George Fox

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Fox, George,

1624–91, English religious leader, founder of the Society of FriendsFriends, Religious Society of,
religious body originating in England in the middle of the 17th cent. under George Fox. The members are commonly called Quakers, originally a term of derision.
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, b. Fenny Drayton in Leicestershire. As a boy he was apprenticed to a shoemaker and wool dealer. By nature serious and contemplative, Fox at the age of 19 entered upon a wandering quest for spiritual enlightenment. In 1646 he underwent a mystical experience that convinced him that Christianity was not an outward profession but an inner light by which Christ directly illumines the believing soul. Revelation was for Fox not confined to the Scriptures. In 1647 he began to preach. Although often the victim of mob brutality and eight times imprisoned between 1649 and 1675, Fox won many followers, especially among groups of separatistsseparatists,
in religion, those bodies of Christians who withdrew from the Church of England. They desired freedom from church and civil authority, control of each congregation by its membership, and changes in ritual. In the 16th cent.
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. In 1668 he prepared the first pattern of organization, which was for some years to serve as the discipline of the Society of Friends. The London Yearly Meeting was started in 1671. To confirm his followers in their beliefs and to spread the truths, Fox went in 1671 to the West Indies and to America, where he made arduous journeys to various colonies scattered between New England and North Carolina. Later he twice visited Holland. His sincerity, serenity, fearlessness, and powerful preaching are attested to by a number of his contemporaries. His journal (1694, with a preface by William Penn) has appeared in various editions.

Bibliography

See George Fox: An Autobiography (ed. by R. M. Jones, 2 vol., 1903–4); his narrative papers (ed. by H. J. Cadbury, 1972); biography by H. E. Wildes (1965); study J. H. Yolen (1972).