Quaker constitutionalism. An overview of the origins of American civil disobedience

Jane E. Calvert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Quakers are more generally seen as "withdrawers" from American politics, and thus unworthy of attention. Because of perceptions such as these, although their actions in the public sphere have been well documented, the Quaker contribution to the ideas, institutions, and processes of the American polity has remained unarticulated. This essay gives a brief overview of the seventeenth-century origins of the Quaker theologico-political thought and civic engagement and touchs briefly on their considerable significance for American socio-political reform movements since then. The most tangible political legacy of Quakerism is the theory and practice of civil disobedience. With their understanding of a constitution that was both sacred and amendable through peaceful means, Quakers originated a process of dissent that limited government while at the same time demonstrating a strong sense of political obligation to the structures and principles that bound the polity together.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-193
Number of pages15
JournalAnnali di Storia dell'Esegesi
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Religious studies


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