The Missing Cross to Purity

The Christian Progress

of George Whitehead

Part IX Continued

King James II Succeeds his Departed Brother to the Throne of England

The people called Quakers were left under persecutions, oppressions and suffrage, as before mentioned, when king Charles the second died, and his brother the duke of York succeeded him, being proclaimed king. A fear and question entered many as to what would now become of Protestant dissenters in respect to either the continuance of that persecution, which was pursued for some time after; or the greater fear, the danger of popery because the king was an open Roman Catholic. In serious consideration of these things, I had a very lively opening, early on a first-day morning, that the Lord would be good to his people, and they should have ease, even under that king's reign; and I intimated the same our brethren at our morning meeting, to their comfort.

Accordingly it came to pass, through the good hand of the Lord our God, after we had made a great effort to make the king sensibly understand the greatness of our suffering and persecution, in several ways, including the great number of prisoners, the great havoc and spoil made by informers, and by bailiffs upon exchequer processes, etc., and all on account of our tender consciences, and the exercise thereof toward Almighty God. After the king was made sensible hereof, and understood the same, by degrees we obtained relief for the oppressed and affected.

What care, industry, and methods were used and taken to procure the result of relief, and how it was granted and obtained, I may give some relation.  I had been willing to make use of all opportunities under divine Providence, to do any suffering friends what good I could, as the Lord has been pleased to enable me, which he has often done; blessed be his name.

In order to help the king understand the heavy, unmerited sufferings, persecutions and oppressions we were left under by his brother, king Charles the second, and which were still continued, renewed, and increased upon us; our dear friends, Gilbert Latey, Alexander Parker and myself, presented him the case of fourteen hundred and sixty of our friends then prisoners.

Our beloved friend, Robert Barclay and myself, made application to the king for the liberty of our consciences, that we might be freed from all those severe persecutions we were exposed to, and suffered under; I having then a large and free opportunity to discourse with the king upon that point, and to remind him of king Charles the second's declaration for liberty to tender consciences in 1672. Upon further solicitation and petition, a commission was obtained from the king, directed to sir Robert Sawyer, the attorney-general, to issue out warrants to release so many of our friends out of the prisons in England and Wales, as the king could legally discharge, being under processes as his prisoners; at which point great numbers were discharged. All which the Lord enabled me earnestly to solicit and pursue with great industry, until our friends were released. The informers continuing eagerly to make spoil and havoc upon our goods, thereby seeking our ruin, for our innocent religious meetings, which they hunted and haunted up and down, in city and country; I was greatly pressed in spirit to make complaint to the king, by way or petition against them and their injurious and unwarrantable proceedings against us.

At which point the king gave order to summon those informers in and about London; to appear before two of his commissioners, appointed to hear and examine our complaints, face to face, that they might see how their excessive spoil upon our friends' goods; their bearing false witness, and forswearing themselves, as many of them had done, in several cases against many persons; could be proved and made out, according to our complaints, and to make report thereof to the king.

All which was proved, and made evidently apparent before the said commissioners, at two sundry meetings at Clifford's inn, to the informers' own faces, to their great confusion and shame, and to the weakening their hand, and abating their persecutions; so as by degrees they came to be stopped, especially after the said commissioners had made their report to the king; and many of the informers had been prosecuted by other dissenters, for perjury, and some of them stood in the pillory for the same.

Particular application was made to the king for a stop to be put to the processes of collection out of the exchequer, which were commonly issued out against some hundreds of our friends in many parts of the nation, for twenty pounds per month, and two-thirds of estates made forfeit to the king and prosecutors, for being absent from parish churches, so called, upon old statute laws made against popish recusants. A commission from the king was accordingly obtained, to put a stop to those exchequer writs, processes and entreats, which prevented the ruin of many families. I earnestly solicited and labored at all hours to effect this release in order to save many lives, until one time I was almost disabled by a fit of sickness, but the Lord restored, revived and helped me; blessed be his name forever.

I shall proceed to give some more particular accounts of our applications and endeavors relating to these cases, as the Lord had before promised. The accounts of how they were presented to the king, and the extent of the relief obtained.


The humble application of the people called Quakers

Whereas it has pleased Almighty God, by whom kings reign, to take here the late king Charles the second, and to preserve you peaceably to succeed, we your subjects heartily desire that the Giver of all good and perfect gifts, may please to endue you with wisdom and mercy, in the use of your great power, to His glory, the king's honor, and the kingdom's good. And it being our sincere resolution, according to our peaceable principles conversation, by the assistance of Almighty God, to live peaceably and honestly, as becomes true and faithful subjects, under the king's government, and a conscientious people, that truly fear and serve God; we do humbly hope that the king's tenderness will appear and extend with his power, to express same; recommending to his princely clemency, the case of our present suffering friends hereunto annexed.

This petition, with the case and account of number of prisoners annexed, was presented together to the king, and by him accepted, the 3rd day of the first month, called March, 1684-5, by George Whitehead, Alexander Parker, and Gilbert Latey.


The distressed case and request of the suffering people commonly called Quakers, humbly presented.


That according to accounts lately given, above fourteen hundred of the Quaker people, both men and women, are continued prisoners in England and Wales, only for tender conscience toward Almighty God that made them. Many are under sentence of premunire, and many near it; not for refusing the duty or substance of allegiance itself, but only because they dare not swear. Others are under fines on the act for banishment; many on writs of excommunication; beside several hundred have died as prisoners, many by means of their harsh imprisonments, since the year 1680, making many widows and fatherless, and lately leaving many in distress and sorrow. These last two winter’s confinements resulted in the destruction of many in their cold holes, and their health has been greatly impaired. This is in addition to their having suffered violence and woeful loss of property, made by merciless informers, on the conventicles Act; many having been convicted, without being summoned and heard in their own defense, both in the city and the country. And also, the victim of the processes by which twenty pounds per month, up to two thirds of their estates being seized in favor of the king, which has tended to ruin the trade, husbandry, and homes of industrious families; some left without a bed, others without cattle to till the soil, or to give them milk, nor corn for bread or seed, nor tools to work with. All these seizures and other severities were done under the pretence of serving the king and the church, the intent to force us to violate our consciences, and consequently to destroy our souls, which we are very tender of, as we are of our place with God and our own consciences, though accounted as sheep for the slaughter. And despite all the long sustained extremities, we do solemnly confess and declare, in the sight of the great Searcher, that we have nothing but good and true affection for the king, praying for his safety and the kingdom’s peace. We have never been found in any seditious or treasonable designs, as being wholly committed to our Christian principles and holy professions.

And knowing that where the word of the king is, that is power, we in Christian humility, and for Christ’s sake, request the king to please find some expedient for our relief in these cases, from prison, seizures of property, and ruin.

London, the 2nd of the First month, called March 1684-5.

(Following this letter, and omitted,  is a list of the number of Quakers in prison, within each county of England and Wales)

In considering our continued sufferings by informers, and those magistrates who abetted and encouraged them to take away our goods, to great excess and spoil, I was concerned in spirit to go to the king, to give him further information, and try to persuade him to put a stop to the informers’ ruinous persecutions. Since the king in council had promised before, I desired to argue the same case again. Acquainting my good friend, Robert Barclay, with my intentions of going before the kind, he stated he was willing to go with me, because he had known and visited the king in his country of Scotland before the king had succeeded his brother to the throne.

On the 26th day of the third month, called May, 1685, at about four in the afternoon, we were admitted to the king’s presence.

George Whitehead: We thankfully acknowledge the king’s favor in granting us an admittance. Having acquainted the Lord Peterborough with our great sufferings by informers, in and about London, he suggested we acquaint the king with the same, for he said that he had acquainted the kind with our desire, and that he would speak to the recorder, so that a stop would be put to the informers. And he further told us that the king promised to send for the recorder and speak to him, and that we should shortly feel the effects.

King: The Lord Peterborough did speak to me and acquainted me with it. I have not as yet spoken to the recorder, but intend to speak to him tomorrow. I will send for him to come to the prince’s lodgings, and speak to him about it. Therefore, remind me tomorrow when I go to the House of Lords.

George Whitehead: If the king please to speak to him and the lord mayor, that a stop may be put to these informers, that they may not go on to ruin families as they do, we doubt not but it would be effectual. With the king's permission and favor, I have something more to propose.

King: You may.

George Whitehead. It is about the king's late promise, which has two parts in it, namely, that which concerns the defense of the church, and that which concerns the king's endeavoring to follow the example of his deceased brother the late king, most especially in that of his great clemency and tenderness to his people. This being the first and principal part of the promise, the church takes hold of that part which concerns its defense. We take hold of that part which concerns the king's endeavors to follow the example of his brother the late king, most especially in his great clemency and tenderness to his people, and these may very well consist; which if the king please to give me leave, I shall, under favor, remind him of some acts of clemency, which his deceased brother, the late king, showed towards us,

King. Leave granted to go on.

George Whitehead. The late king, after his coronation, gave out his proclamation of grace, to release our friends out of the jail throughout England, upon which many hundreds were released. And in the year 1672, the late king gave out his declaration of indulgence, for the liberty of tender consciences, and his letters Patent, or pardon, under the great seal, to release our friends out of prisons. At which point we had liberty for some years.

King. I intended a general coronation pardon, but the reason why it was deferred until the meeting of the Parliament, was, because some persons who are obnoxious, by being in the late plot, would thereby have been pardoned, and so might have come to sit in Parliament, which would not have been safe. But I intend that your friends shall be discharged out or prison. And for the declaration you speak of in 72; it was the cause or drawing up that declaration, and I never gave my consent to the making of it void; it was the Presbyterians who caused it to be made void, or cancelled, in Parliament.

George Whitehead. They were our adversaries to be sure, that caused it to be made void. The king may defend the church of England, and yet grant indulgence, which may very well stand together, so as liberty to tender consciences may be allowed, with such moderate defense of the church as may not destroy conscientious dissenters.

King. I am of that mind that they may consist.

George Whitehead. There is a plain instance in the said declaration, the late king grants indulgence and liberty to tender consciences; and yet engages to preserve the church of England in doctrine and discipline; and if the king please, I will leave him the declaration of indulgence, for the sake of that passage, to remind it; for I have it.

King. You need not leave it, for I have the book without.

George Whitehead. The imprisonments, as also the great spoil made by informers, are still very hard upon many in and about London, and other parts; five warrants at once have been executed upon one person, amounting to fifty pounds, being ten pounds a warrant: we entreat the king to put a stop these informers, for many are greatly disabled by them, and about giving over their trades and shops; although we are as willing to pay our taxes and civil duties to the king as any other people. And by the close imprisonment of many, even here in London, in Newgate jail, many of our friends have been so suffocated, that they have been taken out sick of malignant fever, and in a few days died.

King. I intend your friends shall be released out of prison; and I will consider of a way how to stop the informers; but they having a part of the fines, I must consider which way I may best take to stop them, and ease you - or to the very same effect.

George Whitehead. We have just exceptions against the conventicle act itself, several clauses.

Robert Barclay. Convicting men behind their backs, is contrary to the law of nations.

George Whitehead. And then the awarding treble costs against the appellant, in case he is cast in the trial of his appeal, but costs against the informers, nor any provision made, that they shall make any restitution the party grieved, in case they be cast or non- suited in their unjust prosecution: this appears very unequal. And if the king please to give me leave, under favor, I will give him one instance of a law somewhat like this against conventicles, which was made in the reign king Henry the seventh, for informers, prosecutions, &c., which was repealed in the beginning of the reign of king Henry the eighth, by his first Parliament; yet that was more tolerable than this conventicle act, i.e., in prosecution, for we do not find that persons were thereupon convicted in their absence; and provision is made therein for the informers, or prosecutors, if losing the case, to make restitution to the party grieved; but here no provision in this for their making any restitution. Therefore this conventicle act is more intolerable than that repealed one, which is not cited in the new statute book, but only mentioned as repealed; but it is cited at large in some old ones. We are inclinable to present an account of our sufferings to the Parliament, wherein we desire the king's favorable concurrence, and therefore thought meet to acquaint the king first with our intention; as we are willing and desirous that he should be acquainted with any public application we make to the parliament.

King. What is it ?

George Whitehead. It is a plain account of our sufferings in matters of fact, of the same kind with that which we lately gave to the king, with some reasons offered for the repeal of the conventicle act.

King. Let me see it, and I will give you my opinion concerning it.

George Whitehead. We intend to show it to the king.

Conclusion. And we humbly and thankfully acknowledge the king's favor, in allowing us thus far to be heard.

Site Editor's Comment: Notice how Whitehead, relative to Barclay, carried the entire discussion. Now consider that the Quakers of today venerate Barclay, even above Fox, while treating Whitehead with indifference.

On the 1st day of the fourth month, 1685, George Whitehead and Gilbert Latey had access to the king, with the papers of the offering case of our friends, having the cue fairly transcribed at length, and a summary abstract thereof, for the king to take which he pleased; which George Whitehead tendered in this way:

We are come to give the king the cue to our suffering friends, as we were engaged. Here is the case in full, as well as the abstract of it; the king may take which he pleases.

King. I will take the abstract.

George Whitehead. When shall we have the king's pleasure to have his sense upon it?

King. You need not wait now.

George Whitehead. We would not willfully miss our opportunity to present it to the Parliament.

King. You may deliver it when you please.

After Robert Barclay and I had been with the king, and discoursed him as before related, Robert Barclay expressed himself very much satisfied in my discourse with him, and in the king's behavior towards us, and hearing matters so fully and well as he did; so that we had still hopes of some relief from the great hardships of imprisonment, and that a stop would be put to those devouring persecutors, the informers.

To the king and both Houses of Parliament:
the suffering condition of the peaceable people called Quakers,
only for tender consciences towards Almighty God; humbly presented.

That of late above one thousand five hundred of the said people, both men and women, having been detained prisoners in England, and part of them in Wales, some of which being since discharged by the judges, and then freed by death, through their long and tedious imprisonment, there are now remaining, according to late accounts, about one thousand, three hundred, and eighty three; above two hundred of them women. Many under sentence of premunire, both men and women, and more than three hundred near death for denying the duty, or refusing the substance of allegiance itself, but only because they dare not swear; many on writs of excommunication, and fines for the king, and upon the act for banishment. Besides above three hundred and twenty have died in prison, as prisoners since the year 1660; nearly one hundred whereof, by means of this long imprisonment, as it is judged, since the account delivered to the late king and Parliament, 1680, thereby making widows and fatherless, and leaving them in distress and sorrow. The two last hard winters' restraint, and the close confinement of great numbers in many jails, unavoidably tended towards their destruction, their health being evidently impaired by the winters. And here in London, the jail of Newgate has been from time to time crowded within these two years, sometimes nearly twenty to one room, to the detriment of their health; and several poor, innocent tradesmen, of late, have been so suffocated by the closeness the prison, that they have been taken out sick of a malignant fever, and died in a few days after.

Besides these long continued and destructive hardships upon the persons of men and women, as before mentioned, great violence, outrageous distresses, and woeful havoc and spoil have been, and still are, frequently made upon our goods and estates, both in and about this city of London, and other parts of this nation, by a company of idle, extravagant, and merciless informers, and their prosecutions upon the conventicle act, many being convicted and without being present in court  and unheard in their own defense. As also on qui tam writs, at wit of informers, who prosecute for one-third part for themselves, and on other processes, for twenty pounds a month, and two-thirds of estates seized for the king: all tending to ruin of trade, husbandry and farmers, and impoverishing or many industrious families, without compassion shown to widows, fatherless, or desolate. To some not a bed left to rest upon; to others, no cattle to till their ground, nor corn for bread or seed, nor tools to work with. The said informers and sheriff's bailiffs, in some places being outrageous excessive in their distresses and seizures, breaking into houses and making great waste and spoil. And all these and other severities done against us by them, under pretence of serving the king and the church, thereby force us to a conformity, without inward conviction or satisfaction of our tender consciences, wherein our peace with God is concerned, of which we are very tender.

The statutes on which we, the said people suffer imprisonment, distress and spoil, are as follows:

The 5th of Eliz. chap. 88, de excommunicado  capiendo.

The 23rd of Eliz. chap. 1, for twenty pounds per month.

The 29th of Eliz. chap. 6, for continuation.

The 36th of Eliz. chap. 1, for abjuring the realm, on pain of death.

The 1st of Eliz. chap. 2, for twelve pence Sunday.

The 3rd of king James I. chap. 4, for premunire, imprisonment during life, and estates confiscated.

The 13th and 14th of king Charles II. against Quakers, &c., transportation,

The 22nd of king Charles II. chap. 1, against seditious conventicles.

The 17th of king Charles II. chap. 2, against nonconformists.

The 27th of Henry VIII. chap, 20, some few suffer thereupon.

Upon indictments at common law, pretended and framed against our peaceable religious assemblies, for riots, routs, breach of the peace, etc., on which many, both men and women, are fined, imprisoned and detained for non-payment, some till death. Instance, the city of Bristol, where a great number have been these many years narrowly confined and crowded in jail, mostly above one hundred on such pretence, about seventy of them women, many aged. And in the city of Norwich, in the years 1682, and 83, about seventy were kept in hold, forty five whereof in holes and dungeons for many weeks together, and greet hardships have been and are in other places. So that our peaceable meetings are sometimes fined on the conventicle act, as for a religious exercise, and other times at common law, as riotous, routous, etc., when nothing of that nature could ever be proved against them, there being nothing of violence or injury, either done, threatened, or intended against the person, or property of any other whatsoever.

The long and tedious imprisonments are chiefly on the writs de excommunicato capiendo, upon the judgment of premunire, and upon fines, said to be for the king.

The great spoil and excessive distresses and seizures, are chiefly upon the conventicle act, and for twenty pounds a month, two thirds of estates, and on qui tam writs. In some counties, many have suffered by seizures and distresses above eight years last past, and writs lately issued out for further seizures seizures in several counties, for twenty pounds a month, amounting to the value of many thousands of pounds, sometimes seizing for eleven months at once, and making sale of all goods and chattels, within doors and without, both of household goods, beds, shop goods, movables, cattle, &c., and prosecution hereupon still continued, and in several counties much increased. So that several, who have long employed some hundreds of poor families in manufacture, and paid considerable taxes to the king, are greatly disabled from both, by these writs and seizures, as well as by long imprisonments. So many Serge makers of Plymouth, as kept above five hundred poor people at work, were disabled by imprisonment: many in the county of Suffolk, under a long imprisonment, were sentenced to a premunire, one whereof employed at least two hundred poor people in the woolen manufacture, when at liberty. Omitting other instances, that we may not seem too tedious, these may evince how destructive such severities are to trade and industry, and ruinous to many poor families.

On the conventicle act, within these two years past, many in and about this city of London, have been extremely oppressed, impaired and spoiled in their estates and trades, upon numerous convictions and warrants made against them in their absence, upon the credit of information sworn by concealed informers, divers of them impudent women, who swear for their profit in part of the fines and seizures, their husbands being prisoners for debt through their extravagancies. The warrants were commonly made to break open and enter houses, which is done with rigor and great spoil, not sparing widows, fatherless, or poor families, who are sustained by their doily care and industry, nor leaving them a bed to rest upon. The fines upon one justice's warrants amounting to many hundreds of pounds; frequently ten pounds a warrant, and two warrants at once for twenty pounds executed upon one person, and three warrants at once from another justice, for sixty pounds upon another person, and all his goods carried away in about ten cart-loads; and five warrants at once for fifty pounds upon another, besides what we have suffered by others in the like kind. And in this destructive course the informers have encouragement, and are allowed still to go on, to the ruining many families in their trades and livelihoods; several being so discouraged and disabled, that they are forced to give over their shops and trades. These informers being accepted for credible witnesses, yet parties swearing for their own profit and gain, in the absence of the persons prosecuted, we think is very hard, and an undue proceeding, inconsistent with common law or justice.

As also convicting and fining us upon their depositions, with being summoned and unheard in our own defense, and so keeping us ignorant our accusers, unless upon traverse of our appeals. This procedure appears contrary to the law of God, common justice and equity, and to the law and justice or the ancient Romans, and of nations.

And although it has been openly shown, upon trial of appeals, at several quarter sessions, both for Middlesex and London, and other places, that the depositions of several informers have been false in, fact, yet the great trouble and charge in the traverse appeals, and the great encouragement of formers have from him who grants the most warrants, has been a discouragement to many from seeking such difficult remedy, considering also the treble costs against the appellant, in case he succeeds not, or is not acquitted upon trial. Whereas neither costs nor restitution is awarded or given against the informers for unjust prosecution. Some also have refused to grant appeals, and others denied copies of warrants to prevent appeals; and whether this is equal or just, pray consider, you that are wise and judicious men; and whether it is for the king's honor, and the people's interest, that idle, drunken, extravagant informers, should either be encouraged allowed to go on thus to ruin trade, husbandry and families, or to command and threaten justices of peace, with the forfeiture of hundred pounds, if they do not make convictions and issue out warrants, upon their bare information and uncertain depositions, frequently in the absence of the accused.

Lastly, one-third part of the fines being assigned to the king, he can only remit that, but the informers and poor being assigned two-third parts, seems not to allow him to remit them, however much cause  may appear to him to extend his favor in that case. Is not this against the king's prerogative, to restrain his sovereign clemency? And how far it reflects upon the government, and scandalous thereto, for beggarly, rude informers, some of them confident women, not only command, threaten and disquiet justices, peace officers, &c., but to destroy the king's honest, industrious, and peaceable subjects, their properties and estates, is worthy your serious considerations? And whether the said conventicle act ought not therefore justly to be repealed? A noted instance the like case, we have concerning the statute of the 11th Henry VII. chap. 3, for determining certain offences and contempts, only upon informers' prosecutions, being repealed in the first year of king Henry VIII. chap. 6, though that, in some respects, was more tolerable than this.

Be pleased to make our case your own, and do to us as you would be done unto; as you would not be oppressed or destroyed in your persons or estates, nor have your properties invaded, and posterities ruined, for serving and worshipping Almighty God that made all mankind, according to your persuasions and consciences, but would enjoy the liberty thereof. We entreat you to allow the same liberty to tender consciences, that live peaceably under the government, as you would enjoy yourselves; and to disannul the said conventicle act, and to stop these devouring informers, and also take away all sanguinary laws, corporal and pecuniary punishments, merely on the score of religion and conscience, and let not the ruin and cry of the widow, fatherless and innocent families lie upon this nation, nor at your door, who have not only a great trust reposed in you for the prosperity and good of the whole nation, but also do profess Christianity, and the tender religion of our Lord Jesus Christ.

And notwithstanding all these long sustained extremities, we the said suffering people, do solemnly profess and declare in the sight or the all-seeing God, who is the searcher of hearts, that as we have never been found in any seditious or treasonable designs, they being wholly contrary to our Christian principle and profession, so we have nothing but good will and true Christian affection to the king and government, sincerely desiring his and your safety, prosperity and concurrence in mercy and truth, for the good of the whole kingdom,

Having thus given you in short, the general state of our suffering case, in matter of fact, without personal reflection, we, in Christian humility, and for Christ's sake, entreat that you will tenderly and charitably consider of the premises, and find out some effectual expedient or way for our relief from prisons, spoil and ruin.

After the king was given fully to understand our hardships, through the great persecutions and sufferings, which many of our innocent, conscientious friends had long undergone, both in their persons and estates; many applications having been made to him for relief from the same; he was pleased to grant a comprehensive warrant or commission, to the then attorney general, sir Robert Sawyer, in our suffering friends' behalf including the several sorts of processes, convictions, and judgments, which many then suffered under, even by laws never intended against us, especially by those made and designed against popish recusants. These were often perverted by persecutors, and they many times exceeded the severity of those laws in their mal-administrations, executions, and outrageous distresses, havoc, and spoil of goods, as also close, unmerciful confinements of men and women's persons. Many of the forfeitures, fines and confiscations were made forfeit to the king, and imprisonment during his pleasure; and many suffering by such old laws as were made against popish recusants, in the reigns of queen Elizabeth, and king James the first; and this affecting king James the second, being a Papist, he might the more easily conclude it in his power, and the prerogative of the crown, to pardon and relieve dissenting Protestants from their extreme oppressions. A copy of the before mentioned warrant and commission follows:

James R.

Whereas we are given to understand, that several of our subjects, commonly called Quakers, in the schedules hereunto annexed, are either convicted, or upon process in order to their conviction of premunire for not swearing, or indicted or presented for not coming to church, or convicted for the same, and several of them have been returned into our exchequer, and in charge for twenty pounds per man, according to the statutes in that case provided, and some of them lie in prison upon writs de excommunicato capiendo, and other processes for the causes before mentioned, and we being willing that our said subjects, and other our subjects, commonly called Quakers, who are, or have been prosecuted, indicted, convicted, or imprisoned for any of the causes before mentioned, should receive the full benefit of our general pardon, which we have been pleased to grant to our loving subjects, by our royal proclamation, with all possible ease to them, our will and pleasure is, and we do hereby authorize, will, and require you to cause such of our subjects commonly called Quakers, who are in prison for any of the causes before mentioned, to be forthwith discharged out of prison, and forthwith to stop and discharge, or cause to be discharged, by giving your consent on our behalf, all fines, forfeitures, or sums of money, charged upon any of our subjects, commonly called Quakers, for not coming to church; or set upon them any process for the same; as also all processes, indictments, presentments, and convictions, for any of the said causes, by entering noli prosequi, or otherwise, as you shall judge necessary for rendering that our pardon most effectual and beneficial for our said subjects; and for your so doing, this shall be your be warrant. Given at our court at Whitehall, the 15th day of March, 1685-6, in the second year of our reign. To our trusty and well beloved, our attorney general: by his majesty's command.


When this warrant was granted and delivered to us, the attorney general, sir Robert Sawyer, was not in London, but nearly forty miles from there, at his country house at Highcleare in Hampshire; and friends in London being very desirous that our friends in the several prisons in the cities and counties throughout England, might forthwith be released; it was concluded that two or three of us should take a journey to the attorney general, and deliver him the before mentioned warrant from the king; and obtain a warrant or liberate thereupon, to discharge and release our friends in and about London. John Edge, Rowland Vaughan and myself were desired forthwith to undertake the journey to the attorney general for that service. At which time I was but weakly in body, and so much indisposed as to my health, having labored and attended much at court for our friends' ease and relief, that I thought myself very unfit for that journey, for I then kept to my chamber. However, they not being willing to go without me, having been mostly concerned in solicitation to obtain the warrant from the king to the attorney general, I was in the greater strait, and after a short consideration was persuaded and concluded to go with them, if possibly I might be enabled to perform the journey.

We were part of two days and the morning following, before we reached the attorney general's, who civilly received and welcomed us, when we had produced the king's commission to him; and we quickly persuaded him to give instructions to our then companion, Rowland Vaughan, to draw up a warrant to release our friends, who then were prisoners in London. And according to his instructions, Rowland drew up several warrants to discharge our friends out of prison, which the attorney general signed that day; to get which done he would have us stay dinner, as it was near the fourth hour before we could get all done and signed, to come away. It was within night before we got to Theal, about four miles beyond Reading, where we stayed at an inn, and the next day came to Brentford; before which time I was recovered, and was so well that I could travel much better than when I left London; wherein I thankfully observed the merciful providence of God, in affording me health and ability beyond expectation. In a short time the attorney general retired to London, to his office in the temple, where I attended him, with Gilbert Late, sometimes, to sign the rest of the warrants which according to his direction, Rowland Vaughan had prepared, to discharge the rest of our friends out of prisons throughout England, as far as he had power given him by the commission before mentioned, which took up considerable time to see effected. The prisoners by degrees were released, although we had something to do to obtain the warrants and release in some places, especially at Bristol, because of the fees demanded. The town clerk detained our friends there in prison, for non-payment of his demands, which occasioned our complaint against him to the king, and I debating the matter with him before the attorney general, he was persuaded to submit the matter to our friends' courtesy and freedom, and was desirous I should let him have the attorney general's warrant to discharge our friends when he returned to Bristol; and accordingly I entrusted him with it, at which point he got them released out of prison there. We were greatly concerned to importune the king to put a stop to the ruinous prosecutions and persecutions of the mercenary and merciless informers in London and Middlesex and presented many petitions and complaints against them to him; the Lord having laid weighty concern upon me, and enabled me by his power, in faith and zeal for his truth and suffering people, to pursue them, in order to discover their deceits and wickedness, their unlawful and unjust proceeding against us, to the government, for a due examination and proof thereof; which at last was obtained, pursuant to our petitions and complaints. I also wrote a short request to the king, to appoint commissioners to hear us and the informers face to face, that we might have fair opportunity to prove the matters of fact complained of against them, to their faces. The king granted my request, and gave commission accordingly, which was delivered me by the secretary freely, without fees. And with some others, prosecuted the same effectively against the informers. We were constrained to repeat our complaints by way of petition to the king, against those persecuting informers, even after the king had expressed some clemency and compassion towards us, and adverseness to persecution, would take no notice thereof for some time, but contrary thereto, confronting the king's favor, would renew their unjust and ruinous prosecutions frequently against us; until they met with open detection and reprehension before the king's commissioners, for their great injustice, false swearing, clandestine convictions, excessive and outrageous distresses and havoc, which they made and caused to be made upon the goods and estates of our friends, tending wholly to disable and ruin them. All of this occurred only for their tender consciences towards Almighty God, in sincerely serving and worshipping him, to whom only we are accountable for the same.

Upon the said request to the king, to appoint commissioners to hear us and the informers face to face, he gave commission to two persons, whom he nominated to hear us and make report of the case to him. The commissioners were R. Graham and P. Burton, to whom we delivered the king's commission; and they authorized me to give out summonses to those informers whom we had complained against, as also to those friends who were persecuted and injured by them. I had liberty to summon whom and as many as I thought fit, both of those informers and of our friends in and about London and the county of Middlesex, to appear before the said commissioners at Clifford's inn, the 4th of June, so called, 1686. Having beforehand collected, and fairly stated the particular cases of above fifty of our friends, sufferers by the informers' unjust prosecutions and false information, I sent out summonses for them to appear before the said commissioners, on the day and at the place appointed, and to bring their witnesses who could detect the informers of their swearing falsely. And likewise we gave timely notice by summons, to many of the informers, who were chiefly concerned. When we were at Clifford's inn the day appointed, we met a great company of informers without door, who seeing a large number of our friends, the informers were in a great rage, and some of them cried out, "Here comes all the devils in hell;" and seeing me, they said, "And there comes the old devil of all." Jeffery Nightingale and Peter Lugg, justices of peace, came also, against whom the informers were offended, and some of them had entered actions against the first, because they had refused to grant warrants against some of our friends, or to convict them in their absence.

Being called before the commissioners into a large upper room, to manage and prove against the informers, our complaints and charges, which were comprehended in our petition to the king; and having in readiness the cases fairly and distinctly written in above twelve broad sides of sheets; I began first with those cases in which the informers had sworn falsely in fact, producing each friend's case in order, and each one was called upon, and the particular informer, or informers therein charged, called in to hear his and their charge, and proof made against him and them; which was effectively done, and made obvious against many of them, to their great confusion and shame, to be so proved false witnesses and false swearers, against our friends, in plain matters of fact; as their informing upon oath against many of our friends, for being at such and such meetings, which they were not at; and also for having meetings at certain places and houses, where there were no meetings; and sometimes swearing upon trust from one another's false and presumptuous information. The women informers were desperate in their swearing, and making oath against our friends, as well as the men, who were the grand informers. Who in several cases of swearing falsely in fact, could not well be contained in six broad sides. I showed the commissioners one case after another, in order for a thorough consideration and examination of each, and produced plain demonstration and positive proof of each article as we went along, not only by the sufferers themselves, but also by many credible witnesses present, how grossly and abominably those informers had forsworn themselves, and borne false witness in many cases. The king's commissioners and the justices present were made apparently sensible thereof, and could not otherwise be, when they saw those informers so confounded and put to a nonplus, that they could not defend themselves.

One thing by the way was somewhat remarkable; that when their captain, John Hilton, was called to come in, to answer for himself before the commissioners, his companions would not allow him to come in before them; for they said, he was in drink, and not in a fit condition. He was several times called for; at last he told the messenger that went out for him, that he cared not for the king's commissioners; which answer of his was told them; and they understanding what disorder he was in, passed by his incivility. How little regard or honor he showed to the king; yet such drunken informers esteemed themselves eminent servants to the king and the church in those days.

Secondly: Breaking open doors of houses and shops with force and violence, by informers and constables, to make distress upon our household and shop goods to great excess; for sometimes they carried away by cart loads. Thus was I served as well as many others, who had their doors broken open and goods taken away to great excess and spoil, so that the cry of these oppressions was loud among our neighbors, and we are sure the cry thereof entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabbath, and he did plead our innocent cause.

We gave to the said commissioners, the first day of our meeting, so many instances and proofs against the informers' abuses, false swearing, violence and spoil, that they seemed almost weary with hearing them that day, matters of fact being evidently proved against the informers to their faces, and to their great shame and confusion. The season also was hot, and the room pretty much thronged; which made the time of so many cases and discoveries, the more wearisome to them, although on the first day of our meeting we did not go through scarcely the fourth part of the cases and charges which we had produce before them. The commissioners appointed another day of meeting, which was the 14th of the same month, called June, which time we met again, and many of the informers before mentioned, who appeared as they were called, one after another. Thomas Hinton brought a lawyer with them in his own, to plead their cause and help them; but when he attempted, he could not vindicate their unjust and barbarous proceedings, their forswearing themselves, convicting persons in their absence, breaking open houses to seize and take away our goods, etc. For these unwarrantable proceedings he had no color of law to plead; though he would at first have excused the informers a little faintly. I showed him out of the conventicle act, how they had exceeded the severity of it, and how mistaken he was in his allegation for them; so that he was quickly silenced before the commissioners and his clients the informers.

At the second meeting we did not get through half of our complaints and charges against those persecuting informers. The commissioners then thought they had enough of them for their discovery, and to ground their report upon to the king: and the informers to be sure, had enough to their shame and confusion. In the close of that our last meeting, I made this proposal for the commissioners' consideration, namely, that seeing it was evidently proved before them, how frequently the informers had forsworn themselves in plain matter of fact, and made such spoil upon the King’s peaceable subjects, they would consider whether they ought not to be discouraged and stopped from any further proceeding in their prosecutions against us. That they might not be reputed to be the king's servants therein, that they would be esteemed, while seeking the ruin of his subjects, by swearing falsely, or to this effect.

To which proposal the commissioners made little answer; but they conceived it was not within their commission to give their opinion or judgment in that case; yet one of them said, that in point of prudence he thought it safest for them to desist.

The guilty informers being clearly detected, and their falsehoods exposed, they were in a great rage against me, especially for proposing to have them discouraged and stopped from any further prosecution against me. They were so bitterly enraged against me, railing, and threatening, that friends somewhat feared they would endeavor to do mischief, [meaning, kill him]. I told them, I feared them not, nor what they could do, for I was bound in conscience to make them manifest to the government; they should not deter me by their threats; for I dared and could appeal before the highest in authority against them; which I questioned whether they dared do, to vindicate themselves.

I can truly say, I was greatly assisted and strengthened by the Lord's power, in true faith and zeal, to clear my conscience in those concerns, against that persecuting spirit, and the destroying work thereof. I bless the worthy name of the Lord our God, who strengthened and sustained me, in that and many other exercises and services, for his blessed truth and people's sake.

I may not omit an exercise that befell some of us, between the two meetings we had before the king's commissioners at Clifford's inn, before mentioned, the 4th and 14th of June, so called, 1686, in the following cue of John Dew, William Ingram, John Vaughn and George Whitehead.

Some of the informers having procured a warrant, bearing date the 12th of June, 1686; the persons above said were apprehended thereupon, on the 13th day of the same month, at their usual meeting place in Gracechurch street, London, being about to come away, and no proclamation made for their departing; and in the said warrant no mention was made of Quakers, but of disloyal, factious, and seditious sectaries, no ways justly chargeable upon the persons there met, and apprehended.

We four were taken prisoners, and went with the constable to the lord mayor's, where we waited several hours for his coming from his worship. When he came, I signified to him, that we were engaged to appear that week before the king's commissioners at Clifford's inn, who had order to enquire into certain complaints we had made to the king against the informers, and showed him one of our summonses to the informers to appear also before them. And seeing none of them appeared to give evidence against us, according to the warrant, by which we were apprehend; I desired we might be dismissed, especially seeing our habitations were well known, and we should be ready to appear upon lawful summons.

But this the mayor would not grant, but we must stay till witnesses, i.e., informers, came to give evidence against us, who he said, would come by and by, but none came; though under pretence of their coming by and by, we were detained, I think, till about ten o'clock that night; at last the mayor came to us and demanded security, or for us to be bound over by recognizance to appear until the next sessions for the peace, and in the mean time, to be of good behavior, and presently caused the clerk to write the same. I told him we were willing to promise to appear, if the Lord pleased, but not to be bound to good behavior, seeing there was no misbehavior proved against us; for I conceived, that to require bond for good behavior, implied some misbehavior, which could not be proved against any of us; to which the mayor answered, "You are a company of conceited dandies; make their mittimus," to his clerk. However he withdrawing a little space of time, and the constable and some of his officers seeming unwilling we should be sent to prison, after some private consultation, and the constable refusing to be bound to prosecute us, knowing nothing against us, the mayor took our words to appear at the next sessions without our bond; so we were dismissed for that time.

Appearing at the sessions, and our names being called, and none, either informers or others, coming in against us, upon proclamation made in court, we were discharged, so that the informers, who caused us to be taken, were disappointed of their design against us. They would have been glad to have had us confined to prevent our appearance the second time at Clifford's inn, before the said commissioners, that we might not further detect their misdemeanors, irregularities, forgeries, and false swearing, but the Lord our God, who stood by us, frustrated their evil designs in that case, so as we had liberty to appear again at Clifford's inn, to make further public discovery of the injustice and wickedness of those implacable and restless men. Their ungodly gain, gotten by rapine and spoil upon the king's peaceable subjects, did not prosper; though for a long time they swarmed about in city and country, they were so extravagant and profuse, that many of them could not keep out of prison for debt; and others were willing to turn beggars when their informing trade was stopped. To achieve this, the Lord was pleased to make our endeavors successful in a short time after our second appearance at Clifford's inn; at our second meeting we got through but about half of our cases, having the second part also fairly drawn up. But no further meeting occurred to examine the second part of our complaints against the informers' work. The commissioners thought they had heard enough the two meetings before, though I would gladly have met again, having many sufficient witnesses to detect the informers' abuses, which were particularly and plainly specified in the second part as well as in the first; and they are worthy to be fully recorded and divulged to posterity, that it may be understood and seen what wicked courses have been taken by informers, to ruin honest people, and how such vile persons have been exposed, to their utter shame and contempt.

Seeing we could not have a third meeting, I persuaded the commissioners to allow me an hour or two in an afternoon, to show them the second part of our case, before they drew up their report to the king. This they granted, and accordingly I read it to them. After that I went to them again, and desired to see their report, which they showed me a draft of; and then I saw it was very deficient and improperly drawn up: for instead of stating plainly matter of fact, as it had been proved before them against the informers swearing falsely, unjust prosecutions, and cruel oppressions, etc., against us; the commissioners gave their opinions for some easier ways of dealing with us; as for not going to parish church, twelve pence a Sunday, etc. I told them how improper that was for them to report to the king; it was rather to dictate and prescribe to the king what penalties we should suffer, whereas their business was to make true report of matter of fact, which we had complained of, and which was plainly proved and made appear before them, against the in formers' unjust and injurious proceedings. One of the commissioners told me how hardly they were put to it, to draw up their report, being sent to out of London, from some great person or persons of the church, and requested to do or report nothing that might disable the informers, they being of so great service to the church. I understood his relation of the caution sent them, and I took good notice thereof. Despite this, I pleaded for justice to be done us, in their report to the king, respecting the matters of fact.

At which point they were so honest, as to amend their report, and made it more to the purpose. We then gave the king some further intimation of our case, in the following letter:

May it please the king.
Since the king was graciously pleased to refer our late petition about the informers' proceedings, to the inquiry of two appointed commissioners in Clifford's Inn, we, with many of our suffering friends, have, at two sundry times, clearly proved matter of fact complained of in our said petition, to the informers' faces before the said commissioners, to their full satisfaction; and therefore, many cases were omitted to avoid tediousness, as is signified and implied in their report; as their convicting our friends upon oath behind their backs; their frequent false swearing, upon the bare report from one to another; their taking compositions or bribes, that is of other people; besides their breaking open houses, excessive distresses; charge of appeals; ruining families and trades, etc., not expressed; their troubling such justices with suits, as scruple granting warrants against us without being summoned, as in the case of justice Nightingale and justice Lugg. And since the discovery as before mentioned, they have appeared very revengeful against many of us, causing several to be taken and bound over to sessions, and others to be imprisoned, as they threatened us at the time of their false swearing, was discovered to the commissioners: the two Hintons and their accomplices, as also Christopher Smith and John Brown, Arthur Clayton, and other informers, were very busy and violent against us. Since which, several of the informers have been indicted and convicted of perjury, at the quarter sessions for London, and for Middlesex, prosecuted by other people. Thus, with the said report considered, we hope the king will be graciously pleased, in his wisdom to put a speedy stop to these informers, and restrain them and the rest of their confederates from further spoiling of us.

10th of the fifth month, 1686

Delivered the day following at Windsor, to the king, per George Whitehead and Gilbert Latey.

Some  proposals  to the Lord Chancellor about the informers.

Since the king in cabinet, on the 11th of July, 1686, has been graciously pleased to refer the matters complained of by the people called Quakers, in their late petition against the informers, together with the report made thereupon by two appointed commissioners, namely: Richard Graham and Phillip Burton, to the Lord High Chancellor of England, in order to correct the irregular proceedings of some justices and the informers, we the said people do humbly propose as follows;

1. That no person charged on the conventicle act, 22 Car. 2, for meeting, be convicted, or warrants issued out for distress, without being first summoned to appear before the convicting justice, to answer his accusers or prosecutors face to face, according to the law of God, and of nations, and the common course of justice.

2. That no persons be admitted to take upon them to be informers or prosecutors, but such as are credible persons, and responsible in estate, to make satisfaction to the party grieved, if unduly or unjustly prosecuted.

3. That those informers named in the said report, made by the king's commissioners before mentioned, having committed great abuses, irregularities and misdemeanors, not only through their lack of skill in law, but dishonesty, as by false swearing, and some of them by compositions and bribery, etc., be utterly disabled from any further prosecuting henceforward, together with all their party, servants, or deputy informers, confederates and abettors; some whereof being already convicted of willful perjury, and several often having voluntarily made oath as witnesses, in the case of the perjured persons, in the court of quarter sessions, held at Guild-hall, London, the 14th day or July, 1686, thereby attempting to make good the same information, wherein their associates were convicted of perjury, as before mentioned.

4. That the intention of the said act, in employing informers, and providing reward for their encouragement, being for discovering or finding out conventicles, which purposes them obscure or hidden, as well as seditious, or tending to insurrection, this work of informers being altogether useless and groundless, in reference to the public, known, and constant meetings of the people called Quakers, which have never tended to sedition or rebellion, but always have been peaceable and inoffensive towards the king and government; it is therefore humbly requested, that a stop may be put to the informers' prosecutions, with respect to those known public meetings of the said people.

5. That no convicted justice may be admitted to as judge of chairman in the traverse or trial of appeals; seeing the appellant by law appeals from the convicting justice to the judgment of the other justices of the quarter sessions.

6. That the peace officers, constables, church wardens, or overseers of the poor etc., may not be forced to turn informers, either by any justice of peace, or court of sessions, before whom any supposed offender, or persons under prosecution is or may be brought.

7. That no justice of the peace may be prosecuted for not gratifying the informers, or not receiving their information, he being dissatisfied with them; either because they are not persons of credit, or that he does not believe in his conscience that they are credible witnesses; or for his refusing to grant them warrants, without summoning the prosecuted parties to answer them face to face.

8. That neither the convicting justices of peace, nor constables, or other officers, after distress made, be allowed to divide, embezzle, or detain to themselves the monies levied, or any part thereof, as some have done, but that the whole sum of money levied, be brought into the sessions, according to the act; many having suffered by embezzlements, that they could not have the legal benefit of appeals.

9. None ought to be allowed to prosecute as witnesses, or make oath for profit or gain, nor be allowed part of the fines for swearing against any persons under prosecution; that being a snare by which many have been tempted to forswear themselves, and have so done in plain matter of fact.

Under a profession of Christianity, the Protestant religion and church, and also under pretence of law, legal authority, serving the church and king, etc., in company of loose, irreligious, profligate wretches, have been encouraged and allowed to plunder, rob, steal, break houses, commit burglary, tear away, and make havoc and spoil of their neighbors' goods; as those informers have shamefully done, and all this to support the Protestant church, and to be countenanced or encouraged by the same therein, especially by priests!

What Protestant age or church can parallel such barbarities and cruel persecution, all circumstances considered? And how scandalous to church and state are such agents! Oh! Church! Church! You have need to be greatly humbled under the mighty hand of God: however, under all these inhumanities, the hand of the Lord our God supported us, and carried us through them; and his divine hand and power was with us and assisted us, both in our suffering, opposing, and testifying against such cruelties; and in our endeavors to make the king and government sensible thereof; by which he was at last induced so far to commiserate our extreme suffering, so to afford us relief from those devourers, by signifying his pleasure to some of his subordinate ministers, magistrates and justices to put a stop to and prevent that destructive persecution and spoil made upon us by those informers; insomuch that their unjust trade and gain ceased, being discountenanced both by the justices, and by the quarter sessions in London and Middlesex, and their course stopped in other ports of the kingdom, and such discoveries made of their wickedness and injuries, that some of them were forced to escape, and others turned to beggary; their ungodly gain and ill gotten goods did not prosper with them, nor succeed to support them.

After their trade of informing was over, I remember George Hilton, informer, came to my house, complaining to me, that he was to be a servant to a great person, but he needed clothes, or money to buy him some; at which point I gave him something, being willing to render good for evil, he having been a very injurious adversary against myself and many others of our friends; however I was comforted, for that the case was so well altered, as from taking away our goods by force, now these poor wretches were willing to come and beg of us.

A great number of our friends in many, or most counties throughout England, were sorely oppressed, and many of them greatly impoverished, being charged or entreated in the exchequer, and writs annually issued out against them, to the several sheriffs of the counties, to make seizure on their goods and estates, under pretence of their being recusants, for twenty pounds per month, and for two-thirds of their estates, for their monthly absence from their parish churches, so called, and thereupon their corn and cattle and other goods were seized and taken away by the bailiffs. Seizing for eleven months, twenty pounds a month, which amounts to two hundred and twenty pounds forfeiture in that space of time. The rude bailiffs, when they had seized on farmers' goods, remained at their houses, eating and drinking until they had gotten the goods removed.

This sort of suffering was as extreme as unjust, considering that the old laws were never intended to be applied against the people called Quakers, that we should suffer as popish recusants, who are not such persons; but if we had not been so scandalously misrepresented, the persecutors would have had no pretence or color for such their barbarous persecution. Upon this case of oppression and persecution, the king being applied to, and moved by some of us for a noli prosequi, or stay of process in the exchequer, he was pleased to give direction to the lord treasurer and attorney general for the some, that the exchequer writs might not be issued out against our friends on that occasion; for the case, we knew, did affect the king and his friends, who were popish recusants, seeing we suffered in their stead, who never were Papists, nor the least inclined to Popery, but wholly adverse to it.

When the king's consent was obtained for the stay of process in the case, the following petition was drawn up by Rowland Vaughan, an attorney, employed by us, he being informed how far Gilbert Latey and I had proceeded in our solicitation therein, and what effect the same had with the king.

To Lawrence, Earl of Rochester, Lord Treasure of England.

The humble petition of us whose names are here under subscribed, on the behalf of the persons called Quakers, named in the list hereunto annexed, shows:

That in pursuance to the king's reference made to his attorney general, upon petition to him lately made, by many of his suffering subjects, commonly called Quakers, he, the said attorney general, among other things, did, on the 20th of January last, 1685, make his report, that the persons named in the list hereunto annexed, are convicted for their monthly absence from church, and are returned into the exchequer, and in charge there for twenty pounds a month.

That upon the reading of the said report, the king was graciously pleased to signify his royal pleasure among other things, that process might be forthwith stayed from issuing forth for the future out of the exchequer against the said persons named in the said list.

That it now remains under the consideration of the attorney general, to direct, or prepare fit instruments to discharge the proceedings, as well against the persons named in the said list, as all others mentioned in the said report. That forasmuch as process is now likely to issue forth out of the exchequer against the persons named in the said list before the attorney general can prepare, or direct fit instruments to be made for relief or the persons in the said report, according to the king's gracious will and pleasure.

May it therefore please the said Lord Treasurer in the meantime, to issue forth his warrant to the clerk of the Pipe, for staying of process against the persons named in the said list, until their discharge can be effectively completed, in pursuance of the king's said gracious will and pleasure. And the said petitioners shall, etc.

A copy of the Lord Treasurer’s warrant to the clerk of the Pipe.

After my hearty commendations, these are to authorize and direct you to forbear making forth any process against any of the persons mentioned in these four sheets of paper here annexed, each sheet being subscribed by myself; and the three first sheets having four columns of names, the fourth only two; till the next term: and if any processes are already made forth, you are immediately to supersede the same; and for so doing this shall be your warrant.

Whitehall, Treasury chamber March 4, 1685.

To my very loving friend, the clerk of the Pipe, or his deputy.

I was very industriously concerned to obtain such a warrant for a speedy stop to he put to the said processes, which were then ready to be issued forth of the said Pipe office in Gray's Inn. I had something to do, first with the treasurer's deputy, and clerk of the treasury chamber, about their high demands of fees, which we could not answer; at which point I made complaint to the Lord Treasurer himself; and he was so kind, as to cause them considerably to abate their demands or fees, and to accept what we could give. I remember our friend Samuel Waldenfield kept me company at that time one day. So the warrant was delivered to me.

Rowland Vaughn went with me to the clerks of the Pipe, with our warrant to stay process, [the collection] who seeing such a long list of a great number of names annexed to the warrant, demanded very high fees, amounting to many hundred pounds, which we could in no ways come near. They were very huffing and high towards us, though we civilly treated them, threatening if we did not pay them the fees demanded, that the writs should be issued out to the sheriffs of the several counties, to seize upon our friends' estates; and to be sure it would be done to purpose, for said they, "This is like to be the last time, seeing process was to be stopped;" so that if the writs then went forth, they concluded they would be the more severely executed and fall heavier upon the convicted than ever. Such like threats were to frighten us into a compliance with their unreasonable demands of fees; which we neither would nor could do; at which point we parted at that time.

Being much toiled, weakened, and impaired in my health, by attending and laboring for our friends' relief in that case, I was taken suddenly ill, so that I was forced to keep to the house a few days. Yet still the burden of friends' sufferings lay so heavy upon my spirit, and care to have them relieved, my stay to the said processes, that they might not be further issued forth against them, that I forthwith sent to many friends to let them know how the case stood with me, and how far I had procured and brought forward the case, in order to their relief from the exchequer process; particularly I sent for my companion, Gilbert Latey. He was then in the country at Kingston, at his mother-in-law's, Ann Fielder. He quickly came to London, and I acquainting him, and our loving friend William Mead, how our case stood, as to the clerks of the Pipe; their refusal to stay the process, unless they had the fees they demanded. I asked Gilbert Latey and William Mead to go and negotiate with those clerks, and see what they could bring them to. At last they brought them so far to abate their demands, as to come down to those friends' terms, and accept of what they offered, i.e., about sixty pounds instead of the many hundreds demanded, though it was not without complaining that they were deprived of what they esteemed their proper fees and dues. However our friends did as well as they could with them, to prevent their complaining to the king, and getting leave thereupon to issue any further process against our friends in the counties.

The stay of proceedings thus obtained, prevented the ruin of some hundreds of our friends in their respective counties, and saved many thousands of pounds in their estates; and I had great peace and comfort in the Lord, in that he made me in any ways useful in helping towards our friends' relief from those heavy persecutions and oppressions. Blessed be the Lord my God, who greatly helped me to serve him in helping his people.

Another case of hardship and suffering befell our friends at two of their meetings: the one at the Park in Southwark, and the other at the Savoy in the Strand, Westminster; by having their meeting-houses taken from them, and possessed by soldiers and their officers, and made guard houses of, and our friends kept out, and forced to meet without doors.

The case more particularly is as follows:

About the third month, 1685, the soldiers came and made part of the said meeting-house at the Park, a guard house, and did great spoil and damage, about and in the same by pulling down pales, digging and cutting down trees, carrying away and burning them; and also the wainscoting and benches about the room, and they carried away one of the outer doors, and many of the casements; and when the soldiers drew out to the camp, they left the house open. At which point John Potter, the then owner, entered again, and replaced the outer door and some other necessary repairs, and had a survey of the damages done, which amounted to about forty pounds.

The soldiers returned from the camp, again possessed themselves of the place, and kept their guard inside for some time, in manner following: on the 22nd of October, 1686, a quartermaster belonging to Colonel Hayle's regiment, came to the chambers of John Potter's tenants, and demanded entrance, which being denied, the quartermaster, with the help of soldiers, broke in, hauled away their goods, and turned out three aged women to another house. When they had taken possession of our meetinghouse and rooms below, they pulled down the galleries, and made a brick wall cross the lower room, with many other alterations, as if they intended to have the sole and perpetual possession to themselves, having made a sort of a place for prayers, or a mass house, in one end, enclosed from the rest by a partition wall; despite the owner showing his lease and title to the premises several times to the Colonel and his quartermaster; by which they understanding his right and title, the Colonel asked him if he would sell, and what he would have for it? But that he would not yield to, knowing what other use the lease was intended and used for; the low room being our meeting place, he could not in good conscience shut his friends out of the same.

But being by force kept out of our meetinghouse and property, as before related; we had no other way to have it restored, but by application to the king. This was also the only remedy available to restore our meeting place at the Savoy in the Strand. At which point my friend Gilbert Latey and I wanted to go see the king. We prepared to vindicate our property, particularly our meeting-house at Park before mentioned. We sent notice to the king of our desire to meet with him regarding this matter, asking him for an appointment, which he granted. On the 1st of the tenth month, 1686, in the morning, Gilbert Latey and myself went to Whitehall, and in a lower room of the closet keeper's, waited some time. When we had sent up word to the king of our waiting for admittance, after some time, he came down to us, Colonel Hayles accompanying him.

After I had opened our case to him, how our meeting-house at Park was detained from us, I found that he had been misinformed and prepossessed; as if that meeting-house and others were forfeited to him on the conventicle act. I quickly showed him the mistake, for by that act the owner's houses, where meetings were held, were not to be forfeit, but they fineable; the penalty was fines, not forfeiture of houses; and yet, as I told him, I hoped he would not take advantage against us upon that act, seeing he had intimated that his opinion was for liberty of conscience, from persecution.

He further alleged that John Potter had given his consent to part with the house for a compensation; as also the Colonel affirmed, having given the king the notes he had taken out of John's lease, showing the conveyance of the title from one to another, till it was settled on John Potter. But the king told me, as the Colonel had informed him, that John had assented to part with the meeting-house for a compensation.

To all which I gave answer that we had had a meeting about it, and that our friends had persuaded John not to sell it. I said, "That John Potter never appeared of that mind to us, as to sell it,  and that it is really a property." I further told him that several of our meeting-houses in London had been seized, and the broad arrow set upon the doors, in pretence for the king, in the reign of king Charles the second, and particularly our meeting-house at Gracechurch street; where the mayor encouraged a priest of the church or England to read their mass, or liturgy, and to preach; which was such a wonder, that a priest should come and read common prayer, and preach in a Quakers' meeting, that people did numerously gather and crowd into and about the meeting; and afterward at another meeting, the priest came to be so frightened with their crowding and noise, that he ran away, and would not come again to read and preach in our meeting-house.

The king smiled at my mentioning their mass, because I presume he understood that the book of common prayer was much of it retaken out of his Roman Catholic mass book.

Having taken notes out of our friends' lease of the said meeting-house at Park, I demonstrated the title and pleaded the property against Colonel Hayles' pretensions or claim to it.

After a fairly long discussion on this matter, the king several times gave this answer, "I am resolved to invade no man's property or conscience." And he told us he would look further into the title and inform himself, but that at present he could not spare the place, because of his guards.

Our friend Gilbert Latey being with me, spoke also to the king, about the Savoy meeting-house; that our friends there had been kept out the meeting-house, forced by the guards to meet in a cold yard for many weeks.

At which point Gilbert requested the king to grant our friends their liberty to meet twice per week, it being winter time, and hard for aged people to stand abroad in the cold. The king did not refuse his request, but was pleased to delay it for a time, for further consideration.

However our endeavors in God's power and counsel, took such effect upon the king, that in a few weeks after, he caused both our meeting-houses at Park and Savoy be restored to us.

Before we parted from the king that time, I mentioned to him our friends' great suffering in Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire, by Smith the informer, and two or three petty justices, that took his part; and I entreated two or three times from the Lord Sunderland, to the Duke of Newcastle, to put a stop to the said informer's proceedings. The king freely granted my request, and two or three times promised to speak to the Lord Sunderland, and to write to the Duke of Newcastle for the same purpose. After which, one of the lords of the council, at my desire, undertook to procure a letter quickly from the Earl of Sunderland, pursuant to the king's promise before mentioned. Our friends and John Edge also, were concerned to attend the result thereof; so that through the power and help of the Lord our God, in our endeavors, to a general stop to those persecuting devourers, the informers, was obtained, to the great comfort and relief of our suffering friends throughout the nation. I was greatly comforted in serving them to the utmost of my ability, for their relief, when the Lord opened a way for such endeavors, and I had great peace in that. And though I was often very wearied, and some times weakened, in the outward man, yet the Lord revived my spirit and renewed my strength, and gave me suitable arguments to plead in that service, to authority. All in which, I humbly confess and praise his divine power and goodness; glory to his name forever.

Being tenderly concerned to visit the king, in order to encourage that good work he had begun and declared for, in respect to liberty of conscience, in matters of religious worship, and to intimate the good effects of his declaration for that intent towards dissenters, as well as to acquaint him with some information I had from Leeds, in Yorkshire, of sufferings remaining upon some of our friends there, Gilbert Latey and I had admittance into the king's presence, on the 14th of the tenth month, 1687, at Whitehall. The king appeared glad to see us, and the substance of our discourse was as follows:

George Whitehead. We are glad to see the king, and heartily wish him health and happiness, and a happy and prosperous reign, and that his government may be easy to him in all respects, that is, to himself and the people.

King. I thank you; and for your parts, I believe well of you and your friends; and that you do wish me well.

George Whitehead. I desired to attend the king some time since, but a long journey this summer, into the north parts of England, and some sickness since, prevented. We have acts daily cause to bless God for the mercy we enjoy under the king, as being made instrumental in the hand of God therein, and daily to pray for the king's preservation.

In this late journey I have been as far as Cumberland, and other parts of the north of England, and find the good effects of the king's declaration for liberty of conscience, and how well it is appreciated by all good people, by all who are sober, moderate and rational.

King. It is well assented by all good Christians I am sure.

George Whitehead. I find that persons of understanding and quality, do commend the king's prudence and conduct therein; and many innocent families, who have been sorely distressed by the persecutions and hardships they have long been under, have received such relief through the king's clemency and declaration, that they find cause daily to pray for the king, and to him may justly apply the words of that just man Job, in this case, respecting the justness of his proceeding, “Thou has broken the jaws of the wicked, and delivered the prey out of his teeth." “And the blessing of those who were ready to perish under their hardships, came upon me." And further, that by your declaration for liberty of conscience, you have yielded submission to the great God and given to him his due therein, namely, that God may rule and bear sway in men’s consciences, whose sovereign right it is to rule therein; "And when the Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice; and when the evil beasts of prey are made to cease out of the land, the such earth shall yield her increase; accordingly as God’s holy prophets have testified."

King. It is very true.

George Whitehead. Let liberty of conscience, as declared or promised, be vindicated of or maintained, and the good effects thereof will appear more and more.

King. I am resolved to maintain it as long as I live, and make it as firm as a magna charta, and more firm if possible, that it may remain for the benefit of future ages, and that posterity may not have cause to alter it.

George Whitehead. Whenever the king shall please to call a Parliament, we do heartily wish it may be such as may concur with the king's clemency, according to his declaration, for liberty of conscience, and confirm by a law; (referring to a previous discussion) and for our parts, I hope we shall contribute our endeavors, so far as argument and reason will go, or may prevail, to persuade them to confirm it, and give it the sanction of law, and repeal those penal, persecuting laws, which are against that liberty. [Those persecuting laws, as the conventicle acts and others, being to force persons by penalties, contrary to their consciences, belief and persuasions, even in point of worship, consequently tend to make them hypocrites towards Almighty God, which no sincere soul can yield to.]

King. You have a right to election of members of Parliament. I would have your friends to have a care that they do not give their voices for such that are against liberty of conscience.

George Whitehead. It concerns us all to have a care of that; it is certain there can be no free Parliament upon a general and free election, while the oaths of supremacy and allegiance, and tests requiring a conformity, are made the qualifications of all members of Parliament; for such qualifications admit none to be members of Parliament, but such as are strict churchmen for conformity. Whereas a mixed, or more equally chosen Parliament is most likely to consider all interests, and to establish liberty of conscience, which those penal persecuting laws do not allow.

King. Those laws and qualifications are against property, and destructive to it. With other words full and explanatory of his mind, to the same effect, not so clearly remembered, but generally importing those limitations to be also against the king's interest and prerogative of the crown, as well as against the people's property.

George Whitehead. By a mixed Parliament, I meant consisting of dissenters and or such churchmen as are against persecution, as the grand jury at Hertford assizes, who stopped all the presentments against dissenters for twenty pounds a month, some time before the king’s declaration for liberty of conscience came forth. This mixed grand jury appeared a fit example, as I thought, in this case relating to a free Parliament.

King. You know when I was Duke of York, how envious many were against me, and how monstrously they pictured me in their pamphlets, to render me odious to the nation, and what a dangerous successor I would be. But in point of Christianity, I freely forgive them all.

George Whitehead. That is a great point of Christianity and charity indeed, freely to forgive injuries, and is generous and noble; and I am truly glad to hear so much from the king. It is true, the Duke of York was such a formidable person in the thoughts of many, that they greatly feared and were jealous of his succeeding; but now since come to the Crown, he has given such open demonstration of his clemency and good will to the people, as has convinced many of their mistake therein, and given them cause to lay aside their former fears and jealousies of that kind.

King. I was always of the same judgment for liberty of conscience, that now I have declared publicly. I remember about twenty years ago, or above, I was at Tunbridge, though I never drank the waters; there was one Owen, John Owen, a dissenter, who had a mind to speak with me, but was, or seemed something bashful or fearful of coming to me, until some acquainted me therewith; and then I gave him liberty to come and speak with me, and told him my opinion, which was for liberty of conscience, as I have now declared.

George Whitehead. I heard as much a great while ago, from Edmund Waller, who is lately dead; he signified to the same purpose, concerning the Duke of York's being of that opinion for liberty of conscience, long since.

Gilbert Latey. That which the king has signified secretly, he has now declared openly, to the comforting the hearts of many thousands, who truly bless God for the king's kindnesses, and return hearty thanks to the king for the same; and for all the kindnesses you have shown to us the Lord reward you, and return you a thousand fold into thy own bosom.

King. I thank you heartily.

Gilbert Latey. We remember when we were at Windsor to attend the late king, which was a time of great persecution, when we were likely to be torn to pieces by our persecutors, how kind you were to us; and we can truly say we were not easy in our mind until we had seen the king's face, that we might acknowledge the kindnesses we have formerly received from him. And further, I remember when we were last with the king, as I am not willing to approach the king's presence often, being afraid to appear too troublesome, I made it my request, that poor friends at Kingston might enjoy their meeting-house again, which they has been long kept out of and were forced to meet in the street. And likewise, that the king allowed us to meet again in our meeting-house at Savoy, where I live. At which point the king was pleased to promise us that he would speak to sir Edward Evelin, then magistrate of Kingston, that our friends should have their meeting-house again; which accordingly was granted them. And the king has been lately pleased to give us possession of the meeting-house at Savoy. I meet for worship there myself, and in behalf of the rest friends at Westminster, return the king our humble and hearty acknowledgement and thanks for the same.

George Whitehead. I have one particular case from Leeds in Yorkshire, with which our friends desired me to acquaint the king, and that is, lately the magistrates of Leeds persecutions have been more severe to our friends there, than in all the rest of York besides. At Leeds they have repeatedly imprisoned them and endeavored to banish them out of the land, having prosecuted them in order to banishment, on the statutes of 13th and 14th of the late king, which relate to imprisonment and transportation. Also they have taken away their goods for having religious meetings, and do still keep the goods of one person or more unsold, and will not restore the goods to the respective owners, when desired by our friends. Therefore, we request the king to ask the Lord President to write two or three lines to the mayor and aldermen of Leeds to cause them to restore the goods to the respective owners.
[And thereupon George Whitehead delivered the case in writing to the King.]

King. I will do it; I will speak to Lord Sunderland to write as you have requested.
[Which accordingly he did, and an order was the next day taken out for restitution of the goods.]

George Whitehead. We thankfully acknowledge the king's kindness in this case.

Gilbert Latey. We pray God reward the king into his bosom, for all his and kindnesses, and grant him, if it is his will, long life and a happy reign here with the crown of immortal glory hereafter.

George Whitehead. We sincerely thank you.

King. I thank you heartily.

A copy of the said order follows. Whitehall, December 14th, 1687

Gentlemen, The king being informed that some property belonging to John Wales and other men of Leeds, which were seized and taken from them, upon the account of their religious worship, do remain unsold, in the hands of John Tood, who was constable at the time of the seizure, or in the hands of some other persons; and his majesty's intention being, that all his subjects shall receive the full benefit of his declaration for liberty of conscience, his majesty commands me to signify his pleasure to you, that you cause the goods belonging to the said John Wales, and all other Quakers of Leeds, which have been previously seized upon the account of religious worship, and are unsold, in whoever hands they remain, to be quickly restored to the respective owners, without any charge. I am, gentlemen, your affectionate friend and servant,


Superscription,-For Mr. Mayor and the Aldermen of Leeds, in the county of York.

Finding it our Christian duty to be industrious in our solicitations for our conscientious and religious liberty, and for the ease and relief of our friends from their great hardships, under long, severe persecutions for the same, when the Lord our God has made way for it, and opened a door for access to the king, and the government, we were the more obliged to lay hold of God’s providence in that, and to make the best improvement in it we could, with his assistance, which he graciously and freely afforded us, who labored in that service. And as the king granted our friends relief and liberty from their cruel persecutions, imprisonments, fines, forfeitures, seizures, and spoil, we could do no less, in point of civility and gratitude, than return to him our own, and our friends’ hearty thanks. And also as Christians, we are required to pray for our enemies and persecutors, much more are we obliged to do so for our friends, and such who show kindness and compassion towards us, when under persecutions and afflictions.

Some of the principal passages in king James's declaration to all his loving subjects for liberty of conscience: given at his court at Whitehall, the 4th day of April, 1687, in the third year of his reign:

It having pleased Almighty God, not only to bring us to the imperial crown of these kingdoms, through the greatest difficulties, but to preserve us by a more than ordinary providence, upon the throne of our royal ancestors; there is nothing now that we so earnestly desire, as to establish our government on such a foundation as may make our subjects happy, and unite them to us, by inclination as well as duty; which we think can be done by no means as effectively as by granting to them the free exercise of their religion for the time to come; and add, that to the perfect enjoyment of their property, which has never been in any case invaded by us, since our coming to the crown. Such being the two things men value most, shall ever be preserved in these kingdoms, during our reign over them, as the truest methods of their peace and our glory.

We cannot but heartily wish, as it will easily be believed, that all the people of our dominions were members of the Catholic church; yet we humbly thank Almighty God it is, and has of long time been, our constant sense and opinion, which upon many occasions we have declared, that conscience ought not to be constrained, nor people forced in matters of mere religion. It has ever been directly contrary to our inclination; as we think it is to the interest of government, which it destroys by spoiling trade, depopulating countries, and discouraging strangers; and finally, that it never obtained the end for which it was employed.

And in this we are the more confirmed, by the reflections we have made upon the conduct of the four last reigns. For after all the frequent and pressing endeavors that were used in each of them, to reduce this kingdom to an exact conformity in religion, it is visible the success has not answered the design, and that the difficulty is invincible. We therefore out of our princely care and affection unto all our loving subjects, that they may live at ease and quiet, and for the increase of trade, and encouragement of strangers, have thought fit, by virtue of our royal prerogative, to issue forth this our declaration of indulgence, making no doubt of the concurrence of our two houses of Parliament, when we shall think it convenient for them to meet.

In the first place we do declare, that we will protect and maintain our archbishop, bishops and clergy, and all other our subjects of the Church of England, in the free exercise of their religion, as by law established, and in the quiet and full enjoyment of all their possessions, without any molestation or disturbance whatsoever. And that all, and all manner of penal laws, in matters ecclesiastical, for not coming to church, or for any other non-conformity to the religion established, be immediately suspended.

And to the end that by the liberty hereby granted, the peace and security of our government, in the practice thereof, may not be endangered, we have thought fit, and do hereby strictly charge and command all our loving subjects, that as we do freely give them leave to meet and serve God after their own way and manner, be it in private houses, or places purposely hired or built for that use, so that they take a special care that nothing is preached or taught among those who may anyway tend to alienate the hearts of our people from us or our government; and that their meetings and assemblies are peaceably, openly, and publicly held; and all persons freely admitted to them. And that they do signify and make known to some one or more of the next justices of the peace, what place or places they set apart for those uses.

And that all our subjects may enjoy such their religious assemblies, with greater assurance and protection, we have thought it requisite, and do hereby command, that no disturbance of any kind, be made, or given unto them, under pain of our displeasure, and to be proceeded against with the utmost severity, etc. [ With much more in the said declaration, respecting liberty of conscience, from certain oaths, pains, penalties, forfeitures, and disabilities, etc.]

In conclusion, the king thus declared:

And although the freedom and assurance we have hereby given, in relation to religion and property, might be sufficient to remove from the minds of our loving subjects, all fears and jealousies in relation to either, yet we have thought fit further to declare, that we will maintain them in all their properties and possessions, as well of church and abbey lands, as in any other their lands and properties whatsoever.

Considering the difficult circumstances the king was under, being reputed of the Roman Catholic church, so called, or declared Papist, his declaration for liberty of conscience, so contrary to the religion and practice of that persecuting church, was the more remarkable; and it appeared that the Lord had opened his understanding of this, above the priests and others of that religion and church, whose principle and practice and chief support, of coercion, force and persecution, about matters of religion and conscience; contrary to the said declaration for liberty of conscience, which in itself appears both rational, prudent and politic.

1. Respecting those of his own communion for their liberty; yet there appeared to be also conscience on his part in the case; especially seeing he so solemnly declared, "That for a long time it had been his sense and opinion, that conscience ought not to be constrained, nor people forced in matters of mere religion."

2. Respecting his promise to the bishops and clergy of the church of England, he seemed in this cautious and politic, to quiet and put them out of their fears of losing their great revenues, tithes, oblations and obventions, etc. As also to quiet the great and rich men concerned in abbey lands, appropriate tithes, and great revenues thereby, etc.

3. As for us the people commonly called Quakers, and our ministers, having no such revenues as tithes, hire, or wages for preaching, to lose, our gospel being free, we were not so afraid of popery or a popish prince and clergy, as those who enjoy those great revenues which the popish church and priesthood claim, and would gladly come into and possess.

[It is interesting that Whitehead ascribes the principal fear of Popism to be a loss of revenue by the Church of England. (follow the money)]

4. The king having often seriously declared liberty of conscience, as from force and persecution, to be his principle and persuasion, and we who had long deeply suffered, partaking thereof, especially in the latter part of his reign, had great reason to be the more easy and thankful, that we had some relief from those extreme persecutions and hardships we had long suffered under.

5. However, the king's before mentioned declaration not having the sanction of an act of Parliament, for the confirmation and continuance thereof, we did not think our liberty secured to us thereby, any more than it was under the reign of his brother, king Charles the second, but uncertain and precarious, as it was before, when we had only that king's specious promises and declarations, which lasted but a little while, and were soon made void by the Parliament and himself, and many persecutors let loose upon us again, because the liberty granted was not passed into a law.

[There had been a continual struggle between the rights of the king vs. the rights of Parliament to government. Neither King Charles' nor King James' proclamation of religious toleration was supported by Parliament; and the effects only lasted until Parliament had rejected the bill submitted to make the proclamations law. This rejection was two-fold: 1) jealousy of the rights of government, and 2) a widespread fear that religious toleration would open the door to popery's control of Parliament and the country, which would mean the loss of revenue and property to the Church of England (follow the money).]

6. Lastly; as to king James the second's abdication or removal from the throne, upon the revolution, it is not my business or concern, to treat of the particular causes or occasions thereof; they are matters of state and government.

<Continued >>>>

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