Quakers Living in the Lion's Mouth: The Society of Friends in Northern Virginia, 1730-1865

Quakers Living in the Lion's Mouth: The Society of Friends in Northern Virginia, 1730-1865

Quakers Living in the Lion's Mouth: The Society of Friends in Northern Virginia, 1730-1865

Quakers Living in the Lion's Mouth: The Society of Friends in Northern Virginia, 1730-1865


"A major contribution to our understanding of the American South and the history of American religion and reform."--Dee E. Andrews, author of The Methodists and Revolutionary America, 1760-1800

"A model study of an antislavery, reformist minority trying to find its place in the Antebellum South."--Thomas D. Hamm, author of The Transformation of American Quakerism: Orthodox Friends, 1800-1907

This examination of a Quaker community in northern Virginia, between its first settlement in 1730 and the end of the Civil War, explores how an antislavery, pacifist, and equalitarian religious minority maintained its ideals and campaigned for social justice in a society that violated those values on a daily basis.
By tracing the evolution of white Virginians' attitudes toward the Quaker community, Glenn Crothers exposes the increasing hostility Quakers faced as the sectional crisis deepened, revealing how a border region like northern Virginia looked increasingly to the Deep South for its cultural values and social and economic ties.
Although this is an examination of a small community over time, the work deals with larger historical issues, such as how religious values are formed and evolve among a group and how these beliefs shape behavior even in the face of increasing hostility and isolation.
As one of the most thorough studies of a pre-Civil War southern religious community of any kind, Quakers Living in the Lion's Mouth provides a fresh understanding of the diversity of southern culture as well as the diversity of viewpoints among anti-slavery activists.


Dissent in America is an old and perpetually relevant topic. Dissenters simultaneously reflect and refute the nation’s values. And since the beginning of America they have often acted on religious conviction. Based on their interpretation of the Bible, Anne Hutchinson and Roger Williams, during the 1630s, challenged authority in the Puritan Massachusetts Bay colony. A century later, Mormons faced persecution for practicing a revised version of Christianity. At the same time, Roman Catholics provoked a Protestant and nativist reaction through their loyalty to the Pope and insistence on their right to educate their children in their faith. During the twentieth century, Jehovah’s Witnesses affected American perceptions of civil liberties through their refusal to allow government to stand between them and their religious commitment. Other examples of religious dissent abound.

Probably no American religious group, however, is better known for dissent from prevailing social and cultural practices than the Society of Friends, or Quakers. The Society organized in England during the seventeenth century. It stressed the existence of a divine spark in all human souls and a determination not to engage in or resist violence. Starting during the 1670s, large numbers of Quakers moved to England’s North American colonies to practice their faith more openly. By 1750 Quaker meeting houses were the third most common places of worship in the thirteen colonies. Their numbers trailed only those of Congregationalists and Anglicans. Yet by 1775 Quakers had declined to the fifth largest American denomination. They were ninth by 1820 and sixty-sixth by 1981. In 2009 there were only 107,000 Quakers in North America.

Many factors produced this decline over two and one half centuries. But, during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Quakers’ diminishing numbers owed a great deal to their engagement with the world around them and the demands in self-discipline that standing against that world made on them. Unlike such pietist groups as the Amish and Mennonites that shunned aspects of materialism, Quakers became merchants, manufacturers, commercial farmers, and politicians. Even as Quakers adopted forms of worship, dress, and speech that set them apart, they sought to prosper materially and to spread their social views in ways that forced them . . .

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