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The Pilgrims and Puritans were not the only people who had to suffer persecution in England because they did not believe in the doctrines and forms of worship of the Established Church. Under the leadership of George Fox there sprang up (about 1669) a peculiar religious sect called by themselves Friends and by others Quakers. These people were severely punished on account of their religious ideas.

The central doctrine of their creed was that they were in all things led by the "inner light," as they called conscience, which revealed to them the will of God. Believing that all men were equal before the law, the Quaker always kept his hat on in public places as a sign of equality, refusing to uncover even in the presence of royalty. Other peculiar tenets of the Quakers were their unwillingness to take an oath in court; to go to war; to pay taxes in support of war; the use of "thee" and "thou" in addressing one another; and, as a protest against the rich and elegant dress of their time, the wearing of plain clothes of sober colors.

Their disdain of familiar customs made them appear very eccentric, and their boldness of speech and action frequently brought upon them the punishment of the law. But they were fearless in their defiance, and even eager to suffer for the sake of their religious belief, some being fined, some cast into prison, some whipped, and some put to death. Not only in England, but in Massachusetts also, they were treated like criminals. The Puritan fathers hated and feared them so much that they banished Quakers from their colony, and even put some of them to death on account of their views on religion and government. But, as always, persecution only seemed to spread the faith, and soon this derided and abused sect included eminent converts.

Among the most prominent was William Penn, who was born in London in 1644, the son of Sir William Penn, a wealthy admiral in the British Navy. Conspicuous service to his country had won him great esteem at Court, and he naturally desired to give his son the best possible advantages.

At the early age of sixteen, young William was sent to Oxford, where his studious habits and fine scholarship soon distinguished him. He became proficient in Greek and Latin, and learned to speak with ease the modern languages, French, German, Italian, and Dutch. Devoting a part of his time to athletics, he became a skilful oarsman and a leader in various out-door sports.

While he was at Oxford, Penn heard Thomas Loe, a travelling Quaker, preach. The new doctrines, as expounded by Loe, took so deep a hold upon him, that he refused to attend the religious services of his college.[7] For this irregularity he was fined, together with some of his companions who were of the same mind. Disregarding the reproof, these conscientious young men even refused to wear the required college gown, and committed a yet graver offence against their college by tearing off the gowns from some of their fellow-students.

  [7] Oxford University is composed of a number of colleges. The one Penn attended was Christ Church College.

By reason of these bold and unruly proceedings the college authorities expelled Penn in disgrace. His father was very angry at what he deemed his son's folly, and knowing that neither rebuke nor persuasion was likely to swerve the young man from his purpose, Admiral Penn decided to send William to Paris, with the hope that in the gay life of the French capital he might forget his Quaker ideas.

Penn was now a strongly built young man of eighteen, with large eyes and long dark hair falling in curls about his shoulders. For a brief time he gave himself up to the fashionable social life of Paris. Later he engaged in study at school for something like a year, and then spent another year in travelling through France and Italy. When he returned to England after two years' absence, he was a cultivated young gentleman, very different from the sober youth who on leaving Oxford had been called by his companions "a Quaker or some other melancholy thing."

WILLIAM PENN'S FAMOUS TREATY WITH THE INDIANS.WILLIAM PENN'S FAMOUS TREATY WITH THE INDIANS.

The following year, however, Penn's gay spirits were disturbed by the awful plague that fell upon London. The Admiral, noting the serious look and manner of his son, again sent him from home--this time to Ireland--for diversion. While Penn was in Ireland an insurrection broke out, and he volunteered as a soldier. Military life evidently appealed to him, for he caused a portrait of himself to be painted, in full armor.

While still serving as a soldier, Penn learned that the Quaker, Thomas Loe, was preaching near by, and went to hear him once more. The Quaker ideas now took complete possession of him, and he embraced the new religion with his whole heart. A little later, when he was arrested in a Quaker meeting-house and thrown into prison, his father was indignant because William had brought upon his family such humiliating disgrace.

After William's release from prison, however, the stern old Admiral in his great love for his son said he would forgive his peculiar customs if only he would remove his hat to his father, to the King, or to the Duke of York. But on praying over the matter, Penn said he could not do it. One day, on meeting the King, he had the boldness to stand with his hat on in the royal presence. Instead of getting angry, the fun-loving King Charles laughed and took off his own hat. "Why dost thou remove thy hat, friend Charles?" said William Penn. "Because," answered the King, "wherever I am it is customary for one to remain uncovered."

But the Admiral's patience was by this time exhausted. He drove his wilful son from his presence, and told him to begone for all time. Fortunately for William, his mother begged for him, and so did others who recognized the earnest and sincere purpose of the young Quaker. His father therefore forgave him once more, and allowed him to return home.

The Pennsylvania SettlementThe Pennsylvania Settlement

From this time on William Penn used his influence--which was by no means small--in behalf of the persecuted Quakers; but he had to suffer the consequences of his own fearlessness. Many times was he thrown into prison, there to remain, it might be, for months. Yet even in prison he spent his time in writing books and pamphlets, explaining and defending the Quaker religion. Indeed, his labors were unceasing, so firm was his faith in Quaker ideas.

Soon his power for doing good was immensely increased. In 1670 his father died and left him a princely fortune which, true to his generous nature, he determined to use for the good of others, and especially for the good of the despised and persecuted Quakers.

The Crown owed Penn's father about £16,000, which the King, with his extravagant habits, was not likely to pay for many a day. William Penn, therefore, decided to ask the King to pay the debt not in money but in land. The good-natured Charles, thinking this was an easy way to cancel the obligation, readily granted to William Penn an extensive tract of land lying on the west side of the Delaware River.

Penn's Slate-roof House, Philadelphia.Penn's Slate-roof House, Philadelphia.

Penn wished his new possession to be called Sylvania, or Woodland, but the King insisted upon calling it Pennsylvania, in honor of Penn's father. Upon receiving his grant, Penn at once sent word to the Quakers that in Pennsylvania they could find a home and a resting-place from their troubles.

Penn's leading aim was to plant a self-governing colony, whose people should have justice and religious freedom. Hundreds of Quakers eagerly took advantage of the favorable opportunity which Penn thus offered to them. During the year 1681, when the first settlement was planted in Pennsylvania, something like 3,000 of them sailed for the Delaware River. The next year Penn himself sailed for America, although he left his wife and children behind.

He selected the junction of the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers as the site for his city, and called it Philadelphia, or the City of Brotherly Love, in token of the spirit which he hoped might prevail throughout his colony. He laid out the city most carefully, giving the streets such names as Pine, Cedar, Mulberry, Walnut, and Chestnut, after the trees he found growing there.

When the first settlers came to Philadelphia, some of them lived in caves which they dug in the high river-banks. The first houses, built of logs, were very simple, containing only two rooms and having no floor except the earth. Philadelphia grew so fast, however, that by 1684 it had 357 houses, many of which were three stories high, with cellars and balconies.

A Belt of Wampum Given to Penn by the Indians.A Belt of Wampum Given to Penn by the Indians.

As we might expect from a man of his even temper and unselfish spirit, Penn treated the Indians with kindness and justice, and won their friendship from the first. Although he held the land by a grant from the King of England, still he wished to satisfy the natives by paying them for their claims to the land. Accordingly, he called a council under the spreading branches of a now famous elm-tree, where he met the red men as friends, giving them knives, kettles, axes, beads, and various other things in exchange for the land. He declared that he was of the same flesh and blood as they; and highly pleased, the Indians in return declared that they would live in love with William Penn as long as the sun and moon should shine.

Penn paid the Indians friendly visits, ate their roasted acorns and hominy, and joined them in their sports. One day while they were leaping and jumping in his presence, he suddenly "sprang up and beat them all."

Penn soon returned to England, but many years later (1699) he came back to Pennsylvania with his wife and one daughter. As he was very wealthy, he had two homes, one in the city and another in the country. His country home, which was northeast of the city on the Delaware River, cost him $35,000. In this house were elegant furnishings, and here, in his large dining-hall, Penn lavishly entertained Englishmen, Swedes, Indians, negroes, and passing strangers who called at his door. We are told that his table was so bountiful that at one of his feasts the guests ate a hundred roast turkeys. The grounds about his country home were magnificent, containing various kinds of fruits and flowers, and in his stables were many horses.

But notwithstanding these material blessings, Penn's life was not without trials and disappointments, which it is needless to dwell upon. Owing to his warm friendship for King James, he was suspected of plotting in his favor after the King was forced to leave England in 1688. He was therefore more than once arrested, but in every case he was set free for lack of evidence against him. Many years later, on his refusal to pay a false claim made by his steward, he was thrown into prison, where his health was broken by confinement. He died in 1718. His life had been a hard struggle, but it had been successful, and had come to an honorable close.

 

 

REVIEW OUTLINE

 

  •   THE QUAKERS AND THEIR PECULIAR IDEAS.
  •   PUNISHMENT OF THE QUAKERS IN ENGLAND AND IN MASSACHUSETTS.
  •   WILLIAM PENN'S FATHER, ADMIRAL PENN.
  •   WILLIAM PENN AT OXFORD UNIVERSITY.
  •   HE TURNS QUAKER.
  •   ADMIRAL PENN SENDS HIS SON TO PARIS.
  •   WILLIAM PENN RETURNS TO ENGLAND.
  •   HE BECOMES A SOLDIER IN IRELAND.
  •   HE IS THROWN INTO PRISON.
  •   THE STUBBORN YOUNG QUAKER.
  •   PENN'S MOTHER BEGS FOR HIM.
  •   THE KING'S GRANT TO WILLIAM PENN.
  •   THE QUAKERS SETTLE IN PENNSYLVANIA.
  •   THE CITY OF BROTHERLY LOVE.
  •   PENN'S KIND AND JUST TREATMENT OF THE INDIANS.
  •   HIS HOME LIFE.
  •   HIS LAST DAYS.

 

TO THE PUPIL

  1. Give some of the peculiar ideas of the Quakers.

  2. Why was Penn thrown into prison? In what ways did he give evidence of his stubbornness?

  3. Why did he wish to settle Pennsylvania? Imagine the scene when under the elm-tree Penn met the Indians and made a treaty with them.

  4. Tell something about his home life.

  5. What do you admire in Penn's character?

  6. When did the Quakers settle Pennsylvania?