“To Looke to Our Selefs”
Ascribing Motives to a Quaker Government in Wartime
The Rhode Island Colony was militarily active in King Philip's War, although the level of the central government's involvement was different from that of its neighboring colonies. It did not, for example, field a colony‐wide army; it did not act within the territory of other colonies; it relied on local towns and local councils of war during much of the war; it provided for conscientious objection until Quakers lost their dominant position in the elections of 1677 and the Exemption of 1673 was repealed. It was in the interest of the other colonies to downplay Rhode Island's contributions to the war effort, which they attributed to the fact that Rhode Island's leaders were Quakers. Historians, too, have echoed this assumption, although there is no written evidence that the peace testimony served as a curb on Rhode Island's decisions other than the Exemption. The Quaker government itself cited no principles of peace, explaining its constraints as stemming from economic difficulties, from threats to its sovereign rights, and from moral qualms about breaking promises to the Indians.
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