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earnestly pleaded for, on the ground of his being a public man, as if that affected the merits and justice of the cause ; and was obtained, though, at first two of the barons declared that he was not liable to tithes: but one of them was afterwards brought over to decide with the adverse barons : the sequestration was, however, limited to the sum proved due, to the great disappointment of the persecutor’s aim, who wanted it without limitation, that they might be their own carvers in making distraint. In the course of this trial was produced an engagement under the hand and seal of George Fox, that he would never meddle with his wife's estate: this raised the admiration of the judges, as an instance of self-denial rarely to be met with in these ages.f
In 1680, George Whitehead and Thomas Burr, as they were on a journey from different quarters to pay a religious visit to their friends, happened to meet at Norwich. As the former was preaching on the succeeding first day of the week, a rude company, chiefly of the informers, rushed into the meeting with tumult and violence, and pulled him down; to the requisition to shew some legal authority for their proceedings, they returned abusive language, only with an insinuation to the people, “That he might be a Jesuit.” The sheriff, coming afterwards, took them prisoners, and carried them before the recorder, Francis Bacon, Esq. who was a justice. He examined them of their names, habitations, and trades; “if they were in orders or had orders from Rome.” A fine of 20l. each was demanded of them ; on refusing to pay this, the oath of allegiance was proposed. While the examination was going on, the informer, with the sanction of the justice, went to seize their horses, but was disappointed in his attempt, as they had been removed without the knowledge of the prisoners. The recorder poured out his bitter invectives, and threatened to have them hanged, if they did not abjure the realm, and if the king would by his orders enforce the execution of a statute made in the reign of queen Elizabeth. They were then committed to gaol till the ensuing sessions. Then, after the recorder had, by taunting reflections and partial proceedings, expressed his aversion to them, they were discharged by the court from the charges exhibited in the mittimuses; but
as they refused again the oath, which he insisted upon administering to them, they were recommitted to prison till the following sessions. In the mean time he was deprived of his office; in consequence of which change and the interposition of friends, they were, at the sessions, cleared by proclamation, and discharged from their imprisonment after a confinement of sixteen weeks. It shewed the prejudice and enmity of this man, that he first insinuated that they were probably papists; and when they procured certificates to the contrary, he would not permit them to be read in the court.* In the next and succeeding year, George Whitehead was fined three or four times: and the loss he sustained by distraints und by the expences of inefficacious appeals, besides the damage done to his house and goods, amounted to 511.7s. The evil of those seizures was aggravated by a particular instance of injustice in the distrainers; who would not suffer an inventory to be taken, or the goods, chiefly in grocery ware, to be weighed or appraised. On one occasion two friends, for persuading the constables to moderation and to suffer an inventory to be taken, were apprehended and prosecuted for a riot, on the evidence of one constable; for which they were fined, committed to Newgate, and confined there ten weeks.f o The fines levied on this people, on the statute of 20l. for absence from the national worship, amounted in the year 1683, to the enormous sum of 46,400l. for which several were distrained; but how much of these fines was actually levied, is not certainly known. In this year the case of Richard Wickris deserves particular notice. He was the son of Mr. Robert Vickris, a merchant and alderman of Bristol; he embraced the sentiments of the quakers in his youth : but to divert him from joining them, his father sent him abroad to travel in France. Here he was a witness to the superstitions of the ceremonious religion of that country; which created a disgust, and confirmed him in the adoption of one that rejected ceremony and vain show. His father's views were disappointed, and on his return home, he openly professed himself a quaker, at the risk of a variety of sufferings and hardships.
In 1680 he was imprisoned upon an excommunication: he was afterwards, for attending meetings, subject to frequent fines and distraints, and at last he was proceeded against on the statute of the 35 Elizabeth. At the sessions before Easter, in 1683, he was indicted on that statute; demurring to the jurisdiction of the court, and refusing to plead, he was committed to prison. At a following sessions he was admitted to bail : and at the Midsummer sessions procured an habeas corpus. His trial was hastily brought on in August, though he solicited time to prepare his defence. He found means, however, to retain counsel, who ably pleaded his cause, assigned a variety of errors in his indictment, and shewed that the witnesses had not established the charge against him. The court over-ruled every plea, and the jury (selected from men of mean occupation) found their verdict guilty; and sentence was passed on him to conform, or abjure the realm in three months; or suffer death as a felon without benefit of clergy. He lay in prison under this sentence till the next year; when the time for his abjuring the realm being expired, he was liable to the execution of it, to which his enemies seemed determined to proceed. That they might give some color to their design, they blackened and caluminated his character; representing him as a person disaffected to government, and endeavoring, before they took away his life, to despoil him of his good name. His wife, in her distress, determined on a personal application to government; with this view, she took a journey to London, and by the assistance of her friends got admission to the duke of York, who bore the chief sway at court, and laid her husband's hard case before him. When he had heard it, he replied, “ that neither his royal brother nor himself desired that any of his subjects should suffer for the exercise of their consciences, who were of peaceable behavior under his government.” Accordingly, effectual directions for his discharge were given. He was removed by habeas corpus from Newgate in Bristol to London, and brought to the king’s-bench bar: there, upon the errors in the indictment assigned by counsellor Pollexfen, he was legally discharged by Sir George Jefferies. His father survived his return only three days, by whose will he succeeded to his estate and seat at ChewMagna; in which he fixed his residence, and lived in honor, conspicuous for his virtue and benevolence, and an ornament to his place and station.* The quakers, under the severe sufferings to which their body in general, and some individual members of their society in particular, were exposed, were not wanting in lawful and commendable measures to procure an exemption from these grievous evils. In the year 1674, application was made to the judges, before they went their several circuits, for their compassionate attention to the hard cases of several of the sufferers, and to interpose their authority to secure them relief, in the following address : “To the king’s justices appointed for the several circuits - “throughout England. Many of our friends, called Quakers, being continued prisoners, many prosecuted to great spoil by informers, and on qui-tam writs, and by presentments and indictments for 201. per mensem, in divers counties throughout England, only on the account of religion and tender conscience towards Almighty God, we esteem it our duty to remind you of their suffering condition, as we have done from time to time, humbly intreating you in the circuits to enquire into the several causes of their commitments, and other suffer
ings, which they lie under, and to extend what favor you.
can for their ease and relief; praying the Almighty to preserve and direct you.”f But little redress could be obtained. In 1677, an account being taken, at the yearly meeting, of sufferings by confiscation to two-thirds of the estates of those who had been prosecuted on the 23d of Elizabeth, a specification of this grievance was drawn up and laid before the parliament then sitting, with a petition for relief, but without effect.f Towards the close of this year George Fox, having returned from Holland, and visited the meetings of his friends in various parts of England, on coming to London, found them engaged in fresh solicitations for relief from prosecutions on the laws made against popish recusants only ; and he joined them in these applications; but a sudden prorogation of parliament put a stop to their proceedings. When
it met again, he, Wm. Penn, George Whitehead, and oth
ers, renewed their suit, and they conceived some hopes of relief, as many of the members, convinced that they suffered grievously and unjustly, and were much misrepresented by their adversaries, manifested a tender and compassionate regard towards them. But the attention of parliament was soon called off by the discovery of what was called the popish plot; an advantage was taken of the alarm this occasioned, to increase the rigorous persecution of a people of opposite principles and conduct, under the pretext of the necessity, at this season of danger, to exert additional vigilance in guarding against seditious assemblies; and some members, whose residence, occupation, and mauner of life, were well known, were imprisoned under a pretended suspicion of being papists or concealed jesuits.” Penn had, several years before this, been happily successful in his solicitations for friends suffering by heavy fines and imprisonments in Ireland: for at an half-yearly meeting held at his house in 1670, an account of their sufferings was drawn up in an address to the lord-lieutenant, which was presented to him, and an order of council obtained for the release of those who were imprisoned.t In Scotland the persecuted members of this society met with an advocate in Barclay, and owed some relief to his powerful exertions. In 1676, the magistrates of Aberdeen made an handle of the declaration issued by the council at Edinburgh, reinforcing former acts of parliament against conventicles, to oppress the quakers, many of whom were seized, commit
ted to prison, detained near three months without being called before the commissioners, and, notwithstanding the able defence they set up, were fined in different sums, but in general to an heavy amount, and remanded to prison till the fines were paid. Robert Barclay, being then in London, gained admittance to the king, delivered to him a nar
rative of the severe and irregular proceedings of the mag
istrates, and interceded with him to recommend their case
to the favorable notice of the council of Scotland. On this the king ordered the earl of Lauderdale to recommend the
narrative to their consideration. The matter was referred to the former commissioners in conjunction with three oth
ers; but their liberty was not obtained, till the fines were