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Elizabeth Fry
by [?]

When thee builds a prison, thee had better build with the thought ever in thy mind that thee and thy children may occupy the cells.

—Report on Paris Prisons, Addressed to the King of France

The Mennonite, Dunkard, Shaker, Oneida Communist, Mormon and Quaker are all one people, varying only according to environment.

They are all Come-Outers.

They turn to plain clothes, hard work, religious thought, eschewing the pomps and vanities of the world–all for the same reasons. Scratch any one of them and you will find the true type. The monk of the Middle Ages was the same man, his peculiarity being an extreme asceticism that caused him to count sex a mistake on the part of God. And this same question has been a stumbling-block for ages to the type we now have under the glass. A man who gives the question of sex too much attention is very apt either to have no wife at all or else four or five. If a Franciscan friar of the olden time happened to glance at a clothesline on which, gaily waving in the wanton winds, was a smock-frock, he wore peas in his sandals for a month and a day.

The Shaker does not count women out because the founder of the sect was a woman, but he is a complete celibate and depends on Gentiles to populate the earth. The Dunkard quotes Saint Paul and marries because he must, but regards romantic love as a thing of which Deity is jealous, and also a bit ashamed. The Oneida Community clung to the same thought, and to obliterate selfishness held women in common, tracing pedigree, after the manner of ancient Sparta, through the female line, because there was no other way. The Mormon incidentally and accidentally adopted polygamy.

The Quakers have for the best part looked with disfavor on passionate love. In the worship of Deity they separate women from men. But all oscillations are equalized by swingings to the other side. The Quakers have often discarded a distinctive marriage-ceremony, thus slanting toward natural selection. And I might tell you of how in one of the South American States there is a band of Friends who have discarded the rite entirely, making marriage a private and personal contract between the man and the woman–a sacred matter of conscience; and should the man and woman find after a trial that their mating was a mistake, they are as free to separate as they were to marry, and no obloquy is attached in any event. Harriet Martineau, Quaker in sympathy, although not in name, being an independent fighter armed with a long squirrel-rifle of marvelous range and accuracy, pleaded strongly and boldly for a law that would make divorce as free and simple as marriage. Harriet once called marriage a mouse-trap, and thereby sent shivers of surprise and indignation up a bishop’s back.

But there is one thing among all these quasi-ascetic sects that has ever been in advance of the great mass of humanity from which they are detached parts: they have given woman her rights; whereas, the mass has always prated, and does yet, mentioning it in statute law, that the male has certain natural “rights,” and the women only such rights as are granted her by the males. And the reason of this wrong-headed attitude on part of the mob is plain. It rules by force, whereas the semi-ascetic sects decry force, using only moral suasion, falling back on the Christ doctrine of non-resistance. This has given their women a chance to prove that they have just as able minds as the men, if not better.

That these non-resistants are the salt of the earth none who know them can deny. It was the residents of the monasteries in the Middle Ages who kept learning and art from dying off the face of Europe. They built such churches and performed such splendid work in art that we are hushed into silence before the dignity of the ruins of Melrose, Dryburgh and Furness. There are no paupers among the Quakers, a “criminal class” is a thing no Mennonite understands, no Dunkard is a drunkard, the Oneida Communists were all well educated and in dollars passing rich, while the Mormons have accumulated wealth at the rate of over eleven hundred dollars a man per year, which is more than three times as good a record as can be shown by New York or Pennsylvania. And further, until the Gentiles bore down upon her, Utah had no use for either prisons, asylums or almshouses. Until the Gentiles crowded into Salt Lake City, there was no “tenderloin district,” no “dangerous class,” no gambling “dives.” Instead, there was universal order, industry, sobriety. It is well to recognize the fact that the quasi-ascetic, possessed of a religious idea, persecuted to a point that holds him to his work, is the best type of citizen the world has ever known. Tobacco, strong drink, and opium alternately lull and excite, soothe and elevate, but always destroy; yet they do not destroy our ascetic, for he knows them not. He does not deplete himself by drugs, rivalry, strife or anger. He believes in co-operation, not competition. He works and prays. He keeps a good digestion, an even pulse, a clear conscience; and as man’s true wants are very few, our subject grows rich and has not only ample supplies for himself, but is enabled to minister to others. He is earth’s good Samaritan. It was Tolstoy and his daughter who started soup-houses in Russia and kept famine at bay. Your true monk never passed by on the other side; ah, no! the business of the old-time priest was to do good. The Quaker is his best descendant–he is the true philanthropist.