When it comes to the European experience, we already tell the story of the United States as one of east-to-west expansion, complete with the Louisiana Purchase, followed by Lewis & Clark and covered wagons.

Before the Civil War, Quakers moved westward for a reason many did:  to escape the stigma of being anti-slavery, an institution supported by local and federal governments. Those against it were a kind of terrorist in the eyes of their slave-holding neighbors and they fled west to escape persecution.

One Quaker I follow, in this westward migration, from the Carolinas to Minnesota, is Sam Hill.  He later made it all the way out to Seattle and settled on the north side of the Columbia River, hoping other Quakers would follow to build a settlement there. Conditions were bleak however and the vinyards would come later.

So for many years, his palatial Maryhill stood alone in desolate country, followed by his remake (scale model) of Stonehenge.  His passion: to build some world class roads. He had discovered their critical importance in his world travels.

In addition to building a first paved road along the Columbia, a demonstration project, Sam conspired with royalty and celebrities of Europe to turn Maryhill into a cultural museum.  Queen Marie of Romania came all that way out west, by Pullman, to bestow upon Sam a train full of art treasures from old Europe. 

Europeans were interested in the intersection of high culture and democracy.  How would the ethic of egalitarianism play out?  Sam Hill, a self made gentleman, was helping to show the way.

I'm seeing Unitarianism as a later wave of anti-slavery sentiment, reaching its peak after Quakerism did.  With headquarters in Boston, centered around Harvard, the Unitarians gave rise to the Transcendentalists, who formed a literary and philosophical movement that also spread westward. 

Walt Whitman, a poet associated with Transcendentalism, was an early admirer of Elias Hicks. 

The Unitarians, at their apex of power and influence, were well aware of the Quakers who had come before them, and who had already reached their apex of power and influence earlier, in Philadelphia. 

Quakers were against participating in what became the Indian Wars, in addition to disowning any who practiced slavery, thereby proving themselves out of step with their Anglo-European compatriots and their Manifest Destiny ideology.

Among the Transcendentalists, playing a central role, was one Margaret Fuller (1810 - 1850), who would drown with her small family, within sight of land, coming back from her adventure in Italy.  Her grand nephew would be R. Buckminster Fuller (1895 - 1983). 

Margaret, like Thoreau (with his "night in jail" scene), and like Transcendentalists everywhere, was not enamored with the idea of an American Empire, foreshadowing Mark Twain and the Anti-imperialist League.

One of my favorite philosophy professors, Richard Rorty, whom I met at Princeton pre 1980, later went on to write Achieving Our Country, a slim volume outlining his vision of a future American Left without all the Marxism. 

He traces his own leftism back through such figures as Emerson and Whitman in places, right back to Hegel and German Idealism more generally.  Nietzsche admired Emerson, not many people know, and used him as a role model for his Zarathustra character, by his own admission.

Will Quaker institutions of higher learning perhaps capitalize on these intellectual roots going forward? 

My approach is to show what that might look like, in terms of curriculum designs and reading programs. 

In the words of Dr. Steve Brule:  Check it Out!

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Hello, Kirby!

I feel that Friends should steer clear of partisan politics, avoiding alignment with political parties.  

Hi William --

If one regards voting as a civic duty, then it's difficult to avoid aligning with parties when it comes to voting for that party's candidate for this or that office.  I'm registered as an Independent myself but don't get to vote for candidates who are likewise Independent as the parties seem to have a lock on who gets to run.  I'm not even allowed to vote in state primaries, as those are only for the party registered.

If you're not affiliated with any party, you're denied the opportunity to run for most offices.  I'm not suggesting that's Constitutional in any way, as the US Constitution was never framed in terms of parties and some of its architects were bitterly opposed to the idea that parties would be gaming the system (as they saw it).

Of course you're right that Meetings should not be in the business of publicly aligning with specific parties as this would endanger their 501(c)(3) status under the federal tax code.  Only nonpartisan agents (legal entities) are allowed nonprofit status in that category, although it's a fine line that's often crossed. 

In 1984 I worked for a 501(c)(3) called Project VOTE! (Americans for Civic Participation) that was supposedly nonpartisan, but because it worked to register and mobilize the homeless and unemployed, it was seen as a way of helping Mondale versus Reagan by some.  Our nonprofit status was challenged by spies in our midst, but the Federal Elections Commission said we'd played by the rules.

In my own writings (including social media postings) I invented a USA Pirate Party (not the one in Wikipedia) for me to join as the founding member.  "No candidates, only planks -- feel free to walk 'em" was my slogan, i.e. I was encouraging candidates to use my positions, but my party wasn't running any candidates explicitly.  I found this position enjoyable and sustainable.  I've had other uses for the pirate motif.

William F Rushby said:

Hello, Kirby!

I feel that Friends should steer clear of partisan politics, avoiding alignment with political parties.  

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