Archiver > QUAKER-ROOTS > 1999-06 > 0929240500

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Subject: Re: The Journel of John Woolman
Date: Sat, 12 Jun 1999 22:21:40 EDT

Dear Listers

Since there seems to be some interest in John Woolman, some of you may also
wish to know that his house (or, some think, his daughter's house) still
stands at 99 Branch St., Mount Holly, NJ 08060, and is supported by a
volunteers organization which supports a modest educational program about
JW's life and work. They're always looking for members and support. Contact
the directors, Jack and Carol Walz at 609-267-3226.

As for John, what readers of his journal may not "catch" from the journal
itself is how skilled a church "politician" this man was. At the time
Woolman became active in the Quaker hierarchy (roughly the 1740s, I think)
the RSOF had been "talking" about slavery for nearly 50 years and had made
some modest progress in its thinking. (Compared to other slaveholders, they
were the nicest to their slaves than most.) Woolman very skillfully raised
the RSOF's consciousness with essays such as "On the Keeping of Negroes" and
by making personal visits with slaveholders. Basically, his technique was
not to condemn the slaveholders, but to simply share his concern and then
stand back and allow the implications to work their way into the mind of his
"target." Once, in a tavern in Virginia, he mildly remarked to a captain of
militia -- and, I think, a slaveholder -- that, it seemed to him that
children grew up more righteous when not exposed to a system that gave some
people absolute power over others. The other man quickly agreed, saying that
the slave system was as much a curse to whites as blacks.

He didn't do this singlehandedly, of course, but had it not been for him, I
doubt that the RSOF would have managed to ban slaveholding by the 1770s. And
that, of course, was a momentous turning point because it positioned what was
then a relatively large group of people, the Quakers, against slavery.
Later, the Quakers served as the "kernel" of the abolitionist movement,
around which others gathered.

Mark E. Dixon
Wayne, PA

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