CHAPTER 5
THE PERSECUTION OF FRIENDS UNDER THE COMMONWEALTH

THE Quaker "Publishers of Truth" were subject to persecution almost from the beginning. George Fox was imprisoned in Nottingham for some time in 1649 and put in the stocks at Mansfield Woodhouse shortly after his release for speaking in church. He spent a year in Derby jail for blasphemy and for refusing to serve in the parliamentary army. Cromwell sincerely tried to secure toleration for all sects except the Catholics, and the army on the whole supported him in this, for the core of the "New Model" consisted of Independents and other sects who believed that the war against the king was waged for religious as well as political liberty. This was the fundamental reason of their opposition to royalist Anglicans as well as to covenanting Presbyterians; for the Anglican prelates and nobles as well as the Presbyterian ministers were against religious tolerance of any but the established religion. A great deal of the persecution of Friends was instigated by the justices belonging to the country nobility and by priests of the Established Church, who sensed in the Quakers a threat to their privileges, honors and power. The Quakers, moreover, represented such a radical modification of the social order that the people were instinctively hostile. It was easy to incite a mob against them. In spite of Cromwell's best efforts,1 they usually fared ill in the courts, and the later parliaments under the Protectorate were intolerant.

____________________
1
Trevelyan, op. cit., pp. 310, 311. FPT, 350-352.

-59-

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