How Did Quakers Come to North America?

Why did Quakers come to North America? As Max Carter tells it, it wasn’t to escape religious persecution.

Jon Watts

Jon Watts launched and directed the QuakerSpeak project for its first 6 seasons. Keep up to date with Jon’s work at his website.

8 thoughts on “How Did Quakers Come to North America?

  1. Would suggest the first Quaker community was in Flushing, in New Amsterdam. Where Quakers were active from the early 1650s.

  2. My ancestors, Lawrence and Cassandra Southwick, arrived in Salem, MA in the very early 1600’s and were persecuted along with many other Quakers of the time. There were several Quakers hung in Boston during this time, Mary Dyer being the most well-known. John Greenleaf Whittier wrote ‘The Ballad of Cassandra Southwick’ about the sale of her children into slavery. No boat captain would take possession of the children. This is a horrific era, long before the witch hysteria.

  3. Read up on the Quakers in Nantucket! By the time Penn was taking baby steps, the Nantucket Meetinghouse held 2,000 Friends

  4. By 1760 my GGG- Great Grandfather Michael Fisher left Pennsylvania as a disgruntled young man who felt that the original idea’s of William Penn had been displaced by an institutional greed and ambition to expand and prosper the so called movement in ways that included the use of slaves on the larger plantations. A far cry from the Treatises that honored and respected the ways of the aboriginal populations from which the original land was purchased, by design.
    His travels eventually took him to the Ohio River Valley where he settled as the first non-native to meet and peacefully live amongst the Cherokee. 50 years Later his sons and their families helped form the city of Columbus Ohio, and over the next generations their network of family farms became an important link in the creation of the Underground Railway from Philadelphia through Ohio to Lake Erie. An quiet act of rebellion inspired by Grandfather Michael’s original dissatisfaction with what the Quaker Religion had become in the new world.
    During those early years it was also reported that Michael Fisher found himself at odds with another pioneer of those early days named Daniel Boone, who made his mark as a famous Indian Killer quite contrary to the values the Fisher Family held towards their fellow man.
    The point here is similar in spirit to the original concept of restoring the true principals behind Christs teachings. Beware the edicts of expansion and institutional power that all formal religions soon embrace. Do not ever identify with a movement at the expense of your own inner connection to the higher power of one’s heart and our harmonious place in the natural world. Live to Serve freedom, love, equality and each other above all other forms of formal religion. Be both a pioneer and revolutionary if need be ~ to honor those original teachings whatever it takes.

    1. Well said Dirk. I live in Australia and *love* how that powerful symbol of the statue of liberty (aka “Liberty enlightening the world”) is not stationary, but in fact walking forward (into the darkness?) The USA has been a republic for near 250 now (well done!)

      For me, the light of the future lies with MRD (Modern Representative Democracy…. which is *nothing* like classical Greek “democracy”!!!) And the USA has been *pretty good* at promoting that idea/ideal.

      I’m encouraged by the advances made to MRD via the 19th century British Chartists, and enjoy a wonderful egalitarian spirit here in Australia, which was the first country in the world to adopt five of the Chartist’s six reforms (i.e. secret ballot; universal suffrage; anyone can stand for election to parliament; parliamentarians are paid; equal electoral boundaries.)

      I much prefer our “Washminster system” (i.e. combo Westminster & Washington systems) where the Executive arises from *within* the Legislature/Congress. As well as a few other systems we’ve put in place (such as an independent Australian Electoral Commission which draws electoral boundaries every seven years to keep electorates roughly equal in population). However the USA has kept states rights far more alive than Australia, and for much longer.

      Our legal history goes something like this: 1901 six independent colonies federate to become one nation; first twenty years and dispute between a state/s and commonwealth goes to the High Court and all decisions are in favour of the state/s; next twenty years decisions go 50/50, but with WWII commonwealth takes over income tax (previously states raised all taxes and gave money to the commonwealth government); after WWII, the “golden rule” applies, i.e. “whoever has the gold/money, makes the rules — decisions in the High Court have *always* gone the way of the federal government over and dispute with the states!

      What would Jesus think? Well, IMHO Christ is in you, and in me, and in everyone who is open to the spirit. And the spirit is not yet in unity as to which are the best ways in which to conduct MRD!

      I for instance would *love* to see ALL elections held annually (I’m swimming against the tide there I know!)
      I have many good, compassionate, intelligent friends who love Proportional Representation (whilst it is anathema to me!)
      At what age should we get the vote? (in my lifetime it’s been dropped from 21 to 18… and I often ponder whether it shouldn’t be 15, or even earlier!)

      The *beauty* of MRD is that it is NOT “good vs evil” but one valid way of seeing things vs another valid view (THINK: abortion, capital punishment, voluntary euthanasia)

      If we are to live in “The Age of Reason” (aka The Enlightenment”) then we MUST live in “The Age of Contention”, for reason alone can give us valid and yet opposing answers.


  5. What can you tell me about the Quakers in Perquimaines, NC? Through genealogy, I found some ancestors of mine, determined to be Quakers, who were there as early as 1652.

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