While commercial life in Philadelphia continued to grow, the pursuit of wealth ran counter to the principles of Quakerism. “The Disciplines issued by both Orthodox and Hicksites in the late 1860s and early 1870s required of Friends complete integrity in their dealings with all men, urged them to keep strict accounts of financial transactions, and inveighed against the evils of speculation. An excess of riches constituted as bad a mark against a man as dire poverty” (Benjamin, Philadelphia Quakers, 51).
Those who found economic success were integral to the growth of the "civic and institutional life of the city” (Benjamin, Philadelphia Quakers, 50).
In his diary, Thomas Pim Cope wrote that “An honest man is the noblest work of God” (Harrison, Philadelphia Merchant, 5). His Quaker principles, particularly prudence, guided his political, economic, and social life.
Thomas Pim Cope, like many Quakers in eighteenth century Philadelphia, found success in the import-export business (Benjamin, Philadelphia Quakers, 52). Thomas P. Cope founded his shipping business in 1821. The ship owned by the Cope family shipped goods across the Atlantic to Liverpool, England, carrying linen, cotton, and wheat. In Liverpool, crews loaded iron, steel, tin, and earthenware onto the ship headed for Philadelphia. Passengers could pay a fee if they desired to travel to and from England (Cope Emlen, Jr., Voyages, 1-3). After eight years, Thomas Pim Cope passed the shipping business on to his sons, Henry and Alfred. In 1880, the sons sold the business. Francis was also set to take over the business, but drowned in 1816 (August 20, 1816. Cope, Philadelphia Merchant, 307).
Brothers Alfred, Henry, and William, exchanged letters that often critiqued the policies of President Andrew Jackson, particularly how Jackson’s vendetta against the National Bank interfered with their import-export trade and packet ship business. The defining issue of debate leading up to the 1832 election was the rechartering of the National Bank. Throughout his presidency (1829-1837), Jackson vetoed all bills related to the bank because he saw it as an corrupt institution. In writing to Alfred from Philadelphia on January 22, 1834, Henry expressed his concern in the falling prices of cotton abroad and the rising interest rates. “I think the scarcity of money cannot last more than a few months, as the decrease in all kinds of business will cause much less to be wanted by traders,” he wrote. “I see no prospect of relief from Congress, as Jackson is determined to put his veto on any measure that he may think favours the Bk U. States.”
Less than a week later, Henry wrote to Alfred again repeating his criticism of Jackson. “The President,” he wrote “seems immovably fixed in his determination to put down the U.S. Bank & I see no prospect of two thirds of both houses of Congress acting in opposition to him.”
The Cope and Evans families were certainly one of the more prosperous families during the industrialization of Philadelphia. What aspects of this narrative might have changed had they not prospered?