“Fire at the Mast”
The Practice of Peace
From the beginning, early English Quakers were working out how to put principles into practice, and their observances were diverse. Some participated in military activities wholeheartedly; others such as Thomas Lurting and Edward Coxere found it necessary to declare that they would no longer bear arms; still others, like Henry Pitman, responded to violence and persecution in complicated ways. The dominant histories of the peace testimony tend to simplify this diversity among early Quakers, and adopt one of two competing interpretations. The more traditional interpretation is that the peace testimony was inherent in Quaker spirituality and was observed before 1660, from the earliest times; in reconciling this pietistic theory with conflicting evidence, proponents minimize or “define out” those Quakers who bore arms or were violent. The second interpretation is that the peace testimony arose in the Declarations of 1660 as a strategic reaction to the violent uprising of other sects; proponents of this pragmatic theory see the testimony as politically self‐protective and downplay both the prior practice of peace principles and the spirituality of the testimony.
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