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WILLIAM EDMUNDSON was born at Little Musgrove in Westmoreland, in 1627. His father appears to have been a little farmer; he was apprenticed to a carpenter, but entered early into the Parliamentary army, and when that war was over went to Scotland in 1650 with Oliver Cromwell. He seems to have had strong religious impressions in his earliest youth, but his profession caused him to think less of them otherwise than occasionally. He first saw the Quakers at Chesterfield, and was struck with their manners and doctrines, in 1651; and in 1652 left the army, and married in Derbyshire. He was soon after invited by a brother, who was a soldier in Ireland, to settle there, and in 1653 having gone over to the North of England on his trading concerns, when George Fox and James Naylor were there, he heard the latter, and became a convert to their doctrines. He underwent considerable persecution after he had settled a meeting at Dublin, having been frequently imprisoned, particularly at Belturbet, Cavan, and Londonderry. He made three several voyages to America on religious affairs, and returned from thence in 1683. He took a great part in protecting his neighbours during the time James the Second was in Ireland, to whom he seems to have had frequent access, and had sagacity enough to see that it was the object of that monarch to conciliate the sectaries by promising them liberty of conscience. He even obtained permission for a company of the regular Irish army from the Duke of Tyrconnel, to protect his neighbourhood from the raparees or lawless banditti who robbed and maltreated the Protestants. But after the battle of the Boyne he and his neighbours were exposed to the insults of both the English and Irish armies, and the raparees seized him and his two sons, whom they threatened to shoot, and carried him and them almost naked as prisoners to Athlone ; where, however, the Irish commander took compassion on them, and suffered them to return to their homes. After the troubles had subsided, he continued an active and zealous preacher in the Society of Friends, undergoing persecutions, and encouraging their religious zeal by his patience and perseverance frequently travelling to the monthly and quarterly meetings in Dublin, and elsewhere in Ireland, until his death, which happened in 1712, aged 85. His knowledge of England, Scotland and Ireland, and his experience in public life, render his opinion of considerable value. He had been persecuted and oppressed for his religious opinions, and he knew, in the nervous language of the apologist of his sect,“ how hateful the oppressor is in the sight of God and man."
It is therefore with peculiar satisfaction that I annex the following paper, which was authenticated to me by Mr. J. M. Harvey, of Limerick, as a singular instance of good sense and good feeling, although quaintly expressed, and of which, if the recommendations had been earlier adopted, as, thank God, they are now in the fullest manner, the united kingdoms would have been spared 125 years of oppression, discontent, insurrection and bloodshed.
The account of his life is taken from his Journal, written by hiinself, 2d Edition, 1774.
“ A rumour being spread abroad of the passing of an Act in Parliament for the uniting of England and Scotland, which I suppose, in my siinple thoughts, would be great satisfaction, and cause of joy and rejoicing, to all wellminded people, who are of a general spirit and for the public good, that England, Scotland and Ireland were heartily and truly united upon a firm and good bottom, that it might stand through ages for ever; and as it looks to me, that all the people in the three nations, from the highest to the lowest, would reap the benefit of such a unity, so likewise for the promoting of such a good work every one in his station, according to his talent, ought to lend his mite for the gaining of it, agreeable to general satisfaction. And methinks, according to my weak apprehension, that it is according to justice and reason that the three nations should be settled in unity, being all under one king and government; for a house divided cannot stand : and according to my mean station, and small talent, I, as bound in duty as a loyal subject, shall here cast in my mite, and with submission shall give my opinion what might advance the settlement of this unity to the quieting, cooling, and easing the minds of dissatisfied persons in the three nations.
“ Ist-That an Act be passed, as firm as the decree of the Medes and Persians, that all the people in the three nations have free liberty, without disturbance or imposition relating to matters of religion.
“ 2nd—That the people in the three nations have free liberty, as one nation or corporation, to trade one with another, and abroad, wherever the trade of these northern islands is tolerated and uses to trade-that there may be no prohibition nor imposition upon one nation, or sort of people, more than another, all subjects to the Government of England.
“ 3rd–That no true subjects be prevented for his religion from serving the king and country, or from places of profit or trust, who are of capacity to serve in such ser. vices and offices, being orderly elected and approved of by the Government.
“ 4th-That all people in these three nations aforementioned, be obliged to contribute and pay all public charges and taxes required by the Government for the public ser. vice of the kingdom, according to justice and equity, and every man according to his rank and ability of substance.
“ 5th—That every society of people in the three nations be obliged, that if there be any injurious persons, as plotters, furtherers, abettors, or connivers of treason or treaonable actions, murder or murderers, robbers, thieves, heaters, or whoremongers, adulterers, fornicators, defrauders, cheats, drunkards, swearers or liars, or other wickedness, that is punishable by the good and wholesome laws made for the punishing of evil-doers ;—that the elders and people of every society, without delay, acquaint the inagistrates of any such person or persons, that he or they may be brought to justice according to merits and nature of his or their faults.
“Now, for reasons and proofs of this proposal, experience hath taught, and it is fresh in the memory of some yet living, that have been eye-witnesses, the exhibition and imposition about religion-properties and privileges both have been the cause and pretended ground of the breach of unity in these three nations that several times within the compass of eighty years, such fires hath been kindled and broke out into such flames that nothing would quench but the blood and lives one of another, and the rending and tearing one another in pieces, a large catalogue might be given of the woful particulars ; and the delays and suffering wickedness, to go without due pu- , nishment and justice in due time, provokes the Lord to
anger, and to suffer such breaches to come upon the nations as a scourge; and if the remedy, which hintingly is offered, were effectually put in practice, then I believe the benefit would turn to the public advantages of peace and prosperity, and would take away those old grounds of arguments that hath been used in fomenting heats and broils amongst people as fuel to that of a dissatisfied mind, the want of an equal privilege in religion, property, and privileges, and for every society to bring evil-doers to justice, such as frequents their religious meeting; they may easily do it, and be a terror to evil-doers, and a praise to them that do well, and no doubt but would bring blessing abundantly from heaven, and thus the three nations being held united, not only by the compulsion of penal laws, but in heart and affections under the dictates of a good conscience to the Government that God sets over us, and likewise towards all mnen; then the three nations, as a little empire, would be in unity and concord—their example would go forth to the nations and kingdoms, and their example would be as a light that shines, and as a lamp that burns.
« WILLIAM EDMUNDSON."
Dated the 2nd of 12th month, 1704.
Printed by Richard Taylor, Red Lion Court, Fleet Street.