The abolitionist John Woolman (1720-72) has been described as a "Quaker saint," an isolated mystic, singular even among a singular people. But as historian Geoffrey Plank recounts, this tailor, hog producer, shopkeeper, schoolteacher, and prominent Quaker minister was very much enmeshed in his local community in colonial New Jersey and was alert as well to events throughout the British Empire. Responding to the situation as he saw it, Woolman developed a comprehensive critique of his fellow Quakers and of the imperial economy, became one of the most emphatic opponents of slaveholding, and helped develop a new form of protest by striving never to spend money in ways that might encourage slavery or other forms of iniquity.
Drawing on the diaries of contemporaries, personal correspondence, the minutes of Quaker meetings, business and probate records, pamphlets, and other sources, John Woolman's Path to the Peaceable Kingdom shows that Woolman and his neighbors were far more engaged with the problems of inequality, trade, and warfare than anyone would know just from reading the Quaker's own writings. Although he is famous as an abolitionist, the end of slavery was only part of Woolman's project. Refusing to believe that the pursuit of self-interest could safely guide economic life, Woolman aimed for a miraculous global transformation: a universal disavowal of greed.
1. Past Ages: History
2. Deserts and Lonely Places: Social Diversion and Solitary Meditation
3. More Than Was Required: Quaker Meetings
4. The Road to Large Business: Family and Work
5. A Dark Gloominess Hanging over the Land: Slavery
6. Men in Military Posture: The Seven Years' War
7. Not in Words Only: Conspicuous Instructive Behavior
8. The Deep: Crossing the Sea
9. A Messenger Sent from the Almighty: England and Death
List of Abbreviations
"A carefully researched and quietly brilliant work that provides a genuinely new perspective on a familiar figure in the history of antislavery. Plank finds in Woolman not only an early opponent of slavery but also an ardent critic of most every facet of commercial life in the Delaware Valley and, more generally, the British Empire."—Christopher Brown, Columbia University
"Plank's approach allows us to understand the extent to which John Woolman was both a man of his time and a discerning prophet."—The Journal of American History
"This splendid study is perhaps the best attempt to date to explain Woolman. . . .Highly Recommended."—Choice