, and his findings apply only to that yearly meeting.   And my guess is that his generalizations are most valid for the leadership elites, rather than the rank-and-file.   I don't have the book in hand, so I am writing from memory; I read the book many moons ago!

The generalization about rural Hicksites and urban Orthodox applies only to Philadelphia Yearly Meeting.  It is not valid for New England Yearly Meeting's rural congregations, which were Orthodox and not Hicksite!  And, of course, there were plenty of rural Orthodox in Philadelphia Yearly Meeting too, including my wife's relatives there.

David wrote that: "Many of the rural country Friends kept to Quaker traditions of plain speech and plain dress, both long abandoned by Quakers in the towns and cities."  This generalization is also questionable.  During the first half of the 19th Century, plain speech and plain garb were prevalent in both the Orthodox and Hicksite Philadelphia yearly meetings.  The orthodox North Meeting in Philadelphia was particularly conservative.  On the other hand, later in the 19th Century, according to Henry Cadbury's wife's memoirs, some (probably younger) female teachers at Westtown School, which was Orthodox, "stashed" their regulation bonnets somewhere along the way when they made shopping trips to Philadelphia!

During the second half of the 19th Century, it was the Hicksites who were more likely to abandon Quaker nonconformity and separation from the World.  For a good (but not unbiased) discussion of the differences between the Philadelphia Orthodox and Hicksites between 1865 and 1920, see Philip S Benjamin, The Philadelphia Quakers in the Industrial Age 1865-1920: Temple University Press, (1976)

I would not base generalizations about the Orthodox/Hicksite separation exclusively on Doherty, especially for yearly meetings other than Philadelphia and time periods much later than the 1820s!


When I started learning about the Hicksite/Orthodox split, it seemed amazing to me that a spiritual community founded on direct experience of God would split like this.

What some one told me that helped me reconcile this is that the "hedge" around the Quietist Quaker world before the split had resulted in a stultifying atmosphere, thus prompting the Quakers to be more open to new spiritual energy.   The Orthodox became more open to the outside world, while the Hicksites continued in their way of shutting out the outside world.

(sorry, I don't have an attribution for this, was probably Steve Angell at ESR) 

Hello, Karen!

I don't know the intricacies of the Hicksite Friends at the time of the 1827 split, but I do know that they were not a homogeneous group.  There were quietist-leaning Hicksites like Elias Hicks, but there were also those who were less tradition-bound.  Elias Hicks opposed those Friends who wanted to make common cause with social reform movements but, intellectually, he was influenced by the Enlightenment.  Activists such as Lucretia Mott took the opposite position.  As far as I can see, there was a strong  tendency toward Enlightenment rationalism both in the Elias Hicks camp and among the progressive Hicksites. 

The Orthodox were also a heterogeneous group.  The pre-Gurneyites established strong ties with Evangelicals in the Church of England and Wesleyan movements and supported a variety of social reform movements.  The pre-Wilburites such as British Daniel Wheeler were much more cautious about such relationships.  I don't think that there was unqualified openness to outside relationships among all groups of Orthodox Friends.  For example, Friends split in Indiana over involvement in abolitionism, rejected by Indiana Yearly Meeting.  Activists such as Charles Osborn formed the Indiana Yearly Meeting of Anti-Slavery Friends, which worked with the larger abolitionist movement.

Simple generalizations about the Orthodox and Hicksites are difficult to defend!

Yes, there were exceptions to everything - Lucretia Mott was definite exception, going outside the hedge, even though she was a Hicksite Quaker, speaking to anyone who would listen about abolition and later women's suffrage.   If I have it right, I believe I was told that it was amazing that she was not disowned for it, for many of her time were disowned for doing similar things.   She had been a recorded minister at her Philadelphia meeting for many years, and did not lose that either.   (I am sure you know the story about how she wasn't seated at the London Abolitionist conference in 1840 because she was a woman, which eventually lead to her women's suffrage work, but that she also was not admitted to the homes of London Quakers since they only recognized Orthodox Quakers.  At the time, words used to describe her by the London Quakers who excluded her included "infidel" and "dangerous".  She must have had an awful time in London on that trip!)

Quaker historian Thomas Drake, who published a seminal book on Quaker reactions to slavery, says that the period of Quietism had actually ended before the split, but instead called it a period of gradualism, which was in someways similar to Quietism.

My point in bringing this up, is to inform our non-Quaker friend who is doing research on Quakers that there was another dynamic going on that helped to lead to this split, which he may find relevant.  My impression is that for many Quakers, the once spirit filled meeting had become instead another form of legalism, with lots of disownments for petty infractions, thus making at least some members open to different forms of worship.  

Greetings Friends:

I want to make a brief aside regarding the 'hedge' around the Quaker world at the time that schisms arose.  I have a different view of the function of the hedge.  My view is that Quaker distinctives served, and in an inchoate way still serve, to remind Friends that they are living a life that is not in conformity to the way that life is lived by society at large.  It is not that distinctives such as plain dress and plain speech make one holy; rather they are a reminder of the holiness that one wants to live.  I think the loss of Quaker distinctives, the hedge, leads to a forgetfulness regarding how Quakers want to live in the world and a tendency to be co-opted by the larger culture.

I have some experience with a life based on distinctives.  It has to do with Buddhist monasticism.  Traditional Buddhist monastics live a distinctive life.  They dress differently, their behavior is different in both large and small ways.  There are a great number of rules governing deportment and speech, for example.  Now such distinctives do not make a Buddhist monastic enlightened (the goal of Buddhist practice), but they do serve to remind the monastic that they are on a path which will take them in a different direction from the culture at large.  The distinctives serve as a reminder as to why they want to live this way of life.

Quaker Faith and Practice is not monastic, so the analogy between the two communities can't be stretched too far.  But what I am getting at is that the pull of the larger culture will, I think, eventuate in Quakers becoming indistinguishable from the culture at large unless the hedge of distinctives is to some extent maintained. 



Hello  Bill, Karen, David, Jim, and Others:


I have been reading your messages and digesting their contents.


A paradox is emerging for me.  (A) One must be cautious when generalizing about 19th century Quakers (or perhaps Quakers of any century).  I attribute this, in part, to the independent mindedness so many Quakers seem to have possessed.  (B) Some 19th century Quaker meetings, such as the Sandwich NH Monthly Meeting I have been researching, seem to have expected strict adherence to the Rules of Discipline from their members.  This was especially true regarding marriage.


The Rules of Discipline for the New England Yearly Meeting were revised in 1809 and not again until 1872, so they were in effect for most of the time span my book will cover.  Most of the members of the Sandwich Meeting who married in the first half of the 19th century adhered to the rules.  The prospective bride and groom appeared at both the men's and women's meetings and "published" (announced) their intent to marry.  The men's and women's meetings each appointed a committee of two people to visit with the couple to ascertain their "clearance" to proceed.  They also sent representatives to the wedding, who invariably reported that it was "orderly."  Marriage to non-Quakers was prohibited.


Members who married non-Quakers were automatically disowned unless they requested that their transgression be passed by.  Very few did.  Members who married Quakers without receiving clearance to proceed were automatically disowned unless they requested to be retained. 


The complaint process was humiliating.  Humiliation, and the threat of humiliation, seems to have been used as a social control measure.  Most of those who were "treated" with complaints chose to let themselves be disowned rather than go through the complaint process.


As a result, some very distinguished people were disowned.  One such person who has caught my attention is Daniel Bassett Jr., born 1819 in Wolfeboro NH.  He was a close contemporary of the subject of my biography, Jane Varney Durgin (born Wolfeboro 1820).  The Bassett and Varney homesteads were very near each other, and the children of these two families went to school together.  I believe Daniel Bassett Jr. was an influential person in Jane Durgin's life, not just during childhood and adolescence but in adulthood also, until  he emigrated to Minnesota in 1855.


Daniel married Eliza Jane Canney in 1842.  She was a Quaker from Dover.  Though both were Quakers, both were disowned by their respective meetings because of the manner in which they had married.  " Jane Bassett formerly Canney, a member of our society, has so far deviated from the good order of Friends as to marry contrary to our discipline, which we submit to the preparative meeting.”  A committee visited with Eliza Jane, who seems to have been in no mood to be trifled with, because they "did not find her in a suitable situation to make Friends satisfaction.”  She was not pregant at the time.   I haven't yet read the men's minutes for Daniel Bassett's response to the visit he received, but it must have been equally unsatisfactory.


Here are some things I have learned about Daniel Bassett and his father Daniel Bassett Sr:


In the early part of the present century Daniel Bassett, Sr., was a resident of Wolfeboro, Stafford County, N.H. He cultivated a farm, and having been raised with religious principles promulgated by George Fox, he cultivated the gift within him, as the spirit gave him utterance, in the earnest but simple worship of the Society of Friends. He was uncompromising in his religious and political opinions. He was an early anti-slavery man, manumitting by a formal deed a slave that the laws of his state allowed him to hold as a chattel. In politics he was a Federalist, firmly supporting the Adams, and when the Whig party took the sucession, followed the fortunes and teachings of Clay and Webster, until it in turn was merged into the Republican organization.

The state of New Hampshire was Democratic from its organization until the year 1850. Franklin Pierce and John G. Atherton had full control of the Democratic party in the state, and distributed the federal and state patronage among their supporters. The question of slavery entered largely into political discussions. When John P. Hale, Mason W. Tappan and Daniel Bassett, Jr., with their associates, undertook to wrest the state from the Democratic party, and succeeded in electing a Republican governor and sent John P. Hale to the United States Senate, no man in the state did more to bring about the political revolution than the last named of the above (Daniel Bassett Jr).  [History of the City of Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1893]


BASSETT, Daniel - Daniel Bassett, who has been identified with the lumber and

banking business of the city [Minneapolis] since the early days arrived here in April, 1855, from

Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. He has been twice honored with a seat in the Legislature,

was appointed postmaster in 1865, has been a county commissioner, member of the

school board and of the board of equalization. During the Indian war he, with other

volunteers, marched to the rescue of the garrison the refugees at Fort Ripley.

Governor Ramsey, after the Indians were conquered, appointed him and Capt. Peter

Berkey, of St. Paul, as commissioners to appraise damages and afford relief to settlers

who had suffered from Indian depredations. He has been an active participator in

many local enterprises that were instrumental in developing the business interests in

the city.  [source not identified, but obviously related to Minnesota history]


In effect, a distinguished member of one of the most distinguished Quaker families living in Wolfeboro was disowned because he did not follow proper procedure.  It appears he permanently divorced himself from the Society of  Friends after disownment, for he did not try to found a Quaker meeting in Minnesota Territory.


Enough about that for now.


I have been reading some of the books you recommended to me, such as Eli and Sybil Jones: Their Life and Work and H.J. Bailey's Reminiscence of a Christian Life. 


Karen - Thank you for mentioning Thomas Drake's work on Quakers and slavery.  I plan to read it so as to better understand this complex subject.  It is relevant to my book because Jane Durgin's homestead was a stop on the Underground Railroad.    



Reply to Discussion


Support Us

Did you know that QuakerQuaker is 100% reader supported? Our costs run to about $50/month. If you think this kind of outreach and conversation is important, please support it with a monthly subscription or one-time gift.

Latest Activity

Kirby Urner commented on Olaf Radicke's blog post 'It's time for to move to Mastodon'
"Yeah I'm on Mastodon through being a Subgenius (as well as Quaker).  It's a fine…"
4th day (Wed)
Kirby Urner posted a video

Networking Among Friends

In celebration of CJ's comprehensivity program & community
4th day (Wed)
Olaf Radicke commented on Olaf Radicke's blog post 'It's time for to move to Mastodon'
"An helpful how to about following hashtags:"
3rd day (Tue)
Olaf Radicke commented on Olaf Radicke's blog post 'It's time for to move to Mastodon'
"Hi Martin! Thanks for the answer and the explanation. We already follow each other on Mastodon. I…"
2nd day (Mon)
Patricia Dallmann posted a blog post


The Gadarene demoniac (Mark 5:1-20) is the subject of a new post at…See More
2nd day (Mon)
Roderick Bedingfield updated their profile
2nd day (Mon)
Martin Kelley commented on Olaf Radicke's blog post 'It's time for to move to Mastodon'
"Hi Olaf, The Ning platform which uses has mostly frozen in features and to upgrade…"
2nd day (Mon)
Olaf Radicke posted a blog post

It's time for to move to Mastodon

I like the approach of to connect people. But I think it is time that…See More
1st day (Sun)

© 2022   Created by QuakerQuaker.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service