The Missing Cross to Purity

The Christian Progress

of George Whitehead

Part VIII Continued

There was another occurrence which should also be documented.

On a fourth-day of the week I was taken out of a meeting at Whitehart court, in Gracechurch street, by an officer aided by some others, and taken before Samuel Starling, the lord mayor, where information was given against me, that I was taken at such a meeting. The question was, what did I do there, or in what manner of religious exercise we were? The officer answered that he arrested me while I was preaching.

The mayor asked if or meeting had not been a conventicle, and if our exercise or religion had been contrary, or not according to the liturgy and practice of the church of England.

I answered, “The witness does not prove that.”

He asked me if the liturgy or common prayer was read among us at that meeting. I told him, "he should not proceed against me beyond his evidence. What did the witness say? We are not about to give evidence against ourselves. The witness did not say that we exercised religion contrary to the liturgy; neither does he give evidence that we did not read the liturgy. He can only say, he came into the meeting when I was preaching; and took me preaching, but does not know what I preached; so that he came into the meeting in sermon time, and the liturgy or common prayer takes place before the sermon time."  I used this argument with him because he had deemed our meeting a conventicle and unlawful because the common prayer had not been read in the meeting; and therefore I argued that the evidence, which he had, did not prove the matter, nor the charge against me, or any of us who were at the meeting. Therefore he could not reasonably proceed against us, upon the evidence given; yet I told him our manner of religious exercise is well known.

I had some religious discussion with the lord mayor, at some certain times, and strove to inspire him with better principles than those of persecution. He was something of a believer of religion, and sometimes touched with truth; he treated me more fairly than some other persecutors did, and I had some fairer compassion from him than from some other magistrates. He was not one of the worst persecutors in those days, though sometimes he too quickly joined with others in that unchristian work of persecution against us.

Upon the 17th day of the fifth month, 1670, being the first-day of the week, Friends were kept outside in the street, near their meeting-house, at Peel in St. John's street, so termed, by red coat soldiers and a constable; and when two women spoke a few words of truth and soberness, the soldiers came and violently pulled them away. As they came to take them, some were so violent that they pushed men and women with their muskets, and tore part of Mary Wicks's clothes, her scarf and apron, and pinched her. They bruised some of the men Friends with their muskets, at which point one Friend cried out to the constable to keep the peace. George Whitehead, near the latter end of the meeting, was moved in much tenderness and brokenness of spirit to call upon the Lord in prayer. Soon after he had begun, the soldiers rudely and violently pulled him away into the entry among them. George Whitehead then told them of their wickedness and uncivil behavior toward the women, and how much below both soldiers and the spirits of men they acted, in their abuse of peaceable men and women. Shortly afterwards they also pulled into their sentry or guard, John Scott and Samuel Richardson; and these three men were detained in their custody nearly three hours. Then a great company of red coat soldiers escorted them under guard to an ale house near Clerkenwell, where two justices were; justice Foster and justice Boules, with great company of the king's horsemen guard before the door.

As George Whitehead and his friends were brought to the door, he called out for justice, saying, "I am glad we have come before the civil magistrates; we desire justice of you against the soldiers, who have kept us out of our meeting in the street, and taken us contrary to law, even contrary to the present act of Parliament, which does not require them to meddle with meetings, unless where resistance is made; and upon certificate thereof, the act mentions. Besides, some of these soldiers behaved themselves rudely, abused several of our friends; and punched some of the women with their muskets, and hurt them. In the next place, we wholly except against these soldiers being witnesses, looking upon them as not fit, nor ought they to be accepted for witnesses against us, having broken the law themselves."

George Whitehead several times called for justice, as they would answer the great God or heaven and earth, who will judge righteously between us. The justice said, "You shall have justice."

At which point a major on horseback said to the justices, “Sir, he will preach till night if you will hear him."

The justice bowed, with his hat off to the major, and showed him great reverence and readiness to convict the prisoners. The major and captain, with others, dismounted and came in to see the two justices do their work against the prisoners. The red-coats were called, and many of them came in to bear witness against us; but George Whitehead excepted against them as unlawful witnesses, as before. However, contrary to law and equity, they were put upon their oaths to witness against the prisoners, whom they had abused, and illegally apprehended, the justices not at all cautioning them to take heed what they swore, but the major did. What they informed against George Whitehead upon oath was that there had been about three hundred persons meeting in the street; that they took him preaching, standing on a bulk or stall.

George Whitehead answered, That is not true, I was praying, standing on the ground, only leaning on a stall.

Soldier. We took him praying, but leaning on a bulk.

George Whitehead. See how confused and contradictory they are in their evidence, for preaching and praying are two things; neither is praying mentioned in that clause of the act that is made against such as take upon them to preach or teach.

Justice Foster. You conjured them together to the meeting.

George Whitehead. That is not true, for they were gathered together before I came to the meeting.

Major. He does as much as tell the justice he lies.

George Whitehead. I do not tell him he lies; but I say again, it is false that I conjured the people together.

The major reproved the soldiers for going beyond his order, in going out into the street to take our friends, saying, “I gave you an order only to keep them out in the street, and you to keep sentry at the door.”

Justice Boules. Sir, but after you were gone, I ordered them to take those that preached, and I thank them.

Justice Foster. What the devil did you come there to pray for ?

George Whitehead. Do these words become a magistrate? We did not meet to hear or sing ballads in the street, nor do we meet at play houses, nor at bawdy houses, nor at drinking houses, to be drunk, where the devil is served; but singly to serve and worship the living God, for which we suffer.

The major and some more with him seemed highly concerned at those words - calling out, “Who do you accuse? Who do you accuse for going to bawdy houses? At which point some of the company present smiled one upon another.

George Whitehead. I accuse no one, but I tell you of what our meetings do not consist, nor do we acknowledge such accusations, and I state why we do meet. The information the soldiers gave against John Scott was that they took him preaching, which they accused him of because when they came with violence, he asked them to be moderate, and so what crime did he commit in this? Their information against Samuel Richardson was that he laid violent hands upon one of their muskets; but this was utterly false, and denied by Samuel Richardson, for he was standing peaceably, as he said, with his hands in his pockets in the meeting.

Then the justices seemed to incline to convict the prisoners on the act against conventicles, and George Whitehead had a few words with them about it, pleading to prevent their severity. But justice Foster urging to have them convicted. Two warrants were made; and George Whitehead, John Scott, and Samuel Richardson, were taken to New prison by the constable and soldiers. The troopers all the time of their examination stood before the door where they were. It was observed that in their mittimus, they missed setting down George Whitehead's name; and instead set down Arthur Cotten, who was a soldier that helped to take them.

The next day after the commitment, being the second-day of the week, and 18th day of the fifth month, and about the sixth hour in the afternoon, the two justices before stated came to the prison. When they had called George Whitehead into the room to them, they asked him his name and home, which he answered; and, then they spoke to this purpose: “That they had several laws which they could proceed upon against him, and particularly the statute of Oxford, the oath, etc.” The clerk had the oath of allegiance in his hand, written with blanks left for the names, and a law book before them.

George Whitehead answered, I desire you would not go about to ensnare us, for the law was not made to make men transgressors, but to punish them, where it finds such. We were apprehended and accused as breakers of the late act against conventicles; let us first be tried upon that act, and cleared, and not have a new snare laid for us.

Justice Foster. We will not lay snares for you; if you will pay your twenty pounds you shall be discharged.

George Whitehead answered something about the said act, as not justly chargeable thereby; but they quickly caused him to withdraw, and called in John Scott, who had a long discourse with them. They accused him for being an old soldier, and proffered him the oath, according to the Oxford act, made against non-conformist ministers, which he refused to take. They threatened to detain him in prison six months; after which, they again called in George Whitehead and Samuel Richardson. They asked George Whitehead if he would pay his twenty pounds, and if he would promise to come no more at the meeting at Peel?

George Whitehead answered, I cannot pay any fine or money for praying to God or worshipping him; and as for promising to cease attending meetings there, I am not my own. I stand in the will of God, neither can I promise any such thing as to restrict coming to worship or pray to God.

One of them, asked Samuel Richardson, “Will you promise to come to no more meetings?"

Samuel Richardson. I can promise no such thing.

Justice. Will you pay your five shillings?

Samuel Richardson. I do not know that I owe you five shillings.

So, having fined George Whitehead twenty pounds, (so they said, except it was not levied), and Samuel Richardson five shillings, they discharged them. But they detained John Scott in prison six months for a supposed violation the Oxford act, though he was not a non-conformist minister, nor did he pretend to holy orders. What was the great crime in his request for moderation from the rude and violent soldiers?

We were sensible of the Lord's power and presence, and that he stood by us and strengthened us in bearing our faithful, Christian testimony for his name and worship, through all these exercises and persecutions. We were also sensible that the Lord our God would plead our innocent cause, and that he often did plead it, even in the consciences of many in our adversaries, persecutors and judges; so that sometimes they were hard put to proceed or carry on their work against us. At that time, and many other times, the Lord our God was pleased to restrain the remainder of their wrath, not allowing them to proceed to the execution of their wrath nor of the evils intended within; glory honor, and dominion be to our God and the Lamb, forever and ever.

In the eighth month of the year 1670, I returned from the country to London. I was taken with a great pain in my head, which made me sick, developing into an ague and fever. I became so physically very weak that for some weeks there appeared little hope of my recovery; this sickness continued, and I remained very weak for about six months, until the beginning of the second month 1671, and partly the beginning of that summer; and then it pleased the Lord to gradually restore me to health and strength. When I was most weak from the sickness, I was well prepared and freely resigned in the will of the Lord to die so that I might be ever with him. I had an opening or apprehension that when I died, my soul would be received into the bosom of my heavenly Father. While I was in great weakness of body, I was several times told of the great and cruel sufferings of our friends in Southwark, for meeting together at their usual meeting place at Horsleydown; how barbarously and cruelly they were used, and grossly abused by soldiers and armed men, both horse and foot, being not only kept out or their meeting-house in the street, but both men and women were violently pushed with muskets and other weapons - beaten, bruised, hurt and wounded, and much blood shed by the blows and wounds from those inhuman persecutors and brutish persons. I was very sorry to hear of these and such barbarities against the innocent, and I deeply sympathized in spirit with the innocent sufferers, earnestly praying to Almighty God for them, that he would preserve and deliver them, and rebuke that persecuting spirit by which they suffered: earnest prayers with tears being then the church's very great concern, which the Lord our God in his own time, graciously heard and answered; blessed be his name.

The occasion of the barbarous persecutions against our meeting in Southwark, was by the following order:

At the court at Whitehall, the 29th or July, 1670 ;-  present, the king's most excellent majesty, his Highness, Prince Rupert, Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Keeper, Duke of Monmouth, Duke of Ormond, Earl of Ossory, Earl of Oxford, Earl of Anglesey, Earl of Bath, Earl of Craven, Lord Ashley, Mr. Treasurer, Mr. Vice-chamberlain, Mr. Secretary Trevor.

His majesty being informed that there have been of late, frequent conventicles and seditious meetings, under pretence of religious worship, contrary to and in contempt of the laws established, at a house or building at Horsleydown, adjoining to the Artillery garden; and that the persons who there assemble, behave themselves in such a riotous and tumultuous manner, that if their meetings are endured any longer, his majesty's peace and the quiet of the government will thereby be manifestly endangered. For the prevention of these it was this day ordered, his majesty present in council, and by his express command, that Christopher Wren, surveyor general of his majesty's works, do cause the said house or building to be pulled down and demolished, in case from this time forward or any periods whatsoever, shall presume to meet or hold any conventicle, or unlawful assembly therein, under color of religious worship. And it was further ordered by his majesty, that this signification of this his royal pleasure be affixed on the said building, to the end that the owners and occupiers of the same, may take notice thereof, to prevent and hinder such meetings at their peril.

Which order was both affixed on the door of the meeting-house, and soon after put in execution; for they demolished the meeting-house, and took away the boards, windows, benches and forms, and sold them.

It is observable, that here was no judicial trial, or legal proceeding in this hard case. The demolition was based only an order, grounded on information that our meetings were conventicles, seditious, riotous and tumultuous. This information was altogether unjust and notoriously false, and no such things was ever be proved against our assemblies or meetings.

Our innocent friends, as obliged in conscience toward Almighty God, resolved to keep their solemn meetings in the meeting house scheduled to be demolished. They continued to meet in the Lord's dread and fear; not being terrified by the order, or by the rage and violence of their persecutors. For as long as it was standing they constantly met on first-days. After it was pulled down, they removed the rubbish, so that they might meet on the ground where their own house had stood; which they did, until they were forced out and barbarously used by the soldiers.

On the 25th of the seventh month, 1670, Friends were peaceably assembled at their usual meeting place before stated. Some musketeers came and haled them out into the street, where the troopers came and rode in among them, in a violent, furious manner, beating and abusing both men and women, punching them in the face and bodies, with their carbines. Soon after the foot soldiers came and fell upon them also, and beat both men and women, in a cruel and outrageous manner - punching them on the feet with the but-ends of their muskets, until they had broken some of their feet; and they violently poked the muzzle of their muskets against the bodies of many. Then a party of horse desperately tried to ride over them; but the horses were more merciful, or naturally more gentle than the riders, and would not go forward to tread the people under their feet. The riders then turned them, curbed and reined them to do injury to the people.

The number of those that were wounded and sorely bruised this day was more than twenty persons.

On the 2nd day of the eighth month, they were kept out of their meeting place before stated. A party of foot soldiers and a party of horse soldiers came and attacked friends in a violent and cruel manner, knocking them with their muskets and pikes, and the horsemen with their carbines, until the blood lay in the streets. They continued doing this for some time, until they had broken several of their pikes and muskets and one carbine. Several friends were so beaten and bruised, that their lives were in danger. Those wounded and sorely bruised this day numbered above thirty persons.

On the 9th of the eighth month, the soldiers, horse and foot, came to the meeting at the before stated place; and one of them having a shovel, threw dirt and mire upon both men and women, in a shameful manner. After him, both horse and foot furiously fell upon them, striking and knocking down, without regard to age or sex, in a very cruel manner, until they shed blood from many. When some of the inhabitants in pity took them into their houses to save their lives, the soldiers forced open the doors, drug and pushed them out again into the street, and plucked off their hats so they could strike their bare heads; and many had their heads broken in a grievous manner. Thus they continued for some time, tearing men's and women's clothing off their backs, and haling women through the mire, by their horse sides; some the foot soldiers impudently put their hands under the women's coats, using obscene expressions and very indecent behavior. A red coat soldier struck one woman Friend twice on the body with his musket, and once the breast; another flung dirt in her face, and through their abuses her life was greatly endangered. A male Friend, after he had suffered by blows, was carried into the meeting place, where one demanded his money, and endeavored to rifle his pockets, cursing and threatening he would stab him, if he did not give it him, again swearing that he would shoot him with his pistol. The number of those sorely bruised, and those who had their blood shed that day, was above fifty persons.

On the 16th day of the eighth month, 1670, being again kept out of their meeting place, there came a party of horse and foot, ready to fall again violently upon our friends, but some constables were there, and for some little time, kept them off.  However, at last they broke out into a rage, striking some friends on their feet with the butt-ends of their muskets. The horsemen used large truncheons and staves to furiously strike and beat those who were meeting, as though they intended to have killed everyone in the place, causing the blood to run down about the ears many. Above twenty persons then received sore wounds and bruises. When one constable endeavored to stop them from shedding blood, and to keep the peace, they fell upon him also and broke his head; and when they were reprehended for their cruelty, some answered, “If you knew what orders we have, you would say we dealt mercifully with you.” The substance of this foregoing account was presented to the king and his council, and for a time there was some cessation of these cruelties; but afterward they began in a similar manner, though not to the same degree, yet with great threats to be worse and worse, in their behavior towards all Friends; which was only possible by directly committing murder in the place. It was observed, that when the troopers and soldiers had come, and abused and wounded the innocent, some asked them saying, "How can you deal thus with a people that have love and good will to all men, who make no resistance or opposition? "They replied, "We had rather and it would be better for us, if they did resist and oppose us;" as if they wanted occasion to imbrue their hands in innocent blood, and have the lives and estates of honest people for a prey.

Fortunately they could never get any such occasion or resistance or opposition to use against us; and so the Lord, our most gracious God, for his own name and truth's sake, restrained the remainder of our adversaries’ wrath, frustrated their evil purposes, and disappointed their mischievous designs. And in him we have trusted, who has helped and delivered us out of many troubles.

I was the more willing to insert the previous accounts of persecution, because I had been very deeply and sorrowfully affected by the frequent accounts which came to me of too many barbarous and cruel persecutions, in the time of my long sickness and great weakness of body. The Lord my God, having restored me to health. He again enabled me to labor and travel in his service in the gospel of his dear Son Christ Jesus, and to suffer with his people, and to attend and solicit the king and government for their relief. The hand of the Lord and his counsel were often with me, to help, encourage, and strengthen my heart in those services, which many times had good effects; for the Lord's power preceded me, making way for my pleas in the hearts of both king and council. A further account of how this occurred will be given later.

There was little relief from persecution for twelve years, from the year 1660, until 1672; the year of the last sea war between the English and Dutch. One judgment and calamity followed another: plague, fire, and war. All of which resulted in the great depopulation and devastation of London, showing God's heavy displeasure against persecution and cruelty, and that spirit which had been so highly at work against innocent, conscientious and honest people, some of whom the Lord delivered from persecution by death. Yet many persecutors were so hardened, that they did not repent of their cruelties; and we have observed in our times, how suddenly the Lord swept away many of that sort.

However, by this time, 1671-2, the king seemed to have second thoughts, and considered to take other measures rather than continue the persecution to destroy his own subjects, not knowing what issue the Dutch war against him might come to. So he published a declaration of indulgence to dissenters, to suspend the execution of penal laws in the matters of ecclesiastical, entitled:

His Majesty’s Declaration to all his loving subjects, dated March 15th, 1671-2, published by the advice of his privy council; the principal headings are as follows:

Our care and endeavors for the preservation of the rights and interests of the church, have been sufficiently shown to the world, by the whole course of our government since our happy restoration, and by the many and frequent ways of coercion, that we have used for reducing all erring and dissenting persons, and for composing the unhappy differenced in matters of religion, which we found among our subjects upon our return.

But it being evident by the sad experience or twelve years, that there is very little fruit in and of all those forcible courses, we think ourselves obliged to make use of that supreme power in ecclesiastical matters, which is not only inherent in us, but has been declared and recognized to be so by several Statutes and Acts of parliament.

And therefore we do now accordingly issue out this our declaration, as well for the quieting the minds of our good subjects in these points, for inviting strangers in this juncture to come and live under us, and for the better encouragement of all to a cheerful following or their trades and callings, from which we hope, by the blessing of God, to have many good and happy advantages to our government.

And in the first place, we declare our express resolution, meaning and intention to be, that the church of England is preserved, and remain entire in its doctrine, discipline and government, as now it stands established by law, &c.

We do in the next place declare our will and pleasure to be that the execution of all, and all manner of penal laws in matters ecclesiastical, against whatsoever sort of non-conformists, or recusants, be immediately suspended, and they are hereby suspended. And all judges, sheriffs, justices of the peace, etc., are to take notice of it, and pay due obedience thereunto.

And we do declare, that we shall from time to time, allow a sufficient number of places, they shall be desired, in all parts of this our kingdom, for the use of such as do not conform to the church of England, to meet and assemble in, in order to their public worship and devotion; which places shall be open and free to all persons.

To prevent such disorders and inconveniences as may happen by this our indulgence, if not duly regulated, and that they may be the better protected by the civil magistrate, our express will and pleasure is, that none of our subjects do presume to meet in any place, until the same is allowed, and the teacher of that congregation is approved by us.

And, we do further declare, that this our indulgence, as to the allowance of public places of worship, and approbation of teachers, shall extend to all sorts of non-conformists and recusants, except the recusants of the Roman Catholic religion, to whom we shall in no wise allow public places of worship, but only indulge them their share in the common exemption from the execution of the penal laws, and the exercise of their worship in their private houses only.

And if after this our clemency and indulgence, any of our subjects shall presume to abuse this liberty and preach sedition, etc., we will let them see we can be as severe to punish such offenders, as we are indulgent to truly tender consciences.

Thus far the heads of the before mentioned declaration; from the first part of which two or three things are observable.

1. His care and endeavors in using those many and frequent ways of coercion, which were severe and frequent persecutions, designed and used for the preservation of the church, i.e., the church of England,

2. Yet for all this his great care for the church, it was made evident by the sad experience of twelve years, that very little fruit came of all those forcible courses, those many ways of coercion, or the frequent severe persecutions. Little fruit indeed could these produce, and none at all to the true conviction of dissenters; but rather such bitter fruit as was very offensive, and highly provoking to the righteous God, dishonorable to the king, and greatly scandalous to that church with which he complied, and to which he had given power in the use of those ways of coercion, and forcible courses; all which proved fruitless and ineffectual to answer the design of forcing universal conformity to the Church of England.

3. However, it was well that the king finally made such an ingenuous confession, as to how fruitless coercion or forcible courses were about matters of conscience and religion, though it was from the sad experience or twelve years trial. The sad effects could have been prevented, if such courses had never been tried; and if his repeated solemn promises of liberty to tender consciences, had been kept and performed.

4. After the said declaration of indulgence was published in print, and took effect, in a short time our persecutors were stopped and restrained, and our religious meetings generally quiet throughout England, Wales, etc., for several years.

Before it was cancelled and made void, many good effects resulted from king Charles' declaration of indulgence.

1. Informers, persecutors and persecutions were stopped for a time.

2. We had quiet and peaceable enjoyment of our innocent meetings and religious assemblies.

3. Our goods and property were preserved from rapine and spoil by informers and other persecutors.

4. The king's discharge and deliverance of many of our suffering friends out of the prisons, remitting their fines and releasing their estates, by his letters patent under the great seal, which were forfeited to the king by judgment of premunire.

And for the discharge of the before mentioned sufferers, I faithfully labored and solicited, some account whereof follows.

Soon after the declaration, of indulgence was published in print, as I was solitarily upon the road, returning toward London, out of the country, a very weighty and tender concern fell upon my spirit, with respect to our dear friends then in prisons, being above four hundred in and about England and Wales, many of whom had been long closely confined, under many prosecutions, sentences and judgments, as to imprisonments, fines, forfeitures and banishments, for meeting, for not conforming, for not swearing allegiance, and many under sentence of premunire, some having endured ten or eleven years imprisonment, besides those who suffered long for non-payment of tithes. At which point I was moved to write a few lines to the king, requesting their liberty, which I intimated to our honest and loving friend, Thomas Moore, who was often willing to move the king in behalf of our suffering friends for their liberty, the king having some respect to him. He had on interest with the king and some of his council, more than many others; and I desired him to present my few lines to the king, which he carefully did; and a few days after, both he and myself had access into the king's presence, and renewed our request which I had made to him in my letter before; at which point the king granted us liberty to be heard on Friday, as he said, before the council, being the next council-day in the same week.

Whitehead Pleads to King Charles
for Mass Quaker Pardons of those Imprisoned

And then Thomas Moore, myself and our friend Thomas Green, attended at the council chamber at Whitehall, and were all admitted before the king and a full council, and being called to go up before the king, who was the upper end of the council-board, I had, fair opportunity to open the case of our suffering friends as a conscientious people, principally to show the reason of our not swearing an allegiance to the king; that it was not in any contempt, or disrespect, either to the king's person or government, but singly as it is a matter of conscience to us, not to swear at all, in any case, and that in sincere obedience to Christ's command and gospel ministry.

When I had opened and more fully pleaded our suffering friends' case, the king gave this answer: I will pardon them.

At which point Thomas Moore pleaded the innocence of our friends, that they needed no pardon, being innocent. The king’s own warrant in a few lines will discharge them; for where the word of a king is, there is power, said Thomas Moore. The king answered: “Oh, Mr. Moore, there are persons innocent as a child new born, that are pardoned, that is, from the penalties of the law; you need not scruple a pardon.” The Lord Keeper added: “I told them that they cannot be legally discharged, but by a pardon under the great seal.” Then stood up Duke Lauderdale, and made his reflection upon what Thomas Moore said, in this manner:

May it please your majesty, I wonder that these men should be no better counseled to accept of your gracious pardon; for if your majesty should by your own private warrant release them out of prison, their prosecutors may put them into prison again the next day, and still their estates, forfeited to you upon premunire, remain confiscate; so that their persons and estates cannot be safely discharged without your majesty's pardon under the great seal. With this statement, the rest of the council concurred.

To his statement, I returned this answer:

It not for us to prescribe or dictate to the king and his council, what methods to take for our friends' discharge; they know best their own methods in point of law; we seek the end thereof, namely the effectual discharge or our suffering friends out of prison, that they may live peaceably, and quietly enjoy their own.

At which point they all appeared satisfied, and the king said: Well, I will pardon, or discharge them.

After more discourse between the king and us, I looked about on the council, and in the Lord's power thus declared this to them:

I do not question but God at times inclines your hearts and tenderness towards the sufferers, especially those for conscience’s sake. Oh therefore take notice thereof, and mind that tenderness, and that which inclines your hearts to commiserate their conditions, who have long groaned and laid under heavy burdens, and sore oppressions.

As for our refusing the oath of allegiance, for which many suffer in prisons: God does bear us witness, yes, God does bear the sufferers record, that it is not from a disaffection to the king, or government, but singly for conscience sake, because it is an oath. Concluding with these words: This is the fast the Lord requires, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free. [Being near the time of an appointed fast, as I remember.]

Pursuant to the king's promise of pardon, the following order was given:

At the court at Whitehall, the 8th of May, 1672 ; - present the king's most excellent Majesty. Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Keeper, Duke of Lauderdale, Lord Chamberlain, Earl of Bridgewater, Earl of Essex, Earl Of Anglesey, Earl of Bath, Earl of Carlisle, Earl of Craven, Earl of Shaftsbury, Viscount  Falconbery, Viscount Halifax, Lord Bishop of London, Lord Newport, Lord Hollis, Mr. Vice-Chamberlain, Mr. Secretary Trevor, Sir John Duncomb, Mr. Chancellor of the Dutchy, Master of the Ordnance, Sir Thomas Osburn.

Whereas his majesty of his princely clemency, was graciously pleased to direct, that letters should be written from this board, to the sheriffs of the respective counties and cities, and counties and towns, and counties within his majesty's kingdom of England, and dominion of Wales, requiring them to return perfect lists and calendars of the names, time, and causes of commitment of all such prisoners, called Quakers, as remain in their several jails or prisons, which they accordingly did; and the same were by order or his majesty in council, of the 3rd instant, delivered into the hands of the right honorable the Lord Keeper of the great seal of England, who having considered thereof, did this day return them again, together with his opinion thereupon as follows:

The returns that are made touching the prisoners, in the several jails, are of several kinds. 1. All such of them as are returned to be convicted to be transported, (banished to the Caribbean colonies) or to be convicted of a premunire, upon whose convictions I suppose judgment was given, are not legally to be discharged, but by his majesty's pardon under the great seal.

2. All such that are returned to be in prison upon writs of Excommunicato Capiendo, not mentioning the cause, ought not to be discharged till the cause appears; for if it is for tithes, legacies, defamations, or other private interests, they ought not to be discharged till the parties are satisfied.

3. All those that are returned in prison for debt, or upon exchequer process, or of any or the other courts at Westminster, are not so discharged, till it is known for what cause those processes issued, and those debts are discharged.

4. Those that are in prison for not paying their fines, ought not to be discharged without paying their fines, or a pardon.

All the rest I conceive may be discharged.

Which being this day taken into consideration, his majesty was graciously pleased to declare, that he will pardon all those persons called Quakers, now in prison for any offence committed relating only to his majesty, and not to the prejudice of any other person: and it was thereupon ordered by his majesty in council, that a list of the names of the Quakers in the several prisons, together with the causes of their commitment, be, and is herewith sent to his majesty's attorney general, who is required and authorized to prepare a bill for his majesty's royal signature, containing a pardon to pass the great seal of England, for all such to whom his majesty may legally grant the same: and in case of any difficulty, that he attend the lord Keeper, and receive his directions therein.


The following is a copy also of the king's warrant to the attorney general.

Our will and pleasure is, that you prepare a bill fit for the royal signature, and to pass our great seal of England, containing our gracious pardon unto, &c., [the place of the prisoners names,] of all offences, contempts, and misdemeanors by them, or any of them committed, before the 21st day of July, 72, against the several statutes made in the firs, twenty-third and thirty-fifth years or the reign of queen Elizabeth; in the third year of the reign of our late royal grandfather, king James, and in the sixteenth year or our reign, in not coming to church, and hearing divine service; and refusing to take the oath of allegiance and supremacy, and frequenting, or being present at seditious conventicles; and of all premunires, judgments, convictions, sentences of excommunication, and resulting transportation (banishment); and of all fines, amercements, pains, penalties and forfeitures, whatever incurred, with restitution of lands and goods, and such other clauses, and non obstantes as may render this our pardon most effectual; for which this shall be your warrant. Given at our court at Whitehall, the __ day of June, in the twenty-fourth year of our reign. To our attorney general.

After we had taken out the foregoing order and warrant, our friend Thomas Moore and I carried and delivered the same to the king's attorney general, Sir Heneage Finch. Thomas again scrupling the word pardon to him, as he had before to the king. He took up Thomas somewhat short, telling him: "Mr. Moore, if you will not accept of his majesty's pardon, I will tell him you will not accept it." Then to pacify him, I told him that it was not our business to question, but accept what the king had granted for the relief of our suffering friends, that they might be released and discharged from their imprisonments and sufferings. He then seemed satisfied.

And further to inform and satisfy Thomas Moore in the case, after we came out of doors from the attorney general, I got him to return in again with me to his clerk, named Sanders, an old man, who prepared the king's letters patent, or pardons, that he might inform Thomas Moore of the nature and manner thereof which he very fairly did; at which point Thomas said, "Now it begins to have some shape." And he was then more satisfied, with a better understanding the form or shape and nature of that instrument than before.

Thomas Moore's scruples or objections against the word pardon, or its being necessary to our suffering friends, were upon these tender points.

1. That they being innocent, and no criminal persons, needed no pardon, as criminals do.

2. That their testimony for Christ Jesus allowed of no pardon; neither indeed can we allow or accept of any man's pardon in that case, singly considered; we cannot give away the cause of Christ, or our sincere obedience to him, as any offence or crime needing any pardon or forgiveness from men; nor does Christ require us to ask it of him, but accepts and approves of us, in that wherein we truly obey him.

Site Editor's Comments: Those of you who have read George Fox's Journal may recall that he refused the King's pardon several times, being in prison for failure to swear. For Fox to decide to continue his own imprisonment is one case; his decision on principle affected only himself. For Whitehead to refuse the release of almost 500 Quakers, some of whom had been in prison for over ten years, having been unjustly sentenced to life imprisonment along with the loss of all their property, would be unconscionable.

But then on the other hand, we must reasonably allow of this distinction; that where in we, or our friends were judged or condemned by human laws, and the ministers thereof, to imprisonments, fines, forfeitures, premunires, or confiscation of estates to the king, and power given him to banish us, and thereby we made debtors to him, though unduly, the king has power to remit, pardon, or forgive what the law has made a debt to him, as well as any creditor has power to forgive a debt owed to him; and to pardon and release his debtor out of prison.

The case is plain, and the distinction evident.

Neither pope, priest, nor prince can acquit or pardon men in the sight of God, for offences against him; but the king may forgive debts owed him by law to to him, and release and re convey his subjects' estates, by law that have been forfeited to him, or else he has less power than any of them. An earthly king cannot pardon a guilty conscience before God, but he can forgive debts owed to him, and release estates forfeited to him, as well as persons who are in his power to release; good consciences and well-doing need no pardon, but deserve praise.

Besides in this case of our premunired friends, if the king had not re-conveyed their estates as he did, by his letters of patent - under the great seal of England - from him and his heirs, to them and their heirs, they would have remained forfeited, and liable to future claims, and the proper owners subject to being dispossessed again; and therefore the report and counsel of the lord Keeper, Sir Orlando Bridgman, to the king, in our friends' case previously related, was both legal and safe for their discharge; being also recorded in several offices, where patents and pardons are kept on record, to have recourse in case of necessity.

The attorney general ordered his principal, Nicolls, to draw up the bill, to contain the king's patent letters, for a full discharge and release of our suffering friends, from their imprisonments, sentence of banishment, fines, forfeitures, premunire, etc., which when he had done, I got Ellis Hookes, our writer, to make four or five copies of them for expeditious distribution to be passed out and entered into the record of the several offices, which the letters were to pass through; that is the Privy Seal, the Signet, the Patent, and the Hannaper offices of the king.

And understanding that because of the number of names in the patent, great fees would be required in most of these offices, except the lord Keeper's, who had promised to remit his fee, and that he would ask none of us, which was a kindness; for there were above four hundred names of the sufferers in the one document to be discharged, we understood they would demand a great fee for each person, and we heard that it could cost twenty to thirty pounds of fees to get a patent or pardon through all those offices, to pass under the great seal of England, that we were forced to make further application to the king, to remit or abate the great fees. At which point, the king gave the order, according to our request as follows:

Locus Sigilli.

His majesty is pleased to command, that it be signified as his pleasure to the respective offices and sealers, where the pardon to the Quakers is to pass, that the pardon, though comprehending a great number of persons, do yet pass as one pardon, and pay but as one.


At the court at Whitehall, the 13th of Sept, 1672.

Although we had this warrant from the king, yet we had trouble from some of the covetous clerks, who strove hard to exact charges upon us.

When the instrument for the discharge of the prisoners was granted to our friends, there were other dissenters besides Quakers in some prisons,  including  Baptists, Presbyterians, and Independents. Some of their solicitors, especially a William Carter, seeing what influence we had made with the king for our friends' release, sought our help so that their friends in prison might be discharged with ours, and have their names in the same instrument. They earnestly requested my advice or assistance, which I was very willing to give, in compassion to them accordingly, I advised them to petition the king, with the names of the prisoners in it, for his warrant, to have them inserted in the patent with the Quakers, for which they petitioned and obtained.

So that there are a few names of other dissenters, who were prisoners in Bedfordshire, Kent, and Wiltshire, in the same instrument with our friends, and thereby released. I was very glad that they partook of the same benefit, through our industry; for when we had made way, it was easy for them to follow. Indeed I was never hesitant to give any of them advice, if I could, for their help, when any of them have been in straits, and come to me for help. Just because we were of different judgments and societies, that did not diminish my compassion or charity, even towards those who have been my opposers in some cases. (Among these were John Bunyan, the author of the Pilgrim’s Progress, an a explicit opponent of the Quakers and Whitehead, who had published very critical books about Quakers). Blessed be the Lord my God, who is the Father and Fountain of mercies, whose love and mercies in Christ Jesus to us, should oblige us to be merciful and kind one to another, as being required to love mercy, yes, to be merciful, as well as to do justly, and to walk humbly with the Lord our God.

After the king had signed a copy of the this Instrument on several skins of parchment, which we had prepared in chancery beforehand for expedition in the Patent office as is the usual procedure; we then got it passed under the great seal of England. Since there were eleven skins of vellum, in chancery hand, it had grown to that number because of the names of over four hundred persons repeated eleven times within it. There were so many skins that Ellis Hookes and I, and some other Friends, had difficulty determining a way to have it sent to all the prisons throughout England and Wales, where our friends were confined; that they might be released, and not too long detained under confinement, as many had been. We had obtained their discharge with great effort, and now we were faced with the monumental task of completing their release in so many locations throughout England and Wales. The best plan I could come with was to get two duplicates of the original instrument prepared and passed under the great seal, as like the original; this I got done very quickly. I then sent messengers with them in several directions to the sheriffs and jailers: to Sussex, Bucks, Oxford, Warwick, and Stafford, where our friends had suffered the longest in their jails, that they might be quickly discharged out of prison. The friends sent as messengers showed the king's discharge under the great seal to the respective sheriffs and officers concerned to see our dear friends released out of their long confinements.

Although at that time I had been in long and great labors and solicitation for the liberty of our oppressed friends in prisons, and thereby had impaired my health and strength; yet I was willing to undertake a journey into Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, and Hertfordshire, to see our friends released out of the jails in those counties, as also in Huntington and Cambridge.

And having the original patent under the great seal, Edward Mann and William Gosnell of London were willing to accompany me on that journey. So we started out on horseback early, arriving in Chelmsford that day, and lodging at the inn by the prison that night. The quarter sessions for the county of Essex were being held the next day in that town. We went in the morning to several justices of the peace, where they were together at another inn. When we came before them, I gently told them our errand, and what was the intent of our coming there before them; and producing the king's letters patent, showed them what names of our friends were in it, who were then prisoners in Chelmsford prison, and how they were discharged by it. They seemed somewhat surprised at the sight of such a great instrument, under the great seal or England, and that it was to the benefit of so many Quakers. Some of them had ill will to us, and they seemed disgusted at our hats; however, I told them, I hoped they would allow of the discharge and release our friends out of prison.

So after they took it into court, they ordered our friends, who were in that prison to be released. We proceeded on in our journey towards Edmundsbury in Suffolk, in order to reach the quarter sessions there; which began the beginning of the week following the other in Essex, being about two or three days between each session. The justices in Suffolk received us with civility, and after they had examined the king's discharge in court, seemed affected by it. But some of our friends' names in that prison, who were intended to be released in the king's grant, were not in the discharge; even though their offences were the same as many others whose names were on the pardon.

We could not guess where the omission had occurred, unless it was in the sheriff's report to the king of the names and causes of the Quakers in prison there, which the king had ordered. The under sheriff took it somewhat hard that we would suspect him for such an omission; however, I desired the justices to release those Friends out of prison whose names were omitted, seeing their case came under the king's clemency, and they had a right to their liberty as well as the rest, in point of justice. The justices did not oppose this plea and allowed them to be freed from prison also.

At that time, while we were in Edmundsbury, I very opportunely met with the under sheriff for Huntingtonshire and Cambridgeshire, who was a very fair, civil man, and showed him the king's patent, and the names of our friends in it, who then were prisoners in those two counties, and I desired him to see them delivered out of prison in both counties; which he was very ready to undertake, and honestly performed, so far as I could hear. After which, we traveled into Norfolk, and to Norwich, and there meeting with the high sheriff, got our friends released who were prisoners, and named in the king's patent to be discharged.

We returned to Hertford in two day's time, before the quarter sessions ended; and Henry Stout producing the said patent, the magistrates released those Friends that were prisoners there.

In two weeks' time we performed that journey and service for our Buffering friends in the said counties of Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Norwich, Huntington, Cambridge, and Hertford.

When we returned to London, we were yet more concerned for our suffering friends in the northern and western parts of England, and also in Wales; for it was a difficult and tedious undertaking, to send messengers into all those remote places, where many Friends were prisoners, with three such great instruments. The patent, which we carried in a leather case and a tin box, with the great seal in it, was so cumbersome, that Edward Mans was forced to tie it across the horse’s back, behind him.

We realized the difficulty and delay necessary to dispense the same patents to the several counties and jails, where our friends were confined, throughout England and Wales. We also knew what a hard matter it would be to motivate the king again for any instrument in addition to his pardon already granted and confirmed.  We wished for their more speedy deliverance out of the remote prisons, but realized any further instrument either by proclamation or warrant from some of his privy council, or the secretary of state, or attorney general, or otherwise, would be a great undertaking, considering the great number of names and places mentioned in the said pardon. So, we did not see how we could ask for such an instrument. Besides, having had so much wearisome toil and solicitation for what we had already obtained for Friends' release, the labor and difficulties considered, I decided to consult with judge Hale regarding the problem. He was the chief justice, and we hoped he had an idea to provide us a way to get our friends released, who were in such remote prisons, as before mentioned.

Accompanied by Ellis Hookes, I went accordingly to judge Hale's house in Acton. We met with the judge at home, and I intimated our case and difficulty to him, which he fairly heard, and looked over a copy of the king's pardon, or letters patent, (so termed). Our difficulty was how to have the documents dispensed for the speedy release of our friends throughout England and Wales. Since the king had given his grant for their discharge under the great seal, we desired they might be delivered out of prison before winter, which was then approaching and I told him, considering that many of our friends had laid long under strait confinement, it might be their death if they were detained much longer, especially in the winter season.

The judge appearing very serious and intent upon the matter, told us,  “if they would remove themselves by Habeas Corpus, and come before him at the king's bench, I will release them," upon the king's pardon. I then signified to him, that would be such a hardship and hazard as we dared not put them upon; because of the remoteness of the counties in the north. The health of many of the prisoners was so impaired by their long and hard confinements, that it might endanger their lives to remove them up to London, being one or two hundred miles or more; also many were much disabled and made poor by their sufferings and imprisonments, and the charge of such removal would be so great, that it would be too heavy for them, besides the danger of the journey.

The judge then proposed something of an instrument from the attorney general, though it was not his place to give us counsel, as he said, yet he appeared willing to help our suffering friends if he could, by proposing such expedients as he could then think of, in which I could not but take notice of his compassion and good will towards us, and we parted kindly. Yet we were still at a loss how to expedite our poor suffering friends out of the remote prisons: by all the advice or proposals given to us, we could not get all our friends actually delivered out of the jails nearly so soon as I desired.

The Michaelmas term, as it is called, was then very near; and the under sheriffs coming out of the several remote counties to the term, I told Ellis Hookes we might take the great patent and show to the sheriffs at their inns and offices, that they might draw out Liberates, and send to jails in their respective counties and prisons, to set our friends at liberty.

We went to the sheriff of Yorkshire, who was on ancient man; and I showed him the patent, and the names of the Friends who were prisoners in their county and castle of York, and those clauses for their discharge, which he readily assented to, and asked us give him a copy of it, and he would draw up and send a Liberate to the jailer, for their release, which accordingly we did, and he performed his promise. I was thereby further informed how we might hasten and dispatch our friends' release in other remote counties; and I drew up the form of a Liberate, agreeable to the king's patent, which briefly summarized the terms within that concerned the prisoners' discharge. Ellis Hookes transcribed as many copies as we needed for the remaining remote counties, where our friends had not been set at liberty; inserting the prisoners' names in each Liberate, respectively appertaining to the same county; as those in Montgomeryshire prison, in a distinct warrant or Liberate, for the sheriff of that county; and in like manner for the other counties and prisons in Wales, where Friends were detained. Warrants for the sheriffs of Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Somerset, Cumberland, Durham, Lancashire, and for the rest of those counties respectively, where Friends had not been released out of prisons, were prepared for the sheriffs severally to sign and seal.

Ellis Hookes and I went to their inns and offices, and showed them the king's patent, with the Liberates, that they might see how agreeable they were; and they approved it; and readily signed and sealed each Liberate, being a warrant to each jailer to set our friends at liberty, out of jail, where they had been detained, as many of them had been for a long time. So at last, through much labor, care and diligence, the difficulty we had been under came to be removed.

I do in deep humility, tenderness of spirit, and with a thankful heart, retain the remembrance, how the Lord our God helped and enabled me to go through that great core and diligence in solicitations for the liberty of my dear suffering friends and brethren. Although I labored for the same nearly six months together, before it was fully effected, the Lord gave me great encouragement, peace and comfort, in my daily endeavors for them. My love towards them was such that it made it more easy to me, in all which I still have great satisfaction and peace, which remain with me, in Christ Jesus, my Lord and my God; I bless his name and power which upheld and strengthened me; let him have the glory, praise and dominion for ever, said my soul.

Site Editors' Comment: George Whitehead again shows us remarkable dedication to purpose. Today we would describe him as the one "who carried the water." After successfully arguing the release and pardon of the Quakers in prison, and being sick, he would be expected to rely on others to see to actual release of the Quakers from the many prisons scattered throughout England and Wales. But, with characteristic responsibility and love, he personally traveled on horseback to several prisons and courts to secure their release; and then sensing the delays inherent in that process, ingeniously created a means to obtain a mass release very quickly. For six months, he labored with single-minded focus - to relieve the suffering of his brethren, whom he dearly loved - further testimony to the early Quakers being true followers of Christ:

Jesus said: "I give you a new commandment:
that you should love one another.
Just as I have loved you, so you too should love one another.
By this shall all know that you are My disciples,
if you love one another.
John 13:2425

The liberty granted to tender consciences by king Charles' declaration of 1662, did not hold long; for the Parliament, or a party unhappy with the liberty granted and allowed thereby, took occasion against the declaration, and moved the king to cancel it. They alleged that thereby he extended his prerogative too far, or advanced it above the law, by suspending the execution of penal laws, in matters ecclesiastical; suggesting, of what dangerous consequence it might be, to have such a precedent remaining. But they took no care of Christ's prerogative and government over the consciences of his subjects; they must be exposed to severe sufferings, oppressions, and cruelty, for conscience sake towards him, and for obeying his doctrine, chiefly in refusing to swear at all, or in any case, and for solemnly meeting together in his name and spiritual worship.

If the Parliament and all parties who were displeased with the king's declaration, because it was not an act of Parliament, but of royal prerogative, had been so generous and noble as to allow a general liberty to tender consciences, or freedom from persecution, they might easily have turned the substance or effect of the king's declaration into an act of Parliament. And no doubt the king would readily have signed and confirmed the same; seeing he had so often not only publicly promised liberty to tender consciences, but also in his declaration from Breda, positively and voluntarily promised, "That no man shall be disquieted or called in question for differences in opinion in matters of religion, which do not disturb the peace of the kingdom; and that we shall be ready to consent to such an act of Parliament, as upon mature deliberation shall be offered to us for the full granting that indulgence." What could be a more plain promise, or more encouraging to them, to have ratified the same by act of Parliament?

And moreover, in the king's declaration concerning ecclesiastical affairs, dated October the fifth, 1660, it is again declared; “In a word, we do again renew what we have formerly said in our declaration from Breda, for the liberty of tender consciences; that no man shall be disquieted, or called in question for differences in opinion in matters of religion, which do not disturb the peace of the kingdom." And in the some declaration, it is further said; “Our present consideration and work is, to gratify the private consciences of those who are grieved with the use of ceremonies, by indulging to, and dispensing with, the omitting of these ceremonies."

And in the king's speech to both houses of Parliament, the 8th of July, 1661; "It is to put myself in mind as well as you, I think so often as I come to you, to mention to you my declaration from Breda; and let me put you in mind of another declaration published by yourselves, about the same time, and which I am persuaded made mine the more effectual. An honest, generous, and Christian declaration, signed by the most eminent persons who had been the most eminent sufferers, in which you renounced all former animosities, and the memory of all former unkind acts. And, my lords and gentlemen, let it be in no man's power to charge me or you with the breach of our words or promises, which can never be a good ingredient to our future security. And in the chancellor's speech to both houses, May the 8th, he told you but now, (meaning the king) “that he valued himself much upon keeping his word, upon performing all that he promises to his people.”

Now upon the whole it is observable, that when the king made, and so often repeated, those promises of liberty to tender consciences, there appeared no design of persecution, or intention to violate his promises, but the contrary; and how easy it would have been to establish that liberty by a law. But too many selfish and partial men were otherwise minded; for before the reign of king Charles the second had expired, some of these who were against his declaration, would have had an act of consideration, to include in the church of England some parties of dissenters, as Presbyterians and such like; some allowances, exceptions or limitations were claimed for those, so as not to be made conformable to the said church in all her articles, ceremonies and formalities, but to be dispensed with, or allowed in some things not deemed essential, so as they might be considered in one with the church of England. All other dissenters more conscientious than themselves, who could not come so near a conformity, were excluded the consideration, and not allowed a general liberty to exercise their religion and conscience. These were still exposed to persecution, suffering and ruin, under the penal laws, if that partial project and consideration had taken effect, by a church made up of Presbytery and Episcopacy. Oh then, who should have been allowed to stand before them, without conformity to such elders and bishops? This partial project and selfish design, several of us were concerned in conscience to oppose, argue, and testify against, to certain members of Parliament, who promoted such a consideration, and to others also.

I discussed this with several of them, showing them how they gave away the cause of all the most honest and conscientious dissenters, and thereby greatly lost ground.

It was well the project did not take effect; and there was doubtless a divine hand and providence in its prevention. It would have gone hard with the high Episcopal clergy, if Presbyterian ministers had partaken with them and been made sharers in their parish churches and livings, tithes and glebe lands, oblations and revenues, with which they were formerly, chiefly, if not wholly invested for the space of twelve years, until the year 1660, when the act of uniformity came to be in force. Then Presbytery must give way to Episcopacy, and lay down church revenues, or else conform; at which many great Presbyterian ministers did conform with such pretences as these, saying that they must not lay aside preaching the gospel, for want of conforming or dispensing with a few ceremonies, which are but indifferent things. Their great livings, tithes, oblations and profits, were to them far more important.

In the meanwhile their previous solemn league and covenant against Episcopacy had not been considered or remembered, by such occasional conformists. Even worse, some of the Presbytery, who were noted for their zeal against the formality and superstitions of the Church of England, pretending some greater reformation, deserted those places where they had been so noted for their zeal and reformation, and moved into other counties; some south, and some north, where they were not so well known, and could more easily, and with less notice, conform for the revenue or church living. In these remote areas [without detection and ridicule] they could put on the surplice - sign infants with the sign of the cross, - bow to the high altar, - conform to all the ceremonies of their church, - and plead decency and good order in them all, which before were but superstitious relics of popery, and altogether indecent in God's worship.

Yet to give due note, some ministers and people were more conscientious than to allow of or indulge themselves in such an occasional conformity for lucre's sake. Indeed, many could not obtain parish church livings, if they would, where there remained some old Episcopal clergymen, who had claim to the livings, having been formerly expelled from them in the past. Those who would not conform , or could not assume a parish, were willing to keep private meetings, termed conventicles, as long as they could or dared. For few of them would suffer for their religion, but rather they privately slid away, or fled out at back-doors, rather than be seized or taken by the persecutors. Many or the Baptists suffered imprisonment at first; but the heat of the day, the burden of suffering and persecution, chiefly arose and fell upon us the poor Quakers. When we were not allowed to meet quietly in our public meeting- houses, but many of us were violently haled out to prison, and the rest by force turned out, and kept in the street; there have we stood and kept our meetings outdoors, both when turned out, and when officers deliberately kept us in the streets. We often met outdoors in the street, and stood both in winter and summer, and all weathers, as near our meeting-houses as we could get, and waited upon the Lord our God, in testimony against our injurious, hard hearted persecutors. So that some of the other dissenters, who dared not meet publicly, have thanked God that He had enabled the Quakers to stand in the gap, and bear the brunt, and keep the blow off them; according as I was credibly told, when we suffered so much in London as we did.

Within two years of his proclamation of indulgence, the king was prevailed upon to cancel his indulgence to tender consciences. Some persecutors began to appear again, and a new persecution arose in many places, where they picked up Friends who bore public testimony for the truth; and yet for some time after, we could travel quietly, and visit our meetings in many counties. But the old and principal snare which our great persecutors were ready to make use of against us, was the oath of allegiance. They knew that we could not swear in any case, either for the king, or for ourselves; though we sincerely practiced and performed just allegiance toward him, as true and faithful subjects, giving Caesar his due, and to God his due, the things that are truly his; namely, his worship and service, according to our conscientious persuasion in matters of faith and religion. We chose rather to lay down our bodies as the street to be trod upon, than subject our souls for our persecutors to go over them; and when they could not go over our souls, nor make them bow to their corrupt wills and impositions, they would hunt us out to apprehend and confine our bodies in prisons.

In the tenth month, 1673, our dear friends and brethren, George Fox and Thomas Lower, were at a Friend's house in Worcestershire, on their journey towards their family and homes in Lancashire, were obstructed, and committed to prison at Worcester, by warrant from one Henry Parker, justice of peace, and detained prisoners a considerable time. The injustice and illegality done them, is further related in George Fox's Journal.

After George Fox had long remained prisoner at Worcester, Thomas Moore and I went to the king at Hampton court, and requested his liberty out of prison; though the king gave us little answer, yet after some time the Lord made way for his release.

This imprisonment I have mentioned, that it may appear how early the invidious persecutors fell to work, after the king's declaration for liberty was rescinded. The persecutors being let loose again, the several modes or prosecution were renewed against us, the people called Quakers; as, for not swearing allegiance, the penalty was imprisonment and premunire; for not going to parish church, so called, twenty pounds a month, or two thirds of a person's estate forfeited and seized on exchequer process or excommunication, and writs De Excomunicato Capiendo, issued out to take and imprison the persons excommunicated. And for our innocent religious meetings, great spoil was made upon our goods, which were taken and torn away by a company of loose idle informers, who cared not what havoc and spoil they made upon us, nor how much they ruined poor, honest, industrious families; besides the many hard and tedious imprisonments, which many of us underwent, both before and after the declaration of indulgence.

Because of these sufferings, by several avenues of process, application was often made to the king, and sometimes to the judges, before they went out to their several circuits. We asked for some redress from those hardships and severe sufferings; and great endeavors were used, at least to make the king and his ministers sensible of them, according to the following brief account.

To the King's Justices appointed for several circuits throughout England.

Many of our friends, called Quakers, being continued prisoners, and many prosecuted to great spoil by informers, and on Qui-tam writs, and by presentments and indictments for twenty pounds, per mensem, in many counties throughout England, only on the account of religion and tender conscience toward Almighty God, we esteem it our Christian duty to remind you of their suffering condition, as we have done from time to time. Humbly entreating you in the circuits, to inquire into the several causes of their commitments and other sufferings, which they lie under, and to extend what favor you can to them, for their ease and relief. Praying the Almighty to direct and preserve you; we are your Christian friends and well-wishers.

But we found little redress from the judges in those days, after many applications to them; except when the king gave them some instructions to them; for which end we sometimes applied to the king to stay proceedings against our friends; at which point he showed some compassion towards the sufferers, when their case was presented in following manner:


The case of the people called Quakers, who are still sufferers by prosecutions upon old statute, made against popish recusant, [A recusant is a person who refuses to submit to authority, in this case that authority being the Church of England].

(Presented to the king by George Whitehead, William Mead, and John Osgood, the 16th of the eleventh month, 1679.
Being introduced by William Chiffins, Esq., closetkeeper to the king; as he had given leave and appointed.)

After a brief introductory speech to the king, by George Whitehead, the following case was presented and read:

It may be remembered, that about two years last past, our case of sufferings was represented before the king and his privy council, that is, the late and unwarranted prosecutions upon the statutes or the 23rd and 28th of Queen Elizabeth, made against popish recusants; by color whereof, and of the statute of the 3rd of King James, two-thirds of our lands, tenements, inheritances, leases and farms, for two or three years then last past, were seized into the king's hands; and process made out of his exchequer twice yearly, to collect the rents and profits thereof, for which the bailiffs seldom take less than double; their distresses frequently amounting to more than the yearly value or the whole estates. The king was then pleased to express his sense of the unreasonableness of such prosecution, saying, “It was hard we should suffer by laws made against us, and also by those laws never made or designed against us.” But the parliament being then in session, the king referred us to them, as the more proper place for an effectual redress.

In obedience to which, we made our application to the House of Commons, who by a committee then examined by witness and records, the justness and reasonableness of our complaints, and had true presentments thereof; but before they could yield us any relief, were prorogued; and soon after dissolved,

We also represented our case to the succeeding parliament, who for our relief were pleased to insert a clause in a bill then before them, to distinguish between Papists and Protestants, which would have tended to redress our grievance; but the king also proroguing that parliament before the said bill had passed its last customary reading in the upper House, we are still left under the same heavy pressures.

Now although the most effectual redress of these present and future prosecutions, as the king has directed, would be by Act of Parliament; yet it being so, that the king has power by law, to grant a stay, or cessation of processes, which are made out to collect the fines and profits levied upon our estates, the forfeitures being made to the king;

We therefore in true Christian humility desire, that the king will be pleased to grant a present stay, or cessation of process, until we can have a more effectual redress in a parliamentary way.

The king received this case, with a list of the sufferers, i.e., of our friends under prosecution, and he was pleased to give this answer:

That it is very unreasonable you should thus suffer by laws that were never intended against you; I am against persecution, or persecuting any for conscience; and shall consider of your case, and afford you what relief I can. I will advise with my Lord Chancellor and Attorney-General about it, what way I may do it: i.e., that which we requested, that he would please to give order to put a stop to process against us in the exchequer.

The king further told us, that it should be moved the next council day; he would remember it; and Shephard should give us notice; he was a noted sort of a witty person and courtier, who much attended the king, and was intimate with him.

We were sensible that the king at that time, as I have known him at several others, was touched in his conscience, and somewhat tenderly affected with the extremity and long continuance of those great sufferings upon our friends in this and other cases. But some persons around him were not our friends, and had too much influence upon him, by which by his good inclinations against persecution, and for liberty of conscience, as well as his promises for the same, were many times frustrated, and our suffering heavy pressures and troubles by persecutions, were in great measure continued under his reign, till his days were ended. The little relief which we obtained in his days, was through the earnest solicitations and industry of some few among us, whom the Lord raised up, gifted, and qualified for that service. These were given up in great love and compassion to the conscientious sufferers, to appear in the face of authority in their behalf; in which labor of love I am a living witness of the Lord's power and presence with us, and of his counsel to strengthen and help us in our tender Christian endeavors for our suffering friends and brethren.

Though our solicitations did not at all times take the effect desired, yet I had this secret encouragement to move sometimes in a good cause, and to pursue the same as far as I could, believing that if it was for some time delayed or rejected, it would in the Lord's time take effect; if we did not receive present gain, we should not lose by early moving in and following a just cause. Many times when we have labored under severe persecutions and confinements, we have called for justice when we could not have it; yet thereby we have cleared our consciences, and had the more inward peace, believing that the just God would appear for us, if men would not hear us. And our God has often manifestly pleaded our cause, and vindicated our innocence in many respects, both in men's consciences, and in removing our implacable persecutors, when they have filled up their measures.

Reader: The next parts of the Journal have been removed from the body of this sequence of pages; but separate sections are provided for:

1) the account of Whitehead's 1680 lengthy arrest and trials in Norwich, with intervening imprisonment.
(click to read)

2) Whitehead's efforts to obtain the relief of Quakers in several written and verbal appeals to King Charles II, along with an account of Quakers' continued sufferings, his own suffering, and extensive arguments against their prosecutions' legality. (click to read) &

They both show Whitehead's patience, gentleness, intelligence, great knowledge of the law, and perseverance - along with great assistance from the Lord. The Norwich trial incident was published as a separate document. Today, I fear these sections are too long and tedious to hold most persons' attention.

<To Main Journal Continued, Part 9 >>>>>

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