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JOHN WOOLMAN by Ammon Hennacy - Catholic Worker odds & ends
March 23rd, 2008
05:39 pm


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JOHN WOOLMAN by Ammon Hennacy
"John Woolman, the Quiet One Man Revolution, was born in Rancocas, New Jersey, twenty miles from Philadelphia, twenty miles east of Philadelphia, on October 19, 1720 and died in York, England October 7, 1772. Friend of the Negro and the Indian, refuser of taxes for war, and a moderate advocate of the simple life. (I read the life of Woolman by Janet Whitney in the summer of 1958, while fasting and picketing the Atomic Energy Office in Washington, D.C. for forty days. Having pain no taxes myself since 1943, and having led the primitive life of the migrant worker in the southwest for eleven years more recently, I was pleased to learn of this early radical.)

Woolman...was happy and hopeful because he was dealing with the only thing a person can deal with, one's self as an individual. One's self is the only thing in the world one can be sure of changing. This was the life and message of the first Quaker in this country with a social conscience...

John Woolman blazed the way for himself and for us in the deep forest of fear, compromise and greed, and above all in that desire of wanting to be with the winner, which is the modern curse. The advice of Krishna to Arjuna: 'Be not concerned with the fruit of action could have been a motto of Woolman. He did his thing when it seemed he was alone against the best people of his community.

...organized 'do-gooding' is the very antithesis of the personal method of John Woolman. He shamed wealthy Quakers into freeing their slaves. He tired himself out walking and riding in the wilderness all at his own expense. The modern Quaker wi well financed and lives in comparative luxury among the people he is supposed to help. But the system of exploitation which causes this poverty remains undisturbed." (from THE ONE MAN REVOLUTION IN AMERICA, 1969)

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Date:April 25th, 2008 04:15 pm (UTC)

Woolman in New Jersey

Just a note: I grew up in the part of South Jersey where Woolman was from. The name of the town is Rancocas and it is located near the Rancocas River (or Creek as it is locally refered to). A Native name whose source is deep in the Pine Barrens and flows into the Delaware River. Old Quaker town from the 17th century... growing up we'd bicycle miles on day trips thropugh the former farm areas (now housing developments) and visit the rural cemetery to read the centuries old headstones.
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Date:April 25th, 2008 10:02 pm (UTC)

Re: Woolman in New Jersey

I live on the Delaware River though much further north. Thanks for your comments.
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