A plea for the poor

by John Woolman

Other authorsPhillips P. Moulton (Introduction)
Pamphlet, 2001

Status

Available

Call number

CP 357/2

Publication

Wallingford, Pa. : Pendle Hill Publications, c2001.

User reviews

LibraryThing member bookcrazed
Born in 1720, John Woolman is, more frequently than any other, dubbed the Quaker saint. He practiced what he preached, and it was rarely an easy or popular path that he chose. Published in 1793, A Plea for the Poor was his treatise on the causes of poverty, a gently chastising tract addressed to the wealthy. Poverty, he wrote, is caused by wasteful consumption, and the antidote is to lead a simpler life.

He addressed the evils of slavery as an example of an institution that exploits one class to support the luxurious lifestyle of another. Woolman was one of the first among Quakers to condemn the practice and became quite unpopular among those of his Quaker brethren who depended on slavery to operate their plantations. But by 1830, the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) were requiring their membership to free their slaves; their activist stance as abolitionists was underway.

In typical Quaker fashion, Woolman addressed the subject of slavery thoughtfully and tactfully: “When the ancestors of these people were imported from Africa, some I believe bought them with intent to treat them kindly as slaves. They bought them as though those violent men had a right to sell them, but I believe without weightily considering the nature and tendency of such a bargain, and thus building on an unrighteous foundation, a veil was gradually drawn over a practice very grievous and afflicting to great numbers of the Gentiles.”
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LibraryThing member QuakerReviews
This pamphlet is a reprint of Woolman's essay (first published in 1793, after his death), along with a brief introduction by Phillips Moulton. Woolman wrote a rambling argument clearly attributing poverty, oppression, and war to the accumulation of wealth and its attendant power. He is very plain, though gentle, in his condemnation of oppression of the poor and slaves, of the desire for gathering wealth for luxury and ease, and of the lack of empathy, as utterly contrary to God's principle of universal righteousness, justice, and love. Woolman calls for us to live plain and simple lives, without luxury, so we can live in brotherhood (sic), happiness, and close relationship with God.
Woolman is our great Quaker prophet, and his 18th century English (totally comprehensible) still speaks powerfully and eloquently to us.
Woolman is indeed remarkable for his love for everybody, expressed in his gentleness as he explains the depth of the challenge to us. It is interesting to note some of our other wonderful more recent Quaker prophets writing about poverty and wealth, such as Mildred Binns Young (PHPs 90, 109, and 145), Alice and Staughton Lynd (PHP 326), David Morse (PHP 356), Tom Head (PHP 405), Paul Christiansen (PHP 429), and Steve Chase (PHP431).
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ISBN

0875743579 / 9780875743578

Local notes

Pendle Hill Pamphlet 357

Other editions

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Call number

CP 357/2

Barcode

5135
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