The History of the Quakers

In England in the 1630s to 1650s there were religious freethinkers who dissented with official church doctrine, who joined for worship and discussion, seeking for the right way to live their christianity; they are referred to as the SEEKERS. Like the anabaptists they did not accept any priesthood.
In 1652, after having travelled extensively in England looking for followers of his interpretation of christianity, GEORGE FOX founded the nucleus of the Quaker community at Swarthmore Hall in Lancashire. From here, missionaries went out to found further communities. Fox hoped to rally Puritans, Anabaptists and Seekers to join in his movement. Quakers did not center on the bible, as Anglicans, Puritans and Anabaptists did, but searched for the 'truth' within themselves, in the Inner Light. Quakers stress the equality of all men and women, reject priesthood, church buildings, rites, refuse to swear oaths, stress the importance of always saying the truth and military service. Just like the Puritans and Anabaptists, the Quakers rejected art, sports, dance and card-play.
Because the Quakers violated the rules of the modus vivendi the British authorities had applied toward the Anabaptists and Seekers - that they lived their religious conviction in quiet - the Quakers suffered religious persecution by the state authorities. During the Commonwealth period, Quakers were tolerated - Fox met Cromwell in person, and Quaker WILLIAM PENN conquered JAMAICA from the Spanish, for the English Commonwealth.
Quakers experienced persecution in Puritan Massachusetts and in Restoration England, where legislation enforced conformity with the Anglican Church !1662-1664). Quakers refused to pay tithes to the official Anglican Church. George Fox was imprisoned, as were 13,562 Quakers, during the rule of Charles II. alone. After his release in 1666, Fox reorganizaed the Quaker community, which came to be called the SOCIETY OF FRIENDS. Quaker schools were founded, the procedure of a Quaker marriage established.
In 1681, William Penn, to whom King Charles II. was financially endebted, petitioned for the grant of a colony in America - PENNSYLVANIA. It was to become the homeland to persecuted religious minorities from Europe - to English Quakers, German and Swiss Anabaptists (the AMISH) etc.
Under James II. the persecution of Quakers was discontinued; the GLORIOUS REVOLUTION removed legal discrimination against them.

Quakers in Brief, by David M. Murray Rust, 1995
Society of Friends, from
A Short History of the Quakers in Norwich, from tucats
A History of the Quakers in New Jersey 1686-1788, from Woodbridge and Vicinity
Article Society of Friends (Quakers), from Catholic Encyclopedia, 1909 edition

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on February 9th 2003, last revised on November 16th 2004

Click here to go Home
Click here to go to Information about KMLA, WHKMLA, the author and webmaster
Click here to go to Statistics