Stevenson, Thomas to Edward Hyde, Lord Cornbury
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Signed by J. Rodman, Thomas Stevenson, John Way and William Bickley. Written by a group of New York Quakers "to the Governor." Contains a petition on the deprivation of voting rights for the members of the House of Representatives in Queens County and the Island of Nassau, as well as a complaint about unfair taxation. Cornbury was governor of New York and New Jersey from 1701 to 1708.
The social upheaval ignited by the seventeenth-century English Civil War spawned many radical millennarian religious groups, including the Diggers, who rejected private property; and the Ranters, who claimed to worship God through drinking, smoking, and fornicating. Only one of the radical religious group that emerged during the tumultuous years of the 1640s and 1650s has survived until now: the Society of Friends or the Quakers.
Today, the Quakers are often associated with austerity and self-discipline, but in the sect's early days, members behaved in very rebellious ways. Some marched into churches, where they denounced ministers as dumb dogs and hirelings. They also refused to doff their hats before magistrates or to swear oaths. They opposed war and gave women the right to speak at public meetings, holding that both sexes were equal in their ability to expound God's teachings.
The Quakers rejected the orthodox Calvinist belief in predestination. Instead, the Quakers insisted that salvation was available to all. It came, however, not through an institutional church, but from within, by following the "inner light" of God's spirit. It was because Friends seemed to shake when they felt religious enthusiasm that they became known as Quakers.
In England as well as in a number of American colonies the Quakers faced violent persecution. Some 15,000 Quakers were jailed in England between 1660 and 1685. In 1660, Edward Burrough catalogued the maltreatment of Quakers in New England: 64 Quakers had been imprisoned; two Quakers lashed 139 times, leaving one "beat like into a jelly;" another branded with the letter H, for heretic, after being whipped with 39 stripes; and three Quakers had been executed.
Even in New York, which tolerated a wide variety of religious persuasions, the Quakers faced hostility. After arriving in Long Island in 1657, some Quakers were fined, jailed, and banished by the Dutch, who (like Puritan New Englanders) were outraged by Quaker women proselytizing. In this selection, New York's Quakers inform the province's royal governor about ways they are mistreated.
Over time, the Quakers found successful ways to channel their moral idealism and religious enthusiasm. The sect established weekly and monthly meetings which imposed structure and discipline on members, and beginning in the mid-eighteenth century, directed their energies against a wide variety of social evils, including slavery. By the early nineteenth century, Quakers were engaged in moral reform movements in numbers wildly disproportionate to the sect's size. As many as a third of all early nineteenth century feminists and anti-slavery activists were Quakers.
To The Governor
The Humble Address of the People called Quakers in the Province of New York.
Shewing that we the King's Dutyfull Subjects being most of us Antient Plantrs ( or Decended of Such) and haveing all allong thro the former Governmts Enjoyed the Liberty of [or] votes for Members to Serve in Assembly, whereby we might be Represented as well as the Rest of the Freeholdrs of this Province in [or] Persons & Estates, Are Now forced to Approach Humbly ye Governor withour Complaint, in a Matter of the Highest Moment Relateing to [or] Privilidges as freeborne Subjects, being Lately Denyed ye undoubted Right of Chuseing or Owne Representatives at an Election in Queenes County on the Island of Nassau on the 5. 7 br 1701 because we Could not (for Conscience Sake) Sweare we were freeholdrs, altho it was well Known to the Sherriff, & Judge Coe that we were [illegible] as farther Appeared by Certificat under the hands of Two Justices of ye Peace of ye Said County, & that we had signed ye Declaration ordred for our releese by Act of Parliamt ye [illegible] hardshipp it hath graciously pleasd ye King & Parliamt to Ease [or ] friends of in the Kingdom of England, , and such was never required of us here, before the coming of the Late Earle Bellomont, who uppon [sic] our Complaint granted us Release; but so it is, may it please the Governor that since the sd Earle's decease, we made application to the Late Lieut. Governor Nanfan, who demands the oppinion [sic] of Judge Atwood concerning our Right to votes from whom he received answer that it belonged not to Governor nor Judge to give any oppinion [sic] therein, but referred it unto the Sherriff [sic].
Wee are also Necessitated to Lay before the Governor an Oppression that we Lye undr being Imposed uppon by Som of [or ] Neighbors (who are likewise Dissenters as well as our Selves) Yett they have presumed to take away our Substance, by Distreining on our goods, & Disposeing of ye Same at their owne will & Pleasure, because we Could not think it our Duty to Contribute with them to build their Nonconformist Preacher a Dwelling house, & we do humbly Conceive they have no Legall Power to Impose any Such tax uppon us.
The promises Duely [sic] confirmed, we humbly pray that the Governor will be pleased out of his Nature wisdom to consider of these abuses, & afford us suteable [sic] Redress therein, such will very much Engadge [sic] us as in Duty Bound to Pray for the Governor's Welfare & Prossperity [sic]
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