Letter from Genesee Meeting of Friends printed in National Anti-Slavery Review Aug. 21, 1845

Hello Friends–In case you do not already have this 1845 letter from Friends of Genesee Yearly Meeting, I pass it on. Charles Lenhart discovered and transcribed this from the National Anti-Slavery Standard. It gives a sense of the developing rift within this meeting between the quietists, who valued peace and right order (including respect for ministers and elders) and those committed to abolitionism and working “with the world’s people.” Thank you, Charles!

National Anti-Slavery Standard Aug 21, 1845

Friends of Genesee Yearly Meeting

“From a called meeting of Friends of Genesee Yearly Meeting, convened in the meeting-house at Farmington, in the State of New-York – Epistle to Green Plain Quarterly Meeting and such other branches of Indiana Yearly Meeting, as are under proscription on account of faithfulness in the maintenance of our testimony on the subject of slavery.

DEAR FRIENDS, – Being together on occasion of attending our Yearly Meeting, and having the company of our beloved friends, Joseph A. Dugdale and wife, and having had also presented to the meeting an epistle from you, our minds have been introduced into near sympathy with you in the circumstance of trial which attend you. And as sufficient unity has not been prevalent in this Yearly Meeting, to hear and respond to your epistle in a meeting capacity, we feel our minds engaged to address you in this way, if haply the mutual love of you and us may minister to each other’s consolation and encouragement.

We have noticed with concern, within several years past, the progress of a spirit in our religious society calculated to sever the bonds of unity and brotherly affection. And in its results, unless by the interpositions of Divine favor, arrested, to bring about a renewal of the painful scenes of 1827 and ’28, which rent into incongruous fragments those social organizations by which before we were formally recognized as one people. The former difficulty had reference to conflicting views on doctrinal subjects; the present regards, as the ground of its complaint and dissatisfaction, the action of brethren and sisters in works of benevolence – their conscientious efforts, by the power of truth and love, peacefully to break the fetters of slavery from the bodies and minds of fellow-beings who are the victims of wrong and cruelty. Thus a curb is attempted to be put to the very springs of those beneficent offices by which a common Father has designed his children should minister to each other’s joy, and this, too, astonishing as is the fact, by those who professionally acknowledge that our testimony against slavery is among the most important that have been given the society to bear.

In what, then, does this spirit find a pretext for its love-destroying operations? While in most instances, we fear, the cause lies in a want of feeling with the crushed slaves of our country, it impugns the actions of brethren and sisters, in their efforts to relieve suffering humanity, because not confined to the forms and limits of its own prescription. Hence it arraigns the motive, while to the act and its object no wrong can be pretended to attach, and is fruitful in charges based in error. – Invading the rights of conscience, it seeks to place the dictum and prescriptions of men above the Divine law in the mind.

We are prepared to sympathize with you under the trials to which you have been subjected by the prevalence of this spirit within your borders, having had affecting experience of its operation among ourselves. But, beloved brethren and sisters, we desire you may not be dismayed or discouraged under these trials. Our Father’s care over his children is not diminished. He is still the same Fountain of love, of life, of strength, he ever has been. All the perfections of his Divinity are present in their eternal fullness, to direct and preserve those who look to Him and put their trust in Him. And we desire that you, with us, may have our confidence thus placed eyeing the unfoldings of His wisdom and power. Then will may be made, not only for a continuance, but even an increased participation of those benefits and enjoyments which, in Divine economy, result from religious association, when regulated by the perfect principles of righteousness and truth. Man’s nature, as in the plentitude of wisdom it has formed by the Divine Architect, demands such association., and doubtless he has established principles or laws by which it can be maintained to the benefit, strength , and consolation of all. And where these ends are not secured, it must be because of a departure from these perfect laws of the Creator, or the introduction of those of man’s imperfect wisdom.- And infidel to the Divine laws, this he is too apt to do, as though God had not been sufficiently provident for the government of his intellectual and moral creation.- And in this officious interference, the beneficent operation of the principles he has established is impeded, the rightful exercise of conscience to its only Lord is assailed, the harmony of society interrupted, and wounding and disaffection introduced into the family, and the beauty of the words of God is marred.

In the progress of mind, in the Divine order, these things are being more and more manifest, and the design of our Heavenly Father, we are convinced, is, that his children should advance, under guidance of his wisdom and goodness, and arrayed in increasing brightness with all the attributes of his own Divine nature, show forth to the nations, in a life of practical goodness and purity , a light that will attract all minds to the Fountain whence it flows, and lead all to bow in obedience and adoration to the King immortal, invisible, the only true God, who is blessed for evermore.

Your excellent communication received last year, although refused a reading in our Yearly Meeting, has been perused by many, and has met a cordial response, and melted with sympathy many a feeling mind. May the spirit of kindness and forbearance actuate both you and us in all our movements. As Jesus was led as a lamb to slaughter, and as a sheep dumb before his shearer, so he opened not his mouth, let us also be possessed of that quiet, patient, and resigned state of mind, that manifests a willingness to suffer. For why should we despair when there is so much to encourage? Why should we lament when there is so much cause for joy? – joy, that pure principles of truth, love, and mercy, are breaking forth like the beams of the morning from their sectarian enclosures, and illuminating as it were the whole earth. And it is the faithful in heart, those who are willing to bear the scoffs and scorn of the world, and who can remain unmoved through good and evil report, that are the fitted instruments to advance this glorious reform in the earth.

We feel it more and more incumbent on us to support all our testimonies.

Having adverted to the company of our friend, Joseph A. Dugdale, with us, we may here add, that, by his meek and gentle spirit, and his faithful labors of love among us, he has won the hearts of many. May he be preserved by that all-sufficient arm which so manifestly upholds him through all his trials. In conclusion, dear friends, we would say, Hold all your meetings in the power of God. Be Steadfast, always abounding in the love of the Gospel, which will subdue every foe, and crown our path with peace, and may the God of love be with you all. Farewell

We are your affectionate friends,
John H. Robinson William Gatchel*
Asa D. Wright Elihu Durfee
Lewis Burtis Nathan G. Herendeen
Erastus Hanchett Stet White
Gideon Gifford George Spalding
Daniel Underwood Isaac Jacobs
Asa Wilson Elias DeGarmo
John S. Mott Elias Doty
Nathaniel Potter Azaliah Schooley
George Pryor Ezek Wilbur
Isaac Lapham Pliny Sexton
Webster Laing John Colvin
Griffith M. Cooper Rhoda De Garmo
Joseph Griffin Betsey Hoxie
Gordon T. Smith Sarah A. Burtis
William H. Gatchel Lucy Durfee
Maria E. Wilbur, (a Member of the Orthodox Meeting)
Daniel W. Chase Samuel B. Coleman
Daniel Pound Asa Smith*
Milicant Gifford Huldah Curtis
Oliver Durfee Sarah L. Hallowell
Timothy Howland Amy Wilson
Isaac S. Lapham* Susan R. Doty
Joseph Merritt Sedate Wright
Thomas M’Clintock Susanna Jacobs
Samuel Keese and Hannah Keese (being here with minutes from another yearly meeting:)
Lydia Ann Wilson Ann Pound
Mary Spalding Judith Robinson
Mary Ann Coleman Joseph Post*
Lorenzo Mabbett Welcome Gatchel
Huldah Gatchel Ann Van Alstine
Henry Howland Ann T. Jacobs
Wm. N. Van Alstine Phebe R. Thayer
Hicks Halstead Mary A. M’Clintock, jr.
Harriet Ann Gatchel Asa Palmer
Jonathan L. Shotwell Mary W. Post*
Benjamin Tripp Elizabeth Smith*
Ashor Pound Mary Bonnel
Stephen Shear Mary Ann M’Clintock
Henry Bonnel Catherine Bunker
Reuben Mosher Mary H. Hallowell
Philip W. Miller* Julia L. Willis
Sanford S. Coggeswell* Catherine Willis
Isaac Post* Rebecca Plumly*
Joel Pound May Bunker
Barnabas Coleman Lucinda Bunker
Edmund P. Willis Isabella Hance
William R. Hallowell Rosanna Green
Elihu Coleman Eliza D. Van Alstine
Charles Bonnel Deanna Bonnel
Sarah E. Titus Amy Post*
Elizabeth W. M’Clintock Sarah G. M’Clintock

*Those marked thus are not members of Genesee Yearly Meeting
[Above note is from the article.]

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