William Penn: Wikis


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William Penn

Portrait of William Penn
Born October 14, 1644(1644-10-14)
London, England
Died July 30, 1718 (aged 73)
Berkshire, England
Spouse(s) Gulielma Maria Springett, Hannah Margaret Callowhill
Parents Admiral Sir William Penn and Margaret Jasper

William Penn (October 14, 1644 – July 30, 1718) was an English real estate entrepreneur, philosopher, and founder and "absolute proprietor" of the Province of Pennsylvania, the English North American colony and the future U. S. State of Pennsylvania. He was an early champion of democracy and religious freedom, notable for his good relations and successful treaties with the Lenape Indians. Under his direction, the city of Philadelphia was planned and developed.

In 1682 the Duke of York handed over a large piece of his American holdings to William Penn. This land included present-day Pennsylvania and Delaware. Penn immediately sailed to America and his first step on American soil took place in New Castle in 1682.[1] On this occasion, the colonists pledged allegiance to Penn as their new Proprietor, and the first general assembly was held in the colony. Afterwards, Penn journeyed upriver and founded Philadelphia. However, Penn's Quaker government was not viewed favorably by the Dutch, Swedish, and English settlers in what is now today's Delaware. They had no "historical" allegiance to Pennsylvania, so they, almost immediately, began petitioning for their own Assembly. In 1704 they achieved their goal when the three southernmost counties of Pennsylvania, were permitted to split off and become the new semi-autonomous colony of lower Delaware. As the most prominent, prosperous and influential "city" in the new colony, New Castle became the capital.

As one of the earlier supporters of colonial unification, Penn wrote and urged for a Union of all the English colonies in what was to become the United States of America. The democratic principles that he set forth in the Pennsylvania Frame of Government served as an inspiration for the United States Constitution. As a pacifist Quaker, Penn considered the problems of war and peace deeply, and included a plan for a United States of Europe, "European Dyet, Parliament or Estates," in his voluminous writings.



Early years

Penn was born in 1644, the son of Admiral Sir William Penn and Margaret Jasper, a captain previously widowed and the daughter of a Rotterdam merchant.[2] William Penn, Sr., served in the Commonwealth Navy during the English Civil War and was rewarded by Oliver Cromwell with estates in Ireland. The lands were seized from Irish Catholics, in retaliation for an earlier massacre of Protestants. Admiral Penn took part in the restoration of Charles II and was eventually knighted and served in the Royal Navy. At the time of his son’s birth, Captain Penn was twenty-three and an ambitious naval officer in charge of quelling Irish Catholic unrest and blockading Irish ports.[3]

William Penn grew up during the reign of Oliver Cromwell, who succeeded in leading a Puritan revolt against King Charles I, who was beheaded when Penn was age 5.[4] His father was often at sea. Little William caught the pox at young age, losing all his hair (he wore a wig until he left college), prompting his parents to move to the suburbs to an estate in Essex.[5] The country life made a lasting impression on young Penn, and kindled a love of horticulture.[6] Their neighbour was famed diarist Samuel Pepys, who was friendly at first but later secretly hostile to the Admiral, perhaps embittered in part by his failed seductions of both Penn’s mother and his sister Peggy.[7]

Penn was educated at Chigwell School, by private tutors in Ireland and then at Christ Church, Oxford.[8] At that time, there were no state schools, and nearly all educational institutions were affiliated with the Anglican Church. Children from poor families had to have a wealthy sponsor to get an education, as did Sir Isaac Newton. Penn’s education heavily leaned on the classical authors and “no novelties, or conceited modern writers’’ were allowed including William Shakespeare.[9] Foot racing was Penn’s favorite sport, and he would often sprint the more than three mile (5 km) distance from his home to the school. The school itself was cast in a Puritan mode—strict, humorless, and somber—and teachers had to be pillars of virtue and provide sterling examples to their charges.[10] Though later opposing the Puritans on religious grounds, Penn absorbed many Puritan behaviors, and was known later for his serious demeanor, strict behavior, and lack of humor.[11]

After a failed mission to the Caribbean, Admiral Penn and his family were exiled to his lands in Ireland. It was during this period, when Penn was about fifteen, that he met Thomas Loe, a Quaker missionary, who was maligned by both Catholics and Protestants. Loe was admitted to the Penn household and during his discourses on the “Inner Light”, young Penn recalled later that, “the Lord visited me, and gave me divine Impressions of Himself.”[12]

A year later, Cromwell was dead, the royalists resurging, and the Penn family returned to England. The middle class aligned itself with the royalists and Admiral Penn was sent a secret mission to bring back exiled Prince Charles. For his role in restoring the monarchy, Admiral Penn was knighted and gained a powerful position as Commissioner of the Navy.[13]

In 1660, Penn arrived at Oxford, and enrolled as a gentleman scholar with an assigned servant. The student body was a volatile mix of swashbuckling Cavaliers (aristocratic Protestants), sober Puritans, and nonconforming Quakers. The new government’s discouragement of religious dissent gave the Cavaliers the license to harass the minority groups. Because of his father’s high position and social status, young Penn was firmly a Cavalier but his sympathies lay with the persecuted Quakers. To avoid conflict, he withdrew from the fray and became a reclusive scholar.[14] Also at this time, Penn was developing his individuality and philosophy of life, and found that he was not in sympathy with either his father’s martial view of the world or his mother’s society oriented sensibilities, “I had no relations that inclined to so solitary and spiritual way; I was a child alone. A child given to musing, occasionally feeling the divine presence.”[15]

Penn returned home for the extraordinary splendor of the King’s restoration ceremony and was a guest of honor alongside his father, who received a highly unusual royal salute for his services to the Crown.[14] Though undetermined at the time, the Admiral had great hopes for his son’s career under the favor of the King. Back at Oxford, Penn considered a medical career and took some dissecting classes. Rational thought began to spread into science, politics and economics. When Dean Owen was fired for his free-thinking, Penn and other open-minded students rallied to his side and attended seminars at the dean’s house, where intellectual discussions covered the gamut of new thought.[16] Penn learned the valuable skills of forming ideas into theory, discussing theory through reasoned debate, and testing the theories in the real world.

He also faced his first moral dilemma. After Owen was censured again after being fired, students were threatened with punishment for associating with him. However, Penn stood by the dean, thereby gaining a fine and reprimand from the university.[17] The Admiral despaired of the charges, pulled young Penn away from Oxford hoping to give him distractions from the heretical influences of the university.[18] The attempt had no effect and father and son struggled to understand each other. Back at school, the administration imposed stricter religious requirements including daily chapel attendance and required dress. Penn rebelled against enforced worship and was expelled. His father, in a rage, attacked young Penn with a cane and forced him from their home.[19] Penn’s mother made peace in the family which allowed her son to return home but quickly concluded that both her social standing and her husband’s career were being threatened by their son’s behavior. So at age 18, young Penn was sent to Paris to get him out of view, improve his manners, and expose him to another culture.[20]

In Paris, at the court of young Louis XIV, Penn found French manners far more refined than the coarse manners of his countrymen—but the extravagant display of wealth and privilege did not sit well with him.[21] Though impressed by Notre Dame and the Catholic ritual, he felt uncomfortable with it. Instead he sought out spiritual direction from French Protestant theologian Moise Amyraut, who invited Penn to stay with him in Saumur for a year.[22] The undogmatic Christian humanist talked of a tolerant, adapting view of religion which appealed to Penn, who later stated, “I never had any other religion in my life than what I felt.”[23] By adapting his mentor’s belief in free-will, Penn felt unburdened of Puritanical guilt and rigid beliefs, and was inspired to search out his own religious path.[24]

Upon returning to England after two years abroad, he presented to his parents a mature, sophisticated, well-mannered, “modish” gentleman, though Samuel Pepys noted young Penn’s “vanity of the French”.[25] Penn had developed a taste for fine clothes, and for the rest of his life would pay somewhat more attention to his dress than most Quakers. The Admiral had great hopes that his son then had the practical sense and the ambition necessary to succeed as an aristocrat. He had young Penn enroll in law school but soon his studies were interrupted. With warfare with the Dutch imminent, young Penn decided to shadow his father at work and join him at sea.[26] Penn functioned as an emissary between his father and the King, then returned to his law studies. Worrying about his father in battle he wrote, “I never knew what a father was till I had wisdom enough to prize him...I pray God...that you come home secure.”[27] The Admiral returned triumphant but London was in the grip of the plague of 1665. Young Penn reflected on the suffering and the deaths, and the way humans reacted to the epidemic. He wrote that the scourge “gave me a deep sense of the vanity of this World, of the Irreligiousness of the Religions in it.”[28] Further he observed how Quakers on errands of mercy were arrested by the police and demonized by other religions, even accused of causing the plague.[29]

William Penn at 22

With his father laid low by gout, young Penn was sent to Ireland in 1666 to manage the family landholdings. While there he became a soldier and took part in suppressing a local Irish rebellion. Swelling with pride, he had his portrait done in a suit of armor, his most authentic likeness.[30] His first experience of warfare gave him the sudden idea of pursuing a military career, but the fever of battle soon wore off after his father discouraged him, “I can say nothing but advise to sobriety...I wish your youthful desires mayn’t outrun your discretion.”[31] While Penn was abroad, the great fire of 1666 consumed central London. As with the plague, the Penn family was spared.[32] But after returning to the city, Penn was depressed by the mood of the city and his ailing father, so he went back to the family estate in Ireland to contemplate his future. The reign of King Charles had further tightened restrictions against all religious sects other than the Anglican Church, making the penalty for unauthorized worship imprisonment or deportation. The “Five Mile Act” prohibited dissenting teachers and preachers to come within that distance of any borough.[33] The Quakers were especially targeted and their meetings were deemed as criminal.

Religious conversion

Despite the dangers, Penn began to attend Quaker meetings near Cork. A chance re-meeting with Thomas Loe confirmed Penn’s rising attraction to Quakerism.[34] Soon Penn was arrested for attending Quaker meetings. Rather than state that he was not a Quaker and thereby dodge any charges, he publicly declared himself a member and finally joined the Quakers (the Religious Society of Friends) at the age of 22.[35] In pleading his case, Penn stated that since the Quakers had no political agenda (unlike the Puritans) they should not be subject to laws that restricted political action by minority religions and other groups. Sprung from jail because of his family’s rank rather than his argument, Penn was immediately recalled to London by his father. The Admiral was severely distressed by his son’s actions and took the conversion as a personal affront.[36] His father’s hopes that Penn's charisma and intelligence would win him favor at the court were crushed.[37] Though enraged, the Admiral tried his best to reason with his son but to no avail. His father not only feared for his own position but that his son seemed bent on a dangerous confrontation with the Crown.[38] In the end, young Penn was more determined than ever and the Admiral felt he had no option but to order his son out of the house and to withhold his inheritance.[39]

Homeless, Penn lived with Quaker families.[40] Quakers were relatively strict Christians in the seventeenth century. They refused to bow or take off their hats to social superiors, believing all men equal under God, a belief antithetical to an absolute monarchy which believed the monarch divinely appointed by God. Therefore, Quakers were treated as heretics because of their principles and their failure to pay tithes. They also refused to swear oaths of loyalty to the King. Quakers followed the command of Jesus not to swear, reported in the Gospel of Matthew, 5:34. The basic ceremony of Quakerism is silent meditation in a meeting house, conducted in a group.[41] There is no ritual and no professional clergy, and Quakers disavow the concept of original sin. God's communication comes to each individual directly, and if so moved, the individual shares their revelations, thoughts, or opinions with the group. Penn found all these tenets to sit well with his conscience and his heart.

Penn became a close friend of George Fox, the founder of the Quakers, whose movement started in the 1650s during the tumult of the Cromwellian revolution. The times sprouted many new sects, besides Quakers, including Seekers, Ranters, Antinomians, Soul Sleepers, Adamites, Diggers, Levellers, Antibaptists, Behmenists, Muggletonians, and many others, as the Puritans were more tolerant than the monarchy had been.[42][43] Following Cromwell's death, however, the Crown was re-established and the King responded with harassment and persecution of all religions and sects other than Anglicanism. Fox risked his life, wandering from town to town, and he attracted followers who likewise believed that the "God who made the world did not dwell in temples made with hands."[44] By abolishing the church’s authority over the congregation, Fox not only extended the Protestant Reformation more radically, but he helped extend the most important principle of modern political history – the rights of the individual – upon which modern democracies were later founded.[45] Penn traveled frequently with Fox, through Europe and England. He also wrote a comprehensive, detailed explanation of Quakerism along with a testimony to the character of George Fox, in his introduction to the autobiographical Journal of George Fox.[46] In effect, Penn became the first theologian, theorist, and legal defender of Quakerism, providing its written doctrine and helping to establish its public standing.[47]


Penn’s first of many pamphlets, "Truth Exalted", was a "short but sure testimony" against all religions except Quakerism. His strident attack on the Trinity and his branding the Catholic Church as "the Whore of Babylon" and Puritans as "hypocrites and revelers in God" brought him attention from the Anglican Church. He also lambasted all "false prophets, tithemongers, and opposers of perfection".[48] Pepys thought it a "ridiculous nonsensical book" that he was "ashamed to read".[49] In 1668, Penn was imprisoned in the Tower of London after writing a follow up tract entitled The Sandy Foundation Shaken. The Bishop of London ordered that Penn be held indefinitely until he publicly recanted his written statements. The official charge was publication without a license but the real crime was blasphemy, as signed in a warrant by King Charles II.[50] Penn was placed in solitary confinement in an unheated cell and threatened with a life sentence. He bravely responded, "My prison shall be my grave before I will budge a jot: for I owe my conscience to no mortal man."[50]

Given writing materials in the hope that he would put on paper his retraction, Penn instead wrote another inflammatory treatise, No Cross, No Crown, remarkable for its historical analysis and citation of sixty-eight authors whose quotations and commentary he had committed to memory and was able to summon without any reference material at hand.[51] Penn petitioned for an audience with the King, which was denied but which led to negotiations on his behalf by one of the royal chaplains. He was released after 8 months of imprisonment.[52]

Though freed, Penn demonstrated no remorse for his aggressive stance and vowed to keep fighting against the wrongs of the Church and the King. For its part, the Crown continued to confiscate Quaker property and put thousands of Quakers in jail. From then on, Penn's religious views effectively exiled him from English society; he was sent down (expelled) from Christ Church, Oxford for being a Quaker, and was arrested several times. Among the most famous of these was the trial following his 1670 arrest with William Meade. Penn was accused of preaching before a gathering in the street, which Penn had deliberately provoked in order to test the validity of the new law against assembly. Penn pleaded for his right to see a copy of the charges laid against him and the laws he had supposedly broken, but the judge (the Lord Mayor of London) refused – even though this right was guaranteed by the law. Furthermore, the judge directed the jury to come to a verdict without hearing the defense.[53]

Despite heavy pressure from the Lord Mayor to convict Penn, the jury returned a verdict of "not guilty". When invited by the judge to reconsider their verdict and to select a new foreman, they refused and were sent to a cell over several nights to mull over their decision. The Lord Mayor then told the jury, "You shall go together and bring in another verdict, or you shall starve", and not only had Penn sent to jail in loathsome Newgate Prison (on a charge of contempt of court), but the full jury followed him, and they were additionally fined the equivalent of a year’s wages each.[54][55] The members of the jury, fighting their case from prison in what became known as Bushel's Case, managed to win the right for all English juries to be free from the control of judges.[56] This case was one of the more important trials that shaped the future concept of American freedom (see jury nullification)[57] and was a victory for the use of the writ of habeas corpus as a means of freeing those unlawfully detained.

With his father dying, Penn wanted to see him one more time and patch up their differences. But he urged his father not to pay his fine and free him, "I intreat thee not to purchase my liberty." But the Admiral refused to let the opportunity pass and he paid the fine, releasing his son. The old man had gained respect for his son's integrity and courage and told him, "Let nothing in this world tempt you to wrong your conscience."[58] The Admiral also knew that after his death, young Penn would become more vulnerable in his pursuit of justice. In an act which would not only secure his son’s protection but also set the conditions for the founding of Pennsylvania, the Admiral wrote to the Duke of York, the successor to the throne. The Duke and the King, in return for the Admiral's lifetime service to the Crown, promised to protect young Penn and make him a royal counselor.[59]

Penn was not disinherited and he came into a large fortune, but found himself in jail again for six months as he continued to agitate. After gaining his freedom, he finally married Gulielma Springett in April 1672, after a four year engagement filled with frequent separations. Penn stayed close to home but continued writing his tracts, espousing religious tolerance and railing against discriminatory laws.[60] A minor split developed in the Quaker community between those who favored Penn’s analytical formulations and those that preferred Fox’s simple precepts.[61] But overriding the differences was the fact that the persecution of Quakers had accelerated and Penn again resumed missionary work in Holland and Germany.[62]

Founding of Pennsylvania

Seeing conditions deteriorating, Penn decided to appeal directly to the King and the Duke. Penn proposed a solution which would solve the dilemma—a mass emigration of English Quakers. Some Quakers had already moved to North America, but the New England Puritans, especially, were as hostile towards Quakers as Anglicans in England were, and some of the Quakers had been banished to the Caribbean. In 1677, a group of prominent Quakers that included Penn purchased the colonial province of West New Jersey (half of the current state of New Jersey).[63] That same year, two hundred settlers from the towns of Chorleywood and Rickmansworth in Hertfordshire and other towns in nearby Buckinghamshire arrived, and founded the town of Burlington. George Fox himself had made a journey to America to verify the potential of further expansion of the early Quaker settlements.[64] In 1682, East New Jersey was also purchased by Quakers.[65]

With the New Jersey foothold in place, Penn pressed his case to extend the Quaker region. Whether from personal sympathy or political expediency, to Penn’s surprise, the King granted an extraordinarily generous charter which made Penn the world’s largest private landowner, with over 45,000 square miles (120,000 km2).[66]:64 Penn became the sole proprietor of a huge tract of land south of New Jersey and north of Maryland (which belonged to Lord Baltimore), and gained sovereign rule of the territory with all rights and privileges (except the power to declare war). The land of Pennsylvania had belonged to the Duke of York, who acquiesced, but he retained New York and the area around New Castle and the Eastern portion of the Delaware peninsula.[67] In return, one-fifth of all gold and silver mined in the province (which had virtually none) was to be remitted to the King and the Crown was freed of a debt to the Admiral of £16,000.[68]

Penn first called the area “New Wales”, then "Sylvania" (Latin for "forests or woods'"), which Charles changed to "Pennsylvania" in honor of the elder Penn.[69] On March 4, 1681, the King signed the charter and the following day Penn jubilantly wrote, “It is a clear and just thing, and my God who has given it me through many difficulties, will, I believe, bless and make it the seed of a nation.”[70] 1682 in England, he drew up a Frame of Government for the Pennsylvania colony. Freedom of worship in the colony was to be absolute, and all the traditional rights of Englishmen were carefully safeguarded.[71] Penn drafted a charter of liberties for the settlement creating a political utopia guaranteeing free and fair trial by jury, freedom of religion, freedom from unjust imprisonment and free elections.

First Draft of the Frame of Government, Pennsylvania's first constitution written by Penn in England (c. 1681)

Having proved himself an influential scholar and theoretician, Penn now had to demonstrate the practical skills of a real estate promoter, city planner, and governor for his “Holy Experiment”, the province of Pennsylvania.[72]

Besides achieving his religious goals, Penn had hoped that Pennsylvania would be a profitable venture for himself and his family. But he proclaimed that he would not exploit either the natives or the immigrants, “I would not abuse His love, nor act unworthy of His providence, and so defile what came to me clean.”[73] Though thoroughly oppressed, getting Quakers to leave England and make the dangerous journey to the New World was his first commercial challenge. Some Quaker families had already arrived in Maryland and New Jersey but the numbers were small. To attract settlers in large numbers, he wrote a glowing prospectus, considered honest and well-researched for the time, promising religious freedom as well as material advantage, which he marketed throughout Europe in various languages. Within six months he had parceled out 300,000 acres (1,200 km2) to over 250 prospective settlers, mostly rich London Quakers.[74] Eventually he attracted other persecuted minorities including Huguenots, Mennonites, Amish, Catholics, Lutherans, and Jews from England, France, Holland, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Ireland, and Wales.[75]

Next, he set out to lay the legal framework for an ethical society where power was derived from the people, from “open discourse”, in much the same way as a Quaker Meeting was run. Notably, as the sovereign, Penn thought it important to limit his own power as well.[76] The new government would have two houses, safeguard the rights of private property and free enterprise, and impose taxes fairly. It would call for death for only two crimes, treason and murder, rather than the two hundred crimes under English law, and all cases were to be tried before a jury.[77] Prisons would be progressive, attempting to correct through “workshops” rather than through hellish confinement.[78] The laws of behavior he laid out were rather Puritanical: swearing, lying, and drunkenness were forbidden as well as “idle amusements” such as stage plays, gambling, revels, masques, cock-fighting, and bear-baiting.[79]

All this was a radical departure from the laws and the lawmaking of European monarchs and elites. Over twenty drafts, Penn labored to create his “Framework of Government.” He borrowed liberally from John Locke who later had a similar influence on Thomas Jefferson, but added his own revolutionary idea—the use of amendments—to enable a written framework that could evolve with the changing times.[80] He stated, “Governments, like clocks, go from the motion men give them.”[81] Penn hoped that an amendable constitution would accommodate dissent and new ideas and also allow meaningful societal change without resorting to violent uprisings or revolution.[82] Remarkably, though the Crown reserved the right to override any law it wished, Penn’s skillful stewardship did not provoke any government reaction while Penn remained in his province.[83] Despite criticism by some Quaker friends that Penn was setting himself above them by taking on this powerful position, and by his enemies who thought he was a fraud and “falsest villain upon earth”, Penn was ready to begin the “Holy Experiment”.[84] Bidding goodbye to his wife and children, he reminded them to “avoid pride, avarice, and luxury”.[85]

Back to England

In 1684, Penn returned to England to see his family and to try to resolve a territorial dispute with Lord Baltimore.[86] Penn did not always pay attention to details, and had not taken the fairly simple step of determining where the 40th degree of latitude (the southern boundary of his land under the charter) actually was. After he sent letters to several landowners in Maryland advising the recipients that they were probably in Pennsylvania and not to pay any more taxes to Lord Baltimore, trouble arose between the two proprietors.[87]

Political conditions at home had stiffened since Penn left. To his dismay, England had taken on the absolutism of France and Bridewell and Newgate prisons were filled with Quakers. Book-burning was encouraged and written dissent was squashed. Internal political conflicts even threatened to undo the Pennsylvania charter. Penn withheld his political writings from publication as “The times are too rough for print.”[88]

In 1685, King Charles died and the Duke of York was crowned James II. The new king resolved the border dispute in Penn’s favor. But King James, a Catholic with a largely Protestant parliament, proved a poor ruler, stubborn and inflexible.[89] The King drew Penn closer, appeased him with pardons, but stayed on his own course of harsh rule, especially against the Quakers.

Penn faced serious problems in the colonies due to his sloppy business practices. Apparently, he couldn't be bothered with administrative details, and his business manager, fellow Quaker Philip Ford, embezzled substantial sums from Penn's estates. Ford capitalized on Penn's habit of signing papers without reading them. One such paper turned out to be a deed transferring ownership of Pennsylvania to Ford who then demanded a rent beyond Penn's ability to pay. After Ford's death in 1702, his wife, Bridget, had Penn thrown in debtor's prison, but her cruelty backfired. It was unthinkable to have such a person govern a major colony, and in 1708 the Lord Chancellor ruled that "the equity of redemption still remained in William Penn and his heirs."[90]

Return to America

After agreeing to let Ford keep all his Irish rents in exchange for keeping quiet about Ford’s legal ownership of Pennsylvania, Penn felt his situation sufficiently improved to return to Pennsylvania with the intention of staying.[91] Accompanied by his wife Hannah, daughter Letitia and secretary James Logan, Penn sailed from the Isle of Wight on the Canterbury, reaching Philadelphia in December 1699.[92]

Penn received a hearty welcome upon his arrival and found his province much changed in the intervening 18 years. Pennsylvania was growing rapidly and now had nearly 18,000 inhabitants and Philadelphia over 3,000.[93] His tree plantings were providing the green urban spaces he had envisioned. Shops were full of imported merchandise, satisfying the wealthier citizens and proving America to a be viable market for English goods. Most importantly, religious diversity was succeeding.[94] Despite the protests of Fundamentalists and farmers, Penn’s insistence that Quaker grammar schools be open to all citizens was producing a relatively educated work force. High literacy and open intellectual discourse led to Philadelphia becoming a leader in science and medicine.[95] Quakers were especially modern in their treatment of mental illness, decriminalizing insanity and turning away from punishment and confinement.[96]

Ironically, the tolerant Penn transformed himself almost into a Puritan, in an attempt to control the fractiousness that had developed in his absence, tightening up some laws.[97] Another change was found in Penn’s writings, which had mostly lost their boldness and vision. In those years, he did put forward a plan to make a federation of all English colonies in America. There have been claims that he also fought slavery, but that seems unlikely, as he owned and even traded slaves himself and his writings don’t support that idea. However, he did promote good treatment for slaves, including marriage among slaves (though rejected by the Council). Other Pennsylvania Quakers were more outspoken and proactive, being among the earliest fighters against slavery in America, led by Daniel Pastorius, founder of Germantown, Pennsylvania. Many Quakers pledged to release their slaves upon their death, including Penn, and some sold their slaves to non-Quakers.[98]

The Penns lived comfortably at Pennsbury Manor and had all intentions of living out their life there. They also had a residence in Philadelphia. Their only American child, John, had been born and was thriving. Penn was commuting to Philadelphia on a six-man barge, which he admitted he prized above “all dead things”. James Logan, his secretary, kept him acquainted with all the news. Penn had plenty of time to spend with his family and still attend to affairs of state, though delegations and official visitors were frequent. His wife, however, did not enjoy life as a governor’s wife and hostess, and preferred the simple life she led in England. When new threats by France again put Penn’s charter in jeopardy, Penn decided to return to England with his family, in 1701.[99]

Later years

Bronze statue of William Penn atop Philadelphia City Hall

Penn returned to England and immediately became embroiled in financial and family troubles. His eldest son William, Jr. was leading a dissolute life, neglecting his wife and two children, and running up gambling debts. Penn had hoped to have William succeed him in America.[100] Now he could not even pay his son’s debts. His own finances were in turmoil. He had sunk over £30,000 in America and received little back except some bartered goods. He had made many generous loans which he failed to press.[101]

While he was away, Pennsylvanians were exercising their independence from their “father”, replacing Penn’s constitution with their own, the “Charter of Privileges”, which governed them until the American Revolution. They gave voters more power than Penn had by eliminating the Upper House representing the wealthy class but Jews and non-believers were barred from office.[102]

Making matters worse from Penn’s perspective, Philip Ford, his financial advisor, had cheated Penn out of thousands of pounds by concealing and diverting rents from Penn’s Irish lands, claiming losses, then extracting loans from Penn to cover the shortfall. When Ford died in 1702, his widow Bridget threatened to sell Pennsylvania, to which she could prove title.[103] Penn sent William to America to manage affairs, but he proved just as unreliable as he had been in England. There were considerable discussions about scrapping his constitution.[104] In desperation, Penn tried to sell Pennsylvania to the Crown before Bridget Ford got wind of his plan, but by insisting that the Crown uphold the civil liberties that had been achieved, he could not strike a deal. Mrs. Ford took her case to court. At age 62, Penn landed in debtors’ prison, however a rush of sympathy reduced Penn’s punishment to house arrest and Ford was finally denied her claim to Pennsylvania. A group of Quakers arranged for Ford to receive a payment for back rents and Penn was released.[105] Penn had grown weary of the politicking back in Pennsylvania and the restlessness with his governance, but Logan implored him not to forsake his colony, for fear that Pennsylvania might fall into the hands of an opportunist who would undo all the good that had been accomplished.[106] During his second attempt to sell Pennsylvania back to the Crown in 1712, Penn suffered a stroke. A second stroke several months later left him unable to speak or take care of himself. He slowly lost his memory.[100]

Penn died penniless in 1718, at his home in Ruscombe, near Twyford in Berkshire, and was buried next to his first wife in the cemetery of the Jordans Quaker meeting house near Chalfont St Giles in Buckinghamshire in England. His wife as sole executor became the de facto governor until she died in 1726.[107]


Penn first married Gulielma Maria Springett (1644–1694), daughter of William S. Springett and Lady Mary Proude Penington. They had three sons and four daughters.

Two years after Gulielma's death he married Hannah Margaret Callowhill (1671–1727), daughter of Thomas Callowhill and Anna (Hannah) Hollister. William Penn married Hannah when she was 24 and he was 52. They had eight children in twelve years. The first two children had died in infancy. The other children were:

  • John Penn (1699–1746), never married.
  • Thomas Penn (1702–1775), married Lady Juliana Fermore, fourth daughter of Thomas, first Earl of Pomfret.
  • Margaret Penn (b. 1704)
  • Richard Penn, Sr. (1706–1771)
  • Dennis Penn (b. 1707, d. before 1727)
  • Hannah Penn (b. 1708)

Penn's family line resides in England, America, Peru, Australia and Canada.[citation needed]


Penn in the Hall of Fame for Great Americans

After Penn’s death, Pennsylvania slowly drifted away from a colony founded by religion to a secular state dominated by commerce. Many of Penn’s legal and political innovations took root, however. Voltaire praised Pennsylvania as the only government in the world responsible to the people and respectful of minority rights. Penn’s "Frame of Government" and his other ideas were later studied by Benjamin Franklin as well as the pamphleteer of the American Revolution, Thomas Paine, whose father was a Quaker. Among Penn's legacies was the unwillingness to force a Quaker majority upon Pennsylvania, allowing his state to develop into a successful “melting pot”. In addition, Thomas Jefferson and the founding Fathers adapted Penn’s theory of an amendable constitution and his vision that “all men are equal under God” in forming the federal government following the American Revolution. In addition to Penn’s extensive political and religious treatises, he wrote nearly 1,000 maxims, full of wise observation about human nature and morality.[108]

Penn’s Philadelphia continued to thrive, becoming one of the most populous colonial cities in the British Empire, reaching about 30,000 by the American Revolution, and becoming a center of commerce, science, medicine, and politics.[93] New groups of immigrants in the 18th century included German-speaking peoples and Scots-Irish.

Penn’s family retained ownership of the colony of Pennsylvania until the American Revolution. However, William's son and successor, Thomas Penn, and his brother John, renounced their father’s faith, and fought to restrict religious freedom (particularly for Roman Catholics and later Quakers). Thomas weakened or eliminated the elected assembly's power, and ran the colony instead through his appointed governors. He was a bitter opponent of Benjamin Franklin and Franklin's push for greater democracy in the years leading up to the revolution. Through the infamous Walking Purchase of 1737, the Penns cheated the Lenape out of their lands in the Lehigh Valley.[109]

Posthumous honors

On November 28, 1984 Ronald Reagan, upon an Act of Congress by Presidential Proclamation 5284 declared William Penn and his second wife, Hannah Callowhill Penn, each to be an Honorary Citizen of the United States.[110] A lesser-known statue of Penn is located at Penn Treaty Park, on the site where Penn entered into his treaty with the Lenape. In 1893, Hajoca Corporation, the nation's largest privately held wholesale distributor of plumbing, heating and industrial supplies, adopted the statue as its trademark symbol.

A common misconception is that the smiling Quaker logo shown on boxes of Quaker Oats is a depiction of William Penn, but the Quaker Oats Company has stated that this is not true.[111] It is simply a Quaker man who slightly resembles William Penn.

The Curse of Billy Penn

Atop Philadelphia City Hall stands a statue of William Penn, sculpted by Alexander Milne Calder, which is 37 feet (11 m) tall.[112] From City Hall's completion in 1881 until 1985, when One and Two Liberty Place were constructed along Sixteenth Street, an unwritten agreement had existed among the city's planners that no building in Philadelphia should ever stand higher than the hat atop Penn's statue, 548 feet above the intersection of Broad and Market Streets at Penn Square, the central square of Philadelphia's five main squares.

The Curse of Billy Penn allegedly haunted the statue after the completion of Liberty Place. No Philadelphia sports team captured a national championship for more than twenty years. So during the "topping off" ceremony of The Comcast Center on June 18, 2007, Bill Hankowsky of Liberty Property Trust placed a small statue of William Penn on the topping beam. "We don't believe in the myth, but to be safe we've added the statue of Billy Penn to the top of the Comcast Center," said Hankowsky at the time. [113] Sure enough, the following year the Philadelphia Phillies won the 2008 World Series, the first national championship for a Philadelphia sports team since 1983, when the Philadelphia 76ers captured the NBA championship.


  1. ^ New Castle Crier
  2. ^ Hans Fantel, William Penn: Apostle of Dissent, William Morrow & Co., New York, 1974, p.6, ISBN 0-688-00310-9
  3. ^ Fantel, p. 6
  4. ^ Fantel, p.15
  5. ^ Bonamy Dobrée, William Penn: Quaker and Pioneer, Houghton Mifflin Co., 1932, New York, p. 3
  6. ^ Fantel, p.12
  7. ^ Fantel, p.16
  8. ^ "William Penn", Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd ed. 17 Vols. Gale Research, 1998. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Thomson Gale. 2007.
  9. ^ Fantel, p. 13
  10. ^ Fantel, p. 14
  11. ^ Fantel, p. 15
  12. ^ Fantel, p. 23
  13. ^ Fantel, p.25, 32
  14. ^ a b Fantel, p. 29
  15. ^ Dobrée, p. 9
  16. ^ Fantel, p. 35
  17. ^ Fantel, p. 37
  18. ^ Fantel, p. 38
  19. ^ Fantel, p. 43
  20. ^ Fantel, p. 45
  21. ^ Fantel, p.49
  22. ^ Fantel, p. 51
  23. ^ Fantel, p.52
  24. ^ Fantel, p. 53
  25. ^ Fantel, p. 54
  26. ^ Fantel, p. 57
  27. ^ Fantel, p. 59
  28. ^ Fantel, p.60
  29. ^ Fantel, p. 61
  30. ^ Dobrée, p. 23
  31. ^ Fantel, p. 63
  32. ^ Fantel, p. 64
  33. ^ Dobrée, p. 21
  34. ^ Fantel, p.69
  35. ^ Fantel, p.72
  36. ^ Fantel, p.75
  37. ^ Fantel, p.76
  38. ^ Fantel, p.77
  39. ^ Fantel, p. 79
  40. ^ Fantel, p.79
  41. ^ Fantel, p. 69
  42. ^ Fantel, p. 83
  43. ^ Dobrée, p. 63
  44. ^ Fantel, pp. 80–1
  45. ^ Fantel, p. 84
  46. ^ Journal of George Fox (retrieved September 25, 2007)
  47. ^ Fantel, p. 88
  48. ^ Fantel, p. 97
  49. ^ Dobrée, p. 43
  50. ^ a b Fantel, p. 101
  51. ^ Fantel, p.105
  52. ^ Fantel, p. 108
  53. ^ Fantel, pp. 117–120
  54. ^ Fantel, p. 124
  55. ^ Dobrée, p. 71
  56. ^ Lehman, Godfrey (1996). The Ordeal of Edward Bushell. Lexicon. ISBN 9781879563049. 
  57. ^ Abramson, Jeffrey (1994). We, The Jury. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. pp. 68–72. ISBN 0-674-00430-2. 
  58. ^ Fantel, p. 126
  59. ^ Fantel, p. 127
  60. ^ Fantel, pp 139–140
  61. ^ Fantel, p. 143
  62. ^ Fantel, p. 145
  63. ^ Dobrée, p. 102
  64. ^ Fantel, p. 147
  65. ^ Dobrée, p. 117
  66. ^ Randall M. Miller and William Pencak, ed., Pennsylvania: A History of the Commonwealth, Penn State University Press, 2002, p.59, ISBN 0-271-02213-2
  67. ^ Dobrée, p. 119
  68. ^ Fantel, pp. 147–8
  69. ^ Dobrée, p. 120
  70. ^ Fantel, p. 149
  71. ^ "William Penn (English Quaker leader and colonist)". Britannica. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/449992/William-Penn. Retrieved 2009-06-27. "In 1682 (England), he drew up a Frame of Government for the Pennsylvania colony. Freedom of worship in the colony was to be absolute, and all the traditional rights of Englishmen were carefully safeguarded" 
  72. ^ Fantel, p. 150
  73. ^ Dobrée, p. 128
  74. ^ Fantel, pp. 152–3
  75. ^ Fantel, p. 194
  76. ^ Fantel, p. 159
  77. ^ Fantel, p. 161
  78. ^ Dobrée, p. 148
  79. ^ Dobrée, p. 149
  80. ^ Fantel, p. 156
  81. ^ Dobrée, p. 131
  82. ^ Fantel, p. 157
  83. ^ Dobrée, p. 150
  84. ^ Dobrée, p. 135
  85. ^ Dobrée, p. 138
  86. ^ Fantel, p. 199
  87. ^ Soderlund, Jean R. (ed.) William Penn and the Founding of Pennsylvania Univ. Penn. Press (1983), p. 79
  88. ^ Fantel, p. 203
  89. ^ Fantel, p. 209
  90. ^ Jim Powell, William Penn, America's First Great Champion for Liberty and Peace
  91. ^ Fantel, p. 237
  92. ^ Scharf, John Thomas and Thompson Wescott (1884), History of Philadelphia, 1609-1884, Volume II, Philadelphia: L. H. Everts & Co., p. 1686: "In December, 1699, when William Penn made his second visit to Pennsylvania, he brought with him his second wife, Hannah Callowhill Penn, and Letitia Penn, his daughter by his first wife."
  93. ^ a b Miller and Pencak, p. 61
  94. ^ Fantel, p. 240
  95. ^ Fantel, p. 242
  96. ^ Fantel, p. 244
  97. ^ Fantel, p. 246
  98. ^ Fantel, p. 251
  99. ^ Fantel, p. 253
  100. ^ a b Fantel, p. 254
  101. ^ Fantel, pp. 255–6
  102. ^ Miller and Pencak, p. 66
  103. ^ Fantel, p. 258
  104. ^ Dobrée, p. 286
  105. ^ Fantel, pp. 260–1
  106. ^ Dobrée, p. 313
  107. ^ Miller and Pencak, p. 70
  108. ^ William Penn Tercentenary Committee, Remember William Penn, 1944
  109. ^ Miller and Pencak, p. 76
  110. ^ Proclamation of Honorary US Citizenship for William and Hannah Penn by President Ronald Reagan (1984)
  111. ^ "About Quaker - Quaker FAQ". Quaker Oats Company. http://www.quakeroats.com/about-quaker-oats/content/quaker-faq.aspx. Retrieved 2010-03-04. 
  112. ^ William Penn Tercentenary Committee, p. 51
  113. ^ http://www.philly.com/inquirer/multimedia/8055132.html

External links

Penn's works


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

William Penn

William Penn (14 October 164430 July 1718) was a Quaker who founded the Province of Pennsylvania, the British North American colony that became the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. The democratic principles that he set forth served as an inspiration for the United States Constitution.



  • You are now fixed at the mercy of no governor that comes to make his fortune great; you shall be governed by laws of your own making and live a free, and if you will, a sober and industrious life. I shall not usurp the right of any, or oppress his person. God has furnished me with a better resolution and has given me his grace to keep it.
    • Letter to those already residing in Pennsylvania (1681)
  • There is one great God and power that has made the world and all things therein, to whom you and I and all people owe their being and well-being, and to whom you and I must one day give an account for all that we do in this world. This great God has written his law in our hearts, by which we are taught and commanded to love and help and do good to one another, and not to do harm and mischief one unto another. Now this great God has been pleased to make me concerned in your parts of the world, and the king of the country where I live has given unto me a great province therein, but I desire to enjoy it with your friends, else what would the great God say to us, who has made us not to devour and destroy one another, but live soberly and kindly together in the world.
    Now I would have you well observe, that I am very sensible of the unkindness and injustice that has been too much exercised towards you by the people of these parts of the world, who have sought themselves, and to make great advantages by you, rather than be examples of justice and goodness unto you; which I hear has been matter of trouble to you and caused great grudgings and animosities, sometimes to the shedding of blood, which has made the great god angry. But I am not such man as is well known in my own country. I have great love and regard toward you, and I desire to win and gain your love and friendship by a kind just, and peaceable life; and the people I send are of the same mind, and shall in all things behave themselves accordingly.
    • Letter to the Lenape Nation (18 October 1681); as published in William Penn and the Founding of Pennsylvania 1680 - 1684: A Documentary History, (1983) edited by Jean R. Soderlund, University of Pennsylvania Press.
  • Men being born with a title to perfect freedom and uncontrolled enjoyment of all the rights and privileges of the law of nature... no one can be put out of his estate and subjected to the political view of another, without his consent.
    • First Frame of Government (25 April 1682) Full title: The frame of the government of the province of Pennsylvania, in America, together with certain laws agreed upon in England by the governor and divers freemen of the aforesaid province, to be further explained and continued there by the first provincial council that shall be held, if they see meet.
  • Any government is free to the people under it where the laws rule and the people are a party to the laws.
    • Frame of Government
  • BECAUSE no People can be truly happy, though under the greatest Enjoyment of Civil Liberties, if abridged of the Freedom of their Consciences, as to their Religious Profession and Worship: And Almighty God being the only Lord of Conscience, Father of Lights and Spirits; and the Author as well as Object of all divine Knowledge, Faith and Worship, who only doth enlighten the Minds, and persuade and convince the Understandings of People, I do hereby grant and declare, That no Person or Persons, inhabiting in this Province or Territories, who shall confess and acknowledge One almighty God, the Creator, Upholder and Ruler of the World; and profess him or themselves obliged to live quietly under the Civil Government, shall be in any Case molested or prejudiced, in his or their Person or Estate, because of his or their conscientious Persuasion or Practice, nor be compelled to frequent or maintain any religious Worship, Place or Ministry, contrary to his or their Mind, or to do or suffer any other Act or Thing, contrary to their religious Persuasion.
    • Pennsylvania Charter of Privileges (28 October 1701)
  • All men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences; no man can of right be compelled to attend, erect, or support any place of worship, or to maintain any ministry against his consent; no human authority can, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience, and no preference shall ever be given by law to any religious establishment or modes of worship.
    • Declaration of Rights

No Cross, No Crown (1682)

Written while a prisoner in the Tower of London (1668-1669)
  • No pain, no palm; no thorns, no throne; no gall, no glory; no cross, no crown.
  • True religion does not draw men out of the world but enables them to live better in it and excites their endeavors to mend it.

Fruits of Solitude (1693)

Full title: Some Fruits of Solitude In Reflections And Maxims

  • Reader, - This Enchiridion, I present thee with, is the Fruit of Solitude: A School few care to learn in, tho' None Instructs us better. Some Parts of it are the Result of serious Reflection: Others the Flashings of Lucid Intervals: Writ for private Satisfaction, and now publish'd for an Help to Human Conduct.
    • The Preface
  • There is nothing of which we are apt to be so lavish as of Time, and about which we ought to be more solicitous; since without it we can do nothing in this World. Time is what we want most, but what, alas! we use worst; and for which God will certainly most strictly reckon with us, when Time shall be no more.
    • The Preface
  • Truth often suffers more by the heat of its defenders than from the arguments of its opposers.
  • They that love beyond the world cannot be separated by it. Death is but crossing the world, as friends do the seas; they live in one another still.
  • Men are generally more careful of the breed of their horses and dogs than of their children.
  • It were endless to dispute upon everything that is disputable.
  • Passion is a sort of fever in the mind, which ever leaves us weaker than it found us.
  • The public must and will be served.
  • It is admirable to consider how many Millions of People come into, and go out of the World, Ignorant of themselves, and of the World they have lived in. (1)
  • Children had rather be making of Tools and Instruments of Play; Shaping, Drawing, Framing, and Building, &c. than getting some Rules of Propriety of Speech by Heart: And those also would follow with more Judgment, and less Trouble and Time. (8)
  • It were Happy if we studied Nature more in natural Things; and acted according to Nature; whose rules are few, plain and most reasonable. (9)
  • They have a Right to censure, that have a Heart to help: The rest is Cruelty, not Justice. (46)
  • Friendship is the next Pleasure we may hope for: And where we find it not at home, or have no home to find it in, we may seek it abroad. It is an Union of Spirits, a Marriage of Hearts, and the Bond thereof Vertue.
  • There can be no Friendship where there is no Freedom. Friendship loves a free Air, and will not be penned up in streight and narrow Enclosures. It will speak freely, and act so too; and take nothing ill where no ill is meant; nay, where it is, ’twill easily forgive, and forget too, upon small Acknowledgments.
  • Friends are true Twins in Soul; they Sympathize in every thing, and have the Love and Aversion. One is not happy without the other, nor can either of them be miserable alone. As if they could change Bodies, they take their turns in Pain as well as in Pleasure; relieving one another in their most adverse Conditions.What one enjoys, the other cannot Want. Like the Primitive Christians, they have all things in common, and no Property but in one another.
  • It were better to be of no Church, than to be bitter for any.(535)
  • A good End cannot sanctifie evil Means; nor must we ever do Evil, that Good may come of it. Some Folks think they may Scold, Rail, Hate, Rob and Kill too; so it be but for God's sake. But nothing in us unlike him, can please him. (537-539)
  • They must first judge themselves, that presume to censure others: And such will not be apt to overshoot the Mark. We are too ready to retaliate, rather than forgive, or gain by Love and Information. And yet we could hurt no Man that we believe loves us. Let us then try what Love will do: For if Men did once see we Love them, we should soon find they would not harm us. Force may subdue, but Love gains: And he that forgives first, wins the Lawrel. If I am even with my Enemy, the Debt is paid; but if I forgive it, I oblige him for ever. (542 - 547)
  • It is a severe Rebuke upon us, that God makes us so many Allowances, and we make so few to our Neighbor: As if Charity had nothing to do with Religion; Or Love with Faith, that ought to work by it. (549)
  • Did we believe a final Reckoning and Judgment; or did we think enough of what we do believe, we would allow more Love in Religion than we do; since Religion it self is nothing else but Love to God and Man. He that lives in Love lives in God, says the Beloved Disciple: And to be sure a Man can live no where better. It is most reasonable Men should value that Benefit, which is most durable. Now Tongues shall cease, and Prophecy fail, and Faith shall be consummated in Sight, and Hope in Enjoyment; but Love remains. (551-553)
  • Love is indeed Heaven upon Earth; since Heaven above would not be Heaven without it: For where there is not Love; there is Fear: But perfect Love casts out Fear. And yet we naturally fear most to offend what we most Love. What we Love, we'll Hear; what we Love, we'll Trust; and what we Love, we'll serve, ay, and suffer for too. If you love me (says our Blessed Redeemer) keep my Commandments. Why? Why then he'll Love us; then we shall be his Friends; then he'll send us the Comforter; then whatsover we ask, we shall receive; and then where he is we shall be also, and that for ever. Behold the Fruits of Love; the Power, Vertue, Benefit and Beauty of Love! Love is above all; and when it prevails in us all, we shall all be Lovely, and in Love with God and one with another. (554-556)

Advice to his children (1699)

  • Children, Fear God; that is to say, have an holy awe upon your minds to avoid that which is evil, and a strict care to embrace and do that which is good.
  • Be humble. It becomes a creature, a depending and borrowed being, that lives not of itself, but breathes in another's air with another's breath, and is accountable for every moment of time and can call nothing its own, but is absolutely a tenant at will of the great Lord of heaven and earth.
  • Much reading is an oppression of the mind, and extinguishes the natural candle, which is the reason of so many senseless scholars in the world.


  • Government seems to me to be a part of religion itself— a thing sacred in its institutions and ends.
  • Hasty resolutions are of the nature of vows, and to be equally avoided.
  • Knowledge is the treasure, but judgment the treasurer of a wise man.
  • Less judgment than wit is more sail than ballast.
  • Let men be good, and the government cannot be bad; if it be ill, they will cure it. But, if men be bad, let the government be never so good, they will endeavor to warp and spoil it to their turn. - Frame of Government
  • Liberty without obedience is confusion, and obedience without liberty is slavery.
  • O Lord, help me not to despise or oppose what I do not understand.
  • Whereas the glory of Almighty God and the good of mankind is the reason and end of government, therefore, government in itself is a venerable ordinance of God.


  • I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good thing, therefore, that I can do or any kindness I can show to any fellow human being let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.
    • This quote is often attributed to William Penn, but its actual source seems to have been another prominent Quaker, Stephen Grellet.
  • No men, nor number of men upon earth, hath power or authority to rule over men's consciences in religious matters.

Quotes by others about Penn

  • William Penn might, with reason, boast of having brought down upon earth the Golden Age, which in all probability, never had any real existence but in his dominions. ~ Voltaire
  • It was the only treaty made by the settlers with the Indians that was never sworn to, and the only one that was never broken. ~ Voltaire, contrasting Penn's treaty with the Delaware (Leni Lenape) Indians, with most others that had been made in the colonization of America.
  • In the history of this Nation, there has been a small number of men and women whose contributions to its traditions of freedom, justice, and individual rights have accorded them a special place of honor in our hearts and minds, and to whom all Americans owe a lasting debt...
    William Penn, as a British citizen, founded the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in order to carry out an experiment based upon representative government; public education without regard to race, creed, sex, or ability to pay; and the substitution of workhouses for prisons. He had a Quaker's deep faith in divine guidance, and as the leader of the new colony, he worked to protect rights of personal conscience and freedom of religion. The principles of religious freedom he espoused helped to lay the groundwork for the First Amendment of our Constitution.
    As a man of peace, William Penn was conscientiously opposed to war as a means of settling international disputes and worked toward its elimination by proposing the establishment of a Parliament of Nations, not unlike the present-day United Nations. ~ Ronald Reagan, Proclamation of Honorary US Citizenship for William and Hannah Penn (28 November 1984)
  • William Penn was the first great hero of American liberty. During the late seventeenth century, when Protestants persecuted Catholics, Catholics persecuted Protestants, and both persecuted Quakers and Jews, Penn established an American sanctuary which protected freedom of conscience. ~ Jim Powell, in William Penn, America's First Great Champion for Liberty and Peace

External links

Wikipedia has an article about:

Penn's works online

Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

William Penn
by John Greenleaf Whittier

The tyrant on his gilded throne,
The warior in his battle dress,
The holier triumph ne'er have known
Of justice and of righteousness.

Founder of Pennsylvania thou,
Didst feel it, when thy words of peace
Smoothed the stern chieftain's swarthy brow,
And bade the dreadful war to cease.

On Schuylkill's banks no fortress frowned;
The peaceful cot alone was there;
No beacon-fires the hilltops crowned,
No death-shot swept the Delaware.

In manners meek, in precepts mild,
Thou and thy friends serenely taught
The savage huntsman, fierce and wild,
To raise to heaven his erring thought.

How all unlike the bloody band
That unrelenting Cortez led,
To princely Montezuma's land,
And ruin round his pathway shed!

With hearts that knew not how to spare,
Disdaining milder means to try,
The demon crimson sword alone was there;
The Indians' choice to yield or die.

But, thou, meek Pennsylvania sire,
Unarmed, alone, from terror free,
Taught by the heathen council fire
The lessons of Christianity.

Founder of Pennsylvania's state—
Not on the blood-wet roles of fame,
But with the wise, the good, the great,
The world shall place thy sainted name.

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

There is more than one meaning of William Penn discussed in the 1911 Encyclopedia. We are planning to let all links go to the correct meaning directly, but for now you will have to search it out from the list below by yourself. If you want to change the link that led you here yourself, it would be appreciated.

Simple English

William Penn (October 14 1644 - July 30 1718) was an English colonial leader. He was given what would become the US state of Pennsylvania by King Charles II as a debt to his father. Penn was a member of the Religious Society of Friends.

Penn and his wife were made honorary United States citizens in 1984 by US President Ronald Reagan.

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