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to use the Quakers so hardly on very trivial occasions.*" prosecutions, similar acts of injustice, oppression, violence, and cruelty, against this society,, marked the year 1684, which were the disgrace of the preceding yearst.
Among those who suffered from bigotry, armed with power, the name of George Fox takes the lead. After his return from America, in 1673, as he was on the road to visit his mother on her death-bed, Fox and Thomas Lower, who was his wife's sonin-law, were seized as they were in conversation in a friend's parlour at Tredington in Worcestershire, and sent to the county jail. They applied, by letter, to the lord-lieutenant and deputylieutenant of the county, for the interposition of their authority for their release: stating their case, the illegality of their commitment, and Fox's solicitude for liberty to pay the last debt of affection and duty to his dying parent. But the application was ineffectual. Lower, by the interposition of his brother, who was the king's physician, might have obtained his liberty; as a letter to lord Windsor for his release was procured: but, bearing too great a respect to his father-in-law, to leave him in prison alone, he suppressed the letter, and voluntarily continued his companion there. At the quarter-sessions they were produced in court, when, on the examination, it appearing that they had been causelessly imprisoned, and had a right to an immediate release, the oaths of allegiance and supremacy were tendered to Fox, and on his refusing to take them, he was remanded. But Lower, on account of his powerful connexions, was discharged. Soon after Fox was removed by a habeas corpus to the King's-bench-bar at Westminster. The judges, influenced by the reports and representation which Parker, the justice who first apprehended him, had dispersed, remanded him to Worcester jail; only indulging him with liberty to go down his own way, and at his leisure, provided he would not fail to be there by the following assizes, in April 1674. He accordingly appeared, when the judge Turner, who had before passed sentence of premunire against him at Lancaster, referred the matter back again to the sessions. He was then charged with holding a meeting at Tredington from all parts of the nation, to the terrifying of the king's subjects. Though Fox vindicated himself from this misrepresentation, yet, as he again refused the oaths, an indictment was drawn up and delivered to the jury; who, under the instruction of the chairman, found the bill against him. This he determined to traverse: and on refusing to give bail, or any other security for his appearance but his promise, he was sent back to prison. By the interposition of some moderate justices, however, in about two hours after he had liberty given him to go at large till the next quartersessions. In the mean time he attended the yearly meeting in London, and delivered before some of the justices of the King's.
* Gough, vol. 2. p. 536. 508.
+ Ibid. vol. 3. p. 24-30.
bench a declaration of his fidelity to the king, and denial of the pope's supremacy and power: but as his case was under cognizance of the quarter-sessions at Worcester, the judges were unwilling to meddle with it, not being regularly before them. At the next sessions he appeared to traverse the indictment: but when he proceeded to show the errors which were sufficient to quash it, the oath was again required of him, and upon his refusal to take it, the jury found him guilty. An admonition of the consequence of a premunire being given him in court, this was, after he was sent out of court, clandestinely recorded in his absence, for the sentence thereof; and under it he was remanded to prison. Here he was seized with a great sickness, which reduced him to extreme weakness, and made his recovery doubtful. His wife came from the north to attend him, and solicit his discharge: after continuing with him three or four months, and her endeavours to procure his release proving unsuccessful, she went to London, and solicited the king in person, who would have released him by a pardon; but Fox declined obtaining his liberty in this mode, as he conceived that it would be a tacit acknowledgment of guilt; and he declared, "he had rather lie in prison all his days, than come out in any way dishonourable to the truth he made profession of." He preferred having the validity of his indictment tried before the judges, and with this view procured a habeas corpus to remove him to the King's-bench-bar. On his appearing before four judges, his counsellor, Mr. Thomas Corbet, advanced a new plea in his favour, and gained himself great credit, by ably urging, "that by law they could not imprison a man upon premunire." The judges required time to consult their books and statutes on this plea; and postponed the hearing until next day. They then proceeded, though they found the advocate's opinion well founded, to examine the indictment, in which the errors were so many and so gross, that they were unanimous in judgment, "that the indictment was quashed and void, and that George Fox ought to be set at liberty." Thus he honourably obtained his discharge, after an unjust imprisonment of a year and almost two months. Some of his enemies, insinuating "he was a dangerous man to be at liberty," moved the judges, that the oaths might be tendered to him: but Sir Matthew Hale would not consent to it; saying, "he had indeed heard some such reports of George Fox, but he had also heard more good reports of him *."
He appears to have been unmolested after, till the year 1681, when he and his wife were sued in small tithes in the exchequer, although they had in their answer to the plaintiff's bill proved, that no such tithe had been demanded or paid off her estate during forty-three years she had lived there: yet because they could not answer upon oath, they were run up to a writ of rebel
* Gough, vol. 2. p. 377—391.
lion, and an order of court was issued to take them both into custody. Fox, understanding this, laid the case before the barons of the exchequer. On the hearing of the cause a sequestration was earnestly pleaded for, on the ground of his being a public man, as if that affected the merits and justice of the cause; and was obtained, though at first two of the barons declared that he was not liable to tithes : but one of them was afterward brought over to decide with the adverse barons: the sequestration was, however, limited to the sum proved due, to the great disappointment of the prosecutor's aim, who wanted it without limitation, that they might be their own carvers in making distraint. In the course of this trial was produced an engagement, under the hand and seal of George Fox, that he would never meddle with his wife's estate: this raised the admiration of the judges, as an instance of self-denial rarely to be met with in these ages *.
In 1680, George Whitehead and Thomas Burr, as they were on a journey from different quarters to pay a religious visit to their friends, happened to meet at Norwich. As the former was preaching on the succeeding first day of the week, a rude company, chiefly of informers, rushed into the meeting with tumult and violence, and pulled him down; to the requisition to show some legal authority for their proceedings, they returned abusive language, only with an insinuation to the people, "that he might be a Jesuit." The sheriff, coming afterward, took them prisoners, and carried them before the recorder, Francis Bacon, esq., who was a justice. He examined them of their names, habitations, and trades; "if they were in orders, or had orders from Rome." A fine of 201. each was demanded of them; on refusing to pay this, the oath of allegiance was proposed. While the examination was going on, the informer, with the sanction of the justice, went to seize their horses, but was disappointed in his attempt, as they had been removed without the knowledge of the prisoners. The recorder poured out his bitter invectives, and threatened to have them hanged, if they did not abjure the realm, and if the king would by his orders enforce the execution of a statute made in the reign of queen Elizabeth. They were then committed to jail till the ensuing sessions. Then, after the recorder had, by taunting reflections and partial proceedings, expressed his aversion to them, they were discharged by the court from the charges exhibited in the mittimuses; but as they refused again the oath, which he insisted upon administering to them, they were recommitted to prison till the following sessions. In the mean time he was deprived of his office; in consequence of which change and the interposition of friends, they were, at the sessions, cleared by proclamation, and discharged from their imprisonment, after a confinement of sixteen weeks. It showed the prejudice and enmity of this man, that he first insinuated that
* Gough, vol. 2. p. 514, 515.
they were probably Papists; and when they procured certificates to the contrary, he would not permit them to be read in the court *.
In the next and succeeding year, George Whitehead was fined three or four times: and the loss he sustained by distraints, and by the expenses of inefficacious appeals, besides the damage done to his house and goods, amounted to 611. 7s. The evil of those seizures was aggravated by a particular instance of injustice in the distrainers, who would not suffer an inventory to be taken, or the goods, chiefly in grocery ware, to be weighed or appraised. On one occasion two friends, for persuading the constables to moderation and to suffer an inventory to be taken, were apprehended and prosecuted for a riot, on the evidence of one constable; for which they were fined, committed to Newgate, and confined there ten weeks †.
The fines levied on this people, on the statute of 201. for absence from the national worship, amounted, in the year 1683, to the enormous sum of 16,4007. for which several were distrained; but how much of these fines was actually levied, is not certainly known.
In this year, the case of Richard Vickris deserves particular notice. He was the son of Mr. Robert Vickris, a merchant and alderman of Bristol; he embraced the sentiments of the Quakers in his youth: but to divert him from joining them, his father sent him abroad to travel in France. Here he was a witness to the superstitions of the ceremonious religion of that country; which created a disgust, and confirmed him in the adoption of one that rejected ceremony and vain show. His father's views were disappointed, and on his return home, he openly professed himself a Quaker, at the risk of a variety of sufferings and hardships. In 1680 he was imprisoned upon an excommunication: he was afterward, for attending meetings, subject to frequent fines and distraints, and at last he was proceeded against on the statute of the 35th of Elizabeth. At the sessions before Easter, in 1683, he was indicted on that statute; demurring to the jurisdiction of the court, and refusing to plead, he was committed to prison. At a following sessions he was admitted to bail and at the Midsummer sessions procured a habeas corpus. His trial was hastily brought on in August, though he solicited time to prepare his defence. He found means however to retain counsel, who ably pleaded his cause, assigned a variety of errors in his indictment, and shewed that the witnesses had not established the charge against him. The court overruled every plea, and the jury (selected from men of mean occupation) found their verdict guilty; and sentence was passed on him to conform, or abjure the realm in three months; or suffer death as a felon without benefit of clergy. He lay in prison under this sentence † Ibid. p. 520, 521.
Gough, vol. 2. p. 501-505.
till the next year; when the time for his abjuring the realm being expired, he was liable to the execution of it, to which his enemies seemed determined to proceed. That they might give some colour to their design, they blackened and calumniated his character; representing him as a person disaffected to government, and endeavouring, before they took away his life, to despoil him of his good name. His wife, in her distress, determined on a personal application to government; with this view, she took a journey to London, and by the assistance of her friends got admission to the duke of York, who bore the chief sway at court, and laid her husband's hard case before him. When he had heard it, he replied, "that neither his royal brother nor himself desired that any of his subjects should suffer for the exercise of their consciences, who were of peaceable behaviour under his government." Accordingly, 'effectual directions for his discharge were given. He was removed by habeas corpus from Newgate in Bristol to London, and brought to the King's-bench bar: there, upon the errors in the indictment assigned by counsellor Pollexfen, he was legally discharged by sir George Jefferies. His father survived his return only three days, by whose will he succeeded to his estate and seat at Chew-Magna; in which he fixed his residence, and lived in honour, conspicuous for his virtue and benevolence, and an ornament to his place and station *.
The Quakers, under the severe sufferings to which their body in general, and some individual members of their society in particular, were exposed, were not wanting in lawful and commendable measures to procure an exemption from these grievous evils. In the year 1674, application was made to the judges, before they went their several circuits, for their compassionate attention to the hard cases of several of the sufferers, and to interpose their authority to secure them relief, in the following address:
"To the king's justices appointed for the several circuits throughout England.
"Many of our friends, called Quakers, being continued prisoners, many prosecuted to great spoil by informers, and on qui-tam writs, and by presentments and indictments for 201. per mensem, in divers counties throughout England, only on the account of religion and tender conscience towards Almighty God, we esteem it our duty to remind you of their suffering condition, as we have done from time to time, humbly entreating you in the circuits to inquire into the several causes of their commitments, and other sufferings which they lie under, and to extend what favour you can for their ease and relief; praying the Almighty to preserve and direct you †."
But little redress could be obtained. In 1677, an account