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Why Did the Quakers Historically Do That?

Why Did the Quakers Historically Do That?

#1 Why Were the Quakers Persecuted in England?

Quakerism is a denomination that began in the 17th century in England. At this time, conformity to the Church of England was of the upmost importance, with non-conformists being viewed as a direct threat to the established order.

There are many reasons that the Quakers were persecuted in England, each of them contributing to the justification for their escape to North America in the mid-1650s.

The reasons that Quakers were persecuted in England include but are not limited to:

  • They were considered heretics
  • They were charged with inciting blasphemy and disturbance
  • They misdirected the established hierarchy, directly challenging the customs of the Church of England
  • They rejected the relevancy of clergy (priests, ministers, etc.)
  • They viewed everyone as equal conduits of God’s word (with England believing that only Church leaders and clergymen could communicate as intermediaries of God).
  • They believed men and women were equal (not a popular opinion at this time)
  • They believed slaves were equal to white men (also not a popular opinion at this time)
  • They believed in an ‘inner light’ within everyone (England disagreed)
  • They refused to swear an oath in court (describing that one should always be honest and citing the Bible as reference for rejecting the obligation of oath-taking)

The Quaker Act of 1662 as well as the Conventicle Act of 1664 ensured that Quakers were collectively persecuted for their alleged ‘disturbance’ of the well-known structure.

As stated by, they did not find peace immediately upon escaping England:

“However, as they moved throughout the colonies, they continued to face persecution in certain places, particularly in Puritan-dominated Massachusetts, where several Quakers – later known as the Boston Martyrs – were executed during the 1650s and 1660s.”

Although it was an uphill battle that lasted for centuries, Quakers became strongly involved in the advancement of social issues such as promoting pacifism, supporting women’s rights, and advocating for abolitionists and those that sought to free slaves.

Historic Ipswich

Related Scripture(s):

·         “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” – 2 Timothy 3:12.

Related Video(s):

#2 Why Did the Quakers Settle in Pennsylvania?

Quakers are often associated with Pennsylvania; however, this is not the first location they arrived at within North America. The first known colonies were cited as being seen in Virginia. By the 1660s, they had arrived in the Carolinas, and were spreading throughout the North-East.

Around 1682, there are paintings that depict Quakers with the native Americans. William Penn is known as the Founder of the Province of Pennsylvania, recognized as setting democratic principles in this land that derived peace with the Native Americans.

William worked with the Natives to achieve common goals and survive off of the land. At this time, the king wanted to honor William Penn’s Father, Admiral Penn, who was a well-respected politicians in England. This honor led the King of England to decree this province to be known as ‘Penn’s Woods,’ which would later be renamed as, ‘Pennsylvania.’

The reasons that Quakers settled in Pennsylvania are:

  • After the land being honored through the Penn family, William Penn determined that this province would be a ‘holy experiment.’
  • Penn wanted the area of Pennsylvania to be an area of political and religious freedom, allowing the declarations of ‘Friends,’ to restore the fundamental morals of Christianity.
  • The state (not a state at this time) was considered a place that was not dictated by the reign of the crown.
  • It helped to restore religious freedom and equality.
  • It was considered a sanctuary for tolerance.
  • It was a society that dismissed classes and social hierarchies (including slavery).
  • It was not focused on military action or war, anyone that believed in God could run for office.
  • The land was considered ‘an experience,’ intended to invite others to witness what life could be like in an alleged ‘heaven on earth.’

In conclusion, the central reason that Pennsylvania is so prominent in the Quaker faith is because it was the first time they had a land of their own (separate from the crown) in which they could live as they please. Pennsylvania was considered a ‘holy experiment,’ a province of freedom, and a home for inclusivity that advocated for the equal rights of men, women, and slaves.

Pennsylvania Historical Museum

Related Scripture(s):

·         “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33.

Related Video(s):

#3 Why Are the Quakers Buried Standing Up?

Within Quakerism, there is an emphasis placed on how one prepares for their death and burial. A funeral service may be reflective and embrace silence (as with their congregational meetings), and a Quaker may choose to be buried or cremated based on their individual preferences. Prior to the nineteenth century, Quakers were buried anonymously without grave markers or forms of identification.

With a lack of credible research available, there is little information available on why Quakers are buried standing up in a vertical position.

Some of the contended points are that vertical burials were performed (to):

  • Save space in the cemetery (and place more bodies side-by-side)
  • Show respect (seen in Moravian funerals and in the case of Ben Johnson, a well-known poet that was buried standing up within Westminster Abbey)
  • By request (such as Jimmy Dale Struble who was confined to a wheelchair for his life, thus requesting to be left in an upright, standing position in his burial)

Upright burials are more common in Australia, where there is considerably more research and data available on their modern practices. writes:

A very Australian alternative to traditional funerals.  Upright Burials has inherent appeal for many people as it provides a burial option that is simple natural and economical.”

Ultimately, it could have been economical, seen as modest, or simply convenient. With not so much as a name to mark these graves for hundreds of years, it is difficult to formally know the Quaker thought-process behind the custom. Being that Quakers are minimalist and humble in nature, one could assume it was considered unpretentious.

One may also note that Quakers do not hold universal dogmas, so what would be appropriate to one person, may not be to another. This is accepted as each person’s individual choice and vertical burials would not be regarded as a requirement or religious law.

Standing the Dead Upright

Related Scripture(s):

·         “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” – Genesis 3:19

·         “All the people of the land will bury them, and it will bring them renown on the day that I show my glory, declares the Lord God.” – Ezekiel 39:13.

Related Video(s):

#4 Why Did the Quakers Oppose Slavery?

Quakers faced persecution in England for justifications and charges placed against them that could be related indirectly to slavery.

The reasons that Quakers opposed slavery (are):

  • For the same reason they opposed social hierarchy
  • For the same reason they saw women as equal
  • For the same reason they dismissed the need for priests or clergy men –

Because everyone was seen as equal in the eyes of God.

As one of the first civilizations or causation-centric groups that denounced slavery, Quakers were persecuted by the Church of England for these collective motivations. The Church of England did not want women to be equivalent to men, they did not agree that everyone’s inner-light dismissed the necessity for clergymen, and they did not agree that slaves were equal to the white man.

Even after escaping to Virginia and settling in Pennsylvania and the Carolinas in the mid-1650s, Quakers still placed focus on helping marginalized groups such as Native Americans and slaves. Their reasoning was to liberate these relegated and ostracized races by spearheading social experiments of social freedom and tolerance.

A central belief to the Quaker faith is that all life is worthy of kindness, non-violence, and respect. It is the same reason that a large percentage of Quakers are still vegetarian today. Whether human or not, Quakers have taken great lengths to stand for the rights of all living things.

By 1776, Quakers had created a prohibition surrounding the ownership of slaved. By 1790, they were petitioning the United States Government and Congress for the official abolishment of slavery.

Into the 1800s, Quakers set up underground railroad networks in Philadelphia to help slaves escape. Throughout the abolitionist movement of the 18th century, Quakers were seen as supporters of the emancipation of all slaves.

Throughout history, Quakers have fought to end slavery, contributing greatly to the underground railroad. Even if it caused Quakers to be immixed and negatively-comingled with these segregated groups, the Quakers would stand by them and suffer persecution (or even death) before surrendering their foundational beliefs.

Byn Mawr College

Related Scripture(s):

  • “For God shows no partiality.” – Romans 2:11
  • “The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:31

Related Video(s):

#5 Why Did the Quakers Settle in Pennsylvania Apex?

William Penn, son of Admiral Penn (a respected politician that was in close relation with the King of England), was the proprietor of Pennsylvania. At this time, the area was awarded by the King to Penn’s father, Admiral Penn, in 1682, declaring the land as ‘Penn Woods.’

Although this was not the first area that Quakers settled, it was the most popular and most renowned Quaker providence because of the following reasons for settlement:

  • William Penn deemed the land ‘a holy experiment.’ Although it was not officially accepted by the King, Penn wanted to use the opportunity to conduct an experiment in which they created what Penn would regard as ‘a heaven on earth.’
  • Pennsylvania became a land of religious freedom and social tolerance.
  • Pennsylvania offered equality to women.
  • Pennsylvania offered equality to slaves – significantly contributing to the abolitionist movement.
  • Pennsylvania was a safe-haven for Quakers to practice their faith freely.
  • In England, none of these things were acceptable and could result in jailing, fining, or death.

Conclusively, Pennsylvania was favorable in climate, social structures, and religion. As a peace-keeping colony, the Pennsylvania colony included Germans, British, African-Americans, Irish, Scottish, and more. All the while, Quakers maintained peace with the Native Americans and spearheaded a revolutionary home for the excommunicated and displaced.

The Pennsylvania Apex is ultimately a rebellious social experiment that gained immense footing for the Quaker group, abolitionist groups, and the women’s rights movement. It also spread the notion of pacifism and freedom of religion – all of which positively contributed to mankind.

William Penn and the Quaker Migration

Related Scripture(s):

  • “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” – Hebrews 12:14.

Related Video(s):


#6 Why Did the Quakers Come to America?

The first Quakers to immigrate to North America was actually two women, Mary Fisher and Ann Austin, each coming from a Quaker center in Barbados, arriving in Boston, the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

The larger group of Quakers resided in England in the 17th century and were facing great struggles with the Church of England. There are many reasons why Quakers left England to come to America (arriving in Boston in 1656), some of which include:

  • To escape persecution by the Church of England (seeking to jail, fine, or sentence them to death)
  • To find safety for their belief system
  • To worship as they pleased
  • To avoid a central Church authority
  • To seek enlightenment directly through themselves and God (eliminating the need for a clergy)
  • To obtain gender equality
  • To obtain racial equality
  • To denounce slavery
  • To create a liberal government
  • To escape an elitist and discriminatory government
  • To create an egalitarian society of tolerance and freedom adds:

“Shortly after arriving to Massachusetts, Austin and Fisher, whose liberal teachings enraged the Puritan colonial government, were arrested and jailed. After five years in prison, they were deported back to Barbados. In October 1656, the Massachusetts colonial government enacted their first ban on Quakers, and in 1658 it ordered Quakers banished from the colony “under penalty of death.” Quakers found solace in Rhode Island and other colonies, and Massachusetts’ anti-Quaker laws were later repealed.”

Related Scripture(s):

  • “Unequal weights and unequal measures are both alike an abomination to the Lord.” – Proverbs 20:10

Related Video(s):

#7 Why Did the Puritans Hate the Quakers?

Although some Quakers are considered ‘radical Puritans,’ others argue that Puritans are not even in existence today. When the two groups arrived in America in the 1600s, there were initial plans to create religious tolerance, but this objective did not last for long because the Puritans quickly became enraged by the Quaker culture.

There were gruesome atrocities inflected on Quakers by the Puritans. This was not a mild dislike in which no action was taken, this was a hate that resulted in the death and torment of many Quakers. As listed in the piece, 10 Horrifying Ways America’s Puritans Persecuted the Quakers:

“Quaker women weren’t just beaten and imprisoned. The Puritans turned abusing Quakers into a weirdly sexual display. They would strip them naked down to the waist and parade them through the town, whipping their backs as they went… From 1656 on, every male Quaker caught in Massachusetts was to have his right ear cut off. If they came back, they’d lose the other ear. And if they came back again, they would have their tongues bored through with a red-hot iron… The Puritans of New England threatened the Colony of Rhode Island, telling them that they would cut off all communication and trade if they didn’t start torturing, exiling, and executing Quakers.”

The reasons that Puritans hated the Quakers are:

  • Puritans are rigid and sterile in their traditionalistic and legalistic beliefs; Quakers are considerably more liberal and allow each person to determine their path for faith.
  • Puritans believed in social hierarchy and class structures; Quakers believed in equality for all.
  • Puritans thought that Quakers were devilish, sinful, and promoting heresy.
  • Quakers thought Puritans were inflexible, closed-minded, and extremist.
  • Puritans wanted to imprison, persecute, and even sentence Quakers to death within their Puritan colonies.
  • Their official separation in the 1600s was because Puritans thought they were better than the Native Americans, while Quakers thought they were not better than the Native Americans. Puritans became so offended that they banished and executed Quakers that attempted to preach or offer aid to Native Americans.

These two denominations and cultural groups did not see eye-to-eye, with the Quakers also believing in peace-keeping while the Puritans took abusive measures to remove the ‘devil from within’ each person and child, through psychological and physical violence.

The key similarities and differences between Quakers and Puritans are:

Population377,000 worldwide6,746 (No governing body or leader, difficult to measure with some unsure if Puritans still exist)
Began inThe 1600s for both
HistoryEach wanted to escape to America for safety and to create a society that would be pure and minimalist, benefiting society
Children SinningNot born in sin but are capable of sinningBorn in sin – the job of the parents is to (physically or psychologically) beat the devil out of the child
Adults SinningGod lives in everyone, and sins can be forgivenGod may forsake the world because humanity is hopeless and innately sinful
SacramentsNoYes, baptism and communion
ServicesIn a Meeting House or HomeIn a Church
Church Viewed AsLiberal, allowing autonomyRigid, establishing a system
BlessingsCome from withinCome from God to a select few, only a few are chosen for salvation
Bible Used ForFoundation and guidanceEstablishing direct laws
Equality of GendersNoYes

Finally, in 1689, the English government took action to ban the persecution of Quakers. If not for this, the Puritans would surely have continued to torment the Quakers, and arguably continued to do so in some degree of secrecy.

Related Scripture(s):

  • “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” – Romans 6:1

Related Video(s):

#8 Why Are the Quakers Called ‘Friends?’

In fact, this question should be posed the other way around. Originating in England during the 17th century, the Quaker movement was founded by George Fox, who originally named the religious group – “The Society of Friends.”

The term Quaker did not appear until later when in court – Whenever something drastic, intense, or provocative would happen, The Society of Friends were known to ‘quake and shake,’ describing that they felt ‘overcome by the Holy Spirit.’ This caused non-members of the court to mock and ridicule them, belittling them with the nickname ‘Quakers.’

To this end, the term was seen as derogatory and pejorative for a certain period of time, but the impact of its weight has become minimized over time.

The term Quaker may seem normalized in today’s age and Quakers eventually embraced the term, but this is precisely why many Quakers still prefer to be identified as ‘Friends.’

Some also believe that George Fox borrowed the religion’s name from the Bible, citing scriptures such as John 15:15:  

“No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”

Related Scripture(s):

  • “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” – Proverbs 17:17.

Related Video(s):

#9 Why Did the Quakers Leave England?

The Quakers left England to escape persecution and death. The ‘Society of Friends’ (being their original name and the more popular title in today’s age), were considered radicalistic by the Church of England.

The Church of England at this time was sometimes referred to as the Anglican Church, which contains aspects of the Protestant Episcopal Church. Sometimes conflated with the Puritanical theology, the Church of England was separate from Puritanism. There were similarities in the strict Christian guidelines of each faith, but the Puritans felt that the Church of England was far too similar to the Roman Catholic Church to be appropriate.

The reasons why Quakers abandoned the stringent guidelines of the Church of England were because of the following motivations:

  • To escape persecution, imprisonment, and death
  • To create a sanctuary and ‘haven’ society
  • To attain the land grant that was offered by King Charles II in 1681 (given to William Penn’s Father in the naming of what is present-day Pennsylvania, ‘Penn Wood’).
  • To worship Quakerism freely
  • To promote equalitarianism
  • To abolish slavery and end racial segregation
  • To reject genderism that disparaged women
  • To avoid being labeled as ‘heretics,’ (which still followed them to America with many external colonies still perceiving the Quakers as radicalistic.
  • To practice their faith in equality, peace, and collective tolerance

Related Scripture(s):

  • “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” – 2 Timothy 1:7.
  • “That the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” – Romans 8:21.

Related Video(s):