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It may be proper now to observe, that while the men in their own meeting-house are thus transacting the quarterly business for themselves, the women, in a different apartment or meeting-house, are conducting it also for their own sex. They read, answer, and observe upon, the queries in the same manner. When they have settled their own business, they send one or two of their members, as they did in the case of the monthly meeting, to the apartment of the men, to know if they have any thing to communicate to them. When the business is finished in both meetings, they break up, and prepare for their respective homes.
Great yearly court or meeting-constitution of this meeting-one place only of meeting fixed upon for the whole kingdom-this the metropolis-deputies appointed to it from the quarterly meetings--business transacted at this meeting—matters decided, not by the influence of numbers, but by the weight of religious character-no head or chairman of this meeting-character of this discipline or government of the Quakers-the laws, relating to it better obeyed than those under any other discipline or government-reasons of this obedience.
IN the order, in which I have hitherto mentioned
the meetings for the discipline of the Quakers, we have seen them rising by regular ascent, both in importance and power. We have seen each in due progression comprizing the actions of a greater population than the foregoing, and for a greater period of time. I come now to the yearly meeting, which is possessed of a higher and wider jurisdiction than any that have been yet described. This meeting does not take cognizance of the conduct of particular or of
monthly meetings, but, at one general view, of the state and conduct of the members of each quarterly meeting, in order to form a judgment of the general state of the society for the whole kingdom.
We have seen, on a former occasion, the Quakers with their several duputies repairing to different places in a county; and we have seen them lately with their deputies again repairing to one great town in the different counties at large. We are now to see them repairing to the metropolis of the kingdom.
As deputies were chosen by each monthly meeting to represent it in the quarterly meeting, so the quarterly meetings choose deputies to represent them in the yearly meeting. These deputies are commissioned to be the bearers of certain documents to London, which contain answers in writing to a (a) number of the queries mentioned in the last chapter. These answers are made up from the answers received by the several quarterly meetings from their respective monthly meetings. Besides these they are to carry with them other documents, among which are accounts of sufferings in consequence of a refusal of military service, and of the payment of the demands of the church.
The deputies who are now generally four in num
(a) Viz. numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12.
ber for each quarterly meeting, that is, four of each sex (except for the quarterly meetings of York and London, the former of which generally sends eight men and the (b) latter twelve, and each of them the like number of females) having received their different documents, set forward on their journey. Besides these many members of the society repair to the metropolis. The distance of three or four hundred miles forms no impediment to the journey. A man connot travel at this time, but he sees the Quakers in motion from all parts, shaping their course to London, there to exercise, as will appear shortly, the power of deputies, judges, and legislators in turn, and to investigate and settle the affairs of the society for the preceding year.
It may not be amiss to mention a circumstance, which has not unfrequently occurred upon these occasions. A Quaker in low circumstances, but of unblemished life, has been occasionally chosen as one of the deputies to the metropolis even for a county, where the Quaker-population has been considered to be rich. This deputy has scarcely been able, on account of the low state of his finances, to accomplish his journey, and has been known to travel on foot from distantant parts. I mention this circumstance to shew that the society in its choice of representa
(6) The quarterly meeting of London includes Middlesex.
tives, shews no respect to persons, but that it pays, even in the persons of the poor, the respect that is due to virtue.
The day of the yearly meeting at length arrives. Whole days are now devoted to business, for which various committees are obliged to be appointed. The men, as before, retire to a meeting-house allotted to them, to settle the business for the men and the society at large, and the women retire to another, to settle that, which belongs to their own sex. There are nevertheless, at intervals, meetings for worship at the several meeting houses in the metropolis.
One great part of the business of the yearly meeting is to know the state of the society in all its branches of discipline for the preceding year. This is known by hearing the answers brought to the queries from the several quarterly meetings, which are audibly read by the clerk or his assistant, and are taken in rotation alphabetically. If any deficiency in the discipline should appear by means of these documents, in any of the quarterly meetings, remarks follow on the part of the auditory, and written advices are ordered to be sent, if it should appear necessary, which are either of a general nature, or particularly directed to those where the deficiency has been observed.
Another part of the business of the yearly meeting is to ascertain the amount of the money, called