George Fox, the founder of the society of Friends, born at Drayton, Leicestershire, England, in July, 1624, died in London, Jan. 13, 1(391. His father was a zealous Presbyterian, too poor to give his son any education beyond reading and writing. The boy was grave, and, fond of solitude and contemplation. He was apprenticed to a shoemaker; but, keeping aloof from his fellow workmen, he meditated upon the Scriptures, gradually shaping the doctrines which he afterward promulgated. About the age of 19 he abandoned his occupation in order to prepare himself for the mission to which he believed he had been called. For some years he led a wandering life, living in the woods and in solitary places, and practising a rigid self-denial. In 1648 he made his appearance as a preacher at Manchester, where the exposition of his peculiar views caused much excitement, and subjected him to imprisonment as a disturber of the peace. Thenceforth, undeterred by the assaults of the populace or the persecutions of the magistrates, he travelled over England, preaching his doctrines with an earnestness and persuasiveness which won him many converts.
He advocated virtue, charity, the love of God, and a reliance upon the inward motions of the Spirit, by which, as he asserted, and not the Scriptures, opinions and religions are to be tried." Simplicity, not merely in religious worship, but in all the relations of life, was also urged upon his converts; and to his refusal to recognize the ordinary tokens of outward respect, as well as to take any oath, are to be ascribed most of the persecutions and imprisonments to which he was subjected. The term Quakers is said by some to have been first applied to Fox's followers at Derby, in 1650, in consequence of his telling Justice Bennet, before whom he had been brought, to "quake at the word of the Lord." (See Feiends.) In 1655 Fox was carried a prisoner to London, and examined in the presence of Cromwell, who not only released him, declaring that his doctrines and conduct were equally harmless, but on several subsequent occasions protected him from persecution. In 1669 he was married to the widow of a Welsh judge, and two years afterward he visited the North American colonies.
A large oak in Flushing, Long Island, under which he preached just two centuries before, and which was esteemed a historical monument, was destroyed by fire in October, 1873. On his return to England, in 1673, he was imprisoned for refusing to take the oath of supremacy, and for exciting disturbances among the king's subjects. But he was released within a year, and went in 1677 to Holland, where his preaching was attended with considerable success. He returned to England, was again imprisoned for refusing to pay tithes, revisited Holland in 1684, extending his travels to Hamburg, Holstein, and Dantzic, and a few years before his death established himself in London, where he rested from his labors, although he continued to preach occasionally. Fox was a man of genuine piety, and his meekness, humility, and excellence in the explanation of Scripture and in prayer are mentioned in terms of high praise by his disciple, William Penn. His published works, containing his journal, correspondence, and all his writings upon his doctrine, are numerous and curious.
They were partially collected in 3 vols. fob, 1694-1706. An edition in 8 vols. 8vo has been published in Philadelphia.-See "Life of George Fox, with Dissertations on his Views," etc, by S. Janney (Philadelphia, 1852).