- Caroline L. Leachman
Camm, John (1605–1657), Quaker preacher, was born at Camsgill, near Kendal, Westmorland. His parentage and education were of 'honest' and 'good report' and 'as good as any of that degree in that part of the country' (Thomas Camm's Testimony). A soldier in the parliamentary army during the civil wars, Camm was a man of property, being a successful yeoman. He no doubt had good prospects, for his son Thomas described him as having 'great concerns and dealings' in 'worldly matters'. From early on, he had an interest in religious matters and associated with those 'that were the most strict and upright'. He left the national church and may have been a presbyterian in Kendal by 1646, and later perhaps a Grindletonian, before joining the large gathering of Westmorland Seekers.
By 1641 he had married Mabel (1605?–1692), later the wife of the Quaker Gervase Benson, and they had a number of children, two of whom are known, Thomas and Ruth. The latter, however, died before her second birthday in 1656.
Camm's son, Thomas Camm, described his father as a man 'of noble spirit, and exceeding grave in his carriage and deportment, profound in judgement, and of quick discerning' (Thomas Camm's Testimony). Charles Marshall, a contemporary, noted how Camm was 'full of zeal and fervency in the gospel'. However, Camm suffered from a weak constitution and consumption with the result that his son frequently had to assist him.
Camm was ‘convinced’ by George Fox during the latter's visit to Westmorland in 1652, when he spoke at a meeting of Seekers from Westmorland, Lancashire, and Yorkshire, and spent some time at Camm's home. Camm's ministry took him into the northern counties and the Scottish borders and then to London with his fellow Quaker Francis Howgill, where they 'were two of the first that published the message of truth in that city' (Thomas Camm's Testimony). Part of the reason for travelling to the capital in 1654 was to see Oliver Cromwell to speak of their concern for the law which punished those who interrupted ministers. The meeting was not a success, for Camm later wrote twice to Cromwell exhorting him to remove the laws upon religion, but to no avail. He outlined his concerns in his two tracts of 1654, This was the Word of the Lord and Some Particulars Concerning the Law.
Camm travelled to Oxford in 1654, where he ‘convinced’ Thomas Loe, who would later be responsible for the conversion of William Penn. Some time was spent at Bristol with John Audland where, according to Camm's son Thomas, 'many hundreds were by the word and testimony of truth by them published convinced' (Thomas Camm's Testimony). They held their first large public meeting in a local field, since those in attendance numbered around 1500. Other meetings followed, before they moved on to Gloucestershire, Wales, Hereford, Shrewsbury, Chester, and a brief respite in Kendal with their families. On their return to Bristol, Camm and Audland encountered some hostility. They were assaulted by a group of apprentices while passing over Bristol Bridge to a meeting in Brislington, Somerset, but saved by a Friend who took them into his house. A warrant was issued for Camm and others including James Nayler and George Fox on the false information that the Friends were Franciscan friars, though nothing came of this and Camm was never brought before the magistrates.
Camm fell ill shortly after this episode, about March 1655, and was nursed by his wife, Mabel, in Bristol. Camm experienced a number of bouts of illness, in-between which he made several further visits to such places as London, Gloucestershire, and Warwickshire, and spent twelve days appointing meetings with George Fox before returning to Bristol in November 1655. Camm returned to Camsgill in March 1656; he travelled a little more but died in Camsgill on 10 January 1657, in much pain from consumption, and was buried at the Birkrigg Park Friends' burial-ground, Westmorland.
- ‘Thomas Camm's testimony concerning John Camm and John Audland’, The memory of the righteous revived, ed. T. Camm and C. Marshall (1689)
C. W. Horle, ‘John Camm: profile of a Quaker minister during the interregnum’, Quaker History, 70 (1981), 69–83Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat; 71 (1982), 3–15Find it in your libraryGoogle PreviewWorldCat
- W. Evans and T. Evans, eds., The Friends' Library, 14 vols. (1837–50), vol. 5
- J. Tomkins and J. Field, Piety promoted … in five parts (1721)
- C. Marshall, ‘A testimony to the glorious…’, The memory of the righteous revived, ed. T. Camm and C. Marshall (1689)
- J. Smith, ed., A descriptive catalogue of Friends' books, 1 (1867)
- ‘Dictionary of Quaker biography’, RS Friends, Lond. [card index]
- RS Friends, Lond., letter-book of John Audland and John Camm
- RS Friends, Lond., A. R. Barclay MSS
- RS Friends, Lond., Caton MSS
- RS Friends, Lond., portfolio MSS
- RS Friends, Lond., Robson MSS
- RS Friends, Lond., Swarthmore MSS