William Penn

 

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William PennPenn, WILLIAM, founder of Pennsylvania; born in London, England, Oct. 14, 1644. His father was Admiral Sir William Penn, of the royal navy, and his mother was an excellent Dutch woman of Rotterdam. He received very strong religious impressions while he was yet a child. At the age of fifteen years he entered Christ Church College, Oxford, where, through the preaching of Thomas Loe, he became a convert to the doctrine of the Quakers. He, with two or three others, refused to conform to the worship of the Established Church, or to wear the surplice, or gown, of the student. He and his companions even went so far as to strip some of the students of their robes, for which he was expelled from the college. For this offence his father beat him and turned him out of the house. The mother reconciled them, and the youth was sent to France, with the hope that cheerful society in Paris might redeem him from his almost morbid soberness. It failed to do so, and, on his return, in 1664, in compliance with the wishes of his father, he became a student of law. The great fire in London, in 1665, drove him from the city and deepened his serious convictions. Then he was sent to the management of his father's estates, near Cork, Ireland, where he again fell in with Thomas Loe, and became a Quaker in all but garb.

William PennOn returning to England, his father tried to persuade him to conform to the customs of polite society, but he steadily refused. He soon became a Quaker preacher and a powerful controversial writer, producing several notable pamphlets. He attacked the generally received doctrines of the Trinity, but afterwards partially retracted, when it had produced great excitement in the religious society of England. He was confined in the Tower nine months, during which he wrote his principal work, entitled No Cross, no Crown. The Duke of York, under whom Admiral Penn had served, procured his release. Penn was arrested for preaching in the streets in London, charged with creating a tumult and disturbing the peace. His trial took place in the mayor's court. The jury declared him not guilty, but the court determined to convict him, and ordered the jury to bring in a verdict of guilty. They refused, and were fined and sent to Newgate Prison. Afterwards he suffered much persecution for his nonconformity. He traveled in Holland and Germany to propagate the doctrines of Friends, and there interceded in behalf of his persecuted brethren. In 1672 Penn married a daughter of Sir William Springett, and, the next few years, devoted his time to preaching and writing. In 1674 he became umpire in a dispute between Fenwick and Byllinge, both Quakers, concerning their property rights in New Jersey. Penn decided in favor of Byllinge, and afterwards bought the domain from him. Penn at once became zealously engaged in the work of colonization, and, desiring to have a safe asylum from persecution for his brethren, he obtained a grant of a large domain in America from Charles II., in 1681, in payment of a debt of about $80,000 due to his father from the crown. The charter vested the perpetual proprietorship of the vast region (with Delaware, which was then annexed to it), containing 45,000 square miles, in him and his heirs, in the fealty of an annual payment of two beaver-skins. Penn wished to call the domain New Wales, and afterwards, on account of extensive forests, he suggested Sylvania. The King ordered it to be called Penn Sylvania, because he had great admiration for Penn's father. Penn tried to get the secretary to change the name, but could not, and it was called Pennsylvania in the charter.

When he had secured his charter Penn issued an advertisement which contained inducements for persons to emigrate to the new province, and a scheme of administration of justice suited to the disposition of the Quakers. He declared that his object was to establish a just and righteous government in the province, that would be an example for others. He assumed that government is a part of religion itself, as sacred in its institution and end; that any government is free to the people under it, whatever be its frame, where the laws rule and the people are a party to the laws. He declared that governments depend upon men, not men upon governments; and he guaranteed liberty of conscience. He declared that none should be molested or prejudiced in matters of faith and worship, and that nobody should be compelled, at any time, to frequent or maintain any religious place of worship or ministry whatsoever. He said that prisons must be converted into schools of reformation and education; that litigation ought to give way to arbitration; that an oath was a superfluity, and made lying as a crime. Trial by punishable Jury was established, and, in all cases where an Indian was involved, the jury should consist of six white men and six Indians, and that the person of an Indian should be held as sacred as that of a white man. Penn advertised his land at 40.s. an acre, and servants could hold 50 acres in fee-simple. Penn was so well known in his own country and on the Continent that perfect confidence was placed in his declarations. English Friends, in large numbers, proposed to come over, and a German company, led by PASTORIUS, bought 15,000 acres. This was the commencement of German emigration to Pennsylvania. The colony flourished. The motto on Penn's seal-" Mercy and Justice "-expressed prominent traits of his character.

William Penn Indians

William Penn with the Indians

Penn, with others, purchased east Jersey, which was already a flourishing colony. In September, 1682, he embarked for America on the ship Welcome, and, at the end of six weeks, landed (Oct. 28, O.S.) near the site of New Castle Del., where he was joyfully received by the settlers. After conferring with Indian chiefs and making some unimportant treaties, he went up the Delaware to the site of a portion of Philadelphia, and there made a famous treaty. It was to be an everlasting covenant of peace and friendship between the two races. " We meet," said Penn, " on the broad pathway of good faith and goodwill; no advantage shall be taken on either side, but all shall be openness and love. I will not call you children, for parents sometimes chide their children too severely; nor brothers only, for brothers differ. The friendship between me and you I will not compare to a chain, for that the rains might rust, or a falling tree might break. We are falling the same as if one man's body was to be divided into two parts; we are all one flesh and blood." Then Penn gave the chiefs presents, and they, in turn, handed him a belt of wampum, a pledge of their fidelity. Delighted with his words, and with implicit faith in his promises, they said: " We will live in love with William Penn and his children as long as the sun long sun and moon shall endure." This promise was kept; not a drop of the blood of a Quaker was ever shed by an Indian. Penn had achieved a mighty victory by the power of justice and love.

Penn Trading with IndiansPenn was then thirty-eight years of age. Most of his companions—the deputy-governor and a few others—were younger than he, and were dressed in the garb of Friends—the fashion of the more simple Puritans during the protectorate of Cromwell. The Indians were partly clad in the skins of beasts, for it was on the verge of winter (Nov. 4, 1682) and they had brought their wives and children to the council, as was their habit. The scene must have been a most interesting one—Europeans and Indians mingling around a great fire, kindled under the high branches of the elm, and the contracting parties smoking the calumet. That tree was blown down in 1810; it was estimated to be 233 years old. Upon its site the Penn Society, of Philadelphia, erected a commemorative monument. It stands near the intersection of Beach and Hanover streets.

After visiting New York and New Jersey, and meeting the general assembly, Penn sailed for England in August, 1684. The King died a few months after Penn's arrival. He was succeeded by James, Duke of York, who was a warm friend of Penn's. The latter took lodgings near the court, where he constantly used his influence in obtaining relief for his suffering brethren, who thronged his house by hundreds, seeking his aid. He finally obtained a royal decree, by which more than 1,200 Quakers were released from prison.

This was followed by a proclamation of the King (April, 1687), declaring liberty of conscience to all, and removing tests and penalties. Meanwhile Penn had made a tour on the Continent, and, by order of James had a conference with the monarch's son-in-law, William of Orange, and tried to persuade him to adopt the principles of universal toleration. Because Penn had been personally intimate with James, soon after the Revolution (1688) he was summoned before the privy council to answer a charge of treason. No evidence appearing against him, he was discharged. Not long afterwards, a letter from the exiled monarch to Penn, asking him to come to France, having been intercepted, he was again brought before the council, in presence of King William. Penn declared his friendship for James, but did not approve his policy, and he was again discharged. In 1690 he was a third time accused, and was arrested on a charge of conspiracy, tried by the court of the King's Bench, and acquitted. The charge was renewed, in 1691, by a man who was afterwards branded by the House of Commons as a cheat, a rogue, and a false accuser. In the mean time Pennsylvania had been much disturbed by civil and religious quarrels, and, in 1692, the monarchs deprived Penn of his authority as governor of the province, and directed Governor Fletcher, of New York, to assume the administration. Powerful friends interceded in Penn's behalf, and he was honorably acquitted. (November, 1693 ) by the King and council. Three months later his wife, Gulielma Maria, died, and, within two years, he married Hannah Callowhill, a Quaker lady of great excellence. His proprietary rights having been fully restored to him (August, 1694), he sailed for Pennsylvania with his wife and daughter in September, 1699. He was soon recalled by tidings that the House of Lords was considering a measure for bringing all the proprietary governments in America under the crown. Penn hastened to England, giving to a Philadelphia city charter, dated Oct. 25, 1701. It was one of his last official acts. The measure which hastened his departure from America was soon abandoned; but he was deeply moved with anxiety about his affairs in Pennsylvania, where his son, whom he had sent as his deputy, had been guilty of disgraceful conduct. At the same time his confidential agent in London, who was a Friend, had left to his executors false charges against Penn to a very large amount. To avoid extortion, Penn suffered himself to be confined in Fleet Prison for a long time (1708), until his friends compromised with his creditors. In 1712 Penn made arrangements for the transfer of his proprietary rights to the crown for $60,000, when he was prostrated by paralysis. He lived till July 30 1718, much of the time unable to move, and never regained his mental vigor. Penn's remains were buried in Jordan's Cemetery, near the village of Chalfont St. Giles, village in Buckinghamshire. William Penn's character was frequently assailed by the wicked and envious during his life, but always without success, and Lord Macaulay was equally unsuccessful in his assaults upon the honor, honesty, purity, and integrity of the founder of Pennsylvania, for official records have proved the falsity of the allegations made by contemporaries and the eminent historian. Penn had a fine country residence, sometimes called " The Palace," on the bank of the Delaware River, nearly opposite Bordentown. It was constructed in 1683, at an expense of about $35,000. In 1700 his city residence in Philadelphia was the " Slateroof House," on the northeast corner of Second Street and Norris's Alley. It was a spacious building for the time, constructed of brick and covered with slate. It was built for another in 1690. Penn occupied it while he remained in America, and there his son, John Penn, governor of Pennsylvania when the Revolution broke out, was born. In that house the agent of Penn (James Loan) entertained Lord Cornbury, of New York, and his suite of fifty persons. The house was purchased by William Trent, the founder of Trenton. Arnold occupied it as his headquarters in 1778, and lived there in extravagant style.

Essay towards the Present and Future Peace of f Europe. This was published by Penn in the latter part of the year 1693-94, while war was raging on the Continent. Penn sought to show " the desirableness of peace and the truest means of it" at that time and for the future. His essay consisted of a scheme for a general alliance or compact among the different states of Europe, whereby they should agree to constitute a " General Diet " or congress of nations, wherein each should be represented by deputies, and all differences should be settled on equitable terms and without recourse to arms. The tract was printed twice in 1693. It is not included in the original folio edition of Penn's works, but finds place in one of the later editions. It is reprinted in the Memoirs of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, vol. vi.

Penn's plan for the federation and peace of Europe, doubly interesting to us as the work of one whose relation to American history was so conspicuous, is noteworthy as the first essay of such an international character known to us which is free from every suspicion of ulterior motive and inspired purely by the love of humanity. The one great plan of earlier date is the " Great Design" of Henry IV. of France, to which Penn himself refers in his essay. The original account of this is in Sully's Memoirs. It is a matter of controversy how much this design was really Henry's ; and those interested in the matter may find a careful discussion of it in Kitchin's History y of France, vol. ii., A. 472. A most interesting and stimulating article based upon the " Great Design " is Edward Everett Hale's The United States of Europe, first published in Old and New, 1871, and republished in Lend a Hand, July, 1896. The most famous and important modern essay on international arbitration and the federation of the world is Kant's Eternal Peace, of which there are two good English translations, one by Morell, the other by Hastie, included in a little volume of translations of Kant's political essays, entitled Kant's Principles of Politics.

 

 

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