Like other groups of Protestant dissenters, the Quakers came to America primarily to escape religious persecution. In the 17th century, when the Quakers first set foot in the "New World," religion wasn't a private matter—it was intimately bound up with the political life of the nation. Anyone who didn't subscribe to the articles of the Church of England was regarded with suspicion by the authorities, both secular and religious. As the Quakers refused to swear oaths on principle, they were unable and unwilling to do this, and they were persecuted by the state.
At the same time, the Quakers were motivated by missionary zeal, hoping to spread the Gospel to English settlers who'd already established themselves in America. The Quakers's understanding of the Bible was radically different from that of the official Church of England, and they needed to find a place where they could safely preach their unique interpretation of Scripture without fear.