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Musings of a Philadelphia Physician who has served the community for six decades

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Quakers: All Alike, All Different
Quaker doctrines emerge from the stories they tell about each other.

Quaker Mary Dyer and Algernon Sydney

Thomas R. Smith, a.k.a., William Penn, author.

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William Penn

Today, ghost host William Penn un-reels the memory of two 17th Century lives. Namely: New England Quaker Mary Dyer (1611-1661), and (non Quaker) Algernon Sydney (1623-1683), of Old England.

Mary recalls a Quaker who dared to proselytize her faith where she was lawfully unwanted. Her law scoffing earned her hanging. Her martyrdom was a legend when William Penn became a Quaker.

Algernon Sydney was a practical law theorist; one who dared to press widening ideals of rights and liberties into applied law. His name once held a line on a list marked out for death. …Of miracle he lived. Divine Intervention thus enabled him to assist fellow idealist William Penn.

Conservative Quakers have ever upheld a faith based avoidance, which has permitted them to skirt much honorific tout talk, which otherwise would have heaped fame onto individual faithful. Among the few that has somehow defied the norm is Mary Dyer, who claims a near local statue which can be seen fronting 1501 Cherry Street, in Philadelphia.

Quaker Mrs. Dyer, in statue, finds herself in the same odd-league with the (over the top) City Hall statue of William Penn. – All said, enter William Penn:

William Penn speaking: "To place a Quaker in statue, any Quaker, in front of a building (as per Mary), or to put one on top of a building (as per William - Me) is to strike a humbug stroke against anonymity. Admitted: In select measured limits, Mrs. Dyer's statue can be said to hold a role of valid reflection. Even so, Mary's ghost suffers bouts of nervousness. – Non-Quaker different: Ghost of Algernon Sydney suffers no such hang ups about his fame. Sydney shall get his wished for quarter hour of tick tock fame."

{MAry Dyer}
Mary Dyer

Mary Dyer first:

"In one sense Mary Dyer holds a place of anonymity in understatement. Historians style her 'early obscurity' as 'a life without validity.' Her birth, of tradition, has been set in 1611. I could quiz her, our wing circles encircle, but a gentleman ghost never asks a female to divulge her year of terra firma birth. "

Some history: Early Quaker history stands alone, in particular the first twenty years between 1642 and 1662. In these years sounded the rally words, 'Let your lives speak.' Mary Dyer's life spoke. …And continues to speak. "

"In the cited twenty years the Quaker 'Valiant Sixty' lived and preached, which is something near altogether singular in Society of Friends history, because later Quaker curbed from being activist shouters. -- In her generation, in her own right, Mary Dyer was not just a faith 'Professor,' she became a Preacher."

"T is all but narrowly impossible to touch on Mary Dyer without also citing her elder sister in conscience, Anne Hutchinson (1591-1643). Here, however, not another word on Anne, but to say that a like select biography is owed to A. H."

"I know enough theology history to note a mistaken notion. True, Catholic Priests long discouraged congregants from the reading of the Bible with pitches that interpretation was best understood by clergy. Hear Ye: Protestant clergy spoke the same verse. Indeed in theocracy New England it was a given that clergy had the last word in all things related to Bible Text. To brook was heresy."

"England born, Mary wed William Dyer. With William she trekked to New England. There a few years after arrival she helped to cluster women devoted to Bible reading. Where women go men follow. Men followed. Mary became labeled a Satan heretic. Personal learning rather than learning from clergy consumed her as proper. In time, with her husband she journeyed back to England. There she heard Quakers speak of a God Voice that spoke to everyone. Mary shook in the Lord's love and fear. She found her religion, Quaker. Her husband returned to America, Mary remained a time, until she felt ready. Mary had a mind of her own."

Dyer was three times banished from Massachusetts. Actually, she was initially banished from Boston. Thereafter she was exiled. The knotty history runs thus:

"Criminal punishment verged to capital punishment. -- Threat of death by law penalty did not dissuade Mary from making return trips. The Quaker heroine having been exiled following a conviction, in which instance she should have suffered hanging, unthankful, unrepentant, obstinately she returned to preach."

Quaker Gee-wiz! Knottiness of it all - kicks my ken to trace fully. That said:

"At one point Dyer, and other obstinate Quakers, caused the law of to be changed – for Repeat Offenders - over to Death. Dates stream together, but 1658 rings right."

"Male transgressors, on earning a first violation of exile, were branded and chained to the rear of a wagon. Barefoot the subject was pulled behind a wagon, whilst a flailing whip engraved bloody lashes upon a bared back. -- Women were severely admonished before exile."

"Between trips Mary with others took a respite in Quaker Rhode Island."

"Follow: On one next trip Mary Dyer was once more rearrested. Her husband hearing of her arrest came and pleaded that the law exacting the life penalty was enacted while his wife was away. He claimed 'ignorance of the law' was a legitimate issue. To add tear to plea Mary's son asked the court to relent. -- This was done for her, not in wont, not in self-willingness."

"Mary's life was spared but she refused to change her ways and her path. That path took her back to Massachusetts."

"In 1661: To the last Mary Dyer turned down an obvious attempt meant for her release. She only needed to recant and bid bow to banishment. Law was followed to execution, she was hanged. Year: 1661."

"The branding of men and the whipping of them out of the colony ranked as something livable, but punishment for women was decided too anguishing. The later tipped the scales for widening justice. So some laws were repealed and others - ensuring tolerance - gained amendment clause status."

"In Pennsylvania no similar bloodletting ever took place. Laws of vengeance did not clutter. Therefore there was never a need to resolve with a roll back to tolerance. It came with the territory." Something else came, too:

"First Era Quaker History claimed zealots who bothered and or shouted. Zealot Quakers were intruders, and their message often was repellent. Hence much early derision the Quakers brought on. Year time 1660 was the era close of homeland oddball behavior. Zealots do not preach before the proverbial choir. Plausibly since the mid-Atlantic colonies tended to be tolerant to Quakers, such - who rapture-ed zealot – felt an attraction for northern vineyards, where the Quaker message culled disgust. Message was not enough: Zealot kin found inspiration in persecution and threat of martyrdom. May Dyer was especially attracted."

"You may ask yourself: 'Would I have listened to Mary Dyer's message?' Dyer made a public show, her face she blackened, she dressed strange, and her hair in pulled out in wild appearance. – Today, how different! When you look on her stature you see a becalmed, beguiling, bonneted, sweet face woman."

"I suppose I can say to have scrawled graffiti on her statute. You have permission to retain the last vision, and a like permission to blur memory of the former."

{Algernon Sydney}
Algernon Sydney

Enter: Algernon Sydney:

"Algernon Sydney had a role in early Pennsylvania founding. His brilliance: Law."

"Historians unwise to a ploy we pulled – have written frail facts. Sydney's role in Pennsylvania law history needs me to tell it. I know best the truth."

"First, I studied law, but Algernon Sydney was brilliant where I was marginal. My Royal request for land in North American gained signaled acceptance. Further, I was granted a primary permission to make suggestions for the Charter. Post haste I alerted Sydney: Envisioning an opportunity to ditch theory, in favor of real uplift of liberties, we partnered in the drafting a Charter. We both wished to lode a body of laws dedicated to uplift Rights and Liberties."

"Yes, Sydney and I tried to put into the original Charter certain rights and liberties which scoped beyond those in the motherland. Historians have detected and noted this. Several of our attempts were eyed and stopped. -- This truth has been told by historians, that much."

"More focused: Team of Penn and Sydney were coy rather than hopefully naive. We understood there would be no negotiating with King and Parliament, no back and forth tradeoffs. So what is the truth?"

"There was a Royalist foregone logic that 'Mother nation English' should have more citizen law leeway than colonists. Colonies were bastions created to supply resources for the motherland. Colonies were viewed as places for the market sale of finished products; ones produced in the homeland." -- :Hear Yea:

"We designedly asked for more than we could expect. -- In aftermath of crossing off, in the final charter, we hoped we would come out - with equal - not less rights and liberties."

"Our plan worked! The finished work encouraged - a welcome for all. One core group - self excluded: Zealots."

"Pennsylvania was attractive to pious Quietists."

"I close. Your Governor thanks you for listening."

William Penn

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