The Quakers

1444 Words6 Pages
As Americans it's difficult for most of us to understand what William Penn and his fellow Quakers lived through, being a member of an outcast religious sect in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in England was difficult, to say the least. The constant fear of persecution, discrimination, imprisonment, and even death was a reality most Quakers had to confront on a daily basis. So what was it about the Quakers' beliefs that led the monarchy, parliament, and the English citizenry in general to hold such a low opinion of the followers of this seemingly peaceful religion? The social upheaval ignited by the seventeenth-century English Civil War spawned many different religious groups, one of these were The Society of Friends. Founded by George Fox in the 1640's The Society of Friends came to be known as the Quakers, a term that was derived from the physical shaking and trembling of the believer when experiencing a union with God (p.14). The Quakers, led by Fox, came to reject nearly all outward forms of worship. The essence of his belief was that people's souls communed directly with God, who revealed himself to the faithful through an "Inner Light", which was the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, who was possibly within every person. Fox believed that a person can come to find his Inner Light only through a mystical experience, an emotional and spiritual exchange, that would lead to a union between God and believer (p. 15). The Society of Friends took to an extreme the Puritan condemnation of religious ritual and church hierarchy, rejecting all sacraments, liturgies, and paid intermediaries for the Quakers believed that all interfered with the direct communion between the human soul and God. They renounced formalized wor... ... middle of paper ... ...consent of both houses (p. 91-93). As to the question of whether or not William Penn was an enlightened, peaceful founder or was he a profit-oriented colonizer, I argue the former. There's no question that Mr. Penn took great enjoyment in the luxury and comfort that his wealth provided, but it is that same wealth, and his desire to increase it that led him to eventually seek a land grant from the king establishing Pennsylvania. His wealth also provided him the means to travel throughout Europe to proselytize on behalf of his Quaker religion, allowing him to come into contact with men who had radical views regarding freedom, rights, and the republican form of government. I find it fitting for a man who helped create a colony that would, later with her sister colonies, help in the founding of our country to be a capitalist, an altruistic capitalist at that.

More about The Quakers

Open Document