George Fox

Of all the Quakers who formed the Society of Friends in 1652, George Fox (1624 – 1691) is arguably the most influential.

Early Life

Fox was born in Fenny Drayton, in Leicestershire in July 1624. His father was a weaver and the family were comfortably off. George Fox trained as a shoemaker.

He came to believe that every person has an inner light to guide them. They did not need human teachers. Fox gradually formed a group known as the Friends of Truth.

In 1650, George Fox was arrested on a charge of blasphemy in the town of Derby. However Fox told the judge he should ‘tremble at the word of the Lord’. Afterwards Fox and his followers were contemptuously called Quakers. However the movement grew rapidly in the 1650s despite persecution.

George Fox was a pacifist. He also that people should not swear oaths, nor should they pay tithes (giving one tenth of their produce to the Church of England). His teachings made Fox and his followers deeply unpopular with the authorities and he was arrested and imprisoned several times. However Fox continued to travel around England preaching and the Quaker movement continued to grow.

The Quaker Movement Grows

The situation grew worse when King Charles II was restored to his throne in 1660. The new government was very suspicious of radical religious groups.

During the reign of Charles II (1660-1685) Quakers were frequently imprisoned. Nevertheless the Quaker movement grew rapidly in England in the late 17th century and it spread to other countries.

The first Quakers went to North America in 1656. In 1681 William Penn founded the Quaker colony of Pennsylvania. Meanwhile the Quaker movement spread to Ireland, Holland, Germany, Barbados and Jamaica.

George Fox himself traveled to Barbados in 1671. In 1672 he traveled to Jamaica then to mainland North America. In 1673 Fox returned to England where he was imprisoned for refusing to swear an oath of allegiance to the crown.

Meanwhile on 27th October 1669 George Fox married Margaret Fell. His wife, Margaret Fell (1614-1702) was a great Quaker preacher in her own right. In 1666 she had published a pamphlet called ‘Women’s Speaking Justified, Proved and Allowed of by the Scriptures’, which argued that there is no reason why women cannot be preachers.

Fox dies in London. “All is well; the Seed of God reigns over all, and over death itself.”

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