Singing on the Gallows, the Quakers Triumphed

ENGLAND'S policy of permitting people to take refuge in her colonies from her own persecution of them at home smacked of the humor of a comic opera by Gilbert and Sullivan. It may have seemed at the time an easy way for her to get rid of Pilgrims, Puritans, Catholics, Quakers and other troublesome people who were crowding the English jails. But was she rid of them? Not until 1776 and some time thereafter!

The French always are more logical than their neighbors across the Channel. The Huguenot migration plainly points the difference between England and France as colonizing nations.
While England was winking at the settlement of her colonies by Pilgrims, Puritans, Quakers and Catholics, whom she was proscribing at home, France did not permit her exiled Huguenots to settle in her Canadian colony. She drove those French Protestants out from under her flag and they enriched the American colonies with their blood.
The Huguenots were most notable and influential among the pioneers of South Carolina, where they readily fused with the English and with a band of Scottish Covenanters or Presbyterians, who took flight from the Stuart kings. Although only a few hundred of them came to the colonies, their contribution to the biography and history of the nation that they helped to seed is quite out of proportion to their small numbers.
Francis Marion, Paul Revere, Faneuil, Bowdoin, Chardon, Ballou, Tourgee, Bayard, Tiffany, Sigourney, Jay, Sevier, De Lancey, Thoreau, Demarest, Gallaudet, Laurens, Buford, Durell, Maury, Desbrosses, Dubois, Durand, Dupuy and La Follette are familiar reminders of what France lost and America gained by the expulsion of the Huguenots.

There was a ghastly irony in the violence with which some of the English refugees from persecution persecuted other refugees. Although the Quakers were tolerated in Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Maryland and the Carolinas, they fared so much harder in Puritan New England than in old England herself that the mother country felt moved to interfere in their behalf.
Nor were the Quakers themselves a shining example of tolerance. Believing that they were illumined by an "inner light," they held apart from the unillumined, with whom no son or daughter was permitted to marry. Nor should any of the sect countenance by his presence a marriage ceremony between persons outside the fold. Even as late as the middle of the nineteenth century, the gentle Quaker poet, John Greenleaf Whittier, still felt constrained by that ancient rule to absent himself from a wedding of personal friends because they were to be married in accordance with the rites of another faith.
Most Quakers, to be sure, were mild, unoffending neighbors, who lived up to the name of Friends. But there were zealots among them who ran into such frenzied extremes as to hoot the governor of Massachusetts in the streets and to bawl out parsons in the midst of sermons.
One Quaker horrified the Puritan congregation at its worship in the Old South Meeting House in Boston by smashing two bottles together and shouting, "Thus will the Lord break you all to pieces." The Puritan capital was still more scandalized by two women who insisted on running about the town, "testifying before the Lord," while garbed like Mother Eve in her pristine innocence, ere the apple and the fig leaf.

At first, Puritan Massachusetts merely deported any Quaker who came, but next she lopped off an ear before sending him away. If he came again, he lost the other ear. Should he come still again, his tongue would be pierced with a red-hot iron. Finally, hanging was prescribed as the penalty for such an intruder.
Their creed forbidding them to fight with carnal weapons, the Quakers submitted without resistance to arrest, prison, exile, whipping, the loss of ears and even to hanging. They walked to the gallows on Boston Common so gladly as to cheat their persecutors of all satisfaction, going to death with unfaltering tread and shining countenance, "hand in hand, all three of them as to a wedding day, with great cheerfulness of heart."
Rev. Wilson, from the foot of the gallows, railed at them for still keeping their hats on. The "captain with his band of men . . . caused the drums to beat . . . that when they spake, the people might not hear them, who in great multitudes flocked about them."
The high priests of Massachusetts really were fearful of having the people hear the condemned. Nearly one hundred and fifty Quakers had been imprisoned, deported, whipped or maimed. Many person had begun to murmur with horror, and victims condemned to the gallows were conducted to the place of execution by a back way, lest they be rescued in a popular uprising.

After four Quakers, including Mary Dyer, had been hanged on Boston Common, a co-religionist in England got the ear of Charles II, and poured into it the tale of "a vein of innocent blood opened in his dominions." The good-natured King replied: "I will stop that vein." As no regular sailing was scheduled, the Quakers of London themselves chartered a swift ship and sped the royal command to Massachusetts.
'Twas a bitter pill for Governor John Endicott, who had glared at his councilors when they balked at another hanging, had pounded the table and roared at them: "I thank God I am not afraid to give judgment!" The pill was made more bitter for the Governor to swallow by coming to him from the hand of Samuel Shattuck. For Endicott had banished Shattuck. Now he saw the deported Quaker return as the King's messenger and stand over him in triumph, while the Governor read the message and struggled for the grace to say: "We will obey His Majesty's command."
Endicott seems to have dared at least one evasion of the royal order, which required accused Quakers to be sent to England for judgment. At any rate, three women, stripped to the waist and tied to the cart's tail, were lashed through eleven towns, leaving behind them in the deep snow a trail of blood.
But the frenzy had passed. Even before the King interfered, Massachusetts had flinched from carrying out the last death sentence in the teeth of the rising indignation of a large body of the people. The Quakers singing on the gallows had dealt the Puritan theocracy a staggering blow.

James Morgan, The Birth of the American People, 1930