Debates about political figures and news about national events of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, including the Civil War (1861-1865), the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln (April 1865), President Andrew Johnson's administration, and the assassination of President William McKinley (September 1901), were occassional topics of discussion in the family letters.
These letters demonstrate their engagement in issues that were headline stories in newspapers across the country.
The relief that came with the end of violence following the Civil War, the shock and sadness of President Abraham Lincoln's assassination, and disappointment in President Andrew Johnson’s Reconstruction were all responses the Cope family members shared as they witnessed these national events.
Discussions of national news, however, revealed less about their political participation. In fact, the issue of political participation, particularly officeholding, continued to be a source of debate among Philadelphia Quakers in the late nineteenth century.
According to Philip S. Benjamin, after the Civil War, the attitude of Philadelphia Quakers towards political engagement began to change. "Most Friends," Benjamin argued, "were burdened not only by a traditional hesitancy about political activity but by the thorny question of party loyalty" as Friends from both Hicksite and Orthodox branches began to question whether their traditional stance on the "prohibition of political activity" as stated in the Disciplines limited their ability to engage in political reform. As Benjamin argued, some Philadelphia Quakers felt a moral obligation to participate in reform efforts (Benjamin, 75, 86).
Further exploration of the Cope Evans Family Papers may reveal more in terms of the family's engagement in politics beyond their responses to national news.