Page images
PDF
EPUB

bid, “ give them the book, that they might swear they had tendered me the oath according to the indictment.” Some of the justices refused to be sworn; but the judge said, he would have it done, to take away all occasion of exception. When the jury were sworn, and the justices had sworn that “they had tendered me the oath according to the indictment,” the judge asked me, “whether I had not refused the oath at the last assizes ?” I said, “I never took an oath in my life, and Christ, the Saviour and Judge of the world, said, 'Swcar not at all.'” The judge seemed not to take notice of my answer, but asked me, “whether or not I had refused to take the oath at the last assizes ?” I said, “the words that I then spoke to them were, that if they could prove, either judge, justices, priest, or teacher, that after Christ and the apostle had forbidden swearing, they commanded that Christians should swear, I would swear.” The judge said he was not at that time to dispute, whether it was lawful to swear, but to inquire whether I had refused to take the oath or not. I told him, " those things mentioned in the oath, as plotting against the king, and owning the Pope's, or any other foreign power, I utterly deny.” “Well,” said he, "you say well in that, but did you deny to take the oath ? wliat say you?” “What wouldst thou have me to say ?” said I; “for I have told thee before what I did say." Then he asked me, “if I would have these men to swear, that I had taken the oath ?" I asked him, “if he would have those inen to swear, that I had refused the oath ?” at which the court burst out into laughter. I was grieved to see so much lightness in a court, where such solenn matters are handled, and thereupon asked them, “if this court was a play-house? where is gravity and sobriety,” said I, "for this behaviour doth not become you.” Then the clerk read the indictment, and I told the judge, “I had something to speak to it;" for I had informed myself of the errors that were in it. He told me, “le tvould hear afterwards any reasons that I could allege, why he should not give judgment.” Then I spoke to the jury, and told them, “that they could not bring me in guilty according to that indictment, for the indict. ment was wrong laid, and had many gross errors in it.” The judge said, “I must not speak to the jury, but he would speak to them," and he told ther, I had denied to take the oath at the last assizes; and, said he, “I can tender the oath to any man now, and premunire him for not taking it;" and he said, they must bring me in guilty, seeing I refused to take the oath. Then said I, “What do ye do with a form ? ye may throw away your form then.” And I told the jury, “it lay upon their consciences, as they would answer it to the Lord God before his judgment-seat." Then the judge spoke again to the jury, and I called to him to “do me justice.” The jury brought me in guilty. Whereupon I told them, that “both the justices and they had forsworn themselves, and therefore they had small cause to laugh, as they did a little before.” O! the envy, rage, and malice that appeared against me, and the lightness; but the Lord confounded them, and they were wonderfully stopped. So they set me aside, and called up Margaret Fell, who had much good service among them; and then the court broke up near the second hour.

In the afternoon we were brought again to have sentence passed upon 14. Margaret Fell desired, that sentence might be deferred till the next morning. I desired nothing but law and justice at his hands, for thieves had mercy; only I requested the judge to send some one to see my prison, which was so bad, they would put no creature they had in it; and I told him, that Colonel Kirby, who was then on the bench, said, “I should be locked up, and no flesh alive should come to me.” The judge shook his head, and said, “when the sentence was given, he would leave me to the favour of the jailer.” Most of the gentry of the country were gathered together, expecting to hear the sentence; and the noise among the people was, “that I should be transported.” But they were all crossed at that time; for the sentence being deferred till next morning, I was sent to prison again. Upon my complaining of the badness of my prison, some of the justices, with Colonel Kirby, went up to see it; but when they came, they durst hardly go in, the floor was so bad and dangerous, and the place so open to wind and rain. Some that came up said, “sure it was a jakes. house.” When Colonel Kirby saw it, and heard what others said of it, he excused the matter as well as he could, saying, “I should be removed ere long to some more convenient place."

Next day, towards eleven, we were called again to hear the sentence; and Margaret Fell being called first to the bar, had counsel to plead, who found many errors in her indictment; whereupon, after the judge had acknowledged them, she was set by. Then the judge asked, “what they could say to mine?” I was not willing to let any man plead for me, but to speak to it myself; and indeed, though Margaret had some that pleaded for her, yet she spoke as much herself as she would. But before I came to the bar, I was moved in my spirit to pray, that God would confound their wickedness and envy, set his truth over all, and exalt his Seed. The Lord heard and answered, and confounded them in their proceedings against me; and though they had most envy against me, yet the most gross errors were found in my indictment.

Now, I having put by others from pleading for me, the judge asked me, “what I had to say, why he should not pass sentence upon me?" I told him, “I was no lawyer, but I had much to say, if he would have patience to hear.” At that he laughed, and others laughed also, and said, “Come, what have you to say ? he can say nothing." “ Yes," said I, “I have much to say, have but the patience to hear me.” Then I asked him, so whether the oath was to be tendered to the king's subjects, or to the subjects of foreign princes?" He said, “ to the subjects of this realm.” " Then,” said I, “look at the indictment, and ye may see that ye have left out the word, subject; so not having named me in the indictment as a subject, ye cannot premunire me for not taking the oath.” Then they looked over the statute and the indictment, and saw that it was as I said; and the judge confessed it was an error. I told him, “I had something else to stop his judgment;" and I desired him to look what day the indictment said the oath was tendered to me at the sessions there. They looked, and said, “it was the eleventh day of January.” “What day of the week were the sessions held on ?” said I. “On a Tuesday," said they. “Then,” said I, "look at your almanacs, and see whether there were any sessions held at Lancaster on the eleventh day of January, so called ?” So they looked, and found that the eleventh day was the day called Monday, and that the sessions were on the day called Tuesday, which was the twelfth day of that month. “Look now," said I, " ye have indicted me for refusing the oath in the quarter sessions held at Lancaster on the eleventh day of January last, and the justices have sworn that they tendered me the oath in open sessions here that day, and the jury upon their oaths have found me guilty thereupon; and yet ye see there were no sessions held in Lancaster that day." Then the judge, to cover the matter, asked, “whether the sessions did not begin on the eleventh pop But some in the court answered, “no; the sessions held but one day, and that was the twelfth.” Then the judge said, “ this was a great mistake, and an error.” Some of the justices were in a great rage at this, and were ready to quit the bench; they stamped and said, “who hath done this ? somebody hath done it on purpose;" and a great heat was amongst them. “Then,” said I, “ are not the justices here, that have sworn to this indictment, forsworn men in the face of the country? But this is not all,” said I, “I have more yet to offer why sentence should not be given against me." Then I asked, “ in what year of the king the last assize here was holden, which was in the month called March last ?” The judge said, “it was in the sixteenth year of the king." “But,” said I, “ the indictment says it was in the fifteenth year.” They looked, and found it so. This also was acknowledged to be another error. Then they were all in a fret again, and could not tell what to say; for the judge had sworn the officers of the court, that the oath was tendered to me at the assize mentioned in the indictment. "Now,” said I, “is not the court here forsworn also, who have sworn that the oath was tendered to me at the assize holden here in the fifteenth year of the king, when it was in his sixteenth year, and so they have sworn a year false ?" The judge bid them look whether Margaret Fell's indictment was so or not. They looked, and found it was not so. I told the judge, “I had more yet to offer to stop sentence;” and asked him, “ whether all the oath ought to be put into the indictment or not?” “ Yes," said he," it ought to be all put in.” “Then,” said I, “compare the indictment with the oath, and there thou mayest see these words, viz. (or by any authority derived, or pretended to be derived from him, or his see] left out of the indictment, which is a principal part of the oath, and in another place the words [heirs and successors] are left out.” The judge acknowledged these also to be great errors. “But,” said I, “I have something further to allege.” “Nay,” said the judge, “I have enough, you need say no more." "If,” said I, “thou hast enough, I desire nothing but law and justice at thy hands, for I don't look for mercy.” “ You must have justice," said he," and you shall have law.” Then I asked, “ Am I at liberty and free from all that hath ever been done against me in this matter ?” “Yes,” said the judge, "you are free from all that hath been done against you. But then,” starting up in a rage, he said, “I can put the oath to any man here, and I will tender you the oath again.” I told him," he had examples enough yesterday of swearing and false-swearing, both in the justices and the jury; for I saw before mine eyes, that both justices and jury had forsworn themselves.” The judge asked me, “if I would take the oath ?” “I bid him do me justice for my false imprisonment all this while ; for what had I been imprisoned so long for? and I told him I ought to be set at liberty." “ You are at liberty," said he, “but I will put the oath to you again.” Then I turned me about and said, “ All people, take notice, this is a snare, for I ought to be set free from the jailer and from this court.” But the judge cried, "Give him the book ;” and the sheriff and the justices cried, “Give him the book.” Then the power of darkness rose up in them, like a mountain, and a clerk lifted up a book to me. I stood still and said, “ if it be a Bible, give it me into my hand.” “Yes, yes," said the judge and justices, “ give it him into his hand.” So I took it and looked into it, and said, “I see it is a Bible, I am glad of it.” Now he had caused the jury to be called, and they stood by; for after they had brought in their former verdict, he would not dismiss them, though they desired it; but told them, "he could not dismiss them yet, for he should have business for them, and therefore they must attend and be ready when they were called.” When he said so, I felt his intent, that if I was freed, he would come on again. So I looked him in the face, and the witness of God started up in him, and made him blush when he looked at me again, for he saw that I saw him. Nevertheless, hardening himself, he caused the oath to be read to me, the jury standing by; and when it was read, he asked me, “whether I would take the oath or not?” Then said I, “ye have given me a book here to kiss and to swear on, and this book which ye have given me to kiss, says, • Kiss the Son;' and the Son says in this book, 'Swear not at all;' and so says also the apostle James. Now, I say as the book says, and yet ye imprison me; how chance ye do not imprison the book for saying so ? How comes it that the book is at liberty amongst you, which bids me not swear, and yet ye imprison me for doing as the book bids me? Why don't ye imprison the book ?" As I was speaking this to them, and held up the Bible open in my hand, to show them the place in the book, where Christ forbids swearing, they plucked the book out of my hand again; and the judge said, “Nay, but we will imprison George Fox." Yet this got abroad over all the country as a by-word, " that they gave me a book to swear on, that commanded me ‘not to swear at all;' and that the Bible was at liberty, and I in prison for doing as the Bible said.” Now when the judge still urged me to swear, I told him, “I never took oath, covenant, or engagement in my lifc, but my yea or nay was more binding to me than an oath was to many others; for had they not had experience how little men regarded an oath; and how they had sworn one way and then another; and how the justices and court had forsworn themselves now ?” I told him, “I was a man of a tender conscience, and if they had any sense of a tender conscience, they would consider, that it was in obedience to Christ's command that I could not swear. But,” said I, “if any of you can convince me, that after Christ and the apostle had commanded not to swear, they altered that command and commanded Christians to swear; then ye shall see I will swear.” There being many priests by, I said, “ if ye cannot do it, let your priests stand up and do it.” But not one of the priests made any answer. “O,” said the judge, “all the world cannot convince you."

“No,” said I, “how is it like the world should couvince me; for the whole world lies in wickedness ;' but bring out your spiritual men, as ye call them, to convince me.” Then both the sheriff and the judge said, “the angel swore in the Revelations." I replied, “when God bringeth in his first-begotten Son into the world, he saith, 'Let all the angels of God worship Him ;' and He saith, 'swear not at all.?” “Nay," said the judge, “I will not dispute.” Then I spoke to the jury, telling them, “it was for Christ's sake that I could not swear, and therefore I warned them not to act contrary to that of God in their consciences, for before his judgmentscat they must all be brought." And I told them, “ that as for plots and persecution for religion and Popery, I do deny them in my heart; for I am a Christian, and shall show forth Christianity amongst you this day. It is for Christ's doctrine I stand.” More words I had both with the judge and jury before the jailer took me away.

In the afternoon I was brought up again, and put among the thieves some time, where I stood with my hat on till the jailer took it off. Then the jury having found this new indictment against me “for not taking the oath," I was called to the bar; and the judge asked me, “what I would say for myself :" I bid them read the indictment, for I would not answer to that which I did not hear. The clerk read it, and as he read the judge said, " take heed it be not false again;" but he read it in such a manner that I could hardly understand what he read. When he had done, the judge asked me, "what I said to the indictment ?” I told him, “at once hearing so large a writing read, and at such a distance that I could not distinctly hear all the parts of it, I could not well tell what to say to it; but if he would let me have a copy, and give me time to consider it, I would answer it.”. This put them to a little stand; but after a while the judge asked me “what time I would have ?" I said, “ till the next assize." “But,” said he, “what plea will you now make? are you guilty or not guilty ?” I said, “I am not guilty at all of denying swearing obstinately and wilfully; and as for those things mentioned in the oath, as jesuitical plots and foreign powers, I utterly deny them in my heart; and if I could take any oath, I should take that; but I never took any oath in my life.” The judge said, “I said well; but,” said he, “the king is sworn, the parliament is sworn, I am sworn, the justices are sworn, and the law is preserved by oaths.” I told him, “they had had sufficient experience of men's swearing, and he had seen how the justices and jury had sworn wrong the other day; and if he had read in the Book of Martyrs how many of the martyrs had refused to swear, both within the time of the ten persecutions and in Bishop Bonner's days, he might see, that to deny swearing in obedience to Christ's command was no new thing." He said, “he wished the laws were otherwise.” I said, “Our Yea is yea, and our Nay is nay; and if we transgress our yea and our nay, let us suffer as they do, or should do, that swear falsely." This, I told him, we had offered to the king; and the king said, “it was reasonable.”

After some further discourse, they committed me to prison again, there to lie till the next assize; and Colonel Kirby gave order to the jailer, " to keep me close, and suffer no flesh alive to come at me, for I was uot

VOL. II,

« PreviousContinue »