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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Persecution and the Presidency

The front page of the national print edition of the New York Times includes this line (a "refer" or "reefer" to a story on page A12): "For the first time, both presidential candidates come from outsider groups that were once persecuted." The president is an African American and Governor Romney is a Mormon, but 2012 is not the first election with two candidates from once-persecuted groups. The 1960 election pitted John F. Kennedy -- a Catholic -- against Richard M. Nixon -- a Quaker.  From The Global Nonviolent Action Database:
Beginning in 1656, members of the newly formed Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) started to arrive in the Massachusetts colony, on ships from England, where Quakerism had recently emerged. The Quakers who arrived in Boston's harbor demanded that they be allowed to live in Massachusetts and practice their own religion freely. They were greeted by intense hostility and were often forced to board the next ship out.
The first known Quakers to arrive in Boston and challenge Puritan religious domination were Mary Fisher and Ann Austin. These two women entered Boston's harbor on the Swallow, a ship from Barbados in July of 1656. The Puritans of Boston greeted Fisher and Austin as if they carried the plague and severely brutalized them. The two were strip searched, accused of witchcraft, jailed, deprived of food, and were forced to leave Boston on the Swallow when it next left Boston eight weeks later. Almost immediately after their arrival, Fisher and Austin's belongings were confiscated, and the Puritan executioner burned their trunk full of Quaker pamphlets and other writings. Shortly after they arrived in Boston, eight more Quakers arrived on a ship from England. This group of eight was imprisoned and beaten. While they were in prison, an edict was passed in Boston that any ship's captain who carried Quakers into Boston would be fined heavily. The Puritan establishment forced the captain, who had brought the group of eight Quakers to Boston, to take them back to England, under a bond of £500.