In meeting social revolution, why bother with history? Do we not know by its face what is right and wrong? Perhaps. But many Quakers now have gone farther than to know the difference. More and more, we are analyzing the structure of society and how it may be changed, so that wrong will be made right by structure, not just case by case. I turned to history because I needed to know how the structures have evolved, and how they have changed in the past.
Quaker thought and action were simpler in an earlier age. When our religion was founded in the middle of the seventeenth century, Quakers tried to avoid involvement in politics. They neither opposed authority nor favored it. The English civil war, two Dutch wars, the Spanish war, the Thirty Years' War, the War of Devolution, and the War of the League of Augsburg and Grand Alliance all involved England in the first half century of Quakerism. Yet Quakers -- while they would not participate in those wars -- neither debated their justice nor did anything to stop them. If the Quakers did lobby the politicians, it was usually to protect their own: Quakers persecuted for religious reasons.
Nor did early Quakers have formulas for poverty. Just one century before George Fox, Ket's Rebellion ( 1549) had protested the sheep enclosures, by which village commons were divided among landowners, with the result that poor farmers were deprived of land on which to graze their cattle. Landholdings were becoming more consolidated in the hands