American biography: or, An historical account of those persons who have been distinguished in America, as adventurers, statesmen, philosophers, divines, warriors, authors, and other remarkable characters .. (Volume 2) online

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lively imagination and a warm heart, the
firft turn of his mind toward religious fub-
jects, was attended with circumftances bor
dering on enthufiafm. Having received
his firft impreffions from the preaching of


382 PEN N,

Thomas Loe, an itinerant Quaker, he COIK
ceived a favourable opinion of the flights,
and refinements of that rifmg feet, which
led him, while at the Univerfity, in con
junction with fome other fludents, to with
draw from the eftablifhed worfhip, and hold
a private meeting, where they preached and
prayed in their own way. The difcipline
of the Univerfity being very ftrict in fuch
matters, he was fined for the Jin. of non
conformity ; this ferve4 to fix him more
firmly in his principles and habits, and ex-
pofed his fingularity more- openly to the
world. His condact being then deemed
obftinate, he was, in the fixteenth year of
his age, expelled as an incorrigible offender
againft the laws of uniformity.

On his return home, he found his father
highly incenfed againft him. As neither
remonftrances, nor threatnings, nor blows
could diveft him of his religious attachments,
he was, for a while, turned put of the houfe j
but by the influence of his mother he was fo
far reftored to favour as to be fent to France,
in company with fome perfons of quality,
with a vie^y to unbend his mind, and refine
his manners. Here he learned the language


P E N N. 383

of the country, and acquired fuch a polite
and courtly behaviour, that his father, after
two years abfence, received him with joy,
hoping that the object of his wifhes was
attained. He was then admitted into Lin
coln's Inn, where he ftudied law till the
plague broke out in 1665, when he return
ed to his father's houfe.

About this time (1666) the King's coffers
being low, and claims for unrewarded fer-
vices being importunate, grants were fre
quently made of lands in Ireland ; and the
merits of Sir William Penn being not the
leaft confpicuous, he received a valuable
eftate in the county of Cork, and committed
the management of it to his fon, then in the
twenty-fecond year of his age. Here he
met with his old friend Loe, and immediately
attached himfelf to the fociety of Quakers,
though at that time they were fubject to
fevere perfecution. This might have ope
rated as a difcouragement to a young gentle
man of fuch quality and expectations, efpe-
cially as he expofed himfelf thereby to the
rsnewed difpleafure of a parent who loved
him, had not the integrity and fervor of his
mind induced him to facrifice all worldly


384 PEN N,

confiderations to the di&ates of his con-

It was not long before he was appre
hended at a religious " conventicle? and, with
eighteen others, committed to prifon by the
Mayor of Cork ; but upon his writing a
handfome addrefs to the Earl of Orrery ^
Lord Prefident of Munfter, in which he very
fenfibly pleaded for liberty of confcience,
and profefTed his defire of a peaceable, and
his abhorrence of a tumultuous and difre-
fpeclful feparation from the eftablimed wor-
fhip, he was difcharged. This fecond ftroke
of perfecution engaged him more clofely to
the Quakers : He aflbciated openly with
them, and bore, with calmnefs arid patience,
the cruel abufe which was liberally beftow-
ed on that fmgular party.

His father being informed of his conduct,
remanded him home ; and though now
William's age forbad his trying the force of
that fpecies of difcipline, to which, as a naval
commander, he had been accuftomed, yet he
plied him with thofe arguments, which it
was natural for a man of the world to ufe,
and which, to fuch an one, would have been,
prevailing- The principal one was a threat-

P E N N. 385

iiing to difmherit him ; and to this he hum
bly fubmitted, though he could by no means
be perfuaded to take off his hat in prefence
of the King, the Duke of York, or his father.
For this inflexibility he was again turned
out of doors ; upon which he commenced
an itinerant preacher, and had much fuccefs
in making profelytes. In thefe excurfions,
the oppofition which he met with from the
clergy and the magiftracy, frequently brought
him into difficultieSj and fometimes to im-
prifonment ; but his integrity was fo mam-
fed, and his patience fo invincible, that his
father, at length, became ioftened toward
him, and not only exerted his intereft to re-
leafe him from confinement^ but winked at
his return to the family whenever it fuited
his conveniency. His mother was always
his friend, and often fupplied his neceflities
without the knowledge of the father.

In the year 1668, he commenced author ;
and, having written a . book, entitled " The
fandy foundation fhaken," which gave great
offence to the fpiritual lords, he was imprif-
oned in the tower, and the vifits of his
friends were forbidden. But his adverfaries
found him proof againft all their efforts to
A A a fubdue

3*6 P E N N.

fubdue him ; for a meflage being brought t<?-
him by the Bimop of London, that he muft
either publickly recant, or die a prifoner, his
anfwer was, " My prifoh {hall be my grave.
I owe my confcience to no man. They are
miftaken in me ; I value not their threats.
They fhall know that I can weary out their
malice, and baffle all their defigns, by the
fpirit of patience.'* During this confine
ment he wrote his famous book, " No Crofs,
no Crown ;" and another, " Innocency with
her open face," in which he explained and
vindicated the principles which he had ad
vanced in the book for which he was im-
prifoned. This, with a letter which lie
wrote to Lord Arlington, Secretary of State,
aided by the interefl which his father had
at Court, procured his releafe, after feven
months' confinement.

Soon after this, he made another vifit to
Ireland, to fettle his father's concerns, in
which he exerted himfelf with great induf-
try and fuccefs. Here he conftantly appear
ed at the meetings of the Quakers, and not
only officiated as a preacher, but ufed his
interefl with the Lord Lieutenant, and oth
ers of the nobility, to procure indulgence



for them, and get fome of them relcafed
from their imprifonment.

In 1670, an act of Parliament was made,
which prohibited the meetings of Diflenters,
under fevere penalties. The Quakers being
forcibly debarred entering their meeting-
h.oufe in Grace-Church ftreet, London, af-
fembled before it in the ftreet, where Penn
preached to a numerous concourfe ; and be
ing apprehended on the fpot, by a warrant
from the Lord Mayor, was committed te
Newgate, and, at the next feffion, took his
trial at the Old Bailey, where he pleaded his
own caufe with the freedom of an Englifh-
man and the magnanimity of a hero. The
jury at firft brought in their verdict, " guil
ty Gtifpeaking in Grace-Church ftreet ;" but
this being unfatisfactory to the Court, they
were detained all night, and the next day
returned their verdict " not guilty." The
Court were highly incenfed againft them,
fined them forty marks each, and hnprifon-
ed them along with Penn, till their fines and
fees were paid. An unlucky cxpreflion
which, dropped from the Recorder on this
trial, rendered the caufc of the Quakers pop
ular, and their perfccutors odious : ' : It will


P E Nf N.

never be well with us," faid the infamous
Sir John Howel, "till fomething like the
Spanifh inquifition be eftabliflied in Eng
land." The triumph of Penn was complete :
being acquitted by his peers, he was releafed
from prifon, on the payment of his fees, and
returned to the zealous exercife of his min-?

His conduct under this profecution did
him great honour. His father became,
perfectly reconciled to him, and foon af
ter died,* leaving his paternal bleffing and
a plentiful eftate. This acceffion of fortune
made no alteration in his manners or habits :
He continued to preach, to write, and to trav
el as before ; and, within a few months af
terwards, was taken up again for preaching
in the ftreet, and carried to the tower ; from
whence, after a long examination, he was


* The dying advice of his father to him deferves to
be remembered. " Three things I commend to you. i>
Let nothing tempt you to wrong your confcience : If you
keep peace at home, it will be a feaft to you in a day of
trouble. 2. Whatever you defign to do, lay it juftly,
and time it feafonably ; for that gives fccurity and dif-
patch. 3. Be not troubled at difappointments : if they
may be recovered, do it ; if not, trouble is vain. Thefe
rules will carry you with firmnefs and comfort through

this inconftant world."

No Crcf;;, no Crown, 2d ed*

P E N N. 389

fent to Newgate, and being difcharged with
out any trial, at the end of nine months, he
went over to Holland and Germany, where
he continued travelling and preaching, till
the King publifhed his declaration of indul
gence to tender confciences ; upon which
he returned to England, married a daughter
of Sir William Springet, and fettled at Rick-
manfworth, in Hertfordfhire ; where he pur-
fued his ftudies, and multiplied his controver-
fial writings for about five years.

In 1677, he "had a drawing" to renew
his travels in Holland and Germany, in com
pany with Fox, Barclay, Keith, and feveral
others of his brethren. The inducement to
this journey was the candid reception which
had been given by divines, and other learn
ed men in Germany, to the fentiments of
every well-meaning preacher who dhTented
from the Church of Rome. In the courle
of thefe travels they fettled the order of
Church government, difcipline, correfpond-
ence, and marriage* among their friend,, in

Holland ;

* It may not be amifs here to introduce tn extract
from Mr. Penn's journal containing the fentimerit:, of the
Quakers concerning marriage. " Amfterdam, the 3d of
the 6th month, 1677. A fcruple concerning the lav.' of

P E N N.
Holland; difperfed their books among all
forts of people who were inclined to receive
them ; vifited many perfons of diftinction,
and wrote letters to others, particularly to
the King of Poland and the Elector Palatine.
They were received very courteonfly by the
Princefs Elizabeth, grand-daughter of King
James I. then refident at Herwerden, who,
though not perfectly initiated into the myf-
tery of *' the holy filence," yet had been
brought to a u waiting frame," and admitted
them to feveral private meetings and confer
ences in her apartments, in company with
the Countefs of -Homes, and other ladies, her
attendants ; and afterwards kept up a cor-
refpondence with Mr. Penn till her death.


the magi/Irate about marriage, being propofed and dif-
cr'irfed of in the fear of God, among friends, at a felcft
meeting, it was the univerfal and unanimous fenfe of
friends, that joining in marriage is the work of the Lord
on 1 )', and not of prieft or magiftrate. It is God's ordi
nance, and not man's. It was God's work before the
fali, and it is God's work in the restoration. We marry-
none ; it is the Lord's work, and we are but witnefles.
But if a friend have a dcfire that the magiftrate fhould
know it before the marriage be concluded, he may pub-
lifh the fame (after the thing hath by friends been found
clear) and after the marriage is performed in a public
meeting of friends and others, may carry a copy of th
certificate to the magiftrates, that, if they pleafe, they may
regiftcr i:."

P E N N. 39 i

On his return to England, he found his-
friends fuffering by the operation of a law
made againft Papifts, the edge of which was-
unjuftly turned againft them. The law re
quired a certain oath to be tendered to thofe
who were fufpected of Popery ; and becaufe
the Quakers denied the lawfulnefs of oaths, in
any cafe whatever, they were obliged to bear
the penalty annexed to the refufal of this oath,
which was no lels than a fine of twenty
pounds per month, or two-thirds of their ef-
tate. By Penn's advice they petitioned the
Parliament for redrefs of this grievance, and,
after expbaning the reafon of their declin
ing the oath, offered to give their 'word to
the fame purport, and to fubmit to the penal
ty, " if they mould be found faulty." Penn
had a hearing before a committee of Parlia*
ment, when he pleaded the caufe of his
friends and of himfelf, in a fenfible, decent,
convincing manner ; and what he faid had
fo much weight, that the committee agreed
to infert in a bill, then pending, a provifo
for their relief. The bill paffed the Com
mons, but before it could be got through the
H n u r j of Lords, it was loft by a fucklen pro
rogation of Parliament.


392 PEN N.

We Have hitherto viewed Mr. Penn as a
Chriftian ahd a preacher ; and he appears to
have been honeft, zealous, patient and induf-
trious in the concerns of religion. His abil
ities and his literary acquirements were em
inently ferviceable to the fraternity with
which he was connected ; and it was owing
to his exertions, in conj unction with Barclay
and Keith, that they were formed into order,
and that a regular correfpondence arid difci-
pline were eftablifhed among the feveral fo-
cieties of them difperfed in Europe and
America. His writings ferved to give the
world a more juft and favourable idea of their
principles, than could be had from the ha
rangues of illiterate preachers^ or the rhap-
fodies of enthufiafiic writers ; while his fam
ily and fortune procured for them a degree
of refpectability at home and abroad. His
controversial writings are modeft, candid and
perfuafive. His book, entitled " The Chrif
tian Quaker," is a fenfible vindication of the
doctrine of Univerfal Saving Light. His
ftyle is clear and perfpicuous ; and though
he does not affect fo much fcholaftic fubtilty
in his argumentation as his friend Barclay,
yet he is by no means inferior to him in for


P E N N. 393

lidity of reafoning. His character is thus
drawn by the editor of his works : " Our
worthy friend, William Penn, was known
to be a man of great abilities ; of an excel
lent fweetnefs of difpofition; of quick thought
and ready utterance ; full of love, without
dimmulation ; as extenfive in charity as
comprehenfive in knowledge ; fo ready to
forgive enemies, that the ungrateful were
not excepted. He was learned without van
ity ; apt without forwardnefs ; facetious in.
converfation, yet weighty and ferious ; of an
extraordinary greatnefs of mind, yet -void of
the ftain of ambition.

We fhall now view him in the character
of a LEGISLATOR, in which refpecl his
learning, his fufferings, his acquaintance
with mankind, and his genuine liberality, 1
were of great ufe to him. Among his va
rious ftudies, he had not omitted to acquaint
himfelf with the principles of law and gov
ernment ; and he had more efpecial induce
ments to this, from the profecutions and
arrefts which he frequently fuffefed, into the
legality of which it was natural for him to
inquire. He had obferved in his travels
abroad, as well as in his acquaintance at
B B b home,

P E N N.

home, the workings of arbitrary power, and
the mifchiefs of usurpation ; and he had ftud-
ied the whole contfoverfy between regal
and popular claims : the refult of which was,
that government muft be founded in juftice,
and exercifed with moderation. One of
his maxims was, that " the people being the
wife-politic of the prince, is better managed
by wifdom than ruled by force." His own
feelings, as well as reflections, led him to
adopt the moft liberal idea of toleration.
Freedom of profeffion and inquiry, and a
total abhorrence of perfecution for confcience
fake, were his darling principles ; and it is a
fingular circumftance in the hiftory of man
kind, that Divine Providence mould give to
fuch a man as William Penn an opportunity
to make a fair and confident experiment of
thefe excellent maxims, by eftablifhing a Col
ony in America, on the moft liberal princi
pled of toleration, at a time, when the poli
cy of the oldeft nations in Europe were in
effectually employed in endeavouring to re
duce the adive minds of men to a moft ab-
furd uniformity in articles of faith and modes

f worfhip.


P E N N. 395

It has been obferved that his father, Sir
William Penn, had merited much by his fer-
vices in the Englifh navy. There were alfo
certain debts due to him from the Crown, at
the time of his death, which the royal treaf-
ures were poorly able to difcharge. His
fon, after much folicitation, found no prof-
peel; of getting his due, in the common mode
of payment, and therefore turned his thoughts
toward obtaining a grant of land in America,
on which he might make the experiment of
fettling a Colony, and eflablifhing a govern
ment fuited to his own principles and views.

Mr. Penn had been concerned with fev-
cral other Quakers in purchafmg of Lord
Berkeley, his patent of Weft-Jerfey, to make
a fettlement for their perfecuted brethren in
England, many of whom tranfported them-
felves thither, in hope of an exemption from
the troubles which they had endured, from
the execution of the penal laws againft Dif-
fenters. But they found themfelves fubject
to the arbitrary impofitions of Sir Edmund
Andros, who governed the Duke of York's
territory, and exercifed jurifdiction over all
the fettlements on both fides the Delaware,
and his aflbciates remonftrated againft


396 PEN N.

his conduct, but their efforts proved ineffet-
ual. However, the concern which Penn had
in this purchafe gave him not only a tafte
for fpeculating in landed jntereft, but a
knowledge of the middle region of the A-
mericari coafls ; and being defirous of ac
quiring a feparate eft ate, where he might re
alize his fanguine wifhes, he had great
advantage in making inquiry and determin
ing on a place.

Having examined all the former grants to
the companies of Virginia and New-Eng
land, the Lord Baltimore and the Duke of
York, he fixed upon a territory bounded on
the eaft by the bay and river of Delaware,
extending fouthward to Lord Baltimore's
province of Maryland, weftward as far as
the weflern extent of Maryland, and north
ward " as far as plantable." For this he pe
titioned the King ; and being examined be
fore the Privy Council, on the I4th of June,
concerning of thofe words of his petition
" as far as plantable," he declared, " that he
fhould be fativsfied with the extent of three
degrees of latitude \ and that in lieu of fuch
a grant, he was willing to remit his debt
from the crown, or fame part of it, and to


P E N N. 397

flay for the remainder, till his Majefty fliouid
be in a better condition to fatisfy it."

Notice of this application was given to
the agents of the Duke of York and Lord
Baltimore, and inquiry was made, how far
the pretenfions of Penn might confift with
the grants already made to them. The pe-
ninfula between the bays of Cheafpeak and
Delaware had been planted by detached
companies of Swedes, Finlanders, Dutch,
and Englim. It was, firft by force, and af
terwards by treaty, brought under the do
minion of the Crown of England. That
part of it which bordered pn the Delaware
was within the Duke of York's patent, while
that which joined on the Cheafpeak was
within the grant to Lord Baltimore.

The Duke's agent confented that Penn
fhould have the land weft of Delaware and
north of Newcaftle, " in confideration of the
reafon he had to exipe&favour from his Maj
efty." Lord Baltimore's agent petitioned
that Penn's grant might be expreffed to lie
north of Sufquehannah fort, and of a line
drawn eaft and weft from it, and that lie
might not be allowed to fell arms and am

39$ P E tt N.

munition to the Indians. To thefe reftric-
tions Penn had no objection.

The draught of a charter being prepared,
it was fubmitted to Lord Chief Juftice North,
who was ordered to provide by fit claufes
for the intereft of the King and the encour
agement of the planters. While it was un-r
der confideration, the Bifhop of London pe^
titioned that Penn might be obliged by his
patent to admit a Chaplain of his Lordlhip's
appointment, at the requeft of any number
of the planters. The giving a name to the
province was left to the King*

The Charter, confifting of twenty-three
fections, " penned with all the appearance of
candour and fimplicity," was figned and feal-
ed by King Charles II, on the 4th of March,
1 68 1. It conftitutes WILLIAM PENN, and
his heirs, true and abfolute proprietaries of
the Province of PENNSYLVANIA, faving to
the crown their allegiance and the fovereign-
ty. It gives him, his heirs and their dep
uties, power to make laws " for the good
and happy government of the country," by
advice of the freemen, and to erect courts of
juftice for the execution of thofe laws, pro
vided they be not repugnant to the laws of


fc E N N. 399

England. For the encouragement of plant
ers, they were to enjoy the privileges of Eng-
lifh fubjects, paying the fame duties in trade ;
and no taxes were to be levied on them, but
by their own Aflemblies, or by acts of Par
liament. With refpect to religion, no more
is faid than what the Bifhop of London had
fuggefted, that if twenty inhabitants fhould
defire a preacher of his Lordfhip's approba
tion, he fhould be allowed to refide in the
Province. This was perfectly agreeable to
Mr. Penn's profefTed principles of liberty of
confcience ; but it may feem rather extraor
dinary that this dimnguimed leader of a feet,
who fo pointedly denied the lawfulnefs of
war, fhould accept the powers given him in
the fixteenth article of the charter, " to levy,
mufter and train all forts of men ; to purfue.
and vanquifh enemies ; to take and put them
to death by the laws of war ; and to do ev
ery thing which belongeth to the office of
CAPTAIN-GENERAL in an army.'* Mr.
Penn, for reafons of State, might find it con
venient that he and his heirs mould be thus
invefted with the power of the fword, though
it was impoflible for him or them to exercife
k, without firft apoftatizing from their re
ligious profeffion.


' .,* ! * * *

400 PEN N.

The Charter being thus obtained, he found
himfelf authorized to agree with fuch perfons
as were difpofed to be adventurers to his new
Province. By a public advertifement, he in
vited purchafers, and defcribed the country,
with a difplay of the advantages which
might be expected from a fettlement in it.
This induced many (ingle perfons, and fome
families, chiefly of the denomination of Qua
kers, to think of a removal. A number of
merchants and others formed themfelves in
to a company, for the fake of encouraging
the fettlement and trade of the country, and
purchafed twenty thoufand acres of his land.
They had a Prefident, Treafurer, Secretary,
and a committee of twelve, who reiided in
England and tranfacted their common bufi-
nefs. Their objects were to encourage the
manufactures of leather and glafs, the cutting
and fawing of timber, and the whale-fimery.

The land was fold at the rate of twenty
pounds for every thoufand acres. They
who rented lands were to pay one penny
yearly per acre. Servants, when their terms
were expired, were entitled to fifty acres,
fubjed: to two millings per annum ; and
their mailers were allowed fifty acres for


HJ N : N. 401

each fervant, fo liberated, but fubject to four
fhillings per annum j or if the matter fhould
give the fervant fifty acres out of his own
divifion, he might receive from the proprie
tor one hundred acres, fubjedt to fix fhillings
per annum. In every hundred thoufand
acres, the proprietor reierved ten for himfelf.

The quit-rents were not agreed to with
out difficulty. The purchafers remonftrated
againft them as a burden, unprecedented in
any other American Colony. But Penn
diftinguifhed between the character of Pro
prietor and Governor, urging the neceflity
of fupporting government with dignity, and
that by complying with this expedient, they
would be freed from other taxes. Such dif-
tindtions are very convenient to a politician,
and by this infinuation the point was carri
ed : upon which it was remarked, (perhaps
too feverely) that " lefs of the man of God
now appeared, and more of the man of the

According to the powers given by the
charter, " for regulating and governing prop
erty within the province," he entered into
certain articles with the purchafers and ad
venturers (July n, 1681) which were en-
c c titled

402 PEN N.

titled " Conditions arid ConcefTions." Theft
related to the laying out roads, city and
country lots j the privilege of water-courfes j
the property of mines and minerals ; the re-

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Online LibraryUnknownAmerican biography: or, An historical account of those persons who have been distinguished in America, as adventurers, statesmen, philosophers, divines, warriors, authors, and other remarkable characters .. (Volume 2) → online text (page 19 of 24)