Leddra, William (DNB00)

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LEDDRA, WILLIAM (d. 1661), quaker, was a Cornishman (Whiting) who early emigrated, or was probably transported on account of his religious professions, to Barbadoes. He was a clothier by trade (New Englands Persecutors Mauled, by Philalethes, i.e. Thomas Maule), and was a zealous minister among the quakers. In March 1658 he first landed in the English colony of Rhode Island. All the New England settlements were opposed to the admission of quakers. They were usually subjected to barbarous flogging with knotted and pitched cords on landing, and were promptly banished. When Leddra arrived the assembly had just passed a law imposing a fine of 100l. upon any person who should introduce one or the 'cursed sect' into the territory, with a further penalty of 5l. for every hour the outlaw was concealed. The quaker who remained was, on his first apprehension, to have one ear cut off; on the second the other ear; and on the third to have the tongue bored through. An order also was given empowering the treasurers of the counties to sell the quakers to any of the plantations (Neal, Hist. i. 304). Despite these regulations Leddra passed from Rhode Island to Connecticut, but there he was arrested and banished. A month later he proceeded northward to Massachusetts, and was welcomed by the few quakers in Salem. A meeting in the woods about five miles distant was broken up; Leddra was taken back to Salem, and thence to Boston, where he was imprisoned, kept without food, and for refusing to work was flogged. With an old man named William Brend and John Rous [q. v.] he was soon subjected to such indignities that the inhabitants of the town were moved to pay the prison fees and defray the cost of removing Leddra and his fellow-prisoners to Providence, on pain of death should they return.

Undaunted by the execution of Robinson, Stevenson, and Mary Dyer in 1659 and 1660, Leddra returned at once and openly to Boston to visit some of his co-religionists in prison. In April 1659 he was once more arrested and imprisoned, but was ultimately released. In October 1660 he went through the same experiences in Boston, and spent the winter chained to a log of wood in an open cell. On 9 Jan. 1661 he was brought before Governor Endicott, his secretary Rawson, and the court of assistants. He was told that he had incurred the penalty of death, and upon asking what evil he had done was informed that he had refused to put off his hat, and had said 'thee and thou.' 'Will you then.' he asked, 'hang me for speaking English, and for not putting off my clothes?' 'A man may speak treason in English,' was the answer. He was condemned, and was executed on Boston Common on 14 Jan. He was the last quaker executed in New England, and before the close of the year an order for the liberation of all in prison was obtained by Edward Burrough [q. v.] from Charles II.

During his imprisonment Leddra wrote an epistle to Friends in New England, and another dated the day before his death. These were immediately printed in London as 'An Appendix to New England Judged.' 1661; reprinted 1667, together with 'The Copy of a Letter from a Stranger to his Friend, touching the Death of W. Leddra,' dated Boston, 26 March 1661. In the following year these tracts were translated into Dutch, and printed in Amsterdam (Collectio, p. 242). They were reprinted London 1669 and 1770, also by Sewel and Besse. The first was reprinted in 'New England Judged.' ed. 1703.

[The tracts mentioned; Besse's Sufferings, ii. 213-19; Bishop's New England Judged, 1661; Robinson and Leddra, Epistles, 1669; Norton's New England's Ensign, 1659; Croese's Hist, of Quakers, 1696; Sewel's Hist, of the Rise, &c, ii. 472-7; Bowden's Hist. of Friends in America, vol. i. passim; Whiting's Cat. 1708; Neal's Hist. of New England, 1720, vol. i.]

C. F. S.