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Shattered Expectations? George Fox, the Quakers, and the Restoration State, 1660-1685*


The prevailing view of Quakers in the Restoration era depicts them as a defeated movement no longer on the attack but henceforth under siege. They institutionalized, in the words of Richard Bauman, a strategy “of disengagement from the world's affairs” and embraced “a social policy founded on quietism.” Defeated politically, they were forced, according to this view, to relinquish their efforts to advance the cause of liberty “by militant, political means.” Thus the adoption of the peace principle as a hallmark of the Society of Friends emerged, according to Barry Reay, as a response to political defeat and as a stratagem for survival. This interpretation of Restoration Quakerism is similar in many respects to the stereotypical depiction of the Friends in terms of withdrawal and quiescence. I would like to suggest some modifications in this view by reexamining Quaker expectations at the Restoration, the Friends' involvement in political and legal matters, and the emergence and enforcement of the peace principle. The dominant characteristics of Restoration Quakerism are not withdrawal and quiescence but engagement and vigor.

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A slightly modified version of this paper was presented as a plenary address to the George Fox tercentenary conference at the University of Lancaster, April 1991. I am grateful to J. William Frost, Michael Mullett, Ted Underwood, and Robert Zaller for their suggestions.

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  • ISSN: 0095-1390
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