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WILLIAM PENN

 


"There can be no friendship where there is no freedom. Friendship loves a free air, and will not be fenced up in straight and narrow enclosures."

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Attribution: Fruits of Solitude, part one

Date: 1909-14

William Penn

(1644–1718), English Quaker, founder of Pennsylvania, born in London, England; son of Sir William Penn. He was expelled from Oxford in 1662 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 to oversee the family estates, he became a staunch member of the Society of Friends. He was imprisoned in 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 in 1669, Penn continued his writing, including The Great Case of Liberty of Conscience, in which he argued for religious toleration. 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. 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 in 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 and his colony was briefly (1692–94) annexed to New York. Difficulties in Pennsylvania caused his return there for a short time and he issued a new constitution, the Charter of Privileges (1701), granting more power to the provincial assembly.

 

 

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