By Tim Lambert
His Early Life
George Fox was a founder of the Quakers. Fox was born in Fenny Drayton, in Leicestershire in July 1624. His father was a weaver and the family was comfortably off. George Fox trained as a shoemaker.
George Fox came to believe that every person has an inner light to guide them. They did not need human teachers. Fox gradually formed a group known as the Friends of Truth.
In 1650 George Fox was arrested on a charge of blasphemy in the town of Derby. However, Fox told the judge he should ‘tremble at the word of the Lord’. Afterward, Fox and his followers were contemptuously called Quakers. However, the movement grew rapidly in the 1650s despite persecution.
The Quaker Movement Grows
George Fox was a pacifist. He also that people should not swear oaths, nor should they pay tithes (giving one-tenth of their produce to the Church of England). His teachings made Fox and his followers deeply unpopular with the authorities and he was arrested and imprisoned several times. However, Fox continued to travel around England preaching and the Quaker movement continued to grow.
The situation grew worse when King Charles II was restored to his throne in 1660. The new government was very suspicious of radical religious groups. During the reign of Charles II (1660-1685) Quakers were frequently imprisoned. Nevertheless, the Quaker movement grew rapidly in England in the late 17th century and it spread to other countries.
The first Quakers went to North America in 1656. In 1681 William Penn founded the Quaker colony of Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, the Quaker movement spread to Ireland, Holland, Germany, Barbados, and Jamaica. George Fox himself traveled to Barbados in 1671. In 1672 he travelled to Jamaica then to mainland North America. In 1673 Fox returned to England where he was imprisoned for refusing to swear an oath of allegiance to the crown.
Meanwhile on 27 October 1669, George Fox married Margaret Fell. His wife, Margaret Fell (1614-1702) was a great Quaker preacher in her own right. In 1666 she had published a pamphlet called ‘Women’s Speaking Justified, Proved and Allowed of by the Scriptures’, which argued that there is no reason why women cannot be preachers.
George Fox was released in 1675 and in 1677 he travelled to Europe. He went to Europe again in 1684. Then in 1685 Charles II died and under the next king James II (1685-1688) the treatment of Quakers improved. Finally, in 1689, an Act of Toleration allowed Quakers to meet in England.
However, George Fox was now an old man. He died on 13 January 1691. He was 66. After his death, George Fox’s Journal was published in 1694.