James Logan Begs Quakers to Drop Their Pacifism

This morning I leave for the NWTRCC Conference at the Birmingham Friends Meeting house in Birmingham, Alabama. While I’m away, assuming I can find an internet connection to work with, I’ll post some pre-prepared selections from the book I’m assembling — documents from the first two centuries of Quaker war tax resistance in America.

James Logan was a close associate of William Penn who had, , many roles in the government of Pennsylvania, including Chief Justice. He was a successful businessman and negotiator, published scientific papers on various subjects, and mentored Benjamin Franklin in philosophy and science.

, having left political life, crippled by an accident and a stroke, he wrote a powerful critique of Quaker pacifism in the hopes of getting the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting to revisit its discipline in this regard. The Meeting more or less completely blew him off.

My Friends,— It is with no small Uneasiness that I find myself concerned to apply thus to this Meeting: but as I have been longer and more deeply engrossed in the Affairs of Government, and I believe I may safely say, have considered the Nature of it more closely than any Man besides in the Province: as I have also from my Infancy been educated in the Way that I have since walked in, and I hope without Blemish, to the Profession; I conceive and hope you will think I have a Right to lay before you the heavy Pressure of Mind that some late Transactions in this small Government of ours has given me; through an apprehension, that not only the Reputation of Friends as a People, but our Liberties and Privileges in general may be deeply affected by them.

But on this Head, I think fit to mention in the first Place, that when above , our late Proprietor proposed to me at Bristol, to come over with him as his Secretary, after I had agreeably to his Advice taken time to consider of it, which I did very closely before I engaged, I had no scruple to accept of that, or of any other Post I have since held: being sensible that as Government is absolutely necessary amongst Mankind, so, though all Government, as I had clearly seen long before, is founded on Force, there must be some proper Persons to administer it. I was therefore the more surprised, when I found my Master, on a particular occasion in our Voyage hither, though coming over to exercise the Powers of it in his own Person here, shewed his sentiments were otherwise:…

This is Logan’s oblique reference to an episode that is told more explicitly in Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography (see The Picket Line, ). as his secretary, at one point the people on the ship thought that they were being persued by an enemy vessel. The captain armed the crew and passengers and told them to await an attack, although he said he knew that it was Quaker policy not to take up arms. The Quakers, except for Logan who was already a dissenter when it came to pacifism, went below-deck to hope for the best. It turned out to be a false alarm. Penn then chastized Logan in front of the others for taking up arms, and Logan replied acidly, “I being your servant, why did you not order me to come down? But you were willing enough that I should stay and help to fight the ship when you thought there was danger.”

That jab aside, the important part of these introductory paragraphs is where Logan reminds his readers that “all government… is founded on force.” He will work this point as a way of showing the inherent contradiction of being a pacifist legislator, or in believing in government on the one hand and believing that no violence — not even defensive violence — is ever justified, on the other.

…but as I have ever endeavoured to think and act consistently myself, observing that Friends had laid it down as a Principle that bearing of Arms even for Self-Defence is unlawful, being of a different Opinion in this respect, though I have ever condemned Offensive War, I therefore in a great Measure declined that due Attendance on their Meetings of Business that I might otherwise have given. I must here nevertheless add further; that I propose not in offering this, to advance Arguments in Support of the lawfulness of Self-Defence, which amongst those who for Conscience Sake continue in a Condition to put strictly in Practice the Precepts of our Saviour, would be altogether needless; but wherever there is a Private Property, and Measures taken to increase it by amassing Wealth according to our Practice, to a Degree that may tempt others to invade it, it has always appeared to me to be full as Justifiable to use Means to defend it when got, as to acquire it: Notwithstanding which I am sensible our Friends have so openly and repeatedly professed their Principles on that Head to the Government, and they have thereupon been so much distinguished by their Favours as a peaceable People, from whom no Plots or Machinations of any kind are to be feared, that I shall consider this, as I have said to be their standing and avowed Principle, and only offer to your Consideration, what I conceive to be a clear Demonstration, that all Civil Government as well as Military is founded on Force; and therefore the Friends as such in the strictness of their Principles, ought in no manner to engage in it;…

Or, to summarize: I’m not going to try to convince you that using violent force for self defense or the defense of one’s property is justifiable, though it is, but I do think I can convince you that violent force is an essential and omnipresent part of government, and you cannot reject the one without rejecting the other.

He then reminds his readers that their colonial government is part of a larger system of governments in which there are some quasi-contractual reciprocal arrangements that rule out pacifism — the grant by which Pennsylvania was founded included — and that the benefits people hope to have from having a government (the ability to suppress violent crime, the just adjudication of civil disputes, the preservation of liberties against foreign despots, and so forth) all rely on the government having the ability to deploy violent force, even if only as a last resort.

…As also, that as We are a Subordinate Government, and therefore accountable to a Superior one for our Conduct, it is expected by that Superior, that this Province as well as all the other British Colonies shall make the best Defence against a Foreign Enemy in its Power, as it was required to do by the late Queen Anne in the last French War, upon which the then Governor raised a Militia of three Companies of Volunteers, but for Want of a Law for its support, it dropped in about two Years after — and the like Orders may undoubtedly be expected again, when another War with France breaks out which is said now to appear unavoidable. That it is of the greater Importance to Britain, as it is for other Reasons most assuredly to Ourselves that the country should be defended, as it lies in the Heart of the other British Colonies on the Main: And that it is well known in Europe that from the vast Conflux of People into it from Germany and Ireland, numbers who can bear Arms are not wanting for a Defence, were there a Law for it, as there is in all the other British Colonies, I think without an exception.

That all Government is founded on Force, and ours as well as others, will be indisputably evident from this — King Charles Ⅱ., in his Grant of this Province to our Proprietor, directed that the Laws of England for the Descent of Land and the Preservation of the Peace, should continue the same, till altered by the Legislative Authority: and our Government continues on the same Plan, with Judges, Justices, Sheriffs, Clerks, Coroners, Juries, &c., all of whom who act by Commissioners, have them from the governor in the English Form: the English Law is pleaded in all our Courts, and our Practitioners copy as near as they can after the Practice in Westminster Hall. By that Law, when the Peace is commanded even by a Constable, all Obedience to that Command manifestly arises from a Sense in the Person or Persons commanded that Resistance would be punished; and, therefore, they choose to avoid it: but in Civil Cases of more importance the Sheriff who is the principal acting Officer executes the Judgments of the Court upon those they were given against, which they are obliged to comply with, how much soever against their will, for here also they know Resistance would be in vain; or if they attempt any, the Sheriff is obliged by the Law, without any Manner of Excuse, to find a sufficient Force, if to be had in his County, to compel to a Compliance. And in the Pleas as the Crown, besides that he is obliged to put to Death such Criminals of by the Law have been condemned to it, He, as general Conservator of the Peace, is likewise invested by the same Law with proper Powers for suppressing all Tumults, Riots, Insurrections and Rebellions on whatsoever Occasion they may arise, as far as the Posse or whole Force of his County may enable him; and for this end he receives, together with his Commission, the King’s Writ of Assistance, requiring all Persons within his District, to be aiding to him in these and all other cases, by which if need be, they may freely use Fire Arms and all manner of destructive Weapons, and are not at all accountable by the Law for any Lives they may take of those in the Opposition, anymore than a man is on the High Road for killing another who attempts to rob him: And such as refuse to assist the Sheriff are by the same Law liable to Fine and Imprisonment, from whence ’tis evident there is no Difference in the last Resort, between Civil and Military Government, and that the Distinction that some affect to make between the Lawfulness of the one and the other is altogether groundless — as none are killed in the Field, so none are punished with their Good will; a superior Force is employed in the one case as well as in the other, and the only difference that I have ever been able to discover in their Essentials is, that the Sheriff being but one Person in his County cannot possibly assemble any very great number together on any regular Method or Order, as in case of any Insurrection in the city Philadelphia would soon appear: but on the contrary in a regular Militia every man knows his commanding officer, and whither to repair on a proper call — and from these Premises it certainly follows that whoever can find Freedom in himself to join in Assembly in making Laws, as particularly for holding of courts, is so far concerned in Self-Defence, and makes himself essentially as obnoxious to censure as those who directly vote for it.

In other words: If you take part in enacting laws, or relying on courts and law enforcement to protect you and your property, you are employing violent measures of self-defense by proxy. Anyone who has scruples against supporting the violent self-defense as practiced by the military ought to feel just as tender around the conscience when it comes to supporting the judiciary, the police, and the jails.

But further, it is alleged that King Charles Ⅱ. very well knew our Proprietor’s Principles : To which ’tis answered, that amongst the other Powers granted to the Proprietor and his Deputies, He is created by the charter a Captain General with ample powers to levy War against any Nation or People not in Amity with the Crown of England, which in case he were not free to do by himself he might by his Deputies: and if he is invested with Powers to make an Invasive War, much more is it to be expected that he should defend his country against all Invaders. And I am a Witness that in , or somewhat less, that the Proprietor took the Administration on himself when last here, He found himself so embarrassed between the indispensable Duties of Government on the one hand, and his Profession on the other, that he was determined if he had staid to act by Deputy.

If I understand the preceding passage correctly, Logan is saying that Penn, having realized that his government was going to have to participate in military action despite his own scruples about it, planned to appoint someone to act as a sort of ethical insulator — whom Penn would empower to make the necessary military decisions that Penn himself was unwilling to make.

It is further alleged by our Friends, that no other was expected than that this should be a Colony of Quakers, and it is so reputed to this day: that they are willing themselves to rely on the sole Protection of Divine Providence, and others who would not do the same should have kept out of it, for nobody called or invited them. But it is answered to this, That the King’s Charter gives free leave to all his subjects without Distinction to repair to the country and settle in it: and more particularly the Proprietor’s own Invitation was general and without exception: and by the Laws he had passed himself, no Country, no Profession whatever, provided they owned a God, were to be excluded. That ’tis true our Friends at first made a large Majority in the Province, but they are said now to make upon a moderate computation not above a Third of the Inhabitants: That although they allege they cannot for conscience sake bear Arms, as being contrary to the peaceable Doctrine of Jesus Christ, (whose own Disciples nevertheless are known to have carried Weapons,) Yet without Regard to others of Christ’s Precepts, full as express against laying up Treasure in this World, and not caring for Tomorrow, they are as intent as any others whatever, in amassing Riches, the great Bait and Temptation to our Enemies to come and plunder the Place: in which Friends would be very far from being the only sufferers, for their neighbors must equally partake with them, who therefore by all means desire a law for a Militia, in a regular Manner to defend themselves and the country as they have in the other Colonies.

A frequent argument used against Quaker pacifists exploited the fact that many of them were well-off. In this argument, the military was acting to protect their lives and property from pirates, Frenchmen, Hessians, Indians, and other such plunderers, for which they had every reason to be thankful, but they were nowhere to be found when it was time to join in and help out. In its crudest form, it’s just an appeal to envy designed to appeal to poorer frontier settlers and non-Quaker recent immigrants.

Logan’s superficially similar argument is more interesting. It has two branches:

  1. Pacifist Quakers insist on strictly following Christ’s teaching that you should love your enemy and turn the other cheek because all who live by the sword shall die by the sword:

    Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

    But they don’t seem to take the same attitude toward a verse like this one:

    Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

    Is this hypocritical?
  2. Furthermore, could it be that it’s a package deal? That by storing up for yourself treasures on earth, you then come to rely on a government to protect those treasures — violently if necessary — against those who may want to take them from you?

The threat against the treasures Pennsylvanians have stored up on earth was not just in the abstract:

That in the last French War, Pennsylvania was but an inconsiderable Colony, but now, by its extended commerce, it has acquired a very great Reputation, and particularly that Philadelphia has the Name of a rich City, is known to have no manner of Fortification, and is, as has been said, a tempting Bait by Water from the Sea: and by Land the whole country lies exposed to the French, with whom a war is daily expected: That the French in their last War with England were so greatly distressed in Europe, by a current of yearly Losses, that they were glad to set quiet where they might, but now it is much otherwise, as they appear rather in a condition to give Laws to their Neighbors: That our Indians unhappily retiring Westward have opened a ready Road and Communication between this Province and Canada, by their settling at Allegheny, a branch of that great River Mississippi, which branch extending a thousand miles from its Mouth where it enters the said River, reaches even into this Province; and between its Waters, and the Western Branches of Susquelianua, there is but a small Land-carriage: That the French exceedingly want such a country as this to supply their Islands with provisions, and our Rivers for an easier Inlet into that vast country of Louisiana which they possess on Mississippi than they now have by the barred Mouth of it, that empties itself a great way within the shoal Bay of Mexico: and they have many large nations of Indians in Alliance with them, to facilitate their conquests: for all which Reasons our numerous back Inhabitants, as well as others, ought to be obliged to furnish themselves with arms, and to be disciplined as in other Colonies for their own proper Defence, which would be no Manner of charge to the Public, and but little to Particulars.

These, I think, are the principal Arguments adduced by those who plead for a Law for Self-Defence, to which I shall add these other weighty considerations, that may more particularly affect Friends as a People.

There’s another thing Logan would like to remind people of: if the Quaker-dominated legislature of Pennsylvania insists on dragging its feet in supporting the mother country’s military plans, the mother country may have second thoughts about holding up their end the charter under which Quakers in Pennsylvania have enjoyed unprecedented political liberties:

The Government, and particularly the Parliament of Britain, appear to have this War very much at Heart, in which they spare no charge in fitting out large Fleets with Land Forces, and expect that all their Colonies will in the same Manner exert themselves, as the Assemblies of all the others have in some measure done, ours excepted, not only in their Contributions, but they have also generally a regular Militia for their Defence.

Our Friends have recommended themselves to the Government not only by their peaceable Deportment, as has been already observed, but by complying with its Demands in cheerfully contributing by the payment of their Taxes towards every War. Yet they are admitted into no Offices of the Government above those of the respective Parishes where they live, except that some have undertaken to receive Public Money: and though tolerated in their Opinions as they interfere not with the Administration; yet these Opinions are far from being approved by the Government, that when they shall be urged as a Negative to putting so valuable a country as this, and situate as has been mentioned, in a proper Posture of Defence, those who plead their Privileges for such a Negative, may undoubtedly expect to be divested of them, either by act of Parliament, or a Quo-Warranto from the King against their charter, for it will be accounted equal to betraying it. And this, besides the irreparable Loss to ourselves, most prove a Reproach and vast Disadvantage to the Profession every where.

In other words, if we keep this up we may end up not just screwing ourselves, but Quakers back in England as well.

’Tis alleged the Governor made a false step last year, in encouraging or suffering our Servants to enlist, for which he has been abridged by the Assembly of the Salary for a year and a Half, that had for many years before been allowed to our Governors. But as this is interpreted by the Ministry as a Proof of his extraordinary Zeal for the King’s Service, his conduct herein, as also his Letter to the Board of Trade, however displeasing to us, will undoubtedly recommend him the more to the Regard of our Superiors, in whose Power we are, and accordingly we may expect to hear of it.

The episode Logan just described came up in Isaac Sharpless’s history of Pennsylvania that I reprinted here on . In short: indentured servants had been enrolled in a voluntary militia, which annoyed their masters. When the Legislature voted one of its £3,000 “for the King’s use” look-the-other-way grants, it attached a condition that the militia stop accepting these servants, and discharge those that were enrolled. The Governor got indignant, refused to accept the money and the attached conditions, and recommended that the crown come up with some way to ban Quakers from colonial legislatures. This pissed off the Quaker legislators, who responded by refusing to pay the Governor’s salary.

Our Province is now rent into Parties, and in a most Unchristian manner divided: Love and Charity, the grand characteristics of the Christian Religion, are in a great measure banished from among the People, and contention too generally prevails: But for the weighty Reasons that have been mentioned in this Paper, it is not to be doubted that those who are for a Law for Defence, if the War continues and the country be not ruined before, must in Time obtain it. It is therefore proposed to the serious and most Weighty consideration of this Meeting, Whether it may not at this Time be advisable, that all such, who for conscience sake cannot join in any Law for Self-Defence, should not only decline standing Candidates at the ensuing Election of Representatives themselves, but also advise all others who are equally scrupulous to do the same — and as Animosities and Faction have of late greatly prevailed amongst us, and at all times there prevails with too many, an ill-judged parsimonious Disposition, who for no other reason than to save their money, though probably on some other pretense, may vote for such as they may think by their opposition to the Governor, may most effectually answer that end: That such Friends should give out publicly before hand when they find they are named, that they will by no means stand or serve, though chosen: and accordingly — that the meeting recommend this to the Deputies from the several Monthly or Quarterly meetings in this Province — all which from the sincerest Zeal for the Public Good, Peace of the Country, and not only the Reputation, but the most Solid Interest of Friends as a People, is (I say again) most seriously recommended to your consideration by Your true Friend and Well wisher, James Logan.

The Philadelphia Yearly Meeting referred this letter to a committee, which looked it over and rejected it from consideration on the excuse that “the Letter containing matters of a Military and Geographical nature, it was by no means proper to be read to the general meeting.” One member of this committee objected. One account puts it this way:

Robert Strethill singly declared that considering that Letter came from one who was known to have had abundance of experience, was an old member, and had a sincere affection for the Welfare of the Society, he was apprehensive should this Letter be refused a reading in the Meeting, such a proceeding would not only disgust him but the Body of Friends in England, especially as it might be supposed to contain several things that were intended for the good of the Society at these fickle and precarious times — but John Bringhouse plucked him by the coat and told him with a sharp tone of voice, “Sit thee down Robert, Thou art single in thy opinion.”

So at the time, Logan’s plea landed with a thud, and seemed to have no effect. It was prophetic, however. In , the French did attack Pennsylvania, through their Indian proxies. Quakers from the mother country did put pressure on Pennsylvania legislators to take the pressure off. Quaker legislators did go further than before in bending the rules to vote for military requisitions. And , Quaker Meetings in which pacifist principles were still maintained did ask their members to resign their positions in the legislature.