In 1661, more than five years before he allegedly told William Penn to “carry your sword as long as you can” and only nine years after his personal search had become a movement, Fox wrote an essay entitled, “The Line of Righteousness and Justice Stretched Forth Over All Merchants and Others.” The theme throughout, based on Jesus’ dicta, was to treat each person justly. In this essay Fox stated an oft echoed theme, “Do rightly, justly, truly, holily, equally, to all people in all things.” The first century of the Religious Society of Friends’ existence, in both England and the Americas, saw hundreds of early Quakers beaten, imprisoned and, in some cases executed for their beliefs. The long-standing commitment to social justice has not waned. The pursuit of social justice is a requirement in and out of season; during true peace or when violence is as far away as Afghanistan or as near as our next door neighbor’s bedroom.
Personal perspectives on justice have been known to change with one’s degree of comfort. In response to this phenomenon, the 18th century Quaker, John Woolman offered guidance when he said, “Oppression in the extreme appears terrible, but oppression in more refined appearances remains oppression, and where the smallest degree of it is cherished it grows stronger and more extensive.” Without social justice there is no peace.The Social Justice Testimony | Quaker Information Center