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The public is here presented with an authentic History, and candid representation of the character of that truly eccentric community, known as the United Society of Shakers
Added to a collection of facts, which are connected with the history of this people, and with the course pursued by fanaticism, is, a general view of their Government, Constitution, and of the principles which constitute their profession.
The History was collated from the most authentic documents; and the Government of the Society, from the observation of the author, while a member of it. The author has taken a course, unprecedented by the writers on this subject, and has aimed only to expose the delusion and fanaticism of this people, nor is he so predjudiced against them, as to leave unpronounced their few virtues. He is not sufficiently presumptuous to say that he has executed his duty in an abler manner, or was supported in the accomplishment of it, by a superior knowledge: but this he can, with confidence, assert, that he has penned nothing, but what has emanated from a mind, that duly appreciated the character of his fellow beings, and that was deeply impressed with the existence of a just GOD, and an hereafter of happiness or misery.
The fraility of our minds subjects us to errors, and those which have arisen from this, and are errors in matter, the author has been careful to correct. If any have escaped his notice, and should be observed by the Society or its friends, he will receive such information with that pleasure which arises from the determined intention of doing justice to fellow beings, and, shall either correct them, if real; or if they are only supposed, he will present his authority to prove their correctness.
The apology, which the author shall make for the errors in the manner, is, his youth, his small advantages for education, his circumstances not allowing him time to criticise his work, and his having written it, in hours of relaxation from his manual occupation, and when the eyes of half the world were closed in sleep.
These, however, will not attenuate the truth of the sentiments, nor should they lessen the conviction that should follow them That truth only may, as it will, flourish, is. the desire of the author, who now submits his work to the public.
Source: Introduction and transcription by Bryan Wright
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