The Propriety of Pennsylvania
Reprinted in In Their Own Words: The Colonizers
Published in 1998
Edited by T. J. Stiles
"Our people are mostly settled upon the upper rivers, which are pleasant and sweet, and generally bounded with good land."
After the English colonized the mid-Atlantic coast and New England, they expanded westward with the founding of Pennsylvania. In 1681 King Charles II (1630–1685) gave a tract (large amount) of land, which he called "Pennsylvania" (Penn's Woods), to William Penn (1644–1718) to repay a debt he owed to Penn's father. Charles granted the land under a proprietary contract that gave Penn the right to establish and govern a colony with almost complete independence from England. Penn, a member of the Society of Friends, or Quakers, a religious sect that was greatly feared in England, decided to use the colony as a refuge for this religious group.
The Society of Friends had been started in the early 1650s by George Fox (1624–1691), an English cobbler (shoemaker) and shepherd. Fox believed he possessed the Inner Light, or Truth, which enabled him to communicate directly with God. He was convinced that everyone possessed an Inner Light. Fox and his followers became evangelicals (those who emphasize salvation by faith, the authority of the scripture, and the importance of preaching), calling on other Protestants to renounce the Church of England. Like the Puritans and
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Nonconformists (those who did not conform to the Church of England), the Friends felt the national church relied too heavily on priests, rituals, and worship services. The Friends were given the nickname "Quakers" by critics who ridiculed their beliefs, but they eventually adopted the name themselves.
The Quakers were considered a threat to both church and state. Quakerism was soon outlawed and many Friends, including William Penn, spent time in jail. Penn and other wealthy members of the group searched for a place of refuge that would permit them to worship freely and make a decent living for their families. At first they considered West New Jersey in America, part of the holdings of Charles's brother James (1633–1701; later King James II), the Duke of York, where Quakers had already settled. Since Penn had been granted land in America, however, he decided to start a new colony where they would have great freedom to practice their religion. The British authorities also benefitted from the new colony because they got rid of the troublesome Quakers.
Penn began making plans for Pennsylvania. In April 1681 he sent his cousin, William Markham, to America to form a governing council. When he arrived, Markham met with Native Americans and Europeans who lived in the territory to inform them of Penn's authority over the land. The following October, Penn dispatched a group of commissioners to choose a site for a port city, which would be called Philadelphia (a Greek word for "brotherly love"). Since Penn could not fund the entire venture himself, he organized the Free Society of Traders, a group of wealthy Quaker investors. Each investor purchased ten thousand acres and held a seat on the governing council. Between 1682 and 1683 they sent fifty ships to America. Penn's next step was to advertise Pennsylvania among Quakers in England, Wales, Holland, and Germany, hoping to attract new settlers. He also welcomed non-Quakers. When Penn went to Pennsylvania to take his post as governor in 1682, farms had been established, the city was being built, and new settlers were arriving from Ireland and Wales. The population had already reached four thousand. Penn then bought the three neighboring counties in Delaware from the Duke of York in order to expand his colony.
Perhaps the most important features of the Pennsylvania plan were the frame of government and charter of liberties, which guaranteed equality and fairness for its people. Penn envisioned a generous, free society in which taxes were low, no limit was placed on land holdings, and Native Americans were treated equally with Europeans. Moreover, he promoted complete religious tolerance, and he gave freedman (citizen) status to any male who owned fifty acres of farmland or paid taxes. The colony would be administered by the governor and the general council; these governing bodies proposed and passed laws. All citizens, including servants, would have certain rights and privileges, and there would be no established church.
Soon after arriving in Pennsylvania in 1682, Penn wrote The Propriety of Pennsylvania as an advertisement for his new colony. The document also revealed his fascination with Native American culture.
Things to Remember While Reading The Propriety of Pennsylvania:
- Penn was a social reformer and advocate of religious freedom, but he also realized his venture in Pennsylvania would succeed only if he turned a profit. To make money he had to attract settlers to his new colony. Therefore in sections I and IV he promoted life in Pennsylvania by praising the richness of the land, the healthy air, the convenience of river transportation, and easy access to ocean trade.
- Notice that Penn gave an extensive description of Native Americans in the area. So that they would not seem strange to his readers he compared them with familiar groups—Italians, Jews, Africans. Penn had respect for Native Americans, and he was critical of the negative influence of Europeans on native culture. In section XIX he observed, "Since the European came into these parts, they [Native Americans] are grown great lovers of strong liquors, rum especially, and for it exchange the richest of their skins and furs." He was referring to the European practice of getting Native Americans drunk in order to obtain the best deals on trading transactions. The colonists also used the same method with so-called "whisky treaties," whereby they tricked Native Americans into giving away vast amounts of land. Penn was equally critical of attempts to convert Native Americans to Christianity. In section XXV he wrote, "The worst is that they [Native Americans] are worse for the Christians, who have propagated [increased] their vices, and yielded them tradition for ill, and not for good things. . . ."
- Penn insisted on buying land from Native Americans, rather than simply seizing it or using the whiskey treaty trick. In 1682 the Native Americans and Quakers signed a treaty at a council meeting described by Penn in section [X]XIII. They agreed to "live in love as long as the sun gave light," thus forming one of the longest-lasting peace treaties between Native Americans and European settlers.
- In section XXVI Penn stated that the Native Americans were "of the Jewish race" and "of the stock of the Ten [lost] Tribes"—a common theory in the seventeenth century. He was referring to the "lost tribes of Israel." According to the Bible, ten Israelite tribes were taken to Assyria after the Assyrians conquered Israel in 722 b.c. No one knows what happened to the tribes, although numerous theories have placed them in Arabia, India, Ethiopia, and the Americas. Early Christian leaders claimed Native North Americans were the lost tribes.
- In section XXVII Penn noted that "The first planters in these parts were Dutch, and soon after them the Swedes and Finns. . . ." The Dutch founded the nearby colony of New Netherland in 1624; it was taken over by the English in 1664 and renamed New York. The Swedes and Finns started New Sweden (present-day Delaware and New Jersey) in 1634; it was occupied by the Dutch in 1655. (See "Impressions of New Jersey and New York.")
The Propriety of Pennsylvania
For the Province, the general condition of it take as followeth:
I. The country itself in its soil, air, water, seasons, and produce both natural and artificial is not to bedespised. The land containeth diverse sorts of earth. . . . God in his wisdom having ordered it so, that the advantages of the country are divided, the backlands being generally three to one richer than those that lie by navigable waters. . . .
VI. Of living creatures: fish, fowl, and beasts of the woods, here arediverse sorts, some for food and profit, and some for profit only. . . . The creatures for profit only by skin or fur, and that are natural to these parts, are the wild cat, panther, otter, wolf, fox, fisher, minx, muskrat; and of the water, the whale for oil, of which we have good store; and two companies of whalers, whose boats are built, will soon begin their work, which hath the appearance of a considerable improvement. To say nothing of our reasonable hopes of good cod in the bay. . . .
XI. The Natives I shall consider in their persons, language, manners, religion, and government, with my sense of their original. For their persons, they are generally tall, straight, well-built, and of singularproportion; theytreat strong and clever, and most walk
Despised: Looked down upon
with alofty chin. Of complexion, black, but bydesign, as the gypsies in England: They grease themselves with bear's fat clarified, and using no defense against sun or weather, their skins must needs beswarthy.
Their eye is little and black, not unlike a straight-looked Jew; the thick lip and flat nose, so frequent with the East Indians and Blacks, are not common to them; for I have seen as comely European-like faces among them of both, as on your side of the sea; and truly an Italian complexion hath not much more of the white, and the noses of several of them have as much of the Roman.
XII. Their language is lofty, yet narrow, but like the Hebrew; in signification full, like short-hand in writing; one word serveth in the place of three, and the rest are supplied by the understanding of the hearer. . . . I have made it my business to understand it, that I might not want an interpreter on any occasion. And I must say, that I know not a language spoken in Europe that hath words of more sweetness and greatness, in accent and emphasis, than theirs. . . .
VXI. Their diet is maize, or Indian corn, diverse ways prepared: sometimes roasted in the ashes, sometimes beaten and boiled with water, which they call Homine. They also make cakes, not unpleasant to eat. They likewise eat several sorts of beans and peas that are good nourishment. . . .
XIX . . . inliberality they excell; nothing is too good for their friend.Give them a fine gun, coat, or any other thing, it may pass twenty hands, before it sticks. Light of heart, strong affections, but soon spent; the most merry creatures that live, feast and dance perpetually. . . . .
Some kings have sold, others presented me with severalparcels of land; the pay or presents I made them were nothoarded by the particular owners, but the neighboring kings and their clans being present when the goods were brought out, the parties chiefly concerned consulted, what and to whom they should be give them? To every king then, . . . is a proportion sent. . . . Then that king sub divideth it in like manner among his dependents, they hardly leaving themselves an equal share with one of their subjects; and be it on such occasions, at festivals, or at their common meals, the kings distribute, and to themselves last . . . [the kings divide their lands before keeping any for themselves].
Design: To indicate with a distinctive mark, sign, or name
Swarthy: Of a dark color, complexion, or cast
Parcels: Portions of land
Hoarded: Collected greedily
Since the European came into these parts, they [Native Americans] are grown [have become] great lovers of strong liquors, rumespecially, and for it exchange the richest of their skins and furs. If they areheated with liquors, they are restless till they have enough to sleep. That is their cry, Some more, and I will go to sleep; but when drunk, one of the mostwretchedest spectacles in the world.
XX. In sickness, [they are] impatient to be cured, and for it give anything, especially for their children, to whom they are extremely natural [i.e., to whom they show natural affection]. They drink at those times a Teran ordecoction of some roots in spring water; and if they eat any flesh, it must be of the female of any creature. If they die, they bury them with their apparel, be they men or women, and the nearest kin fling in something precious with them, as a token of their love. Their mourning is blacking of their face, which they continue for a year. . . .
XXII. Their government is by kings, which they call Sachema, and those by succession, but always of the mother's side. For instance, the children of him that is now king, will not succeed, but his brother by the mother, or the children of his sister, whose sons (and after them the children of her daughters) will reign; for no woman inherits. The reason they render for this way ofdescent is that their issue may not bespurious . . . .
XIII. Every king hath his council, and that consists of all the old andwise men of his nation. . . .'Tis admirable to consider, how powerful the kings are, and yet how they move by the breath of their people. I have had occasion to be in council with them upon treaties for land, and to adjust the terms of trade.
Their order is thus: The king sits in the middle of anhalf moon, and hath his council, the old and wise on each hand; behind them, or at a little distance, sit the younger fry [youngsters], in the same figure. Having consulted and resolved their business, the king ordered one of them to speak to me; he stood up, came to me, and in the name of his king saluted me, then took me by the hand, and told me that he was ordered by his king to speak to me, and that now it was not he, but the king that spoke, because what he should say was the king's mind. He first prayed me to excuse them that they had not complied with me the last time; he feared, there might be some fault in the interpreter, being neither Indian nor English. Besides, it was the Indian custom todeliberate, and take up much time in council, before they resolve; and that if the young people or owners of the land had been as ready as he, I had not met with so much delay.
Decoction: An extract obtained by boiling
Render: To agree on and report
Spurious: Of illegitimate birth
Half moon: Half circle
Deliberate: Consider or discuss a matter carefully
Having thus introduced the matter, he fell to the bounds of the land they had agreed to dispose of, and the price (which [land] nowis little and dear, that which would have bought twenty miles, notbuying now two). During this time that this person spoke, not a manof them was observed to whisper or smile; the old, grave, the young,reverent in theirdeportment; they do speak little, but fervently, andwith elegancy. I have never seen more naturalsagacity, . . .
Deportment: The manner in which one conducts oneself
Sagacity: The quality of being keen in sense of perception
When the purchase was agreed, great promises passed betweenus of kindness and good neighborhood, and that the Indians andEnglish must live in love, as long as the sun gave light. Which done,another made a speech to the Indians, in the name of all the Sachamakers or kings, first to tell them what was done; next, tocharge and command them, to love the Christians, and particularlyto live in peace with me, and the people under my government; thatmany governors had been in the river, but that no governor hadcome himself to live and stay here before; and having now such aone that had treated them well, they should never do him or his anywrong. At every sentence of which they shouted, and said Amen, intheir way. . . .
XXV. We have agreed, that in all differences between us, six of eachside shall end the matter. Don't abuse them, but let them have justice, and you will win them. The worst is that they are the worse for the Christians, who havepropagated their vices, and yielded them tradition for ill, and not for good things. . . .
XXVI. For theiroriginal, I am ready to believe them of the Jewish race, I mean, of the stock of the Ten [lost] Tribes. . . .
XXVII. The first planters in these parts were Dutch, and soon afterthem the Swedes and Finns. The Dutch applied themselves totraffic, the Swedes and Finns tohusbandry. There were some disputes between them [for] some years, the Dutch looking upon them as intruders upon their purchase and possession, which was finally ended in the surrender made by. . . . the Swedes' governor, to Peter Stuyvesant, governor for the States of Holland,Anno 1655.
XXVIII. The Dutch inhabit mostly those parts of the province that lieupon or near to the bay, and the Swedes thefreshes of the river Delaware. There is no need of giving any description of them, who are better known there than here; but they are a plain, strong, industrious people, yet have made no great progress in culture or propagation of fruit trees, as if they desired rather to have enough, than plenty or traffic. But I presume the Indians made them the more careless, by furnishing them with the means of profit, to wit, skins and furs, for rum and such strong liquors.
They kindly received me, as well as the English, who were few, before the people concerned with me came among them. I must commend their respect to authority, and kind behavior to the English. . . .
XXXI. Our people are mostly settled upon the upper rivers, which arepleasant and sweet, and generally bounded with good land. The planted part of the province and territories is cast into six counties: Philadelphia, Buckingham, Chester, New Castle, Kent, and Sussex, maintaining about four thousand souls. The General Assemblies have been held, and with suchconcord and dispatch that they sat but three weeks, and at least seventy laws were passed without onedissent in any material thing. But of this more hereafter, being yet raw and new in ourgear.
Propagation: To cause to spread out and affect a greater number or greater area
Husbandry: The cultivation or production of plants and animals; agriculture
Anno: In the year
Concord: A state of agreement; harmony
Dissent: Difference of opinion
However, I cannot forget their singular respect to me in this infancy of things, who by their own private expenses so early considered mine for the public, as to present me with animpost upon certaingoodsimported andexported; which after my acknowledgments of their affection, I did as freely remit to the province and traders to it. And for the well government of the said counties, courts of justice are established in every county, with proper officers, as justices, sheriffs, clerks, constables, etc., which courts are held every two months. But to prevent lawsuits, there are three peace-makers chosen by every county court, in the nature of commonarbitrators, to hear and end differencesbetwixt man and man; and spring and fall there is an orphan's court in each county, to inspect and regulate the affairs of orphans and widows.
XXXII. Philadelphia, the expectation of those that are concerned inthis province, is at last laid out to the great content of those here. . . . It is advanced within less than a year to aboutfour score houses and cottages, such as they are, where merchants and handicrafts are following theirvocations as fast as they can, while the countrymen are close at their farms. . . .
Imported: Brought in from a foreign country for trade or sale
Exported: Sent to another country for trade or sale
Arbitrators: People chosen to settle a dispute
Four score: Eighty
What happened next . . .
Penn lived in Pennsylvania for only two years. During that time conflict broke out among various religious groups in the colony, disturbing the spirit of harmony and tolerance. Political squabbles also arose between poor landowners and the more privileged members of the Free Society of Traders. In 1684 Penn returned to England to fight against the persecution of Quakers and to settle a dispute over the southern boundary of his colony, which bordered Maryland. In the meantime King William III (1650–1702) and Queen Mary II (1662–1694) had ascended the throne, so Penn no longer had a personal relationship with the monarchy. Since he was absent from Pennsylvania, he lost his authority there as well. In 1692 the Crown (royal government) withdrew Penn's proprietorship (ownership), but restored it two years later.
Penn finally went back to Pennsylvania in 1699 only to face growing opposition from settlers who wanted the English government to take over the colony. Staying for another two years, he helped draft the Charter of Privileges (1701), legal reforms that increased the power of the elected assembly. But affairs in England called Penn home later that year, and he never again saw Pennsylvania. Upon his death in 1718 the proprietorship was passed to his son Thomas.
Pennsylvania continued to thrive in spite its problems. The Quaker philosophy of religious and ethnic tolerance became increasingly popular in Europe. During the eighteenth century Pennsylvania was the fastest-growing colony in America, and Philadelphia was the most important urban center.
Did you know . . .
- Maryland was the first English proprietary colony in America. George Calvert (1580–1632), first Baron (Lord) Baltimore, received a grant of land in northern Virginia, which he named Mary's Land for Queen Henrietta Maria. After Calvert died in 1643, the grant was transferred to his son Cecilius (1605–1675), second Baron Baltimore. The Calverts undoubtedly wanted to make money on their new venture. As Roman Catholics they also hoped to provide a place in America where members of their faith could enjoy religious and political freedom.
- When the Quakers arrived in Pennsylvania they encountered a variety of religious groups that were already established in the area—among them Swedish Lutheran, Dutch Reformed, German Lutheran, Anglican, Anabaptist, and Presbyterian. In 1685 Penn optimistically commented on the diversity of the population: "The People are a Collection of divers [various] Nations in Europe: As, French, Dutch, Germans, Swedes, Danes, Finns, Scotch, Irish and English; and of the last equal to all the rest." As Penn learned later, this mixture of religious beliefs was a natural source of conflict.
- Although Pennsylvania was a success, the colony yielded very little profit for Penn. When renters and landowners did not pay their bills, Penn ultimately was responsible for their debts. He was also swindled by one of his agents. Crushed by the financial burden, he went to debtor's prison in 1707. Five years later he began negotiating with the Crown for the sale of Pennsylvania, but during these discussions he suffered a series of disabling strokes.
- Pennsylvania had a growing population of Africans, both slave and free. Although Quakers became increasingly uncomfortable with slavery from the 1750s onward and even participated in the early abolition (antislavery) movement, they owned slaves until the eve of the American Revolution (see Some Considerations on the Keeping of Negroes).
For more information
Bailyn, Bernard. Voyagers to the West: A Passage in the Peopling of America on the Eve of the Revolution. New York: Vintage, 1986.
Foster, Genevieve. The World of William Penn. New York: Scribner's, 1973.
Middleton, Richard. Colonial America: A History, 1585–1776, Second edition. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell Publishers, 1996, pp. 161–68, 199–202.
"Penn's Plan for a Union" in Documents Relevant to the United States Before1700.http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Forum/9061/USA/colonial/bef1700.html Available September 30, 1999.
Quakers in Brief: an overview of the Quaker movement from 1650 to 1990.http://www.cryst.bbk.ac.uk/~ubcg09q/dmr/intro.htm Available September 30, 1999.
Stiles, T. J., ed. In Their Own Words: The Colonizers. New York: Berkeley Publishing, 1998, pp. 305–09.
Wildes, Harry Emerson. William Penn. New York: Macmillan, 1974.
October 14, 1644
July 30, 1718
Founder of Pennsylvania
"When the purchase was agreed, great promises passed between us of kindness and good neighborhood, and that the Indians and English must live in love, as long as the sun gave light."
William Penn was an English aristocrat (member of the upper social class) who founded the colony of Pennsylvania. Although he was born into the Anglican faith (the Church of England, the official state religion), he became a Quaker as a young man. (See box on Quakerism.) At that time Quakerism was outlawed in England, and Penn served at least three jail terms for practicing his religious beliefs. In 1682 he went to America to establish Pennsylvania as a haven for Quakers and others who experienced religious persecution. The colony was a success, yet Penn himself received no profit from his efforts. In fact, the venture ruined him financially, and toward the end of his life he spent a year in debtor's prison. Moreover, he was constantly engaged in a struggle with colonists who wanted to return control of Pennsylvania to the British monarchy. Today, Penn is remembered for signing one of the few treaties that brought a prolonged peace between Native Americans and European colonists.
Born during time of strife
William Penn was born into a privileged and wealthy family on October 14, 1644, in London, England. His father, William Penn (1621–1670), was an admiral in the British Royal Navy, and the owner of several large estates in Ireland. He was also a friend of the Stuart kings of England. (The Stuarts were a family who had ruled Scotland and England since the twelfth century.) Penn's mother was Margaret Jasper Vanderschuren, who was the widow of a Dutch merchant before she married Penn's father. In 1641 she and her family fled Ireland for London, England, as Irish Catholics waged a war against Protestant immigrants. In London she met and married William Penn. Their elder son and primary heir, William, was born in 1644, during a time of political unrest. A civil war was raging in England, and the king was being held prisoner in Scotland. There was also religious turmoil. Dissidents (people who disagree with the rules of a government or church) such as George Fox, the founder of the Religious Society of Friends (known as Quakers), were preaching throughout England for religious reform. Penn's father was arrested on suspicion of treason (betraying one's country) because he was a friend of the Stuarts, but he was soon released. In 1654 he headed for the West Indies and became involved in a military assault on the Spanish at Hispaniola. This grand expedition ended in failure, and on his return the older Penn was imprisoned again. Upon his release he decided that England was not safe, so in 1656 he moved the family to Ireland. In 1660 the English civil war came to an end and the Stuarts regained the throne. That same year young William was sent to study at Oxford's Christ Church College.
Becomes a Quaker
William Penn Jr. had his first religious experience at the age of ten or eleven. When he was thirteen he met Thomas Loe, an itinerant (one who travels from place to place) Quaker, who visited Ireland and was invited to the Penn home. This was Penn's first encounter with Quakerism, although it did not then lead to his conversion. At Oxford, Penn realized he needed a more personal religious faith than was provided by the Church of England. In 1662 he was expelled for not attending chapel, which was required of all students. Meanwhile, Quakerism had been outlawed in England. Penn's father then sent him to France, the center of elite society, where he was introduced at the court of King Louis XIV at Fontainebleau. Soon bored with court life, young William enrolled in the Protestant Academy of Saumur, where he stayed for a year and a half.
In 1666 Penn went to Ireland to manage the family estates. The following year he again encountered Loe, and this time he underwent an intense religious awakening. He began attending Quaker meetings and was briefly jailed in Cork because of his actions. (Ireland was part of the British Empire, so Penn was breaking the law when he attended Quaker meetings in Cork.) He also wrote his first public statement against religious intolerance, and at age twenty-four he became a minister. When he held Quaker meetings he was again arrested, imprisoned this time in the Tower of London. While he was in jail he wrote several tracts on religious freedom, the most famous being No Cross No Crown (1669). In 1670 Penn's father died, leaving young William not only a substantial fortune but also a large debt owed to the estate by the Stuart kings—a debt that led to the founding of Pennsylvania. After being jailed a third time, Penn left for Europe to spread the word of Quakerism in Germany and Holland. He would later urge German and Dutch converts to settle in Pennsylvania.
As a young man William Penn joined the Religious Society of Friends, commonly called Quakers. "Quaker" was initially an uncomplimentary term used by members of the established church to describe the Friends. Founded in 1668 by English religious leader George Fox, Quakerism contended that an ordained priest and a formal worship service were not needed to establish communion between an individual and God. Fox believed all people were endowed with an "inner light" that enabled them to understand and be guided by the Holy Spirit. Among the early converts to Quakerism were Separatists who had withdrawn from the Church of England, the official state religion, because they considered it corrupt and repressive. The Quakers refused to attend church services and pay tithes (monetary offerings paid to the church). Opponents of violence and war, they would not bear arms or vow allegiance to the government. Quakers also believed in the total equality of men and women, and they refused to remove their hats in the presence of people who were considered to be their superiors—at the time, a very rebellious and disrespectful act.
Quakerism was outlawed in England until the Tolerance Act was passed in 1669. During the late seventeenth century the Quakers sent missionaries to other European countries and to America, Asia, and Africa. Extending their activities to social reform, they were among the first to propose the abolition (end) of slavery. They also campaigned for more humane criminal laws (they opposed capital punishment and the death sentence), improvements in mental institutions, and education for common people. Quakers who settled in America were generally subjected to persecution, but they found refuge in Penn's colony, Pennsylvania, and in Rhode Island, which was founded by Roger Williams (see entry) on the principle of religious freedom. Although Quakers in the American colonies remained pacifists (those opposed to war) during the Revolutionary War (1775–83), they were loyal to the new United States government.
In 1675 Penn was involved in writing a liberal charter of government for Quakers settling in the American colony of East Jersey (now New Jersey). In 1681 he formed a company with eleven other investors and purchased East Jersey. That same year he also reminded King Charles II of the royal debt that was owed to the Penn estate. Instead of asking to be repaid with money, however, he requested a tract of land north of Maryland in America. Knowing persecution firsthand, Penn planned to establish a colony based on religious and political freedom. After being appointed proprietor of Pennsylvania (named Penn's Woods by Charles II in honor of Penn's father), he arrived in America in 1682. At that time he signed one of the few treaties with the Native Americans that brought about a prolonged peace. He stayed only two years before returning to England to help fellow Quakers fight a renewed round of persecution. He also needed to settle the southern boundary of his colony, which was being claimed by Charles Calvert, Third Lord Baltimore, the governor of Maryland. By this time James II , a Roman Catholic, had become king of England. (Roman Catholicism is a branch of Christianity that is based in Rome, Italy, and headed by a pope who is considered infallible [unable to make a mistake]. The pope oversees all bishops and priests of the church, who are authorized to forgive sins.) James II was overthrown in 1688, however, and the Protestant rulers King William III and Queen Mary II ascended the throne. This turn of events meant trouble for Penn, who no longer had a personal relationship with the monarchy. Since he was still absent from Pennsylvania, he lost his authority there as well. In 1692 the Crown (royal government) withdrew Penn's proprietorship because the Pennsylvania colony was poorly managed during Penn's absence. King William III appointed a new governor, Benjamin Fletcher, who immediately had his own problems. For example, the pacifist Quakers were opposed to using Pennsylvania funds for military purposes. In hopes of compromising with the Quakers the king finally restored the charter to Penn, who returned to Pennsylvania in 1699 only to face growing opposition from settlers who wanted the Crown to take over the colony. Staying for two years, he helped draft the Charter of Privileges (1701), which were legal reforms that gave some power to an elected assembly (elected representatives). But affairs in England called him home. He arrived there in December 1701, never again to see his colony.
Ends life in poverty
Penn spent his final years battling opponents who wanted Pennsylvania to come under English rule. He was also confronted with substantial debts that threatened to ruin him. Although the colony had been a success, it had yielded very little profit for Penn. He was also swindled by one of his agents. Crushed by the financial burden, he went to debtor's prison in 1707. Five years later he began negotiating with the Crown for the sale of Pennsylvania, but during these discussions he suffered a series of disabling strokes. He lingered on until 1718, when he finally died. The Pennsylvania colony remained under the control of the Penn family until the American Revolution (1775–83).
Penn's treaty with Native Americans
William Penn, the proprietor of Pennsylvania, signed one of the few treaties that brought a prolonged peace between Native Americans and European colonists. In The Propriety of Pennsylvania he described the process of forming the treaty with Native American dignitaries:
. . . . Having thus introduced the matter, he [the representative of the Native American sachem] fell to the bounds of the land they had agreed to dispose of, and the price (which [land] now is little and dear, that which would have bought twenty miles, not buying now two). During this time that this person spoke, not a man of them was observed to whisper or smile; the old, grave, the young, reverent in their deportment; they do speak little, but fervently, and with elegancy. I have never seen more natural sagacity [wisdom], considering them without help (I was a'going to say, the spoil) of tradition; and he will deserve the name of wise, that outwits them in any treaty about a thing they understand.
When the purchase was agreed, great promises passed between us of kindness and good neighborhood, and that the Indians and English must live in love, as long as the sun gave light. Which done, another made a speech to the Indians, in the name of all the Sachamakers or kings, first to tell them what was done; next, to charge and command them, to love the Christians, and particularly to live in peace with me, and the people under my government; that many governors had been in the river, but that no governor had come himself to live and stay here before; and having now such a one that had treated them well, they should never do him or his any wrong. At every sentence of which they shouted, and said Amen, in their way. . . .
. . . . We have agreed, that in all differences between us, six of each side shall end the matter. Don't abuse them, but let them have justice, and you will win them. The worst is that they are the worse for the Christians, who have propagated [spread] their vices, and yielded them tradition for ill, and not for good things. . . .
Reprinted in: Stiles, T. J., ed. In Their Own Words: The Colonizers. New York: Berkley Publishing Group, 1998.
For further research
Dolson, Hildegarde. William Penn, Quaker Hero. New York: Random House, 1961.
Foster, Genevieve. The World of William Penn. New York: Scribner, 1973.
Stiles, T. J., ed. In Their Own Words: The Colonizers. New York: Berkley Publishing Group, 1998.
Wildes, Harry Emerson. William Penn. New York: Macmillan, 1974.
Born: October 14, 1644
Died: July 30, 1718
English statesman and philosopher
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 (1600–1649) fought with those in England's parliament. Although rewarded by English statesman Oliver Cromwell (1599–1658) and given land in Ireland, he soon fell out of favor and took part in the restoration of Charles II (1630–1685) 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.
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.
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.
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 (1633–1701), 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.
After England's Glorious Revolution, when James II was replaced by William III (1650–1702) and Mary II (1662–1694) 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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). □
Penn, William (1644-1718)
William Penn (1644-1718)
Founder of pennsylvania
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. Penn’s 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 Penn’s 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 William’s 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 Penn’s 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. Penn’s 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 debtor’s 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.
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).
PENN, WILLIAM (1644–1718), Quaker religious leader and theologian, was a proponent of religious and political rights, and founder of Pennsylvania. Educated at Oxford, the French Protestant academy at Saumur, and, briefly, at Lincoln's Inn, Penn came under Dissenter influence and renounced a life of social prominence for Quakerism in 1667. Intent on transforming England into a more truly Christian society, he wrote many of his more than 140 books, pamphlets, and broadsides from 1668 to 1680, when he spent virtually all of his time working to organize, spread, and protect the Quaker movement, also known as the Society of Friends. Having found England resistant to change, he secured a charter for a colony he envisioned as both a haven for persecuted Friends and a model consensual society that would demonstrate to a skeptical world the fruitfulness and practicality of Quaker principles. Pennsylvania received most of his time and energy from 1680 to 1685, and Penn's duties as proprietor were his major concern the rest of his life. He remained active as a Quaker leader in England and played a central role in the successful attempt to demonstrate that Quakers were sufficiently orthodox to be acceptable under the terms for toleration established after the Glorious Revolution of 1688.
Although a source of controversy at times within the Quaker movement, Penn was at the center of the network of Quaker leaders and was probably the most effective mediator between Friends and the rest of the world. He was a close friend and collaborator of George Fox, the founder of the movement; his wife Margaret Askew Fell Fox; and Robert Barclay, the movement's major theologian. Penn traveled extensively as a preacher and organizer throughout England and in Ireland, Germany, and Holland and from 1672 was active in the London Morning Meeting, the Quakers' informal executive body. In favor of the disciplinary practices and organizational structure espoused by Fox, he was active in upholding the authority of the central leadership against the individualistic conception of authority favored by schismatics. Penn's unique contribution as a leader of Friends was his injection of a prophetic activism into the movement at a time when many first-generation leaders were settling into a more quietist, sectarian posture. He helped organize the Meeting for Sufferings in 1675 as a committee for the legal and political defense of indicted Quakers and led it into political activity in support of sympathetic candidates in parliamentary elections. His toleration treatises of the 1670s and 1680s had wide influence in the battle for religious liberty for all English Christians and effectively stated his views of mixed constitutional government and fundamental English rights.
Penn was one of the most prolific and theologically knowledgeable exponents of Quaker thought, and he distilled the visions and experiences of Fox and the "First Publishers of Truth" into the theological language of the times. His works include exhortatory letters, ethical treatises, refutations of schismatics, historical accounts of the movement, expositions of Quaker thought, and defenses against the attacks of Anglicans, Presbyterians, Independents, Baptists, and spiritualists. His distinctive approach to Quaker thought was his understanding of the "inner light" or "Christ within" as an epistemological principle making divine knowledge available in a manner that bypassed the indirect sense-knowledge emphasized in sacramental Roman Catholicism and scripture-based Protestantism. His Platonic rationalism, identification of Christ with the universal Logos, critique of scripture as a comprehensive source of revelation, and corresponding insistence on the metaphorical and symbolic nature of Christian theological formulas, such as those for the Trinity and atonement, linked him with such liberal Anglicans of his day as the Cambridge Platonists. These same ideas have had many echoes in subsequent theology.
Penn's correspondence, journals, religious and political papers, and business and legal records have been published in microfilm form by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, The Papers of William Penn, 14 reels, 1975. The first two volumes of a projected four-volume edition of the most important of these materials have appeared, The Papers of William Penn, vol. 1, 1644–1679, and vol. 2, 1680–1684, edited by Mary Maples Dunn and Richard S. Dunn (Philadelphia, 1981–1982). A fifth volume containing a definitive annotated bibliography is also in preparation. The Papers of William Penn do not include the published works, which are available in a two-volume edition, A Collection of the Works of William Penn, To Which Is Prefixed a Journal of His Life, edited by Joseph Besse (London, 1726). Selections from this incomplete collection with many textual problems were reprinted in 1771, 1782, and 1825. No adequate biography exists; the most useful is William I. Hull's William Penn: A Topical Biography (New York, 1937). Penn's religious life and thought are comprehensively discussed in my William Penn and Early Quakerism (Princeton, 1973).
Melvin B. Endy, Jr. (1987)
William Penn is best known for his establishment of Pennsylvania . Penn created it as a “holy experiment,” a place for his Quaker brethren to set up a safe, supportive community away from religious persecution in Europe. Quaker ideals of equality, justice, and individual rights shaped the formation of government for the colony and influenced the founding ideals of the United States.
William Penn was born to a privileged family in London, England, in 1644. His father, Sir William Penn, was an admiral in the Royal Navy, a friend of royalty, and an owner of much land. His mother was Margaret Jasper Vanderschuren, the daughter of a wealthy merchant. In 1656, political and religious turmoil in England prompted Admiral Penn to move the family to Ireland.
In 1660, William Penn attended Christ Church College at the University of Oxford. There Penn realized his need for a more personal faith than the Anglican Church, the religion in which he was raised, provided. In the spring of 1662, the college expelled Penn for not attending the required chapel services.
Disappointed by his son's increasingly rebellious religious thought, Admiral Penn sent the young man to Paris, France, to be steeped in the worldly society of royal courts. Penn, however, left the court life to attend a Protestant academy, where he stayed a year and a half. It was at the academy that Penn started to find support for his principles of peace and his inward spiritual faith.
By 1666, Penn was back in Ireland to handle issues concerning his father's land. During this time, Penn spent time with a family acquaintance and Quaker minister, Thomas Loe. Convinced by Loe's sermons, Penn began attending Quaker church services, called “meetings.”
At that time, Quakerism was a new Protestant religion. Quakers believe that every person contains the inner light of God, which gives him or her guidance on how to live a holy, peaceful life. In the seventeenth century, English authorities considered Quakers to be extremists who threatened the (Anglican) Church of England, the officially established Christian church in England, and royal authority. Hence Quakers were prosecuted and jailed for practicing their faith.
Penn was imprisoned for a time for attending Quaker meetings, and this experience inspired him to write. His first work, which called for religious tolerance and challenged the unjust treatment of Quakers, appeared soon after his prison term.
Penn's father called his son back to London to reintroduce him to proper society. Penn, however, refrained from socializing with his father's circle of friends. Instead, he kept company with Quakers and, at twenty-four, became a minister.
Penn was jailed again, this time for his sermons and public writings. In 1670, he was arrested for preaching with another Quaker in the streets. Penn argued their defense in court and won. As a result, Quakers often called upon Penn to argue their defense in later court cases.
Penn's father died in 1670, leaving his son a fortune that included a debt owed to his father by the English Crown. Soon after, Penn took a missionary journey across Germany and Holland to spread the Quaker faith. He would later encourage converts in these places to come to his Quaker colony, Pennsylvania, which Penn established in the new American colonies in 1681. After returning to England, Penn married Gulielma Maria Springett on April 4, 1672.
Between 1675 and 1680, Penn devoted himself to religion and related politics. His struggle for liberal, tolerant, government led him to participate in two political campaigns for a friend's election to Parliament and to continue his political writings. He continued his missionary journeys as well, establishing relationships in America, Holland, and western Germany. His interest in America gained momentum when he became involved in managing the Quaker- established colony of New Jersey . That colony's constitution, the Concessions and Agreements, was the fairest colonial charter up to that time, and it is believed to have been written mostly by Penn.
In 1680, Penn approached King Charles II (1630–1685) about the debt the Crown still owed to him. Rather than money, Penn requested and received a grant of land north of Maryland in 1681. He secretly intended to create a refuge there for persecuted fellow Quakers, founded on Quaker ideals. He invited Quakers throughout Europe to settle the colony.
Penn set up a liberal government for his colony based on ideals of civil liberty, religious freedom, and economic opportunity. The people had a constitution and code of laws created with their participation. Penn skillfully negotiated treaties with Native Indians that maintained trust and peace through his lifetime. As a result, no provisions for forts, munitions, or militia were necessary. This government succeeded for seventy years.
Penn traveled to Pennsylvania in 1682 to help set up the colony. Less than two years later, he was called back to England to help his fellow Quakers, who were suffering renewed persecution and needed his influence at court. His friendly relationship with the king, James II (1633–1701), enabled him to secure the release of nearly thirteen hundred Quakers.
The overthrow of James II in 1688 meant the end of Penn's connection with the Crown and the renewal of personal troubles. Accused of disloyalty, Penn went into partial retirement to wait for the suspicion to subside. In 1692, the new monarch revoked Penn's ownership of Pennsylvania, then restored it two years later, after Penn's name was cleared of treason.
Penn's first wife, Gulielma, died in 1694. Before returning to Pennsylvania in 1697, Penn married Hannah Callowhill. Though Penn hoped to become a permanent resident of Pennsylvania, he managed to return there only briefly. He was called back to England to prevent Parliament from claiming Pennsylvania and other colonies for the Crown, and he never returned.
Penn's final years in London were spent managing conflicts in Pennsylvania and debts that threatened to ruin him. He spent time in debtors' prison in 1707 rather than pay some of the debts. He died in 1718 after a series of strokes.
Penn, William (founder of Pennsylvania)
William Penn, 1644–1718, English Quaker, founder of Pennsylvania, b. London, England; son of Sir William Penn.
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.
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).
In visits to America, Penn set up his “holy experiment,” which included peaceful relations with the Indians. Subsequently, Penn was caught between the demands of the English government and Scotch‐Irish frontier dwellers for military support and the intransigence of the Quaker Pennsylvania legislators. Pennsylvania had no militia until 1755. His own commitment to pacifism was evident in his publication of An Essay towards the Present and Future Peace of Europe, by the Establishment of an European Dyet, Parliament or Estates (1693).
[See also Militia and National Guard.]
Joseph E. Illick
Quaker statesman and colonizer; b. London, England, Oct. 14, 1644; d. Ruscombe, Berkshire, England, July 30, 1718. He was the son of Adm. Sir William Penn and received an education suited to good social position. About 1667 he became a Quaker; he was subsequently imprisoned a number of times for nonconformity and he became a leading spokesman for general religious toleration. As a friend of King James II, Penn was suspected of being a Jesuit and was regarded with suspicion under succeeding Protestant monarchs. In 1681, in payment of a debt due his father from the Crown, he received from Charles II a grant of land in America. As sole proprietor of pennsylvania, Penn developed the province into a "holy experiment" of his ideals of religious and political freedom, with the support of many Quakers and others who settled there. He framed a liberal government for the colonists and made just peace treaties with the native peoples. Unfortunately, he had political and financial difficulties at home and spent only two two-year periods in Pennsylvania. He wrote numerous religious and political tracts and preached extensively until a stroke of apoplexy in 1712 disabled him mentally.
Bibliography: Of Penn's writings (see list in Peare), most fully collected in 1726, only a few are now reprinted. A well-chosen anthology is The Witness of William Penn, ed. f. b. tolles and e. g. alderfer (New York 1957), bibliog. 203–205. Biographies include m. r. brailsford, The Making of William Penn (New York 1930). w. i. hull, William Penn (New York 1937). w. w. comfort, William Penn (Philadelphia 1944). c. o. peare, William Penn (Philadelphia 1957), bibliog.
[h. j. cadbury]