THE GREAT SEPARATION
THE historical forces which worked in the Society of Friends during the half century after the Revolutionary War found expression in the character and work of four outstanding leaders, whose decisive action at critical junctures precipitated the separation of 1827 in Philadelphia Yearly Meeting and led to divisions in four other yearly meetings the following year. They were Elias Hicks, Samuel Bettle, John Comly, and Thomas Shillitoe.
Bettle was a Philadelphia merchant; Flicks a Long Island farmer; Comly was a Pennsylvania school teacher, and Thomas Shillitoe a London shoemaker. To characterize a man by an epithet is usually to caricature him; but it may help to understand these men in connection with what follows to remember Bettle as an elder, Hicks as a lover of liberty, Comly as a Quietist, and Shillitoe as a crusader. Both Hicks and Shillitoe were travelling ministers after the eighteenth-century pattern.
They were all conscientious men, sincerely devoted to the Christian ideal as held by Friends, and devout students of the Scriptures. They were all Quietist mystics, seeking God in the "silence of the creature," looking within for the