Quaker Studies

An Early Version of George Fox’s ‘Letter to the Governor of Barbados’

Quaker Studies (2015), 19, (2), 277–294.

Abstract

This essay explores the textual history and history of the ‘Letter to the Governor of Barbados’, referred to in its earliest published version (1672) as ‘For the Governour and his Council and Assembly’. Most publications of this letter are based on the version of this letter in Thomas Ellwood’s 1694 edition of Fox’s Journal. The fuller, more defiantly polemical, more strongly Quaker, and less ecumenical version reproduced below was the only text of this letter that was published in Fox’s lifetime. The external Christ in this 1672 letter differs from the internalized Christ featured in Fox’s other major Barbados publication, a sermon to fellow Quakers, as well as most of his other writings. It is argued here that Fox was the chief author of the letter, although others assisted him. The original form of the letter was strongly shaped by his conflicts with Anglican priests on Barbados, and Ellwood’s changes de-emphasized that aspect. The form of the letter most widely circulated among American Friends de-emphasizes Friends’ distinctives to an even greater extent than Fox himself did, dropping the latter’s contention that the Bible is ‘the words, not Word, of God’.

An Early Version of George Fox’s ‘Letter to the Governor of Barbados’

Abstract

This essay explores the textual history and history of the ‘Letter to the Governor of Barbados’, referred to in its earliest published version (1672) as ‘For the Governour and his Council and Assembly’. Most publications of this letter are based on the version of this letter in Thomas Ellwood’s 1694 edition of Fox’s Journal. The fuller, more defiantly polemical, more strongly Quaker, and less ecumenical version reproduced below was the only text of this letter that was published in Fox’s lifetime. The external Christ in this 1672 letter differs from the internalized Christ featured in Fox’s other major Barbados publication, a sermon to fellow Quakers, as well as most of his other writings. It is argued here that Fox was the chief author of the letter, although others assisted him. The original form of the letter was strongly shaped by his conflicts with Anglican priests on Barbados, and Ellwood’s changes de-emphasized that aspect. The form of the letter most widely circulated among American Friends de-emphasizes Friends’ distinctives to an even greater extent than Fox himself did, dropping the latter’s contention that the Bible is ‘the words, not Word, of God’.


Details

Author details

Angell, Stephen W.