American Quakers Face the Civil War
Baltimore Yearly Meeting
From ANSWERS TO THE QUERIES
Friends generally appear to be careful to bear our testimony against a hireling Ministry, oaths, clandestine trade, prize goods and lotteries. But a deficiency in the faithful maintenance of our precious testimony against war and Military services, is acknowledged in all our reports.
Baltimore 11th month
The Committee appointed to prepare a minute, embodying the exercises of this Meeting, produced the following Report, which was satisfactory, viz:
On entering upon the consideration of the state of Society as portrayed in the answers to the Queries, the Meeting was brought under a solemn covering on account of the many deficiencies amongst us . . . .
We have felt it to be a cause of gratitude to the Father of all our sure mercies, that the desolations of war have been stayed in our land, while at the same time we have to lament, that so many of our precious young members, and some of more mature age, have been led to join the ranks of the warrior, disregarding the emphatic declaration of our blessed Master to His disciples, "my kingdom is not of this world, else would my servants fight." We were exhorted that while remembering the scripture injunction to "deal gently with the young man," we should not desert the glorious banner of the Prince of Peace. It was feelingly testified that the many departures from this distinguishing characteristic of the followers of our blessed Lord, as reported in the answers which have come up from our subordinate meetings, should teach us humility, inasmuch as we are thus shown we are not all living up to our principles in this particular; hence the necessity of a return to our first love, in humble prostration before Him "who dwelleth in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and the heart of the contrite ones."
The duty of remembering the poor, and comforting the afflicted, has claimed our serious attention. We are persuaded that the spirit of Christ will, in all ages, bring forth similar fruits; and as in the Apostles days, no man counted aught that he had his own, but gave all to be used as any had need; so in our day, those who have abundance, should remember the afflicted and destitute, and minister liberally to their wants, thus gladdening their hearts, and causing them to glorify Him who is the Author of every blessing.
The condition of the colored people residing within our limits, has been brought feelingly before us; and while we rejoice at their liberation from the shackles that have so long impeded their moral and intellectual advancement, we are conscious that there is yet much to do on their behalf, and a wide field open for religious labor among them. An earnest desire is felt, that we may be no less faithful in this interesting concern, than were our forefathers, who, through obedience to the Divine Monitor, became the pioneers in the great work of emancipation. . . .
The attendance of our members at this Meeting has been large, and among them are many from that section of our country which has so lately been the scene of sanguinary conflict. Since our last yearly Meeting, they have been subjected to heavy losses of property, and much anxiety of mind, by the ravages of War. Notwithstanding the perilous situation in which they have sometimes been placed, their religious meetings have been very generally kept up, their lives have been, through Divine mercy, preserved from the hand of violence, and their necessities supplied. The sympathy and aid extended to them by members of this and other Yearly Meetings, are gratefully appreciated, and have tended to strengthen the ties of brotherly love by which all the branches of our religious body are united.
From the Epistle of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, included with the Baltimore minutes:
We are now permitted to address our distant brethren, under circumstances calculated to clothe the heart with rejoicing, although this has been overshadowed by the great grief of the Nation, for the death of our much lamented President.
The clouds of war, so fearfully dark upon our countrys horizon, and which have cast their shadows upon all private and public concerns, are apparently soon to pass away.
We are again assembled to examine into the affairs of the Church, with thankful hearts to the author of all our sure mercies, that he has, in great measure, removed this awful scourge.
That we may be individually and collectively, so chastened and prepared in heart, as to do always, to all men, whatsoever we would have them do to us, and feel of a truth, that Christs kingdom is not of this world, is the moral we should draw from the terrible calamities through which the nation has passed.
It is no new thing to hear of wars and rumors of wars, but to stand unmoved amid all commotions, is the prerogative of the redeemed and ransomed of the Lord. . . . .
A lively exercise has sprung up in regard to the divided condition of those bearing the name of Friends. We have travailed in it with much feeling and unity. The exhibition of schisms, and divisions, among a people so nearly alike in themselves, and so widely differing from those who lay great stress on ceremonies and outward ordinances, is a stumbling block to inquirers Zionward, and a great impediment to their own usefulness among men.
We hope that the day is approaching, when there can be a coming together of a people, all professing to be led and guided by the spirit of Christ, and thus enabled so to labor, as to renew that "unity of the spirit, which is the bond of peace," that was the distinguishing characteristic of the early gathering of this people. . . .
From the Epistle of Genesee Yearly Meeting [in western New York and southern Ontario], included with the Baltimore Yearly Meeting Minutes.
As we are again assembled in a Yearly Meeting capacity, we have been made to rejoice, in that we have been thus permitted to partake of the rich bounties with which the Lords table is spread . . . .
While we have mourned that the spirit of war should have made its inroads among us, a peace-professing people, while we have sorrowed that some of our young men should have, under the influence of the excitement around them, been induced to enter the arena of military strife, and there become the instruments of shedding the blood of their fellow men; yet we earnestly hope now, as the conflict has ceased, and as they return to their peaceful homes, they may become so convinced of the superiority of the principle of love to that of force, and that it is better to suffer wrong for a season, than to do wrong, that they may so live in the future as not only to give satisfaction to their friends, and thus be continued in the bosom of Society, but by being thus convinced by experience, of the sweeter and more hallowed influence which surrounds those who dwell under the canopy of this Divine principle, become its devoted advocates in the future.