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Hicks was not present when the differences between the meeting houses ended in acrimony and division precipitated by the inability of the Meeting to reach consensus on the appointment of a new clerk required to record its discernment. It was also based on socioeconomic factors with Hicksite Friends being mostly poor and rural and with Orthodox Friends being mostly urban and middle-class. In 1811 Hicks wrote Observations on the Slavery of Africans and Their Descendents and in it he linked the moral issue of emancipation to the Quaker Peace Testimony by stating that slavery was the product of war.
Elias Hicks was the older cousin of the painter Edward Hicks also a Quaker preacher. In his ministry he promoted doctrines that embroiled him and his followers in a controversy which caused the first major schism within the Religious Society of Friends.