Joseph Besse

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Joseph Besse (c. 1683—1757) was an English Quaker controversialist. He quantified the sufferings and persecution of the Quakers.


He was born about 1683, and was resident at Colchester, where he was a writing master. He married, 9 Oct. 1716, in that town Hannah Dehorne, who died at Chelmsford, and after her decease he removed to Ratcliff where he died 25 Nov. 1757, and was buried in the Friends' burial-ground. He had a son of the same name, who emigrated to Pennsylvania. Besse was a convert from the Anglican church, and refused a church living of 400 shillings a year.


He was a vigorous controversialist, and full details of his writings are given by Smith[citation needed]. Besides editing various works of William Sewel, Claridge, Henton Brown, Isaac Penington, and Bownas[citation needed], he wrote the following books and tracts:

  1. 'Carmen Spirituale . . . olim a Richardo Claridge Anglice compositum et editum et nunc Latine versum ab J. B.' London, 1728.
  2. 'A Cloud of Witnesses proving that the Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry hath misrepresented the Quakers' (signed J. B.), London, 1732.
  3. 'A Defence of Quakerism,' London, 1732.
  4. 'Abstract of the Sufferings of the People call'd Quakers,' London, vol. i. 1733, vols. ii. and iii. 1738 (not an abridgment of the 'Sufferings' mentioned later).
  5. 'The Protestant Flail' (an anonymous book on baptism), London, 1735.
  6. 'A Brief Account of many of the Prosecutions of the People call'd Quakers for Tithes, Church-rates, &c.' (anon.), London, 1736.
  7. 'A Collection of the Sufferings of the People called Quakers, for the Testimony of a Good Conscience, from 1650 to 1689,' London, 1753, 2 vols. folio. Among those mentioned is Barbara Blaugdone, as "a Woman of good Parts and Education."
  8. 'The Universality of the Love of God to Mankind,' London, 1755.
  9. 'Some Scriptural Observations on (1) the Spirituality of Gospel-worship ; (2) the Nature of true Christian Prayer ; (3) Our Saviour's Direction concerning Fasting,' London, 1756; and various pamphlets.

His most important work is the Sufferings of the Quakers, a laborious compilation of cases of persecution against Quakers. It is arranged as a list of British counties, followed by New England, Barbados, Nevis, Bermudas, Antigua, Maryland, Jamaica, Europe and Asia, Isle of Malta, Hungaria and Austria, Dantzig, Hamburg, Germany, Ireland and Scotland.

In 1746, he edited and published a work by Penington which he titled 'The Doctrine of the People called Quakers, in relation to bearing arms and fighting; extracted from the Works of a Learned and Approved Writer of that Persuasion'. This work defended Quaker beliefs on pacifism in reaction to the anonymous writing of Richard Finch.[1]


 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain"Besse, Joseph". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.

  1. ^ Brock, Peter (1972). A history of pacifism. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton U.P. p. 306. ISBN 9780691046082.