Chalkley, Thomas (DNB00)


CHALKLEY, THOMAS (1675–1741), quaker, the son of George Chalkley, a quaker tradesman in Southwark, was sent to a day school when nine years old. Chalkley was fond of gambling till, when he was ten years old, he was convinced of its sinfulness, and burnt a pack of cards which he had saved money to buy. When about twenty he was pressed and carried on board a ship of war. On his saying that he would not fight, the captain ordered him to be put ashore. At this time he was apprenticed to his father. When he was out of his time he spent some months in visiting most of the quaker meetings in the south of England, and then worked as a journeyman with his father. In 1697 he paid a ministerial visit to Edinburgh, where he preached in the open air, as the Friends had been locked out of their meeting-house. The provost returned the keys on the ground that they would do less harm indoors than out. Chalkley sailed from Gravesend at the end of 1697, and landed at Virginia in January 1698. He seems to have visited nearly every place of any size in the puritan colonies, and on his return to England married Martha Betterton in 1699. He then returned to America, and in 1700 bought some land in Philadelphia. The following year he made a preaching excursion to Barbadoes. According to Allen (American Dict. of Biog.), in 1705 Chalkley attempted to convert an Indian tribe, but his diary gives no record of this. In 1707 he had a narrow escape of being shipwrecked on the coast of Ireland, and during this year and the next he visited Scotland and England, and afterwards Holland and Germany, not leaving for America till 1710, having attended upwards of a thousand meetings and travelled more than fourteen thousand miles. On his arrival in Philadelphia he was accused of having gained wealth by his preaching, whereas he affirms that he had had to borrow money to pay his passage home. Soon after his return his wife died, and in 1714 he married a widow named Martha Brown. He made various preaching expeditions between 1712 and 1718. In 1724 he was much reduced in circumstances by unexpected losses, and about the same time he had a dangerous illness, and afterwards had an accident which injured his eyesight. In 1725 he lost about 2,000l., but was not reduced to poverty. During the next two years he was chiefly engaged in business and in farming, but he found time for preaching excursions and for voyages to Barbadoes. He was shot at, in 1735, for advocating kindness to slaves in Barbadoes, but refused to prosecute his assailant. After this time he confined his exertions to North America and the West Indies, and chiefly resided at Frankfort, near Philadelphia. In the autumn of 1741 he went to Tortola, one of the Virgin Islands, where he was seized with fever and died after a few days' illness, only one of his twelve children, a girl, surviving him. Chalkley was probably the most influential quaker minister in America during the eighteenth century. His position seems to have been nearly analogous to that of a modern missionary bishop. The narrow escapes he had are very numerous, and in nearly every instance he insinuates that he was saved by a miracle. His 'Journal,' from its quaint simplicity, is still intensely interesting; its popularity among the Friends is shown by its having been reprinted at least a dozen times in England, the last being in 1842. His chief works were: 1. 'A Loving Invitation to Young and Old in Holland and elsewhere,' 1709. 2. 'Youth persuaded to Obedience, Gratitude, and Honour to God and their Parents,' 1730. 3. 'Free Thoughts communicated to Free Thinkers,' 1735. His works were published in 1749 under the title of 'A Collection of the Works of Thomas Chalkley,' and republished in 1751 and 1790.

[Allen's Dictionary of American Biography; Smith's Catalogue of Friends' Books; Chalkley's Journal, &c., 1766; Bowden's History of the Friends in America.]

A. C. B.