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ing the liberation of their imprisoned friends, and they obtained a warrant for their release, directed to sir Robert Sawyer, attorney-general. He was then at his seat in Hampshire; that this business might be expedited, therefore, George Whitehead and John Edge, accompanied by Rowland Vaughan, waited on him there, and were received and entertained with great civility, till liberates could be made out for the prisoners in the city; after his return to London, by the exertion of the said friends, the discharge of the prisoners in different parts of the kingdom was obtained *.
The attention which the king gave their grievances, in this and other instances, encouraged them to present a complaint and petition against the informers and their iniquitous practices. This was followed by a request to the king to examine into the truth of the allegations, by giving the petitioners an opportunity to prove them to the informers' faces. The request was granted, and a commission was issued to Richard Graham and Philip Burton, esqrs., who summoned the informers, sufferers, and witnesses to appear before them at Clifford's-Inn, the 4th of June 1686. Fifty-four cases were selected, from which to establish their charges. When all the parties came to Clifford's-Inn, the informers seeing the numerous company that appeared against them, expressed their malice in this ribaldry; "Here come all the devils in hell," and observing George Whitehead, they cried, "And there comes the old devil of all." The first charge, proved in thirty-four cases, was, that "they had sworn falsely in fact:" then were laid before the commissioners sundry cases, wherein the doors of houses and shops were broken open with violence, by constables and informers, to make severe and exorbitant distraints, by which household and shop goods were carried away by cart-loads. The commissioners grew weary before they had gone through one-fourth of the cases, and adjourned for ten days. At the second meeting the lawyer, whom the informers had employed to plead their cause, was quickly silenced by the number of facts and the evidence produced, and before half the cases prepared for their cognizance were examined, the commissioners thought they had sufficient grounds for a report to the king. A report was accordingly drawn up, to which George Whitehead, on a sight of it, objected as very deficient and improper; being rather a proposal to limit prosecutions to the less ruinous penal laws, than a plain statement of facts, and of the various perjuries, and of the illegal and injurious acts, of the informers. The reason of this was, that they had received a message from a great person or persons in the church, soliciting them to do or report nothing that might invalidate the power of the informers. But, on Whitehead's pleading for justice to be done, in regard to matters of fact, the report was amended and framed more to the purpose. The king, on receiving it, referred it to the lord-chancellor, in
Gough, vol. 3. p. 164-169.
order to correct the irregular proceedings of some justices and the informers. He signified, also, his pleasure to the subordinate magistrates and justices, that they should put a stop to the depredations of these men; instead, therefore, of being encouraged, they were discountenanced. The court withdrawing its protection, other dissenters prosecuting them; and the scenes of their iniquity being laid open, some fled the country, and the rest were reduced to beggary *.
The Quakers, who had suffered more severely than any other sects, that they might not seem less sensible of the relief they had received, when addresses were presented to the king for his declaration for liberty of conscience, also waited on him with an address of thanks; first, from those of their society who resided in or about London, and then in the name and on behalf of the community at large. And while the other dissenters were censured in this business, as countenancing the king's dispensing power, the Quakers were guarded in this respect; for they expressed their hope, "that the good effects of the declaration of indulgence on the trade, peace, and prosperity, of the kingdom, would produce such a concurrence from the parliament, as would secure it to their posterity;" modestly hinting, it hath been observed, their sentiments of what they apprehended yet wanting to be done to complete the favourt.
When the bishops were committed prisoners to the Tower, and it was understood that they reflected on the Quakers as belying them, and reporting that they had been the cause of the death of some of them, Robert Barclay paid the bishops a visit, and laid before them undeniable proofs, that some, by order of bishops, had been detained in prison until death, though they had been apprized of their danger by physicians who were Quakers; but, he added, "that since through the change of circumstances, they themselves were now under oppression, it was by no means the intention of the people called Quakers to publish such incidents, or to give the king or their adversaries any advantage against them thereby." They were accordingly very careful to refrain from every measure, in word or deed, that might in any respect aggravate the case of the prisoners, esteeming it no time to aggravate old animosities, when the common enemy was seeking an advantage+.
When persecution subsided, and liberty of conscience was enjoyed without molestation, the Quakers thought it a convenient season to apply for relief in a point where they were still exposed to considerable trouble and detriment, and at their yearly meeting in London, in the summer of 1688, they drew up an address to the king, soliciting him to interpose for their relief from sufferings for tithes, and in the case of oaths. The address was presented and well received, but before the time for holding a par
Gough, vol. 2. p. 172-176. † Ibid. p. 189-195. Ibid. vol. 3. p. 198, 199.
liament arrived, the king. found it out of his power to redress their grievances, or support himself on the throne. The legal confirmation and enlargement of their liberty were reserved for the next reign*.
During the short reign of James II. the society of Quakers lost several respectable members; the most eminent of whom was colonel David Barclay, the father of the apologist, of an ancient and honourable family in Scotland, a man universally esteemed and beloved. He adopted the principles of the Quakers in 1666, and is said to have been brought over to them by Mr. Swinton, a man of learning, very taking in his behaviour, naturally eloquent, and in great credit among themt. The acquisition of so considerable and respectable a person as colonel Barclay, was of no small use to this persuasion. He was a man venerable in his appearance, just in all his actions, had shewed his courage in the wars in Germany, and his fortitude in bearing all the hard usage he met with in Scotland, with cheerfulness as well as patience; for he very soon found himself exposed to persecutions and sufferings on the score of his religion. He spent, however, the last twenty years of his life in the profession with great comfort to himself, being all along blessed with sound health and a vigorous constitution; and he met death, in the seventy-sixth year of his age, September 1686, at his seat at Ury in Scotland, with resignation and patience under great pain, and with the feelings of a lively hope. His last expressions were uttered in prayer : "Praises to the Lord! Let now thy servant depart in peace. Into thy hands, O Father, I commit my soul, spirit and body. Thy will, O Lord, be done on earth, as it is in heaven." And soon after he breathed his last: and though he gave express directions, agreeably to his principles, that none but persons of his own persuasion should be invited to his funeral, yet, the time being known, many gentlemen, and those too of great distinction, attended him to the grave, out of regard to his humanity, beneficence, and public spirit, virtues which endeared him to the good men of all parties.
* Gough, vol. 3. p. 199-202.
+ This Mr. Swinton was attainted after the restoration of Charles II. for having joined Cromwell, and was sent down into Scotland to be tried; it was universally believed, that his death was inevitable; but when he was brought before the parliament at Edinburgh, 1661, to shew cause why he should not receive sentence, having become a Quaker, when he might have set up two pleas, strong in point of law, he answered, consonantly to his religious principles, "that he was, at the time his political crimes were imputed to him, in the gall of bitterness and bond of iniquity, but that, God having since called him to the light, he saw and acknowledged his past errors, and did not refuse to pay the forfeit for them, even though in their judgment this should extend to his life." His speech was, though modest, so majestic, and though expressive of the most perfect patience, so pathetic, that, notwithstanding he had neither interest nor wealth to plead for him, yet the impression made by his discourse on that illustrious assembly was such, that they recommended him to the king as a proper object of mercy, when they were very severe against others. Biog. Brit. vol. 2. p. 599; and Burnet's History, vol. 1. p. 182.
Gough, vol. 3. p. 181-183; and Biog. Brit. vol. 2. p. 590, 591. second edit.
On the 17th of July, 1688, died, at Warwick, in a good age, William Dewsbury, who was early distinguished among the foremost members of this society, by the depth of his religious experience, the eminence of his labours in the ministry, and the severity of his sufferings. He was first bred to the keeping of sheep, and then was put apprentice to a clothier. In early life he was religiously inclined, and associated with the Independents and Baptists. In the civil wars he entered into the parliament army, but as he grew more seriously attentive to religious considerations, the recollection of the words of Christ, "Put up thy sword into the scabbard; if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight;" affected his mind with a lively conviction of the inconsistency of war with the peaceable gospel of Christ. Under this conviction he left the army, and resumed his trade. When George Fox was at Wakefield, he joined him in fellowship and in the ministry. He travelled much in different parts of England to promote righteousness, and to propagate what was, in his view, divine truth; for which, like his brethren, he met with much personal abuse, and was frequently thrown into prison at various places, at York, Northampton, Exeter, London, and Warwick. In this last place he was detained till the general release by king James. At length his health and strength were so impaired by the many violent abuses and long imprisonments he had endured, that he was obliged to rest frequently in walking from his house to the meeting-place in the same town. A distemper contracted in prison terminated his life. He was seized with a sharp fit of it, when in London to attend the yearly meeting, so that he was obliged to return home by short journeys: but survived his departure from the city only seventeen days. To some friends who came to visit him he said, just before he expired; "Friends, be faithful, and trust in the Lord your God; for this I can say, I never played the coward, but as joyfully entered prisons as palaces.-And in the prisonhouse I sang praises to my God, and esteemed the bolts and locks put upon me as jewels, and in the name of the eternal God I always got the victory, for they could not keep me any longer than the time determined of him." Continuing his discourse, he said: "My departure draws nigh; blessed be God I have nothing to do but to die, and put off this corruptible and mortal tabernacle, this body of flesh that hath so many infirmities; but the life that dwells in it ascends out of the reach of death, hell, and the grave; and immortality and eternal life is my crown for ever and ever." He concluded in prayer to the Lord for all his people every where, especially for the friends then assembled in London, reaping the present reward of his fidelity, patience, and sincerity, in peaceful tenor of his mind, and looking death in the face, not only without terror, but with a holy triumph over its power*.
Gough, vol. 3. p. 223-228.
The history of this society has, with an impartial and commendable disregard to the distinction of sex, made honourable mention of those women to whose piety and zeal it was indebted. One of these, at this period, was Rebecca Travis, born 1609, who had received a religious education, and was a zealous professor among the Baptists. In the year 1654, prompted by curiosity, but possessed with strong prejudices against the Quakers, as a people in the north remarkable for simplicity and rusticity of behaviour, a worship strangely different from all others, and a strenuous opposition to all public teachers; she attended a public disputation between James Naylor, then in London, and the Baptists in which it appeared to her he had the advantage, by close and powerful replies, over his learned antagonists. This excited her desire to hear him in the exercise of his ministry; she had soon an opportunity of gratifying her wishes; and the result was, that from that time she attended the meetings of this people, and after some time laboured herself in the ministry among them, in London and its neighbourhood. The impressions made on her mind by the preaching of Naylor, and her observation of his circumspect conduct, engaged her affectionate esteem for him, and she cheerfully administered every charitable service in her power to his relief under his grievous sufferings; though she was a woman of too much discretion and stability in religion to carry her regard beyond its proper limits, or to such extravagant lengths as those weak people who contributed to his downfall. She had the character of a discreet and virtuous woman, much employed in acts of charity and beneficence; of sympathetic tenderness towards the afflicted, and therefore one of the first of those faithful women to whom the care of the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned members of the community, was assigned; this care, in conjunction with others, she religiously discharged. After a long life of virtuous and charitable deeds, she died in much peace, on the 15th July 1688, in the eightieth year of her age *.
Another of these women, who was esteemed an ornament to her profession, and who undauntedly suffered, when it fell to her lot, was Ann Downer, first married to Benjamin Greenwell, a grocer in Bishopsgate-street, and then to the celebrated George Whitehead. She was one of the first who received the doctrine of the Quakers, when its ministers came to London, and at length became a preacher of it. In 1656, she was sent for to attend George Fox and his fellow-prisoners at Launceston, and travelled thither on foot, two hundred miles on her journey she was instrumental to bring many over to the doctrine she published, some of whom were persons of account in the world. In 1658, she travelled in the southern counties, and the Isle of Wight. She was remarkably conspicuous in her day for her singular piety,
Gough, vol. 3. p. 219-223.