Quaking Dover – book review

Quaking Dover: How a Counterculture Took Root and Fluorished in Colonial New Hampshire, by Jnana Hodson.

The first thing I learned from this book was that New Hampshire has frontage on the Atlantic Ocean. I have often studied the neighbouring states in the road atlas. During the 20 years that we lived in Ontario and Quebec we visited Massachusetts twice and drove up and down the I-91 through Vermont several times. For more than 100 miles that highway runs alongside the Connecticut River which forms the border between Vermont and New Hampshire. And I never knew that the state touched the Atlantic. Now I do.

But that wasn’t the most important thing that I learned. The book purports to be merely a history of the Quakers at Dover, New Hampshire, but it is much more than that. It is a history of the beginning and spread of the Religious Society of Friends (aka Quakers) in the USA, the best exposition of their faith that I have read so far, a history of their persecution by the Puritans, and of the bloody conflicts between the Puritans and the native peoples.

My own roots go back to a family of English Puritans who settled at Sudbury, Massachusetts in 1638, so this wasn’t altogether new to me. I knew that the Thanksgiving meal at Plymouth that brought together Puritans and Indians and has become part of American mythology, was an anomaly in Puritan – Indian relations. I knew that the Puritans belief that they were God’s elect people permitted them to claim for themselves everything that had once belonged to the native peoples and to enforce that claim by force of arms. But I was not aware of the full extent of their arrogance and the bloodshed it led to.

I was aware that the Puritans did not tolerate anyone on their territory who expressed an interpretation of the Bible that ran counter to their own. I was aware that a couple of Quakers had been burned at the stake in Massachusetts. But I was not aware of the full extent of the brutality of their persecution of the Quakers.

Most of all, I had not previously been exposed to the reality of the Quaker’s faith, revealed in their own words. Jnana Hodson, himself a Quaker, has done extensive research in old records and journals and includes extensive quotations that bring the faith to life. Including their peaceful acceptance of persecution, their prudent approach to courtship and marriage and their belief in the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart.

I bought Quaking Dover as a Kobo e-book. It is also available in Kindle and print formats. You can read Jnana Hodson’s blog at http://jnanahodson.net.

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