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A Portraiture of Quakerism, Volume 1 by Clarkson

In any of the quarterly meetings


[Footnote

27: Viz. numbers 1,2,3,4,7,8,9,10,11,12]

The deputies who are now generally four in number for each quarterly meeting, that is, four of each sex (except for the quarterly meetings of York and London, the former of which generally sends eight men and the [28] latter twelve, and each of them the like number of females) having received their different documents, set forward on their journey. Besides these many members of the society repair to the metropolis. The distance of three or four hundred miles forms no impediment to the journey. A man cannot travel at this time, but he sees the Quakers in motion from all parts, shaping their course to London, there to exercise, as will appear shortly, the power of deputies, judges, and legislators in turn, and to investigate and settle the affairs of the society for the preceding year.

[Footnote 28: The quarterly meeting of London includes Middlesex.]

It may not be amiss to mention a circumstance, which has not unfrequently occurred upon these occasions. A Quaker in low circumstances, but of unblemished life, has been occasionally chosen as one of the deputies to the metropolis even for a county, where the Quaker-population has been considered to be rich. This deputy has scarcely been able, on account of the low state of his finances, to accomplish his journey, and has been known to travel on foot from distant parts. I mention this circumstance

to shew that the society in its choice of representatives, shews no respect to persons, but that it pays, even in the persons of the poor, the respect that is due to virtue.

The day of the yearly meeting at length arrives. Whole days are now devoted to business, for which various committees are obliged to be appointed. The men, as before, retire to a meeting-house allotted to them, to settle the business for the men and the society at large, and the women retire to another, to settle that, which belongs to their own sex. There are nevertheless, at intervals, meetings for worship at the several meeting houses in the metropolis.

One great part of the business of the yearly meeting is to know the state of the society in all its branches of discipline for the preceding year. This is known by hearing the answers brought to the queries from the several quarterly meetings, which are audibly read by the clerk or his assistant, and are taken in rotation alphabetically. If any deficiency in the discipline should appear by means of these documents, in any of the quarterly meetings, remarks follow on the part of the auditory, and written advices are ordered to be sent, if it should appear necessary, which are either of a general nature, or particularly directed to those where the deficiency has been observed.

Another part of the business of the yearly meeting is to ascertain the amount of the money, called "FRIENDS SUFFERINGS," that is of the money, or the value of the goods, that have been taken from the Quakers for [29] tithes and church dues; for the society are principled against the maintenance of any religious ministry, and of course cannot conscientiously pay toward the support of the established church. In consequence of their refusal of payment in the latter case, their goods are seized by a law-process, and sold to the best bidder. Those, who have the charge of these executions, behave differently. Some wantonly take such goods, as will not sell for a quarter of their value, and others much more than is necessary, and others again kindly select those, which in the sale will be attended with the least loss. This amount, arising from this confiscation of their property, is easily ascertained from the written answers of the deputies. The sum for each county is observed, and noted down. The different sums are then added together, and the amount for the whole kingdom within the year is discovered.


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