What do you think of when you read the words, 'religious radical'? A few images spring to my mind. A fiery preacher raining hell and damnation on his flock, pointing a finger at those who do not follow his theology, of which he is certain is the only way to salvation. Most religions have some variation of radicalism. I don't have to give you a list, you can create your own. One religious denomination which would not make my personal list would be the Quakers. I live in a town founded by Quakers. They seem to be very nice people, they are known for their peacefulness. A well known early Quaker, Margaret Fell, wrote to King Charles II:
"We are a people that follow after those things that make for peace, love, and unity; it is our desire that others' feet may walk in the same, and do deny and bear our testimony against all strife, and wars, and contentions that come from the lusts that war in the members, that war against the soul, which we wait for and watch for in all people, and love and desire the good of all."
"Whereas there is a cursed sect of heretics recently risen up in the world, which are commonly called Quakers, who take it upon them to be immediately sent from God, and infallibly assisted by the spirit to speak and write blasphemous opinions, despising government, and the order of God in church and Commonwealth, speaking evil of dignities, reproaching and reviling magistrates and ministers, seeking to turn people from their faith and gain proselytes to their pernicious ways..."
"...it is ordered that Captain Richard Walderne shall and hereby is empowered to act in the execution of the laws of this jurisdiction against all criminal offenders within the said town of Dover, as any one magistrate may do until this court should take further order."The further order decreed:
Constables, brothers John and Thomas Roberts, arrested the three women. They were brought to the meeting house on High Street on Dover Neck. Deputy Walderne had the women stripped to the waist, and according to Sewell's History of the Quakers, had the women 'cruelly whipped while the Priest stood and looked and laughed. They were then sent to Hampton, the next stage of their journey to Boston. Accompanying the women was Doctor Walter Barefoot, a resident of Dover Neck. Perhaps he went to attend to the women's medical needs. In Hampton the women received their lashing and were sent on their way.
In Salisbury, they encountered a merciful reception. Major Robert Pike and Dr. Walter Barefoot concocted a plan. A boat was hired that carried the women to the home of Major Nicholas Shapleigh who lived in Kittery, Maine, just across the river from Dover Neck. There they received treatment for their wounds and were treated with hospitality.
The women remained in the area but damped down the ardor of their preaching. In time, the persecution of Quakers ceased and approximately one-third of the population of Dover called themselves Friends. It would seem then, it was the Quakers, not the Puritans who fought for religious liberty, the freedom to worship as they saw fit. King Charles II gave the Quakers the right to worship as they saw fit.
Hatevil Nutter has borne the brunt of the blame for the whipping and persecution of these women in New Hampshire. I'm not sure he deserves our censure. Hatevil was a product of his time. A staunch believer who saw chaos and strife in those who chose to go their own way; individualism is a tenant of Quaker belief. He sought to maintain order and regiment in a world very different from ours. I doubt I'd like him or him me, but I cannot hold him to the standards of this day, even as I despise his actions and those of my ancestors who lived alongside him. I'm sure they were they standing at the meetinghouse gaping at the Quaker women as they were cruelly whipped. I can only hope they cringed at the scene before them and felt some measure of pity for those poor souls.
Be on the lookout for my next book: Pine Tree House, coming in 2020.