Joseph Dow's History of Hampton: Treatment of Quakers

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About this time, there was not a little excitement in the colony, occasioned by the arrival, from England, of several Quakers. This was then a new sect, having sprung up only a few years before. Unfavorable accounts of their doctrines and their doings had crossed the ocean before them, and the people of Massachusetts, having left their native land mainly that they might live where they would be unmolested in the enjoyment of their religion, believed that the preservation of their own rights imperilously demanded that they should exclude the Quakers from their territory. The means used for this purpose cannot be approved. They were neither judicious nor just. Admitting that some of the principles and practices of the Quakers were subversive of good government, as at that time they undoubtedly were, the measures adopted to restrain them, were too rigorous, and not sufficiently discriminating. Some of the Quakers would, it is most likely, have demeaned themselves as quiet and orderly people. Had any shown themselves otherwise, they might have been punished as severly as justice required, and the punishment could not have been regarded as a persecution.

The first Quakers that came to New England were two female preachers, who arrived at Boston in July, 1656, bringing with them a considerable number of their books. At first, they were not permitted to land, but their books were taken from them and burned in the market place.

The women were taken on shore and thrown into prison, and not long after, sent back to England. Others, who arrived the next month, met with similar treatment.

Thus far there had been no law authorizing such proceedings. As soon, however, as the General Court met, a law was prepared and speedily passed, and then published by beat of drum, October 21, seven days from the commencement of the session. This law was a very stringent one, prohibiting masters of vessels from bringing any of the sect within their jurisdiction, under heavy penalties; and subjecting every Quaker arriving here from foreign parts, to imprisonment, stripes and hard labor, and requiring him to leave the country as soon as practicable. The law also prohibited the importation of Quaker books or writings, and even made the person with whom, or in whose house, any such books or writings should be found, liable to a fine of £5 for each book or writing, so found.

The preamble to this law is in these words:
"Whereas there is a cursed sect of haereticks lately risen vp in the world, wch are comonly called Quakers, who take vppon them to be imediately sent of God and infallibly asisted by the spirit to speak & write blasphemouth opinions, despising gouernemnt & the order of God in church & comonwealth, speaking evill of dignitjes, reproaching and revjling magistrates and ministers, seeking to turn the people from the faith & gaine proseljtes to theire prenicious waies, this Court, taking into serious consideration, &c."

A prosection was brought against William Marston, Sen., of this town, at the County Court held here, and he was fined £15 "for keeping two Quaker books and paper of the Quakers."

He afterward sent a petition to the General Court, praying for the remission of his fine, and, as the record states, "leaving himself at ye Court's mercy," acknowledging he "hath transgrest ye law of ye Countrie." The court remitted one-third of the fine, on condition that the other two-thirds should be paid forthwith.

Other extreme measures followed successively the order of 1656, as cutting off the ears, boring the tongue with a hot iron and banishment on pain of death. As time went on, and still the supposed heresy spread, the maddened government devised new tortures. In December, 1662, the following order was issued by Capt. Richard Waldron, of Dover, and was wholly in accord with the law of the land:

"To the Constables of Dover, Hampton, Salisbury, Newbury, Rowley, Ipswich, Windham, Linn, Boston, Roxbury, Dedham, and until these vagabond Quakers are out of this jurisdiction:

You and every of you are required in the King's Majesty's name to take these vagabond Quakers, Anna Colman, Mary Tompkins, and Alice Ambrose, and make them fast to the cart's tail, and drawing the cart through your several towns, to whip them upon their naked backs not exceeding ten stripes apiece on each of them in each town, and so convey them from Constable to Constable till they are out of this jurisdiction, as you will answer it at your peril, and this shall be your warrant." (Provincial Papers, I:243)

We bow our heads in shame, while we read: "In Dover, Hampton and Salisbury this disgraceful order was executed." Let us believe that our hearts cried out against the outrage, though hands, unused to resist authority, failed to rescue the victims. It is written that, in Salisbury, "Walter Barefoot performed almost the only praiseworthy act that stands to his credit in history, by taking these persecuted females from the Constables, under pretence of delivering them to the Constable of Newbury, and securing them from further cruelty by sending them out of the Province."

Scarely thirty-five years after this, "The Friends' Quarterly Meeting" was established in that part of Hampton now Seabrook, and in 1701, they built their meeting house. (See chapter XXI)

[See also John Greenleaf Whittier's poem "How the Women Went From Dover".]

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