Resident-settlers grow restive
The Quakers, moving among the resident-settlers, were at first
treated with suspicion, even feared, but this changed as whippings
increased, in all parts of the Colony.
Many resident families, dissatisfied with “a lifeless ministry and
dead forms of religion”, secretly agreed with the outspoken views of
these “sincere seekers after heavenly riches”.
Many residents, as the Colony enlarged and prospered, were not
overly-religious. Those who supported the leadership’s religious views
were God-fearing people “who never forgot that there were souls to be
saved.” Others saw that this kind of God-fearing overall “cast gloom,
lost the brightness of hope, and made lives comparatively joyless”.
From the early years of the Quaker ‘invasion’, there were many
residents who rallied to provide the noisy, disruptive but
non-retaliating Quakers with food, shelter and clothing.
Increasingly the Bay Colony community grew more restive as the
persecutions increased in severity, and more ‘saw the light’ about
freedom of religious expression.
Before and after the hangings, the whippings continued, and
ordinary residents spoke out in growing numbers and were themselves
The reaction of the Colony’s leadership, to the behaviour of the
Quaker extremists, was considerably modified by the non-extremist
behaviour of those residents who became quiet converts to the sect.
Their local commitment – home, family, continued service to the
community and, with only a few troublesome exceptions, their relative
quietism over their new beliefs – allowed a measure of local community
control, and caused the
most dogmatic of the leaders to think again in broader terms.
Yet it would be a lengthy period before there was, with the albeit
grudging force of law, “the full and free liberty of religious
opinion, beliefs, and worship, according to the dictates of
Were the persecutors of the Quaker foursome (Robinson, Stephenson,
Dyer and Leddra who all went to the gallows-tree) justified in their
actions? Or were they, the civil and ecclesiast leaders cruel, harsh
and obsessed fanatics, as they claimed she and others were - fanatics?
Could they, the Puritans too claim to be acting by the light of
After the hanging of the fourth Quaker, one historian noted the
Quaker failure as “carrying the seeds of future triumphs”.
This period, some say, was among the first prominent and successful
of demonstrations of the power of non-violence to move the hearts of
ordinary people – and leaders – against abuse of power and oppression.