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American History


Religion in American History

The Quakers and Menonites


Quakers were severely persecuted in England for daring to deviate so far from orthodox Christianity.

By 1680, 10,000 Quakers had been imprisoned in England, and 243 had died of torture and mistreatment in the King's jails.

This reign of terror impelled Friends to seek refuge in New Jersey in the 1670s, where they soon became well entrenched.

In 1681, when Quaker leader William Penn (1644-1718) parlayed a debt owed by Charles II to his father into a charter for the province of Pennsylvania, many more Quakers were prepared to grasp the opportunity to live in a land where they might worship freely.

By 1685 as many as 8,000 Quakers had come to Pennsylvania.

Although the Quakers may have resembled the Puritans in some religious beliefs and practices, they differed with them over the necessity of compelling religious uniformity in society

The first group of Germans to settle in Pennsylvania arrived in Philadelphia in 1683 from Krefeld, Germany, and included Mennonites and possibly some Dutch Quakers.

During the early years of German emigration to Pennsylvania, most of the emigrants were members of small sects that shared Quaker principles-- Mennonites, Dunkers, Schwenkfelders, Moravians, and some German Baptist groups-- and were fleeing religious persecution.

Penn and his agents encouraged German and European emigration to Pennsylvania by circulating promotional literature touting the economic advantages of Pennsylvania as well as the religious liberty available there.

The appearance in Pennsylvania of so many different religious groups made the province resemble "an asylum for banished sects."

Beginning in the 1720s significantly larger numbers of German Lutherans and German Reformed arrived in Pennsylvania.