quaker individualism

so … the quakers. where was i?

oh, yes: from the north of england originally — mostly from the highland zone (and we know what that usually means).

the general pattern seems to have been closer marriages (i.e. greater inbreeding) for a longer period in the north and west of england than in the south and east (except for parts of east anglia), but more data would be nice. that would fit the topography of britain, as well as the family patterns found by todd in britain in the 1500-1900s — nuclear families more in the south and east, extended (“stem”) families more in the north and west. (i think that the connection is: the greater/longer the inbreeding, the larger the families become [extended families/clans/tribes] — the greater/longer the outbreeding, the smaller families get.)

barry levy points this out in Quakers and the American Family — that family structure was not the same across seventeenth century england. yes, in the southeast the english were all about nuclear families — their “little commonwealths” — but in the north and the west of england (not to mention wales), it was the extended family that still held sway [kindle locations 452-461, 635-637]:

“Many middling northwestern lineages, nevertheless, did survive without the means to form ‘little commonwealths’ or compensatory formal institutions. Lacking alternatives, many northwesterners relied upon the family. They tended to emphasize familialism, as would the northwestern Quakers. In order to provide family continuity and personal dignity in the face of scarcity and individual household poverty, however, many middling northwestern households had learned to pool their meager resources among a number of different people and households. These alliances did not merely highlight the economic deficits of northwestern middling households; they provided the sinews of northwestern society. Northwestern Quakerism would develop as a radical, charismatic version of northwestern farmers’ traditional reliance on informal human relations.

Many northwestern farmers preferred an ‘extended commonwealth’ to the ‘little commonwealth’ of southeastern English and New English fame. An impressive number of very poor middling northwesterners left wills for just this reason…. In Wales, will-writing was inspired partly by English law. Welsh people were forced legally to translate their wills into English or Latin. Poor Welsh people accepted this insult in order to avoid a worse indignity: English intestate law which confined intestate distribution of wealth to the nuclear family and thereby violated the way northwest people had learned to preserve their own families and dignity….

“Because they were middling northwesterners, northwestern Quakers were fascinated by the potentialities of familial relations. Because they were sincere religious fanatics, they sought to change the ethics of northwestern British middling society at the most intimate level. Quakers came to disagree with most northwestern farmers over the farmers’ emphasis upon clan honor and their willingness to merge their households and children promiscuously with their neighbors and landlords.”

the quakers were obviously a self-sorted group of individuals, so, on the one hand, while the characteristics of the broader population from which they sprang might tell us something about them — something about their behavioral traits and evolutionary history — on the other hand, this self-sorted group probably had a lot of rather unique traits and was somewhat unlike its parent population in many ways. that, after all, is why they split off from their parent population.

one remarkable thing about the quakers, which levy dwells on a lot, is that they abandoned the extended family. at the same time, though, they became hyper-focused on the nuclear family AND the “family of god” (i.e. their fellow quakers). so they didn’t leave familialism behind entirely. in my opinion, they sound like part of a population in flux. the northern and western english were some of my “in-betweeners” — northwest europeans who came a bit late to the outbreeding project, so still in the late medieval/early modern period they were dealing with shedding their extended family-ness — something which seems to have been over and done with amongst my “core europeans” (who began outbreeding earlier) as early as, perhaps, the thirteenth-/fourteenth-centuries. but the individuals who became quakers in the north of england in the 1600s were those at the leading edge of this delayed outbreeding project in that corner of the world.

here are some quotes from levy related to the sort of individualism that seventeenth century northerners/quakers displayed. to me, the quakers sound more like anti-institutional individualists (along the lines of southern libertarians or greeks or moi) rather than individualist-collectivists:

“The Friends’ great tenets and the outlines of their early history are widely known…. Quaking when the power of Truth first struck them in meeting and rudely invading the pulpits of more staid Protestants, the early Friends believed that God’s Truth, Grace, or Light was reborn on earth with the birth of every individual. They insisted that Truth in both individuals and society could only be hampered by excessive external coercion. They rejected intolerance, university-educated ministerial authority, and most forms of civil and international force.” – [kindle locations 74-77]

When George Fox and other Quaker prophets appeared in these hills in the late 1650s, they appeared defiantly, yet plausibly, anti-institutional…. The central medium of Quaker worship was not the reception of a well-produced sermon, as among the Puritans, but a silent meeting, a gathering where all social criticism or support was purposefully suspended to reveal and communicate the divine truths embedded in the spiritual human body…. Each Quaker was an embodiment of the Word and therefore preached within or without meeting, or with or without words, to other Quakers or ‘tender’ people.” – [kindle locations 161-167]

and from Albion’s Seed:

“The ecclesiology of the Quakers was an extension of their theology. They invented a system of church government which differed radically from those of Anglicans and Puritans. Quakers condemned what they called a ‘hireling clergy,’ and ‘steeple house ways.’ They repudiated all sacraments, ceremonies, churches, clergy, ordinations and tithes, and maintained no ministers in the usual sense — only lay missionaries and exhorters whom they were sometimes called ministers.” – [kindle locations 7032-7036]

i don’t think it was very strange, then, that when the quakers set up their ideal society in the new world, it looked like this [from colin woodard’s American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America – kindle locations 1620-1631]:

The Quakers’ ideals proved to be at odds with successful governance. Believing that all people were followers of Christ and innately good, the Quakers assumed citizens could govern themselves through mere self-discipline and the application of the Golden Rule. This turned out not to be the case, as Quakers were also by nature inclined to challenge authority and convention at every juncture. The community’s leaders quarreled with one another over doctrinal questions while government fell into disarray, failing to maintain public records or to pass laws essential to the functioning of the court system. The governing council couldn’t manage to hold regular meetings, while the colony went through six governors in its first decade. The Dutch, Swedes, and Finns of the ‘lower counties’ became so desperate for proper government that they broke away to form one of their own, founding the tiny colony of Delaware in 1704. ‘Pray stop those scurvy quarrels that break out to the disgrace of the province,’ Penn wrote from London. ‘All good is said of [Pennsylvania] and but little good of [its] people. These bickerings keep back hundreds [of settlers], £10,000 out of my way, and £l00,000 out of the country.’ In desperation Penn finally appointed a succession of outsiders to run the place, including a Yankee Puritan (John Blackwell), a successful Anglican merchant from Boston (Edward Shippen), and an arrogant English gentleman (David Lloyd). None of them succeeded in getting Quaker leaders to assume responsibility for the community they’d created.”

not quite individualist-collectivists, yet. (~_^)

previously: geographical origin of the quakers and on the topographical origins of the quakers and the flatlanders vs. the mountain people and random notes: 07/30/13 and the myddle people and more on consanguinity in england (and scotland) and traditional family systems in medieval britain and ireland and the radical reformation

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geographical origin of the quakers

*update below*

here’s a map — taken from here — of where quaker communities were located in england in the mid-1600s:


so, early quakers = northerners.

and — pardon my scrawl (don’t expect these borders to be precise — please look back at the original map yourselves) — here is the same map with the highland, lowland, and intermediate zones indicated:

map1654 + highlands lowlands intermediate zone

so, early quakers = highlanders + a few intermediate zone dwellers — all beyond the tees-exe line the severn-trent line [see comments – thnx martin!].

update 08/20: see also this comment.

previously: the myddle people and the radical reformation and random notes: 07/30/13 and the flatlanders vs. the mountain people

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the myddle people

for those of you out there who are interested in the origins of the quakers (i know you’re out there! (^_^) ), i can’t recommend highly enough barry levy’s Quakers and the American Family: British Settlement in the Delaware Valley. i haven’t quite finished it yet, but the overall impression that i’ve got so far is that the quakers of nw england (cheshire) and northern wales of the 1600s were juuust on a cusp of a transition from clannishness to non-clannishness (or less clannishness anyway). the population of the region was, and presumably had been for a very long time, based on extended families, feuds, and kin connections. the quakers made a conscious choice to break with that and focus on the nuclear family, but they were still clannish in many ways. imo, the seventeenth century quakers of nw england/ne wales were some of my “in-betweeners” — not extremely clannish anymore, but not fully individualistic/universalistic by that point, either — somewhere in the middle. (see also jayman’s A Tentative Ranking of the Clannishness of the “Founding Fathers.”)

i’ll work up a post on the quakers outlining more completely the history of their mating patterns and family structures (as far as i know them) hopefully within the next week. until then, below is an excerpt from levy related to the clannish behaviors of the non-quaker, base population in this nw region of england — specifically in myddle which is in shropshire (which lies beyond the tees-exe line). levy’s source on these obviously clannish folks from myddle is one richard gough who, in 1700, wrote Human Nature Displayed in the History of Myddle. i’m almost certainly going to have to read that!

but for now, from Quakers and the American Family, some bits about the tyler “clan” [kindle locations 586-600]:

“Though being routinely and often happily subverted by middling love, Myddle’s regime of honor and shame was occasionally and less attractively tarnished by clan bullying, as the story of the Tyler clan shows. Richard Gough rightly believed William Tyler ‘of the most debauched morals of any in this parish.’ Tyler had fornicated with the estranged wife of Richard Hussey. He had a child by her. Tyler took this child, Nell Hussey, as his house-maid and he committed incest with her, producing a second ‘bastard’. Tyler also stole sheep and assaulted people. Some of his daughters were ‘lewd’ women. However, the Tyler clan sat relatively undisturbed in their pews in Myddle Church and kept their honor unblemished.

“Tyler and his clan simply stopped people from humiliating them publicly. When Tyler’s nephew, Richard Challoner, ‘was bound over to appear at the Assizes for stealing a cow,’ William Tyler prevented the shameful hanging by telling the prosecutor ‘that this Challoner was his kinsman, and it would be a disgrace to me as well as to the rest of his friends to have him hanged, and that his friends would raise £5 among them to pay for the cow in case he would forbear the prosecution.’ Sympathizing with Tyler’s interest, the prosecutor accepted the bribe and Challoner was freed. The Tyler clan defended their honor violently, if necessary. Hoping to jail Tyler for debt, Mr. Thomas Braddock ’employed Rees Wenlock to serve William Tyler with a writ.’ Tyler persuaded Wenlock to stop on the way to court at Tyler’s sister’s house where Tyler’s kin assaulted Wenlock and freed Tyler. Mr. Braddock then got a more muscular group of tenants to serve Tyler in church. Again, ‘many of Tyler’s companions, and some women of his relations came to rescue Tyler.” After a fight, “Tyler was set on horseback, and … went toward the gaol.’ The Tyler clan was inconsolable, although they faced, particularly in relation to their greater sins, a relatively minor public humiliation, a temporary jailing for debt. ‘The consternation and lamentation of Tyler’s friends,’ noted Gough, ‘especially the women, was such as I cannot easily demonstrate.’

“Because of their ethical priorities, even unrelated local people helped unwittingly to keep the sinister Tyler clan’s banner riding high. Tyler in old age finally faced the gallows for stealing some sheep. Tyler’s virtuous grandson, Thomas Tyler, was the chief witness against him. The jury refused to believe the youth, however. As Gough noted, ‘the jury conceived it malicious and blamed him for offering to hang his grandfather, and soe old Tyler was acquitted.’ The northwestern jury raised kinship loyalty above property rights and above the choice to witness justly against a brutish life.”

and here’s a little bit about notions of honor in seventeenth century myddle [kindle location 521]:

“Though placed toward the back of the church, tenant farmers, particularly those who boasted generations of ancestors in the parish, held much honor. They lost this honor, however, if they suffered rituals of public humiliation. So while often ignoring private vices, tenant farmers always made an effort to prevent overt mortifications. Worried middling parents sent their juvenile delinquents far from the surrounding countryside, not to rehabilitate them spiritually or even to save their skins, but to remove their likely and shameful jailings and hangings from the sight and recording of neighbors. A Myddle tavern-keeper, Thomas Jukes, exiled a larcenous son by placing him into apprenticeship with a roving juggler who happened to pass through the village.” Michael Brame, of a long-standing Myddle family, came to Myddle following the death of his brother and brother’s wife in order to preserve the family’s leasehold and also to raise his brother’s son William. William robbed meat from several neighbors’ houses. The Braine clan took the only possible action: ‘at last he was sent away,’ noted Gough, ‘I know not whither.'”

edit: i meant to say and i forgot — getting rid of dishonorable children in this clannish society is (was), of course, a parallel to the killing of dishonorable children in much more clannish/tribal societies, just with less homicide. /edit

and, then, on notions of honor amongst the quaker settlers in pennsylvania [kindle locations 649-651]:

“The Quaker settlers were also as fascinated by honor, though they replaced clan honor with the Deity’s honor as revealed in their lives — ‘the honor of Truth.’ Their meetings would try to erase considerations of honor within households by insisting that such households uphold the honor of God’s revelations. The settlers were as pugnacious, though they replaced violent clan feuds and lawsuits with a spiritual feud against the ‘world’ — the ‘Lamb’s War.'”

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