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Forgot Password Registration. Smolenski notes that this crafted creole civic culture was inclusive of Europeans but exclusive of Africans and Native Americans, although the latter played an important role in the formation of the colony and throughout its history. The first generation of Quakers first had to develop a civic discourse that established their authority and at the same time to re-imagine English liberty and their Quaker theology in their new settings , and then to develop a manner in which the body politic could engage in that discourse.
Smolenski divides his work into three parts. That Penn himself hoped for religious toleration in his colony likely played a role in some of the discord. However, Smolenski makes a compelling argument for the existence of factionalism, and that there was political as well as spiritual wrangling within the early Quaker elite. Naturally, these high aspirations ran into opposition and concerns in England but for leaders such as William Penn, the most important goal for a cohesive Quaker identity was to create an entirely new society.
With the narrative of the Quaker past firmly established, Smolenski spends the rest of the book exploring Quaker publications in some depth. Penn wrote the constitutions of the colony in England in , hoping that a written constitution would help in the process of assimilating the body politic to the new world. Smolenski points out the flaw that in crafting the identity of the colony prior to settlement, the Quaker elite neglected to consider how they would change in the settlement process, how they would be creolized. Almost immediately, the Quaker settlers and their proprietor clashed over the process and form of government.
To encourage settlement, promoters and pamphlets spoke of the orderly world created in Pennsylvania, the easy naturalization for existing European populations and future immigrants in the territory and favorable conditions of the province. For Penn, the question remained as to how he could order his colony and reconfigure the settlement back to his original intentions. Knowing that words themselves were actions, Smolenski suggests Penn knew that words could become objects of power and disorderly confrontations among the elite and would not create an orderly society.
Here Smolenski makes his most compelling case for the struggle to establish political legitimacy present in the early years of the colony. For example, the very public debate over the light within, the nature of the body of Christ within, showcases how creolization and colonization can shift supposed accepted norms and identities.
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George Keith, a firebrand of sorts, an itinerant minister to other colonial communities, began asking for confession for membership. In the very public battle that emerged from these debates among the ministry one can see the struggle to transplant the Quaker body and its institution to North America.
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On each side, the use of British precedents from the Society of Friends are interpreted in very different ways while both sides had the same basic thrust: to maintain their Quakerness in the wilderness. The realities of the new world — the wilderness, Indians, and competing colonial religions and interests — did much to shape a creole identity for the Quakers. At times, the Anglican minority in the colony provided a threat by reporting back to London the amount of disarray in the colony.
Of particular concern was the threat to British hegemony in the region posed by the lack of military defense.
French-allied Indians raided throughout the region and Anglicans accused the Colonial Friends of economic liaisons with French pirates. A question that emerges from these readings is how pacifism could be expected to survive in the New World, with the constant threat of European rivalries and the threat of Native trade wars. While the traditional narrative paints the early years of Pennsylvania in a positive light regarding the Native population, Smolenski indicates that the situation was much more tenuous.
Regarding the portrait of Penn as a benevolent benefactor and friend of the Natives, Smolenski is not revisionist, per se, but he does suggest, accurately, that the reality was filled with more tension than a painting of happy Anglo-Indian relations in the colony portrays.
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