Why was prominent Philadelphia Quaker James Pemberton exiled to Virginia in September 1777?

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Why was prominent Philadelphia Quaker James Pemberton exiled to Virginia in September 1777?

2011-09-04 00:00

Answer: He refused to take up arms against the British army during the Revolutionary War.

Born in Philadelphia in 1723, Pemberton was a well-read and well-traveled Quaker. He attended the Friends School of Philadelphia and worked most of his life as a merchant in the city. An active civic leader, Pemberton supported the rights and welfare of Native Americans and became president of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society in 1790. 

Years earlier, however, Pemberton’s strongly held beliefs led to his brief exile from his home in Philadelphia (pictured at left).  In 1756, he resigned from the Pennsylvania Assembly because the governor declared war on the Delaware Indians. A year later, Pemberton published a text in his defense called “An Apology for the People Called Quakers, containing some reasons for their not complying with human injunctions and institutions in matters relative to the worship of God.”

By the beginning of the Revolutionary War in 1776, Pemberton’s beliefs had not changed. After refusing to take up arms against the British army, he was banished to Winchester, Virginia in September 1777. Pemberton was one of twenty men, the majority of whom were prominent Quakers, exiled by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania under instructions from the Second Continental Congress for perceived Loyalist sympathies.













Submitted by Richard Hunter on

How long did James Pemberton and his brother John Pemberton remain in "exile" in Virginia? When did they return to Philadelphia and resume control of their properties and business interests?

Submitted by James Pemberton (not verified) on

Not much is known about James, but John became a patriot like character. He led the Over the Mountain Men militia company at the Battle of Kings Mountain. He also fought in 1812 after his wife Elizabeth Delany-Stanton died during the first month of hostilities. He died in 1813, but never returned to Philadelphia.

Submitted by chutto@hsp.org on

According to "Lawmaking and Legislators in Pennsylvania: A Biographical Dictionary, Volume 3," the Pembertons were called to Lancaster, PA, in April 1778, and they were then taken to Pottsgrove, PA. James Pemberton was participating again in the Quaker meeting shortly thereafter it seems. As for John Pemberton, according to his diary, he noted on April 30, 1778, "returned from banishment to Philadelphia." And he later noted participating the Yearly Meeting. So, presumably, it was not long after their return in April 1778 that they reestablished themselves in the area.

Submitted by James Pemberton (not verified) on

Thanks much, we now know James' fate. A marriage record for John and Elizabeth exists in Montgomery Co. in Southwest Virginia around that time. It is nearby Sullivan County Tennessee where they were living at the start of 1812. His wife isn't the famous Women's rights suffragette, but they may have been relatives since she was born in 1809.
He was probably visiting for the annual meeting.

Submitted by chutto@hsp.org on

Thanks for adding here to the history of the Pembertons. There's plenty to learn and discover about them!

Submitted by Ned Donoghue (not verified) on

John Pemberton (1727-1795) was a Quaker minister and died in Germany in 1795 while on a trip as a public Friend taking the Quaker message to people on the continent (the third of his such trips to Europe). James Pemberton (1723-1809) was an inveterate politician and Quaker author and activist. They both were exiled from Philadelphia to backcountry Winchester, Virginia, for nearly 8 months, September 11, 1777 to April 30, 1778, along with other Quaker leaders, including their older brother Israel Pemberton (1715-1779) who died shortly after returning from exile. The main reason they were all exiled was not that they refused to bear arms, that was accepted widely then, not even that they refused to take an oath of allegiance, but because they refused to accept the new Pennsylvania government as in any sense legitimate and because they refused to accept the Continental currency.

This statement is based on my ongoing research of the Quaker exile incident, principally conducted at Haverford College and HSP.

Submitted by chutto@hsp.org on

Thanks much for sharing, and glad to know that our collections are coming in handy for your work.

Submitted by James Pemberton (not verified) on

The Colonel John Pemberton that I was referring too, in the Fate of John was born in Lancashire, England in 1742. He immigrated and took part in the Revolution and the War of 1812. He died in 1813 while serving in the National Guard, which all military's were required to join. His son Thomas was a Conteniental Regular and died in 1848.

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