It has been attempted to excuse the atrocity of the
law, because the Quakers avowed principles that seemed subversive of social order.
Any government might, on the same grounds, find in its unreasonable fears an excuse for its cruelties.
The argument justifies the expulsion of the Moors from Spain
, of the Huguenots from France
; and it forms a complete apology for Laud
, who was honest in his bigotry, persecuting the Puritans with the same good faith with which he recorded his dreams.
The fears of one class of men are not the measure of the rights of another.
It is said, the Quakers themselves rushed on the sword, and so were suicides.
If it were so, the men who held the sword were accessories to the crime.
It is true that some of the Quakers were extravagant and foolish; they cried out from the windows at the magistrates and ministers that passed by, and mocked the civil and religious institutions of the country.
They riotously interrupted public worship; and women, forgetting the decorum of their sex, and claiming a divine origin for their absurd caprices, smeared their faces, and even went naked through the streets.
Indecency, however, is best punished by slight chastisements.
The house of Folly has perpetual succession; yet numerous as is the progeny, each individual of the family is very short-lived, and dies the sooner where its extravagance is excessive.
A fault against manners may not be punished by a crime against nature.
The act itself admits of no defence; the actors can plead no other justification than delusion.
Prohibiting the arrival of Quakers was not persecution; and banishment is a term hardly to be used of one who has