Whitehead, George

, an eminent person among the Quakers, was born at Snnbigg in the parish of Orton, Westmoreland, about 1636, and received his education at the free school of Blencoe in Cumberland. After leaving school he was for a time engaged in the instruction of youth, but before he had attained the age of eighteen, the journal of his life exhibits him travelling in different parts of England, propagating with zeal, as well as success, the principles of the Quakers, then recently become known as a distinct religious denomination. Of the Quakers and their tenets, he had obtained some information a considerable time before an opportunity occurred for his being at any of their meetings. At the first which he attended, it happened that there was a young person present, who feeling deep distress of mind, went out of the meeting, and seated on the ground, unaware or regardless of being observed, cried out “Lord, make me clean; O Lord, make me clean!” an ejaculation which, he says, affected him more than any preaching he had ever heard. Continuing to attend the meetings of the Quakers, he became united with them in profession, and, as has been | mentioned, a promnlgator of their doctrine. His first journey was southward, and his first imprisonment, for to one in, this character imprisonment may be mentioned as then almost an event in course, was in the city of Norwich. Another imprisonment of fourteen or fifteen months followed not long after at Edinondsbury, attended with circumstances of much hardship. From this he was released by virtue of an order from the Protector; but was soon again apprehended while preaching at Nayiand in Suffolk, and by two justices sentenced to be whipped, under pretence of his being a* vagabond; which was executed with severity, but neither the pain nor the ignominy of the punishment damped the fervency of the sufferer; and as persecution commonly defeats its own object, so in this case the report of the treatment he had met with spreading in the country, the resort to hear his preaching was increased.

In the course of his travels he was frequently engaged in disputes with opponents who seern to have anticipated an easy triumph by their expertness in the forms of scholastic logic. Although uneducated in this art of logomachy, an art which has long since so deservedly sunk into disesteem, he soon became ready in detecting the fallacies of his antagonists; all of which indeed did not require equal penetration; for instance, in a public dispute at Cambridge he was attacked by a man of erudition with this syllogism “He that refuses to take the oath of abjuration is a Papist; but you (the Quakers) refuse to take the oath of abjuration; ergo, you are Papists!

In fact the Acts in force against the Roman Catholics were not un frequently the means of suffering to the Quakers But soon after the restoration of Charles II. the latter were made the express objects of a law, the precursor of others of the same tendency, and imposing penalties that extende 1 to banishment. In the progress of the bill through the House of Commons,‘ Whitehead with three others was admitted to the bar of the house to be heard in defence of their society; but they pleaded in vain. The bill passed into a law; and two of the four who had thus advocated the cause soon died in a crowded and unhealthy prison, to which they had been dragged from their meetings Whitehead was also imprisoned with them, but escaped the destructive effects of confinement.

In 1672, when the kiog had issued his declaration for | suspending the penal laws against nonconformists, a very acceptable service was rendered by Whitehead to the society of which he was a member, by obtaining an order under the great seal for the discharge from prison of about four hundred of their persuasion, many of whom had been for years in a state of close and rigorous restraint. Some other dissenters also partook of the benefit of his exertions, which he records with satisfaction.

On several other occasions he was concerned in applications on behalf of the Quakers to Charles II. and to his successor. After the happy event of the revolution he was eminently assisting to his friends at the time when the Toleration bill was before parliament; and afterwards bore a very considerable part in making those representations which led to the legal allowance of an affirmation instead of an oath, and to other relief. When the bill which has just been adverted to was pending in the House of Commons, a declaration of faith was proposed to be introduced, which to the Quakers, who seem to have been particularly aimed at by it, would not have tyeen perfectly free from objection. In lieu of the declaration so proposed, Whitehead and those who acted with him on behalf of the society, on this important occasion procured another to be substituted, which (thus he expresses himself) "we proposed and humbly offered as our own real belief of the Deity of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, viz. * I profess faith in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ, his eternal Son, the true God, and in the Holy Spirit, one God blessed for ever; and do acknowledge the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by Divine Inspiration. 7 ’

Respected and esteemed by his brethren, whom he continued to edify by his ministry and by his example, Whitehead lived to a very advanced age, and appears to have retained his mental faculties to the last. For some weeks, and some weeks only, before his decease, he was prevented from attending meetings for public worship by infirmities which he bore with Christian patience and resignation, waiting for his dissolution, and signifying that the sting of death was taken away. He died in March 1722-3, aged about eighty-six.

He was twice married, but appears to have left no issue. During the latter and considerably the greater part of his life he resided in or near the metropolis. Besides various publications, chiefly controversial, he left behind him some | memoirs of his life, which were printed in 1725, in one volume 8vo. 1

1 Memoirs as above, abridged and communicated by a correspondent.