Persecution of Quakers by the Puritans

The Rev. John Norton was born at Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire, England, where he was ordained. He joined the Puritan movement, and sailed in 1634 to New England, arriving Plymouth. In 1638 at the age of 38, he was called to become the “teacher” for the congregation in recently-settled Ipswich.

In 1652 Norton left Ipswich and later succeeded John Cotton as minister of First Church in Boston. Cotton Mather wrote in his eulogy of the Rev. Rogers, “Here was a Renowned Church consisting mostly of such illuminated Christians, that their Pastors in the Exercise of their Ministry, might His Colleague here was the celebrious Norton, and glorious was the Church of Ipswich now, in two such extraordinary persons, with their different Gifts, but united Hearts, carrying on the Concerns of the Lord’s kingdom in it!”‘

For the Puritans, the “Lord’s Kingdom” did not include Quakers, and the Rev. Norton is known as the chief instigator of the persecution of Quakers in New England. He is quoted as saying, “I would carry fire in one hand and faggots in the other, to burn all the Quakers in the world.” The punishment for a Quaker to set foot in Massachusetts in 1660 was death by hanging.

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