Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Monday, December 30, 2013

William Penn

                I found the life of William Penn to be very interesting.  He was born into wealth and power but gave it up for religion.  He left the land of his birth to find freedom of religion in the New World.  He had great scholastic skills but poor business practices.  He was disinherited but inherited a fortune.  He was wealthy but died penniless.  He was an English real estate entrepreneur, philosopher, early Quaker, and founder of the Province of Pennsylvania, which later became the of Pennsylvania.

                William Penn was born on October 14, 1644, at Tower Hill, London.  He was the son of English Admiral Sir William Penn and Margaret Jasper, the daughter of a rich Dutch merchant and widow of a Dutch captain.  When William Penn, Jr. was born, his father was twenty-three years old and in charge of quieting Irish Catholic unrest and blockading Irish ports.  Admiral Penn served in the Commonwealth Navy was rewarded with estates in Ireland by Oliver Cromwell.  During the English Civil War, the lands were seized from Irish Catholics because they massacred Protestants.  Admiral Penn served in the Royal Navy and was eventually knighted after assisting with restoring Charles II to the throne. 

                Growing up during the rule of Oliver Cromwell, the younger William Penn received his first education at Chigwell School, by private tutors while in Ireland, and then at Christ Church, Oxford.  There were no state schools at the time, and most educational institutions were run by the Anglican Church.  Penn absorbed many Puritan behaviors, such as his serious demeanor, strict behavior, and lack of humor, from his time in these schools.

                When Penn was about fifteen years old, Admiral Penn and his family were exiled to his lands in Ireland due to a failed Caribbean mission.  A Quaker missionary by the name of Thomas Loe became a part of the Penn household and gave discourses on the “Inner Light.”  Young Penn believed that “the Lord visited me and gave me divine Impressions of Himself.”  After the death of Cromwell, the Penn family returned to England where Admiral Penn was knighted and given the position of Commissioner of the Navy.

                Penn arrived at Oxford in 1660 and “enrolled as a gentlemen scholar with an assigned servant.”  He was part of the upper social class because of his father’s position, but he was sympathetic with the persecuted Quakers.  He chose to become a reclusive scholar in order to avoid any conflict.  It was during this time that Penn realized that he did not agree with “his father’s martial view of the world or his mother’s society-oriented sensibilities” and felt all alone in the world except when “feeling the divine presence.”

                After returning home for the splendor of the ceremony restoring the King to power, Penn returned to Oxford and considered a medical career.  When free-thinking Dean Owen was fired, Penn and other “open-minded students” supported him.  When Owen was censured again, Penn was one of the students punished for associating with him.  His father pulled him out of Oxford to distract from the “heretical influences of the university,” but father and son could not understand each other.  The younger Penn went back to Oxford but rebelled when “stricter religious requirements” were imposed.  Admiral Penn used a cane on his son and forced him from his home, but the mother made peace in the family.  The son’s behavior was causing problems with the mother’s “social standing” and the father’s career; therefore, the son was sent to Paris at age 18
“to get him out of view, improve his manners, and expose him to another culture.”

                Penn appreciated the refinement of the French manners in the court of young Louis XIV but did not feel comfortable with the
“extravagant display of wealth and privilege.”  He sought “spiritual direction from French Protestant theologian Moise Amyraut, who invited Penn to stay with him in Saumur for a year.  The undogmatic Christian humanist talked of a tolerant, adapting view of religion which appealed to Penn….”  Penn dropped his Puritanical guilt and rigid beliefs and “was inspired to search out his own religious path.”

                When young Penn returned to England two years later, he was “a mature, sophisticated, well-mannered, `modish’ gentlemen” who had “developed a taste for fine clothes.”  For the rest of his life Penn paid “more attention to his dress than most Quakers.”  The Admiral thought his son was ready to become an “aristocrat” and had him enroll in law school.  War with Holland appeared imminent, and young Penn joined his father at sea, functioning as an emissary between his father and the King.   He learned to better appreciate his father and even worried about his safety.  The father returned safely, but “London was in the grip of the plague of 1665.”  The Admiral got gout, and sent his son to Ireland to look after his lands there.  The Penn family escaped the plague and the Great Fire of 1666 that burned central London. 

                Young Penn came back to London but was so depressed with the mood of the city and the condition of his father that he returned to Ireland “to contemplate his future.”  King Charles had “tightened restrictions against all religious sects but the Anglican Church, making the penalty for unauthorized worship imprisonment or deportation.”  “The Quakers were especially targeted and their meetings were deemed as criminal.” 

                Knowing the dangers, Penn started attending Quaker meetings where he met Thomas Loe again.  Young Penn was attracted to Quakerism and “was arrested for attending Quaker meetings.  Rather than state that he was not a Quaker and thereby dodge any charges, he publicly declared himself a member and finally joined the Quakers (the Religious Society of Friends) ate the age of 22.”  He argued that the Quakers “had no political agenda (unlike the Puritans), but he was sprung from jail because of his father’s rank and called home.  Father and son could not agree, and the father eventually ordered his son out of the house and withheld his inheritance.

                Now homeless, Penn lived with Quaker families and learned more of their ways, which he accepted heart and soul.  Penn traveled to Ireland to deal with his father’s estates there and later traveled to Germany several times on behalf of the Quaker faith.  His trips resulted “in a German Settlement that was symbolic in two ways:  it was a specifically German-speaking congregation, and it comprised religious dissenters.  Pennsylvania has remained the heartland for various branches of Anabaptists:  Old Order Mennonites, Ephrata Cloisters, Brethren, and Amish.  Pennsylvania also became home for many Lutheran refugees from Catholic provinces (e.g., Salzburg), as well as for German Catholics who also had been discriminated against in their home country.  In fact, the settlement of Germantown was established in Philadelphia, and the German Society of Pennsylvania, established in 1764, is still functioning today from its Philadelphia headquarters.

                Penn was persecuted and imprisoned in the Tower of London for writing religious pamphlets; he was placed in solitary confinement in an unheated cell and threatened with a life sentence.  He was freed after eight months but felt no remorse; he even vowed to continue fighting the wrongs of the Anglican Church and the King.  The King continued to confiscate Quaker property and imprisoned thousands of Quakers.  Penn was exiled from English society and imprisoned several times. 

                With his father dying, Penn longed to see him once again with the hope of reconciliation, but he urged his father to not pay the fine for his release.  His father however paid the fine for the release of his son.  Admiral Penn “had gained respect for his son’s integrity and courage and told him, `Let nothing in this world tempt you to wrong your conscience.”  The Admiral knew that his son would be vulnerable after his death and wrote to the Duke of York, the successor to the throne, in “an act which would not only secure his son’s protection but also set the conditions for the founding of Pennsylvania.  The Duke and the King, in return for the Admiral’s lifetime service to the Crown, promised to protect young Penn and make him a royal counselor.” 

                Penn received his inheritance and received a large fortune; however, he continued to agitate and found himself in jail once again for six months.  Penn stayed close to home but continued to write tracts about religious tolerance.  He later resumed missionary work to Holland and Germany.

            Penn appealed directly to the King and the Duke for a mass emigration of English Quakers.  A group of Quakers purchased the colonial province of West Jersey (half of the current state of New Jersey.  With this foothold in place, Penn worked to extend the Quaker region.  Whether from personal sympathy or political expediency and to Penn’s surprise, “granted an extraordinarily generous charter which made Penn the world’s largest private (non-royal) landowner, with over 45,000 square miles.  Penn  became the sole proprietor of a huge tract of land west of New Jersey and north of Maryland (which belonged to Lord Baltimore), and gained sovereign rule of the territory with all right and privileges (except the power to declare war).”  The area had several names before King Charles II dubbed it “Pennsylvania” to honor the elder Penn.  The King signed the charter on March 4, 1681. 

                Penn was an influential scholar and theoretician but now had to gain the skills of a real estate promoter, city planner, and governor. In Penn’s quest for religious freedom, Pennsylvania would become the home of Huguenots, Mennonites, Amish, Catholics, Lutherans, and Jews from England, France, Holland, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Ireland, and Wales.

                Penn’s next goal was to build the legal means for an “ethical society where power was derived from the people” but using Puritanical laws of behavior.  He used many of the ideas of John Locke who had a great influence on Thomas Jefferson, but he wanted to use amendments to provide a “written framework that could evolve with the changing times.” 

                Once he had everything in place, Penn returned to England in 1684 to see his family and to solve a territorial dispute with Lord Baltimore.  While he was gone the prisons at Bridewell and Newgate were filled with Quakers and internal conflicts threatened to destroy the Pennsylvania charter.  King Charles died in 1685, and the Duke of York was crowned James II.  James II resolved the border dispute in Penn’s favor. Bad business practices threatened his success, and Penn struggled with his legacy in Pennsylvania.

                William Penn was married twice and was the father of many children.  After a four-year engagement, Penn married Gulielma Marias Posthumas Springett (1644-1696) in April 1672.  She was the daughter of William S. Springett and Lady Mary Proude Penington.  The Posthuma in her name indicates that her father had died prior to her birth.  Eight children were born to this couple, three sons and five daughters:
Gulielma Maria (1671/72), William (1672/73-1674), Maria Margaret (born and died 1673/74), Springett (1674/75-1696), Letitia (1678-1746; married William Awbrey [Aubrey]), William, Jr. (1679/80-1720), an unnamed child (born and died in 1682), and Gulielma Maria (1685-1689).  Four or five of these children died before the age of five years.

                After the death of his first wife, Penn married Hannah Margaret Callowhill (1671-1726).  She was the daughter of Thomas Callowhill and Anna (Hannah) Hollister.  Penn was 52 years old at the time of this marriage, and his new bride was 25.  This couple also had many children and losing several of them at young ages:  Unnamed daughter (born and died in 1697), John Penn (1699/00-1746; never married), Thomas Penn (1700/01-1775; married Lady Juliana Fermor, fourth daughter of Thomas, first Earl of Pomfret), Hannah Penn (1703-1707/08), Margaret Penn (1704/05-1771), Richard Penn, Sr. (1705-1771), Dennis Penn (1705/06-1721/22), Hannah Penn (1708-1709), and Louis Penn (1707-1724). 

                William Penn moved between England and the New World several times.  He tried a couple of time to sell Pennsylvania back to the Crown and suffered a stroke during his second attempt in 1712.  A second stroke a few months later left him unable to speak or take care of himself.  He slowly lost his memory and died penniless in 1718 at his home in Ruscombe, new Twyford in Berkshire.  He was buried in an unmarked grave next to his first wife in the cemetery of the Jordans Quaker meeting house near Chalfont St Giles in Buckinghamshire in England.  His second wife was the sole executor of his estate and became the de facto proprietor until her death in 1726.

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