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How the Quakers Invented America Hardcover – June 28, 2007

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (June 28, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0742558339
  • ISBN-13: 978-0742558335
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.2 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,670,537 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Silence and inner light permeate this personal exposition and witness. Yount invites us to take a practical and deep wisdom from the Quakers. (John W. Crossin, OSFS, executive director, Washington Theological Consortium)

From its curiosity piquing title to its final satisfying sentence, How the Quakers Invented America is an entertaining and informative book about both the United States and the influence of those quirky Quakers on it. David Yount's writing is crisp and clean and the story he tells is engaging, surprising, and delightful. (J. Brent Bill, Executive Vice President, Indianapolis Center for Congregations; author of "Holy Silence")

From the Bill of Rights to frugality, individualism, egalitarianism, family life, religious voluntaryism, and various folkways, Quaker fingerprints are everywhere in the American ethos. David Yount chronicles this heritage with the clear, informative insight of an insider (himself a Friend) and a lifelong observer of religion in America. Not sparing critique of Quaker ways, Yount traces the rich contributions of Friends from their origins to the contemporary branches of Quakerism where their distinctives might still be found. (Max L. Carter, director, Guilford College Friends Center)

If you want to see how Quakerism influenced the principles of American democracy...if you want insight into a complex religion . . . if you want to understand Quakerism in the context of the larger Christian community. . . if you want to understand the significance of Quakerism in the modern transformation of American society through its leadership and participation in social justice movements—then I urge you to read David Yount's How Quakers Invented America. (Mary Ellen McNish, general secretary, American Friends Service Committee)

An attractive, wide-ranging, personal view of Quakerism . . . thought-provoking, full of life and optimism. (John Punshon Quaker Life)

Yount is a fine writer. The book is a pleasant, interesting, and meaningful read. (January 2008 Friends Journal)

A thorough reading revealed the author's ability to take a wide range of approaches to the subject matter. Some sections were stimulating, and other parts personally reflective and thoughtful. . . . This book can promote some understanding of Quakerism . . . I can recommend this book as a quick and easy read, with an interesting (if quirky) personal style. (Paul Sheldon, Ph.D., Villanova University Peace and Justice Studies)

About the Author

David Yount writes the nationally syndicated column "Amazing Grace" and hosts a weekly cable TV program. He regularly appears in the media and is the author of nine books, including What are We to Do? and Be Strong and Courageous. He lives in Montclair, VA.

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Customer Reviews

2.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Professor L on November 4, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Like many Americans, most of what I knew about the Quakers until a few years ago was related to their pacifism and emphasis on good works. I lumped them together with groups like the Mennonites, Bretheren, Shakers, and even the Amish, without much knowledge of the theological differences between them. After lapsing from the Presbyterian upbringing, I found a new and natural home with the Quakers about two years ago. As a "convinced" Friend, I'm still learning about the historical tradition of the Quakers in America, so this book seemed promising at first glance.

I finished reading it today, and I have to say that it was a major disappointment. Unlike Howard Brinton's rewarding and very thorough "Friends for 350 Years," or even the somewhat dry "Silence and Witness," this book appears to primarily be a disorganized mixture of the author's impressions of the faith. After coming to sweeping, and often inaccurate, generalizations about Quakers, the author attempts to draw connections to core American values.

There are many flaws with his approach. First, his observations are clearly personal and not based on a particularly careful reading of historical documents or sources. As a rule of thumb, if he, his wife, and their clerk of meeting think something, the author then assigns it to all Quakers. There is a bibliography, but the author's understanding of historical documentation is very limited, and his "expertise" is primarily backed up by reference to having been invited to give lectures at various places.

Second, the author has a strangely static understanding of core American values.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Robert E. Pierson on January 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In the darker days of Quakerism (primarily the 1800s), errant Quakers were disowned by being "read out" of their Meetings. Regrettably, I'd advise the same fate for this book.

First, I should state that I am a fellow Quaker and that Friend Yount clearly means well. He presents a heartfelt case for his personal experience of both Quakerism and America.

However, Yount projects his experience and opinions onto all of Quakerism and all of America. According to Yount, both are "egalitarian, fair, peace loving, charitable, responsible, plainspoken, and honest." In fact Quakers have "contributed more than any other group" to these "founding ideals" and have "long since converted America to their way of thinking." Wow. Really?

The book seems cobbled together from scrap book clippings. When making a point about Quaker theology, Yount will quote Dante, St. Paul and a near-death researcher. The conclusion rambles. The writing is sloppy and the editing worse. In the space of two paragraphs, the word "inferred" is misused and someone sits "bold upright."

Worst of all, the book is riddled with factual errors and generalizations. Do "all" Friends share a "convincement" (wrong use of this Quaker word) about the afterlife? No. Are all Friends in the West and Midwest "programmed" Friends and members of Friends United Meeting who refer to themselves as evangelicals? No. Is there really no Quaker Theology since Robert Barclay? Hardly. Is the Old Testament "the Bible Jesus knew and used?" and does the New Testament "read more like journalism than literature?" Some of the generalizations veer towards offensiveness - for example, characterizing the "good Jew" as one who has to "follow strictly 613 commandments.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By MZ on August 9, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The book starts out fairly strong, giving the reader a light and readable introduction to Quaker principles and their history in America. Then the book dissolves into a wide-ranging personal account of what the author feels is the authentic Quaker creed, desperately trying to tie it to the America creed. That's fine; it's his opinion. But then the author begins to judge those who came before the Quakers, and also belittles the Quaker-to-be who doesn't believe in Jesus Christ. He pushes hard on the supercession theory, claiming that the Jews were "rescued" from a tradition of too many laws by the newer and more enlightened Christian tradition. I simply cannot imagine any of the kind Quakers in my community expressing opinions like those found in this book. Apparently, the author has not yet seen the light.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is one of the many books recently that highlight the cultural traits of America that start in colonial times. The Quakers are a religious sect which drew adherents from many parts of Northern Europe and contributed greatly to the tolerance of America and the folkways that led to the industrialization of much of the Mid-West.

This book seeks to tell their story. It isn't bad but it doesn't come together in the same way other books about the colonial origins of American culture do. It is easy as a Midwesterner to see Quaker origins in my own family and regional origins, but outside of that area Quakerism isn't so pronounced.
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