The Missing Cross to Purity

The Persecutions of Early Quakers in America


Indeed, all who are determined to live godly
in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
2 Tim 3:12

On the day following the execution of her two Friends, Mary Dyer addressed their persecuting judges, in a strain of sublimity, displaying a boldness and fortitude of mind, with such a deep sense of their iniquitous proceedings, as was calculated strongly to impress them. She wrote the next day, being the 28th of October, the following letter to the court: (From Sewel's History)

The 38th of the Eighth month, 1659

Once more to the general court assembled in Boston, speaks Mary Dyer, even as before. My life is not accepted, neither avails me, in comparison of the lives and liberty of the Truth, and servants of the living God, for which in the bowels of love and meekness I sought you; yet, nevertheless, with wicked hands have you put two of them to death, which makes me to feel, that the mercies of the wicked are cruelty. I rather choose to die than to live, as from you, as guilty of their innocent blood. Therefore seeing my request is hindered, I leave you to the righteous Judge, and searcher of all hearts, who, with the pure measure of light he has given to every man to benefit all, will in his due time let you see whose servants you are, and of whom you have taken counsel, which I desire you to search into: but all his counsel has been slighted, and you would have none of his reproofs. Read your portion. Proverbs 1:24-32. For verily the night comes on you quickly, in which no man can work, in which you shall assuredly fall to your own master. In obedience to the Lord, whom I serve with my spirit, and pity to your soul, which you neither know nor pity, I can do no less than once more to warn you, to put away the evil of your doings; and kiss the Son, the light in you, before his wrath is kindled in you; for where it is, nothing without you can help or deliver you out of his hand at all; and if these things be not so, then say, there has been no prophet from the Lord sent among you; though we are nothing, yet it is his pleasure, by things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are.

When I heard your last order read, it was a disturbance unto me, that was so freely offering up my life to him that gave it me, and sent me here so to do, which obedience being his own work, he gloriously accompanied with his presence, and peace, and love in me, in which I rested from my labor; till by your order and the people, I was so far disturbed, that I could not retain any more of the words thereof, than that I should return to prison, and there remain forty and eight hours; to which I submitted, finding nothing from the Lord to the contrary, that I may know what his pleasure and counsel is concerning me, on whom I wait therefore, for he is my life, and the length of my days; and as I said before, I came at his command, and go at his command.

Mary Dyer

Mary Dyer's reprieve directed that she should remain a prisoner for forty-eight hours, after which the magistracy thought it most prudent to commute her sentence into banishment, on penalty of death in the event of her return. In accordance with this decision, she was sent with a guard of four men, fifteen miles in the direction of Rhode Island, where she was left with a man and horse to convey her forward; but declining the offices of her guard, she proceeded to her home without his assistance. The disgust with which the executions had been witnessed by the people, and their growing discontent at such cruel and unconstitutional proceedings, induced the rulers to adopt the plan of sending Mary Dyer to her home, in order to allay the excitement which prevailed.

A feeling of indignation was not the only effect produced on the minds of the colonists on this occasion. The Christian constancy and holy resignation of the victims, excited a desire in some of the serious people to become more intimately acquainted with the principles of those, who were strengthened and upheld joyfully to suffer even the loss of their lives for the cause of religion. The consequence of this inquiry was a further increase of numbers to the little persecuted band. John Chamberlain was one of these. On attending the execution, he was so much affected that he became convinced of the truth of the principles for which the sufferers died. His sympathies being awakened, he was led to visit the prisons at Boston, to comfort and encourage those, whom he now claimed as brethren of the same religious faith. This did not escape the notice of the magistracy, and in a short time he was not only an inmate of the jail, but had more than once severely to feel the effect of religious bigotry, in the application of the knotted scourge. Edward Wharton of Salem, was also deeply affected by the circumstance of the executions; and spoke boldly among his fellow-townsmen of the wickedness of the act. But his testimony against these unrighteous proceedings drew down the anger of the rulers, and Edward, "as a peremptory fellow," was visited not only with a whipping of twenty lashes, but also with a fine of twenty pounds.

Returning to the other Friends who were imprisoned at Boston, we find that after about two months' confinement, they were brought before the General Court for examination. At this tribunal, Daniel Gould was sentenced to receive thirty strokes; Robert Harper, and William King, each fifteen; and Margaret Smith, Mary Trask, and Provided Southwick, ten strokes each; while Alice Cowland, Hannah Phelps, Mary Scott, and Hope Clifton were "delivered over to the governor to be admonished.” To Christopher Holder, the only English Friend of the company, was reserved the sentence of banishment on pain of death. The lash, at best a barbarous and degrading punishment, was in this instance rendered additionally repulsive by its application in "this open streets of the city;" the female as well as the male prisoners being stripped for the purpose, before the gazing multitude. These cruelties caused much excitement and commotion in the city, and the jail was at last so crowded by sympathizing citizens, that a guard was sent to prevent their approach. "The compassion of the people," observes an early writer, "was moved; many resorted to the prison by day and by night, and upon a representation of the keeper, a constant watch was kept round the prison, to keep people off." The punishment being inflicted, they deferred the liberation of the prisoners, on their paying the jailer's fees, but the sufferers objecting in any manner to recognize their unjust imprisonment, refused the payment of this demand. The inhabitants, however, grieved at the scenes of persecution which had disgraced their country, undertook to pay the amount, and procured their discharge.

The magistrates of Boston, finding that the sympathies of the colonists were now much awakened in favour of the victims of their intolerance, and that murmurs of dissatisfaction with their illegal conduct, were increasing, endeavored to remove this feeling, by publishing a justification of their proceedings. Throughout, the defense is but a lame one, and "the miserable apology," as it has been justly called, concludes in an incoherent manner, worthy of men who could perpetrate such deeds of darkness. "The consideration of our gradual proceedings," they say, "will vindicate us from the clamorous accusations of severity; our own just and necessary defense calling upon us, other means failing, to offer the point which these persons have violently and willfully rushed upon, and thereby become felons, which, might it have been prevented, and the sovereign law, salus populi, been preserved, our former proceedings, as well as the sparing of Mary Dyer, upon an inconsiderable intercession, will evidently show we desire their lives absent, rather than their deaths present." "It is said," remarks Bancroft, in allusion to this manifesto, "the Quakers themselves rushed on the sword, and so were suicides." "If it were so," he continues, "the men who held the sword were accessories to the crime." The same fallacious plea might be urged by the most unrelenting persecutors for religion.

The rulers of the colony of Plymouth, though not so severe in their measures for oppressing Friends, as their neighbors of Boston, continued, nevertheless, to harass them by heavy fines, for the non-attendance of meetings. Thomas Ewer of Sandwich, in addition to severe distraints, was laid neck and heels together, for reproving his persecutors, for these unjust proceedings. Peter Pearson and William Leddra, who were committed to Plymouth jail, in the Fourth Month of 1659, did not obtain their liberty until the early part of the following year; the period of their imprisonment, being more prolonged than that of any Friend who suffered in New England.

During the year 1659, three Friends only appear to have arrived from Great Britain, for religious service in New England; these were Marmaduke Stevenson, and Peter Pearson, already referred to; and John Taylor, of York. Respecting the religious labors of the last, but a very brief account has been met with. It appears that in the previous year, he felt a call to proceed to America, but being a young man, and of a diffident disposition, he was reluctant to venture on so important an engagement, without first consulting some of his friends. Acting on this conclusion, he laid the subject before George Fox, Francis Howgill and Edward Burrough, who all encouraged him to proceed, under the persuasion that he was called to the work. He accordingly embarked for the new country, from London, being then only in the twenty-second year of his age, and, after a voyage of ten weeks, he landed "at his desired haven in New England.'' How long he was occupied within the limits of this province it is not stated, but his religious services were not confined to the English settlers. Trusting to the never-failing arm of divine guidance and protection, he traveled alone among the Indian tribes, and "had meetings in the woods and wilderness, to declare the truth to them," as he remarks, "and to turn them from darkness to the light of Christ Jesus, in their own hearts." By these untutored sons of the forest, the stripling preacher was "received with kindness," and in their wigwams he became a welcome guest. "They heard me soberly," he says, "and confessed to the truth I spoke by an interpreter; and they were loving and kind afterwards to Friends." In the course of this history we shall have again to refer to John Taylor, but it may be observed here, that he is described by a contemporary, "as an able minister of the New Testament; in the publishing of which, the Spirit of God and of glory rested upon him, to the comforting and true refreshment of the churches, where the Lord ordered him, or his lot was cast."


Mary Dyer again returns to Boston—is arrested and sentenced to death —Her husband's Letter to Endicott—The procession to the place of execution—Mary Dyer's Christian constancy—The execution—Some notice of her life and character—Joseph and Jane Nicholson, from Cumberland, visit New England—They are imprisoned at Boston— Letter of Joseph Nicholson to Margaret Fell from Boston prison— They are released, and travel to Plymouth; are banished from that colony, and proceed to Rhode Island—J. Nicholson writes to Margaret Fell—Their return to England—Several Friends of Salem are imprisoned at Boston—Banishment and sufferings of Wenlock Christison and others—A Monthly Meeting settled at Sandwich and Scituate—Extract from the Colonial Records respecting these meetings—Observations on the establishment of Meetings for Discipline among the early Quakers—Ancient document relative thereto.

THE last notice of Mary Dyer, mentioned her expulsion from Massachusetts on the reprieve of her life, and her subsequent return to Rhode Island. Shortly afterwards she believed herself called again to leave the comforts and happiness of home, to travel in the service of her Divine Master. Her course on this occasion was directed to Long Island, where she spent most of the winter; there proceeding to Shelter Island, to the mainland about Narragansett, and on to Providence. Here she was introduced into a deep religious exercise of soul, under the apprehension that it was required of her once more to visit Massachusetts, to finish, as she expresses it, "her sad and heavy experience in the bloody town of Boston." Leaving, therefore, the quiet retreat of Providence, she journeyed towards the persecuting city, and arrived there on the 21st of the Third Month, 1660. Having been so nearly a victim to the gallows for venturing within its confines before, her presence now took the rulers by surprise. They had cherished the hope, that the dreadful example of their cruelty in the execution of her late companions, would have been sufficient to deter her from again coming among them. But they were blind to the character and motives of Mary Dyer, and ignorant of the efficacy of that Divine Power by which she was led and supported.

So vigilant had the magistracy been to prevent the propagation of the views of Friends in the province, that on all previous instances, no time had been lost in immediately arresting those who came to Boston for the purpose; but, whether from the perplexity the rulers felt on the return of Mary Dyer, as showing the futility of their barbarous enactment for excluding Friends; or, from a fear of increasing the excitement of the public mind, or, from whatever other cause it might be, for ten days after the arrival of this devoted Friend, no attempt was made to interrupt the course of her gospel labors.

On this occasion, the general court was sitting. There were at the time several Friends in the jails of the city, some of whom came to "sojourn" in the province, and, like Mary Dyer, much to the perplexity of Endicott and his fellow-magistrates, had returned after being banished on pain of death. Since her reprieve, several of the colonists also had, according to the law against Quakers, forfeited their lives; yet this extreme penalty the rulers hesitated to enforce. But Mary Dyer was a stranger, and one whose avowed object in coming, was to preach those doctrines which the whole weight of authority was vehemently directed against. To exempt her, therefore, from the operation of the law, after she had been once reprieved, would have been a virtual abandonment of the enactment; a course for which they were not yet prepared. On the 31st of the Third Month she was once more arraigned before the general court. Endicott, who undertook the examination, asked her if she was the same Mary Dyer that was there before? To which she unhesitatingly replied, "I am the same Mary Dyer that was here at the last general court.'' Endicott said, "Then you own yourself a Quaker, do you not?" "I myself to be reproachfully called so," answered Mary Dyer. Endicott, after saying, "I must then repeat the sentence once before pronounced upon you," thus proceeded, "You must return to the prison, and there remain till tomorrow at nine o'clock; then from there you must go to the gallows, and there be hung till you are dead.'' "This," said Mary Dyer calmly, "is no more than you said before." To this observation, Endicott replied, "But now it is to be executed; therefore, prepare yourself for nine o'clock tomorrow." This dignified woman, unmoved by the dreadful sentence, and unshaken in her belief that her call to come among them was from on high, thus addressed the court: "I came in obedience to the will of God, to the last general court, praying you to repeal your unrighteous sentence of banishment on pain of death; and that is my same work now, and earnest request, although I told you, that if you refused to repeal them, the Lord would send others of his servants to witness against them." Endicott, disturbed by her address, tauntingly said to her, "Are you a prophetess?" *"I spoke the words," she replied, "which the Lord spoke to me, and now the thing has come to pass." She then proceeded to speak further of her religious call, but the governor impatiently cried, "Away with her,'' and she was speedily conducted to prison.

*{Notice, the humility of her answer. She did not boast that she was a prophetess, rather she related the facts of her words being from the Lord and coming to pass. Love does not boast. Endicott apparently thinks that prophets only foretell the future, but 1 Cor 14:3 says: he who prophesies speaks to men for edification, and exhortation, and comfort. Anyone who speaks words supplied by the Spirit of God is prophesying, and most all mature early Christians and early Quakers prophesied: What then, brothers? When you assemble together, may everyone of you have a psalm, a doctrine, a tongue, a revelation, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. 1 Cor 14:26. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another. Col 3:16. Which things also we speak, not in the words, which man's wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Spirit instructs; combining spiritual things with spiritual truths. 1 Cor 2:13.

Revelation tells us about those who prophesy, speakiong what the Spirit tells them to say:

The departure of Mary Dyer to Boston on this occasion, plunged her family into the greatest distress; for the consequence, they were well assured, would be the sacrifice of her life. Her husband, whose religious views did not harmonize with those of Friends, nevertheless loved her tenderly, and, anxious for her preservation, addressed the following touching appeal to Governor Endicott:— (from The Friend, a Philadelphia journal, vol. iv. p. 165, Third Month 5th, 1831.)


It is with no little grief of mind and sadness of heart, that I am necessitated to be so bold as to supplicate your honored self, with the honorable assembly of your general court, to extend your mercy and favour once again to me and my children. Little did I dream that I should have occasion to petition in a matter of this nature; but so it is, that through the Divine Providence, and your benignity, my son obtained so much pity and mercy at your hands, to enjoy the life of his mother. Now, my supplication to your honors is, to beg affectionately the life of my dear wife. 'It is true, I have not seen her above this half year, and cannot tell how, in the frame of her spirit, she was moved thus again to run so great a hazard to herself, and perplexity to me and mine, and all her friends and well-wishers.

So it is, from Shelter Island, about by Peynod, Narragansett, to the town of Providence, she secretly and speedily journeyed, and as secretly from there came to your jurisdiction. Unhappy journey, may I say, and woe to that generation, I say, that gives occasion thus of grief (to those that desire to be quiet), by helping one another to hazard their lives to, I know not what end, nor for what purpose.

If her zeal is so great as thus to adventure, Oh! let your pity and favour surmount it, and save her life. Let not your love and accustomed compassion be conquered by her inconsiderate madness. And how greatly will your renown spread, if by so conquering, you become victorious! What shall I say more? I know you are all sensible of my condition; you see what my petition is, and what will give me and mine peace.

Oh! let Mercy's wings soar over Justice's balance, and then while I live, I shall exalt your goodness; but otherwise, it will be a languishing sorrow—yes, so great, that I should gladly suffer the blow at once, much rather. I shall forbear to trouble you with words, neither am I in a capacity to expatiate myself at present. I only say this, yourselves have been, and are, or may be, husbands to wives; so am I, yes, to one most dearly beloved. Oh! do not deprive me of her, but I pray give her to me once again. I shall be so much obliged forever, that I shall endeavor continually to utter my thanks, and render you love and honor most renowned. Pity me! I beg it with tears, and rest your humble suppliant,


{Reminder. Her husband had not been convinced of the Truth, so he could not understand obedience to the Lord's commands, nor comprehend how the Lord would comfort his wife in her suffering and execution. Even the Lord was thought by his own kinsmen to be out of His mind (beside Himself, deranged)!, Mark 3:20-21.}

What answer was returned to this appeal is not ascertained, if indeed, Endicott condescended to answer it at all; it was, however, unavailing. On the morning following her condemnation, being the 1st of the Fourth Month, Mary Dyer was led forth to execution.

Mary Dyer On the Way to the Gallows
Painting by Howard Pyle

The demonstrations of sympathy by the townspeople towards the victims of these wicked proceedings, gave Endicott much uneasiness; and fearing that the populace might show it in a very inconvenient manner, he deemed it prudent that a "strong guard" of soldiers should be in attendance.

About the appointed time the marshal Michaelson came, and called for her to come hastily; and coming into the room where she was, she desired him to stay a little; and speaking mildly, said, she should be ready presently. But he being of a rough temper, said he could not wait upon her, but she should now wait upon him. One Margaret Smith, her companion, being grieved to see such hard-heartedness, spoke something against their unjust laws and proceedings; to which he said, ' You shall have your share of the same.' Then Mary Dyer was brought forth, and with a band of soldiers led through the town, the drums being beaten before and behind her, and so continued, that none might hear her speak all the way to the gallows, which was about a mile. With this guard she came to the gallows, and being gone up the ladder, some said to her, that if she would return, she might come down and save her life. To which she replied,' No, I cannot, for in obedience to the will of the Lord I came, and in his will I abide faithful to the death.'

Then captain John Webb said, that she had been there before, and had the sentence of banishment upon pain of death, and had broken the law in coming again now; and therefore she was guilty of her own blood. To which she returned. 'No, I came to keep blood guiltiness from you, desiring you to repeal the unrighteous and unjust law of banishment upon pain of death, made against the innocent servants of the Lord; therefore my blood will be required at your hands, who willfully do it; but for those that do it in the simplicity of their hearts, I desire the Lord to forgive them. I came to do the will of my Father, and in obedience to his will, I stand even to death.'

Then priest Wilson said, ' Mary Dyer, 0 repent, O repent, and be not so deluded, and carried away by the deceit of the devil.' To this Mary Dyer answered, ' No, man, I am not now to repent.' And being asked by some, whether she would have the elders pray for her, she said, 'I do not know of a single elder here.' Being further asked, whether she would have any of the people to pray for her? She answered, she desired the prayers of all the people of God. Thereupon some scoffingly said, ' It may be she thinks there is none here.' She looking about, said, ‘I know that there are only a few here.' Then they spoke to her again, that one of the elders might pray for her. To which she replied, 'No, first a child, then a young man, then a strong man, before an elder in Christ Jesus.' After this she was charged with something which was not understood what it was, but she seemed to hear it; for she said, ' It is false, it is false; I never spoke those words.' Then one mentioned that she should have said, she had been in paradise. To which she answered, ‘Yes, I have been in paradise several days.' She spoke further of the eternal happiness into which she was now to enter. In this well-disposed condition she was turned off the platform, dropping to her death, a martyr of Christ, being twice led to death, which the first time she expected with undaunted courage, and now suffered with Christian fortitude. Thus this honest, valiant woman finished her days; but so hardened were these persecutors, that one of the court said scoffingly, 'She hung as a flag for others to take example by.'

Statue of Mary Dyer outside Mass State House, Sylvia Shaw Judson - Sculptor

{The record of persecutions, testifies to the false salvation of the persecutors;
such persecutions being predicted in Revelation by the Whore of Babylon, drunk on the blood of the saints, who rode on the back of the beast with horns like a lamb,
with many names, (Protestant and Catholic), imitating Christ's church. See Babylon and Apostasy for more.}

Only a few particulars of her previous history are recorded in the writings of Friends. It appears, however, that long before she embraced our principles, she was a prominent character in New England. As early as 1637, or about twenty years before she professed with Friends, she was a distinguished leader in the Antinomian secession in that country. Oldmixon, in his history of the English colonies in America, speaks of her as "the companion" of Anne Hutchinson in that controversy; and, in a work of more modern date, she is mentioned as her "devoted follower.” In common with others who dissented from the Puritan church in Massachusetts, Mary Dyer and her husband were banished from Boston, and, with most of the Antinomians, they settled on Rhode Island. Her husband was one of eighteen who formed the "body politic" on the settlement of Rhode Island, and afterwards held the office of secretary to the colony. Accompanying the Governor of Rhode Island, Roger Williams, and John Clark on a political mission to England, she met George Fox, where she was convinced of the truth, remaining in England for five years.

It is clear that Mary Dyer was endowed with mental qualities of no ordinary kind. Her addresses to the court, and her conduct when led to execution, show that she possessed considerable ability and great fortitude of mind, {or rather, the power of the Holy Spirit}. John Taylor, who was united with her in some gospel labors on Shelter Island, a short time previous to her execution, said, "she was a very comely woman and grave matron, and even shined in the image of God."

Sewel, who bears a similar testimony, says, she had "extraordinary qualities," and "was of good family and estate, and the mother of several children." Croese, a Dutch writer, states, that she was reputed as a "person of no small extract and parentage, of an estate pretty plentiful, of a comely stature and countenance, of a piercing knowledge in many things, of a wonderful sweet and pleasant discourse, so fit for great affairs, that she lacked nothing that was generally ascribed to only men, except only the name and the sex."

At the time of Mary Dyer's execution several Friends were lying in the prisons of Boston, and among them Joseph and Jane Nicholson of Cumberland. By a letter addressed in the Second Month, 1660, to Margaret Fell, it appears that it was their intention to make Boston their home, at least for a time. This letter recites several interesting incidents, as follows :—


From the Prison at Boston, the Third-day of the Second Month, 1660.

M. F.,

Upon the 7th of the First Month, I was called forth before the court at Boston, and when I came, John Endicott told me to take off my hat, and after some words about that, he asked why I had come into the country. I told him he had my answer already. Then he asked, who sent me. I told him I was moved of the Lord to come here with my wife, to sojourn in this land. He then asked, where I came from. I told him from Cumberland, where I formerly lived. Then he asked what I would do when I had my liberty. I told him that I would labor with my hands in the thing that was honest, as formerly I had done, if the Lord called me thereto. — He said, would I not go a preaching. I told him if I had a word from the Lord to speak, wherever I came, I might speak it. — He asked if my wife was able to come to the court. I told him she was; then he told the jailer fetch her and the two other Old England Quakers. When they came, after some tempting questions, we were returned to prison. The next day we were called forth again, and were sentenced by the court to depart their jurisdiction before the sixteenth-day of the month, not to return upon pain of death. We could not have liberty to speak in our own defense, but, several times they stopped my mouth, and threatened to gag me, and to whip me when I could not resist speaking. Bellingham boasted in open court, and said their law was too strong for us. He frequently threatens with their gallows. — My wife was not able to leave prison till the last day of their limited time, and then we passed to Salem, a place where are some Friends, and there stayed until the 20th, and then came two constables and took us both and carried us to prison. As we passed along the street we met the jailer, who said I had come again to see if the gallows would hold me. The other two Friends that were banished with us, were one who belonged to the ship and a maid that came with us in the ship, who was in prison about a week before the court began. They are at present gone out of the jurisdiction, but will hardly be clear, except they will come again. — I have had peace more than ever since this thing was made known to me, before I told you of it: so the will of the Lord be done in it, what ever it is.

Joseph Nicholson

According to Boston law, Joseph Nicholson and his wife, by remaining in Massachusetts, had forfeited their lives, and the jailer, presuming that he had another victim for the gallows, laid Joseph in irons. On the day of Mary Dyer's execution, they were brought before the general court, "to see," observes Bishop, "if the terror of it could have frightened them." "But," he continues, "the power of the Lord in them was above all, and they feared them not, nor their threats of putting them to death." It was while lying in Boston prison, that Joseph Nicholson wrote a remonstrance to the rulers of the province, which he called "The Standard of the Lord lifted up in New England.”

The bold and unflinching manner in which Friends were strengthened to resist the banishing enactment, impressed the rulers of Boston with fear; and, hesitating to pursue their bloody course, they again liberated Joseph and Jane Nicholson from prison. Having obtained their liberty, these Friends proceeded to the contiguous colony of Plymouth. The rulers, however, of this district, sympathized with those of Boston, and the two Friends were not allowed a resting-place among them; "if they had turned them away at Boston," said the magistrates at Plymouth, "they would have nothing to do with them." From Plymouth the exiled couple proceeded to Rhode Island, from where Joseph Nicholson addressed a letter to his friend Margaret Fell, from which the following is an extract:—


From Rhode Island, the 10M of Fifth Month, 1660.

M. F.,

We have found the Lord a God at hand, and although our lives were not dear unto us, yet He has delivered us out of the hands of blood-thirsty men. We put our lives in our hands for the honor of the truth, and through the power of God we have them as yet. Although we pressed much to have our liberty to go as we came, yet could not, but are banished again. How it will be ordered afterward, if they do not their law fall, as it is broken, we do not know; for if the Lord calls us again to go, there we must go; and, whether we die or live, it will be well. His powerful presence was much with us in Boston. We found much favor in [the] sight of most people in that town. The power of God sounded aloud many times into their streets, which made some of them leave their meetings, and come around the prison, which was a sore torment to some of them.

I think I shall pass towards Shelter Island before long, and some places that way where I have not yet been; and, for all we know at present, Jane may remain here awhile. Boston people were glad at our departure, for there were not many, I believe, who would have had us to have been put to death. We are well in the Lord.

Your friend in the Truth,

Joseph Nicholson

I was prisoner in Boston [about] six months, and my wife a prisoner eighteen weeks.

Joseph and Jane Nicholson soon returned to England; but scarcely had they regained the shores of their native land, before they were confined within the walls of Dover Castle. Writing from here in the Second Month, 1661, Joseph Nicholson says, "If the Lord make way for my liberty from these bonds shortly, I shall pass to Virginia in the Friends' ship, and so to New England again, but which way Jane will go, or how it is with her, I cannot say." We shall to refer to these Friends further, but later.

When writing from Boston, Joseph Nicholson spoke of several Friends who were fellow-prisoners with him. These were Mary Trask, John Smith, Margaret Smith, Edward Wharton, and some others of Salem. About the same time, Robert Harper and his wife were also committed to the same wretched abode, and after them William Leddra, who it appears had returned to Boston, after having been banished upon pain of death. "These," observes Bishop, "were in Boston jail in the Tenth Month, 1660," where, he adds, "they had been continued long." (Besse says they were imprisoned there for refusing to swear just after they had landed at Deal from New England.)

William King, of Salem, who is noticed in the preceding chapter as having been imprisoned and whipped, had, we find, together with Wenlock Christison of Salem, Mary Wright of Oyster Bay, in Long Island, and Martha Standley, a young Friend of England, had the sentence of banishment on pain of death passed upon them. Martha Standley is without a doubt "the maid" referred to in Joseph Nicholson's letter from Boston, who "came with him in the ship." Wenlock Christison after his banishment, went on a visit to his brethren at Sandwich. Here, however, like the Nicholsons, he was not permitted to remain. On arriving at the town, he was arrested and conveyed to Plymouth, where he was not only imprisoned for fourteen weeks, but subjected to a severe flogging, once "tied neck and heels together” and robbed of his Bible and clothes, to the value of four pounds, for the payment of the prison fees. "All this," adds Bishop, "was only for coming into their jurisdiction, when he was banished from the other."


William Leddra's imprisonment and sufferings at Boston—His examination before the Court—Is sentenced to be executed—His conduct at the place of execution—Letter of a spectator respecting it—The character of William Leddra—His epistle to Friends, written the day previous to his martyrdom—The examination and banishment of Edward Wharton—The return of Wenlock Christison after banishment—His Christian boldness before the rulers; examination and sentence—His address to the Court—The restoration of the monarchy in England—The rulers at Boston are agitated on hearing it, and release W. Christison and twenty-seven Friends from prison—The law for banishing on pain of death superseded by a law for banishing on penalty of being whipped from, town to town out of the colony—The sufferings of Friends under this new law—Nicholas Phelps and Josiah Southwick return from banishment—The cruel scourging of the latter—George Rofe, of Essex, visits New England—His letter relative to the service—The first General Meeting of Friends in America held on Rhode Island.

IN the previous chapters, much has been recorded that sullies the historic pages of Puritan New England. We have seen that its religious zealots, under cover of high spirituality, had consummated their persecutions in the murder of three individuals of unspotted lives and conversation, and of whom it may be justly said, "The world was not worthy." Injustice and cruelty in any form afford a humiliating exhibition of the depravity of man; but when presented to us under the mask of superior sanctity, the mind is accustomed to turn with feelings of deepened abhorrence from such a desecration of the name of religion. In every religious profession, conscientious feelings should be respected, but the persecutions in Massachusetts violated even the plainest laws of humanity. The rulers of this province, in justification of their wicked acts, represented Friends as moving under extreme delusion; but what greater or more shocking delusion can there be, than to slay our fellow-creatures and to believe that we are by this promoting the sacred cause of religion. Of all the acts to which the grand adversary influences man, this we conceive to be the most flagrant violation of the Divine law.

We have used the term murder, and used it advisedly; for the martyrdom of the three Friends on Boston Common had been perpetrated contrary to the laws of the realm. The charter of Massachusetts in no degree empowered the local authorities to enact laws contrary to the fundamental principles of English jurisprudence and English liberty. In pursuing their despotic course, they did so likewise with the consciousness that it was repulsive to the feelings of the community. Towards the close of 1660, this was so intelligibly manifested, that for a time they deemed it prudent to suspend the operation of the law for executing Friends, and thus the life of Joseph Nicholson was saved.

It has been stated in the preceding chapter, that among those imprisoned at Boston in the Tenth Month, 1660, was William Leddra, who had returned to the city, after having been exiled on pain of death. This faithful man appears to have been in no ordinary degree the object of Puritan displeasure. During his former imprisonment at Boston, the sufferings to which he was subjected had been so extreme that his life was endangered. On the present occasion, he was fettered to a log of wood, being chained night and day in an open prison; and that, also, during the severities of a New England winter. His persecutors would probably have been glad, had these inhumanities put an end to his existence; but it pleased Divine Providence to support him through them.

On the 9th of the First Month, 1661, he was again brought before the Court of Assistants. Thus arraigned, with the chains about him, and still bound to the log, he was told that having returned after sentence of banishment, he had incurred the penalty of death. On hearing this, the sufferer asked what evil he had done? The Court replied, he had owned those that were put to death; had refused to put off his hat in court, and said thee and thou. He then asked them if they would put him to death for speaking English, and for not putting off his clothes? To this, one of the magistrates made the absurd reply, "A man may speak treason in English." William Leddra then inquired if " it was treason to say thee and thou to a single person." Broadstreet, a violent persecuting magistrate, now undertook to question the prisoner, and asked him "If he would go to England." He replied that he had no business in England. Then, said Broadstreet, significantly pointing to Boston Common, "You shall go that way." "What," replied William Leddra, "will you put me to death for breathing in the air of your jurisdiction? What have you against me? I appeal to the laws of England for my trial. If by them I am found guilty, I refuse not to die." The arbitrary Court, however, overruled his appeal; and then, like some other persecutors of old, endeavored to persuade him to recant, and conform to their own religion. The wretched attempt was at once rejected, and rejected, too, with magnanimity and disdain. "What! Join with such murderers as you are," said William Leddra; "then let every man that meets me say, Lo, this is the man that has forsaken the God of his salvation."

The Court, finding their victim unshaken in his religious convictions, passed the sentence of death upon him, and appointed the 14th of the month for its execution. On this day it was also arranged that a morning lecture should be given; and now, as on the former occasions, the officiating minister exerted his eloquence, to urge the magistracy onward in their dreadful work. "Priests," writes a contemporary, "served to whet them on." The lecture, or, as a modern writer terms it, "this shocking preamble to the execution," being concluded, the governor, with a guard of soldiers, proceeded to the prison. Here the irons that had long hung on William Leddra were knocked off, and, taking a solemn farewell of his imprisoned companions, he "went forth to the slaughter in the meekness of the spirit of Jesus." On leaving the prison walls, he was immediately surrounded by the soldiery, with a view to prevent him from speaking to his friends. Edward Wharton, observing the maneuver, exclaimed that it was worse than the conduct of Bonnet's men. "What," said he, "will you not let me come near my suffering friend before you kill him." One of the company replied that "it would be his turn next;" and an officer threatened to stop his mouth, if he spoke another word.

The procession was similar in character to those before-mentioned; and having reached the place of execution, William Leddra exhorted his friend, Edward Wharton, to faithfulness, and told him a final farewell, saying, "All that will be Christ's disciples must take up his cross." While standing on the ladder, some one having called out, "William, have you anything to say to the people?" he replied, "For bearing my testimony for the Lord against the deceivers and deceived, am I brought here to suffer." These expressions, together with the heavenly mindedness which he manifested at this awful period, awakened the tender feelings of many of the spectators, in a manner that conveyed keen reproof to the instigators of the revolting scene. The ministers observed the manifestation of this feeling with uneasiness; and Allen, who was one of them, with a view to check the current of sympathy, said, loudly, "People, I would not have you think it strange to see a man so willing to die, for it is no new thing; you may read how the apostle said, that some shall be given up to many delusions, and even dare to die for it." Truly, the apostle said that many should be given up to delusions; but the persecuting priest, whose God was the Bible, with probable malice misquoted the apostle as saying that such should dare to die for them,
{which was never said. It was the Puritan supposed-priest-of-Christ who believed the illusion, the lie, the false salvation that supposedly excused an unholy life of sin, - including torture and murder - who ignored Christ's commands to love enemies - who ignored obedience, taking pleasure in unrighteousness.

And with all the deceivableness of unrighteousness in those who perish;
because they did not receive the love of the truth so that they might be saved.
And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:
So that those might be damned who do not believe the truth, but have pleasure in unrighteousness.}
2 Thes 2:10

The executioner now proceeded to complete his work. While the hangman's noose was being adjusted, the martyr meekly and resignedly said, "I commend my righteous cause unto you, O God." As the ladder was turning, his last expressions was, "Lord, Jesus! Receive my spirit." The body, on being cut down, was allowed to be removed by his friends for interment; this, however, would not have been granted, but for the outcry of the people against the barbarous indecencies exhibited to the remains of the former victims.

Before the execution, it was currently reported that William Leddra had liberty to leave the prison, and to save his life. This was a gross falsehood, propagated, doubtless, with a view to lessen the odiousness of the wicked proceedings. There was a stranger present, who was much affected on witnessing the scene. A letter addressed by him to a friend at Barbados, alluding to this report, and describing the execution, has been preserved, and will be read with interest.

Boston, March 26,1661.

On the 14th of this instant, one William Leddra was put to death here. The people of the town told me, he might go away if he would; but when I made further inquiry, I heard the marshal say that he was chained in prison, from the time he was condemned, to the day of his execution. I am not of his opinion [a Quaker]; but yet, truly, I thought the Lord did mightily appear in the man. I went to one of the magistrates of Cambridge, who had been of the jury that condemned him, as he told me himself; and I asked him by what rule he did it? He answered me, that he was a rogue, a very rogue. But what is this to the question, I said, where is your rule? He said, he had abused authority. Then I went after the man, and asked him, whether he did not look on it as a breach of rule to slight and undervalue authority? And I said that Paul gave Festus the title of honor, though he was a heathen. (I do not mean to say these magistrates are heathens). When the man was on the ladder, he looked on me and called me friend, and said, “know that this day I am willing to offer up my life for the witness of Jesus.” Then I desired leave of the officers to speak, and said, “gentlemen, I am a stranger both to your persons and country, yet a friend of both:” and I cried aloud, for the Lord's sake, take not away the man's life; but remember Gamaliel's counsel to the Jews—“If it is of man, it will come to nothing; but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it: but be careful you are not found fighters against God.” And the captain said, why had you not come to the prison? The reason was, because I heard the man might go if he would; and therefore I called him down from the tree, and said, come down, William, you may go away if you will. Then Captain Oliver said it was no such matter; and asked me what I had to do with it; and told me to be gone. I told them I was willing, for I could not endure to see this. When I was in the town, some did seem to sympathize with me in my grief. I told them, they had no warrant from the Bible, nor precedent from our country, nor power from his Majesty, to hang the man. I rest your friend,

Thomas Wilkie

To Mr. George Lad, master of the America, of Dartmouth, now at Barbados.

Of the history of William Leddra previous to his joining in religious fellowship with Friends, but very little is known. His home was in Barbados, but he is said to have been by birth a Cornishman; and his occupation, it appears, was that of a clothier. We find him engaged very early in visiting the West Indies as a minister, and in 1657 he proceeded in that character to New England. The particulars of the sufferings he underwent in pursuing this labor of love have already been set forth. Christian constancy, and patient endurance under extreme sufferings for the cause of his Lord, remarkably distinguished William Leddra. Addressing his friends of New England, from Boston prison, a few weeks before his death, he says—"I testify in the fear of the Lord God, and witness with a pen of trembling, that the noise of the whip on my back, all the imprisonments, and banishing upon pain of death, and after returning, the loud threatening of a halter from their mouths, did no more affright me, through the strength of the power of God, than if they had threatened to have bound a spider's web to my finger; which makes me to say with unfeigned lips—"Wait upon the Lord, O my soul, forever. I do not seek to withdraw my cheek from the smiter, nor to turn aside my feet from the footsteps of the flock, as witness this chain and this log at my leg; but I desire, as far as the Lord draws me, to follow my forefathers and brethren, in suffering and in joy; for which reason my spirit waits and worships at the feet of Immanuel, unto whom I commit my cause."

The state of William Leddra's mind, in anticipation of his death, may be truly called a triumphant one. The heavenly enjoyments which he was permitted to experience, and the foretaste he had of a glorious immortality, were such as are rarely vouchsafed to humanity. On the day preceding his execution, he wrote the following :—


Grace and Peace be multiplied.


The sweet influences of the morning star, like a flood, distilling into my habitation, have so filled me with the joy of the Lord in the beauty of holiness, that my spirit is as if it did not inhabit a tabernacle of clay, but is wholly swallowed up in the bosom of eternity, from where it had its being.

Alas! Alas! what can the wrath and spirit of man that lusts to envy, aggravated by the heat and strength of the king of the locusts which came out of the pit, do to one that is hidden in the secrets of the Almighty, or to them that are gathered under the healing wings of the Prince of Peace? Under whose armor of light they shall be able to stand in the day of trial; having on the breastplate of righteousness and the sword of the Spirit, which is their weapon of war against spiritual wickedness, principalities and powers, and the rulers of the darkness of this world, both within and without.

Oh, my beloved! I have waited like a dove at the windows of the ark; and have stood still in that watch, which the Master, without whom I could do nothing, did at his coming reward with the fullness of his love; wherein my heart did rejoice, that I might, in the love and life of God, speak a few words to you, sealed with the spirit of promise; that the taste of it might be a savor of life to your life, and a testimony in you of my innocent death. And if I had been altogether silent, and the Lord had not opened my mouth to you, yet he would have opened your hearts, and there have sealed my innocence with the streams of life, by which we are all baptized into that body which is of God, with whom and in whose presence there is life; in which as you abide, you stand upon the pillar and ground of truth. For the life being the truth and the way, go not one step without it, lest you should compass a mountain in the wilderness; for to everything there is a season.

As the flowing of the ocean fills every creek and branch thereof, and [as it] then retires again towards its own being and fullness, and leaves a savor behind it; so does the life and virtue of God flow into every one of your hearts, whom He has made partakers of his Divine nature; and when it withdraws but a little, it leaves a sweet savor behind it, that many can say they are made clean through the word that He has spoken to them; in which innocent condition you may see what you are in the presence of God, and what you are without Him.

That he might sanctify and cleanse it [the church of believers]
with the washing of water by the word. Eph 5:26
(This speaks of the word within, “The word is near you, even in your mouth,
and in your heart [so you may hear and obey it];"Rom 10:8

As you hear, listen, and obey the words - you are made clean )

Therefore, my dear hearts, let the enjoyment of life alone be your hope, you joy and consolation; and let the man of God flee those things that would lead the mind out of the cross, for then the savor of life will be buried. And although some may speak of things they received in the life, as experiences, yet the life being veiled, and the savor that is left being washed away by the fresh floods of temptation, the condition that they enjoyed in the life, though boasted of by the airy spirit, will be like the manna that was gathered yesterday, without any good scent or savor. For, it is well with the man only while he is in the life of innocence; but being driven from the presence* of the Lord into the earth, what can he boast of?

*{Leddra is saying, that unless we are in the presence of God, we without redemption. Seek his face, to be in His presence continually. 1 Chr 16:11. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Mat 5:8}

And though you know these things, and many of you, much more than I can say; yet for the love and zeal I bear to the truth and honor of God, and the tender desire of my soul to those that are young, that they may read me in that from which I write,* to strengthen them against the wiles of the subtle serpent that beguiled Eve. I say, stand and watch within, in the fear of the Lord, which is the very entrance of wisdom, and the state where you are ready to receive the secrets of the Lord. Hunger and thirst patiently, be not weary, neither doubt. Stand still, and cease from your own works, and in due time you shall enter the rest, and your eyes shall behold his salvation, whose testimonies are sure and righteous altogether. Let them be as a seal upon your arm, and as jewels around your neck, that others may see what the Lord has done for your souls. Confess him before men, yes, before his greatest enemies; fear not what they can do to you; greater is he that is within you, than he that is in the world. He will clothe you with humility, and in the power of his meekness you shall reign over all the rage of your enemies, in the favor of God; in which, as you stand in the faith, you are the salt of the earth; for many, seeing your good works, may glorify God in the day of their visitation.

*in that from which I write - is the presence of God, in the Kingdom.

Take heed of receiving that which you have not seen in the light, for fear you listen to the enemy. Bring all things to the light, that they may be proved, whether they are wrought in God; the love of the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eye, are outside the light, in the world; therefore possess your vessels in all sanctification and honor, and let your eyes look at the mark, [goal]. He that has called you is holy; and if there is an eye that offends, pluck it out and cast it from you. Let not a temptation take hold, for if you do, it will keep you from the favor of God, and will be a sad state. For, without grace possessed there is no assurance of salvation. By grace your are saved; and the witnessing of it is sufficient for you; to which I commend you all, my dear friends, and in it remain, your brother,

William Leddra

Boston Jail, the 13th of the First Month, 1661

But as he who has called you is holy,
so you be holy in all manner of conduct;
1 Pet 1:15

Without holiness no one will see the Lord.
Heb 12:14

Thus died this devoted Christian, {who had already experienced the first death of baptism, burial, and subsequent resurrection; he was plainly living in the Kingdom, paradise, in the presence of God; to such, the second death has no power.}

During the sitting of the General Court at which William Leddra was condemned, Edward Wharton, who had been a prisoner in Boston for nearly a year, was brought up for judgment. Being a man of great Christian courage, he spoke boldly against these persecutions, and, consequently, he was very obnoxious to the ecclesiastics and rulers. When brought forward, he asked the governor what he had to lay to his charge? Endicott answered by referring to his not having taken off his hat, and hypocritically observed that he was sorry to see him so deluded.

Edward Wharton. Wearing my hat is no just cause for persecuting me,—the truth deluded no man, and by the grace of God I am made willing to suffer for His name's sake, which grace I witness in my measure.

Endicott, derisively . In my measure? This is right the Quakers' words. Do you have grace?

E. Wharton. "Yes."

Endicott. How do you know you have grace ?

E. Wharton. He that believes on the Son of God, needs not go to others, for he has the witness in himself, as said John, and this witness is the Spirit.

Endicott having ordered the jailer to be sent for, Edward Wharton, desirous of knowing the ground of his committal, thus addressed him. "Since you have a warrant, and caused the constable to take me out of my house, and to lead me through the country, from town to town, like an evil-doer, I would know what you have to lay to my charge?" To this Endicott replied, "No, you shall know that afterwards." The jailer was then directed to conduct him again to prison, where he was kept day and night closely confined with William Leddra, "in a very little room, little larger than a saw-pit."

On his being soon brought back to the Court, Edward Wharton repeated his former question—"Why have I been taken from my home, where I was following my honest calling, and here imprisoned as an evil-doer?"

The Court. Your hair is too long, and you have disobeyed that commandment which said, “Honor your father and mother. "

E. Wharton. How so?

The Court. In that you will not put off your hat to magistrates.

E. Wharton. I love and own all magistrates and rulers, who are for the punishment of evil-doers, and for the praise of them that do well.

Rawson. Edward Wharton, come to the bar.

E. Wharton. "Yes, and to the bench too, for you have no evil justly to lay to our charge.

Rawson. Hold up your hand.

E. Wharton. I will not. You have no evil to charge me with.

Rawson. Hear your sentence of banishment.

E. Wharton. Have a care what you do, for if you murder me, my blood will lie heavy upon you.

Rawson. Edward Wharton, attend to your sentence of banishment. You are, upon pain of death, to depart this jurisdiction, it being the eleventh of this instant, March, by the one-and- twentieth of the same, on the pain of death.

E. Wharton. Friends, I am a single man, and I have dealings with some people; it would be good, if I had time to make clear with all, and then, if you have power to murder me, you may.

Endicott, after consulting with Rawson. If we should give him an hundred days, it is all one.

E. Wharton. No, I shall not go away; therefore be careful what you do. The prisoner then addressed the numerous assembly, on the injustice of the proceedings; "They have nothing to charge me with at all," he said, "except my hat and my hair."

Rawson now calling the attention of the Court, read the record he had made— "that, contrary to law, the prisoner had traveled up and down, with William Robinson and Marmaduke Stevenson."

Edward Wharton replied, "Why do you read that?" and alluding to the whipping he underwent in 1659, said, "Have you not ploughed furrows on my back for that already, although you had no law for it?"

The reply having silenced Rawson, Bellingham, the deputy governor, interrupted with a threat to send him back to prison and to have him whipped. He was, however, released, and commanded immediately to depart the colony; but, undaunted by their threats or their law, he attended the execution of his friend William Leddra, at which he bore an unflinching testimony against such atrocities, and then returned to his home at Salem.

The case of Edward Wharton was an unpalatable one to Endicott and his fellow-magistrates; but they were still more perplexed by that of Wenlock Christison, whom none distinguished himself more by Christian meekness and firmness, in the time of these cruelties. In the previous chapter, he is stated to have been banished under penalty of death; and on proceeding to the adjacent colony of Plymouth, to have been driven also from that territory. Wenlock Christison, not counting his life dear to him for the truth's sake, believed it was required of him by the Lord to return to Boston, although in the expectation that before long he should be added to the list of martyrs. He came back boldly, and entered the general court to face his persecutors, at the very moment they were passing sentence of death on William Leddra.

The magistrates, on seeing him enter, were struck with consternation. The unexpected event so petrified them, that for some time it produced an entire silence. Their extreme surprise, however, soon gave place to other feelings, and one of the Court cried out, "Here is another, fetch him to the bar.'"

Rawson. Is not your name Wenlock Christison?

Wenlock. Yes.

Endicott. Were you not banished upon pain of death?

Wenlock. Yes, I was.

Endicott. What are you doing here, then?

Wenlock. I have come to warn you, that you shed no more innocent blood; for the blood that you have shed already cries to the Lord for vengeance.

Being handed over to the custody of the jailer, he was then taken to prison. On the same day on which William Leddra was put to death, he was again placed at the bar, the magistrates presuming that the circumstance of his companion's execution would terrify him into submission; but, as will be seen, they greatly mistook the character of their prisoner. On this occasion, both Endicott and Bellingham endeavored to shake his Christian firmness. Unless he would renounce his religion, they said he should surely die. But undismayed by their menaces, he replied, "No, I shall not change my religion, nor seek to save my life; neither do I intend to deny my Master; but if I lose my life for Christ's sake, and the preaching of the gospel, I shall save it." The prisoner's reply touched the hearts of some of the magistrates, and being divided in sentiment about putting him to death, they ordered him to be remanded until the next General Court. Endicott, it appears, was so disconcerted with the conduct of those on the bench who took the more humane view, that for two days he refused to preside again.

The time having arrived, Wenlock Christison was brought from his prison-house, and being placed at the bar, the Governor asked him what be had to say for himself, why he should not die?

Wenlock. I have done nothing worthy of death; if I had, I would not refuse to die.

Endicott. You are come in among us in rebellion, which is as the sin of witchcraft, and ought to be punished.

Wenlock. I did not come among you in rebellion, but in obedience to the God of heaven; not in contempt to anyone of you, but in love to your souls and bodies; and that you shall know one day, when you and all men must give an account of the deeds done in the body. Take heed, for you cannot escape the righteous judgments of God.

Major-General Adderton. You pronounce woes and judgments. Those, who have died before you, also pronounced woes and judgments; but the judgments of the Lord have not come upon us yet.

Wenlock. Be not proud, neither let your spirits be lifted up; God only waits till the measure of your iniquity is filled up, and you have run your ungodly race; then the wrath of God will come upon you to the fullest. And as for your part, his wrath hangs over your head, and is close to being poured down upon you, and it shall come as a thief in the night suddenly,* when don't expect it. By what law will you put me to death?

*Events prove that Wenlock Christison, was speaking as a prophet to Major-General Adderton, one of the Puritan judges, under the direction of that wisdom which is from above. Some time after, this foolish and hard-hearted persecutor was suddenly destroyed in a very remarkable manner. Returning home one day, after he had been exercising the soldiery, his horse became frightened, and threw him so violently that he died instantly. His lifeless corpse presented a shocking spectacle, his eyes being forced out of his head, and his brains out of his nose, while the blood flowed in profusion from his ears.

Court. We have a law, and by our law, you are to die.

Wenlock. So said the Jews of Christ, we have a law, and by our law he ought to die. Who empowered you to make that law?

Court. We have a patent and are patentees; judge whether we have not power to make laws!

Wenlock. How! Have you power to make laws repugnant to the laws of England?

Endicott. No.

Wenlock. Then you have gone beyond your bounds, and have forfeited your patent, and this is more than you can answer. Are you subjects to the king, yes or no ?

Rawson. What will you infer from that, what good will that do you?"

Wenlock. If you are, say so: for in your petition to the king, you desire that he will protect you, and that you may be worthy to kneel among his loyal subjects ?

Court. Yes.

Wenlock. So am I, and for any thing I know, am as good as you, if not better; for if the king only knew your hearts, as God knows them, he would see that your hearts are as rotten towards him as they are towards God. Therefore seeing that you and I are subjects to the king, I demand to be tried by the laws of my own nation.

Court. You shall be tried by a bench and jury.

Wenlock. That is not the law, but the manner of it; for if you will be as good as your word, you must set me at liberty, for I never heard or read of any law that was in England to hang Quakers.

Endicott. There is a law to hang Jesuits.

Wenlock. If you put me to death, it is not because I go under the name of a Jesuit, but a Quaker; therefore I appeal to the laws of my own nation.

Court. You are in our hands, and have broken our laws, and we will try you.

Wenlock. Your will is your law, and what you have power to do, that you will do; and seeing that the jury must go forth on my life, this I have to say to you in the fear of the living God: “Jury, take heed what you do, for you swear by the living God, that you will make a true trial, and give a just verdict, according to the evidence. What have I done to deserve death? Keep your hands out of innocent blood.''

A Juryman. It is good counsel.

The jury retired, but not before "they had received their lesson." They soon returned, and either from a fear of offending the Court, or from a prejudice against Quakers, brought the prisoner in guilty.

Wenlock. I deny all guilt, for my conscience is clear in the sight of God.

Endicott. The jury has condemned you.

Wenlock. The Lord justifies me, who are you that condemns?

The Court then proceeded to vote on the sentence of death; there were, however, several who were opposed to this extreme measure; for the innocence and Christian magnanimity of the prisoner, had produced a counter feeling in their minds. Endicott, vexed, and disappointed at this want of unanimity, passionately throwing something down on the table, told the Court that he "could find it in his heart to go home."

Wenlock replied, It were better for you to be at home than here, for you are about a bloody piece of work.

Endicott. You that will not consent, record it. I thank God, I am not afraid to give judgment. Wenlock Christison, listen to your sentence: You must return to the place from where you came, and from there to the place of execution, and there you must be hanged until you be dead, dead, dead, upon the thirteenth day of June, being the fifth day of the week.

Wenlock. The will of the Lord be done. In whose will I came among you, and in whose counsel I stand, feeling his eternal power, that will uphold me to the last gasp, I do not question it. Known be it to you all, that if you have power to take my life from me, my soul shall enter into everlasting rest and peace with God, where you yourselves shall never come; and if you have power to take my life from me, which I question, I believe, you shall never more take Quakers lives from them. Note my words: "Do not think to weary out the living God by taking away the lives of his servants. What do you gain by it ? For the last man you put to death, here are five others that have come in his place.* And if you have power to take my life from me, God can raise up the same principle of life in ten of his servants, and send them among you in my place, that you may have torment upon torment, which is your portion; for there is no peace to the wicked, said my God."

*The five were, Elizabeth Hooton, Joane Brocksoppe, Mary Mailins, Katharine Chattam, and John Burstow

Endicott. Take him away.

Wenlock Christison was returned to his cell, where in "sweet peace" and pious resignation of soul he waited the arrival of the day, when he should be called upon to offer up his life for the sake of his dear Redeemer. The circumstances, however, which followed, evince that in his concluding address to the Court, he spoke under that holy influence which is profitable to direct, and which verifies the Scripture declaration, that "there is a spirit in man, and the inspiration of the Almighty gives them understanding."

The day drew near on which it was determined to enact on the person of Wenlock Christison, another of the dreadful scenes on Boston Common. But while the infatuated rulers of the colony were thus pursuing their barbarous career, not only had the news of their cruelties reached the shores of Old England, but an echo of the indignation excited there was now heard in Massachusetts. The fall of the Puritan government in the mother country, and the accession of Charles II were circumstances which the bigoted governors of the province heard about this time with much anxiety. They were conscious that, independently of their Quaker persecutions, they had violated the laws of the realm, and had assumed powers which the charter did not confer upon them. The sympathy existing between the Puritans of New England and the government at home had, during the times of the Protectorate, quieted any feelings of uneasiness and calmed all apprehension. But the case was now changed. The royalists were again in power, and instead of having in the British government, powerful partisans of their cause, they had to deal with authorities who watched them with a jealous eye, and from whom they could expect at least no favor. They, therefore, naturally felt that their situation was a critical one, and that no time should be lost in endeavoring to redeem their character, as good colonial subjects. The life of Wenlock Christison was saved, and not only so, but, on the day preceding that which was fixed for his execution, an order was issued for his liberation, and for that of twenty-seven other Friends then in Boston prison. (The names of most of those who were liberated on this occasion were John Chamberlain, John and Margaret Smith, Mary Trask, Judith Brown, Peter Pearson, George Wilson, John Burstow, Elizabeth Hooton, Mary Mallins, Joane Brocksoppe, Katherine Chattam, Mary Wright, Hannah Wright, Sarah Burden, Sarah Coleman and three or four of her children, Ralph Allen, William Allen and Richard Kirby)

The fear which actuated the zealots of New England to abandon their murderous course towards the unresisting sufferers, had the effect, not of inducing them to relinquish religious persecution altogether, but to render it less manifestly illegal. As a substitute for the law of banishment on pain of death, they passed a new one for banishment on pain of a whipping from town to town out of the province. When the officers came to open the prison doors to Wenlock Christison and his companions, they informed them that their liberation was in consequence of the passing of the new law. On hearing this Wenlock said, "What does this mean?—You have deceived the people,—they thought the gallows had been your last weapon; your magistrates said your law was a good and wholesome law, made for your peace and the safeguard of your country. What! have your hands now become weak? The power of God is over you all."

Peter Pearson and Judith Brown, two of those who were released, were, however, first whipped through Boston streets, both having been stripped to the waist, and fastened to the tail of a cart in preparation for the inhuman punishment. These Friends were strangers in the colony, and the cause of their being thus singled out for the application of the whip, we presume, was that they had been previously banished.

That the new enactment might appear to have the authority of English law, those that suffered under it were wrongly stigmatized as vagabonds. Great were the severities to which its provisions still subjected Friends, as will appear in the ensuing pages. Indeed it was not until those who had been foremost in instigating these persecutions, had been summoned by the angel of death to stand before a higher tribunal, that such inhumanities ceased in that highly professing country.

The faithful messengers of the Lord, who were thus unexpectedly released from bondage, were concerned almost immediately on leaving the jail, to preach to the inhabitants those truths for which they had suffered. The magistrates, already at their wits end, in fruitlessly endeavoring to arrest the spread of Quaker principles, being impatient at this fresh manifestation of devotedness, ordered a guard of soldiers to drive all the Friends out of their territory into the wilderness; an order which was speedily executed. John Chamberlain an inhabitant of Boston, and George Wilson, were among those who were thus forcibly expelled; but, undismayed by the new law for the application of the whip, they returned at once to their homes. There they were quickly apprehended, and were sentenced to undergo a flogging through three towns and to be put out of the limits of the colony. The executioner, desiring to lend his ingenuity to increase the severity of the sentence, provided himself with a singularly constructed whip, or as it is called a "cruel instrument," with which he "miserably tore" the bodies of the two sufferers. Such was the new and barbarous character of the weapon used on this occasion, that Friends endeavored, though unsuccessfully, to obtain it, in order to send it to England, as another proof of the malignant cruelty which actuated the rulers of Massachusetts towards the new Society.

At the conclusion of the whipping at Boston, George Wilson, in the midst of his persecutors, knelt in solemn supplication to the Most High. John Chamberlain became convinced of the principles of Friends, by witnessing the triumphant end of William Robinson and Marmaduke Stevenson. In common, however, with others in Boston, who embraced these views, it was his lot to suffer severely for his conscientious convictions. Within two years from the time of his convincement, he was not only imprisoned and banished, but subjected to cruel whippings through three towns, of Massachusetts; yet, observes a contemporary, "so far from beating him from the truth, it rather drove him nearer to it." Through all his sufferings he appears to have been supported in much christian cheerfulness.

Josiah Southwick and Nicholas Phelps, who, on their banishment, in 1659, proceeded to England, together with Samuel Shattock, to obtain redress for their grievances, having been unsuccessful in their endeavors, by reason of the favoritism still shown to the province of New England, returned to their homes about the time that the new law for whipping was passed. Nicholas Phelps, whose constitution was much weakened, died soon after. Josiah Southwick, desirous that the rulers might know that he had returned, proceeded to Boston, and appeared boldly before them. He was soon placed under arrest, and after an imprisonment of nine weeks, was brought before the court of assistants in the Seventh Month, 1661. The governor told him that he would have been tried for his life, had not their new law been passed, and then pronounced on him the sentence of whipping. Josiah, with arms outstretched, and in a spirit which rose superior to their cruelty, said "Here is my body; if you want a further testimony to the truth I profess, take it and tear it in pieces; it is freely given up; and for your sentence, I matter it not. It is no more terrifying to me, than if you had taken a feather and blown it up in the air." "Tongue cannot express," said he, "nor declare the goodness and love of God to his suffering people."

The sentence was executed, as usual, with great severity, but the faithful sufferer was so divinely supported, that during its infliction he broke forth in praises to the Lord. "They that know God to be their strength," he said, "cannot fear what man can do." On the First-day he was whipped through Boston and Rocksbury, and the next morning at Dedham, from where he was carried fifteen miles into the wilderness. Disregarding, however, the threats, and unmoved by the cruel conduct of the magistrates, he immediately returned to his home at Salem, which he reached on the following morning.

While these scenes were passing in Massachusetts, the truth was steadily gaining ground in the more charitable territory of Rhode Island. George Rofe of Halstead, in Essex, one of the earliest ministers in the Society, having traveled much in his own land, and on the continent of Europe, visited the latter colony and some parts adjacent in 1661. Afterwards being in Barbados, he wrote to Richard Hubberthorne; and as his letter contains tome interesting particulars of his religious engagements in America, it is subjoined.



The last winter, I wintered in Maryland and Virginia, in great service for the establishing of many, and bringing others into the truth; many Friends are in those parts in whom the precious life is. From there I sailed in a small boat, with only two Friends, to New Netherlands and so to New England, having good service among both Dutch and English; for I was in the chief city of the Dutch and gave a good sound, but they forced me away. So we got meetings through the islands in good service, and came in at Rhode Island, and we appointed a general meeting for all Friends in those parts, which was a very great meeting and very precious, and continued four days together, and the Lord was with his people and blessed them, and all departed in peace. There is a good seed in that people, but the enemy keeps some under through their cruel persecution, yet their honesty preserves them, and the seed will arise, as way is made for the visitation of the power of good to have free liberty among them. From there I came about four months ago to this island, where the truth has good dominion, and Friends are very precious, and grow in the feeling and sensibleness of the power of God. Farewell, I am in great haste at present.

Your truly loving brother,

George Rofe


A circumstance mentioned in this letter deserves our particular notice. George Rofe refers to a General Meeting held on Rhode Island, "for all Friends in those parts." Several meetings of this character had already been convened in England. The first of which we have any account took place at Swanington in Leicestershire in 1654. One was held at Edge Hill in the same county in 1656; another in that year at Balby in Yorkshire; and in 1658 a very memorable one was convened at the house of John Crook in Bedfordshire. That referred to, however, by George Rofe appears to have been the first of the kind held on the continent of America. Bishop alludes to this meeting and says, under date of 1661, "about this time the General Meeting at Rhode Island was set up." The numbers who attended it were so considerable that at Boston, the enemies of the Society raised "an alarm that the Quakers were gathering together to kill the people." It is to be regretted that no further account of this "very great meeting" has been preserved, for doubtless, though it was probably for the most part a meeting for worship, the transactions during the four days which it occupied, would have presented to our notice many points of interest.


The authorities of Massachusetts address Charles II—Their misrepresentations of Friends therein—Edward Burrough writes to the king and confutes the statements—The New England persecutions attract the notice of the king—The news of Leddra's death reach England —Edward Burrough has an interview with the king, and obtains a mandamus to stop these atrocities—Edward Burrough has another interview with the king—Samuel Shattock, an exiled colonist, is appointed by the king to convey the mandamus to New England— His arrival there—The delivery of the mandamus to Endicott and his deputy—A meeting held by Friends at Boston—The character of the mandamus—The liberation of Friends from Boston jail—The forebodings of the rulers of Massachusetts—They send deputies to England to palliate their conduct—The proceedings of the deputies, and failure of their mission—Their fear of being indicted for murder, and hasty return home — Their cool reception by the colonists— Some notice of the attempts made to justify the conduct of the Pilgrim Fathers towards the Society of Friends.

THE rulers of Massachusetts, soon after the restoration of the monarchy under Charles II, sent an address to the king, expressive of their loyalty to his person and government. In this address they alluded to the fact of their having put to death some Friends at Boston, which, they were aware, excited much notice in Britain. And with a view to justify their conduct in this respect, they represented Friends of New England as a people of the most odious and audacious description. "Open blasphemers, open seducers from the glorious Trinity, the Lord's Christ, the blessed gospel, and from the holy Scriptures as the rule of life; open enemies to the Government itself, as established in the hand of any but men of their own principles; malignant promoters of doctrines directly tending to subvert both our Church and State." With this strain and these epithets they sought to vilify before the king the objects of their malice.

The presentation of the address was watched with considerable interest by Friends in England. Edward Burrough entered deeply into the case of his suffering brethren in America, and in order to undeceive the king, sent him "some considerations" on the address in question. "Oh King," he commences, "this my occasion to present you with these considerations is very urgent, and of great necessity, even in the behalf of innocent blood, because of a paper presented to you, called The humble petition and address of the General Court at Boston, in New England; in which are contained many calumnies, unjust reproaches, palpable untruths, and malicious slanders against an innocent people. It is hard to relate the cruelties that have been committed against this people by these petitioners: they have spoiled their goods, imprisoned many of their persons, whipped them, cut off their ears, burned them, yes, banished and murdered them. All this I declare as true and affirm before you, 0 King, wholly unjustly and unrighteously, and without the breach of any just law of God or man, but only for and because of difference in judgment and practice concerning spiritual things." After refuting the charges of blasphemy, etc., Edward Burrough refers to another, in which they are represented as persons of "impetuous and desperate turbulence to the State, civil and ecclesiastical." "Let it be considered," he says, "what their dangerous and desperate turbulence was to States, civil and ecclesiastical. Did ever these poor people, whom they condemned and put to shameful death, lift up a hand against them, or appear in any turbulent gesture towards them? Were they ever found with any carnal weapon about them? Or, what was their crime, saving that they warned sinners to repent, and the ungodly to turn from his way? We appeal to the God of heaven on their behalf, whom they have martyred for the name of Christ, that they had no other offence to charge upon them, saving their conversations, doctrines, and [religious] practices. It is fully believed by us, that these sufferers did not go into New England in their own cause, but in God's cause, and in the movings of his Holy Spirit, and in good conscience towards him. They did rather suffer the loss of their own lives for their obedience towards God, than to disobey him to keep the commandments of men. The blood of our brethren lies upon the heads of the magistrates of New England. They are guilty of their cruel death; for they put them to death, not for any evil doing between man and man, but for their obedience to God, and for good conscience sake towards him."

Edward Burrough continues thus:—"Again, these petitioners fawn and flatter in these words—'Let not the king hear men's words; your servants are true men, fearers of God and the king, and not given to change; zealous of government and order. We are not seditious to the interest of Caesar, etc.' In answer to this, many things are to be considered; why should the petitioners seem to exhort the king not to hear men's words? Shall the innocent be accused before him, and not heard in their lawful defense? Must not the king hear the accused as well as the accusers, and in as much justice? I hope God has given him more nobility of understanding, than to receive or put in practice such admonition; and I desire it may be far from the king ever to condemn any person or people upon the accusation of others, without full hearing of the accused, as well as their enemies, for it is justice and equity so to do, and by this shall his judgment be the more just." "Thus, these considerations are presented to the king, in vindication of that innocent people called Quakers, whom these petitioners have accused as guilty of heinous crimes, that themselves might appear innocent of the cruelty, and injustice, and shedding of the blood of just men, without cause. But let the king rightly consider of the case between us and them, and let him not hide his face from hearing the cry of innocent blood. For a further testimony of the wickedness and enormity of these petitioners, and to demonstrate how far they had proceeded contrary to the good laws and authority of England, and contrary to their own patent, to this is annexed, and presented to the king, a brief of their unjust dealings towards the Quakers.”

What effect this appeal of Edward Burrough had on the mind of Charles II has not been stated, but there is good reason to believe that it was the means of opening the eyes of that monarch to the intolerant disposition of his subjects in Massachusetts. In the early part of 1661, George Bishop of Bristol, published his New England Judged, a work to which we have made frequent allusion, and in which is set forth a very circumstantial account of the sufferings of Friends in that Province. A copy of the work soon found its way to the palace. The king, evidently interested with the book, was much struck with that part of it, in which Denison, an active persecutor, is stated to have said, in contempt of the authorities at home, to a Friend who appealed to the laws of England, against his cruel and illegal course: "This year you will go and complain to the Parliament; and the next year they will send to see how it is; and the third year the government is changed." The language of Denison forcibly impressed the king with the idea, that the loyalty of his subjects in that colony, was not that which they had professed towards him in their recent address. He paused in his reading, and calling his courtiers about him, directed their attention to the passage, and very significantly remarked, "Lo, these are my good subjects of New England, but I will put a stop to them."

Friends in England had not been unmindful of their persecuted brethren in America, throughout their sufferings, but in the apprehension that the law for banishing them on pain of death had been suspended, the anxiety before felt was considerably relieved. This was the state of feeling on the subject, until the summer of 1661, when news arrived, that another Quaker, William Leddra, had been brought to the gallows at Boston.

On hearing the affecting intelligence, and also that others were sentenced to suffer in like manner, Friends in England saw the necessity of making immediate and strenuous efforts to stay the martyring hand in Massachusetts. Edward Burrough, who was a courageous and powerful advocate on behalf of the persecuted Society, determined at once to seek an interview, and to plead in person with the king on the subject. It was also now pretty well known, that Charles II looked with a suspicious eye on the professed loyalty of his New England subjects. Puritan ascendancy had brought his father to the scaffold, and Puritan power and influence had long deprived him of his legitimate accession to the throne. The remembrance of these things, and his knowledge of the recent unconstitutional proceedings of the colonists, in not permitting appeals to England, according to the express condition of their charter, were likely to produce a jealous feeling in the mind of the king. The application of Burrough met with a hearty response, and the monarch readily listened to the charges against the authorities at Boston.

On being admitted to the presence of the king, Edward Burrough informed him, "that there was a vein of innocent blood opened in his dominions, which, if it were not stopped, would overrun all." His anxiety for the jeopardized lives of his brethren was soon relieved. The king replied decisively, "but I will stop that vein." "Then do it speedily," rejoined Edward Burrough, "for we do not know how many more may soon be put to death." "As speedily as you desire," answered the king; and turning to his attendants he said, "call the Secretary and I will do it presently." The Secretary having arrived, the following mandamus was immediately granted :— "


Trusty and well-beloved, we greet you well, Having been informed, that several of our subjects among you, called Quakers, have been and are imprisoned by you, whereof some have been executed, and others (as has 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, among you, now already condemned to suffer death, or other corporal punishment; or that are imprisoned, and obnoxious to the like condemnation, you are to cease to proceed any further therein; but that you immediately send the said persons (whether condemned or imprisoned) over into their own kingdom of England, together with their respective crimes or offences laid to their charge; to the end 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 9th day of September, 1661, in the 13th year of our reign.

To our trusty and well-beloved John Endicott, Esq., 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,


That much more passed between the king and Edward Burrough, on this interesting occasion cannot be doubted. The brief relation we have given, is however, all that history has handed down respecting the interview.

The mandamus having been granted, Friends were anxious for its speedy transmission to Boston. The indefatigable Burrough, fully alive to the importance of preventing any unnecessary delay in a matter wherein the lives of his friends were concerned, a day or two after sought another audience of the king. As in the former instance, the interview was readily granted. Edward Burrough having expressed his desire for dispatch in the business, the king replied that "he had no occasion at present to send a ship to New England; but if they (meaning Friends) would send one, they might do it as soon as they could." The king, with a view to facilitate the object, having thus proposed to depart from the usual mode of conveying official dispatches, Edward Burrough was encouraged to ask him, "if he would grant his deputation, to carry the mandamus to New England, to a Quaker." The king replied, "Yes, to whom you will." This favorable answer led Edward Burrough to propose to the king the name of the banished Samuel Shattock. The proposal undoubtedly was a bold one. Samuel Shattock was the only remaining exile from Massachusetts, then in England, and the penetrating mind of Edward Burrough quickly perceived that to entrust the mandamus to an individual so circumstanced, would be a most effective and significant mode to adopt, in the Sovereign manifesting his indignation at the cruel and illegal transactions of his New England subjects. The king approved of the suggestion, and the persecuted Shattock was immediately authorized to proceed to New England, as the king's messenger with the mandamus.

The attention of Friends was next directed to the most speedy mode of conveying Samuel Shattock to Boston. The subject was of so urgent a character, that expense was felt to be a secondary consideration. An agreement was soon made with Ralph Goldsmith, a Friend, the master of a "good ship," to sail "goods or no goods," in ten days for Boston, for the sum of three hundred pounds. The master immediately prepared for sailing. The voyage was a prosperous one, and in about six weeks, the vessel anchored in Boston harbor; the day of their arrival being on First-day. A ship with English colors having entered the harbor, some of the citizens anxious to have the letters, and also to learn the news which she might bring from the old country, soon went on board. It had been previously arranged by Samuel Shattock and the master, that the object of their coming should be kept strictly private until after their interview with Endicott the governor. The citizens who came on board, were told that no letters would be delivered on the First day. They returned and reported that a ship-load of Quakers had arrived, and among them the banished Shattock. The report, while it was calculated to produce consternation among the authorities, must also have singularly impressed the inhabitants at large.

In pursuance of the plan agreed on, none of the ship's company were permitted to land on the day of their arrival. On the following morning Samuel Shattock, bearing with him the official document, and accompanied by the Captain, went on shore. The boatmen having been ordered to return to the ship, the two Friends immediately proceeded to the residence of the governor. Here the porter desired to know their business. "Our business," they replied, "is from the king of England." And having desired him to inform his master "that they would deliver their message to none but the governor himself," they were quickly ushered into his presence. Endicott observing Samuel Shattock enter with his hat on, ordered it to be taken off. Shattock now produced the mandamus and his credentials as the king's messenger. Endicott was amazed and confounded. The despised Quaker colonist, whom he had driven from his country and his home, stood before him as the representative of his Sovereign, bearing with him a crushing token of the royal anger. Endicott however did not forget the requisitions of court etiquette. The hat of the banished Quaker was ordered to be handed to him, and as a recognition of the presence of the king's deputy, he immediately took off his own. Having read the papers, and withdrawn for a short time, the governor returned and requested the two Friends to accompany him to the house of Bellingham, the deputy governor. At this place the two authorities conferred together on the new position in which the colony was placed, by virtue of the mandamus, and then briefly said to Shattock and his companion, "We shall obey his Majesty's commands."

After these interviews, Captain Goldsmith returned to his ship, and landed the passengers, who speedily held a religious meeting with their friends of the town, to return thanksgiving to the Father of all their sure mercies, for so signal a manifestation of his providence, in delivering them from the oppression of bigoted and cruel men.

The purport of the royal mandamus, together with the fact of a banished Quaker being sent as its official bearer, as might be imagined, greatly disconcerted the rulers of Massachusetts. The royal instructions took all power of adjudicating the case of any Friend then in prison, out of the hands of the colonial authorities. They were "to cease to proceed any further therein," but immediately to send all under condemnation or imprisonment to England. Endicott and his fellow rulers saw that the effect of sending their Quaker prisoners to England, in the manner authorized by the mandamus, would be to furnish the king with potent witnesses against themselves. To avoid so dangerous a dilemma was therefore important. To effect this, however, but one safe course was open to them, and that was, to have no such prisoners to send; and, acting upon this conclusion, all the Friends then in the jail were quickly liberated by the following order.

To WILLIAM SALTER, keeper of the prison at Boston.

You are required, by authority and order of the General Court, to release and discharge the Quakers, who at present are in your custody. See that you do not neglect this.

By order of the Court,


Boston, 9th December, 1661.

A day of reckoning for the despotic and illegal course which the zealots of New England had pursued, appeared now to be hastening upon them, and conscious of their guilt, they exerted themselves to avert the dreaded result of their misrule. Immediately on the liberation of Friends from Boston prison, they deemed it advisable to dispatch a special messenger to the king, to inform him of their ready compliance with his royal will; and soon after to send a deputation to England to palliate their unlicensed severities, and to watch proceedings in connection with the business. The parties chosen for this unenviable task were, Norton, a minister of Boston, who had been conspicuous in promoting these cruelties, and Simon Broadstreet, a persecuting magistrate. The deputies having arrived in England, proceeded to London, where, remarks Sewel, "they endeavored to clear themselves as much as possible, but especially priest Norton, who bowed no less reverently before the archbishop, than before the king."

During the stay of Norton and Broadstreet in London, Friends had several interviews with them, on the object of their mission. It was notorious that they had themselves been deeply concerned in the New England barbarities; Norton, however, fearing the consequence of admitting the fact, denied all participation in the extreme proceedings at Boston. This departure from truthfulness failed to protect him, for John Copeland, who had had an ear cut off, happening to be in London at the time, came forward and confronted his statement. Broadstreet, less equivocating, did not deny that he was one of the magistrates who had given his voice for the execution of Friends, and openly attempted to justify his conduct.

George Fox being present at one of these interviews, remonstrated strongly with them on their horrible proceedings, and asked them whether they would acknowledge themselves to be subject to the laws of England. Broadstreet replied, "They were subjects to the laws of England, and they had put his friends to death by the same law as the Jesuits were put to death in England."

George Fox. " Do you believe that those Friends whom you have put to death were Jesuits, or Jesuit inclined?"

Deputies. "No."

George Fox. " Then you have murdered them, for since you put them to death by the law that Jesuits are put to death here, and yet confess they were no Jesuits; it plainly appears ye have put them to death in your own wills, without any law."

Broadstreet, finding himself and his companion ensnared by their own words, asked, if he came "to catch them ?"

George Fox. "You have caught yourselves, and may be justly questioned for your lives;" and added that if the father of William Robinson were in town, it was probable he would question them, and bring their lives into jeopardy.

The deputies alarmed at their perilous situation, began, says George Fox, "to excuse themselves, saying ' there was no persecution now among them;' but, the next morning we had letters from New England, giving us account that our friends were persecuted afresh. Thereupon we went to them again, and showed them our letters, which put them both to silence and to shame."

Norton and Broadstreet thus confronted, were perplexed and in great fear lest they should be indicted for murder. Broadstreet became particularly uneasy, because he had openly confessed himself a party to the executions, though subsequently he attempted to dispute it. Some of the old Royalists, who had no sympathy with Puritan dissent, earnestly endeavored to prevail upon Friends to commence a prosecution; but George Fox and his friends declined, saying, that "They left them to the Lord, to whom vengeance belongs, and he would repay."

{Certainly, the Quakers declining to repay their enemies, even when the law afforded them the opportunity, is clear evidence of the true Christianity - holding true to the teachings of Christ - to forgive the wrongs done to you, to pray for your enemies, to bless those who persecute you. As well, the persecutions in America and England by the Baptists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and Puritan Congregationalists show them to be false Christians - because they were not obedient to Christ's commands.}

The father of William Robinson who was not a Quaker, being unwilling to let the murder of his son pass so quietly by, proceeded to London with a view to institute an inquiry and to interrogate the deputies respecting his death. Norton and Broadstreet, dreading the consequences of his investigation, and feeling there was no safety for their lives while in England, prudently determined to return home, and thus a meeting between them and Robinson was avoided.

This mission to England was a complete failure. The colonists, indeed, were so sensible of this, that the two deputies on their return to Massachusetts, met with a cool reception. "Whether," remarks the historian Neal, "they flattered the Court too much, or promised more for their country than they ought, is uncertain; but when Norton came home, his friends were shy of him, and some of the people told him to his face that he had laid the foundation of the ruin of their liberties; which struck him to the heart, and brought him into such a melancholy habit of body, as hastened his death.

Before we pass on to other subjects, it may be well to notice the attempts which have been made, to explain and justify the cruelties exercised by the Pilgrim Fathers to the Society of Friends in New England. The attempted vindications, from that time down to the present day, have greatly misrepresented the motives and the conduct of the early Quakers in that country, and charges have been preferred against them wholly unfounded. It was natural to expect that the Puritan writers would endeavor, to the utmost, to defend the character of their brethren from the stigma which their persecuting policy had so justly fixed upon them, and thus we find Cotton Mather, the favorite historian of New England, reiterating the charges of "heresy," "blasphemy," "undermining civil government," etc., which the colonial authorities made to Charles II. "I appeal," says this partial writer, "to all the reasonable part of mankind, whether the infant colony of New England, had not cause to guard themselves against these dangerous villains." The strictures which Edward Burrough presented to the king, on the charges in question, and to which allusion has already been made, render it unnecessary for us to expose their injustice. Mather, however, despite his extreme partiality on the subject, was conscious that his co-religionists had violated the laws of humanity and justice, a feeling which the following language plainly exhibits. "A great clamor," he observes, "has been raised against New England, for their persecution of the Quakers; and if any man will appear in the vindication of it, let him do as he please;" for my part I will not.

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