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Candor to Frederick Douglass, June 5, 1848


Rochester, 6 mo. 5th, 1848

In the North Star of the 26th and 5th mo., I observe a communication written by Emma Steer, purporting to be a memorial concerning her brother, Israel French, deceased, in which the writer takes occasion to introduce the subject of the difficulties and ultimate separation of the Society of Friends, in which Elias Hicks was the first mover, and in which, through its whole course, he bore so prominent a part, and which eventually ended in his disownment, together with a large number of his followers, by that part of the society since called Orthodox. The writer assumes that his first offence given to society, or at least to his principal accusers, was his testimony against slavery. I was acquainted with Elias Hicks, from very early life; and from the time I was capable of observing or understanding such things, I always considered him to be a firm, persevering and consistent advocate of the slave, and for the colored people generally; and the writer might have said much more in commendation of his zeal and labors in that cause, than she has said, and it would have met in my mind a cordial response. But he was very far from standing alone in society in his antislavery principles or feelings; there have been many hundreds in that society, for perhaps a century or more. that have been as honest and as faithful friends to the slave as Elias Hicks, though, it may be, but a few have had the opportunity or ability to labor as much and as efficiently in the cause as he did; at least at the time he lived, and was at the most active stage of life. But as to his anti-slavery principles, or any measures which he pursued under their influence, being his first offence to society, or any offence at all, I feel warranted in saying, that that reproach cast upon the Society of Friends by the writer of the article under review, is entirely groundless and incorrect.

When I first became dissatisfied with some of the doctrines promulgated by Elias Hicks, and for several years subsequent thereto, I did not know that another individual in society was so; and when the controversy, which gradually arose, became general, much was said and much was written on the occasion, during which I was a close observer of what passed; and in all I ever saw, in print or in manuscript, or ever heard in conversation, nothing of the kind ever met my eye or my ear. But as the writer of the article appears to have lived several hundred miles from the place where Elias Hicks was treated with and disowned, and as a lapse of near twenty years has passed since that time, it seems to form some excuse for her mistake, for such I charitably believe it to be.







Candor to Frederick Douglass. PLSr: NS, 30 June 1848. Corrects 26 May 1848 letter attributing schism in Society of Friends to slavery issues.


This document was calendared in the published volume and has not been published in full before.


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