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A fourth trait is, that in political affairs they reason
upon principle, and not from consequences this mode of reasoning ensures the adoption of the maxim of not doing evil that good may come-had Quakers been legislators, many public evils had been avoided, which are now known in the world-existence of this trait probable from the influence of the former trait—and from the influence of the peculiar customs of the Quakersand
from the influence of their system of discipline upon their minds, The next trait, which I shall lay open to the world as belonging to the Quaker-character, is that in all those cases, which
may be called political, the members of this Society generally reason upon principle, and but seldom upon consequences.
I do not know of any good quality, which ever impressed me more, in all my
intercourse with them, than this. It was one of those, which obtruded itself to my notice on my first acquaintance with them, and it
has continued equally conspicuous to the
If an impartial philosopher from some unknown land, and to whom our manners and opinions and history were unknown, were introduced suddenly into our metropolis, and were to converse with the Quakers there on a given political subject, and to be directly afterwards.conveyed to the west end of the town, and there to converse with politicians, or men of fashion, or men of the world, upon the same, he could not fail to be greatly surprised. If he thought the former wise, or virtuous, or great, he would unavoidably consider the latter as foolish, or vicious, or little. Two such opposite conclusions, as he would hear deduced from the reasonings of each, would impress him with an idea that he had been taken to a country inhabited by two different races of men. He would never conceive that they had been educated in the same country, or under the same Government. If left to himself, he would probably imagine that they had embraced two different religions. But if he were told that they professed the same, he would then say that the precepts of this
religion religion had been expressed in such doubtful language, that they led to two sets of principles contradictory to one another. I need scarcely inform the reader, that I allude to the two opposite conclusions, which will almost always be drawn, where men reason from motives of policy or from moral right.
If it be true that the Quakers reason upon principle in political affairs, and not upon consequences, it will follow as a direct inference, that they will adopt the Christian maxim that men ought not to do evil that good may come. And this is indeed the maxim, which you find them adopting in the course of their conversation on such subjects, and which I believe they would uniformly have adopted, if they had been placed in political situations in life. Had they been the legislators of the world, we should never have seen many of the public evils that have appeared in it. It was thought forinerly, for example, a glorious thing to attempt to drive Paganism from the Holy Land; but Quakers would never have joined in any
of the crusades for its expulsion. It has been long esteemed, again, a desideratum
in politics, that among nations differing in strength and resources a kind of balance of power should be kept up; but Quakers would never have engaged in any one war to preserve it. It has been thought, again, that it would contribute to the happiness of the natives of India, if the blessings of the British constitution could be given them instead of their own; but Quakers would never have taken possession of their territories for the accomplishment of such a good. It has been long thought, again, a matter of great political importance, that our West-India settlements should be cultivated by African labourers; but Quakers would never have allowed a slave-trade for such a purpose. It has been thought, again, and it is still thought a desirable thing, that our property should be secured from the petty depredations of individuals ; but Quakers would never have consented to capital punishments for such an end. In short, few public evils would have arisen among mankind, if statesmen had adopted the system, upon which the Quakers reason in political affairs, or if they had concurred with an antient Grecian philosopher, in con
demning to destruction the memory of the man, who first made a distinction between expediency and moral right.
That this trait of reasoning upon principle, regardless of the consequences, is likely to be a feature in the character of the Society, we are warranted in pronouncing, when we discover no fewer than three circumstances in the constitution of it, which may be causes in producing it*.
This trait seems, in the first place, to be the direct and legitimate offspring of that explained in the last chapter. For every time an individual is called upon to bear his testimony by suffering, whether in the case of a refusal to comply with the laws or with the customs and fashions of the land, he is called upon to refer to his own conscience, against his own temporal interest and against the opinion of the world. The moment he gives up principle for policy in the course of his reasoning upon such occa
* The Sierra Leone Company, which was founded for laudable purposes, might have been filled by Quakers; but when they understood that there was to be a fort and depot of arms in the settlement, they declined becoming proprietors,