History, History Column

S.P.I.C.E.S. (No. Not the holiday kind…)

by ©2022 Sarah Becker

‘Tis the holidays, a season many celebrate with tasty treats. Foods made with spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. For the Friends Meeting, followers of the Quaker faith—a Protestant faith—SPICES is an acronym for religious Testimonies. According to Swarthmore College, of Quaker origin, Quakers use the word testimony “to describe ‘a witness to the Living Truth Within the human heart’—as it is acted out in everyday life.” The six Quaker Testimonies are: Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality, and Stewardship of the Earth. Integrity, adherence to truth and an ethical code is a given.

Peace Testimony: “The Peace testimony is based on the same understanding of the nature of God and of human beings,” Swarthmore said. “How can one kill another child of God, a potential channel of Truth, no matter how misguided he or she may seem at the moment?” The testimony has led many Friends to oppose war; to seek a reconciling force between peoples and nations in conflict.

“Your principles & conduct are well known to me,” President and retired Revolutionary War General George Washington wrote the Society of Quakers in 1789, “and it is doing the People called Quakers no more than Justice to say, that [except their declining to share with others the burthren of the common defense] there is no Denomination among us who are more exemplary and useful Citizens.”

Alexandria educator Benjamin Hallowell [1799-1877] “never doubted the correctness of the Quaker peace testimony.” He remained a pacifist during the War of 1812. An Alexandria exception: Disowned Quaker, Confederate army Major and inventor of the modern knuckle coupler Eli Hamilton Janney [1831-1912].

Two of America’s 46 Presidents were Quakers, Herbert Hoover [R-CA, 1929-1933] and Richard Nixon [R-CA, 1969-1974]. “The son of a Quaker blacksmith, Herbert Clark Hoover brought to the Presidency an unparalleled reputation for public service—as an engineer, administrator and humanitarian,” The White House wrote.

“[O]nly through the guidance of Almighty Providence can I hope to discharge [government’s] ever-increasing burdens,” President Hoover said on March 4, 1929. Dangers included the failure of our system of criminal justice and the relation of government to business; education and public health, world peace and party responsibilities.

“We are steadily building a new race—a new civilization great in its own attainments,” Hoover continued. “The most malign of all these dangers today is disregard and disobedience of law.”

“We maintain party government not to promote intolerant partisanship, but…for accountability of government to the people,” Hoover concluded.

“Some of President Richard Nixon’s most acclaimed achievements came in his quest for world stability,” The White House agreed.

“For the first time, because the people of the world want peace, and the leaders of the world are afraid of war, the times are on the side of peace,” President Nixon said on January 20, 1969. “The greatest honor history can bestow is the title of peacemaker…This honor now beckons America.”

“During visits in 1972 to Beijing and Moscow, he reduced tensions with China and the U.S.S.R.,” The White House suggested. “Nixon’s summit meetings with Russian leader Leonid I. Brezhnev produced a treaty to limit strategic nuclear weapons. In January 1973, he announced an accord with North Viet Nam to end American involvement in Indochina.”

U.S. Representative Nixon lived in Alexandria’s Park Fairfax from 1947 until 1951. Why, because in part Alexandria appreciates its understated Quaker heritage. Famous Quakers: like Dr. Elisha Cullen Dick [1762-1825] George Washington’s attending physician and founder of the Alexandria Masonic lodge to which Washington belonged; Alexandria apothecary, minister and manumitter Edward Stabler [1769-1831], and the Hallowell family.

Benjamin Hallowell, originally from Pennsylvania came to Alexandria in 1824 to open a boarding school. The school was initially located on Oronoco Street, an “unhealthy edge of town.”

“The subscribers intend opening in Alexandria, D.C. a BOARDING SCHOOL in which will be taught Spelling, Reading, Writing, Grammar; Geography with the use of the globes, Arithmetic, and the various branches of Mathematical Science, together with their application to the principles of Natural Philosophy,” Hallowell announced. By 1835 the relocated school “had students from fourteen different States and Territories; from South America, Cuba and England.”

Admirers describe Hallowell as a schoolmaster, scientist, and practical farmer; a moral man in dialogue with nature.  His Alexandria resume includes—in addition to the School and the Philosophical Society—The Benevolent Society (anti-slavery), The Lyceum Company (adult education), and the Alexandria Water Company (system design).

Benjamin Hallowell sold the boarding school in 1859, the same year English naturalist and agnostic Charles Darwin published his Theory of Evolution.  Darwin’s thesis “shocked religious Victorian society. However his nonreligious biology appealed to the rising class of professional scientists.”

Hallowell advocated tirelessly, successfully for the creation of Pennsylvania’s Swarthmore College. Swarthmore, one of the country’s first co-educational Colleges was founded in 1864. His last major work, Geometrical Analysis [1872] is dedicated “To Swarthmore College, including the Youthful Laborers of both sexes…who are devoting themselves to the pursuit of knowledge of the True…in every Department of Science and Nature.”

Equality Testimony: “If God is directly accessible to all persons regardless of age, gender, race, or nationality; economic, social or educational position—if every person is held equal in God’s love and has equal potential to be a channel for the revelation of God’s Truth—then all persons are to be equally valued,” Swarthmore continued. “There is that Seed that Light—there is—‘that of God’ in every person.”

“[Quaker] Mary Stabler [Edward’s wife] had a concern for my [wife] Margaret to open a school for girls,” Hallowell acknowledged. “Margaret consented to do so….”

Quaker minister Lucretia Mott [1793-1880] delivered her Discourse on Woman in 1850. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica “Solely because of her sex, she was paid only half the salary male teachers were receiving.” Lucretia was a teacher, as was her husband James Mott.

Mrs. Mott founded the American Equal Rights Association [AERA] in 1866. Representatives of the AERA “protested against any change in the Constitution of the United States, or legislation by Congress, which shall longer violate the principle of Republican government, by proscriptive distinctions in rights of suffrage and citizenship, on account of color or sex….”

It was Quaker advocate Alice Paul who first introduced the woman’s Equal Rights Amendment [ERA]—in 1923. Rewritten in 1943, Richard Nixon rallied on its behalf. “This administration is committed to providing an opportunity for women to participate on an equal basis with men in our national life,” President Nixon proclaimed on February 2, 1974. The Equal Rights Amendment of 1972 was then seven state legislatures short of ratification.

On September 28, 2022, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit heard oral arguments regarding final ratification of the ERA. [States of Illinois and Nevada v. Ferriero, D.C. Cir. App. No. 21-05096] “It is alarming to me that our Constitution does not have a provision to protect gender equality when 85% of U.N. member states have gender provisions in their Constitution,” departing U.S. Representative Carolyn Maloney [D-NY] noted.

Stewardship of the Earth Testimony: “Friends worldwide have accepted the idea that the testimony of equality in the economic realm implies a commitment to the ‘right sharing of the world’s resources,’” Swarthmore concluded. “The well-being of the Earth is a fundamental spiritual concern. From the beginning, it was through the wonders of nature that people saw God….”

“One of the most dramatic events of Nixon’s first term occurred in 1969, when American astronauts made the first moon landing,” The White House confirmed.

“In throwing wide the horizons of space, we have discovered new horizons on Earth,” President Nixon explained. Nixon established the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1970.

“We have the chance today to do more than ever before in our history to make life better in America—to ensure…better transportation, a cleaner environment,” Nixon said in 1973. “Let us be bold in our determination to meet those needs in new ways.”

Climate change is real. In 1883 Yosemite National Park’s largest glacier, the Lyell measured 1.2 million square meters in total volume. As of today, the Lyell Glacier has lost nearly 80% of its surface area. The neighboring Maclure Glacier named for William Maclure [1763-1840], the father of American geology, suffers similarly.

President Theodore Roosevelt [R-NY] died in 1919, his conservation work unfinished. Five presidencies later Herbert Hoover, a geologist cum mining engineer understood his predecessor’s concerns. “I cannot state too strongly that pollution of waters under Federal control is destroying not only our fisheries, but is also destroying our beaches and endangering our harbors,” Hoover said in 1924.

“Climate change is the defining challenge of our time,” Quaker, geologist, and U.S. Senator John Hickenlooper [D-CO] said recently. “We must address it with a fierce urgency…We need a bold, science based approach that expands clean energy and transitions away from fossil fuels.” Senator Hickenlooper helped write the 2022 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

Whatever your religious faith, is or is not, spend the holidays in honest discussion with others.  Truth is desperately needed. Truth as defined by the American Heritage dictionary: “Conformity to fact or actuality.” Truth Social, social media is not a substitute for fact: or selfishness a substitute for the Living Truth.

Heartfelt wishes for a happy, hope-filled holiday!

Sarah Becker started writing for The Economist while a graduate student in England. Similar publications followed. She joined the Crier in 1996 while serving on the Alexandria Convention and Visitors Association Board. Her interest in antiquities began as a World Bank hire, with Indonesia’s need to generate hard currency. Balinese history, i.e. tourism provided the means. The New York Times describes Becker’s book, Off Your Duffs & Up the Assets, as “a blueprint for thousands of nonprofit managers.” A former museum director, SLAM’s saving grace Sarah received Alexandria’s Salute to Women Award in 2007.  Email abitofhistory53@gmail.com

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