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

By Barry Levy | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SEVEN

Saints and Republicans

By 1750 the Welsh Tract and Chester Quaker communities reached their apex of exemplary communal development, reconciling wealth, productivity, tenderness, and holiness like no other people had in North America. By this time they were already attracting the attention of the French philosophes and continued to be the darlings of Pennsylvania voters. The province they ruled was luring more European immigrants than any other, and their city Philadelphia was growing faster than any other North American city. They had clearly made Quaker domesticity a force to contend with. Between 1750 and 1790 the Pennsylvania Quakers did little to discredit the system of domesticity that they had created. The secular growth of Pennsylvania continued unabated. And the Quakers made the spread of domesticity more likely by essentially surrendering their patent rights. During this period the Quakers decided that the holiness of their households was more important than the power they might accumulate by winking at the problems domesticity presented to a religious people. The Quakers conscientiously limited their growth, increased their distinctiveness from people of the "world," and resigned from political power. By 1790 the Quakers were an innocuous sect, and domesticity was open to exploitation by less sensitive consciences, including those of republican reformers eager to build a powerful, expanding nation. 1

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