What Is the History of the Quakers?


Quick Answer

The Quakers, formally the Society of Friends, began near the end of Europe's protestant reformation in the late 1600s. The reformers of the Protestant movement tried to eliminate intermediaries between God and men by rejecting sacraments and priestly offices, but the Quakers took it the furthest by also eliminating baptism, the Lord's supper and any paid clergy. They headed to North America to do missionary work and became active in Pennsylvanian politics.

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Full Answer

Quakers religious inclination lead them inward to search for the "Christ within," which they referred to as the Inner light. Worship included waiting in silence until the Inner Light-inspired members shared their concerns with their brethren. To many Protestants, this equated to religious anarchy, and the Quakers themselves had a hard time agreeing on such practices as Atonement and the significance of the Bible. The Quakers experienced persecution even after arriving in America, with four being executed in Massachusetts.

In the Quaker's eyes, men must help to ensure government remained divinely instituted. One famous Quaker to herald this task was William Penn. Pennsylvania was to be ruled by virtuous men, encouraging peace and religious freedom not just for the breadth of European settles, but also for Native Americans. In spite of some tumultuous politics, Pennsylvania was regarded as the "best poor man's country," and Quakers prospered.

In the 1750s, the Quakers felt they had lost their ways and tried to get back to their roots in pacifism. They asked that Quakers resign from offices. They became the first organization to ban slave holding and promote emancipation. Quakers continued their social efforts throughout the years and were a major supporter of the women's equality movement. Although they never took office in a major way after 1776, they remained adamant about being democracy's conscience.

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