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QUAKERS. In 1652 George Fox, standing on high Pendle Hill in England, had a vision (see Fox, George). This was the beginning of the Religious Society of Friends. Its members are commonly called Quakers. A magistrate first used this name in Derby in 1650, when Fox was on trial for his beliefs. His followers trembled during religious excitement, and Fox bade the judge to "tremble at the word of the Lord."

George Fox believed, as the Puritans did, that the formal practices of the Church of England violated the spirit of Christianity. He taught that people can worship God directly without help from clergy. His followers refused to attend the services of the Church of England or to pay tithes for its support. They refused to take oaths on the ground that an oath recognises a double standard of truth. They were frugal and plain in dress and speech.

The authorities persecuted them with fines, confiscation of property, and imprisonment. Nevertheless the sect flourished. In 1689 the Toleration Act ended the persecution. Meanwhile, Quakers could settle freely in America on a large grant of land given to the Quaker William Penn in 1681 (see Penn). The Hicksites separated from the orthodox Quakers in 1827, and there were other divisions.

Quakers still reflect the teachings of Fox. They do not sanction taking part in war because they feel that war causes spiritual damage through hatred. Most Quakers therefore refuse to give military service, but individuals follow their own convictions.

The Friends have no ritual, sacraments, or ordained clergy. They appoint elders and overseers to serve at each meeting. Men and women who have received a "gift" are called recorded ministers. The meeting for worship is held "on the basis of silence." Members speak in prayer or testimony as the "Inward Light" moves them. After an hour the meeting ends with the members shaking hands. Congregations generally hold a meeting for business every month.

In the 19th century Quakers in the United States founded a number of colleges and universities with an emphasis on science. Because Friends were trusted and extended credit, they became active in banking and insurance. Quakers are also active in welfare work and social reform. The American Friends Service Committee, founded during World War I, organises relief and service projects not only in the United States but throughout the world.

From Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia © 1998 The Learning Company, Inc.

FOX, George (1624-91). The founder of the Society of Friends, or Quakers, was an Englishman named George Fox. He was a man who lived by his principles. Despite severe persecution no one could halt his preaching or his disrespect for the Church of England, which he considered irreligious. Once he even refused to leave prison when given his freedom. Because he had been imprisoned unjustly, he demanded pardon as well as release.

George Fox was born in July 1624, at Drayton, in Leicestershire. His parents were Puritans. As a boy George was extremely religious. When he was 19, he became disgusted by the sinfulness of many Christians. He left his family and went off alone. After much thought and reading of the Bible, Fox came to the conclusion that God was to be found only within the soul of each individual.

Fox was 23 when he began his ministry by travelling from village to village. He preached his new belief of the Inner Light and soon won many converts. England was torn by civil war, however, and the authorities did not like this sect that claimed equality for all and refused to take up arms or swear allegiance. Hundreds were jailed. Fox wrote his 'Journal' and pamphlets supporting his beliefs while in prison.

After Oliver Cromwell became ruler of England, Fox found a refuge at the home of Judge Fell, Cromwell's chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster. Fox died in London on Jan. 13, 1691. (See also Quakers.)

From Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia © 1998 The Learning Company, Inc.

Quakers (correctly termed 'The Society of Friends'), a Christian body which rejects the formal structures of creed and sacraments and usually of clergy and liturgy, emphasising instead the individual's search for 'inner light'. Founded by the Englishman George Fox in the 17th century, the Quakers became convinced that their 'experimental' discovery of God--sometimes featuring trembling or quaking experiences during meetings--would lead to the purification of all Christendom. The name 'Quaker' was originally a term of contempt.

By 1660 there were more than 20,000 converts, and missionaries were at work in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and the American colonies. They continued to grow in number, despite severe penalisation from 1662 to 1689 for refusing to take oaths, attend Anglican services, or pay tithes. After considerable debate, they evolved a form of organisation, with regular monthly, quarterly, and annual meetings. This system essentially stands today, and any Quaker can attend any meeting.

In 1681 William Penn founded the American Quaker colony of Pennsylvania, and Quaker influence in the colony's politics remained paramount until the American War of Independence. Quakers are known for their social reform, pacifism, and support for philanthropic ventures. They played an important role in the abolition of slavery, and were instrumental in the foundation of the British-based charity Oxfam, amongst others.

Excerpted from The Oxford Interactive Encyclopedia

Developed by The Learning Company, Inc. Copyright (c) 1997 TLC Properties Inc. All rights reserved.

Fox, George (1624-91), English founder of the Quakers. The son of a Puritan weaver, he left home in 1643 to lead an itinerant life, arguing with religious radicals, then preaching. By 1655 he had attracted thousands of converts. With the help of his wife, Alice Fell (married 1669), he proved to be a tireless organiser. He undertook missionary journeys throughout Britain, and ventured as far as the West Indies and North America (1671-2) and Holland (1677 and 1684). He was repeatedly imprisoned for his beliefs; his Journal was published posthumously in 1694.

Excerpted from The Oxford Interactive Encyclopedia

Developed by The Learning Company, Inc. Copyright (c) 1997 TLC Properties Inc. All rights reserved.