On Virtue and Conscience

In response to reading Journal by John Woolman, I write this post in confusion, and probably ignorance, for which I fear one day may cause me some embarrassment to myself if I would become capable of understanding said writings and then reread this post.

In reading about John Woolman, I have come to learn about an extraordinarily humble and pious Quaker, who would undoubtedly, if such records of Quakers were kept, be among the list of saints. I was also quite impressed to learn that he made such an impressionable impact on Quakers worldwide regarding slavery: Slaves had become contraband within the Quaker circle within just a few years of his death. What was most surprising to me was that he did all this with the spine of a jellyfish; He spent his whole life in a non-confrontational and timid manner, attributing all happenstances to be the cause and will of providence, and living in fear and guilt for all of his violations of virtues that, if they were to happen to me, I would simply shrug off as being mistakes that impacted no one.

Although I have not yet quite reached the end of his journal, much of the relevance of the writing has escaped me thus far. I have had difficulty keeping interest on account of there being very little in specifics of the events and lessons of his life. In fact, much of the book details Woolman traveling to attend Quaker meetings that are scheduled monthly, quarterly, or yearly in various areas. This is perhaps why I feel that I may simply be ignorant in the matter: John Woolman was successful enough to persuade many Quakers of the invalidity of their excuses conjured to permit the owning and selling of slaves, which was credited as the start of the anti-slavery movement; however, this seems to me to be the only effect that came of his life-long efforts. While this is a significant point in history, I feel as though John Woolman as a person and his Journal both are overstated and overplayed. But perhaps to the credit of my point, to-date, nobody I have talked to has ever heard of John Woolman.

Reader: Please make me aware of any details I may have missed while critically reading John Woolman’s Journal, and let me know what your thoughts are on the matter.

Stay classy, fellow bloggers.