Letters on England HTML version

3. On The Quakers
You have already heard that the Quakers date from Christ, who, according to
them, was the first Quaker. Religion, say these, was corrupted a little after His
death, and remained in that state of corruption about sixteen hundred years. But
there were always a few Quakers concealed in the world, who carefully
preserved the sacred fire, which was extinguished in all but themselves, until at
last this light spread itself in England in 1642.
It was at the time when Great Britain was torn to pieces by the intestine wars
which three or four sects had raised in the name of God, that one George Fox,
born in Leicestershire, and son to a silk- weaver, took it into his head to preach,
and, as he pretended, with all the requisites of a true apostle--that is, without
being able either to read or write. He was about twenty-five years of age,
irreproachable in his life and conduct, and a holy madman. He was equipped in
leather from head to foot, and travelled from one village to another, exclaiming
against war and the clergy. Had his invectives been levelled against the soldiery
only he would have been safe enough, but he inveighed against ecclesiastics.
Fox was seized at Derby, and being carried before a justice of peace, he did not
once offer to pull off his leathern hat, upon which an officer gave him a great box
of the ear, and cried to him, "Don't you know you are to appear uncovered before
his worship?" Fox presented his other cheek to the officer, and begged him to
give him another box for God's sake. The justice would have had him sworn
before he asked him any questions. "Know, friend," says Fox to him, "that I never
swear." The justice, observing he "thee'd" and "thou'd" him, sent him to the
House of Correction, in Derby, with orders that he should be whipped there. Fox
praised the Lord all the way he went to the House of Correction, where the
justice's order was executed with the utmost severity. The men who whipped this
enthusiast were greatly surprised to hear him beseech them to give him a few
more lashes for the good of his soul. There was no need of entreating these
people; the lashes were repeated, for which Fox thanked them very cordially, and
began to preach. At first the spectators fell a-laughing, but they afterwards
listened to him; and as enthusiasm is an epidemical distemper, many were
persuaded, and those who scourged him became his first disciples. Being set at
liberty, he ran up and down the country with a dozen proselytes at his heels, still
declaiming against the clergy, and was whipped from time to time. Being one day
set in the pillory, he harangued the crowd in so strong and moving a manner, that
fifty of the auditors became his converts, and he won the rest so much in his
favour that, his head being freed tumultuously from the hole where it was
fastened, the populace went and searched for the Church of England clergyman
who had been chiefly instrumental in bringing him to this punishment, and set
him on the same pillory where Fox had stood.
Fox was bold enough to convert some of Oliver Cromwell's soldiers, who
thereupon quitted the service and refused to take the oaths. Oliver, having as