John Bellers (1654–1725): ‘A Veritable Phenomenon in the History of Political Economy’
What sort of a person would be an inspiration to Karl Marx and a champion of free trade, an advocate of gainful employment and hard work, a herald of providing education and medical care for the poor while also seeing their labor as the greatest resources of the rich, a prophetic voice seeking to curb the ills of heavy drinking and the developing of worthy living quarters for workers, a challenger of dishonesty in public service and in Parliament while also calling for a unified state of Europe and Christian unity, an exhorter of Friends to spiritual discipline, anger management, and prayer while also disparaging corporal punishment, needless imprisonment, and the death penalty? Such a person is John Bellers (1654–1725), and as Vail Palmer points out, only two leaders of Quakerism in the early years the movement are known beyond its religious appraisals: William Penn and John Bellers. Interestingly, however, the contribution of Bellers is better known among Marxist historians and socialism theorists than among students of Quakerism and religious history. While Bellers is covered in many textbooks on Marxism, his place in introductory Quaker texts is either absent or modest. Nonetheless, Bellers deserves a place as a leading representative of early Quakerism, whose contribution and work deserves a fresh consideration by historians of modernism and Quakerism, as well.