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religious freedom

To those of our Brethren
who have Disowned Us

By the Free Quakers

CBN.comBrethren:--Among the very great number of persons whom you have disowned for matters religious and civil, a number have felt a necessity of uniting together for the discharge of those religious duties which we undoubtedly owe to God and to one another. We have accordingly met, and having seriously considered our situation, agreed to establish and endeavor to support, on the ancient and sure foundation, meetings for public worship, and meetings for conducting our religious affairs. And we rejoice in a firm hope, that as we humble ourselves before God, his presence will be found in them, and his blessing descend and rest upon them.

As you have by your proceedings against, separated yourselves from, us and declared that you have no unity with us, you have compelled us, however unwillingly, to become separate from you. And we are free to declare to you and the world, that we are not desirous of having any mistake which we happen to make laid to your charge; neither are we willing to have any of your errors brought as guilt against us. To avoid these, seeing that you have made the separation, we submit to have a plain line of distinction made between us and you. But there are some points which seem to require a comparison of sentiments between you and us, and some kind of decision to be made upon them. The property of that Society of which we and you were once joint members, is far from being inconsiderable, and we have done nothing which can afford even a pretension of our having forfeited our right therein.
Whether you have or have not a right to declare to the world your sentiments of the conduct of any individual; or whether you have or have not a right to sit in judgment over and pass sentence upon your Christian brethren differing in sentiment from you, although educated among you, are not questions now to be considered: but you having taken upon you to do those things, it remains only to be enquired, what are the consequences in law and equity of your having so done. Surely you will not pretend that our right is destroyed by those acts of yours. But we suggest to your consideration, Whether your conduct has or has not disqualified you to hold any part of that property? A serious and full consideration, of this question, and the critical and strikingly singular situation in which you stand, cannot injure you; but it may, possibly, induce you to consider, with the more candour and readiness, what equity requires to be done by you toward us, or by us toward you; and tend to a decision the most proper between brethren differing in sentiment one from another concerning their respective rights to property, yet each believing in him whose precept leads us, "to do unto others as we would they should do unto us."

Whatever may have been the consequences to yourselves, either of your conduct toward us as friends to the present revolution; or of your conduct in other cases, less immediately respecting us, it seems to be unquestionably certain, that we have not done anything which can possibly forfeit our right. And we see no reason why we should surrender it up to you; but think it a duty incumbent on us to assert our claim.

As a place for holding our meetings for worship and meetings for business relative to the Society, is become necessary for us, since you have separated yourselves from us, by testifying against us, and thereby rendering it highly improper for us to appear among you, as one people, at your meetings; we think it proper for us to use, apart from you, one of the houses built by Friends in this city for those purposes. We are desirous of doing this in the most decent and unexceptionable manner, and we are willing to hear anything which you may choose to say on the subject. And therefore we thus invite you to the opportunity of doing it, and of shewing what degree of kindness and brotherly love toward us, still remains among you. We also mean to use the burial ground, whenever the occasion shall require it. For, however, the living may contend, surely the dead may lie peaceably together.

Lest any may infer too much from this representation, we think it proper explicitly to declare, that should our right to the property in question be found, in the law, to be superior to yours, from any consideration whatever, it is far, very far from our wish to seclude you from a joint participation with us in the use of it. Neither do we mean to solicit a decision in law, unless you by your conduct compel us to it.

We sincerely and earnestly desire to have this subject amicably, equitably and speedily adjusted, and request that this free communication of our sentiments may be made known to all who are usually consulted on business among you, and that, for this purpose, it may be read when you next meet together on religious business.

As Christians, labouring in some degree to forgive injuries, we salute you, and though rejected by you, we are your friends and brethren. Signed in and on behalf of the said Meeting, by,

                            SAMUEL WETHERILL, JR., Clerk.

The foregoing is copied from the original which was presented to Philadelphia Monthly Meeting. The following is endorsed on the back, in a handwriting evidently contemporaneous with the transaction.

The printed copy of a paper presented to the Monthly Meeting of Friends of Philadelphia, on the 27th of the 7th month, 1781, by Timothy Matlack, attended by Moses Bartram and White Matlack, the said T. M. saying "that they were appointed by a Monthly Meeting of "Friends, by some called the Free Quakers, to deliver the same, and desired it might be read," and giving it to the Clerk it was laid on the table; upon which the said Timothy and his companions withdrew. Our meeting proceeded on our usual business, and at the close of it a Committee of five were appointed to inspect the Contents of the said paper, and Report their Judgment to a future meeting of the propriety of reading it in our meeting, who knowing that a paper of the like kind had been the same week delivered in the like manner to the Monthly Meetings for the northern and southern districts, and that a committee was appointed by each of those meetings also to consider the propriety of reading the same in those meetings: The three Committees in a few days met together and on comparing the several papers found they were exact copies of each other, and after deliberation on the contents, which were new and extraordinary, manifesting a disposition for Contest, and to give Friends trouble, it was advisable to call together a great number of Friends selected from each of the Monthly Meetings, in order for further consultatoi on the subject, and that unanimity might prevail in our conclusion, who accordingly met, when the papers were again read, and after a full communication of sentiments the following report was agreed to be verbally delivered to eahc of our succeeding Monthly Meetings--viz. "We have considered the contents of the papers presented to our last meeting by Timothy Matlack and othersm and are of the judgment that it is improper to be read in the meeting, of which we think the parties concerned will have grounds to be convinced on a cool and dispassionate reconsideration of the nature and tendency of the requisition they make."
Which report being accordinglymade to each of our Monthly Meetings in the eighth month and approved, it was agreed that the Clerk of each meeting should give the same verbally as the answer of the meeting to Timothy Matlack or eithr of the persons who attended with him if they should apply,or in case of an application to any other Friend, by any of the said persons, they should be referred for an answer to the Clerk of each meeting respectively, which was done accordingly by the said Clerks respectively to the said T.M. 


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