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giving freedom to the Southern slave was not so self-evident, after all. Consequently the demand for his immediate emancipation, proclaimed by this newly-formed Anti-Slavery Society, so far as it broke on the attention of the people, stirred intense feeling for and against it. Popularity and pecuniary interests were at stake, but with conscientious Friends more serious obstructions to fellowship with it were presented, namely, their testimony against a “hireling ministry," and the "advices" in their book of discipline against "mingling with the world,"-perhaps a misapplication of the charge to "keep yourselves unspotted from the world."
One devoted Friend,* a practical philanthropist and reformer, who read with pleasure the announcement of the meeting to organize the American Anti-Slavery Society, observing the prefix "Rev." to names of some of its signers, exclaimed, "Some clerical claptrap, after all, I'm afraid. However, it is a good cause, and only fair to give them a hearing," he reflected, and went to the meeting. He soon perceived the sincerity of the little company; that they were intensely earnest, and free from the spirit of the hireling. This was a revelation to him, initiating him into fellowship with the world's benefactors, whatever their profession of faith; and henceforth and everywhere he was one with all such workers. Such experiences, with such results, ran all through the Society.
Environment and associations helped or hindered. Social and domestic influences had weight. Those of liberal bent, the natural radicals, and the idealists in the best sense of that term, listened to, then ranged themselves with, the new abolitionists.
Born and reared in the Society of Friends, however, reverencing its truths and traditions, bound to it by ties strong as those of family life, almost, the idea of separating from it was
long rejected. When proposed, the answering thought was, "To whom shall we go?"
Religious association was a vital need with most of them. No existing body of professors had attractions for them. They were Friends!-Quakers !-not meaning to leave their Society, but desiring a renewal of its vitality. They experimented anew in the "putting of new wine into old bottles." For years, in season and out of season, as the conservatives thought, the anti-slavery topic was kept before Kennett Monthly Meeting, with the hope that Friends as a body would again enlist for emancipation.
These liberals at that time constituted a large majority of the working members of Kennett Monthly Meeting, and for years opened their meeting-houses to anti-slavery lecturers. Many prominent ones had hearing in them. Charles C. Burleigh (than whom no one better understood or practised the principles of early Friends) made his first anti-slavery speech in Pennsylvania in Kennett Square Meeting-house. So did Abby Kelly, who, it may be remarked in passing, was a birthright member and reared among the Friends in Massachusetts, although it was as an agent of the AntiSlavery Society, not as a Friend, that she came here.
As the struggle between Slavery and Freedom waxed hot in Congress and through the country, the attitude of opposition between these two parties of the Friends became most pronounced. Their meeting-houses were, metaphorically, battle-grounds, and too often the discussions were animated by a spirit quite at variance with brotherly love. Unquestionably both parties were, in the main, honest in their positions. The conservatives foreboded ruin to their revered Society in this (to them) reckless slighting of traditions and violation of good order. The liberals saw a work to be done, and halted not so long as to methods.
A sweet spirit of charity and loving forbearance towards each other might have held them together as a working force for good. The conditions were not ripe for that. Even in our
physical world terrific electric storms are not yet out of order. At any rate the electric conditions in Kennett Monthly Meeting and the Western Quarterly Meeting were now absolutely repellent, needing but slight disturbance to make an open rupture. This came in the spring of 1845, in the person of Stephen S. Foster, an advocate of emancipation. His philosophy was: The church is the strongest influence in the country. The church must be on the side of freedom to effect the peaceful abolition of slavery. We have held our antislavery meetings and the church does not come to us. We must carry our doctrines into the churches at whatever cost to ourselves or to them. And moved by a spirit akin to that of George Fox towards the churches and reforms of his day, he went from place to place bearing his message. And what a living coal in a powder-store he was!
On this occasion (it happened at the Western Quarterly Meeting held in London Grove Meeting-house) he almost broke up the meeting, although no man in the house spoke or acted more gently than he. "I come to speak for the two and a half millions of our brethren in bondage who have no one to speak for them," he began, but was promptly interrupted and desired to take his seat. Twice more he began, but got no further than those words. There was great confusion, in the midst of which the partitions were closed, excluding the women and putting an end to the public meeting.
Finding that a hearing in the house was impossible, he proposed to retire to the grounds outside, and there speak to any who might choose to listen to him. He then walked out, followed by a large proportion of the people. The women, informed of the course taken, likewise went out in large numbers, leaving the seats more than half vacated. Outside, standing on the "horse-block," Foster addressed the multitude on their duty to the bondman and to their country in working for the abolition of slavery, which was cursing master and slave, white and black, alike.
Meanwhile a consultation had been held among those feel
ing the responsibility of the occasion. All realized that the breach had been made and the "new departure" must be arranged for. The result of this conference was the announcement of a meeting to consider the present state of affairs, a week or two hence. That meeting and a series like it were held through the following summer, in Marlboro' Meetinghouse. In these " Marlboro' Conferences," as they were called, slavery, free speech, a broader religion, temperance and reform in general, were discussed.
For several years after this partial separation their meetings for worship were held in this Marlboro' Meeting-house, after the Conservative Friends had held their " sitting" and gone away for the day. Then, the meeting-house doors were bolted against them, and, after some assertion of property rights, by picking locks and forcibly opening doors, they retired to a small house built for another purpose. Its proprietor, sympathizing with their purposes, though not hitherto one of them, offered its use, which they accepted for a year
Naturally they felt more and more the need and duty of a freer interchange of ideas, of a fraternal correspondence with liberal minds elsewhere. A call was issued for a general convention, in which topics of vital interest should be considered and discussed with candor and forbearance. This was the first of the Yearly Meetings of Progressive Friends. They met in the Old Kennett Friends' Meeting-house, still claiming their right to do so. Next year, 1854, the second Yearly Meeting convened at the same place, but after the sessions of two days the doors of that house, also, were closed against them, and they retired to Hamorton Hall, near by, to finish their discussions.
When the time for their annual assembling came, in 1855, they had a new house of their own in which to meet,-not large, not costly, but sufficient for the requirements on common occasions. Its capacity, however, has been often severely tested.
Their title, Progressive Friends, was chosen as expressive of their belief in the principles of the Society of Friends, with the added conviction that religious opinions should keep pace with human intelligence-should be progressive.
The name, "Longwood," was given to their place of meeting simply because the grounds had been part of a property called "Longwood Farm."
Oliver Johnson wrote the Declaration of Sentiments, adopted at their first general meeting in 1853. He had drifted from the Orthodox Congregational Church, in New England, as these Pennsylvania Friends had parted from their moorings, through his interest in human freedom. They now met on a common ground,-belief in religious liberty.
A meeting dedicating the new house was held the day before the opening of the Yearly Meeting in 1855.
Theodore Parker, at mention of whose name our hearts kindle, preached the dedicatory sermon, as also one on the first day of that Yearly Meeting. He came again in 1858, bestowing on us another gift of four discourses, from his spiritual treasure-house, putting into those sermons-so he said to Oliver Johnson-the best thought he yet had attained in religion.
Many more of God's nobility, both women and men, have served us richly with their best in the years that have since gone by. Among these, none have expressed or shown closer sympathy with this association than that sound-brained pioneer whose memory we all revere,-William Lloyd Garrison.
We need not discriminate. The people of this community have much for which to be grateful to those who have come to us from time to time with inspirations to truer, nobler lives. If we in turn might radiate somewhat of that which we have received from such helpers, we ought indeed to be doubly grateful and very happy.
As the years pass we discover anew that never was there more need of "faithful laborers" in the white harvest fields of humanity and righteousness than NOW.