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Addressing the Needs of the Quakers

In: Historical Events

Submitted By phineasandferb28
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In 1661 Edward Burrough wrote a letter to King Charles II, “A Declaration of the Sad and Great Persecution and Martyrdom of the People of God, Called Quakers, in New England, for the Worshipping of God.” Burrough constantly ridicules the unfairness and unjustness of the Puritans- otherwise known as the “Petitioners”- and tries to convince King Charles II that the Quakers are of “innocent blood” (3). Burrough strategically insinuates that the Petitioners are bad and selfish by comparing both the Quakers’ ways of life with the Puritans’, by building the trust between Quakers and the king; in addition, by building the king’s ego, and by using visual details involving nature. With the overall argument that the Puritans are the wrong doers, Burrough automatically attaches the Quakers to a higher standard, and associates them with religion, trust, and justice, although both share the label of being colonial people.
Burrough starts by addressing the fact that Quakers have not done any transgression to deserve the punishments that the Puritans have bestowed upon them. When he states, “[I]t is hard to relate the Cruelties committed against these People, and acted upon them by these Petitioners,” Burrough confronts the corrupt abuse the Puritans are giving the Quakers, without fair reasoning but solely because of the “[d]ifference in Judgement and Practice concerning Spiritual things, and without any transgression of the Law of God, or their own Laws” (3). Strictly speaking, the simple reasoning behind the Puritans’ abuse is the variation between both groups’ ways of living and worshipping. While continually discussing the innocence of the Quakers, he also expresses his knowledge that the king will act accordingly to what Burrough is arguing, and his awareness of how the Puritans are the ones that are truly at fault. The cunning, yet, approval-gaining strategy he uses, makes the king want to engage in everything that Burrough argues because the compliments boost his ego. By adding small, yet significant, details such as capitalizing words that refer to the king and his title: “thy” and “king” throught the declaration. In between the acclamations of the king’s intelligence and authority, he also writes, “I have no desire of Revenge towards them but I leave vengeance to the Lord who will recompence in his season” (6-7), and Burrough says this to prove how commendable and admirable the Quakers are because even though the Puritans are so unjust to them, they still do not wish anything bad upon the malicious. This adds onto the reputation Burrough is trying to convey because it proves the Quakers to be acting as “the bigger person.” Meaning, they mean no harm directly to the Puritans, and they will let the Lord decide the Puritans’ fate, which is also an example of using rhetoric to convince the king that the Quakers have higher moral values, and that he should take into consideration what Burrough is arguing.
As Burrough writes, he constantly aims to gain the trust and improve the relationship between the Quakers and the King, while also diminishing the relationship between the Puritans and the King. Burrough attacks the Puritans’ loyalty to the King and reputation when he says, “[T]hey would have thee believe they are Innocent towards thee, and towards us” (4). In saying this, he is stating that this innocence is not genuine and Puritans are not as “pure” as they may portray themselves to be. Also, his intentions are to make the king, along with the Quakers, realize that he is being lied to and tricked by the Puritans into believing this false demeanor. The simple phrase, “[A]nd towards us,” may not seem like it has a substantial part in the letter; however, it completely builds on to the idea Burrough is establishing that the king and the Quakers are on the same team. Because he uses the word “us,” it allows the king to believe that he has followers or people on his side. This is shrewd of Burrough because by gaining the king’s alliance against he Puritans, the Quakers will undoubtedly have an advantage in getting justice. Burrough feels that because the Puritans are so violent and abusive, justice is what the Quakers deserve. This team-like relationship leaves the king and the Quakers with one objective, which is to beat and supersede those in opposition, the Puritans, together.
The natural imagery that Burrough uses is meant to strengthen his arguments with the element of being indispensable for the king, which essentially means that the king has no reason to not consider Burrough’s argument, respectfully. When he speaks upon the Puritans as prosecutors, he writes, “[I]t is evident, as the Sun at Noon-day, that they are our persecutors…and that also they are not unto thee as they hypocritically feign themselves” (4). While using natural imagery, Burrough is stating how obvious and clear it is that the Puritans are full of deceit and hypocrisy he brings up many different literal and figurative meanings. He also implies that the sun is a necessity to life, and at noon-day everyone can see it because it is so high and it brings light to the world. Therefore, Burrough is making it known, and bringing awareness to the king that it is a natural and obvious necessity to life that he recognizes the Puritans’ guilt. This also demonstrates how Burrough is saying that the Quakers are better because they are not the ones that are subject to guilt and transgression.
Burrough’s strategies of building the King’s ego play into the visual imagery when he discusses, “[I]t had been their duty to have gained them by Love, by Mercy, and by long suffering; these are the Weapons of the Spirit of God, which ought to be used towards them that are in Error” (9). This not only provokes the thought that the King is like God, which completely adds flattery; however, it also discretely binds with irony. Burrough constantly mentions towards the king that he is similar to God throughout the letter. Therefore, when he says this, he is hinting that in order for God to not use His weapons, the king must step in and set a punishment for the Puritans that are doing wrong. This gives the king a lot of authority and power because it is essentially putting him in charge of how God does or does not judge the Puritans, or those that are in error. Although weapons’ purpose is to hurt or attack the opposing group, God’s weapons are the exact opposite. Which means, because Burrough is saying that the King is like God, his weapons are the exact opposite as well. If those “weapons” were used towards them, Burrough argues, then the Puritans could be converted from the error of living unjustly and of their inhumane cruelties.
When he ends the letter with, “…having Power in Thy hands; they being but the Children of the Family, of which Thou art Chief Ruler,” he continues to compare the King to God, Himself, by saying King Charles II is the Father of their family- the Puritans being the children and the Quakers being the older siblings and having more authority. By calling him the Chief Ruler, this inevitably gives Charles power to discipline the Puritans because they have been out of order. As he uses a capital letter for the word, “Thy,” this proposes that the king is not just a regular human; but also a deity. This is significant because Burrough continues to heighten the ego of the king with the comparisons to God. The child-like behavior of the Puritans that Burrough suggests is a sign that they are immature and need to be controlled, or else the family will not be able to please God.
Edward Burrough constantly addresses the differences between the cruel Puritans and the innocent Quakers and in the process of stating this divide to King Charles II, he is proving the Quakers to be the better half. Although he mentions that they are all of one major family, or all Separatists from the Anglican Church, the Puritans are still the wrong doers and need discipline to be converted to a better life. The use of imagery, relationship building, and ego building are essential factors in the letter that imply the malicious ways of the Petitioners and God-like characteristics of King Charles II.…...

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