Quakers and the American Family: British Settlement in the Delaware Valley

By Barry Levy | Go to book overview

CHAPTER THREE

A Family of Great Price

Whatever its advantages locally over the Puritans' reform program, northwestern British Quaker domesticity was still politically and economically implausible. Neither the Royalist nor Puritan state had use for a system which created conscience to the exclusion and disdain of a morally authoritative upper class or the profession of university-trained ministers of the Word of God. Not counting jail‐ time or tithe destraints, the Anglican authorities squeezed Cheshire and Welsh Quakers between 1660 and 1685 for at least £1,500 in persecutorial fines. 1 Quaker domesticity was also too expensive for a pre-industrial society of limited wealth, especially in one of that society's poorest regions. The Quakers' plain infrastructure of unpaid, spiritually educated ministers and modest meeting houses hid their households' need for more wealth than northwestern England could supply. Unusually costly was Quaker leaders' logical insistence that Quaker parents raise their children in environments of joyous "holy conversation" and that they place their children on livable land or in occupations exclusively among pious Quakers. Such Quaker households had to reject "worldly" northwest middling households' prudent compromises with economic scarcity: their limited sense of responsibility for their own children's souls, and their reliance upon kin and gentry clusters. Not surprisingly, misfit, northwestern British Quaker households experienced a potentially fatal crisis between 1660 and 1700 in which they not only

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