Monday, May 26, 2008

Notes on the Quakers in colonial Long Island

There was not the seperation of church and state that we know today, political and religous leaders were the same people in colonial times. There were laws about church construction and attendance. Newcomers were screened before they could settle in a community, sometimes they would be forced to move on. The Quakers were widely persecuted and were not allowed into many communities. They were "fined, imprisoned, whipped, shorn of their ears, had their tongues bored with hot irons and put to death." (Bookbinder, 47). On Long Island, Peter Stuyvesant made it a crime to give the Quakers shelter, talk to them, or bring them into the area by ship.

There were some residents how opposed this discrimination. In 1657, the Flushing Remonstrance was issued objecting to the anti-Quaker laws on moral grounds. Stuyvesant responded by outlawing town meetings in Flushing. He also banished a Quaker leader, but was rebuked by the West India Company, whose position was similar to that of the group in Flushing.

The Quakers recieved better treatment from the English. George Fox, founder of the Quakers, visited Long Island in 1672. His visit included Shelter Island, a Quaker haven.

The Quakers were persecuted because of their beliefs. Their refusal to take oaths was seen as a defiance of authority and as subversive. Bookbinder says that the Quakers were "not always orderly. For example, they sometimes would 'bear testimony' by running naked through the streets, cursing all who differed with them." I wonder what that means exactly.

Source: Bookbinder, Bernie. Long Island: People and Places, Past and Present. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1983 (Illustrations © 1983 Newsday)

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