3 New World Encounters and the Racial Limits of Friendship in Early Quaker Life Writing

Meghan E. Hall

In May 1676, English Quakers Alice and Thomas Curwen boarded a shipping vessel bound for Barbados. The Curwens were itinerant missionaries: for two years, they had journeyed between New England and the mid-Atlantic colonies, evangelizing the Quaker faith and lending support to newly-formed Quaker communities. Alice had steered the couple’s travels thus far; by contrast, it was Thomas who proposed going to the Caribbean, insisting that God had called them to “travail,” or serve, there. And while the Caribbean Islands were a common stopover for Quaker missionaries on their way to or from England, Alice hesitated.[1] In the brief narrative Curwen wrote in 1679, A Relation of the Labour, Travail and Suffering of that Faithful Servant of the Lord Alice Curwen, she recalls feeling afraid: “A great Fear fell upon me, considering my own Weakness, and the Highness of all sorts of people there, and fearing lest they should even trample upon my little Testimony, and lest I should suffer Loss.”[2]

If we take her at her word, Curwen feared the anti-Quaker hostility she anticipated from the Anglican colonists of Barbados. And certainly, this hostility was very real. From the religion’s beginnings in 1650 to the end of the century, Quakers were welcomed in few places around the world, resented for their outspokenness against Anglican and Catholic clergies and feared by authorities for the religion’s popularity with England’s poor. In England and many of its colonies, Quakers were frequently jailed, beaten, publicly humiliated, stripped of their possessions, exiled, and in some cases, executed.[3] Some colonies even passed legislation banning Quakers completely. In Barbados, the small Quaker planter class was more or less tolerated by the Anglican authorities, but anti-Quaker prejudice had escalated in recent years. This was due in large part to fears that Quaker missionary activity would disrupt the slave economy on which Barbados was built. A fundamental tenet of the Quaker religion was the spiritual equality of all people, regardless of their ethnicity or prior religious affiliation. Though the Quakers did not generally advocate for emancipation — many of the Quaker planters enslaved people themselves — they did include enslaved Black and Indigenous people in their worship, which the Anglicans feared would empower the rapidly expanding slave class to rebel. After an uprising plot was discovered in 1674, the planters blamed the Quakers, and in 1675, they were legally banned from including enslaved people in their worship.[4]

It was true, then, that relative to previous years, the Quakers were facing intensified hostility in Barbados. Nonetheless, Curwen’s admission of fear in this passage contrasts with her self-presentation in earlier sections of the narrative. Up to this point, Curwen appears to have been fearless in the face of persecution, bolstered by her conviction that to suffer for the sake of her faith was an inevitable and righteous part of being a Quaker. In Boston, she had brazenly flouted local laws and had subjected herself to the rude hands of Puritan authorities in order to give her public testimony. In Flushing, she had delivered a sharp retort to a constable threatening to arrest her, and though she suffered violence and imprisonment in response, she returned to the same place to worship publicly again. She had been dragged, flogged, jailed, and driven into the wilderness. And, of course, Quakers had already been executed for trespassing on the Boston Colony — news of the Boston Martyrs is what spurred Curwen to travel in the first place — so she must have been aware that her missionary activity could get her killed.  If Curwen met all these previous threats with resolve, what was it about Barbados that elicited fear?

We could speculate about what changed Curwen’s state of mind. Perhaps it was her fatigue at this point in a four-year journey, or the fact that the Caribbean was Thomas’s idea. However, this essay is less interested in the root of Curwen’s personal feelings about Barbados and more interested in the function served by Curwen’s admission of fear towards it. By admitting fear of Barbados and “all sorts of people there,” Curwen transforms herself from the stoically suffering agent of God in the New World that we see in earlier parts of the narrative to a timid and unassuming believer whose “little testimony” can be threatened. The word “trample” contributes to this transformation by conjuring an image of chaotic and unruly crowds stepping on those unlucky enough to fall underfoot, an image that refers obliquely to how densely populated and diverse the island was. Barbados was at this time the largest producer of sugar in the region and a major hub for the transatlantic slave trade. Aside from Quakers, the island was made up of a wealthy Anglican planter class; indentured laborers from the vagrant populations of England and Ireland; Sephardic Jews who worked for the slave trade in the Dutch West Indies; and enslaved Black and Indigenous peoples. The island was far more heterogenous than anything Curwen had experienced in the New England colonies or even in London, and her phrase “all sorts of people” references the diversity of religions, cultures, and ethnicities present on the island. Additionally, the growing population of enslaved Black and Indigenous peoples may lie behind Curwen’s fear of diversity. By 1680, the enslaved population would outnumber the population of free white people two to one, a proportion that made Anglican planters and others nervous. Though Barbados was certainly governed by the English planters, the island appeared to be nearing a tipping point at which the enslaved population could take control of the island and its resources.

Curwen thus subtly marks out Barbados as fundamentally distinct from the other New World spaces she visited thus far. By expressing a vague fear of the place and its (all sorts) of people, she also constructs emotional distance between her expected readers — fellow Quakers — and the people of Barbados, foreclosing on some of the intimacy her readers might expect to feel with the people of the island, particularly with those who were enslaved. In doing so, she circumvents the problem that Barbados’ slave economy posed to her own convictions; namely, that the enslavement and cruel treatment of Black and Indigenous peoples conflicted with the fundamental Quaker belief in the spiritual equality of all mankind.

Although fear appears infrequently in Curwen’s narrative, it coincides almost exclusively with her encounters with non-Europeans: both the enslaved peoples in Barbados and the Indigenous tribes living around New England. This essay explores fear not only as an affect within a particular historical time and place, but also as a technology of race-making. By transforming herself into a fearful subject, Curwen directs her readers to feel a similar sense of fear toward the non-Europeans. At the same time, Curwen neglects to acknowledge or even raise the possibility of the Black and Indigenous peoples feeling fear themselves, even though they experienced far greater horrors than Curwen and were undoubtedly often afraid. Therefore, fear in Curwen’s narrative remains a particularly white, particularly Quaker trait, marking out which peoples have the full humanity to be included in the Quaker promise of salvation.

In admitting fear of Barbados, Curwen participates in what Sara Ahmed has theorized as an affective economy. For Ahmed, emotions do not originate, reside, and eventually extinguish with an individual (as we often assume), but rather “involve a process of movement or association, whereby feelings take us across different levels of signification, not all of which can be admitted in the present.”[5] Rippling out from the individual and acting upon others, affects move laterally, sticking to different “signs, figures, and objects,” evoking past associations and projecting future outcomes.[6] Fear, in particular, works to tether individuals together through their “past histories of association” by designating a fearsome object outside of the group.[7] Thus, Curwen uses fear as a technology of gathering whiteness together at moments when the presence of non-Europeans threatens to unsettle her convictions, despite being extremely critical of non-Quaker Europeans in other sections of the narrative.

Curwen “sticks” Barbados’s diversity and population density to her fear through subtle allusions and metaphor, evoking long-standing European views of the Caribbean Islands as a wild region where both English immigrants and others often lived in danger and quasi-lawlessness. In doing so, she gathers her Quaker readers together through their shared experiences of whiteness in a European society that viewed others as less-than-human, even as she claimed to view all of humanity as spiritually equal.

This could not have been a casual slip for Curwen. Like many poor women in this period who sought personal distinction through religious zeal, Curwen was devoted to expanding the Quaker religion and sustaining the bonds of Quaker Friendship. This Friendship was characterized by intense emotional connections and a (sometimes extreme) sense of intimacy between Quakers, who understood their love for each other and their love for God to be one and the same. As Rachel Warburton has shown, the correspondence between Quakers was filled with a spiritually erotic language of devotion that emphasized the physical proximity (though, importantly, not the sexual union) of the two parties.[8]

For example, in a letter addressed to the Curwens from Salem Quaker Mary Milles, Milles co-opts the opening lines of a wedding ceremony to address her fellow Quakers: “My dearly Beloved in the Lord, Read me here and feel me here, even in that which Tongue cannot express, nor Lips declare; for truly in [God’s love] are you dear and near unto me.”[9] Milles’s address reads like a love letter and, in many ways, it is: Invoking their shared relationship to God, her words aim to activate in the Curwens the same affection, intimacy, and obligation she feels toward them. The way her address blurs the lines between reading and touching, the letter and her body, collapses the space between herself and her addressees. The Curwens are meant to feel the presence of Milles’s body near them as they read. Though it is tempting to speculate that a deeper relationship — even just a close friendship, in the traditional sense — existed between Milles and the Curwens, there is no indication that they ever even met, as the Curwens did not visit Salem on their journey. Indeed, it was not uncommon for Quakers to write oaths of love to fellow believers they had never met.

The Curwens wrote similar letters to their fellow Quakers. Friendship sustained the Curwens on their travels, both in the literal sense of providing friendly persons to lend shelter, provision, and guidance along their way, and in the spiritual sense. In many cases, they were trusting strangers with their lives, yet they did not consider any Quaker to be a stranger. Community, in the Quaker religion, was forged and sustained through the mutual love and obligation offered between any who believed.

This is important because the gathering that Curwen’s fear accomplishes is not the gathering of Quaker Friendship, which did not, in theory, have a definite outgroup — according to Quaker doctrine, all people were born with saving light within themselves and could elect to join the religion. No one was higher than another in the eyes of God, and while the Quakers were critical of persons outside of the religion, they were always potential Quakers. Curwen was particularly committed to convincing new members. In his memorial testimony, Thomas Curwen recalls that his wife’s conversation “was as becometh the Gospel; for her Children and many more were Convinced by her Wise Walking before them.”[10] Curwen’s expression of fear, then, stands out as an anomaly in this commitment. As we will see, fear designates for Curwen’s reader who is excluded from the bonds of Quaker Friendship.

While in Barbados, Curwen wrote a now well-known letter to Martha Tavernor, a Quaker plantation owner who had barred those she enslaved from attending Quaker worship. In the letter, Curwen chastises Tavernor for believing herself higher than her Black “servants,” the term Quakers insisted on calling them:

I Cannot pass by, but in Love write to thee, for in Love we came to visit thee, and to invite thee and thy Family to the Meeting; but thou for thy part art like him that was invited to work in the Vineyard, and went not: And as for thy Servants, whom thou callst thy Slaves, I tell thee plainly, thou hast no right to reign over their Conscience in Matters of Worship of the Living God; for thou thy self confessedst, that they had Souls to save as well as we: Therefore, for time to come let them have Liberty, lest thou be called to give an Account to God for them, as well as for thy self: So in thy old Age chuse rather, as a good Man did, that both thou and thy whole Family may serve the Lord; for I am perswaded, that if they whom thou call’st thy Slaves, be Upright-hearted to God, the Lord God Almighty will set them Free in a way that thou knowest not; for there is none set Free but in Christ Jesus, for all other Freedom will prove but a Bondage.[11]

At first glance, Curwen’s letter appears to advocate for abolition, with its frequent references to liberty and her insistence that the enslaved “have souls to save as well as we.” Moira Ferguson has powerfully argued as much. In addition to reading Curwen’s call for freedom as a call for the emancipation from bondage, Ferguson interprets the word “servant” as a symbolic rejection of the legitimacy of slavery.[12] Brycchan Carey builds on Ferguson’s argument, adding that when Curwen invites Ferguson’s family, she includes the enslaved, insisting on their humanity in a place where they were commodified.[13]

But Curwen’s letter is not as straightforward as her biting tone makes it seem. Recent scholarship highlights the letter’s equivocations. Most notably, Hilary Hinds argues that for Curwen, “freedom” and “liberty” refer to a narrow definition of spiritual freedom through Christ.[14] Curwen’s call for Tavernor to “let them have liberty” refers not to their release from bondage, but rather their release from their ignorance of the Quaker religion. The letter’s final lines, in which she states quite plainly that real freedom is achieved through knowledge of Christ, reroute the language of freedom through the Quaker model of salvation. Curwen thus sidesteps the problem slavery poses to her beliefs: The enslaved “have souls to save as well as we,” yet are still subjected to inhumane treatment at the hands of English planters and Curwen’s fellow Quakers. The letter, therefore, obscures the material violence suffered by the enslaved in the temporal world by reframing the issue as a spiritual one.

This letter exposes the limits of Curwen’s commitment to Quaker Friendship: Black and Indigenous peoples may certainly join in Quaker worship, but they will not be fully embraced by the community they worship alongside. At least two hypocritical sentiments underlie these limits. One is Curwen’s quiet acknowledgment that while slavery conflicted with fundamental Quaker beliefs, it was nonetheless a profitable institution through which her fellow Quakers in the Caribbean were gaining power and influence. Wealthier Quakers, like Tavernor, owned or invested in the sugar plantations that were bringing massive wealth to Barbados, while other Quakers worked within the slave trade itself as brokers. Particularly in the Caribbean, Quakers were at best complicit and at worst active participants in the continuation of the slave trade. In her letter, Curwen quietly acquiesces to this reality by not challenging the institution of enslavement fully.

Fear also underlies Curwen’s limits, signifying a hypocritical stance in Quaker encounters in the New World. If we return to the fear that traveling to Barbados prompted in Curwen and to her veiled references to the island’s diversity, we can surmise that Curwen may prefer English control of the island. If all Barbados plantation owners were to free the enslaved, the Black and Indigenous population would significantly outnumber their former enslavers, shifting control of the island from the enslavers to the formerly enslaved. Here, Curwen likely shares in the widespread Anglican anxiety percolating in Barbados that the enslaved would “rise and cut their master’s throats.”[15]

Even if Curwen did not anticipate violent retribution from freed Black and Indigenous peoples, she certainly favored the English — and preferably the Quakers — maintaining control of Barbados. From its beginnings, the Quaker religion sought global expansion. Founder George Fox was famously shown a vision of God’s people gathering across the world. Quaker writings from this period teem with images of “God’s Empire” sweeping across the seas and enveloping the earth.[16] Thus, the Quaker community’s discourses on freeing the enslaved were meant to construe such “redemption” as part of God’s plan of expansion. Many Quaker writings from this period frame enslavement as a means of recruiting more Quaker members. George Fox’s 1657 epistle, “To Friends Beyond the Sea, that Have Blacks and Indian Slaves,” urged white Quakers to see to it that “the gospel is preached to every creature under heaven, which is the power that giveth liberty and freedom.”[17] By redefining “liberty” and “freedom” for the enslaved as that which comes with salvation, Fox both sidesteps the question of freedom from actual bondage and implicitly promises a kind of spiritual freedom if the enslaved submit to a Quaker education. His 1679 epistle, “To Friends in America, Concerning Their Negroes and Indians,” exhorts white Quakers to “preach the gospel to [slaves], and other servants, if you be true Christians … Christ commands it to his disciples, ‘Go and teach all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.’”[18] The enslaved here are redefined as both a kind of servant and as the members of a foreign “nation,” a redefinition that obfuscates the structures of violence that not only forced enslaved Africans into labor, but also subjected them to the Quaker religion.

Fox goes on in this epistle to frame the education of the enslaved as an “open[ing of] the Promises of God to the ignorant,” implicitly redeeming slavery as the vehicle for salvation for those who would otherwise remain unsaved.[19] While the inclusion of the enslaved in Quaker Meetings, and therefore the willingness to see them as Friends, would form the foundation of later abolitionist movements, it also predicated Quaker critiques of slavery and its practices on a presumption that the enslaved would join their numbers. Though the enslaved were not expected to become itinerant preachers themselves, their convincement contributed to the Quakers’ numbers and influence in the Caribbean.

Curwen was also devoted to the Quakers’ expansion; it was one of the driving forces of her and her husband’s journey to the Americas. Thus, her fears of the English losing control of the island are related not solely to the possibility of violence, but also to the Quakers losing their foothold. Her investment in the spatial expansion of the Quakers in the Caribbean butts up against the egalitarian impetus of the Quaker worldview, leading Curwen to sidestep questions of the enslaved population’s freedom in order to maintain her already precarious position of power. Put another way, Curwen had a vision of a thriving Quaker community on Barbados. Granting the enslaved their freedom — and therefore power over themselves and the spaces they inhabited — threatened that vision.

Fear appears again in Curwen’s depictions of the Indigenous tribes of North America. Though she refers to them as Indians, she likely encountered the Sakonnet, Patuxet, Nemasket, Neponset, Wessagunset, Nonatum, and Penacook tribes in her travels between Rhode Island and present-day New Hampshire. The Indigenous populations of New England occupy a remarkably small portion of Curwen’s narrative. She mentions them only twice, in fact, and in both cases, the people themselves are conspicuously absent. Instead, Curwen reads landscapes they have allegedly destroyed as evidence of their violence. As the Curwens made their way from the Rhode Island port to Boston, they encountered “the Woods and Places where the devouring Indians had made great Desolation in many places.”[20] “Desolation” characterizes Indigenous lands and peoples in two conflicting ways. The term simultaneously refers to the devastation of a landscape — “laying waste to a land, destroying its crops and buildings” — and — derived from the French desolé, “to be left alone” — to the depopulation of an area.[21] Thus, Curwen’s use of “desolation” concurrently conjures the land’s violent and wasteful inhabitants and emphasizes a lack of inhabitants. This echoes a familiar script of early colonialism, one that framed the American landscape as “open” and available for settlement by the English.

With the term “devour,” Curwen rhetorically divests the Indigenous populations of their humanity, imposing animalistic qualities on them: literally meaning “to swallow up,” the term connotes the indiscriminate consumption of an animal predator and echoes popular representations of American Indigenous peoples as animalistic and cannibalistic.[22] By reducing them to the status of animals, she marks them as beyond the pale of her community, beyond the pale of the possibility of community. Unlike her disparaging portrayals of New England Anglicans, whom she also considers violent but whom she maintains are capable of being saved, the Indigenous peoples here have no human presence, no apparent soul, and therefore, no potential for salvation. She wields her own fear to foreclose on the possibility of her readers empathizing with the Indigenous populations.

Curwen mentions the Indigenous populations once more. She recalls that as they traveled to Dover, “We came to a Friend’s house beyond the River, where there were about two hundred people, some Friends, some others, who were come thither for Safety, and had fortified the House very strongly for fear of these Bloody Indians, which had killed two of our Friends within three miles of that place.”[23] It is difficult to know precisely what Curwen means by “fortification.” The term can simply mean “to strengthen,” and may refer to the settlement steeling themselves against expected attacks. The term also refers to bearing arms.[24] In a related sense, fortification was an architectural term in colonial New England, referring to a style of house designed after English forts of the period. The “Fortified House” was built of thick, rough-cut timber, and featured “embrasures,” small, angled holes from which to shoot firearms. Fortified Houses were becoming the preferred architectural style in Dover, New Hampshire, around the time of King Philip’s War (1675–1678), as raids by the Abenaki and Narragansett tribes on the colonial settlement increased dramatically in response to English aggression.[25] Therefore, it is not much of a stretch to assume that the settlers’ “fortification” of the house involved preparing the structure for battle. Curwen’s antipathy toward the “Indians” comes into sharper focus here. In this case, the attacks have led the Quakers to consider defending themselves, potentially with violence. Despite enduring anti-Quaker hostility in the colonies, this is the first instance of Curwen witnessing Quakers returning the hostility. This sits at odds with their willingness to embrace suffering as martyrs. As I have discussed, the calm submission to violence perpetrated against them, including execution in some cases, was a hallmark of early Quaker life. To bear arms, even in self-defense, would sit uncomfortably with a devout Quaker. And while Curwen herself is not necessarily participating in the fortification, her silence makes her complicit.

Additionally, we can read the act of building structures as a kind of violence, one committed by building houses meant to exclude the land’s original inhabitants. Because the Quakers were often banished from English settlements, their own building took place on the outskirts. Although this heightened their precarity — unable to rely on the defenses of Anglican settlers, the Quakers had to decide whether or not to defend themselves — it also expanded the English presence in the New World by colonizing wilderness they considered to be open.

As in Barbados, Curwen shared in a Quaker vision for the space of the New England wilderness, an admittedly peaceful vision. But what this vision fails to account for is the fact that taking up space is itself an act of violence and violation. At best, the Quakers were encroaching on the living space of the Indigenous populations abroad, and at worst, they were participating in the violently expansionist program of the budding English Empire. While one might argue that Curwen simply does not recognize her occupation of space as a form of violence against Indigenous populations, the rhetorical strategies that she uses to disavow their humanity suggest otherwise. Curwen quietly sides with England’s colonial project by reversing the directionality of the violence. By rhetorically divesting them of humanity and the potential for salvation in her narrative, it is the Indians who are encroaching on Christian territories. Turning away from the universalist vision of a world united by Friendship, Curwen implicitly insists on the innate difference of the Indigenous people.

Curwen’s writing on the New World is particularly valuable to contemporary scholars of early modern race because it exposes how alternative communities — in this case, a persecuted religious minority — came to define themselves against racial others, even when doing so conflicted with their own values. It also exposes the role affect plays in foreclosing on the intimacy Curwen’s Quaker readers might expect to feel with Black and Indigenous peoples in the Americas. In Curwen’s scant admissions of fear, we see an intentional gathering of people through their shared experience of whiteness at moments when her usual inclusivity fails to serve her visions of Quaker expansion. Here, the limits of Quaker Friendship lie along the axes of territorial power and race.

  1. For the most part, Quakers relied on commercial shipping vessels for traveling. English vessels regularly traced a triangular route between London, the New England Colonies, and the Caribbean Islands, so missionaries commonly traveled by way of the Islands when making journeys to and from New England. Beginning in the 1650s, a small Quaker planter class had begun to form on islands such as Barbados, Antigua, Jamaica, and Bermuda, and Nevis. For discussions of Caribbean Quaker communities, see Larry Dale Gragg, The Quaker Community on Barbados: Challenging the Culture of the Planter Class (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2009), 22–57; Jordan Landes, London Quakers in the Trans-Atlantic World: The Creation of an Early Modern Community (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), 147–65; Hilary Hinds, George Fox and Early Quaker Culture (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2013), 121–45; Kristen Block, “Cultivating Inner and Outer Plantations: Property, Industry, and Slavery in Early Quaker Migration to the New World,” Early American Studies 8, no. 3 (2010): 515–48.
  2. Anne Martindell, A Relation of the Labour, Travail and Suffering of that Faithful Servant of the Lord Alice Curwen (n.p.: London, 1680; Early English Books Online, accessed 10 May 2019), 6. Upon her death in 1679, Curwen entrusted the care of her narrative to Anne Martindell, a close friend who was present at her deathbed. In 1680, Martindell appended a collection of letters and memorial testimonies from Curwen’s family and arranged the narrative’s publication.
  3. There is a sizeable body of Quaker literature from this period that documents the persecution suffered by the religion’s followers. For contemporary historical overviews, see Craig W. Horle, The Quakers and the English Legal System, 1660–1688 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1988), 101–50; Amanda Herbert, “Companions in Preaching and Suffering: Itinerant Female Quakers in the Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century British American World,” Early American Studies 9, no. 1 (2011): 73–113; Adrian Davies, The Quakers in English Society, 1655–1725 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 161–90.
  4. For a discussion of the uprising and anti-Quaker legislation in Barbados, see Hilary Hinds, “An Absent Presence: Quaker Narratives of Journeys to America and Barbados, 1671–81,” Quaker Studies 10, no. 1 (2006): 18–26.
  5. Sara Ahmed, The Cultural Politics of Emotion (London: Routledge, 2004), 44, original emphasis.
  6. Ahmed, The Cultural Politics of Emotion, 45.
  7. Ahmed, The Cultural Politics of Emotion, 63; 66.
  8. Rachel Warburton, “‘The Lord Hath Joined Us Together, and Wo Be to Them That Should Part Us’: Katharine Evans and Sarah Cheevers as Traveling Friends,” Texas Studies in Literature and Language 47, no. 4 (2005): 402-424.
  9. Martindell, A Relation of the Labour, Travail and Suffering of that Faithful Servant of the Lord Alice Curwen, 41.
  10. Martindell, A Relation of the Labour, Travail and Suffering of that Faithful Servant of the Lord Alice Curwen, 9 emphasis added.
  11. Martindell, A Relation of the Labour, Travail and Suffering of that Faithful Servant of the Lord Alice Curwen, 18 original emphasis.
  12. Moira Ferguson, Subject to Others: British Women Writers and Colonial Slavery, 1670–1834 (London: Routledge, 2014), 60.
  13. Brycchan Carey, From Peace to Freedom: Quaker Rhetoric and the Birth of American Anti-Slavery, 1658-1761 (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2012), 66–69.
  14. Hilary Hinds, “An Absent Presence: Quaker Narratives of Journeys to America and Barbados, 1671–81.” Quaker Studies 10, no. 1 (2006): 19–23.
  15. William Edmundson, A Journal of the Life, Travels, Sufferings, and Labour of Love in the Work of the Ministry, of … William Edmundson, Who Departed This Life, the Thirty First of the Sixth Month, 1712 (London: 1712; Early English Books Online, accessed 12 June 2019), 66.
  16. The fact that the movement was invested in the global dominance of their religion is easily overlooked due to the Quakers’ pacifism and refusal to employ violent or overtly coercive means of “convincing” members. The word “convince” approximates the term “convert,” with an important distinction. The Quakers believed that all people held a divine light within them, though not all were ready to recognize it. To be “convinced” was not to be persuaded toward Quakerism, but rather for the inner light to be activated by hearing the words of a current Quaker. Though their refusal to force or coerce people into the fold meant that their vision of religious expansion was far less violent than that of other English colonists (who also conquered in the name of Christianity), the nature of convincement informed a more insidious sense in the Quakers’ right to occupy foreign spaces, as other populations were understood as future Quakers who were simply awaiting their arrival.
  17. George Fox, “An Exhortation to Friends Beyond the Sea (1666),” in A Collection of Many Select and Christian Epistles, Letters and Testimonies Written on Sundry Occasions, by that Ancient, Eminent, Faithful Friend and Minister of Christ Jesus, vol. 2 (London: 1698; Early English Books Online, accessed 10 May 2019), 17.
  18. George Fox, “To Friends in America, Concerning Their Negroes and Indians,” in A Collection of Many Select and Christian Epistles, Letters and Testimonies Written on Sundry Occasions, by that Ancient, Eminent, Faithful Friend and Minister of Christ Jesus, vol. 2 (London: 1698; Early English Books Online, accessed 10 May 2019), 426.
  19. Fox, “To Friends in America, Concerning Their Negroes and Indians,” 427.
  20. Martindell, A Relation of the Labour, Travail and Suffering of that Faithful Servant of the Lord Alice Curwen, 6, original emphasis.
  21. OED Online, s.v., “desolation,” n. 1, accessed 3 June 2019, www.oed.com/view/Entry/50924. It is worth noting that while we cannot know for sure what Curwen is describing when she uses the term “desolation” (as in, what she is seeing), the images of barren wastelands that the term conjures may in fact refer to burned land. It was common in Indigenous agricultural communities of the Northeast to practice a form of semi-nomadic crop rotation. Communities would build living and working structures around the planting of their crops and, after a few years, would move on to nearby lands to allow the soil to replenish its nutrients. In some practices, the crop residues might be set on fire in a controlled burn to quicken the decomposition process, leaving a literal scorched earth. This is not to say that Curwen was simply misreading the landscape, if it was in fact what she saw, but that her investment in the lands of the New World — as a place for her and other Quakers to occupy and move through — was threatened by a competing, and much older, use of the land. See William E. Doolittle. “Permanent vs. Shifting Cultivation in the Eastern Woodlands of North American Prior to European Contact.” Agriculture and Human Values 21, no. 2 (2004): 181–189.  
  22. OED Online, s.v., “desolation,” n. 1.
  23. Martindell, A Relation of the Labour, Travail and Suffering of that Faithful Servant of the Lord Alice Curwen, 8, original emphasis.
  24. OED Online, s.v., “fortify,” v. 1 and 3.
  25. The popularity of fortified or “garrison” houses in the New Hampshire colonies in the second half of the seventeenth century is evidenced by their sheer numbers. For descriptions of surviving houses and their features, see The New Hampshire Society of The Colonial Dames of America, The Colonial Garrisons of New Hampshire (Exeter, N.H.: News-Letter Press, 1937).


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Race and Affect in Early Modern English Literature Copyright © 2022 by Meghan E. Hall is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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