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Autobiography of Allen Jay

Autobiography of Allen Jay

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If you want to understand Quakerism in the 1600s you have to read Fox's journal, for the 1700's Woolman's Journal, and for the complex challenges and changes faced by Friends in 1800's, you have to read the "Autobiography of Allen Jay." Born just after the Hicksite-Orthodox separation, Jay grew up in the unprogrammed tradition, but was soon active as a preacher in the programmed tradition and worked to change Quakerism's relationship to the world as he believed early Friends would have wanted.

Allen Jay was one of the most remarkable Friends of the nineteenth century, indeed, perhaps one of the most remarkable Friends who ever lived. His life was full of paradoxes. Born with a cleft palate, he became one of the most admired and successful Quaker preachers of his time. A native of the Ohio frontier, he became widely traveled and admired around the globe. A peacemaker by nature, he nevertheless did not shrink from controversy when he saw a principle involved. Firmly committed to what he understood as historic Quakerism, he nevertheless helped lead perhaps the most dramatic, even revolutionary, change that it has ever experienced. And in the midst of controversy, he managed to retain the respect, even love, of almost everyone with whom he came into contact. – From the Introduction, by Thomas D. Hamm


Having now entered my seventy-ninth year, and looking back, I am prepared to say, "The hand of my God has been good upon me." My friends and the Church have been pleased to call me to fill some active positions during the past fifty years in the Church of which I was bom a member. Having seen many changes and having labored in various positions in the Church in connection with others who were trying to build up the Redeemer's kingdom in the earth, it has seemed to many of my friends that I ought to leave an account of the part I have taken in the work, of the changes that the Church has passed through during these years, and perhaps a little sketch of some of those whom I have met dur- ing this time. Therefore, with the hope that it may be of interest to some who are younger and desirous to do the Master's will, I have consented with much reluctance to undertake this service in my declining years. My greatest reason for hesitation is the fact that I have taken an active part in the work in whichI have been engaged, and therefore I fear that the pronoun "I" may appear too prominent in what I may have to say. I hope to avoid that as much as possible and to be able in all I have to say to give the glory to my Heavenly Father, who called me from following the plow to enter His vineyard, and later, in a more public way, to build up His kingdom.


The matter in this volume has been written at odd moments, amid many other claims upon my time.


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