Friday, April 17, 2015

Our Quaker Roots #4: LYDIA WRIGHT ON TRIAL

8GGM Lydia Wright Horner (1655-1713) Quaker daughter of 1635 immigrant, Peter Wright (known as founder of Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York) and wife of Quaker Isaac Horner (who emigrated from Yorkshire, England around 1677)
1661 Petition
"Some Considerations presented unto the King of England, & C. being Partly an Answer unto a petition and Addresse of the Gen. Court of Boston in New-England, Presented unto the King (As Is Said) Feb. Last, the 11th Day." [Edward Burrough, 1661]

Following the 1661 publication and delivery of this document to England's King Charles II detailing the religious intolerance and persecution of Quakers by Puritan law, England stopped Massachusetts courts from executing any more Quakers for professing their faith.  It did not, however, prevent Massachusetts from continuing to deal out harsh punishments instead.  The execution of Mary Dyer that year particularly sparked a passionate response from many Quakers -especially women.  Three of these women were sisters, Mary, Hannah, and my 8th great grandmother, Lydia Wright, daughters of 1635 English immigrants Peter and Alice Wright of Oyster Bay, Long Island.  
On Sunday, July 8, 1677 Lydia and other Friends silently accompanied Margaret Brewster into Boston's South Church during the service to protest current laws that punished Quakers for not conforming to Puritan religious practices.  Margaret, it should be noted, was dramatically dressed in sackcloth that day as a barefoot penitent with her hair down around her shoulders, ashes upon her head, and her face blackened. Needless to say, her wordless visual testimony had its intentionally disruptive effect and, as a result, she and her entourage were immediately arrested and placed in prison where they remained until their hearing the following month.  Lydia was twenty two years old. Here is the transcript as shown in the records of the Boston Court, August 4, 1677.
Clerk. Call Lydia Wright of Long-Island.
L. Wright. Here.
Gov. Are you one of the Women that came in with this Woman into Mr. Thatcher's Meeting-house to disturb him at his Worship?
L. W. I was; but I disturbed none, for I came in peaceably, and spake not a Word to Man, Woman, or Child.
Gov. What came you for then?
L. W. Have you not made a Law that we should come to your Meeting? For we were peaceably met together at our own Meeting-house, and some of your Constables came in, and haled some of our Friends out, and said, This is not a Place for you to worship God in. Then we asked him, Where we should worship God? Then they said, We must come to your publick Worship. And upon the First-day [Sunday] following I had something upon my Heart to come to your publick Worship, when we came in peaceably, and spake not a Word, yet we were haled to Prison, and there have been kept near a Month.
S. Broadstreet. Did you come there to hear the Word?
L. W. If the Word of God was there, I was ready to hear it.
Gov. Did your Parents give Consent you should come thither?
L. W. Yes, my Mother did.
Gov. Shew it.
L. W. If you will stay till I can send Home, I will engage to get from under my Mother's Hand, that she gave her Consent.
Juggins, a Magistrate, said, You are led by the Spirit of the Devil, to ramble up and down the Country, like Whores and Rogues a Cater-wawling.
L. W. Such Words do not become those who call themselves Christians, for they that sit to judge for God in Matters of Conscience, ought to be sober and serious, for Sobriety becomes the People of God, for these are a weighty and ponderous People.
Gov. Did you own this Woman?
L. W. I own her, and have Unity with her, and I do believe so have all the faithful Servants of the Lord, for I know the Power and Presence of the Lord was with us.
Juggins. You are mistaken: You do not know the Power of God; you are led by the Spirit and Light within you, which is of the Devil: There is but one God, and you do not worship that God which we worship.
L. W. I believe thou speakest Truth, for if you worshipped that God which we worship, you would not persecute his People, for we worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the same God that Daniel worshipped.
So they cried, Take her away.
Following the hearings, the court clerk read the governor's sentence as required by the 1661 "more humane" law*:
~Margaret Brewster was to be tied to a cart's-tail at the South meeting-house, stripped to the waist and drawn through the town to receive twenty lashes across her bare body.
~Lydia and the two other women were to be tied to the cart, too. 
In the words of Joseph Besse, author of a 1753 book documenting the deplorable plight of 17th century Quakers:
"During the Examination of these Women, they appeared altogether unconcerned as to themselves, being fully resigned to whatsoever Sufferings might be their Portion; stedfastly maintaining their full Assurance of a divine Call to the Service they went upon, and a perfect Peace and Serenity of Mind in yielding Obedience thereunto:  In all which they seem to have really exercised the Faith and Patience of the Saints and People of God." (Joseph Besse, ``A Collection of the Sufferings of the People Called Quakers''; Vol. II (Chapter V: New England )
Note:  Lydia returned to Oyster Bay but was drawn to the colony of Barbados where Margaret Brewster lived.  She was granted a traveler's certificate by the Society of Friends Quarterly Meeting at Flushing, Long Island on 30th day of the 10th month [Dec.], 1682 that read:
...Friends at Barbadoes, Antigoe, Nevis, Jamaica ... where this may come greeting, whereas, the bearer hereof, our deare friend, Lydia Wright, hath ...time had drawings and moveings on her heart, and minde in ye love of God to visit the seed of God in those parts, and now finding freedom in his love, hath signified ye same unto consideration of this our men and women's Quarterly meeting, we, after a weighty consideration and examination of matters, in God's feare, for ye preservation and exaltation of God'struth, both in particular and in generall, we, with unanimous consent, did and doe aquiess with ye motion of her going to visit friends in your parts, as having good unity therein and therewith; moreover, yt she is one yt hath walked as becometh truth ever since her convincement, according to our knowledge ---- have not heard to ye contrary but has lived in unity with us, and we with her in ye truth. In which truth, that never changeth, we recommend this our deare friend and sister unto you, hoping and desiring your godly care over her, who are your brethren and sisters in ye same truth.
This lovingly written certificate was signed by over twenty members including her sisters Mary and Hannah, both of whom had also been imprisoned years earlier for witnessing their faith.  The meeting secretary's name headed the list:  Isaac Horner.  Lydia returned from Barbados to marry Isaac on 17th March, 1683/4.  Following the birth of their first child in 1685, Lydia and Isaac moved along with Mary and her husband to New Jersey, where the Horner family tree took root.  Sadly, Lydia's sister Hannah  drown on a missionary trip when a boat overturned on the western shore of Maryland.
*See Whittier's poem "The King's Missive"  in which the last Quaker condemned to death and twenty-seven other Quakers were released from prison:
 ..."So the door of the jail was open cast,
And, like Daniel, out of the lion's den
Tender youth and girlhood passed,
With age-bowed women and gray-locked men.
And the voice of one appointed to die
Was lifted in praise and thanks on high,
And the little maid from New Netherlands
Kissed, in her joy, the doomed man's hands."
 Both Mary and Hannah Wright of Long Island (in NY, then New Netherlands) were among the 27 Quakers released that day in 1661, with Hannah only fifteen or sixteen years old.  Since the poet was given facts from the case as background for writing this poem, it seems likely that the "little maid from New Netherlands" represented young Hannah, known as 'The Devotee'.

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