To the matter of the oath they made no objection, but swear to it they would not. They resolutely refused to violate the divine command, Swear not at all," which they construed literally, and to which they believed there was no exception. Their goods were continually seized in consequence of their refusal to pay tithes, and their refusal to bear arms or enroll themselves in the military force of the country excited alike the hatred and the contempt of their fellow subjects. On the other hand, the purity of their lives, the patience with which they endured insult and persecution, never returning evil for evil, their zeal, their devotedness, and their love for each other, often compelled the admiration even of their opponents. To escape persecution many of them emigrated to the continent, to the West Indies, and to America. But in the two latter countries they immediately became the victims of persecution. In September, 1656, two Quaker women, Mary Fisher and Ann Austin, arrived in Boston from Barbadoes. Before landing their trunks were searched and their books taken and burned by the common hangman. They were thrown into prison, stripped, and their persons searched for signs of witchcraft.
None were found, but after five weeks' imprisonment they were convicted of heresy, and according to the law in such cases they were " thrust out of the jurisdiction;" in other words, expelled from Massachusetts. Nine others, men and women, who arrived soon after from London, were similarly treated. The severity of the laws against them was increased from year to year. From 1658 to 1001 three men and one woman were hanged. They had been banished from the colony on pain of death if they returned. They came back openly defying the courts, and were arrested to their great satisfaction. Many more were sentenced to death, but were not executed. In Rhode Island they were not interfered with in any manner, and very few of them went there at first; but from 1672 they increased rapidly, and in 1074 William Cod-dington, who had become a Quaker after founding the colony, was reelected governor. In Virginia laws modelled after those of Massachusetts, though somewhat less severe, were enacted against them; and in Maryland, where religious toleration was professed, they were punished, not as heretics, but as vagabonds who persuade the people from complying with military discipline, from holding offices, giving testimony, and serving as jurors." After the foundation of Pennsylvania by Penn in 1682 great numbers of Quakers under his patronage emigrated thither, and at the present time they are more numerous and influential in that than in any other of the United States. In England the persecutions of the Quakers were greatly mitigated by the passing of the toleration act in 1689, but more by the growing spirit of toleration among the people at large.
In 1722 a statute was enacted allowing their affirmation to be taken instead of an oath in all legal proceedings. But they have never been exempted from the payment of tithes, and, as they refuse to pay voluntarily, they are annually collected by distraint. During all their persecutions the Quakers never showed any spirit of retaliation. When urged to denounce their enemies they invariably answered, We leave them to the Lord." A majority of the early preachers of their sect died in prison, and the hardships endured in prison shortened the lives of many others, including Fox; but they bore all patiently and unflinchingly.-When we consider the age in which Quakerism took its rise and the nature of its principles, we can wonder neither at the treatment they received nor that they often acted in a manner which to others seemed extravagant and revolting. The civil war between the supporters of the crown and the supporters of the parliament was just drawing to a close. Men's passions were at fever heat, and their opinions in a perpetual ferment. New theories of government and new creeds in religion were constantly springing up, and all were supported with fanatical zeal.
In the midst of all this George Fox appeared, denouncing all Avar, all forms and ceremonies, disgusting the cavaliers by his invectives against worldly pleasures, and enraging the puritans by his denunciations of intolerance. Professing themselves to be guided by the "light, grace, and spirit of Christ, inwardly revealed," the Quakers yet asked for no privilege for themselves that they were not willing to concede to others. They advocated entire freedom of opinion and expression for Protestant and Catholic, for Christian and infidel. The nature of their doctrines and the persecutions inflicted upon them aroused in many a zeal and enthusiasm hardly distinguishable from insanity. Some entered churches during the hours of service, and called upon preacher and congregation to repent of their sins. Some went about clothed in sackcloth and with ashes upon their heads; others even appeared in the streets naked. They had visions, and addressed warnings to magistrates and governments. Many believed themselves gifted with the spirit of prophecy.
Fox, in his journal, records that, meeting Cromwell a few days before his death in Hampton Court park, he "perceived a waft of death go forth from him." The society still preserve the names of those who foretold the death of Cromwell, the great plague in London, the great fire, and other remarkable events. These were, however, exceptional cases, and generally the Quakers have been remarkable more than all other men for their quiet, staid, and sober demeanor. The peculiar dress of the Quakers is too well known to need description; but it is a mistake to suppose that it was originally adopted as a mark of distinction from other sects. In its essential characteristics it does not differ from the dress worn by large numbers of people at the time when Quakerism took its rise. But change in obedience to the dictates of fashion was in their estimation one of the vain follies of the world. While the fashions changed they adhered to their original garb, and thus by the force of contrast it has come to be regarded as an essential characteristic of the sect. But in their dress as in everything else they endeavored to carry out one of the main principles which they professed in regard to practical life.