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- European Background Of American History - 30/42 -

seventeenth century--Millenarians or Fifth Monarchy Men, Baptists or Anabaptists, Quakers, Ranters, Notionists, Familists, Perfectists, and others. Most of them died out within the brief period which gave them birth, but some survived to become great religious denominations, extending into America as well as throughout England. [Footnote: Gooch, English Democratic Ideas in the Seventeenth Century, chap. viii.]

Of these the Quakers are the most interesting in their relations to the New World. The spirit from which they arose was closely similar to that which gave birth to the Baptists of England, the Anabaptists, Mennonites, Pietists, and Quietists of the Continent. Their movement was an extreme revolt against the formalism, corporate character, and externality of established religion. It contained a deep element of mysticism. The Quakers declared all believers, irrespective of learning, sex, or official appointment, to be priests. [Footnote: Fox, Letters, No. 249.] They asserted the adequacy of the "inner light" to guide every man in his faith and in his actions. They opposed all forms and ceremonies, even many of those of ordinary courtesy and fashion, such as removing the hat or conforming the garb to changing custom.

George Fox, the representative of these ideas, began his public preaching in 1648, and his doctrines at once found wide acceptance. In 1652 there were said to be twenty-five Quaker preachers passing through the country; by 1654 there were sixty, some of whom were women, who, by the principles of their teachings, should preach as freely as men. Their missionary journeys led them to Scotland and Ireland, and later even to Holland and Germany and the far east of Europe. Organization among the Quakers proceeded somewhat slowly. This was due partly to the individualist character of their beliefs, partly to the lack of constructive interest on the part of Fox and the other leaders during the early period of their missionary work. Nevertheless, "meetings" were gradually organized, took definite shape, and kept up regular communication with one another, so that there came to be a net-work of such bodies over the whole country. In 1659 it is estimated that there were thirty thousand Quakers in England.

Notwithstanding the religious liberty guaranteed by the Instrument of Government of 1653, the teachings and practices of the Quaker preachers brought them into much turmoil. Their vituperation of the clergy, their intrusion into church services and ceremonies, already reduced only too frequently to confusion by the rapid changes of the time, their objection to the payment of tithes, their refusal to take an oath, their outspoken denunciation of all whose actions they disapproved, the prominence of women in their propaganda, and, in early times, suspicions that they were connected with political plots, could not but subject them to ridicule, abuse, and actual persecution. They habitually violated numerous laws on the statute-book, ranging from those requiring good order to those forbidding what was construed as blasphemy. They were, therefore, beaten and stoned by the mob; abused, fined, and imprisoned by the magistrates; ridiculed and prosecuted by the clergy; subjected to starvation, exposure, and other hardships by sheriffs and jailers. [Footnote: Besse, Sufferings of the Quakers, I., chaps, iii., iv, xi., xviii., II, chap. i., etc.]

In 1660 Charles II. was recalled to the throne. This event was a restoration of the church even more than a restoration of the monarchy. The royal power could never again be what it had been before the civil war, the execution of a king, and the establishment of a republic. But the church, with the longevity and recuperative power of all religious organizations, arose again to a life apparently as vigorous and despotic as in the times of Laud. The year 1662 found four thousand two hundred Quakers in the jails of England; [Footnote: Sewel, Hist. of the Quakers, 346.] and the popular reaction against the austerity of the Puritan regime subjected Quakers to much ill-treatment by the rabble.

Yet just at this juncture the dignity of the body was strengthened and its power of self-assertion increased by the adherence to it of men of higher education and social position. The Quakers of the commonwealth period were almost all of the middle and lower-middle or trading classes. Soon after the Restoration a number of men of good family and some means threw in their fortunes with the persecuted sect. One of them, Robert Barclay, reduced to order and system the scattered and incoherent statements of its theology. In his Apology, published in 1675, he set forth a logical and consistent statement of beliefs, couched in clear and graceful language and supported by calm reasoning and example. [Footnote: Thomas, Hist. of the Society of Friends in America, chap ii., 200, 201.] Of the same class was William Penn, an educated, wealthy, polished, and genial English gentleman. Yet he was also a serious-minded and devout Quaker preacher, missionary, and writer, and as he saw and shared in the sufferings of the faithful he might well despair of better conditions in England and think of a "Holy Experiment" in America, where Quakers from 1675 onward were settling in West New Jersey. [Footnote: Fiske, The Dutch and Quaker Colonies, II., 99, 167; Andrews, Colonial Self-Government, chap. vii.]

Under Charles II. the attitude of the king was favorable to the Quakers, while in the short reign of James II. they had the great advantage of the personal friendship of the king for Penn. Yet no matter what should be the favor of the king, or even their more moderate treatment by the authorities of the established church, Quakers could not hope for material comfort or ease of mind in surroundings so alien to their ideals as England was in the last decades of the seventeenth century. They, still more than the Puritans in the time of Laud or the churchmen in the time of Cromwell, suffered because of the incongruity of the ordinary law and custom with their ideals. It was the realization of this incompatibility, along with the attraction of a community under Quaker government, cheap and abundant land, a promise of a growing population and lucrative business opportunities that set flowing to Pennsylvania the tide of Quaker emigration and created in a few years a great Quaker commonwealth in America.

Besides Puritans, Anglicans, and Quakers, another great stream of emigration poured into the central colonies of America--the Presbyterian Scotch-Irish. To understand their coming, it is necessary to return to the early years of the seventeenth century and to consider the policy of James I. towards rebellious Ireland. At the opening of, his reign James found in Ireland an opportunity to plant a colony near home. [Footnote: Walpole, Kingdom of Ireland, 130-135.] When Englishmen and Scotchmen had been established in Ireland, the Irish sore would be healed, and that restless Catholic community be transformed into an outlying district of England. The "Plantation of Ulster" began in 1611. The titles of the natives were ruthlessly forfeited, the six counties of the province of Ulster were re-divided, and the land was re-granted to proprietors who engaged to settle colonists from England and Scotland upon it according to a fixed system.

This system was skilfully devised and rigidly carried out. It required the new land-owners to establish freeholders, small tenants, laborers, and artisans upon the soil in proportion to the amount of land they received, allowing only a certain minimum number of the Irish natives to be retained as laborers. The proprietors were largely merchants of London and merchandising noblemen of the court; the tenants they introduced were mostly from the towns and country districts of the north of England and the lowlands of Scotland. Men of Puritan tendencies showed the same readiness to emigrate to Ireland that they showed soon afterwards as to New England, and as a result the settlers of Ulster, during the first two decades of the seventeenth century, were almost universally Presbyterians.

Under these new and somewhat anomalous conditions a population grew up in the north of Ireland which was almost as distinct in race and religious organization from the people of England and Scotland as it was from the Catholic and Celtic population which it had displaced. Its religion, without being proscribed, was not acknowledged, for Anglicanism was the established church of Ireland, though it numbered but few adherents. Ulster's industrial interests were, from the beginning, subordinated to those of England, as completely as were those of the natives. [Footnote: Cunningham, Growth of English Industry and Commerce, II., 136.] As the century progressed the economic evils under which the Scotch-Irish suffered became more pronounced. The navigation acts were so interpreted as to exclude Ireland from all their advantages and to cut her off from any direct trade with the colonies. Tobacco-growing was forbidden, and the exportation of cattle to England placed under prohibitory duties. The wool manufacture was crushed by heavy export taxes, and the linen manufacture neglected or discouraged. In 1642 and again in 1689 came war and new conquests of the country, to add to its disorganization and chronic sufferings. Kidnapping, enforced service in the colonies, and traffic in political prisoners were indulged in by the government. Ireland, as a dwelling- place for Catholics or Protestants, for Celts or Saxons, for natives or English and Scotch settlers, was a country of ever-renewed distress.

To economic disabilities is to be added religious persecution of a mild type, especially after 1689. All the laws that interfered with the religious equality of the Presbyterians in England were extended to Ireland; and they seemed more vexatious there because in Ulster the Presbyterians were in the vast majority and the established church almost unrepresented, except by tithe collectors and absentee landlords. At the close of the seventeenth century there were more than a million Ulster Presbyterians. But soon, as a result of this combined economic and religious oppression, they began to migrate in a narrow stream which by 1720 became a wide river. They formed the largest body of emigrants that left Europe for the American colonies. Before the eighteenth century was over the Presbyterian population of Ireland was reduced by at least a half; [Footnote: Fiske, The Dutch and Quaker Colonies in America, II., 354.] and the missing moiety was to be found scattered along the whole line of the Appalachian mountain-chain, at the backbone of the English colonies, extending eastward and westward and forming a prolific and influential element of the American people.



An earlier chapter of this work has been devoted to the political institutions of Spain, France, and the Netherlands, and each had its share of influence on American history; but it is England from which the American nation really sprang, of which it was for more than a century and a half a dependency, and to whose traditions, institutions, and government we must look back for the origins of our own. The oldest political institution in England is the monarchy. Older than Parliament, older than the law-courts, older than the division of the country into shires, the monarchy dates back to the consolidation of the petty Anglo-Saxon states in the ninth century--and these were themselves kingdoms.

At no time in this long course of English history were the claims of the monarchy more exorbitant than under James I. and Charles I., from 1603 to 1642, just when the tide of immigration began to flow towards America, and when the governments of the colonies were being established. "What God hath joined, then, let no man separate. I am the husband and all the whole isle is my lawful wife. I am the head and it is my body. I am the shepherd and it is my flock. . . ." [Footnote: Prothero, Select Statutes, 283.] So King James wove metaphors, when he addressed Parliament at its opening in 1604. When disputes had arisen

European Background Of American History - 30/42

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