Labos, Dangers and Sufferings 1661-1662
Now did I see the end of the travail which I had in my sore exercise at Reading; for the everlasting power of the Lord was over all, and His blessed Truth, life, and light shined over the nation. Great and glorious meetings we had, and very quiet; and many flocked unto the Truth. Richard Hubberthorn had been with the King, who said that none should molest us so long as we lived peaceably and promised this upon the word of a king; telling Richard that we might make use of his promise.
Some Friends were also admitted in the House of Lords, to declare their reasons why they could not pay tithes, swear, go to the steeple-house worship, or join with others in worship; and the Lords heard them moderately. There being about seven hundred Friends in prison, who had been committed under Oliver’s and Richard’s government, upon contempts (so called) when the King came in, he set them all at liberty.
There seemed at that time an inclination and intention in the government to grant Friends liberty, because those in authority were sensible that we had suffered as well as they under the former powers. But still, when anything was going forward in order thereto, some dirty spirits or other, that would seem to be for us, threw something in the way to stop it. It was said there was an instrument drawn up for confirming our liberty, and that it only wanted signing; when suddenly that wicked attempt of the Fifth-monarchy people broke out, and put the city and nation in an uproar. This was on a First-day night, and very glorious meetings we had had that day, wherein the Lord’s Truth shone over all, and His power was exalted above all; but about midnight, or soon after, the drums beat, and the cry was, “Arm, Arm!”
I got up out of bed, and in the morning took boat, and, landing at Whitehall-stairs, walked through Whitehall. The people there looked strangely at me, but I passed through them, and went to Pall-Mall, where diverse Friends came to me, though it had now become dangerous to pass through the streets; for by this time the city and suburbs were up in arms. Exceedingly rude the people and soldiers were. Henry Fell, going to a Friend’s house, was knocked down by the soldiers, and he would have been killed had not the Duke of York come by.
Great mischief was done in the city this week; and when the next first-day came, as Friends went to their meetings, many were taken prisoners. I stayed at Pall-Mall, intending to be at the meeting there; but on Seventh-day night a company of troopers came and knocked at the door. The servant let them in. They rushed into the house, and laid hold of me; and, there being amongst them one that had served under the Parliament, he put his hand to my pocket and asked whether I had any pistol. I told him, “You know I do not carry pistols, why, therefore, ask such a question of me, whom you know to be a peaceable man?”
Others of the soldiers ran into the chambers, and there found in bed Esquire Marsh, who, though he was one of the King’s bedchamber, out of his love to me came and lodged where I did. When they came down again they said, “Why should we take this man away with us. We will let him alone.”
“Oh,” said the Parliament soldier, “he is one of the heads, and a chief ringleader.”
Upon this the soldiers were taking me away, but Esquire Marsh, hearing of it, sent for him that commanded the party, and desired him to let me alone, for he would see me forthcoming in the morning.
In the morning, before they could fetch me, and before the meeting was gathered, there came a company of foot soldiers to the house, and one of them, drawing his sword, held it over my head. I asked him why he drew his sword at an unarmed man, at which his fellows, being ashamed, bade him put up his sword.
These foot soldiers took me away to Whitehall before the troopers came for me.
As I was going out several Friends were coming in to the meeting. I commended their boldness and cheerfulness, and encouraged them to persevere therein.
When I was brought to Whitehall, the soldiers and people were exceedingly rude, yet I declared Truth to them. But some great persons came by, who were very full of envy. “Why,” said they, “do ye let him preach? Put him into a place where he may not stir.”
So into such a place they put me, and the soldiers watched over me. I told them that, though they could confine my body and shut that up, yet they could not stop the Word of life. Some came and asked me what I was. I told them, “A preacher of righteousness.”
After I had been kept there two or three hours, Esquire Marsh spoke to Lord Gerrard, and he came and bade them set me at liberty. The marshal, when I was discharged, demanded fees. I told him I could not give him any, neither was it our practice; and I asked him how he could demand fees of me, who was innocent.
Then I went through the guards, the Lord’s power being over them; and, after I had declared Truth to the soldiers, I went up the streets with two Irish colonels that came from Whitehall to an inn where many Friends were at that time prisoners under a guard. I desired these colonels to speak to the guard to let me go in to visit my friends that were prisoners there; but they would not. Then I stepped up to the sentry, and desired him to let me go up; and he did so.
While I was there the soldiers went again to Pall-Mall to search for me; but not finding me they turned towards the inn, and bade all come out that were not prisoners; so they went out. But I asked the soldiers that were within whether I might not stay there a while with my friends. They said, “Yes.” I stayed, and so escaped their hands again. Towards night I went to Pall-Mall, to see how it was with the Friends there; and, after I had stayed a while, I went up into the city.
Great rifling of houses there was at this time to search for people. I went to a private Friend’s house, and Richard Hubberthorn was with me. There we drew up a declaration against plots and fightings, to be presented to the King and Council; but when finished, and sent to print, it was taken in the press.
On this insurrection of the Fifth-monarchy men, great havoc was made both in city and country, so that it was dangerous for sober people to stir abroad for several weeks after. Men or women could hardly go up and down the streets to buy provisions for their families without being abused. In the country they dragged men and women out of their houses, and some sick men out of their beds by the legs. Nay, one man in a fever, the soldiers dragged out of bed to prison, and when he was brought there he died. His name was Thomas Pachyn.
Margaret Fell went to the King and told him what sad work there was in the city and nation, and showed him we were an innocent, peaceable people, and that we must keep our meetings as heretofore, whatever we suffered; but that it concerned him to see that peace was kept, that no innocent blood might be shed.
The prisons were now everywhere filled with Friends and others, in the city and country, and the posts were so laid for the searching of letters that none could pass unsearched. We heard of several thousands of our Friends that were cast into prison in several parts of the nation, and Margaret Fell carried an account of them to the King and Council. The next week we had an account of several thousands more that were cast into prison, and she went and laid them also before the King and Council. They wondered how we could have such intelligence, seeing they had given such strict charge for the intercepting of all letters; but the Lord did so order it that we had an account notwithstanding all their stoppings.
Soon after the King gave forth a proclamation that no soldiers should search any house without a constable. But the jails were still full, many thousands of Friends being in prison; which mischief was occasioned by the wicked rising of the Fifth-monarchy men. But when those that were taken came to be executed, they did us the justice to clear us openly from having any hand in or knowledge of their plot.
After that, the King being continually importuned thereunto, issued a declaration that Friends should be set at liberty without paying fees. But great labour, travail, and pains were taken before this was obtained; for Thomas Moore and Margaret Fell went often to the King about it.
Much blood was shed this year, many of the old King’s judges being hung, drawn and quartered. Amongst them that so suffered, Colonel Hacker was one. He had sent me prisoner from Leicester to London in Oliver’s time, of which an account is given before. A sad day it was, and a repaying of blood with blood. For in the time of Oliver Cromwell, when several men were put to death by him, being hung, drawn and quartered for pretended treasons, I felt from the Lord God that their blood would be required; and I said as much then to several.
And now, upon the King’s return, several that had been against him were put to death, as the others that were for him had been before by Oliver. This was sad work, destroying people; contrary to the nature of Christians, who have the nature of lambs and sheep. But there was a secret hand in bringing this day upon that hypocritical generation of professors, who, being got into power, grew proud, haughty, and cruel beyond others, and persecuted the people of God without pity.
When Friends were under cruel persecutions and sufferings in the Commonwealth’s time, I was moved of the Lord to write to Friends to draw up accounts of their sufferings, and lay them before the justices at their sessions; and if they would not do justice, then to lay them before the judges at the assize; and if they would not do justice, then to lay them before the Parliament, the Protector and his Council, that they might all see what was done under their government; and if they would not do justice, then to lay it before the Lord, who would hear the cries of the oppressed, and of the widows and fatherless whom they had made so.
For that for which we suffered, and for which our goods were spoiled, was our obedience to the Lord in His Power and His Spirit. He was able to help and to succour, and we had no helper in the earth but Him. And He heard the cries of His people, and brought an overflowing scourge over the heads of all our persecutors, which brought a dread and a fear amongst and on them all. So that those who had nicknamed us (who are the children of Light) and in scorn called us Quakers, the Lord made to quake; and many of them would have been glad to hide themselves amongst us; and some of them, through the distress that came upon them, did at length come to confess to the Truth.
Many ways were these professors warned, by word, by writing, and by signs; but they would believe none till it was too late. William Sympson was moved of the Lord to go at several times for three years naked and barefooted before them, as a sign to them, in markets, courts, towns, cities, to priests’ houses, and to great men’s houses, telling them, “So shall ye be stripped naked as I am stripped naked!” And sometimes he was moved to put on hair-sackcloth, and to besmear his face, and to tell them, “So will the Lord God besmear all your religion as I am besmeared.”
Great sufferings did that poor man undergo, sore whippings with horse-whips and coach-whips on his bare body, grievous stoning and imprisonments, in three years’ time, before the King came in, that they might have taken warning; but they would not, and rewarded his love with cruel usage. Only the mayor of Cambridge did nobly to him, for he put his gown about him and took him into his house.
Another Friend, Robert Huntingdon, was moved of the Lord to go into Carlisle steeple-house with a white sheet about him, amongst the great Presbyterians and Independents there, to show them that the surplice was coming up again; and he put an halter about his neck to show them that an halter was coming upon them; which was fulfilled upon some of our persecutors not long after.
Another, Richard Sale, living near Westchester, being constable of the place where he lived, had sent to him with a pass a Friend whom those wicked professors had taken up for a vagabond, because he travelled up and down in the work of the ministry. This constable, being convinced by the Friend thus brought to him, gave him his pass and liberty, and was afterwards himself cast into prison.
After this, on a lecture-day, Richard Sale was moved to go to the steeple-house in the time of their worship, and to carry those persecuting priests and people a lantern and candle, as a figure of their darkness. But they cruelly abused him, and like dark professors as they were put him into their prison called Little Ease, and so squeezed his body therein that not long after he died.
Although those Friends that had been imprisoned on the rising of the Fifth-monarchy men were set at liberty, meetings were much disturbed, and great sufferings Friends underwent. For besides what was done by officers and soldiers, many wild fellows and rude people often came in.
One time when I was at Pall-Mall there came an ambassador with a company of Irishmen and rude fellows. The meeting was over before they came, and I was gone into a chamber, where I heard one of them say that he would kill all the Quakers. I went down to him, and was moved in the power of the Lord to speak to him. I told him, “The law said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth’; but thou threateneth to kill all the Quakers, though they have done thee no hurt. But,” said I, “here is gospel for thee: here is my hair, here is my cheek, and here is my shoulder,” turning it to him.
This so overcame him that he and his companions stood as men amazed, and said that if that was our principle, and if we were as we said, they never saw the like in their lives. I told them that what I was in words, I also was in my life. Then the ambassador who stood without, came in; for he said that this Irish colonel was a desperate man that he durst not come in with him for fear he should do us some mischief. But Truth came over the Irish colonel, and he carried himself lovingly towards us; as also did the ambassador; for the Lord’s power was over them all.
At Mile-End Friends were kept out of their meeting-place by soldiers, but they stood nobly in the Truth, valiant for the Lord’s name; and at last the Truth gave them dominion.
About this time we had an account that John Love, a Friend that was moved to go and bear testimony against the idolatry of the Papists, was dead in prison at Rome; it was suspected he was privately put to death. Also before this time we received account from New England that the government there had made a law to banish the Quakers out of their colonies, upon pain of death in case they returned; that several of our Friends, having been so banished and returning, were thereupon taken and actually hanged, and that diverse more were in prison, in danger of the like sentence being executed upon them. When those were put to death I was in prison at Lancaster, and had a perfect sense of their sufferings as though it had been myself, and as though the halter had been put about my own neck, though we had not at that time heard of it.
As soon as we heard of it, Edward Burrough went to the King and told him that there was a vein of innocent blood opened in his dominions which, if it were not stopped, would overrun all. To this the King replied, “But I will stop that vein.” Edward Burrough said, “Then do it speedily for we know not how many may soon be put to death.” The King answered, “As speedily as ye will. Call,” (said he to some present) “the secretary, and I will do it presently.”
The secretary being called, a mandamus was forthwith granted. A day or two after, Edward Burrough going again to the King to desire the matter might be expedited, the King said he had no occasion at present to send a ship thither, but if we would send one we might do it as soon as we would. Edward then asked the King if it would please him to grant his deputation to one called a Quaker to carry the mandamus to New England. He said, “Yes, to whom ye will.”
Whereupon Edward Burrough named Samuel Shattuck, who, being an inhabitant of New England, was banished by their law, to be hanged if he came again; and to him the deputation was granted. Then he sent for Ralph Goldsmith, an honest Friend, who was master of a good ship, and agreed with him for three hundred pounds (goods or no goods) to sail in ten days. He forthwith prepared to set sail, and with a prosperous gale, in about six weeks’ time, arrived before the town of Boston in New England, upon a First-day morning.
With him went many passengers, both of New and Old England, Friends, whom the Lord moved to go to bear their testimony against those bloody persecutors, who had exceeded all the world in that age in their bloody persecutions.
The townsmen at Boston, seeing a ship come into the bay with English colours, soon came on board and asked for the captain. Ralph Goldsmith told them he was the commander. They asked him if he had any letters. He said, “Yes.” They asked if he would deliver them. He said, “No; not to-day.”
So they went ashore and reported that there was a ship full of Quakers, and that Samuel Shattuck, who they knew was by their law to be put to death if he came again after banishment, was among them, but they knew not his errand nor his authority.
So all were kept close that day, and none of the ship’s company suffered to go on shore. Next morning Samuel Shattuck, the King’s deputy, and Ralph Goldsmith, went on shore, and, sending back to the ship the men that landed them, they two went through the town to Governor John Endicott’s door, and knocked. He sent out a man to know their business. They sent him word that their business was from the King of England, and that they would deliver their message to no one but the Governor himself.
Thereupon they were admitted, and the Governor came to them; and having received the deputation and the mandamus, he put off his hat and looked upon them. Then, going out, he bade the Friends follow him. He went to the deputy-governor, and after a short consultation came out to the Friends, and said, “We shall obey his majesty’s commands.”
After this the master gave liberty to the passengers to come on shore, and presently the noise of the business flew about the town; and the Friends of the town and the passengers of the ship met together to offer up their praises and thanksgivings to God, who had so wonderfully delivered them from the teeth of the devourer.
While they were thus met, in came a poor Friend, who, being sentenced by their bloody law to die, had lain some time in irons expecting execution. This added to their joy, and caused them to lift up their hearts in high praise to God, who is worthy for ever to have the praise, the glory, and the honour; for He only is able to deliver, to save, and support all that sincerely put their trust in Him. Here follows a copy of the mandamus.
“Trusty and well-beloved, We greet you well. Having been informed that several of our subjects amongst you, called Quakers, have been and are imprisoned by you, whereof some have been executed, and others (as hath been represented unto us) are in danger to undergo the like, we have thought fit to signify our pleasure in that behalf for the future; and do hereby require that if there be any of those people called Quakers amongst you, now already condemned to suffer death or other corporal punishment, or that are imprisoned and obnoxious to the like condemnation, you are to forbear to proceed any further therein; but that you forthwith send the said persons (whether condemned or imprisoned) over into this our kingdom of England, together with the respective crimes or offenses laid to their charge, to the end that such course may be taken with them here as shall be agreeable to our laws and their demerits. And for so doing, these our letters shall be your sufficient warrant and discharge. Given at our court at Whitehall the ninth day of September, 1661, in the 13th year of our reign.”
Subscribed: “To our trusty and well-beloved John Endicott, Esquire, and to all and every other the Governor or governors of our plantations of New England, and of all the colonies thereunto belonging, that now are or hereafter shall be, and to all and every the ministers and officers of our plantations and colonies whatsoever within the continent of New England. ” By his majesty’s command,
Some time after this several New England magistrates came over, with one of their priests. We had several discourses with them concerning their murdering our Friends, the servants of the Lord; but they were ashamed to stand to their bloody actions.
On one of these occasions I asked Simon Broadstreet, one of the New England magistrates, whether he had not had a hand in putting to death those four servants of God, whom they hung only for being Quakers, as they had nicknamed them. He confessed that he had. I then asked him and the rest of his associates that were present whether they would acknowledge themselves to be subject to the laws of England; and if they did, by what laws they had put our Friends to death. They said they were subject to the laws of England, and had put our Friends to death by the same law that the Jesuits were put to death in England.
I asked them then whether they believed those Friends of ours whom they had put to death were Jesuits or jesuitically affected. They said, “Nay.” “Then,” said I, “ye have murdered them, if ye have put them to death by the law by which Jesuits are put to death here in England, and yet confess they were no Jesuits. By this it plainly appears ye have put them to death in your own wills, without any law.”
Then Simon Broadstreet, finding himself and his company ensnared by their own words, asked if we came to catch them. I told them they had caught themselves and might justly be questioned for their lives; and if the father of William Robinson, one of them that were put to death, were in town, it was probable he would question them, and bring their lives into jeopardy.
Here they began to excuse themselves, saying, “There is no persecution now amongst us.” But next morning we had letters from New England telling us that our Friends were persecuted there afresh. We went again and showed them our letters, which put them both to silence and to shame; and in great fear they seemed to be lest some one should call them to account and prosecute them for their lives. Especially was Simon Broadstreet fearful; for he had before so many witnesses confessed that he had a hand in putting our Friends to death, that he could not get off from it; though he afterwards through fear shuffled, and would have unsaid it again. After this, he and the rest soon returned to New England again.
I went also to Governor Winthrop, and discoursed with him on these matters. He assured me that he had no hand in putting our Friends to death, or in any way persecuting them; but was one of them that protested against it.
About this time I lost a very good book, being taken in the printer’s hands; it was a useful teaching work, containing the signification and explanation of names, parables, types, and figures in the Scriptures. They who took it were so affected with it, that they were loth to destroy it; but thinking to make a great advantage of it, they would have let us have it again, if we would have given them a great sum of money for it; which we were not free to do.
Before this, while I was prisoner in Lancaster Castle, the book called the “Battledore” was published, which was written to show that in all languages Thou and Thee is the proper and usual form of speech to a single person; and You to more than one. This was set forth in examples or instances taken from the Scriptures, and books of teaching, in about thirty languages. J. Stubbs and Benjamin Furly took great pains in compiling it, which I set them upon; and some things I added to it.
When it was finished, copies were presented to the King and his Council, to the Bishops of Canterbury and London, and to the two universities one each; and many purchased them. The King said it was the proper language of all nations; and the Bishop of Canterbury, being asked what he thought of it, was at a stand, and could not tell what to say to it. For it did so inform and convince people, that few afterwards were so rugged toward us for saving Thou and Thee to a single person, for which before they were exceedingly fierce against us.
Thou and Thee was a sore cut to proud flesh, and them that sought self-honour, who, though they would say it to God and Christ, could not endure to have it said to themselves. So that we were often beaten and abused, and sometimes in danger of our lives, for using those words to some proud men, who would say, “What! you ill-bred clown, do you Thou me?” as though Christian breeding consisted in saying You to one; which is contrary to all their grammars and teaching books, by which they instructed their youth.
About this time many Papists and Jesuits began to fawn upon Friends, and talked up and down where they came, that of all the sects the Quakers were the best and most self-denying people; and they said it was great pity that they did not return to the Holy Mother Church. Thus they made a buzz among the people, and said they would willingly discourse with Friends. But Friends were loth to meddle with them, because they were Jesuits, looking upon it to be both dangerous and scandalous.
But when I understood it, I said to Friends, “Let us discourse with them, be they what they will.” So a time being appointed at Gerrard Roberts’s, there came two of them like courtiers. They asked our names, which we told them; but we did not ask their names, for we understood they were called Papists, and they knew we were called Quakers.
I asked them the same question that I had formerly asked a Jesuit, namely, whether the Church of Rome was not degenerated from the Church in the primitive times, from the Spirit, power, and practice that they were in in the Apostles’ times? He to whom I put this question, being subtle, said he would not answer it. I asked him why. But he would show no reason. His companion said he would answer me; and said that they were not degenerated from the Church in the primitive times. I asked the other whether he was of the same mind. He said, “Yes.”
Then I replied that, for the better understanding one of another, and that there might be no mistake, I would repeat my question over again after this manner: “Is the Church of Rome now in the same purity, practice, power, and Spirit that the Church in the Apostles’ time was in?” When they saw we would be exact with them, they flew off and denied that, saying it was presumption in any to say they had the same power and Spirit which the Apostles had.
I told them it was presumption in them to meddle with the words of Christ and His Apostles, and make people believe they succeeded the Apostles, yet be forced to confess they were not in the same power and Spirit that the Apostles were in. “This,” said I, “is a spirit of presumption, and rebuked by the Apostles’ spirit.”
I showed them how different their fruits and practices were from the fruits and practices of the Apostles.
Then got up one of them, and said, “Ye are a company of dreamers.” “Nay,” said I, “ye are the filthy dreamers, who dream ye are the Apostles’ successors, and yet confess ye have not the same power and Spirit which the Apostles were in. And are not they defilers of the flesh who say it is presumption for any to say they have the same power and Spirit which the Apostles had? Now,” said I, “if ye have not the same power and Spirit which the Apostles had, then it is manifest that ye are led by another power and spirit than that by which the Apostles and Church in the primitive times were led.”
Then I began to tell them how that evil spirit by which they were led had led them to pray by beads and to images, and to set up nunneries, friaries, and monasteries, and to put people to death for religion; which practices I showed them were below the law, and far short of the gospel, in which is liberty.
They were soon weary of this discourse, and went their way, and gave a charge, as we heard, to the Papists, that they should not dispute with us, nor read any of our books.
So we were rid of them; but we had reasonings with all the other sects, Presbyterians, Independents, Seekers, Baptists, Episcopal men, Socinians, Brownists, Lutherans, Calvinists, Arminians, Fifth-monarchy men, Familists, Muggletonians, and Ranters; none of which would affirm that they had the same power and Spirit that the Apostles had and were in; so in that power and Spirit the Lord gave us dominion over them all.
As for the Fifth-monarchy men I was moved to give forth a paper, to manifest their error to them; for they looked for Christ’s personal coming in an outward form and manner, and fixed the time to the year 1666; at which time some of them prepared themselves when it thundered and rained, thinking Christ was then come to set up His kingdom, and they imagined they were to kill the whore without them.
But I told them that the whore was alive in them, and was not burned with God’s fire, nor judged in them with the same power and Spirit the Apostles were in; and that their looking for Christ’s coming outwardly to set up His kingdom was like the Pharisees’ “Lo here,” and “Lo there.” But Christ was come, and had set up His kingdom above sixteen hundred years ago, according to Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and Daniel’s prophecy, and He had dashed to pieces the four monarchies, the great image, with its head of gold, breast and arms of silver, belly and thighs of brass, legs of iron, and its feet part of iron part of clay; and they were all blown away with God’s wind, as the chaff in the summer threshing-floor.
And I told them that when Christ was on earth, He said His kingdom was not of this world; if it had been, His servants would have fought; but it was not, therefore His servants did not fight. Therefore all the Fifth-monarchy men that are fighters with carnal weapons are none of Christ’s servants, but the beast’s and the whore’s. Christ said, “All power in heaven and in earth is given to me”; so then His kingdom was set up above sixteen hundred years ago, and He reigns. “And we see Jesus Christ reign,” said the Apostle, “and He shall reign till all things be put under His feet”; though all things are not yet put under His feet, nor subdued.
This year several Friends were moved to go beyond the seas, to publish Truth in foreign countries. John Stubbs, and Henry Fell, and Richard Costrop were moved to go towards China and Prester John’s country; but no masters of ships would carry them. With much ado they got a warrant from the King; but the East India Company found ways to avoid it, and the masters of their ships would not carry them.
Then they went into Holland, hoping to get passage there, but none could they get there either. Then John Stubbs and Henry Fell took shipping for Alexandria, in Egypt, intending to go thence by the caravans. Meanwhile Daniel Baker, being moved to go to Smyrna, drew Richard Costrop, contrary to his own freedom, to go along with him; and in the passage, Richard falling sick, Daniel Baker left him so in the ship, where he died; but that hard-hearted man afterwards lost his own condition.
John Stubbs and Henry Fell reached Alexandria; but they had not been long there before the English consul banished them; yet before they came away, they dispersed many books and papers for opening the principles and way of Truth to the Turks and Grecians. They gave the book called, “The Pope’s Strength Broken,” to an old friar, for him to give or send to the Pope. When the friar had perused it he placed his hand on his breast and confessed, “What is written therein is truth; but,” said he, “if I should confess it openly, they would burn me.”
John Stubbs and Henry Fell, not being suffered to go further, returned to England, and came to London again. John had a vision that the English and Dutch, who had joined together not to carry them, would fall out one with the other; and so it came to pass.
Among the exercises and troubles that Friends had from without, one was concerning Friends’ marriages, which sometimes were called in question. In this year there happened to be a cause tried at the assize at Nottingham concerning a Friend’s marriage.
The case was thus: Some years before two Friends were joined together in marriage amongst Friends, and lived together as man and wife about two years. Then the man died, leaving his wife with child, and leaving an estate in lands of copyhold. When the woman was delivered, the jury presented the child heir to its father’s lands, and accordingly the child was admitted; afterwards another Friend married the widow. After that a person near of kin to her former husband brought his action against the Friend who had last married her, endeavoring to dispossess them, and deprive the child of the inheritance, and to possess himself thereof as next heir to the woman’s first husband. To effect this he endeavoured to prove the child illegitimate, alleging that the marriage was not according to law.
In opening the cause the plaintiff’s counsel used unseemly words concerning Friends, saying that “they went together like brute beasts,” with other ill expressions. After the counsel on both sides had pleaded the Judge (viz., Judge Archer) took the matter in hand, and opened it to them, telling them, “There was a marriage in paradise when Adam took Eve and Eve took Adam, and it was the consent of the parties that made a marriage.” And for the Quakers, he said, he did not know their opinions; but he did not believe they went together as brute beasts, as had been said of them, but as Christians; and therefore he did believe the marriage was lawful, and the child lawful heir.
The better to satisfy the jury he brought them a case to this purpose: “A man that was weak of body and kept his bed, had a desire in that condition to marry, and did declare before witnesses that he did take such a woman to be his wife, and the woman declared that she took that man to be her husband. This marriage was afterwards called in question, and all the bishops did conclude it to be a lawful marriage.”
Hereupon the jury gave in their verdict for the Friend’s child against the man that would have deprived it of its inheritance.
Now, there being very many Friends in prison in the nation, Richard Hubberthorn and I drew up a paper concerning them, and got it delivered to the King, that he might understand how we were dealt with by his officers. It was directed thus:
“For The King:
“Friend, Who art the chief ruler of these dominions, here is a list of some of the sufferings of the people of God, in scorn called Quakers, that have suffered under the changeable powers before thee, by whom there have been imprisoned, and under whom there have suffered for good conscience’ sake, and for bearing testimony to the truth as it is in Jesus, three thousand one hundred and seventy-three persons; and there lie yet in prison, in the name of the Commonwealth, seventy-three persons that we know of. And there died in prison in the time of the Commonwealth, and of Oliver and Richard the Protectors, through cruel and hard imprisonments, upon nasty straw and in dungeons, thirty-two persons. There have been also imprisoned in thy name, since thy arrival, by such as thought to ingratiate themselves thereby with thee, three thousand sixty and eight persons. Besides this our meetings are daily broken up by men with clubs and arms, though we meet peaceably, according to the practice of God’s people in the primitive times, and our Friends are thrown into waters, and trodden upon, till the very blood gushes out of them; the number of which abuses can hardly be uttered.
“Now this we would have of thee, to set them at liberty that lie in prison in the names of the Commonwealth, and of the two Protectors, and them that lie in thy own name, for speaking the truth, and for good conscience’ sake, who have not lifted up a hand against thee or any man; and that the meetings of our Friends, who meet peaceably together in the fear of God, to worship Him, may not be broken up by rude people with their clubs, swords, and staves. One of the greatest things that we have suffered for formerly was, because we could not swear to the Protectors and all the changeable governments; and now we are imprisoned because we cannot take the oath of allegiance. Now, if our yea be not yea, and nay, nay, to thee, and to all men upon the earth, let us suffer as much for breaking that, as others do for breaking an oath. We have suffered these many years, both in lives and estates, under these changeable governments, because we cannot swear, but obey Christ’s doctrine, who commands we should not ‘swear at all,’ and this we seal with our lives and estates, with our yea and nay, according to the doctrine of Christ.
“Hearken to these things, and so consider them in the wisdom of thy God that by it such actions may be stopped; thou that hast the government, and mayst do it. We desire all that are in prison may be set at liberty, and that for the time to come they may not be imprisoned for conscience’ and for the Truth’s sake. If thou question the innocency of their sufferings, let them and their accusers be brought before thee, and we shall produce a more particular and full account of their sufferings, if required.”