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Early Quakers (Religious Society of Friends) New England and New York

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  • William Robinson (c.1620 - 1659)
    William Robinson's letter published in A Call from Death to Life: Being an Account of the Sufferings of Marmaduke Stephenson, William Robinson, and Mary Dyer, Printed by Friends in London, 1660. "On th...
  • Solomon G. Wright (c.1775 - aft.1854)
    1833–1875: Before the Yearly Meeting was Formed"The roots of Illinois Yearly Meeting may be traced to the 1830s, when Hicksite Quaker farmers settled along Clear Creek, near what is now McNabb, Illinoi...
  • Rebecca Harford (1657 - d.)
    Rebecca Russell is stated as a "Quakeress of London" in the the Coggeshall genealogy book Descendants of John Coggeshall, first president of RI". Second wife of John Coggeshall.File contributed for use...
  • John Browne, 1st Baronet Browne of the Neale (1604 - 1670)
    From Darryl Lundy's Peerage page on John Brown: Browne [1]*M, #184408, *d. 1670*Last Edited=10 Nov 2011John Browne was the son of Josias Browne and Joan Birmingham.[2] He married Mary Browne, daughter ...
  • Immigrant
    Mary Bigelow (c.1624 - 1691)
    Mary Warren- Salem Witch Trials Mary, born in England, 1625; married, October 31, 1642, John Bigelow. _________________________________________________________________________Mary Warren, born about 16...

A networking project for descendants of Quakers families or those who have interest.

This project is to identify and research through various resources early members of the Religious Society of Friends. Attention will be paid to those who lived during times of extreme persecution and lived as either crypto Quakers, official or unofficial members who assisted their fellow Quakers to escape or seek refuge, and were involved in the work of the early phases of the movement and immigration. Anyone with adequate research experience is welcome, especially descendants of early Quaker families who may wish to contribute.

This project is about how early Quakers, networked, and their relationships with each other and any other relevant information any that might be of historic value.

Mission in Colonial New England 1656 - 1783

New England in 1656 consisted of many colonies scattered along the rivers and coast of what was still largely Indian country, and there were few if any Quakers. By 1783 these colonies had grown and merged to become four of the thirteen founding colonies of the United States – Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Rhode Island – and there were perhaps 10,000 Quakers. Nearly all of them were from colonial families – few if any Indians became Quakers, despite cordial relations.

Early Quaker work was in three quite distinct colonies. Massachusetts Bay (round Boston and Salem) was strongly Puritan, and very intolerant of dissent. Plymouth (founded in 1620 by the Mayflower Pilgrims) was a mix of Pilgrim and Puritan. Both were challenging places for Quakers. Rhode Island, by contrast, was a haven of religious toleration, and welcomed Quakers. Its two towns - Providence and Newport - were home to many refugees from the other two colonies, including Rhode Island’s founder, Roger Williams.

Quakers Mary Fisher and Ann Austin, came to Boston in 1656, but were quickly thrown into jail and then expelled. Soon after, eight more missionaries arrived, including William Brend, John Copeland and Christopher Holder. They too were immediately jailed before being sent back to England. Massachusetts was determined to keep Quakers away, and soon banned Quaker literature too.

In 1657, the Woodhouse brought five missionaries, including Brend, Copeland and Holder on their second visit. This time they landed in Newport, in tolerant Rhode Island, and Mary Dyer was an early convert. Brend remained in Rhode Island, but Holder and Copeland went to Plymouth, and had considerable initial success, with sizeable groups soon established in the townships of Sandwich and Falmouth. Alarmed by this, Plymouth enacted laws akin to those in Massachusetts, and Holder and Copeland were expelled.They went to Salem, in Massachusetts, but were immediately arrested, sent to Boston, whipped, and banished back to Newport. Massachusetts quickly passed a law penalising anyone who had anything to do with Quakers.

Despite this persecution, the missionaries, joined now by Mary Dyer, persisted in all three colonies. In 1658 Massachusetts decided on the gruesome penalty of cutting off the ears of offending Quakers, before banishing them: both Holder and Copeland endured this. When that didn’t work, Massachusetts legislated for banishment on pain of death. This sentence was passed on Mary Dyer and others in 1659, but they soon returned, and were sentenced to death. Two men were hanged but Mary was reprieved and banished again. Undaunted, she returned yet again: this time there was no reprieve.

Meanwhile Holder and Copeland had returned to England, where their mutilated ears gave vivid evidence of the brutality happening in Boston. Leading Friend Edward Burroughs petitioned the King: Charles II was the colonists’ sovereign too, so could do something about it, if he chose. He sent ‘The King’s Missive’, instructing the colonists to stop.

Thereafter there were no more executions, but persecution continued, most notoriously with the 1662 Cart and Whip Act. Quakers were still to be banished, but their expulsion now involved tying them to a cart, stripped to the waist whatever the weather, and whipping them as they walked behind the cart all the way to the border. Elizabeth Hooton experienced this twice.

Ten years later, George Fox, John Burnyeat, and others came to Newport, and spoke powerfully at the 1672 Yearly Meeting there. Soon afterwards Burnyeat and William Edmundson took part in a significant debate about Quaker theology, instigated by Roger Williams, who was deeply uncomfortable with Quakerism. Quakers had the better of it, and Rhode Island was predominantly Quaker for the next 100 years.

Edmundson, Burnyeat and many others continued missionary work in New England, including new places such as the future Maine, New Hampshire and Connecticut. They met with considerable success, though nowhere else was ever like Rhode Island.

At the beginning of the eighteenth century, a new generation of missionaries was active. Thomas Chalkley, Thomas Story and others took Quakerism to Nantucket Island, where it flourished for many years. By now many missionaries were New England born and bred, or came from colonies further south. John Woolman came from New Jersey in 1647, and reinforced the growing antislavery sentiment among New England Quakers. They went on to eliminate it amongst Quakers, and then campaigned for complete abolition.Some Quakers still came from across the Atlantic, notably John Fothergill, followed by his son Samuel.

"Although they were notorious for appearing naked in marketplaces, interrupting sermons, and calling for the overthrow of the church, the Quakers were extraordinarily disciplined about running riot.

It made sense for the Quakers to cultivate an exaggerated presence in order to make their voices heard among the clamor of other religious sects formed after English Civil War. But what set them apart was the volume of their printed works. During the early years of their establishment in the 1650s, Quakers published about a pamphlet a week, paid for through a collectively managed fund, and distributed by a network of itinerant preachers known as the “Valiant Sixty.” The Sixty, which were in fact more than sixty people, included George Fox, Margaret Fell Fox, Mary Fisher, and sixteen-year-old George Whitehead. Because they commanded others to tremble before the Lord, they were called Quakers, a title they re-appropriated from their critics. Among themselves, they were the Society of Friends. Unlike nearly every other group to arise out of the traumatic events of 1640s England, the Friends have survived as a religious group to this day.

"Early Quaker pamphlets were as in-your-face as early Quakers. Founder George Fox’s tracts overflowed with visions of Final Judgement, titles like The Vials of the Wrath of God Poured Fourth (1654) and The Great Mistery of the Great Whore Unfolded (1659). George Whitehead spent his teenage years in and out of jail for preaching unorthodox views with the kind of boldness that would have fit in with the Sex Pistols at the Silver Jubilee. From prison he wrote works such as Cain’s generation discover’d (1665), and The path of the just cleared: and cruelty and tyranny laid open (1655). The overarching style was passionate and apocalyptic.

But is it possible to imagine a future when you believe the world is going to end? Even though the tone of early Quaker pamphlets was mostly apocalyptic, the system of pamphlet production and distribution the Valiant Sixty built was ultimately stronger than some of the beliefs it spread. Consumers of these publications included converts across England who had been visited at one time or another by members of the Valiant Sixty. In the absence of stable leaders and places of worship, converts were taught to form weekly Meetings to keep up the faith. The pamphlets were issued at regular intervals to encourage Meetings, and to update them about experiences of the traveling Sixty. By imagining its future in print, Quakerism took on a social life of its own and became more than just a fad.

Not every reader of Quaker pamphlets was sympathetic. Ephraim Pagit added Quakers to the ranks of his catalogue of heretics, the Heresiography he had begun in 1645. Pagit saw the Quakers as the latest in a long line of upstarts. Quakers were added to the fifth Edition of Pagit’s Who’s Who of rebels, the Heresiography. Early English Books Online Other citizens and divines whose worldviews the Valiant Sixty actively undermined produced pamphlets of their own in response to the Quakers. One critic, Thomas Underhill, described their effect on English society in a 1660 pamphlet, Hell Broke Loose:

[Quakers] are the most immodest, obscene, people in the world, next to the late Ranters. If all the Stories of their womens tripping themselves to the very skin, in the presence of men, and of mens so doing in the presence of women of late years, should be here set down, they would be enough to make a large Volume.

Underhill even provides a list of seven such streakings. Underhill’s idea of Quakers as “poisonous Weeds … with which the Garden of the Church of England is overrun,” comes largely from his perception of the “multitude of motions, in Counsels, Books, Papers, Letters, which they have sent or delivered unto every pretending Authority for these many years.” The majority of the book is comprised of quotes lifted verbatim from Quaker tracts, so widely available were they to Friends and their enemies. An earlier anti-Quaker writer, Francis Higginson, did not limit his disgust to printed matter when he complained about Quakers’ “printed Libels, and…Manuscripts that flye as thick as Moths up and down the Country.” The Quakers got as good as they gave, with detractors issuing violent outpourings of their own against them, among others Ralph Farmer’s Sathan Inthrone’d in his Chair of Pestilence, or Quakerisim in its Exaltation (1657), Thomas Smith’s A Gagg for the Quakers (1659), Lodowick Muggleton’s The neck of the QUAKERS Broken (1663), Francis Bugg’s Painted Harlot both Stript and whipt (1683).

The title-page to the Quakers Dream illustrates the major aspect of Quakerism that angered so many contemporaries: in the upper right panel the preacher preaches to “walk answerable to the light within you.” The Quaker belief in the “Inner Light” lead to a rejection of written doctrine and hierarchy, replaced with belief in equality. George Fox even wrote about the equality of men and women. Confidence in their “Inner Light” gave Quakers a certain brazen edge to their beliefs, but the “Inner Light” was also what linked Quakers to earlier religious outliers and mystics like Jakob Böhme. To the eyes of their enemies, belief in the Inner Light and rejection of the authority of Scripture (which Quakers called “letters”) posed the greatest danger of all.

The violent titles of pamphlets against Quakers were not just rhetorical. Quakers were gagged, hung, stripped, and whipped, and more than any other religious group at the time, imprisoned in horrifically overcrowded conditions. There were times when the number of Friends in prison was so high that local meetings were kept up by children.

By 1673, around two decades after the foundation of the Society of Friends, Quakers had suffered almost constantly, especially in the aftermath of the Fifth Monarchy Uprising in 1661, despite their innocence. They had officially declared themselves pacifists in an attempt to distance themselves from the violent architects of the uprising, but were faced nevertheless with legislation targeted directly at ending the movement: the Quaker Act of 1661. But they were able to print more pamphlets than ever despite persecution and the oppressive Licensing Act of 1662. Through pamphlets and traveling preachers they had gained more followers and built new communities as far away as Barbados. All of this, right under the nose of Sir Roger L’Estrange, “Surveyor” of the Press (known to contemporaries the “Bloodhound of the Press”), who particularly hated Quakers and tried constantly to shut down their printing operations.

By 1673, the structure of Meetings had expanded into something like a bureaucracy. The main event was the Yearly London Meeting. There was also the “Six Weeks Meeting,” which met to “weigh & consider of such affaires relating to Truth … as might not be judg’d fitt to be publickly discoursed.” Quaker historians such as William Braithwaite describe this as a time of settling (despite constant upheaval). Conversely, Christopher Hill regarded it as selling out the revolution, which began during the period when Quakers proclaimed themselves pacifists back in 1661.

If the sheer numbers of printed pamphlets alone had first given a future to Quaker beliefs, collecting these printed pamphlets in an official library was a crucial second step, in addition to streamlining the process of submission and publication. A team of eight Friends set out to collect the books and solicit manuscripts: George Roberts, William Welch, Ellis Hookes, James Claypoole, George Whitehead, William Penn, and Ellis Hookes, who was also in charge of keeping the meeting minutes. Nicholas Jorden of Bristol, and Nicholas Cole of Plymouth, were also sent to scare up printed Quaker and Anti-Quaker tracts from their parts of the country. The Second Morning Meeting, with its origins in collective trembling, quaking, and sometimes streaking, became a unit for archiving, printing, and circulating ideas that would not be unfamiliar to activists today.

The Second Morning Meeting minutes give insight into the many different fates that could befall a book under collective decision-making. Outright acceptance and rejection of manuscripts was rarely the case. Even the most prominent Quakers submitted to the authority of the Second Morning Meeting: George Fox himself had a “paper … read and ordered to be laid by till G.F. be spoken with about it,” and a work by another Quaker leader, Isaac Pennington, had his book The soul’s food “not Judged meet to be printed.” A book written by John Bezers, read by Bezers himself aloud to the meeting, was “concluded not convenient nor safe to be printed or published.” Moreover, Bezer’s depiction of Jesus in the work caused the Meeting to persuade Bezer to “submitt & give [the book] up to the Meeting” for safekeeping—a process involving some negotiation but with which “he expressed his satisfaction therein.” Since James Naylor had been arrested and mutilated in retribution for entering the town of Bristol upon a donkey in the manner of Jesus’s entrance into Jerusalem in 1656, the Meeting upheld a ban of his writings to distance themselves from his bad reputation. They ordered “the printing of J: Naylors Bookes be suspended till it be taken into further & more generall Consideration by the 2d dayes meeting & some Antient friends of the Citty,” and did not lift the ban for nearly two decades.

This element of rejection hints at a shorthand definition suggested by some historians for the Second Morning Meeting: a censoring body. It’s also seen to be at odds with the original spirit of the Quaker movement: one of mystical visions and involuntary proclamations, or as the Quakers Dream described it, “Shreekings, Shaking, Quakings, Roaring, Yellings, Howlings.” Shaping the Quaker “message” did take up a lot of the Meeting’s agenda, but seen within the totality of the tedious corpus of meeting minutes, censorship was just one of its functions.

For instance on 30th November 1673 an “Epistle entituled a loveing seasonable advice to the Children of light” written by Thomas Taylor was deemed unfit for print, but the Meeting decided that it might be “spread & read amongst freinds in Manuscript where it may be serviceable.” Sometimes works were not printed because they were old news, for instance in John Gratton’s “answer to John Cheney … it’s so long since the Preists sheet came forth.” And since it was rumored that Cheney intended to write more (and he did, called The Shibboleth of Quakerism), they decided “the rest may be answered in one book” to conserve time and money. Aside from practical reasons, works were most often rejected to prevent “reviving troubles to friends,” either with other religious groups such as Baptists, or with authorities with the power to fine or imprison the author. In other cases, Friends writing works from prison were encouraged to withhold publication out of concern that it would “frustrate & strengthen their bonds”.

The decisions made by the Meeting were made collectively. The majority of works published underwent a process of communal review, and edits were negotiated with each author, and even rejection letters were written and signed collectively. Minutes record that final decisions as to the publication of manuscripts could be made by no less than three or four Friends. In reality more were usually present—sometimes including the author of a work, his or her family, or neighbors or friends which delivered manuscripts on their behalf. For more prominent publications, such as the collected works of a deceased Quaker, there were more readers: often manuscript collections were available on loan to interested readers. Equally, for more controversial books, there were more readers: for instance when a schism broke out in the Quaker colony of Pennsylvania, former Quaker George Keith’s books were reviewed by no less than 8 friends, “and any other that are Free.” The short form Quaker writings took, pamphlets, were key to this communal process of editing, because works were read aloud to all present, and edited orally as well. Over time, publishing longer works meant more frequent meetings, and more breakaway editorial committees. Only after edits were collectively agreed upon with the authors were manuscripts taken away by the printers, who were often present at the readings.

The Meeting format, which had its origins in collective, mystical experiences of trembling and Quaking in fear of the Lord, and which had formed part of the basis for Quaker survival through terrible persecution, also became a forum for collective skills-sharing in reading, writing, and publication. And in turn, a sense of collective education and advocacy. After all, the subject matter taken up by the Quaker press in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries included a number of incredibly progressive issues: pacifism, gender equality, racial equality, and prison reform.

From: The Appendix Futures of the Past By Brooke Palmieri – Published August 21, 2014 http://theappendix.net/issues/2014/7/the-wild-the-innocent-and-the-...

Reading:

https://www.ncpedia.org/quakers

https://www.varsitytutors.com/earlyamerica/early-america-review/vol...

https://libraries.psu.edu/about/collections/unearthing-past-student...

https://www.independent.ie/lifestyle/how-the-quakers-changed-irelan...

https://www.biography.com/video/susan-b-anthony-the-quaker-belief-2...

https://www.sidwell.edu/about/history/quaker-rare-book-collection

https://www.pinterest.com/jeanneelberfeld/quaker-wisdom/?lp=true