University of Virginia Library

7128. QUAKERS, Oppression of.—

first settlers in this country [Virginia] were emigrants
from England, of the English Church,
just at a point of time when it was flushed with
complete victory over the religions of all other
persuasions. Possessed, as they became, of the
powers of making, administering, and executing
the laws, they showed equal intolerance in this
country with their Presbyterian brethren, who
had emigrated to the northern government.
The poor Quakers were flying from persecution
in England. They cast their eyes on these new
countries as asylums of civil and religious freedom;
but they found them free only for the
reigning sect. Several acts of the Virginia Assembly
of 1659, 1662, and 1693, had made it
penal in parents to refuse to have their children
baptized; had prohibited the unlawful assembling
of Quakers; had made it penal for any
master of a vessel to bring a Quaker into the
State; had ordered those already here, and such
as should come thereafter, to be imprisoned till
they should abjure the country; provided a
milder punishment for their first and second return,
but death for the third; had inhibited all
persons from suffering their meetings in or near
their houses, entertaining them individually, or
disposing of books which supported their tenets.
If no capital execution took place here, as did
in New England, it was not owing to the moderation
of the church, or spirit of the legislature,
as may be inferred from the law itself; but to
historical circumstances which have not been
handed down to us. The Anglicans retained


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full possession of the country about a century.
Other opinions began then to creep in, and the
great care of the government to support their
own church, having begotten an equal degree of
indolence in its clergy, two-thirds of the people
had become dissenters at the commencement of
the present Revolution. The laws, indeed, were
still oppressive on them, but the spirit of the
one party had subsided into moderation, and of
the other had risen to a degree of determination
which commanded respect.—
Notes on Virginia. Washington ed. viii, 398. Ford ed., iii, 261.