Sunday, December 11, 2011
by Daniel Brouse
Are there any parallels between the creation of Pennsylvania, the American Revolutionary War and the Occupy Wall Street Movement? Yes. It is quite interesting how the Quakers have been involved in all three movements.
As a Quaker in England, William Penn had been arrested six times for speaking out. In 1681, William requested a charter to start an American Colony for a “Holy Experiment”. In honor of William’s father, the King granted the land known as the Forests of Penn — Pennsylvania.
“William Penn was the first great hero of American liberty. During the late seventeenth century, when Protestants persecuted Catholics, Catholics persecuted Protestants, and both persecuted Quakers and Jews, Penn established an American sanctuary which protected freedom of conscience. Almost everywhere else, colonists stole land from the Indians, but Penn traveled unarmed among the Indians and negotiated peaceful purchases. He insisted that women deserved equal rights with men. He gave Pennsylvania a written constitution which limited the power of government, provided a humane penal code, and guaranteed many fundamental liberties.” — The Quakers’ The Freeman
The Quakers also played an important role in the Revolutionary War.
Among the pro-Revolutionary Friends was a group of 200 Free Quakers, who claimed to be “free of the ecclesiastical tyranny of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting,” the governing body of Pennsylvania Quakerdom. The Free Quakers charged the yearly meeting with abandoning the liberty of conscience – the cornerstone of William Penn’s “Holy Experiment” in government and his motive for resettling Europe’s religiously-persecuted peoples in his American colony – and elevating pacifism, a secondary testimony, as the defining principle of Quakerism and a prerequisite for membership in the Society of Friends.
The Quakers of Plymouth Meeting in old Philadelphia County, now Montgomery County, were careful to abide by the discipline of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting and thus tried to avoid any involvement with either army during the Revolutionary War. Their meetinghouse, however, was strategically located along Germantown Pike between Philadelphia and Gen. George Washington’s headquarters at Whitemarsh. During the early winter of 1777, when Washington decided to relocate his forces at Valley Forge, the Plymouth Friends’ meetinghouse served as a hospital and campsite for the Continental Army en route to their winter encampment near the Chester County village. — State Of Pennsylvania Historical Markers
Occupy Philadelphia has founding principles similar to William Penn’s stand on Freedom Of Speech, and his commitment to non-violence. To date, dozens of Occupy protesters have been arrested for speaking out during peaceful demonstrations.
The Friends Meeting House at 15th and Cherry Streets finds itself in a strategic location for the Occupy Philadelphia movement. Due to the proximity of the the Friends Center to the Occupy encampment at Dilworth Plaza, City Hall, Philadelphia, the Friends furnished facilities to cook 1500 meals per day, provide medical treatment and hold meetings. After the forcible eviction of the non-violent protesters from Dilworth Plaza, the Friends continue to offer their hospitality.