Law and Gospel Order: resolving commercial disputes in colonial Philadelphia
by Ester Sahle (University of Bremen)
In the wake of the Libor scandal in 2012, Barclay’s bank suffered severe reputational damage. In response, its CEO promised a return to the bank’s Quaker roots. With this he referred to Barclay’s history as a Quaker-founded bank, and the proverbial Quaker honesty. The idea of the honest Quaker businessman is part of popular culture and historians have argued that honesty in business was an inherent trait of Quakerism from its beginnings.
The Society of Friends, learned opinion would have it, disowned culpable bankrupts. Thereby, it created an incentive for Friends to be honest in their conduct of business. The empirical basis for these claims however is curiously thin. The literature cites few actual instances of disownments for business-related offences from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Most known cases stem from the nineteenth century, when this was indeed common practice. The story of Quaker…
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I have been asked to write about my experience of using the Library of the Society of Friends. I could give a very short answer to this…it’s great. It’s everything you could wish for as a researcher, a friendly, peaceful place. I’m working towards a PhD about early modern Quaker merchants, and in the three years that I’ve been doing research, I have received more support here than at any other institution. I’ve been visiting the Library regularly and it’s always been a very pleasant experience.
I knew very little about Quakers when I started. Visiting the Library changed this very quickly. It appears to contain copies of everything ever written by and about Quakers, from the 17th century until today…
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[In our mini-series ‘A Page in the Life’, each post briefly introduces a new writer and a single page from their manuscript. In this post, Dr Esther Sahle (@EstherSahle) of the University of Bremen offers us a glimpse of the diary of a young Quaker girl in eighteenth-century London, a manuscript which has been almost entirely neglected by historians.]
On October 19th, 1769, ‘at 6 o’clock in the morning’, and with ‘unspeakable regret’, seventeen-year old Betty Fothergill of Warrington, Yorkshire, climbed into a carriage bound for London. Contrary to expectation, she ended up having a fantastic time. Spending the winter months visiting relatives in the capital, she recorded her adventures and reflections in a diary. This tells of countless social engagements with cousins and friends. Their main topic of conversation appears to have been their peers’ marriages and marriage prospects. With biting irony Betty…
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