Fox, George

, founder of the society of quakers, was born at Drayton, in Leicestershire, in 1624. His father was a weaver, who seems to have taken great pains in educating his son in the principles of piety and virtue. He was, at a proper age, apprenticed to a dealer in wool, and grazier, and being also employed in keeping sheep, he had many opportunities for contemplation and reflection. When he was about nineteen years of age he experienced much trouble and anxiety on observing the intemperance of some persons, professing to be religious, with whom he had gone to an inn for refreshment j and on | the following night he was persuaded that a divine communication was made to him, urging him to forsake all, and devote his life to the duties of religion. He now quitted his relations, dressed himself in a leathern doublet, and wandered about from place to place. Being discovered in the metropolis, his friends persuaded him to return, and settle in some regular employment. But he did not remain with them many months; determining to embrace an itinerant mode of life. He fasted much and often, walked abroad in retired places, with no other companion but the bibje, and sometimes sat in the hollow of a tree for a day together, and walked in the fields by night, as if in a state of deep melancholy. He occasionally attended upon public teachers, but did not derive that benefit from them that he looked for: and hearing, as he supposed, a voice exclaiming, “There is one, even Christ Jesus, that canspeak to thy condition/' he forsook the usual outward means of religion; contending, that as God did not dwell in temples made with hands, so the people should receive the inward divine teaching of the Lord, and take that for their rule of life. About 1648 he felt himself called upon to propagate the opinions which he had embraced, and commenced public teacher in Manchester, and some of the neighbouring towns and villages, insisting on the certainty and efficacy of experiencing the coming of Christ in the heart, as a light to discover error, and the knowledge of one’s duty. He now made more extensive journeys, and travelled through the counties of Derby, Leicester, and Northampton, addressing the people in the market-places, and inveighing strongly against injustice, drunkenness, and the other prevalent vices of the age. About this time he apprehended that the Lord had forbidden him to take off his hat to any one; and required him to speak to the people in the language of thou and thee; that he must not bend his knee to earthly authorities; and that he must on no account take an oath. His peculiarities exposed him to much unjustifiable treatment, although it must be allowed that he sometimes provoked harsh usage by his intemperate zeal. At Derby the followers of Fox were first denominated” quakers,“as a term of reproach, either on account of the trembling accent used in the delivery of their speeches, or, because, when brought before the higher powers, they exhorted the magistrates and other persons present” to tremble at the name of the Lord." | In 1655 Fox was sent prisoner to Cromwell, who contented himself with obtaining a written promise that he would not take up arms against him or the existing government; and having discussed various topics with mildness and candour, he ordered him to be set at liberty. Fox probably now felt himself bold in the cause, re-commenced his ministerial labours at London, and spent some time in vindicating his principles by means of the press, and in answering the books circulated against the society which he had founded, and which began to attract public notice in many parts of the kingdom. Notwithstanding the moderation of Cromwell towards Fox, he was perpetually subject to abuse and insult, and was frequently imprisoned and hardly used by magistrates in the country whither he felt himself bound to travel; and more than once he was obliged to solicit the interference of the Protector, to free him from the persecutions of subordinate officers. Once he wrote to Cromwell, soliciting his attention to the sufferings of his friends; and on hearing a rumour that he was about to assume the title of king, Fox solicited an audience, and remonstrated with him very freely upon the measure, as what must bring shame and ruin on himself and his posterity. He also addressed a paper to the heads and governors of the nation, on occasion of a fast appointed on. account of the persecutions of the protestants abroad, in which he embraced the opportunity that such appointment offered, of holding up, in proper colours, the impropriety and iniquity of persecution at home. The history of Fox, for several years previously to 1666, consists of details of his missions, and accounts of his repeated imprisonments. In this last-mentioned year he was liberated by order of the king, and he immediately set about forming the people who had embraced his doctrines into a compact and united body: monthly meetings were established, and other means adopted to provide for the various exigences to which they might be liable.

About 1669 he married Margaret, the widow of judge Fell, at whose house he had been entertained in his progress through Lancashire. The ceremony, on this occasion, was according to that simple form which is practised to this day among the people of his persuasion. He only acquainted their common friends of their intention; and having received their approbation, they took each other in marriage, by mutual public declarations to that intent, at | a meeting appointed for the purpose at Bristol. After this Mr. Fox sailed for America, where he spent two years in making proselytes, and in confirming the faith and practice of those who had already joined in his cause. Soon after his return to England he was taken into custody, and thrown into Worcester gaol under the charge of having “held a meeting from all parts of the nation, for terrifying the king’s subjects.” After being acquitted, he went to Holland, and on his return a suit was instituted against him for refusing to pay tithes; his opponents were successful, and he was obliged to submit to the consequences. In 1684 Fox again visited the continent, and upon his return he found his health and spirits too much impaired by incessant fatigues, and almost perpetual persecutions, to contend any more with his enemies: he accordingly lived more retired; and in 1690 he died, in the sixty-seventh year of his age; having, however, performed the duties of a preacher till within a few days of his decease. His writings, exclusive of a few separate pieces, which were not printed a second time, were collected in 3 vols. folio; the first contains his “Journal;” the second a collection of his “Epistles;” the third, his “Doctrinal Pieces.” Fox was a man of good natural talents, and thoroughly conversant in the scriptures. The incessant zeal which he exhibited through life, affords abundant evidence of his piety, sincerity, and purity of intention; and his sufferings bear testimony to his fortitude, patience, and resignation to the Divine will. William Penn, speaking of him, says that “he had an extraordinary gift in opening the scriptures, but that, above all, he excelled in prayer. The reverence and solemnityof his address and behaviour, and the ferventness and fullness of his words, often struck strangers with admiration.” He also mentions, in terms of high commendation, his meekness, humility, and moderation; and he adds, that he was civil beyond all forms of breeding; in his behaviour very temperate, eating little, and sleeping less, though a bulky person. 1

1 Sewel’s Hist, of Quakers. Neal’s Puritans. Rees’s Cyclopedia,