George Fox on Evil Communication

face of a prisoner

In the mid-seventeenth century, Christian dissenting preacher George Fox urged London inhabitants to be taciturn. The title of his epistle:

A CRY FOR REPENTANCE UNTO THE INHABITANTS OF LONDON, CHIEFLY, and unto all those whose Fruits do shame their Profession, that they may come to Yea and Nay, in all their Communications, and Dealings, that their Life may judge the World; for who are out of that, are in the Evil, and fall into Condemnation. Given forth for the Information of the Simple, that they may know the Way of Life, out of the evil communication which corrupts good manners.^

The last clause in Fox’s title paraphrases 1 Cor. 15:33 from the King James Bible. About a century later, Jonas Hanway made that evil-communication phrase central to advocating suppressing prisoners’ communication.

George Fox founded the Religious Society of Friends, commonly known as Quakers. William Penn, a Quaker, founded Pennsylvania. Quakers remained influential in Pennsylvanian humanitarian and reform movements at the time of the establishment of penitentiaries in Pennsylvania.

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