Quaker history is a story of struggle and sacrifice, of a reputation for integrity in business, a major part in the rise of capitalism in England, and a critical role in the founding of America.

Here is my Quaker family tree.

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My Quaker Roots
My Quaker Family Tree

Ancestors of Emmor Bonsall Maris

My Quaker Roots going back to southern Massachusetts (and RI); and to southeast PA, and neighboring NJ

Picture of my mother - [SEE] - Jean Maris Shepherd

A brief background of the Society of 'Friends'

Quakers were an "odd little sect" that arose in northern England amidst the turmoil of their Civil War between (1) the basically middle class "puritans" of the cities and towns, and (2) the more aristocratic old-line liturgical "cavaliers" loyal to the Stuart royalty. Ironically, George Fox's actual origins was from essentially Cavalier country, the north and west counties near the Lake district of England.

The founder, George Fox, wanted a way to worship God in the tranquil simplicity of the gospel, with a far more complete reliance on the Holy Spirit in the hearts of believers than what the official Established Church allowed. It was not easy going at first. He explained, "My relations were much troubled at me that I would not go with them to hear the priest; for I would get into the orchard or the fields with my Bible by myself." As the movement spread, the leading of the Divine Light prompted Quakers to act in ways that got them in even deeper trouble. They refused to bow before important dignitaries, clergy, lords, prelates, even the king himself. Only God was worthy of worship. They "thou'd" even the high and well-born, those of wealth and status. They left hat on, and refused to bow, even before the lords temporal and religious.

Whence the name, "Quaker"? Having called themselves simply "friends" - reminiscent of the name given Abraham of old, the "friend of God" - the novel nickname Quaker was clearly not intended as a compliment. Perhaps the likeliest explanation is that the "Quaker" tag was suggested by "their trembling or excitement when gripped by religious ecstasy." (says Daniel L. Edwards). If such is correct, they early on took pains to make sure the only source for such manifestations of worship could only be Divine.

Possibly in reaction to the negative rumors, they aimed to speak but little, the better thereby to "listen" to the Spirit of the Divine within. Well might have been said of them the words of Juvenal, Raro sermo illis, et magna libido tacendi. (Seldom do they speak, and much prefer silence.) Virtually devoid of dogma and theology, their focus was on "living" the virtue they espoused. Thus, they obsessed with "practicing" and ethics in this world, in the here-and-now. Simple, unadorned personal integrity outranked religious doctrine by a vast margin, in the Quaker view.

England was ripe for such a radical faith, with such a spare theology but powerful in their life of conviction, courage in the face of intimidation, and simple trust in the values they deemed Infinite in duration. In the large cities, including London, Quakers found their reputation for simplicity and plainness and utter honesty, while alienating them socially from Puritans as well as Cavliers, actually enhanced their standing in business. Quakers were sought out for their integrity. Their word was their bond.

Moneylending (one on one) evolved into banking almost like we know today, and thus it came about that three out of four of the Banks coming into existence in England of the 17th century were of Quaker origin, including Barclay's, Lloyds, and Gurney of Norwich, among others ... (More here) They came to be known far and wide for their rock solid integrity and honesty. (We may smile, but reputation matters.) A people willing to suffer beatings, persecution, imprisonment, fines, even exile for their scruples of conscience stood out like a sore thumb. Refusing to take oaths, their simple objective, so central to their entire lives, was to let their yea be yea. To tell the truth absolutely, to keep their word at all costs. Quaker integrity and probity were bywords. Fiat justitia, ruat coelum.

Capitalists without Capitalism: The Jains of India and the Quakers of the West. A new title (not really that new - June 1971) by professor Balwant Nevaskar compares the Quakers with the Jains of India. Nevaskar delves into the way non-economic factors affect the development of economic systems. Like the Quakers, and even more, Jains were radical practitioners of peace and non-violence.

Not everyone praised the Quakers, however. Theologians pointed out their heresies, or false "doctrines." Civic authorities were offended that Quakers refused to show sufficient reverence or even basic respect. And among the populace, rumors spread. George Fox had a married mistress, Margaret Fell, whose husband willingly allowed himself to be cuckolded. The Quakers were utopians, and promoted free love. Sexual libertinism was practiced in their secret assemblies. But those who knew them scoffed at the more outlandish rumors, and vouched for the proverbial Quaker probity, rectitude, and candor.

In America, the first Quakers were in southern Massachusetts, descendants of Pilgrims (otherwise known as Brownists, or separatists, and related to the earliest baptists of Gainsborough, near Scrooby). The Puritan authorities of Boston did not emulate the benign tolerance that Cromwell had extended to Quakers. Rather, they persecuted them mercilessly, and many Quakers fled to Rhode Island (or Long Island) in an effort to escape the religious oppression. It is said that by the time of the American Revolution, the majority sect in Rhode Island was Quaker.

Cromwell had enforced a religious toleration (but alas not to Roman Catholics), officially welcoming Jews back to England, and protecting Fox's followers - the Quakers. But in 1660, he died, the Stuart King was brought back (Restoration), and a period of bitter persecution began. Quakers were whipped, tortured, imprisoned without trial, deprived of possessions, and many sought relief in exile. Then, in 1680, the King granted William Penn a colony - Pennsylvania - which immediately became a haven for the Welsh (and other) Quakers, and later for the oppressed of any religion. Penn's Welsh Barony.

In America, as in England, Quakers seem to have been drawn, despite the commercial or capitalist success many Quakers achieved, to positions and ideals on behalf of the weak, or oppressed, or needy. The history of social progress is filled with Quaker contributions, from the campaigns for fairer treatment of indians, to prison reform, to more humane conditions for the mentally ill, to women's rights, to abolitionism, to movements, time and again, promoting peace between nations: the "Peace Testimony" of Friends.

The early American psychologist and philosopher of religion, William James, said of the Quakers that they are a sect "almost impossible to over-praise," so significant have been their achievements in this world, on this earth. Far from being a "pie in the sky" religion whose manner of coping with the world's troubles is escapism -- or a cosmology that Marx might call an "opium" to numb believers' awareness, Quakers seemed time and again to plunge right into the issues, and to seek, as they were able, to come up with solutions (however unpopular with those who had never mulled the issues.)

The list of famous Quakers would fill a book. Numerous presidents have Quakerly antecedents in their roots, some have considerable (recent) Quaker heritage, including Hoover and Nixon. And while the president and vice president of the Confederacy were named after Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton, Lincoln was named after his Quaker grandfather Abraham, a name that seemed to embarass him. Nevertheless, the famous Lincoln beard is a "Quaker beard" -- that is, a simple, biblical beard with only the hair of the upper lip kept shaved.

The list of Quaker activists in the social realm is very extensive. I mention only Angelina Grimké in the 19th century, and Bayard Rustin in the 20th. The indirect impact of Quakerism is also immense, viz. the Doukhobors (called Russian Quakers); the anabaptists (called German Quakers); Leo Tolstoy, profoundly influenced by Quaker pacifism and social thought; Gandhi, who was a disciple of Tolstoy; Martin Luther King, a philosophical heir of both Tolstoy and Gandhi, and through them of the Quakers. And then there is E. Stanley Jones the Methodist theologian of profound pietist leanings. While in India Jones became a close friend of Mahatma Gandhi and even wrote a biography of Gandhi, a book which Martin Luther King said influenced him to adopt strict non-violent methods in the American civil rights movement. (Jones had a strong influence in preventing the spread of communism in India. more) And finally, the Jehovah's Witness sect of twentieth century American (Pennsylvania) origin, dogmatically and biblically quite divergent from the historic Quaker ethos, but in many ways very consistent with the core spirit of Quaker social values and pacifism, which for witnesses is called "neutrality." See Tact is the intelligence of the heart.

Similarly, other great social activists have owed inspiration to the Quakers. I think of Walt Whitman and the Transcendentalist Era. We ought to include Whitman's own 'inspiration' - Ralph Waldo Emerson. In more recent days there was Pete Seeger for example. See Pete Seeger. Even more faithful (in his writings) to the heart of Quaker philosophy was Thomas Merton. See "Thomas Merton"

Wendy Gieger, a Friend from Florida, notes that in his pamphlet “The Palace of Univeralism,” Dan Seeger writes of Merton’s Universalist Catholicism: "A Christian of profound spirituality and deep social awareness, Thomas Merton, clearly ended his life as a universalist, without diluting his Catholicism or his commitment to his Trappist community at all." (See Universalist Friends)

Merton encountered Quakers through his not very religious mother and didn’t think much of them when he first converted to Catholicism and wrote “Seven Storey Mountain.” But as Seeger observed, Merton became a more much inclusive Catholic, open to many contemplative traditions, and one hopes his views on Quakers changed. But certainly Quakers have thought highly of Merton and his deep commitment to silent worship, spirituality and prophetic witness. (Thanks to Wendy Geiger)

OUR BIRTHRIGHT IS JOY: This hymn has at least two main versions. Here is Amanda Marie's beautiful rendition of the Christian version. Friendly alternative: There is a perhaps just as famous version (sung by Pete Seeger, by Enya and others ... the Quaker version). "How Can I Keep From Singing?" Please See  http://robt.shepherd.tripod.com/plenn.html

Blacks and Quakers

There has long been a strong area of overlap between the natural values of people of African descent ... and the Quaker ideals of the prophetic peace witness in the world. African American Quakers have been noted (Paul Cuffe, Sarah Mapps Douglass, Alain Locke, Barrington Dunbar, James Fletcher, Vanessa Julye, and Brother Outsider Bayard Rustin). How natural, perhaps inevitable, that Martin Luther King, Jr. should come into such a positive confrontation with (and embrace) the peace ideals of Quakerism (through Gandhi), and truly impact America and history so emphatically.

The interface continues, with black conscientious objectors, peace sympathizers, and unaffiliated individuals of prophetic ideals and spiritual convictions. Howard Thurman was a giant among Black Prophets, a reconciliation voice on behalf of social justice and the disinherited. Sandy Martin, writing about World War II, says that "A strong peace tradition has existed in the African American Christian history."

During the Vietnam War, James Daly was a black conscientious objector and prisoner of war. He has written a personal narrative or war diary. (Black Prisoner of War: A Conscientious Objector's Vietnam Memoir)

Michael Simmons, for example, was a black man who opposed the draft, taking a stand for the cause of peace, for justice. Willing to pay a high price, his sacrifice and courage has resulted in the rallying of broad based support around him. And in Congress, notably Barbara Lee, the black congressman from Oakland, was a lonely voice of Peace, crying in the wilderness of Washington's prevailing militarism and "defense" mentality.

Blacks, having so closely involved with Friends during abolitionism, drifted away. More on "Blacks and Quakers"

The early days of Quakerism, so filled with the fire and passion of the high idealism of their "good news" (evangelical fervor), somehow cooled. During the nineteenth century, African Americans, for so long so closely involved with Quaker friends and allies during the long struggle of abolition, needed a "living religion" according to their own testimony. Why might this have occurred?

The Decline of Quakerism, and other elitist intellectual faiths: the "decently and orderly churches"

Saint Paul urged the early church to conduct everything "decently and in order" (1 Corinthians 14:40). But as their prosperity and "comfort" level rose, their spiritual ardor seemed to fall. The "respectable" meetings became ever more lifeless, ever more regimented.

Abraham Maslow speculates on the lukewarm religion they were becoming: "A rather bleak, boring, unexciting, unemotional, cool philosophy of life which fails to do what the traditional religions have tried to do when they were at their best, to inspire, to awe, to comfort, to fulfill, to guide in the value of choices, and to discriminate between higher and lower, better and worse, not to mention to produce [Dionysiac and Pentecostal experiences, wildness, rejoicing, impulsiveness.]" See the emotive reflex - black religion

dona nobis pacem

keywords = quakers, friends, new thought, new age, cosmology, ontology, metaphysics, meditation, silence, hicksite

The Quiet Tradition

Meister Eckhart said: Nothing resembles the language of God so much as does silence.

The Inner Light and Quaker "Group Meditation"
The early Quakers insisted on the presence of "Christ within you" -- that is, the Inner Light, or the Voice of Conscience. One of the corollaries of this awareness was a kind of Communal Worship (ecstatic centering): True worship is done in Spirit and in Truth (Jn. 4: 23,24). Largely without realizing it, their peculiar "silent prayer" had hit upon something very Eastern, something more than a little "Vedantic" or Buddhist. See Wisdom of the East, Mother India

The Bhagavad Gita says, "Those who aspire to the state of yoga should seek the self in inner solitude through meditation. With body and mind controlled they should constantly practice one-pointedness, free from expectations and attachment to material possessions."

This was the Quaker ideal, learned in expectant "waiting" before God. The joy was present, and all around them, in the deep silence, in the quiet, communally. Something about the serenity of a meditative mind, "two or three gathered together." Theologically akin to the doctrine on the Comforter, the inner Teacher, the "Holy Spirit." In their communal worship Quakers "sought" and listened. In the silence they absorbed.

In the Gospel of John Jesus promised joy to those who would gather together in his Name, and in his presence. For early Quakers this meant their "meditation" was not so much solitary as collective. Apparently the reported "bliss" or experiences of "heaven coming down" were merely an attribute of human consciousness, accessible intuitively via apprehension of the divine within. What the transcendental practitioners called "letting go." The experience of the pure mind, released from the world.

Although Quakers often declined to call themselves "Christians" (merely Friends) their roots were fully right out of historic Western Christianity. Thus their expectant waiting -- the communal worship (or what we might call ecstatic centering) was group oriented. Their "meditation" was together rather than alone. The ideal was "we" -- that is the Church (not a physical thing, or human institution). Their focus was the transformation of the community. In Greek of the Testament the word was koinonia, the same word Martin Luther King later translated so beautifully as, "The Beloved Community." (The so-called Philadelphia Story)

ALSO SEE: Strong women, weak men - the old slander of gender inversion (an egalitarian yin yang) resurfaces against Quakers.

search the scriptures
John 5 : 39

The Gospel of John is sometimes known among Friends as "the Quaker Gospel," since it speaks to the Quaker concern for a here-and-now experience of eternal reality in Christ.
(Sounds slightly "Eastern" doesn't it? No wonder these friendly "mystics" and Deists were labelled heretics by the official Elites and princes of church and state.)

Table of Contents

Ancestors of Emmor Bonsall Maris

Credit for this information belongs to many people and sources, living and dead. No matter how careful I try to be, it seems like there are inevitably things that others discover that need refinement, elaboration, or outright correction. If you happen to spot one of these things in my material, please, by all means email me, so I can correct, or add to (or remove) whatever needs amending.

The ancestry report uses 'Ahnentafel' numbering. This means that the numbers for a person's parents will be twice as large as that person's number. For example, if a woman's number is 15, her father will be number 30, and her mother will be 31. Her child will be number 7.

Older men declare war. But it is the youth that must fight and die.
And it is the youth who must inherit the tribulation,   the sorrow,
and the triumphs that are the aftermath of war.
[Herbert Hoover]

Play you.tube Dubliners - Lord of the Dance

] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

James Logan - a Quaker Hebraist
Quaker Hebraist James Logan
Quaker Hebraist James Logan
A Mayor of Philadelphia

Additional Quaker Research Aids


Earth - Our Only Home

The produce of the earth is a gift from our gracious creator to the inhabitants, and to impoverish the earth to support outward greatness appears to be an injury to the succeeding age.
John Woolman

Every man is a descendant of every king and every slave that ever lived.

Kahlil Gibran once wrote:

"Every man is a descendant of every king and every slave that ever lived." Obviously from a genealogy standpoint, such a claim is a bit too sweeping. But as a genealogist with a poetic bent, I love Gibran's saying because of the beauty of its expression and because of the truth it embodies. All of us do indeed contain the genes of high and low, rich and poor, and we experience the full range of the inheritance we hold within us. Besides, I really don't think Gibran was all that far off the mark, anyway. fecitque ex uno omne genus hominum inhabitare super universam faciem terrae definiens statuta tempora et terminos habitationis eorum. We are ex uno omne genus. We are all one genus, one race -- the human race (Acts 17:26)

Quakers Led the Charge Against Slavery
The first group to mount an organized campaign against slavery was the Society of Friends, the Quakers, first in Europe in the second half of the 17th century, then in the United States. Ignoring passages in the Bible that had been invoked to justify slavery, leading Quakers such as George Fox in England and John Woolman and Anthony Benezet in the U.S. emphasized that spiritual freedom -- man's capacity to choose the good in his quest for moral perfectibility -- required freedom of choice in this life. Slavery, according to this view, represented the moral imprisonment of God's children and thus was wrong, even blasphemous. Drawing on the religious energies of the Great Awakening, the first of a serious of revival movements that would energize America between the mid-18th century and the end of the 19th, many evangelical Protestants began to embrace a similar interpretation. They applied Christ's injunction -- do unto others as we would have them do unto us -- directly to the relationship between slaveowners and slaves.

Dinesh D'Souza. The End of Racism (p 105)     OR - see Blacks and Quakers

Blacks, having so closely involved with Friends during abolitionism, drifted away
The early days of Quakerism, so filled with the fire and passion of the high idealism of their "good news" (evangelical fervor), somehow cooled. During the ninetenth century, African Americans, for so long so closely involved with Quaker friends and allies during the long struggle of abolition, needed a "living religion" according to their own testimony. Why might this have occurred?

The Decline of Quakerism, and other elitist intellectual faiths
Abraham Maslow speculates on the lukewarm religion they had become: "A rather bleak, boring, unexciting, unemotional, cool philosophy of life which fails to do what the traditional religions have tried to do when they were at their best, to inspire, to awe, to comfort, to fulfill, to guide in the value of choices, and to discriminate between higher and lower, better and worse, not to mention to produce [Dionysiac and Pentecostal experiences, wildness, rejoicing, impulsiveness.]"

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Do the Welsh have African Origins?

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A quaker ideal : 'Ethics trumps theology.'

Annalee Skarin writes

If we live on the laurels our ancestors won, without adding to the light they held, we are failures and unworthy of the heritage they bequeathed to us. And we are unworthy of the teachings and example of Christ unless we fulfill the very promises He spoke of and unless we do the works He did and then move on to even higher attainments.

[p298. Annalee Skarin. Volume I]

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