This paper is an examination of the role of members of the Society of Friends in the infamous Salem witch trials of 1692. The trials had their beginnings in 1691, the year that George Fox, founder of the Quaker movement, died. These two events suggest the worst and the best aspects of religious freedom in America. The trials show the dangers associated with unchecked, fanatical belief, while Fox's followers demonstrate the transcending power of humanism and universal tolerance. These two conflicting forces illustrate the very human need to find meaning and a sense of control in the face of fear, uncertainty, and mortality.
The religious order that grew to be known as Quakerism had its roots in the writings of an Englishman named George Fox. First published in 1647, Fox spoke of his sense of the "Christ within" every human being. He did not espouse a particular theology, although his roots were firmly in Protestant Christianity, but concentrated instead on the search for the "inner light" found within all living souls. His followers began to be called Children of Light and Friends of Truth. Eventually, those who embraced Fox's writings came to be known as the Society of Friends.
The society adheres to four basic testimonies: simplicity, equality, peace, and community. Friends believe that these qualities are essential to the individual's ability to perceive the inner light. Simplicity prevents worldly distractions from coming between the believer and his or her personal, inner connections with Christ. Equality argues that every human being has an equal capacity for inner light and self-realization. Peace is a necessary condition for recognizing personal power, and community suggests the obligations and interconnections among all human beings in the world.
Unlike some similar religious movements that argue for separation from a wicked world in order to achieve a greater closeness with God, Friends believe they h...