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Settlement of differences-Quakers, when they differ, abstain from violence-No instance of a duelGeorge Fox protested against going to law, and recommended arbitration-Laws relative to arbitration-Account of an arbitration-society, at Newcastle upon Tyne, on Quaker-principles-Its dissolution-Such societies might be usefully pro
MEN are so constituted by nature, and their mutual intercourse is such, that circumstances must unavoidably arise, which will occasion differences. These differences will occasionally rouse the passions; and, after all, they will still be to be settled. The Quakers, like other men, have their differences. But you rarely see any disturbance of the temper on this account. You rarely hear intemperate invectives. You are witness to no blows. If in the courts of law you have never seen their characters stained by convictions for a breach of the marriage-contract, or the crime of adultery; so neither have you seen them disgraced by convictions for brutal violence, or that most barbarous of all Gothic customs, the duel.
It is a lamentable fact, when we consider that we live in an age, removed above eighteen hundred years from the first promulgation of Christianity, one of the great objects of which was to insist upon the subjugation of the passions, that our children should not have been better instructed, than that we should now have to behold men, of apparently good education, settling their disputes by an appeal to arms. It is difficult to conceive what preposterous principles can actuate men, to induce them to such a mode of decision. Justice is the ultimate wish of every reasonable man in the termination of his casual differences with others. But, in the determination of cases by the sword, the injured man not unfrequently falls, while the aggressor sometimes adds to his offence, by making a widow or an orphan, and by the murder of of a fellow-creature. But it is possible the duellist may conceive that he adds to his reputation by decisions of this sanguinary nature. But surely he has no other reputation with good men, than that of a weak, or a savage, or an infatuated creature; and, if he falls, he is pitied by these on no other motive than that of his folly and of his crime. What philosopher can extol his courage, who, knowing the bondage of the mind while under the dominion of fashion, believes that more
courage is necessary in refusing a challenge, than in going into the field? What legislator can applaud his patriotism, when he sees him violate the laws of his country? What Christian his religion, when he reflects on the relative duties of man, on the law of love and benevolence that should have guided him, on the principle that it is more noble to suffer than to resist, and on the circumstance, that he may put himself into the doubly criminal situation of a murderer and a suicide by the same act?
George Fox, in his doctrine of the influence of the spirit as a divine teacher, and in that of the necessity of the subjugation of the passions in order that the inward man might be in a fit state to receive its admonitions, left to the society a system of education, which, if acted upon, could not fail of producing peaceable and quiet characters; but foreseeing that among the best men differences would unavoidably arise from their intercourse in business and other causes, it was his desire that these should be settled in a Christian manner. He advised therefore that no member should appeal to law; but that he should refer his difference to arbitration, by persons of exemplary character in the society. This mode of decision appeared to him to be consistent with the spirit of Christianity,
and with the advice of the apostle Paul, who recommended that all the differences among the Christians of his own time should be referred to the decision of the saints, or of such other Christians, as were eminent for their lives and conversation.
This mode of decision, which began to take place among the Quakers in the time of George Fox, has been continued by them to the present day. Cases, where property is concerned to the amount of many thousands, are determined in no other manner. By this process the Quakers obtain their verdicts in a way peculiarly satisfactory. For law-suits are at best tedious. They often destroy brotherly love in the individuals, while they continue. They excite also, during this time, not unfrequently, a vindictive spirit, and lead to family-feuds and quarrels. They agitate the mind also, hurt the temper, and disqualify a man for the proper exercise of his devotion. Add to this, that the expenses of law are frequently so great, that burthens are imposed upon men for matters of little consequence, which they feel as evils and incumbrances for a portion of their lives; burthens which guilt alone, and which no indiscretion, could have merited. Hence the Quakers experience advantages in the settlement of
their differences, which are known but to few others.
The Quakers, when any difference arises about things that are not of serious moment, generally settle it amicably between themselves; but in matters that are intricate and of weighty concern, they have recourse to arbitration. If it should happen, that they are slow in proceeding to arbitration, overseers, or any others of the society, who may come to the knowledge of the circumstance, are to step in and to offer their advice. If their advice is rejected, complaint is to be made to their own monthly meeting concerning them; after which they will come under the discipline of the society, and if they still persist in refusing to settle their differences or to proceed to arbitration, they may be disowned. I may mention here, that any member going to law with another, without having previously tried to accommodate matters between them according to the rules of the society, comes under the discipline in like
When arbitration is determined on, the Quakers are enjoined to apply to persons of their own society to decide the case. It is considered, however, as desirable, that they should not trouble their ministers, if they can help it, on these oc