I. Origin and History.

George Fox (§ 1).

Rapid Growth (§ 2).

Friends in the American Colonies (§ 3). 

Persecution (§ 4).

Later Development (§ 5).

Differences. The Hicksite Separation (§ 6).

The Gurneyite and Wilburite Movements (§ 7).

Missionary Work (§ 8).


II. Doctrine and Practise.

Distinctive Creed (§ 1).

The Ministry (§ 2).

Worship (§ 3).


III. Educational Institutions.


IV. Organizations and Statistics.

The Society of Friends originated in England in the seventeenth century and spread thence to the English colonies. A few small congregations have existed at times in other countries (France, Germany, Norway, etc.), but practically the history of the Society is confined to England and America, The popular name "Quakers" is said to have been given by a local judge at Derby, Oct. 30, 1650 (cf. L. Muggleton, The Acts of the Witness of the Spirit, pp. 94-95, London, 1699; cf. DNB, xx. 119)


I. Origin and History:

1. George Fox. The rise of the Friends is one of the most noteworthy events in the religious history of England in the seventeenth century. In the midst of the efforts then made to rescue the Church from the corruptions which had grown up around it, there were men who felt that Luther and Cranmer had not gone far enough, and that there was still much sacerdotalism to be purged away, before the original simplicity of Christianity could be restored. Such men found a leader in George Fox (q.v.). He and his followers announced as their aim the revival of primitive Christianity; and this phrase remains as the best definition of their work. The privilege of direct access to God, without the intervention of human priest or rite, was revealed to Fox's soul. Having found one, "even Christ Jesus, who could speak to his condition," he longed to impart his discovery of the spirituality of true religion to others, and in 1647 began his labors in public ministry, going forth through England on foot, and at his own charges. His message appears to have been mainly to direct the people to the great Shepherd and Bishop of souls, who died for them, and had sent his spirit into their hearts, to instruct and guide them in the things pertaining to life and salvation. "I was sent," he says, "to turn people from darkness to the light, that they might receive Christ Jesus; for, to as many as should receive him in his light, I saw that he would give power to become the sons of God, which I had obtained by receiving Christ. I was to direct people to the Spirit that gave forth the Scriptures, by which they might be led into all truth, and so up to Christ and God, as those had been who gave them forth." To the illumination of the Holy Spirit in the heart he turned the attention of all, as that by which sin was made manifest and reproved, duty unfolded, and ability given to run with alacrity and joy in the way of God's commandments. He preached repentance toward God, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and showed that one became a true disciple not by a bare assent of the understanding to the truths contained in the Bible, nor by any outward rite, but by a real change of the heart and affections, through the power of the Holy Spirit. The inward light became not merely a mystical communion with God, but also a source of strength and guidance in the practical affairs of religion


2. Rapid Growth. The soil was ready for the seed, and the rapid spread of Fox's doctrines was surprising. All classes flocked to his preaching; and among his converts were persons of the best families in the kingdom, priests of the Established Church, and ministers of other societies, and many men of wealth and learning. For four years Fox was the only minister of the society; the second preacher was Elizabeth Hooton (d. 1672). In the fifth year there were twenty-five preachers; in the seventh, upward of sixty. Within eight years, ministers of Friends preached in various parts of Europe, in Asia, and In Africa, and heroically endured persecution in Rome, Malta, Austria, Hungary, and other places. Among the noteworthy preachers in the earlier years, Francis Howgill, John Audland, and Samuel Fisher had been clergymen; George Bishop, Richard Hubberthorn, and William Ames, officers in the army; Anthony Pearson and John Crook, justices of the peace. The courtly and cultured William Penn, and Robert Barclay (qq.v.), a member of a noble family in Scotland, a near relative of the Stuart kings, and a man of thorough classical and patristic scholarship, joined the society about twenty years after its formation. In 1680 the number of Friends in Great Britain was not less than 66,000.


3. Friends in the Colonies. America was first visited by Friends in 1656, when Mary Fisher and Anne Austin arrived in Boston from Barbados, to which island they had gone to preach the Gospel the preceding year. They were charged with holding "very dangerous, heretical, and blasphemous opinions," and were kept in close American confinement, at first on the vessel, and afterward in jail. Their books were burned by the common executioner, and even their persons were searched to discover signs of witchcraft. They were then sent back to Barbados. In 1660 this same Mary Fisher held an interview with Sultan Mahomet IV., at Adrianople, where he was then encamped with his army. Two days after the banishment of the first Friends from Boston, a vessel having on board eight other Friends arrived from London. They were at once imprisoned, and, eleven weeks afterward, were sent to England. But, nothing daunted, others of the same faith continued to arrive in New England, to suffer scourging, imprisonment, banishment, and four of their number (William Robinson and Marmaduke Stevenson in 1659, Mary Dyer in 1660, and William Leddra in 1661), death by the gallows. Monthly meetings had been established in New England before 1660, and in 1661 a yearly meeting in Rhode Island, which has been continued regularly to the present date. New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, and the Carolinas were visited very early; and, although there was much persecution, flourishing communities of Friends sprang up. George Fox himself made an extended journey in America in 1671-73. But the most important event in the early history of the society on this continent was the settlement of Pennsylvania by William Penn and a large number of his brethren in faith, beginning in 1682. In 1690 there were at least 10,000 Friends in the American Colonies, and in 1702, 20,000 in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. For an account of the schism in America, 1692 and later, see KEITH, GEORGE.


4. Persecution. While no Friends in England suffered immediate martyrdom, the sum of their persecution was very great. Between 1650 and 1689 14,000 of them were fined and imprisoned; and 369, including the majority of the first preachers, died in jail, "not to mention cruel mockings, buffetings, scourgings, and afflictions innumerable." Never were persecutions borne in a more heroic spirit of endurance, or in a more Christian spirit of forgiveness. Never, too, were the inalienable rights of conscience more bravely asserted, and the privileges of Englishmen more boldly claimed. "The trials of the Friends, and especially that of John Crook in 1662, and that of William Penn and William Mead in 1670, at the Old Bailey, will forever remain as noble monuments of their resistance to the arbitrary proceedings of the courts of judicature at that time, and the violent infringement of the privilege of jury." Soon after the Revolution of 1688, the persecution ceased on both sides of the Atlantic.


5. Later Development. When the martyr age had passed, the society became less aggressive, and made fewer converts to its views; but it devoted itself to the quiet practise of the Christian virtues, and to active philanthropy. An exaggerated asceticism in certain directions, and a rigid, though in some respects an admirable, discipline, visiting with excommunication even the offense of marrying a person not a member of the society, cooperated to keep it numerically small. In the recognition of the equal rights of women, in the abolition of slavery and the slave-trade, in the protection and instruction of the Indians and the weaker races of mankind, in the amelioration of penal laws and prison discipline, in the adoption of enlightened methods for the care and relief of the insane, in testimony against war, intemperance, oaths, corrupting books and amusements, extravagance, insincerity, and vain display, it has been in the forefront of Christian reformers; while it has maintained high standards of integrity and practical virtue, and in the everyday charities of life its bounty has been liberal.


6. Differences. The Hicksite Separation. The Society in early days was an association of sympathetic believers without any adopted written creed or list of members. In time birthright membership was introduced and this created a non-convinced element. About the middle of the eighteenth century such varied views and practises prevailed that on both sides of the ocean disciplinary regulations were adopted, and these in time came to be looked upon as an essential part of original Quakerism. Men of liberal views and varying habits were lost. This rigidity lasted well into the nineteenth century, but in 1827 came the great separation. The differences had been smoldering for years. The central figure was Elias Hicks (q.v.), an eloquent minister from Long Island. From him one body was called Hicksite while the other was known as Orthodox, though neither side formally adopted the title. The former contained many Unitarians, but their basis was the non-necessity of the beliefs commonly known as Orthodox. In many cases there was as extension of the belief of the early Friends as the guidance of the Holy Spirit, so as to repudiate the common Orthodox conceptions of the deity and atonement of Christ and the inspiration of Scriptures. The other body held to these, taught by their ancestors, but held to them with such disciplinary rigidity that sympathetic believers, who cared more for freedom of opinion than for any particular belief were driven into the opposite branch. The formal separation began in Philadelphia in 1827 and extended to the yearly meetings of New York, Baltimore, Ohio and Indiana. In the three eastern yearly meetings the Hicksites were a large majority. In London, Dublin, New England, and North Carolina, the whole meeting went with the Orthodox body, leaving them as a whole the strongest and best organized. Both bodies have lost numbers in the eastern United States since this date, though of late years the tide has probably turned. In England there was also a gradual loss till about 1870 when "adult school" work and missionary effort began to increase the zeal and spirit of the younger members. English Friends, with divergent doctrinal views, have been free from serious dissensions and are now an open-minded and progressive body.

7. The Gurneyite and Wilburite Movements. About 1840 there began a new tendency among Orthodox Friends--an Evangelical reaction from the Hicksite position. This was led by an English minister, Joseph John Gurney (q.v.), and hence is commonly known as a "Gurneyite" movement. The opposition from a stanch upholder of ancient ways was called "Wilburite" (see WILBUR, JOHN). The controversy so far as it was theological centered about such questions as the relative authority of the Spirit and the Scriptures, the historic and the living Christ, and their places in the plan of salvation. Small divisions resulted, the Wilburite bodies being generally few in number, though Philadelphia as a whole sympathized with them. In the West the Gurneyite movement swept on with a great revivalistic agitation on Methodist lines, bringing great numbers into membership, but for a time almost destroying the landmarks of Quakerism. This has since in turn produced its reaction and the original basis of friendly doctrine and practise has to some extent reasserted itself.


8. Missionary Work. Organized missionary work of Friends is of comparatively recent date, although in earlier time a number of itinerant ministers carried their messages to many parts of the world. About 1866 the Friends' Missionary Society in England established the work in India. The next year some work in Madagascar followed, and two years later stations were organized in Syria. In 1886 China was added to the list, and in 1896, Ceylon. The English Friends now maintain about 100 missionaries in the field in these stations, and very considerable success has attended the effort. American Friends have missions in Alaska, Mexico, Cuba, Jamaica, Japan, and East Africa, and are associated with English Friends in the missions in Syria and China. These have all been established since 1871, and are managed for the most part by the American Friends' Board of Foreign Missions, which sustains about ninety workers. The English Friends devote yearly about $150,000 to the work, and the American Friends something like one-half this amount. The tendency of the work of the missions has been largely educational as well as Evangelical, and no special attention has been given to adding members to the Society of Friends.


II. Doctrine and Practise:

1. Distinctive Creed. The creed of the Society of Friends, if it may be so called, has always been simple and Biblical. What is most distinctive of the Society is its belief in the immediate influence of the Holy Spirit, and its expectation of the guidance of the Spirit in worship and all religious acts. This might degenerate into pure mysticism, were it not corrected by the Society's recognition of the inspiration and authority of the Scriptures, by which they admit in the words of Barclay "as a positive certain maxim, that whatsoever any do, pretending to the Spirit, which is contrary to the Scriptures, should be accounted and reckoned a delusion of the Devil." Their belief in the spirituality of Christianity has led them, also, to the disuse of the outward rites of baptism and the Lord's Supper, while they fully believe in the necessity of spiritual baptism, and the privilege of spiritual communion with the Father and the Son, through the Holy Spirit. They do not find, in the texts ordinarily understood as establishing these rites, any indication of such intention, and regard the rites themselves as inconsistent with the whole spirit of Christianity, in which types have given place to the substance.


2. The Ministry. Their views in regard to the ministry are also characteristic. They believe that no one should preach the Word without a direct call from God, and that this call may come to male or female, old or young. No high human learning and no course of theological study are necessary qualifications for a minister, who may be as unlettered as were most of the apostles, if plenteously endued with heavenly grace. But Friends do not deny the self-evident proposition, that learning and intellectual ability conduce to the usefulness of a preacher of the Gospel, and that a church needs men possessing both, to assert and defend the truth. Any one who feels it laid upon him is allowed to speak in the meetings for worship, so long as he speaks things worthy of the occasion. If, after sufficient probation, he gives evidence of a divine call, he is formally acknowledged as a minister, and is allowed one of the seats at the head of the meeting. Besides ministers, the Society appoints elders, whose especial duty is to sympathize with and advise ministers, and watch that they be sound in the faith; and overseers, as in the primitive Church, who have a general care of the flock. In meetings for business, the society recognizes the presidency of the great head of the Church, and strives to do all in his fear, and with his guidance. Decisions are not made by votes and majorities, but are recorded by the clerk, in accordance with what appears to be "the weight" of either side; or, if there is not a general spirit of acquiescence, action is postponed.


3. Worship. Believing that every act of divine service should proceed from an immediate impression of duty, prompted by the Holy Spirit, many meetings of the Society for worship are held in silence, unless some one feels called upon to preach or teach, to offer prayer in behalf of the congregation, or to give praise to the Most High. But this silence is itself intended to be occupied with religious acts. Highest of these is the direct communion of the soul with its Maker and its Lord, in rapt devotion, in thanksgiving and prayer. But there are services, in these hours of silence, adapted to every degree of religious experience and every serious mood of mind. One of the most profitable of these is self-examination. As in the sight of the All-Seeing Eye, the humble worshiper recounts his thoughts and deeds, confesses his sins, supplicates for pardon for the past and strength for the future, and prays that he may be cleansed even from secret faults. Another exercise is religious meditation. At least, every attender can force himself to think on profitable themes by repeating to himself texts of Scripture, or the verses of some suggestive hymn. "Sometimes a light surprises" the humble worshiper; his thoughts are led on and upward by a higher Power; new meanings of texts flash upon his mind, a new illumination is given to the path of duty, and in answer to the prayer breathed forth by his inmost soul he feels conscious of a closer union with God, and strengthened for his future warfare with the world, the flesh, and the devil. And, if some brother or sister is led to offer vocal service, it often happens that the word of exhortation or reproof or comfort, or the earnest petition to the throne of grace, harmonizes with the private exercise of mind which the hearer has passed through, confirming his faith, and invigorating his resolution.


III. Educational Institutions: The educational institutions of higher grade among Friends of England are,--Dalton Hall, a hall of residence connected with the University of Manchester, which supplies living and instruction, but grants no degrees, and Woodbrooke Settlement, an institution near Birmingham, where courses of study are given to adults in sociology, Bible history and criticism, and religious movements. Of the secondary grade there are the following: Bootham and Mount Schools at York, one for boys and one for girls, which prepare for London matriculation examinations; Leighton Park School, near Reading, which prepares for the universities; Ackworth School, founded in 1779, of rather lower grade than the others; belonging to the same class, educationally considered, are Sidcot, Saffron-Walden, Ayton, Sibford, and one or two others. A very strong movement in England of a different character is the adult school system, originated and managed chiefly by Friends, which embraces Bible lessons, educational opportunities, and many beneficial agencies. There are (1906) about 82,000 scholars in these schools and the number is rapidly increasing. It is a movement of great moral and social significance.


In America the Orthodox bodies have Haverford and Bryn Mawr Colleges near Philadelphia, Guilford College in North Carolina, Wilmington College in Ohio, Earlham College in Indiana, Penn College in Iowa, Pacific College in Oregon, and Whittier College in California. New England, New York and Philadelphia yearly meetings also conduct boarding-schools and the latter a number of primary and secondary schools. The school founded by William Penn, the William Penn Charter School, is managed by a board of Philadelphia Friends. There are various Friends' academies in the West. Swarthmore College near Philadelphia is under the control of the Hicksite branch, which also has a number of flourishing schools in and around New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. While Friends in early days had an excellent system of schools, so that illiterate Quakers were unknown, the belief that education was not imperative for ministers led to a neglect of higher training; attempts to rectify this began to be made about 1850, and the colleges mentioned above have sprung up since this date.


IV. Organization and Statistics: The congregations are grouped together to constitute monthly, quarterly, and yearly meetings; the monthly meetings send representatives to the quarterly, and the quarterly to the yearly. The yearly meetings are separate in their jurisdiction, each one determining its own course of procedure. They are united with each other in epistolary correspondence, and the Orthodox meetings send representatives to the "Five Years' Meeting," the conclusions of which are simply advisory. The yearly meetings and all subordinate meetings have no presiding officer. There is a clerk appointed yearly whose duty it is to minute the conclusions of the meeting. If necessary he may exercise the office of moderator, but he is distinctly the servant and not the master of the meeting. Votes are not usually taken. After a full discussion the clerk writes his minute and reads it. If this is not satisfactory the meeting may direct a change. If there is division of sentiment, it is his duty to gather the "sense of the meeting," the weight of the speakers as well as their numbers counting in his final estimate. If there is strong opposition to a new proposition it is dropped. A simple majority would not introduce an innovation. In all meetings except the representative meetings, which are in reality executive bodies, every member of the Society of Friends is entitled to be present and to speak to business . The recent establishment of "The Five Years' Meeting," composed of delegates from each of the yearly meetings, bids fair to become a permanent national organization of great consequence. There are two yearly meetings of the Orthodox in Great Britain and fourteen in America; of the Hicksites, six in America. The total figures are as follows:



America (1904) 92,265

British Islands (1904) 21,890

[Orthodox Total:] 114,110


Hicksite--America (1900) 21,356

Wilburite--America (1890) 4,561

[Orthodox/Hicksite/Wilburite Total:] 140,072


Foreign Mission Fields 5,767


[Orthodox/Hicksite/Wilburite/Foreign Mission Fields Total:] 145,839