The Society of Friends
was founded in 1646
by George Fox
, and the movement met with much success. In a few years it became a serious menace
to the established church. Then began a series of persecutions
deigned to discourage
the securing of new recruits, and to cause the abandonment of their project by Fox and his immediate followers
. In the reign of Charles the Second the Star Chamber
got to work in dead earnest. The Quakers were imprisoned in hundreds, their goods were confiscated
, they were oppressed and hound
ed in every way short of actually putting them to death, and there is little doubt
that a good many of them were surreptitiously tortured
Some Quakers turned their eyes towards America. In the July of 1656, Mary Fisher and Ann Austin braved the perils of the 3000-mile voyage and reached Boston. They were met, not by a brass band and the welcoming of men and women eager to embrace the new and novel faith, but by a mob of infuriated citizens clamouring for their blood. Mary and Ann were seized and they were "stripped stark naked, in such an immodest manner as modesty will not admit to mention", says a chronicler. They were whipped at a cart's tail and packed, bag and baggage, on to the ship that had brought them, with threats of what would happen if they ever dared to again sully the soil of New England with their heretical feet.
But others were already on their way, and a sizable band of them managed to reach Boston during the years of 1656 and 1657. And so the New England Puritans, under the leadership of Governor Endicot, embarked upon a campaign of persecution that was characterized by some of the cruelest acts that the history of religious intolerance has to show. Both men and women were whipped unmercifully, branded, mutilated and imprisoned. Many were put to death; many more were sold as slaves to the plantations.
"Mary Tomkins and Alice Ambrose were cruelly ordered to be whipped at a cart's tail through 11 towns at one time, ten stripes apiece on their naked backs, which would have amounted to 110 in the whole, and on a very cold day they were stripped and whipped through three of the towns (the priests looking on and laughing) and through dirt and snow, sometimes half leg deep, till Walter Barefoot of Salisbury got the warrant and discharged them." (John Whiting, Truth and Innocency Defended Against Falsehood and Envy, 1702, p.108)
Lydia Wardel was stripped from the waist upwards, tied to a fence-post "with her naked breasts to the splinters of the posts, and there sorely lashed, with twenty or thirty cruel stripes." Ann Coleman was whipped within an inch of her life, the knots of the whip splitting her breasts. Edward Wharton was flogged so severely that "peas might lie in the holes that the knots of the whip had beat into the flesh of his arms and back; and his body was swelled and very black from the waist upwards."