Page images

Quakers can you see sensibility from the same cause? The dress too of the members of this Society gives them an appearance of gravity and dulness. It makes them also shy of their fellow-citizens. But gravity, and dulness, and shyness, have generally, each of them, the appearance of coldness of manners

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]


Another trait is that of Evasiveness in Speechthis

an appearance only, arising from a peculiar regard to truthand from a caution about the proper use of words, induced by circumstances in the discipline, and by the peculiarities in the Quaker

language. It is alleged against the members of this Society, as another bad feature in their character, that they are not plain and direct, but that they are evasive in their answers to any questions that may be asked them.

There is no doubt that the world, who know scarcely any thing about the Quakers, will have some reason, if they judge from their outward manner of expression, to come to such a conclusion. There is often a sort of hesitation in their speech, which has the appearance of evasiveness. But though

be such an appearance, their answers to questions are full and accurate when finally given; and unquestionably there is

there may


no intention in them' either to hold back any thing, or to deceive.

This outward appearance, strange to relate, arises in part from an amiable trait in their character ! Their great desire to speak the truth, and not to exceed it, occasions often a sort of doubtfulness of speech. It occasions them also, instead of answering a question immediately, to ask other questions, that they may see the true bearings of the thing intended to be known. The same appearance of doubt runs also through the whole Society in all those words, which relate to promises, from the same cause ; for the Quakers, knowing the uncertainty of all human things, and the impossibility of fulfilling but provisionally, seldom, as I have observed before, promise any thing positively, that they may not come short of the truth. The desire, therefore, of uttering the truth has in part brought this accusation upon their heads.

Other circumstances also, to be found within the constitution of the Society, have a tendency to produce the same effect. In their monthly, and quarterly,

and yearly meetings for discipline, they are

taught taught by custom to watch the propriety of the expressions that are used in the wording of their minutes, that these may accurately represent the sense of the persons present, And this habit of caution about the use of words, in the affairs of their own Society, naturally begets a caution concerning it also in their intercourse with the world.

The peculiarities of their language produce also a similar circumspection. For, where people are restrained from the use of expressions, which are generally adopted by others.; and this on the belief, that, as a highly professing people, they ought to be watchful over their words as well as their actions, a sort of hesitation will accompany them, or a pause will be perceptible, while they are choosing as it were the proper words for a reply to any of the questions that may be asked them


[blocks in formation]

Another trait is that of Slynessthis is an appear

ance only, arising from the former trait-and from that of coldness of manners--and from the

great sobriety of the Quaker-character. Another bad quality, which the world has attached to the Quakers, is that of being a Sly People. This character has been long given them. We find it noticed by Pope :

“ The Quaker sly, the Presbyterian sour." This charge is grounded on appearances. It arises in part from the last-mentioned feature in their character; for, if men are thought cautious in the use of their words, and evasive in their answers, whether they be so or not, they will be marked as sly.

It arises again from the supposed trait of want of animation, or of coldness of manners : for, if men of good understanding, in consequence of a proper subjugation of their passions, appear always to be cool, they will have an appearance of wariness.

« PreviousContinue »