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them of confusion and disorder on one hand, or calumniated them with tyranny and imposition on the other. The causes and consequences of superstition on one hand, and of fanaticism on the other, we are told, are laid open in this very curious and instructive work, with much solidity and perspicuity.* It drew upon its author, at the time of its appearance, much reproach and invective from certain separatists, who had risen up several years. The leaders of these separatists were John Wilkinson and John Story, two ministers in the North, who took disgust at the discipline of the society, as an imposition on gospel liberty, and setting up some men in the church to usurp authority over their brethren: “pleading that nothing ought to be given forth in the church of Christ but by way of advice or recommendation; and that every man ought to be left at his liberty to act according to the light of his own conscience without censure, or being accountable to any man, but to God, the sole proper judge of conscience.” They, particularly, objected to women’s meetings, as usurping authority in the church contrary to the apostle Paul’s prohibition. They gained over adherents from the weaker and looser members of the society ; and caused a rent and division in the quarterly meeting of Westmoreland, to which they belonged. After several publications on this occasion, pro and con, especially by William Rogers, a merchant at Bristol, in favor of the separatists, and in reply by Thomas Elwood ; and after the matter had been referred to different meetings, and their objections been heard, they found themselves too loosely compacted to adhere long together; some, judging their separation to be causeless, reunited themselves to the body of the society, and the rest soon fell to pieces and dwindled away.f When James II. came to the throne, the quakers drew up a petition, as we have seen, stating their grievous sufferings by no less than ten penal laws; but it is not certain, whether they had an opportunity of presenting it; for their proceedings were interrupted by the landing of the duke of Monmouth, which for a time engaged all the attention of
* Biographia Britan vol. ii. p. 592-3. Gough, vol. iii. p. 15.
the court and the nation. But in March 1685-6 they made an application to the throne, soliciting the liberation of their imprisoned friends, and they obtained a warrant for their release, directed to Sir Robert Sawyer, attorney-general. He was then at his seat in Hampshire; that this business might be expedited, therefore, George Whitehead, and John Edge, accompanied by Rowland Vaughan, waited on him there, and were received and entertained with great civility, till liberates could be made out for the prisoners in the city; after his return to London, by the exertion of the said friends, the discharge of the prisoners in different parts of the kingdom was obtained.* The attention which the king gave their grievances, in this and other instances, encouraged them to present a complaint and petition against the informers and their iniquitous practices. This was followed by a request to the king to examine into the truth of the allegations, by giving the petitioners an opportunity to prove them to the informers’ faces. The request was granted, and a commission was issued to Richard Graham, and Philip Burton, esqrs. who summoned the informers, sufferers and witnesses, to appear before them at Clifford’s Inn, the 4th of June 1686. Fifty-four cases were selected, from which to establish their charges. When all the parties came to Clifford’s Inn, the informers, seeing the numerous company that appeared against them, expressed their malice in this ribaldry; “Here come all the devils in hell,” and observing George Whitehead, they cried out, “ and there comes the old devil of all.” The first charge, proved in thirty-four cases, was, that “they had sworn falsely in fact:” then were laid before the commissioners sundry cases, wherein the doors of houses and shops were broken open with violence, by constables and informers, to make severe and exhorbitant distraints, by which household and shop goods were carried away by cart-loads. The commissioners grew weary before they had gone through one fourth of the cases, and adjourned for ten days. At the second meeting the lawyer, whom the informers had employed to plead their cause, was quickly silenced by the number of facts and the evidence produced, and before half
the cases, prepared for their cognizance, were examined, the commissioners thought they had sufficient grounds for a report to the king. A report was accordingly drawn up, to which George Whitehead, on a sight of it, objected as very deficient and improper; being rather a proposal to limit prosecutions to the less ruinous penal laws, than a #. state of facts, and of the various perjuries, and of the llegal and injurious acts of the informers. The reason of this was, that they had received a message from a great person or persons in the church, soliciting them to do or report nothing that might invalidate the power of the informers. But, on Whitehead's pleading for justice to be done, in regard to matters of fact, the report was amended and framed more to the purpose. The king, on receiving it, referred it to the lord Chancellor, in order to correct the irregular proceedings of some justices and the informers. He signified also his pleasure to the subordinate magistrates and justices, that they should put a stop to the depredations of these men; instead, therefore, of being encouraged, they were discountenanced. The court withdrawing its protection, other dissenters prosecuting them, and the scenes of their iniquity being laid open, some fled the country, and the rest were reduced to beggary.* The quakers, who had suffered more severely than any other sects, that they might not seem less sensible of the relief they had received, when addresses were presented to the king for his declaration for liberty of conscience, also waited on him with an address of thanks : first, from those of their society who resided in or about London, and then in the name and on behalf of the community at large. And while the other dissenters were censured in this business, as countenancing the king's dispensing power, the quakers were guarded in this respect; for they expressed their hope, “ that the good effects of the declaration of indulgence on the trade, peace and prosperity of the kingdom would produce such a concurrence from the parliament, as would secure it to their posterity;” modestly hinting, it hath been observed, their sentiments of what they apprehended yet wanting to be done to complete the favor.t
When the bishops were committed prisoners to the Tow. er, and it was understood that they reflected on the quakers as belying them, and reporting that they had been the cause of the death of some of them, Robert Barclay paid the bishops a visit, and laid before them undeniable proofs, that some, by order of bishops, had been detained in prison until death, though they had been apprized of their danger by physicians who were not quakers; but, he added, “that siuce through the change of circumstances, they themselves were now under oppression, it was by no means the intention of the people called quakers to publish such incidents, or to give the king or their adversaries any advantage against them thereby.” They were accordingly very careful to refrain from every measure, in word or deed, that might in any respect aggravate the case of the prisoners, esteeming it no time to aggravate old animosities, when the common enemy was seeking an advantage.t When persecution subsided, and liberty of conscience was enjoyed without molestation, the quakers thought it a convenient season to apply for relief in a point where they were still exposed to considerable trouble and detriment, and at their yearly meeting in London, in the summer of 1688, they drew up an address to the king, soliciting him to interpose for their relief from sufferings for tithes, and in the case of oaths. The address was presented and well received, but before the time for holding a parliament arrived, the king found it out of his power to redress their grievances, or support himself on the throne. The legal confirmation and enlargement of their liberty were reserved for the next reign.f During the short reign of James II. the society of quakers lost several respectable members; the most eminent of whom was colonel David Barclay, the father of the apologist, of an ancient and honorable family in Scotland, a man universally esteemed and beloved. He adopted the principles of the quakers in 1666, and is said to have been brought over to them by Mr. Swinton, a man of learning, very taking in his behavior, naturally eloquent, and in great credit among them.* The acquisition of so considt Gough, vol. iii. p. 198-9. # Id. p. 199-202. * This Mr. Swinton was attainted after the restoration of Charles II.
erable and respectable a person as colonel Barclay, was of no small use to this persuasion. He was a man venerable in his appearance, just in all his actions, had shewed his courage in the wars in Germany, and his fortitude in bearing all the hard usage he met with in Scotland, with cheerfulness as well as patience; for he very soon found himself exposed to persecutions and sufferings on the seore of his religion. He spent, however, the last twenty years of his life in the profession with great comfort to himself, being all along blessed with sound health and a vigorous constitution: and he met death, in the seventy-sixth year of his age, Sept. 1686, at his seat at Ury in Scotland, with resignation and patience under great pain, and with the feelings of a lively hope. His last expressions were uttered in prayer: “Praises to the Lord | Let now thy servant depart in peace. Into thy hands, O Father, I commit my soul, spirit and body. Thy will, O Lord, be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” And soon after he breathed his last: and though he gave express directions (agreeably to his principles) that none but persons of his own persuasion should be invited to his funeral, yet, the time being known, many gentlemen, and those too of great distinction, attended him to the grave, out of regard to his humanity, beneficence, and public spirit, virtues which endeared him to the good men of all parties.f - *
for having joined Cromwell, and was sent down into Scotland to be tried; it was universally believed, that his death was inevitable: but when he was brought before the parliament at Edinburgh, 1661, to shew eanse why he should not receive sentenee, having become a quaker, when he might have set up two pleas, strong in point of law, he answered, consonantly to his religious Hj. “ that he was at the time his political crimes were imputed to him, in the gall of bitterness and bond of iniquity, but that, God having since called him to the light, he saw and acknowledged his past errors, and did not refuse to pay the forfeit of them, even though in their judgment this should extend to his life.” His speech was, though modest, so majestic, and though expressive of the most perfect patience, so pathetic, that, notwithstanding he had neither interest nor wealth to plead for him, yet the impression made by his discourse on that illustrious assembly was such, that they recommended him to the king as a proper object of merey, when they were very severe against others. Biog, Brit, vol. ii. p. 590, and Burnet's History, vol. i. p. 182.
f Gough, vol. iii. p. 181-2-3, and Biog, Brit. vol. ii. p. 590, 1.2d edit.