George Fox

George Fox

George Fox was born in Fenny Drayton, Leicestershire, in 1624. Apprenticed to a Nottingham shoemaker, Fox developed strong opinions about religion. Fox rebelled against the state control of the Church of England and in 1643 began toured the country giving sermons where he argued that consecrated buildings and ordained ministers were irrelevant to the individual seeking God. Three years later Fox had a divine revelation that inspired him to preach a gospel of brotherly love.

Fox formed a group called the Friends of Truth. Later they became known as the Society of Friends. Fox's central dogma was that of the inner light, communicated directly to the individual soul by Christ.

After 1656 followers of Fox refused to attend Anglican services or pay tithes. This resulted in Fox being arrested. According to Fox's journal, Justice Bennet of Derby "was the first that called us Quakers, because I bade them tremble at the word of the Lord". Eventually members of the Society of Friends became known as Quakers.

During the reign of Charles II, 13,562 were arrested and imprisoned in England and 198 were transported as slaves, and 338 died in prison or of wounds received in violent assaults on their meetings. The Society of Friends continued to grow and by 1660 Fox had made more than 20,000 converts and missionaries were at work in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the American colonies.

After considerable debate, the Quakers evolved a form of organization with regular monthly, quarterly, and annual meetings. They selected elders, to watch over the ministry, and overseers to make provision for the poor and secure the education of the children. They wore sober clothes and used the terms 'thee' and 'thou' to all as a sign of equality. The use of titles or honours and "doffing the hat" were to be avoided even in the presence of the royal family.

During his lifetime George Fox visited Barbados, Jamaica, America, Holland and Germany. Fox was accompanied on his travels by William Penn and in 1661 he founded the American Quaker Colony of Pennsylvania. Fox continued as a travelling preacher until his death in 1691.

Three years after death, a committee of leading Quakers under the leadership of William Penn, edited and published his journals. George Fox's Journal (1694) describes his visions, his teachings and his frequent imprisonments.