Skip to main content

Holy Experiment

HOLY EXPERIMENT

HOLY EXPERIMENT. "Holy Experiment" was William Penn's term for the ideal government he established for Pennsylvania in 1681, when he obtained the charter for that colony from King Charles II of England. Penn believed that the charter was a gift from God, "that an example may be set up to the nations: there may be room there, though not here, for such an holy experiment." This "experiment," Penn believed, would be a success only if the colony was settled with people of virtue, whose spirituality would shape Pennsylvania society, law, and politics. A member of the Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers as they were derisively called, Penn shared with his coreligionists a belief that, by virtue of their direct knowledge of and communion with God's divine authority, their precepts of religious liberty, political freedom, and pacifism were bound to take root in the new colony.

The first law the assembly passed guaranteed religious liberty and toleration for all who "shall confess and acknowledge one Almighty God to be the Creator, Upholder and Ruler of the world." The spiritual, legal, and political commitment to religious toleration loomed large to those Friends who had been persecuted in England. Economic, political, and religious divisions, however, undermined the colony's spiritual foundations within a few years of its establishment. An ineffective council, designated by Penn to be the executive branch of government in his absence, could do little to uphold the experiment's ideals. Most historians agree that between Penn's departure for England in 1684 and his return to the colony in 1699, the political ideals inherent in the Holy Experiment largely failed.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bronner, Edwin B. William Penn's Holy Experiment: The Founding of Pennsylvania, 1681–1701. New York: Temple University Press, 1962.

Illick, Joseph E. Colonial Pennsylvania: A History. New York: Scribners, 1976.

Leslie J.Lindenauer

See alsoPennsylvania ; Quakers .

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Holy Experiment." Dictionary of American History. . Encyclopedia.com. 25 Nov. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Holy Experiment." Dictionary of American History. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 25, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/holy-experiment

"Holy Experiment." Dictionary of American History. . Retrieved November 25, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/holy-experiment

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.