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The Still, Small Voice

The Still, Small Voice

Quaker Activism

(p.133) Chapter Four The Still, Small Voice
Holy Nation
Sarah Crabtree
University of Chicago Press

This chapter explores the Society's embrace of philanthropy in the years following the American Revolution, arguing that this sense of mission acted to preserve the Friends' holy nation amidst a new political landscape, retaining their identity as 'chosen people' despite conceding that 'the government under which they lived' had, in fact, become 'their government.' Friends thus pursued their reform agenda within the legislative and ideological boundaries of the nation-state but recognized early on the necessity of involving outsiders in their mission. Disliked and mistrusted by those in power, Quaker activists recruited other men and women deemed acceptable by the establishment to serve as the public face of their movements. In this way, Friends became political, cultural, and economic 'brokers' in nineteenth-century reform movements, drawing on their vast transatlantic networks in order to foster key relationships across political boundaries. This interconnectedness reveals the resilience of the Quakers' Zion tradition, as itinerant ministers labored to maintain transatlantic connections following independence; however it also highlights why worldly governments remained suspicious of Friends, as their altruism was infused by a universalist worldview that questioned both geopolitical borders and the hegemony of the state.

Keywords:   philanthropy, activism, anti slavery, abolitionism, peace movement, women's rights, broker, network theory, universalism

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