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The Beautiful Soul of John Woolman, Apostle of Abolition

The Beautiful Soul of John Woolman, Apostle of Abolition Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

A biography of the famous eighteenth-century Quaker whose abolitionist fervor and spiritual practice made him a model for generations of Americans
 
John Woolman (1720–72) was perhaps the most significant American of his age, though he was not a famous politician, general, or man of letters, and never held public office. A humble Quaker tailor in New Jersey, he became a prophetic voice for the entire Anglo-American world when he denounced the evils of slavery in Quaker meetings, then in essays and his Journal, first published in 1774. In this illuminating new biography, Thomas P. Slaughter goes behind those famous texts to locate the sources of Woolmans political and spiritual power.
 
Slaughters penetrating work shows how this plainspoken mystic transformed himself into a prophetic, unforgettable figure. Devoting himself to extremes of self-purificationdressing only in white, refusing to ride horses or in horse-drawn carriagesWoolman might briefly puzzle people; but his preaching against slavery, rum, tea, silver, forced labor, war taxes, and rampant consumerism was infused with a benign confidence that ordinary people could achieve spiritual perfection, and this goodness gave his message persuasive power and enduring influence. Placing Woolman in the full context of his times, Slaughter paints the portrait of a heroand not just for the Quakers, social reformers, labor organizers, socialists, and peace advocates who have long admired him. He was an extraordinary original, an American for the ages.

 

Thomas P. Slaughter is the author of several books, including The Whiskey Rebellion and Exploring Lewis and Clark. He lives in Rochester, New York, with his wife and two children. 
A Booklist Editors Choice Best Book of the Year

John Woolman was perhaps the most significant American of his age, though he was not a famous politician, general, or man of letters, and never held public office. A humble Quaker tailor in New Jersey, he became a prophetic voice for the entire Anglo-American world when he denounced the evils of slavery in Quaker meetings, then in essays and his Journal, first published in 1774. In this illuminating new biography, Thomas P. Slaughter goes behind those famous texts to locate the sources of Woolmans political and spiritual power.

Slaughters penetrating work shows how this plainspoken mystic transformed himself into a prophetic, unforgettable figure. Devoting himself to extremes of self-purificationdressing only in white, refusing to ride horses or in horse-drawn carriagesWoolman might briefly puzzle people; but his preaching against slavery, rum, tea, silver, forced labor, war taxes, and rampant consumerism was infused with a benign confidence that ordinary people could achieve spiritual perfection, and this goodness gave his message persuasive power and enduring influence. Placing Woolman in the full context of his times, Slaughter paints the portrait of a heroand not just for the Quakers, social reformers, labor organizers, socialists, and peace advocates who have long admired him. He was an extraordinary original and a model for generations of Americans.

“The journal of the Quaker mystic and abolitionist John Woolman has never been out of print since 1774, when it was first published. Along with Woolmans pamphlets and speeches, the journal was instrumental in persuading the Society of Friends to give up owning slaves. In this meditative biography, Slaughter provides sensitive readings of Woolmans writings in order to draw a picture of a ‘prophetic Old Testament radical who practiced a patient and methodical mode of activism. Woolman balanced a workmans life in New Jersey with visits to Indian tribes and to Friends meetings in other states, preaching a doctrine of asceticism and human perfectibility.”The New Yorker 

"The journal of the Quaker mystic and abolitionist John Woolman has never been out of print since 1774, when it was first published. Along with Woolmans pamphlets and speeches, the journal was instrumental in persuading the Society of Friends to give up owning slaves. In this meditative biography, Slaughter provides sensitive readings of Woolmans writings in order to draw a picture of a ‘prophetic Old Testament radical who practiced a patient and methodical mode of activism."The New Yorker

"Say ‘abolitionist and most people think of the evangelical politician William Wilberforce, or the anti-establishment agitator William Lloyd Garrison, or possibly the prophet-warrior John Brown. John Woolman preceded them all in anti-slavery activism and was an utterly different character: gentle, mystical, quiet. Earning his living as a small-town New Jersey tailor and schoolteacher in the decades before the Revolutionary War, Woolman challenged his fellow Quakers on slaverythey would, shortly after his death, become the only group in America to stop owning slavesand also on Indians, rum, war taxes, luxurious living, animal welfare, childrearing, and, most fundamentally, involvement in globalization and trade. Like the Old Testament prophets, like St. Francis, like Jesus himself, Woolman took his cues from nobody but God. He was an American original. Thomas Slaughter, a historian at Notre Dame and the University of Rochester, and himself a Quaker, has written a lovely and thoughtful biography, as sedately paced as a Quaker meeting. This is a book to read in a meditative mood. It should challenge activists with a unique model of advocacy, and inspire people of faith with its description of a Bible-drenched, ascetic, Spirit-filled, and agape-driven life."Tim Stafford, Christian History

"'Saints should always be judged guilty until they are proved innocent,' George Orwell said. Orwell is not crystal clear as to what they should be considered guilty of, but probably of fraud, self-delusion, woolly thinking, sheer bloody-mindedness, or all of that and more. Orwell's essay, 'Reflections on Gandhi,' is worth keeping in mind while reading Thomas P. Slaughter's superb study, The Beautiful Soul of John Woolman, Apostle of Abolition, because issues that Orwell brings up in brilliantly concentrated form are writ large in Woolman's saintly life. Slaughter, a professor of history at the University of Rochester and author of several historical works (The Whiskey Rebellion), says Woolman believed 'he was abiding God's call to work for social justice and the ascendance of spirituality over humanity's fallen nature' . . . This is the first full-scale biography of Woolman in more than half a century. Actually, it is a sort of book-length essay or meditation on Woolman's life, or perhaps a spiritual or philosophical biography, rather than a standard 'life.' Two factors may have affected Slaughter's approach. One is that spirituality, living to please God, was the essence of his subject's life. The other is that Woolman led such an interior existence that in his own writings, he rarely noted external events; for instance, in his Journal, which has not gone out of print since 1774, he neglected to mention that he had gotten married . . . Slaughter, himself a Quaker, writes admiringly of Woolman but by no means uncritically."Roger K. Miller, The Denver Post

Review:

"Not many today know about the New Jersey Quaker, mystic and social activist John Woolman (1720 — 1772). But William James, in The Varieties of Religious Experience, characterized Woolman as a saint. John Greenleaf Whittier called him the founding father of the abolitionist movement. As Slaughter (The Whiskey Rebellion) shows in this superb narrative, it may be argued that the pious, simple-living Woolman — by rejecting not only slavery but also the accumulation of wealth, economic exploitation of all kinds and all forms of violence — created the prototype for every pacifist and nonconformist to come after. Woolman always dressed simply in clothes he stitched himself, white clothes meant to mark him as a man of God. He advocated his causes in lectures and sermons across the eastern United States and England (where he died of smallpox) and through extensive writings. He made a point of owning nothing he did not need and giving away every and anything he could not use. In our own age of conspicuous consumption, the complex soul Slaughter so ably and beautifully resurrects is full of contemporary relevance as an example of principled living. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Synopsis:

JohnWoolman was one of the most significant Americans of the eighteenth century, though he was not a famous politician, general, scientist, or man of letters, and he never held public office. This superb book makes it clear why he mattered so much.
 
A humble tailor known at first only to the other Quakers who encountered him at meetings in New Jersey, Philadelphia, and New England, Woolman became a prophetic voice for the entire Anglo-American world when he spoke out against the evils of slavery.Thomas P. Slaughters deft, dramatic narrative reveals how it was that the mysticWoolman became an unforgettable public figure, his gospel infused with a benign confidence that ordinary people could achieve spiritual perfection. Placing Woolman in the full context of his times, Slaughter paints the portrait of a hero—and not just for the Quakers, social reformers, labor organizers, socialists, and peace advocates who have long admired him.

Synopsis:

A biography of the famous eighteenth-century Quaker whose abolitionist fervor and spiritual practice made him a model for generations of Americans John Woolman (1720-72) was perhaps the most significant American of his age, though he was not a famous politician, general, or man of letters, and never held public office. A humble Quaker tailor in New Jersey, he became a prophetic voice for the entire Anglo-American world when he denounced the evils of slavery in Quaker meetings, then in essays and his Journal, first published in 1774. In this illuminating new biography, Thomas P. Slaughter goes behind those famous texts to locate the sources of Woolman's political and spiritual power. Slaughter's penetrating work shows how this plainspoken mystic transformed himself into a prophetic, unforgettable figure. Devoting himself to extremes of self-purification--dressing only in white, refusing to ride horses or in horse-drawn carriages--Woolman might briefly puzzle people; but his preaching against slavery, rum, tea, silver, forced labor, war taxes, and rampant consumerism was infused with a benign confidence that ordinary people could achieve spiritual perfection, and this goodness gave his message persuasive power and enduring influence. Placing Woolman in the full context of his times, Slaughter paints the portrait of a hero--and not just for the Quakers, social reformers, labor organizers, socialists, and peace advocates who have long admired him. He was an extraordinary original, an American for the ages.

About the Author

Thomas P. Slaughter, the author of five books, including The Whiskey Rebellion and Exploring Lewis and Clark, is the Arthur R. Miller Professor of History at the University of Rochester. He lives in Brighton, NewYork, with his wife and two children.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780809095148
Publisher:
Hill and Wang
Subject:
General Biography
Author:
Slaughter, Thomas P.
Subject:
General
Subject:
Biography
Subject:
Quakers
Subject:
Religious
Subject:
Historical - General
Subject:
Abolitionists
Subject:
Abolitionists -- United States.
Subject:
Quakers -- United States.
Subject:
Biography-Religious
Subject:
Historical
Edition Description:
Trade Cloth
Publication Date:
20091013
Binding:
Electronic book text in proprietary or open standard format
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
5 Black-and-White Illustrations/3 Maps/N
Pages:
464
Dimensions:
8.74 x 5.85 x 1.225 in

Related Subjects

Religion » Christianity » Christian Biographies
Religion » Christianity » Quakers
Religion » Western Religions » Denominations

The Beautiful Soul of John Woolman, Apostle of Abolition
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Product details 464 pages Hill & Wang - English 9780809095148 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Not many today know about the New Jersey Quaker, mystic and social activist John Woolman (1720 — 1772). But William James, in The Varieties of Religious Experience, characterized Woolman as a saint. John Greenleaf Whittier called him the founding father of the abolitionist movement. As Slaughter (The Whiskey Rebellion) shows in this superb narrative, it may be argued that the pious, simple-living Woolman — by rejecting not only slavery but also the accumulation of wealth, economic exploitation of all kinds and all forms of violence — created the prototype for every pacifist and nonconformist to come after. Woolman always dressed simply in clothes he stitched himself, white clothes meant to mark him as a man of God. He advocated his causes in lectures and sermons across the eastern United States and England (where he died of smallpox) and through extensive writings. He made a point of owning nothing he did not need and giving away every and anything he could not use. In our own age of conspicuous consumption, the complex soul Slaughter so ably and beautifully resurrects is full of contemporary relevance as an example of principled living. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Synopsis" by ,
JohnWoolman was one of the most significant Americans of the eighteenth century, though he was not a famous politician, general, scientist, or man of letters, and he never held public office. This superb book makes it clear why he mattered so much.
 
A humble tailor known at first only to the other Quakers who encountered him at meetings in New Jersey, Philadelphia, and New England, Woolman became a prophetic voice for the entire Anglo-American world when he spoke out against the evils of slavery.Thomas P. Slaughters deft, dramatic narrative reveals how it was that the mysticWoolman became an unforgettable public figure, his gospel infused with a benign confidence that ordinary people could achieve spiritual perfection. Placing Woolman in the full context of his times, Slaughter paints the portrait of a hero—and not just for the Quakers, social reformers, labor organizers, socialists, and peace advocates who have long admired him.
"Synopsis" by , A biography of the famous eighteenth-century Quaker whose abolitionist fervor and spiritual practice made him a model for generations of Americans John Woolman (1720-72) was perhaps the most significant American of his age, though he was not a famous politician, general, or man of letters, and never held public office. A humble Quaker tailor in New Jersey, he became a prophetic voice for the entire Anglo-American world when he denounced the evils of slavery in Quaker meetings, then in essays and his Journal, first published in 1774. In this illuminating new biography, Thomas P. Slaughter goes behind those famous texts to locate the sources of Woolman's political and spiritual power. Slaughter's penetrating work shows how this plainspoken mystic transformed himself into a prophetic, unforgettable figure. Devoting himself to extremes of self-purification--dressing only in white, refusing to ride horses or in horse-drawn carriages--Woolman might briefly puzzle people; but his preaching against slavery, rum, tea, silver, forced labor, war taxes, and rampant consumerism was infused with a benign confidence that ordinary people could achieve spiritual perfection, and this goodness gave his message persuasive power and enduring influence. Placing Woolman in the full context of his times, Slaughter paints the portrait of a hero--and not just for the Quakers, social reformers, labor organizers, socialists, and peace advocates who have long admired him. He was an extraordinary original, an American for the ages.
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