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William Penn

William Penn

William Penn (1644-1718) founded Pennsylvania and played a leading role in the history of New Jersey and Delaware.

The heritage of William Penn was his part in the growth of the Society of Friends (Quakers) and role in the settlement of North America. Penn's influence with the British royal family and his pamphlets on behalf of religious toleration were important factors in the consolidation of the Quaker movement. He gave witness in America to the liberal faith and social conscience he had propounded in England in a career committed to religious and political values that have become inseparable from the American way of life.

William Penn was born in London on Oct. 14, 1644, the son of Adm. William Penn and Margaret Jasper. Adm. Penn served in the parliamentary navy during the Puritan Revolution. Although rewarded by Cromwell and given estates in Ireland, he fell into disfavor and took part in the restoration of Charles II. An intimate of the Duke of York, Adm. Penn was knighted by Charles II. With so influential a father, there seemed little doubt that William's prospects were attractive.

Early Manhood

Nothing better demonstrates how young Penn represented his period than his early religious enthusiasm. At the age of 13 he was profoundly moved by the Quaker Thomas Loe. Afterward, at Oxford, he came under Puritan influences. When he refused to conform to Anglican practices, the university expelled him in 1662.

At his father's request Penn attended the Inns of Court, gaining knowledge of the law. A portrait of this time shows him dressed in armor, with handsome, strong features, and the air of confidence of a fledgling aristocrat.

Quaker Advocate

Appearances, in Penn's case, were deceiving. While supervising his father's Irish estates, Penn was drawn into the Quaker fold. His conversion was inspired by the simple piety of the Quakers and the need to provide relief for victims of persecution. At the age of 22, much to his father's distress, Penn became a Quaker advocate. His marriage in 1672 to Gulielma Maria Springett, of a wellknown Quaker family, completed his religious commitment.

Penn's prominence and political connections were important resources for the persecuted Quakers. A major theme of his voluminous writings was the inhumanity and futility of persecution. One remarkable achievement during this period was Penn's handling of the "Bushell Case." Penn managed to persuade a jury not to subject a Quaker to imprisonment only for his faith. When the magistrate demanded that the jury change its verdict, Penn maintained successfully that a jury must not be coerced by the bench. This landmark case established the freedom of English juries.

Colonial Proprietor

Religious persecution and colonization went hand in hand as the Quakers looked to America for a haven. Various problems invited Penn's association with the Quaker interests in New Jersey. Apart from his influence in England, Penn was active in mediating quarrels among the trustees. Doubtless, too, Penn contributed to the "Concessions and Agreements" (1677) offered to settlers, although he was not its principal author. This document gave the settlers virtual control over this colony through an elected assembly. It also offered a forthright guarantee of personal liberties, especially religious toleration and trial by jury, which the Quakers could not obtain in England.

The manifest liabilities of New Jersey formed a prelude to the founding of Pennsylvania. Of major importance, however, was Penn's Quaker faith and unyielding devotion to religious and political freedom; this underlaid his conception of Pennsylvania as a "Holy Experiment." In addition, Penn thought the colony could become a profitable enterprise to be inherited by his family.

Penn's proprietary charter contained many elements of previous grants. Penn and his heirs were given control over the land and extensive powers of government. The document reflected the period in which it was written: in keeping with new imperial regulations, Penn was made personally responsible for the enforcement of the Navigation Acts and had to keep an agent in London; he was required to send laws to England for royal approval.

In several ways Pennsylvania was the most successful English colony. Penn's initial treaties with the Indians, signed in 1683 and 1684, were based on an acceptance of Indian equality and resulted in an unprecedented era of peace. Penn also wrote promotional tracts for Pennsylvania and arranged circulation of these materials abroad. The response was one of the largest and most varied ethnic migrations in the history of colonization. Moreover, Pennsylvania's economic beginnings were usually successful. A fertile country, the commercial advantages of Philadelphia, and substantial investments by Quaker merchants produced rapid economic growth.

Despite this success Pennsylvania was not without problems. An immediate concern was its borders, especially those with Maryland. Because of anomalies in Penn's charter, an area along the southern border, including Philadelphia, was claimed by Lord Baltimore. This problem was only partly ameliorated when Penn secured control over what later became Delaware from the Duke of York. Just as troublesome were political controversies within the colony. Although Penn's liberal spirit was evident in the political life of Pennsylvania, and he believed that the people should be offered self-government and that the rights of every citizen should be guaranteed, he did not think the colonists should have full power. In order to provide a balance in government, and partly to protect his own rights, he sought a key role in running the colony. What Penn envisaged in his famous "Frame of Government" (1682) was a system in which he would offer leadership and the elected assembly would follow his pattern.

Almost from the start there were challenges to Penn's conception. Controversies developed among the respective branches of government, with the representatives trying to restrict the authority of the proprietor and the council. Disputes centered on taxation, land policy, Penn's appointments, and defense. "For the love of God, me, and the poor country, " Penn wrote to the colonists, "be not so governmentish, so noisy, and open in your dissafection." Other difficulties included Penn's identification with James II, which brought him imprisonment and a temporary loss of the proprietorship in 1692-1694. No less burdensome was his indebtedness. Penn's liabilities in the founding of Pennsylvania led to his imprisonment for debt, a humiliating blow.

Final Years

After the Glorious Revolution in England, Penn and his family went to live in Pennsylvania. Arriving in 1699, he reestablished friendly contacts with the Indians and worked hard to heal a religious schism among the Quakers. He also labored to suppress piracy and tried to secure expenditures for colonial self-defense, demanded by the Crown but resisted by pacifist Quakers.

Penn's major achievement was the new charter of 1701. Under its terms the council was eliminated, and Pennsylvania became the only colony governed by a unicameral legislature of elected representatives. This system, which lasted until 1776, permitted the Delaware settlers to have their own legislature. Penn was obliged to return to England late in 1701 to fight a proposal in Parliament which would have abrogated all proprietary grants. He never saw Pennsylvania again.

Penn's last years were filled with disappointment. His heir, William, Jr., was a special tribulation because of his dissolute life-style. After the death of his first wife in 1694, Penn married Hannah Callowhill in 1696. Perplexed by debts, colonial disaffection, and the general antipathy of the King's ministers toward private colonies, Penn almost completed the sale of Pennsylvania to the Crown in 1712 before he suffered his first disabling stroke. He died at Ruscombe, Berkshire, on July 30, 1718.

Further Reading

Though many books treat Penn, a fully satisfactory biography has yet to be written. An enjoyable account, emphasizing Penn's personal life and character, is Catherine O. Peare, William Penn (1957). Of value on Penn's political and religious ideals are Edward C. Beatty, William Penn as a Social Philosopher (1939), and Mary M. Dunn, William Penn: Politics and Conscience (1967).

Works dealing with selected subjects include Edwin B. Bronner, William Penn's "Holy Experiment": The Founding of Pennsylvania, 1681-1701 (1962); Joseph E. Illick, William Penn the Politician (1965); and Gary B. Nash, Quakers and Politics: Pennsylvania, 1681-1726 (1968). A superior general account of the founding of Pennsylvania and other colonies is Charles M. Andrews, The Colonial Period of American History (4 vols., 1934-1938). The most recent synthesis is in Wesley F. Craven, The Colonies in Transition, 1660-1713 (1968). □

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Penn, William

William Penn

Born: October 14, 1644
London, England
Died: July 30, 1718
Berkshire, England

English statesman and philosopher

William Penn founded Pennsylvania and played a leading role in the history of New Jersey and Delaware.

Colonial childhood

William Penn was born in London, England, on October 14, 1644. He was the first of three children of Admiral William Penn and Margaret Jasper. Admiral Penn served in the parliamentary navy during the Puritan Revolution (1647), when the royal forces of King Charles I (16001649) fought with those in England's parliament. Although rewarded by English statesman Oliver Cromwell (15991658) and given land in Ireland, he soon fell out of favor and took part in the restoration of Charles II (16301685) as the king of Great Britain. A close friend of the Duke of York, Admiral Penn was knighted by Charles II. With so influential a father, there seemed little doubt that William's future had promise.

Nothing better demonstrates how young Penn represented his period than his early religious enthusiasm. At the age of thirteen he was deeply moved by Quaker Thomas Loe. (Quakers are a religious following who were persecuted [harassed] in the seventeenth century for their beliefs and forced to find new homes in Europe and America.) Afterward, at Oxford University in England, he came under the influence of Puritans (English Protestants). When he refused Anglican (Church of England) practices, he was expelled (kicked out) in 1662. Afterwards, at his father's request, Penn attended the Inns of Court, gaining knowledge of the law. A portrait of this time shows him dressed in armor, with handsome, strong features, and the air of confidence of a young member of the ruling class.

Quaker advocate

Appearances, in Penn's case, were misleading. While supervising his father's Irish estates, Penn was drawn into the Quaker world. His conversion to Quakerism was inspired by the simple piety (religious devotion) of their religion and the need to provide relief for victims of persecution. At the age of twenty-two, against his father's wishes, Penn became a Quaker advocate, or supporter. His marriage in 1672 to Gulielma Maria Springett, of a well-known Quaker family, completed his religious commitment.

Penn's background and political connections were important resources for the persecuted Quakers. A major theme of his many writings was the unfairness of persecution. One remarkable achievement during this period was Penn's handling of the "Bushell Case." Penn managed to convince a jury not to imprison a Quaker only for his faith. When the judge demanded that the jury change its verdict (decision), Penn maintained successfully that a jury must not be influenced by the bench. This landmark case established the freedom of English juries.

Colonial proprietor

Religious persecution and colonization (settling new lands) went hand in hand as the Quakers looked to America for a new home. Various problems with the Quaker interests in New Jersey led to Penn's heightened involvement. Penn contributed to the "Concessions and Agreements" (1677) offered to settlers, although he was not its principal author. This document gave the settlers virtual control over the colony through an elected assembly, or group of leaders. It also offered a guarantee of personal liberties (freedoms), especially religious toleration and trial by jury, which the Quakers were unable to receive in England.

The problems with New Jersey formed an introduction to the founding of Pennsylvania. Of major importance, however, was Penn's Quaker faith and devotion to religious and political freedom. This laid the foundation for his ideas that Pennsylvania would be a "Holy Experiment." In addition, Penn thought the colony could become a profitable enterprise (business) to be inherited by his family.

Founding Pennsylvania

Penn and his people were given control over the land and thorough powers of government. The grant, or document, reflected the period in which it was written: in keeping with new imperial regulations (British rule), Penn was made personally responsible for the enforcement of the Navigation Acts, a series of laws intended to increase English shipping. He also had to keep an agent in London and was required to send laws to England for royal approval.

In several ways Pennsylvania was the most successful English colony. Penn's first treaties (peace agreements) with the Indians, signed in 1683 and 1684, were based on an acceptance of Indian equality and resulted in an era of peace. Penn also wrote promotional papers for Pennsylvania and arranged circulation of these materials overseas. The response was one of the largest and most varied migrations in the history of colonization. Moreover, Pennsylvania's economic beginnings were unusually successful. A fertile country (able to produce crops), the commercial advantages of Philadelphia, and substantial investments by Quaker businesspeople produced rapid economic growth.

Despite this success Pennsylvania was not without problems. Because of oversights in Penn's charter, an area along the southern border, including Philadelphia, was claimed by Lord Baltimore. This problem was only partly fixed when Penn secured control over what later became Delaware from the Duke of York. Just as troublesome were political controversies within the colony. Although Penn believed that the people should be offered self-government and that the rights of every citizen should be guaranteed, he did not think the colonists should have full power. In order to provide a balance in government, and partly to protect his own rights, he sought a key role in running the colony. What Penn envisioned in his famous "Frame of Government" (1682) was a system in which he would offer leadership, and the elected assembly would follow his pattern.

Almost from the start there were challenges to Penn's ideas. Controversies developed among the branches of government, with the representatives trying to restrict the authority of Penn and the council. Disputes centered on taxation, land policy, Penn's appointments, and defense. Other difficulties included Penn's identification with King James II (16331701), which brought him imprisonment from 1692 to 1694. No less troublesome was his debt. Penn's financial responsibility in the founding of Pennsylvania led to his imprisonment for debt, a humiliating blow.

Final years

After England's Glorious Revolution, when James II was replaced by William III (16501702) and Mary II (16621694) as England's rulers in 1689, Penn and his family went to live in Pennsylvania. Arriving in 1699, he reestablished friendly contacts with the Indians and worked hard to heal a religious schism (separation) among the Quakers. He also fought piracy (robbing at sea) and tried to secure financial backing for colonial self-defense, demanded by the Crown but resisted by the Quakers.

Penn's major achievement was the new charter of 1701. Under its terms the council was eliminated, and Pennsylvania became the only colony governed by a single legislature of elected representatives. This system, which lasted until 1776, permitted the Delaware settlers to have their own governing body. Penn returned to England late in 1701 to fight a proposal in Parliament which would have voided all proprietary grants. He never saw Pennsylvania again.

Penn's last years were filled with disappointment. After the death of his first wife in 1694, Penn married Hannah Callowhill in 1696. Hampered by debts, colonial disaffection, and the general poor relationship with the King's ministers toward private colonies, Penn almost completed the sale of Pennsylvania to the Crown in 1712 before he suffered his first disabling stroke, a destruction of brain tissue which often leads to paralysis. He died at Ruscombe, Berkshire, on July 30, 1718.

For More Information

Dunn, Mary M. William Penn: Politics and Conscience. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1967.

Geiter, Mary K. William Penn. New York: Longman, 2000.

Lutz, Norma Jean. William Penn: Founder of Democracy. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2000.

Peare, Catherine O. William Penn. New York: H. Holt, 1958.

Stefoff, Rebecca. William Penn. Broomall, PA: Chelsea House Publishers, 1997.

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Penn, William (1644-1718)

William Penn (1644-1718)

Founder of pennsylvania

Sources

Background. William Penn was born to the ranks of privilege, connection, and wealth. His father, Sir William Penn, was a friend of the Stuart kings, an admiral in the Royal Navy, and a large landowner in Ireland. Penns mother was Margaret Jasper Vanderschuren, daughter of a merchant living in Ireland and widow of a Dutch merchant. She and her family fled Ireland for London in 1641 when the Catholic Irish began war against immigrant Protestants. There in 1643 she met and married William Penn Sr. Their elder son and major heir, William, was born in 1644, a time of troubles. The English Civil War was raging, and the king was a prisoner in Scotland. There was religious turmoil as Well, and some, such as George Fox, the founder of the Society of Friends, were preaching throughout England. The elder Penn himself was arrested on suspicion of treason but shortly thereafter released. In 1654 the admiral headed for the West Indies in what was to be a strike against Spanish Hispaniola. This grand expedition ended in failure, and on his return Penn Sr. was imprisoned again. Upon his release Penn Sr. decided that England was not safe, and in 1656 he moved the family to Ireland. The end of the civil war and the restoration of the Stuart kings in 1660 were good for the Penn family since the admiral was friends with both Charles II and his brother and heir, James. That same year William was sent to study at Christ Church, Oxford.

Religious Doubts. William Penn Jr. had his first religious experience at the age of ten or eleven. When he was thirteen Thomas Loe, an itinerant Quaker, visited Ireland and was invited to the Penn home. It was Penns first brush with Quakerism, although it did not lead then to his conversion. At Oxford, Penn realized his need for a more personal faith than the Church of England provided him. In the spring of 1662 he was expelled for absenting himself from compulsory chapel. Meanwhile, laws were passed against the Quakers. Sir Williams answer to the increasingly religious bent of his son was to steep him in worldly society, so young Penn was sent off to France, the center of polite culture. But William left Paris and the royal court at Fontainebleau and enrolled in the Protestant Academy of Saumur where he stayed for a year and a half.

The Quaker. In 1666 Penn Jr. sailed for Ireland to handle the family estates. The next year he again encountered the Quaker minister Loe and this time underwent an intense religious awakening. He began attending Quaker meetings and was briefly imprisoned in Cork because of them. He also wrote his first public statement against religious intolerance, protesting the injustice of such treatment for the sake of conscience. His father called him back to England where it was reported, Mr. Will Pen, who is lately come over from Ireland, is a Quaker again, or some very melancholy thing; that he cares for no company, nor comes into any. But Penn did care for Quaker company and at age twenty-four became a minister. He preached, was arrested and jailed, and published various tracts about his beliefs, the most famous being No Cross No Crown (1669). In 1670 Adm. William Penn died, leaving young William not only a tidy fortune but also a considerable debt from the Crown. After yet another stint in jail he left to spread the word in Germany and Holland. He would later urge these people to settle in Pennsylvania.

The Proprietor. In 1680 Penn reminded Charles II of the account owed him, but rather than money Penn asked for a tract of land north of Maryland. Knowing persecution firsthand, he hoped to establish a refuge for Quakers where other religious and ethnic minorities would also be welcome. The next year Penn was named proprietor of Pennsylvania (literally Penns Woods). In 1682 he arrived in America, stayed two years, but then returned to England to help fellow Quakers fight a renewed round of persecution and to settle the southern boundary of his colony, which was also claimed by Lord Baltimore. The overthrow of James II in 1688 and the installation of William and Mary meant trouble for Penn, who now no longer had a personal relationship with the Crown. His absence from Pennsylvania also fostered discontent, and his authority slipped there as well. In 1692 the Crown stripped Penn of his proprietorship, but it was restored two years later. Penn was back in Pennsylvania by 1697 and faced growing opposition from those who wanted the Crown to take over the colony. Again he stayed for two years, during which he presided over legal reforms that gave some power to an elected assembly, and signed one of the few treaties with the Native Americans that brought a prolonged peace. But affairs in England again called him home; Penn returned there in December 1701, never again to see his colony.

Last Years. Penns last years were spent fighting those in America who wished to end the proprietary and dealing with debts at home that threatened to ruin him. The colony was a success, yet it had not made much money for Penn. Rents and land purchases went unpaid. In 1707 Penn chose debtors prison rather than pay what were probably justifiable debts. Five years later he began negotiating with the Crown for the sale of Pennsylvania, but during these arrangements he suffered a series of strokes that disabled him. He lingered on until 1718, and his colony remained in family hands until the American Revolution.

Sources

The Diary of Samuel Pepys, edited by Robert Latham and William Matthews, 11 volumes (Berkeley: University of California Press, 19701983).

Richard S. Dunn and Mary Maples Dunn, eds., The World of William Penn (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1986);

Catherine Owens Peare, William Penn: A Biography (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1957).

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Penn, William (founder of Pennsylvania)

William Penn, 1644–1718, English Quaker, founder of Pennsylvania, b. London, England; son of Sir William Penn.

Early Life

He was expelled (1662) from Oxford for his religious nonconformity and was then sent by his father to the Continent to overcome his leanings toward Puritanism. He continued his religious studies, however, and in Ireland, where he had been sent (1666) to oversee the family estates, he became a staunch member of the Society of Friends. He was imprisoned (1668) for writing a tract (The Sandy Foundation Shaken) against the doctrine of the Trinity, but, undaunted, he wrote No Cross, No Crown and Innocency with Her Open Face while in the Tower of London. After his release (1669), Penn continued his writing, his many tracts including The Great Case of Liberty of Conscience (1670), in which he argued for religious toleration. He also went on preaching missions through England, the Netherlands, and Germany.

In the American Colonies

Penn became involved in the affairs of the American colonies when in 1675 he was appointed a trustee for Edward Byllynge, one of the two Quaker proprietors of West Jersey. He helped draw up Concessions and Agreements, a liberal charter of government for the Quakers settling there. In 1681, Penn and 11 others purchased East Jersey (see New Jersey). In the same year, in payment of a debt owed his father, Penn obtained from King Charles II a charter for Pennsylvania (named by the king for Penn's father) for the establishment of his "holy experiment," a colony where religious and political freedom could flourish. Shortly afterward he received a grant of the Three Lower Counties-on-the-Delaware (present Delaware) from the duke of York (later James II).

In 1682, Penn went to his province, where the earliest settlers were already laying out the city of Philadelphia in accordance with his plans. He drew up a liberal Frame of Government for the colony. He also established the friendly relations with the Native Americans that were to distinguish the early history of Pennsylvania. Returning to England (1684), he asserted his boundary claims against Charles Calvert, 3d Lord Baltimore.

Penn's friendship with James II led to his being accused of treason after that king's deposition (1688), and his colony was briefly (1692–94) annexed to New York. Penn continued writing religious and political tracts and preached extensively. Difficulties in Pennsylvania caused his return there for a short time (1699–1701), and he issued a new constitution, the Charter of Privileges (1701), granting more power to the provincial assembly.

Penn's last years were troubled ones. His own steward swindled him to such an extent that he was imprisoned (1707–8) for debt, and the continued difficulties of his colony and troubles concerning his eldest son caused him much grief. A stroke in 1712 removed him from active life.

Bibliography

See M. M. and R. S. Dunn, ed., The Papers of William Penn (5 vol., 1981–87); biographies by W. I. Hull (1937) and M. M. Dunn (1967); A. Pound, The Penns of Pennsylvania and England (1932); E. C. O. Beatty, William Penn as Social Philosopher (1939, repr. 1974); V. Buranelli, The King & the Quaker (1962); M. B. Endy, Jr., William Penn and Early Quakerism (1973).

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Penn, William

Penn, William (1644–1718). Penn, son of Admiral Sir William Penn, educated at Oxford and Lincoln's Inn, exhibited an early religious sensibility, rejecting a conventional career to join the quakers. Their leading legal spokesman, international propagandist, and public witness, his advocacy of liberty of conscience and religious toleration found some support from Charles II and James, duke of York, and Penn's wealth aided his efforts. Although a prolific pamphleteer, he rejected the violence of English politics at the Exclusion crisis. He suffered for his royal friendships at the Glorious Revolution. Penn gained an extensive American proprietary in 1681, drafting a constitution for Pennsylvania embodying his very liberal political ideas. The colony lost rather than (as he hoped) gained him a fortune; he faced growing opposition there and in England. One of the few colonial proprietors who actually visited America, he died in penury and self-pity.

Richard C. Simmons

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Penn, William

Penn, William (1644–1718) English Quaker leader and chief founder of what later became the US state of Pennsylvania. Because of his advocacy of religious freedom, he was imprisoned four times. While in the Tower of London, he wrote No Cross – No Crown (1669), explaining Quaker-Puritan morality. He persuaded King Charles II to honour an unpaid debt by granting him wilderness land in America to be settled by the Quakers and others seeking refuge from religious persecution. The colony was named the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in his honour.

http://www.quaker.org/wmpenn.html

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Penn, William

Penn, William (1644–1718). Quaker leader and founder of Pennsylvania. Frequently imprisoned for his writings, he used his confinements to produce further apologetic works, notably No Cross No Crown (1669), and assisted the Quaker pursuit of religious and political freedom by obtaining from Charles II a charter for Pennsylvania. His later years were saddened by ill health, poverty, and imprisonment.

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