Title: William Penn
Author: George Hodges
Release date: March 24, 2009 [eBook #28394]
Most recently updated: January 4, 2021
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The Riverside Biographical Series
ANDREW JACKSON, by W. G. Brown
JAMES B. EADS, by Louis How
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, by Paul E. More
PETER COOPER, by R. W. Raymond
THOMAS JEFFERSON, by H. C. Merwin
WILLIAM PENN, by George Hodges
GENERAL GRANT. (In preparation)
LEWIS AND CLARK, by William R. Lighton. (In preparation)
Each about 100 pages, 16mo, with photogravure portrait,
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HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN & CO.
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|I.||A Puritan Boyhood: Wanstead Church and Chigwell School||1|
|II.||At Oxford: Influence of Thomas Loe||8|
|III.||In France and Ireland: The World and the Other World||22|
|IV.||Penn becomes a Quaker: Persecution and Controversy||33|
|V.||The Beginning of Penn's Political Life: The Holy Experiment||53|
|VI.||The Settlement of Pennsylvania: Penn's First Visit to|
|VII.||At the Court of James the Second, and "in Retirement"||93|
|VIII.||Penn's Second Visit to the Province: Closing Years||113|
The mother of William Penn came from Rotterdam, in Holland. She was the daughter of John Jasper, a merchant of that city. The lively Mr. Pepys, who met her in 1664, when William was twenty years of age, describes her as a "fat, short, old Dutchwoman," and says that she was "mighty homely." He records a tattling neighbor's gossip that she was not a good housekeeper. He credits her, however, with having more wit and discretion than her husband, and liked her better as his acquaintance with her progressed. That she was of a cheerful disposition is evidenced by many passages of Pepys's Diary. That is all we know about her.
William's father was an ambitious, successful, and important person. He was twenty-two years old, and already a captain in the navy, when he married Margaret Jasper. The year after his marriage he was made rear-admiral of Ireland; two years after that, admiral of the Straits; in four years more, vice-admiral of England; and the next year, a "general of the sea" in the Dutch war. This was in Cromwell's time, when the naval strength of England was being mightily increased. A young man of energy and ability, acquainted with the sea, was easily in the line of promotion.
The family was ancient and respectable. Penn's father, however, began life with little money or education, and few social advantages. Lord Clarendon observed of him that he "had a great mind to appear better bred, and to speak like a gentleman," implying that he found some difficulty in so doing. Clarendon said, also, that he "had many good words which he used at adventure."
The Penns lived on Tower Hill, in the Parish of St. Catherine's, in a court adjoining London Wall. There they resided in "two chambers, one above another," and fared frugally. There William was born on the 14th of October, 1644.
Marston Moor was fought in that year, and all England was taking sides in the contention between the Parliament and the king. The navy was in sympathy with the Parliament; and the young officer, though his personal inclinations were towards the king, went with his associates. But in 1654 he appears to have lost faith in the Commonwealth. Cromwell sent an expedition to seize the Spanish West Indies. He put Penn in charge of the fleet, and made Venables general of the army. The two commanders, without conference one with the other, sent secret word to Charles II., then in exile on the Continent, and offered him their ships and soldiers. This transaction, though it seemed for the moment to be of none effect, resulted years afterward in the erection of the Colony of Pennsylvania. Charles declined the offer; "he wished them to reserve their affections for his Majesty till a more proper season to discover them;" but he never forgot it. It was the beginning of a friendship between the House of Stuart and the family of Penn, which William Penn inherited.
The expedition captured Jamaica, and made it a British colony; but in its other undertakings it failed miserably; and the admiral, on his return, was dismissed from the navy and committed to the Tower.
About that same time, the admiral's young son, being then in the twelfth year of his age, beheld a vision. His mother had removed with him to the village of Wanstead, in Essex. Here, as he was alone in his chamber, "he was suddenly surprised with an inward comfort, and, as he thought, an external glory in his room, which gave rise to religious emotions, during which he had the strongest conviction of the being of a God, and that the soul of man was capable of enjoying communication with him. He believed, also, that the seal of Divinity had been put upon him at this moment, or that he had been awakened or called upon to a holy life."
While William Penn the elder had been going from promotion to promotion, sailing the high seas, and fighting battles with the enemies of England, William Penn the younger had been living with all possible quietness in the green country, saying his prayers in Wanstead Church, and learning his lessons in Chigwell School.
Wanstead Church was devotedly Puritan. The chief citizens had signed a protest against any "Popish innovations," and had agreed to punish every offender against "the true reformed Protestant religion."
The founder of Chigwell School had prescribed in his deed of gift that the master should be "a good Poet, of a sound religion, neither Papal nor Puritan; of a good behaviour; of a sober and honest conversation; no tippler nor haunter of alehouses, no puffer of tobacco; and, above all, apt to teach and severe in his government." Here William studied Lilly's Latin and Cleonard's Greek Grammar, together with "cyphering and casting-up accounts," being a good scholar, we may guess, in the classics, but encountering the master's "severe government" in his sums. Chigwell was as Puritan a place as Wanstead. About the time of William's going thither, the vicar had been ejected on petition from the parishioners, who complained that he had an altar before which he bowed and cringed, and which he had been known to kiss "twice in one day."
It is plain that religion made up a large, interesting, and important part of life in these villages in which William Penn was getting his first impressions of the world. All about were great forests, whose shadows invited him to seclusion and meditation. All the news was of great battles, most of them fought in a religious cause, which even a lad could appreciate, and towards which he would readily take an attitude of stout partisanship. The boy was deeply affected by these surroundings. "I was bred a Protestant," he said long afterwards, "and that strictly, too." Trained as he was in Puritan habits of introspection, he listened for the voice of God, and heard it. Thus the tone of his life was set. There were moments in his youth when "the world," as the phrase is, attracted him; there were times in his great career when he seemed, and perhaps was, disobedient to this heavenly vision; but, looking back from the end of his life to this beginning, "as a tale that is told," it is seen to be lived throughout in the light of the glory which shone in his room at Wanstead. William Penn from that hour was a markedly religious man. Thereafter, nothing was so manifest or eminent about him as his religion.
On the 22d of April, 1661, we get another glimpse of William.
Mr Pepys, having risen early on the morning of that day, and put on his velvet coat, and made himself, as he says, as fine as he could, repaired to Mr. Young's, the flag-maker, in Cornhill, to view the procession wherein the king should ride through London. There he found "Sir W. Pen and his son, with several others." "We had a good room to ourselves," he says, "with wine and good cake, and saw the show very well." The streets were new graveled, and the fronts of the houses hung with carpets, with ladies looking out of all the windows; and "so glorious was the show with gold and silver, that we were not able to look at it, our eyes at last being so overcome."
This was a glory very different from that which the lad had seen, five or six years before, in his room. The world was here presenting its attractions in competition with the "other world" of the earlier vision. The contrast is a symbol of the contention between the two ideals, into which William was immediately to enter.
The king and the Duke of York had looked up as they passed the flag-maker's, and had recognized the admiral. He had gone to Ireland, upon his release from the Tower, and had there resided in retirement upon an estate which his father had owned before him. Thence returning, as the Restoration became more and more a probability, he had secured a seat in Parliament, and had been a bearer of the welcome message which had finally brought Charles from his exile in Holland to his throne in England. For his part in this pleasant errand, he had been knighted and made Commissioner of Admiralty and Governor of Kinsale. Thus his ambitions were being happily attained. He had retrieved and improved his fortunes, and had become an associate with persons of rank and a favorite with royalty.
He had immediately sent his son to Oxford. William had been entered as a gentleman-commoner of Christ Church, at the beginning of the Michaelmas term of 1660. It was clearly the paternal intention that the boy should become a successful man of the world and courtier, like his father.
Sir William, however, had not reflected that while he had been pursuing his career of calculating ambition and seeking the pleasure of princes, his son had been living amongst Puritans in a Puritan neighborhood. Young Penn went up to Oxford to find all things in confusion. The Puritans had been put out of their places, and the Churchmen were entering in. It is likely that this, of itself, displeased the new student, whose sympathies were with the dispossessed. The Churchmen, moreover, brought their cavalier habits with them. In the reaction from the severity which they had just escaped, they did many objectionable things, not only for the pleasure of doing them, but for the added joy of shocking their Puritan neighbors. They amused themselves freely on the Lord's day; they patronized games and plays; and they tippled and "puffed tobacco," and swore and swaggered in all the newest fashions. William was the son of his father in appreciation of pleasant and abundant living. But he was not of a disposition to enter into this wanton and audacious merry-making,—a gentle, serious country lad, with a Puritan conscience.
Moreover, at this moment, in the face of any possible temptation, William's sober tastes and devout resolutions were strengthened by certain appealing sermons. Here it was at Oxford, the nursery of enthusiasms and holy causes, that he received the impulse which determined all his after life. He spent but a scant two years in college; and the work of the lecture rooms must have suffered seriously during that time from the contention and confusion of the changes then in progress; so that academically the college could not have greatly profited him. The profit came in the influence of Thomas Loe. Loe was a Quaker.
The origin of the name "Quaker" is uncertain. It is derived by some from the fact that the early preachers of the sect trembled as they spoke; others deduce it from the trembling which their speech compelled in those who heard it. By either derivation, it indicates the earnest spirit of that strange people who, in the seventeenth century, were annoying and displeasing all their neighbors.
George Fox, the first Quaker, was a cobbler; and the first Quaker dress was the leather coat and breeches which he made for himself with his own tools. Thereafter he was independent both of fashions and of tailors. Cobbler though he was, and so slenderly educated that he did not express himself grammatically, Fox was nevertheless a prophet, according to the order of Amos, the herdman of Tekoa. He looked out into the England of his day with the keenest eyes of any man of the times, and remarked upon what he saw with the most honest and candid speech. A man of the plain people, like most of the prophets and apostles, the offenses which chiefly attracted his attention were such as the plain people naturally see.
Out of the windows of his cobbler's shop, Fox beheld with righteous indignation the extravagant and insincere courtesies of the gentlefolk, and heard their exaggerated phrases of compliment. In protest against the unmeaning courtesies, he wore his hat in the presence of no matter whom, taking it off only in time of prayer. In protest against the unmeaning compliments, he addressed no man by any artificial title, calling all his neighbors, without distinction of persons, by their Christian names; and for the plural pronoun "you," the plural of dignity and flattery, he substituted "thee" and "thou."
The same literalness appeared in his selection of "Swear not at all" as one of the cardinal commandments, and in his application of it to the oaths of the court and of the state. The Sermon on the Mount has in all ages been considered difficult to enact in common life, but it would have been hard to find any sentence in it which in the days of Fox and Penn, with their interpretation, would have brought upon a conscientious person a heavier burden of inconvenience. Not only did it make the Quakers guilty of contempt of court and thus initially at fault in all legal business, but it exposed them to a natural suspicion of disloyalty to the government. It was a time of political change, first the Commonwealth, then Charles, then James, then William; and every change signified the supremacy of a new idea in religion, Puritan, Anglican, Roman Catholic, and Protestant. Every new ruler demanded a new oath of allegiance; and as plots and conspiracies were multiplied, the oath was required again and again; so that England was like an unruly school, whose master is continually calling upon the pupils to declare whether or no they are guilty of this or that offense. The Quakers were forbidden by their doctrine of the oath to make answer in the form which the state required. And they suffered for this scruple as men have suffered for the maintenance of eternal principles.
To the social eccentricity of the irremoveable hat and the singular pronoun, and to the civil eccentricity of the refused oath, George Fox and his disciples added a series of protests against the most venerable customs of Christianity. They did away with all the forms and ceremonies of Churchman and of Puritan alike. Not even baptism, not even the Lord's Supper remained. Their service was a silent meeting, whose solemn stillness was broken, if at all, by the voice of one who was sensibly "moved" by the Spirit of God. They discarded all orders of the ministry. They refused alike all creeds and all confessions.
Not content with thus abandoning most that their contemporaries valued among the institutions of religion, the Quakers made themselves obtrusively obnoxious. They argued and exhorted, in season and out of season; they printed endless pages of eager and violent controversy; they went into churches and interrupted services and sermons.
Amongst these various denials there were two positive assertions. One was the doctrine of the return to primitive Christianity; the other was the doctrine of the inward light. Let us get back, they said, to those blessed centuries when the teaching of the Apostles was remembered, and the fellowship of the Apostles was faithfully kept,—when Justin Martyr and Irenæus and Ignatius and the other holy fathers lived. And let us listen to the inner voice; let us live in the illumination of the light which lighteth every man, and attend to the counsels of that Holy Spirit whose ministrations did not cease with the departure of the last Apostle. God, they believed, spoke to them directly, and told them what to do.
George Fox, in 1656, had brought this teaching to Oxford; and among the company of Quakers which had thus been gathered under the eaves of the university, Thomas Loe had become a "public Friend," or, as would commonly be said, a minister. When William Penn entered Christ Church College, Loe was probably in the town jail. It is at least certain that he was imprisoned there, with forty other Quakers, sometime in 1660.
To Loe's preaching many of the students listened with attention. It is easy to see how his doctrines would appeal to young manhood. The fact that they were forbidden would attract some, and that the man who preached thus had suffered for his faith would attract others. Their emphasis upon entire sincerity and consistency in word and deed would commend them to honest souls, while the exaltation of the inward light would move then, as in all ages, the idealists, the poets, the enthusiasts among them. William Penn knew what the inward light was. He had seen it shining so that it filled all the room where he was sitting. Accordingly, he not only went to hear Loe speak but was profoundly impressed by what he heard.
If Penn was naturally a religious person,—by inheritance, perhaps, from his mother,—he was also naturally of a political mind, by inheritance from his father. What Loe said touched both sides of this inheritance. For the Quakers had already begun to dream of a colony across the sea. The Churchmen had such a colony in Virginia; the Puritans had one in Massachusetts; somewhere else in that untilled continent there must be a place for those who in England could expect no peace from either Puritan or Churchman. Not only had they planned to have sometime a country of their own, but they had already located it. They had chosen the lands which lay behind the Jerseys. While Loe was preaching and Penn was listening, Fox was writing to Josiah Cole, a Quaker who was then in America, asking him to confer with the chiefs of the Susquehanna Indians. This plan Loe revealed to his student congregation. It appealed to Penn. He had an instinctive appreciation of large ideas, and an imagination and confidence which made him eager to undertake their execution. It was in his blood. It was the spirit which had carried his father from a lieutenancy in the navy to the position of an honored and influential member of the court. "I had an opening of joy as to these parts," he says, meaning Pennsylvania, "in 1661, at Oxford."
This meeting with Loe was therefore a crisis in Penn's life. William Penn will always be remembered as a leader among the early Quakers, and as the founder of a commonwealth. He first became acquainted with the Quakers, and first conceived the idea of founding at Oxford, or assisting to found, a commonwealth, by the preaching of Thomas Loe.
It is a curious fact that the spirit of protest will often pass by serious offenses and fasten upon some apparently slight occasion which has rather a symbolical than an actual importance. William Penn, so far as we know, endured the disorders of anti-Puritan Oxford without protest. He entered so far into the life of the place as to contribute, with other students, to a series of Latin elegies upon the death of the Duke of Gloucester; and he "delighted," Anthony Wood tells us, "in manly sports at times of recreation." It is true that he may have written to his father to take him away, for Mr. Pepys records in his journal, under date of Jan. 25, 1662, "Sir W. Pen came to me, and did break a business to me about removing his son from Oxford to Cambridge, to some private college." But nothing came of it. William is said, indeed, to have absented himself rather often from the college prayers, and to have joined with other students whom the Quaker preaching had affected in holding prayer-meetings in their own rooms. But all went fairly well until an order was issued requiring the students, according to the ancient custom, to wear surplices in chapel. Then the young Puritan arose, and assisted in a ritual rebellion. He and his friends "fell upon those students who appeared in surplices, and he and they together tore them everywhere over their heads." Not content with thus seizing and rending the obnoxious vestments, they proceeded further to thrust the white gowns into the nearest cesspool, into whose depths they poked them with long sticks.
This incident ended William's course at college. It is doubtful whether he was expelled or only suspended. He was dismissed, and never returned. Eight years after, chancing to pass through Oxford, and learning that Quaker students were still subjected to the rigors of academic discipline, he wrote a letter to the vice-chancellor. It probably expresses the sentiments with which as an undergraduate he had regarded the university authorities: "Shall the multiplied oppressions which thou continuest to heap upon innocent English people for their religion pass unregarded by the Eternal God? Dost thou think to escape his fierce wrath and dreadful vengeance for thy ungodly and illegal persecution of his poor children? I tell thee, no. Better were it for thee thou hadst never been born." And so on, in the controversial dialect of the time, calling the vice-chancellor a "poor mushroom," and abusing him generally. Elsewhere, in a retrospect which I shall presently quote at length, he refers to his university experiences: "Of my persecution at Oxford, and how the Lord sustained me in the midst of that hellish darkness and debauchery; of my being banished the college."
In his retrospect of his early life, Penn notes what immediately followed his departure from the university: "The bitter usage I underwent when I returned to my father,—whipping, beating, and turning out of doors in 1662."
The admiral was thoroughly angry. He was at best but imperfectly acquainted with his son, of whom in his busy life he had seen but little, and was therefore unprepared for such extraordinary conduct. He was by no means a religious person. For the spiritual, or even the ecclesiastical, aspects of the matter, he cared nothing. But he had, as Clarendon perceived, a strong desire to be well thought of by those who composed the good society of the day. He expected the members of his family to deport themselves as befitted such society. And here was William, whom he had carefully sent to a college where he would naturally consort with the sons of titled families, taking up with a religious movement which would bring him into the company of cobblers and tinkers. It is said, indeed, that Robert Spencer, afterwards Earl of Sunderland, helped William destroy the surplices. But this is denied; and even if it were true, it would be plain, from Spencer's after career, that he did it not for the principle, but for the fun of the thing. William was in the most sober earnest. Accordingly, the admiral turned his son out of doors.
The boy came back, of course. Beating and turning out of doors were not such serious events in the seventeenth century as they would be at present. Most men said more, and in louder voices, and meant less. It was but a brief quarrel, and father and son made it up as best they could. It was plain, however, that something must be done. Whipping would not avail. William's head was full of queer notions, upon which a stick had no effect. His father bethought himself of the pleasant diversions of France. The lad, he said, has lived in the country all his days, and has had no acquaintance with the merry world; he shall go abroad, that he may see life, and learn to behave like a gentleman; let us see if this will not cure him of his pious follies.
Accordingly, to France the young man went, and traveled in company with certain persons of rank. He stayed more than a year, and enjoyed himself greatly. He was at the age when all the world is new and interesting; and being of attractive appearance and high spirits, with plenty of money, the world gave him a cordial welcome. So far did he venture into the customs of the country, that he had a fight one night in a Paris street with somebody who crossed swords with him, and disarmed his antagonist. He had a right, according to the rules, to kill him, but he declined to do so. When he came home, he pleased his father much by his graceful behavior and elegant attire. "This day," says Mr. Pepys in his diary for August 26, 1664, "my wife tells me that Mr. Pen, Sir William's son, is come back from France, and came to visit her. A most modish person grown, she says, a fine gentleman." Pepys thinks that he is even a bit too French in his manner and conversation.
"I remember your honour very well," writes a correspondent years after, "when you came newly out of France, and wore pantaloon breeches."
This journey affected Penn all the rest of his life. It restrained him from following the absurder singularities of his associates. George Fox's leather suit he would have found impossible. He wore his hat in the Quaker way, and said "thee" and "thou," but otherwise he appears to have dressed and acted according to the conventions of polite society. He did, indeed, become a Quaker; but there were always Quakers who looked askance at him because he was so different from them, able to speak French and acquainted with the manners of drawing-rooms.
In two respects, however, his visit to France differed from that of some of his companions in travel. There were places to which they went without him; and there were places to which he went without them. He kept himself from the grosser temptations of the country. "You have been as bad as other folks," said Sir John Robinson when Penn was on trial for preaching in the street.
"When," cried Penn, "and where? I charge thee tell the company to my face."
"Abroad," said Robinson, "and at home, too."
"I make this bold challenge," answered Penn, "to all men, women and children upon earth, justly to accuse me with ever having seen me drunk, heard me swear, utter a curse, or speak one obscene word (much less that I ever made it my practice). I speak this to God's glory, that has ever preserved me from the power of those pollutions, and that from a child begot an hatred in me towards them."
He went away alone for some months to the Protestant college of Saumur, where he devoted himself to a study of that primitive Christianity in which, as Loe had told him, was to be found the true ideal of the Christian Church. Here he acquired an acquaintance with the writings of the early Fathers, from whom he liked to quote.
Thus he returned to England in 1664, attired in French pantaloon breeches, and with little French affectations in his manner, but without vices, and with a smattering of patristic learning. He was sent by his father to study law at Lincoln's Inn. He was to be a courtier, and in that position it would be both becoming and convenient to have some knowledge of the law. Thus he settled down among the lawyers, and it seemed for the moment as if his father had succeeded in his purpose. It seemed as if the world had effectually obscured the other world.
There are two letters, written about this time from William to his father, which show a pleasant mixture of piety with a lively interest in the life about him. He has been at sea for a few days with the admiral, and returns with dispatches to the king. "I bless God," he writes, "my heart does not in any way fail, but firmly believe that if God has called you out to battle, he will cover your head in that smoky day." He hastened on his errand, he says, to Whitehall, and arrived before the king was up; but his Majesty, learning that there was news, "earnestly skipping out of bed, came only in his gown and slippers; who, when he saw me, said, 'Oh! is't you? How is Sir William?'"
That was in May. Within a week the plague came. On the 7th of June, 1665, Mr. Pepys makes this ominous entry: "This day," he says, "much against my will, I did in Drury Lane see two or three houses marked with a red cross upon the doors, and 'Lord, have mercy,' written there; which was a sad sight to me, being the first of the kind that, to my remembrance, I ever saw." Day by day the pestilence increased, and presently there was no more studying at Lincoln's Inn. Young Penn went for safety into the clean country. There, among the green fields, in the enforced leisure, with time to think, and the most sobering things to think about, his old seriousness returned. The change was so marked that his father, feeling that it were well to renew the pleasant friendship with the world which had begun in France, sent him over to Ireland.
At Dublin, the Duke of Ormond, the Lord Lieutenant, was keeping a merry court. William entered heartily into its pleasures. He resided upon his father's estates, at Shannagarry Castle. He so distinguished himself in the suppression of a mutiny that Ormond offered him a commission in the army, and William was disposed to accept it. He had his portrait painted, clad in steel, with lace at his throat. His dark hair is parted in the middle, and hangs in cavalier fashion over his shoulders. He looks out of large, clear, questioning eyes; and his handsome face is strong and serious.
But the young cavalier went one day to Cork upon some business, and there heard that Thomas Loe was in town, and that he was to preach. Penn went to hear him, and again the spoken word was critical and decisive. "There is a faith," said the preacher, "which overcomes the world, and there is a faith which is overcome by the world." Such was the theme, and it seemed to Penn as if every word were spoken out of heaven straight to his own soul. In the long contention which had been going on within him between the world and the other world, the world had been getting the mastery. The attractions of a martial life had shone more brightly than the light which had flamed about him in his boyhood. Then Loe spoke, and thenceforth there was no more perplexity. Penn's choice was definitely made.
In his account of his travels in Holland and Germany, written some ten years after this crisis, Penn recurs to it in an address from which I have already quoted. He was speaking in Wiemart, at a meeting in the mansion-house of the Somerdykes, and was illustrating his exhortations from his own experience. He passed in rapid review the incidents of his early life which we have recounted. "Here I began to let them know," he says, "how and where the Lord first appeared unto me, which was about the twelfth year of my age, in 1656; how at times, betwixt that and the fifteenth, the Lord visited me, and the divine impressions he gave me of himself." Then the banishment from Oxford, and his father's turning him out of doors. "Of the Lord's dealings with me in France, and in the time of the great plague in London, in fine, the deep sense he gave me of the vanity of this world, of the deep irreligiousness of the religions of it; then of my mournful and bitter cries to him that he would show me his own way of life and salvation, and my resolution to follow him, whatever reproaches or sufferings should attend me, and that with great reverence and tenderness of spirit; how, after all this, the glory of the world overtook me, and I was even ready to give myself up unto it, seeing as yet no such thing as the 'primitive spirit and church' upon earth, and being ready to faint concerning my 'hope of the restitution of all things.' It was at this time that the Lord visited me with a certain sound and testimony of his eternal word, through one of them the world calls Quakers, namely, Thomas Loe."
Struggling, as Penn was, against continual temptations to abandon his high ideal, getting no help from his parents, who were displeased at him, nor from the clergy, whose "invectiveness and cruelty" he remembers, nor from his companions, who made themselves strange to him; bearing meanwhile "that great cross of resisting and watching against mine own inward vain affections and thoughts," the only voice of help and strength was that of Thomas Loe. Seeking for the "primitive spirit and church upon earth," he found it in the sect which Loe represented. His mind was now resolved. He, too, would be a Quaker.
William now began to attend Quaker meetings, though he was still dressed in the gay fashions which he had learned in France. His sincerity was soon tested. A proclamation made against Fifth Monarchy men was so enforced as to affect Quakers. A meeting at which Penn was present was broken in upon by constables, backed with soldiers, who "rudely and arbitrarily" required every man's appearance before the mayor. Among others, they "violently haled" Penn. From jail he wrote to the Earl of Orrery, Lord President of Munster, making a stout protest. It was his first public utterance. "Diversities of faith and conduct," he argued, "contribute not to the disturbance of any place, where moral conformity is barely requisite to preserve the peace." He reminded his lordship that he himself had not long since "concluded no way so effectual to improve or advantage this country as to dispense with freedom [i. e. to act freely] in all things pertaining to conscience."
Penn wrote so much during his long life that his selected works make five large volumes. Many of these pages are devoted to the statement of Quaker theology; some are occupied with descriptions of his colonial possessions; some are given to counsels and conclusions drawn from experience and dealing with human life in general; but there is one idea which continually recurs,—sometimes made the subject of a thesis, sometimes entering by the way,—and that is the popular right of liberty of conscience. It was for this that he worked, and chiefly lived, most of his life. Here it is set forth with all clearness in the first public word which he wrote.
William's letter opened the jail doors. It is likely, however, that the signature was more influential than the epistle; for his Quaker associates seem not to have come out with him. The fact which probably weighed most with the Lord President was that Penn was the son of his father the admiral, and the protégé of Ormond. His father called him home. It was on the 3d of September that William was arrested; on the 29th of December, being the Lord's day, Mrs. Turner calls upon Mr. and Mrs. Pepys for an evening of cheerful conversation, "and there, among other talk, she tells me that Mr. William Pen, who has lately come over from Ireland, is a Quaker again, or some very melancholy thing; that he cares for no company, nor comes into any."
Admiral Penn was sorely disappointed. Neither France nor Ireland had availed to wean his son from his religious eccentricities. Into the pleasant society where his father had hoped to see him shine, he declined to enter. He said "thee" and "thou," and wore his hat. Especially upon these points of manners, the young man and his father held long discussions. The admiral insisted that William should refrain from making himself socially ridiculous; though even here he was willing to make a reasonable compromise. "You may 'thee' and 'thou' whom you please," he said, "except the king, the Duke of York, and myself." But the young convert declined to make any exceptions.
Thereupon, for the second time, the admiral thrust his son out of the house. The Quakers received him. He was thenceforth accounted among them as a teacher, a leader: in their phrase, a "public Friend." This was in 1668, when he was twenty-four years old.
The work of a Quaker minister, at that time, was made interesting and difficult not only by the social and ecclesiastical prejudices against which he must go, but by certain laws which limited free speech and free action. The young preacher speedily made himself obnoxious to both these kinds of laws. Of the three years which followed, he spent more than a third of the time in prison, being once confined for saying, and twice for doing, what the laws forbade.
The religious world was filled with controversy. There were discussions in the meeting-houses; and a constant stream of pamphlets came from the press, part argument and part abuse. Even mild-mannered men called each other names. The Quakers found it necessary to join in this rough give-and-take, and Penn entered at once into this vigorous exercise. He began a long series of like documents with a tract entitled "Truth Exalted." The intent of it was to show that Roman Catholics, Churchmen, and Puritans alike were all shamefully in error, wandering in the blackness of darkness, given over to idle superstition, and being of a character to correspond with their fond beliefs; meanwhile, the Quakers were the only people then resident in Christendom whose creed was absolutely true and their lives consistent with it.
"Come," he says, "answer me first, you Papists, where did the Scriptures enjoin baby-baptism, churching of women, marrying by priests, holy water to frighten the devil? Come now, you that are called Protestants, and first those who are called Episcopalians, where do the Scriptures own such persecutors, false prophets, tithemongers, deniers of revelations, opposers of perfection, men-pleasers, time-servers, unprofitable teachers?" The Separatists are similarly cudgeled: they are "groveling in beggarly elements, imitations, and shadows of heavenly things."
Presently, a Presbyterian minister named Vincent attacked Quakerism. Joseph Besse, Penn's earliest biographer, says that Vincent was "transported with fiery zeal;" which, as he remarks in parenthesis, is "a thing fertile of ill language." Penn challenged him to a public debate; and, this not giving the Quaker champion an opportunity to say all that was in his mind, he wrote a pamphlet, called "The Sandy Foundation Shaken." The full title was much longer than this, in the manner of the time, and announced the author's purpose to refute three "generally believed and applauded doctrines: first, of one God, subsisting in three distinct and separate persons; second, of the impossibility of divine pardon without the making of a complete satisfaction; and third, of the justification of impure persons by an imputed righteousness."
Penn's handling of the doctrine of the Trinity in this treatise gave much offense. He had taken the position of his fellow-religionists, that the learning of the schools was a hindrance to religion. He sought to divest the great statements of the creed from the subtleties of mediæval philosophy. He purposed to return to the Scripture itself, back of all councils and formulas. Asserting, accordingly, the being and unity of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, he so refused all the conventional phrases of the theologians as to seem to them to reject the doctrine of the Trinity itself. He did deny "the trinity of distinct and separate persons in the unity of essence." If the word "person" has one meaning, Penn was right; if it has another meaning, he was wrong. If a "person" is an individual, then the assertion is that there are three Gods; but if the word signifies a distinction in the divine nature, then the unity of God remains. As so often happens in doctrinal contention, he and his critics used the same words with different definitions. The consequence was that the bishop of London had him put in prison. He was restrained for seven months in the Tower.
The English prison of the seventeenth century was a place of disease of body and misery of mind. Penn was kept in close confinement, and the bishop sent him word that he must either recant or die a prisoner. "I told him," says Penn, "that the Tower was the worst argument in the world to convince me; for whoever was in the wrong, those who used force for religion could never be in the right." He declared that his prison should be his grave before he would budge a jot. Thus six months passed.
But the situation was intolerable. It is sometimes necessary to die for a difference of opinion, but it is not advisable to do so for a simple misunderstanding. Penn and the bishop were actually in accord. The young author therefore wrote an explanation of his book, entitled "Innocency with her Open Face." At the same time he addressed a letter to Lord Arlington, principal secretary of state. In the letter he maintained that he had "subverted no faith, obedience or good life," and he insisted on the natural right of liberty of conscience: "To conceit," he said, "that men must form their faith of things proper to another world by the prescriptions of mortal men, or else they can have no right to eat, drink, sleep, walk, trade, or be at liberty and live in this, to me seems both ridiculous and dangerous." These writings gained him his liberty. The Duke of York made intercession for him with the king.
Penn had occupied himself while in prison with the composition of a considerable work, called "No Cross, No Crown." It is partly controversial, setting forth the reasons for the Quaker faith and practice, and partly devotional, exalting self-sacrifice, and urging men to simpler and more spiritual living. Thus the months of his imprisonment had been of value both to him and to the religious movement with which he had identified himself. The Quakers, when Penn joined them, had no adequate literary expression of their thought. They were most of them intensely earnest but uneducated persons, who spoke great truths somewhat incoherently. Penn gave Quaker theology a systematic and dignified statement.
When he came out of the Tower, he went home to his father. The admiral had now recovered from his first indignation. William was still, he said, a cross to him, but he had made up his mind to endure it. Indeed, the world into which he had desired his son to enter was not at that moment treating the admiral well. He was suffering impeachment and the gout at the same time. He saw that William's religion was giving him a serenity in the midst of evil fortune which he himself did not possess. He could appreciate his heroic spirit. He admired him in spite of himself.
William then spent nearly a year in Ireland, administering his father's estates. When he returned, in 1670, he found his Quaker brethren in greater trouble than before. In that perilous season of plots and rumors of plots, when Protestants lived in dread of Roman Catholics, and Churchmen knew not at what moment the Puritans might again repeat the tragedies of the Commonwealth, neither church nor state dared to take risks. The reigns of Mary and of Cromwell were so recent an experience, the Papists and the Presbyterians were so many and so hostile, that it seemed unsafe to permit the assembling of persons concerning whose intentions there could be any doubt. Any company might undertake a conspiracy. The result of this feeling on the part of both the civil and the ecclesiastical authorities was a series of ordinances, reasonable enough under the circumstances, and perhaps necessary, but which made life hard for such stout and frank dissenters as the Quakers. At the time of Penn's return from Ireland, it had been determined to enforce the Conventicle Act, which prohibited all religious meetings except those of the Church of England. There was, therefore, a general arresting of these suspicious friends of Penn's. In the middle of the summer Penn himself was arrested.
The young preacher had gone to a meeting-house of the Quakers in Gracechurch or Gracious Street, in London, and had found the door shut, and a file of soldiers barring the way. The congregation thereupon held a meeting in the street, keeping their customary silence until some one should be moved to speak. It was not long before the spirit moved Penn. He was immediately arrested, and William Mead, a linen draper, with him, and the two were brought before the mayor. The charge was that they "unlawfully and tumultuously did assemble and congregate themselves together to the disturbance of the king's peace and to the great terror and disturbance of many of his liege people and subjects." They were committed as rioters and sent to await trial at the sign of the Black Dog, in Newgate Market.
At the trial Penn entered the court-room wearing his hat. A constable promptly pulled it off, and was ordered by the judge to replace it in order that he might fine the Quaker forty marks for keeping it on. Thus the proceedings appropriately began. William tried in vain to learn the terms of the law under which he was arrested, maintaining that he was innocent of any illegal act. Finally, after an absurd and unjust hearing, the jury, who appreciated the situation, brought in a verdict of "guilty of speaking in Gracious Street." The judges refused to accept the verdict, and kept the jury without food or drink for two days, trying to make them say, "guilty of speaking in Gracious Street to an unlawful assembly." At last the jury brought in a formal verdict of "not guilty," which the court was compelled to accept. Thereupon the judges fined every juryman forty marks for contempt of court; and Penn and the jurors, refusing to pay their fines, were all imprisoned in Newgate. The Court of Common Pleas presently reversed the judges' decision and released the jury. Penn was also released, against his own protest, by the payment of his fine by his father.
The admiral was in his last sickness. He was weary, he said, of the world. It had not proved, after all, to be a satisfactory world. He did not grieve now that his son had renounced it. At the same time, he could not help but feel that the friendship of the world was a valuable possession; and he had therefore requested his patron, the Duke of York, to be his son's friend. Both the duke and the king had promised their good counsel and protection. Thus "with a gentle and even gale," as it says on his tombstone, "in much peace, [he] arrived and anchored in his last and best port, at Wanstead in the county of Essex, the 16th of September, 1670, being then but forty-nine years and four months old."
The admiral's death left his son with an annual income of about fifteen hundred pounds. This wealth, however, made no stay in his Quaker zeal. Before the year was ended, he was again in prison.
Sir John Robinson, the lieutenant of the Tower, had been one of the judges in the affair of Gracious Street. He had either taken a dislike to Penn, or else was deeply impressed with the conviction that the young Quaker was a peril to the state. Finding that there was to be a meeting in Wheeler Street, at which William was expected, he sent soldiers and had him arrested. They conveyed him to the Tower, where he was examined. "I vow, Mr. Penn," said Sir John, "I am sorry for you; you are an ingenious gentleman, all the world must allow you, and do allow you, that; and you have a plentiful estate; why should you render yourself unhappy by associating with such a simple people?" That was the suspicious fact. Men in Robinson's position could not understand why Penn should join his fortunes with those of people so different from himself, poor, ignorant, and obscure, unless there were some hidden motive. He must be either a political conspirator, or, as many said, a Jesuit in disguise, which amounted to the same thing. "You do nothing," said Sir John, "but stir up the people to sedition." He required him to take an oath "that it is not lawful, upon any pretense whatsoever, to take arms against the king, and that [he] would not endeavour any alteration of government either in church or state." Penn would not swear. He was therefore sentenced for six months to Newgate. "I wish you wiser," said Robinson. "And I wish thee better," retorted Penn. "Send a corporal," said the lieutenant, "with a file of musqueteers along with him." "No, no," broke in Penn, "send thy lacquey; I know the way to Newgate."
William continued in prison during the entire period of his sentence, at first in a room for which he paid the jailers, then, by his own choice, with his fellow Quakers in the "common stinking jail." Even here, however, he managed, as before, to write; and he must have had access to books, for what he wrote could not have been composed without sight of the authors from whom he quoted. The most important of his writings at this time was "The Great Case of Liberty of Conscience once more briefly Debated and Defended by the Authority of Reason, Scripture and Antiquity."
Being released from prison, Penn set out for the Continent, where he traveled in Germany and Holland, holding meetings as opportunity offered, and regaining such strength of body as he may have lost amidst the rigors of confinement.
In 1672, being now back in England, and having reached the age of twenty-seven years, he married Gulielma Maria Springett, a young and charming Quakeress. Guli Springett's father had died when she was but twenty-three years old, after such valiant service on the Parliamentary side in the civil war that he had been knighted by the Speaker of the House of Commons. Her mother, thus bereft, had married Isaac Pennington, a quiet country gentleman, in whose company, after some search for satisfaction in religion, she had become a Quaker. Pennington's Quakerism, together with the sufferings which it brought upon him, had made him known to Penn. It was to him that Penn had written, three years before, to describe the death of Thomas Loe. "Taking me by the hand," said William, "he spoke thus: 'Dear heart, bear thy cross, stand faithful for God, and bear thy testimony in thy day and generation; and God will give thee an eternal crown of glory, that none shall ever take from thee. There is not another way. Bear thy cross. Stand faithful for God.'"
It was in Pennington's house that Thomas Ellwood lived, as tutor to Guli and the other children, to whom one day in 1655 had come his friend John Milton, bringing a manuscript for him to read. "He asked me how I liked it, and what I thought of it, which I modestly but freely told him; and after some further discourse about it, I pleasantly said to him, Thou hast said much here of Paradise Lost, but what hast thou to say about Paradise found?" Whereupon the poet wrote his second epic.
Ellwood has left a happy description of Guli Springett. "She was in all respects," he says, "a very desirable woman,—whether regard was had to her outward person, which wanted nothing to render her completely comely; or as to the endowments of her mind, which were every way extraordinary." And he speaks of her "innocent, open, free conversation," and of the "abundant affability, courtesy, and sweetness of her natural temper." Her portrait fits with this description, showing a bright face in a small, dark hood, with a white kerchief over her shoulders. Both her ancestry and her breeding would dispose her to appreciate heroism, especially such as was shown in the cause of religion. She found the hero of her dreams in William Penn. Thus at Amersham, in the spring of 1672, the two stood up in some quiet company of Friends, and with prayer and joining of hands were united in marriage.
"My dear wife," he wrote to her ten years later, as he set out for America, "remember thou hast the love of my youth, and much the joy of my life; the most beloved, as well as the most worthy of all earthly comforts. God knows, and thou knowest it. I can say it was a match of Providence's making."
The Declaration of Indulgence, the king's suspension of the penalties legally incurred by dissent, came conveniently at this time to give them a honeymoon of peace and tranquillity. They took up their residence at Rickmansworth, in Hertfordshire. In the autumn, William set out again upon his missionary journeys, preaching in twenty-one towns in twenty-one days. "The Lord sealed up our labors and travels," he wrote in his journal, "according to the desire of my soul and spirit, with his heavenly refreshments and sweet living power and word of life, unto the reaching of all, and consolating our own hearts abundantly."
So he returned with the blessings of peace, "which," as he said, "is a reward beyond all earthly treasure."
In 1673, George Fox came back from his travels in America, and Penn and his wife had great joy in welcoming him at Bristol. No sooner, however, had Fox arrived than the Declaration of Indulgence was withdrawn. It had met with much opposition: partly ecclesiastical, from those who saw in it a scheme to reëstablish relations between Rome and England; and partly political, from those who found but an ill precedent in a royal decree which set aside parliamentary legislation. The religious liberty which it gave was good, but the way in which that liberty was given was bad. What was needed was not "indulgence," but common justice. So the king recalled the Declaration, and Parliament being not yet ready to enact its provisions into law, the prisons were again filled with peaceable citizens whose offense was their religion. One of the first to suffer was Fox, and in his behalf Penn went to court. He appealed to the Duke of York.
The incident is significant as the beginning of another phase of William's life. Thus far, he had been a Quaker preacher. Though he was unordained, being in a sect which made nothing of ordination, he was for all practical purposes a minister of the gospel. He was the Rev. William Penn. But now, when he opened the door of the duke's palace, he entered into a new way of living, in which he continued during most of the remainder of his life. He began to be a courtier; he went into politics. He was still a Quaker, preaching sermons and writing books of theological controversy; he gave up no religious conviction, and abated nothing of the earnestness of his personal piety; but he had found, as he believed, another and more effective way to serve God. He now began to enter into that valuable but perilous heritage which had been left him by his father, the friendship of royalty.
Penn found the duke's antechamber filled with suitors. It seemed impossible to get into the august presence. But Colonel Ashton, one of the household, looked hard at Penn, and found in him an old companion, a friend of the days when William was still partaking of the joys of pleasant society. Ashton immediately got him an interview, and Penn delivered his request for the release of Fox. The duke received him and his petition cordially, professing himself opposed to persecution for religion's sake, and promising to use his influence with the king. "Then," says Penn, "when he had done upon this affair, he was pleased to take a very particular notice of me, both for the relation my father had had to his service in the navy, and the care he had promised to show in my regard upon all occasions." He expressed surprise that William had not been to see him before, and said that whenever he had any business with him, he should have immediate entrance and attention.
Fox was not set at liberty by reason of this interview. The king was willing to pardon Fox, but Fox was not willing to be pardoned; having, as he insisted, done no wrong. Penn, however, had learned that the royal duke remembered the admiral's son. It was an important fact, and William thereafter kept it well in mind. That it was a turning-point in his affairs, appears in his reference to it in a letter which he wrote in 1688 to a friend who had reproached him for his attendance at court. "I have made it," he says, "my province and business; I have followed and pressed it; I took it for my calling and station, and have kept it above these sixteen years."
Penn went back to Rickmansworth, and for a time life went on as before. We get a glimpse of it in the good and wholesome orders which he established for the well-governing of his family. In winter, they were to rise at seven; in summer at five. Breakfast was at nine, dinner at twelve, supper at seven. Each meal was preceded by family prayers. At the devotions before dinner, the Bible was read aloud, together with chapters from the "Book of Martyrs," or the writings of Friends. After supper, the servants appeared before the master and mistress, and gave an account of their doings during the day, and got their orders for the morrow. "They were to avoid loud discourse and troublesome noises; they were not to absent themselves without leave; they were not to go to any public house but upon business; and they were not to loiter, or enter into unprofitable talk, while on an errand."
With the canceling of the Indulgence, the persecution of the Quakers was renewed. Their houses were entered, their furniture was seized, their cattle were driven away, and themselves thrust into jail. When no offense was clearly proved against them, the oath was tendered, and the refusal to take it meant a serious imprisonment.
Under these circumstances, Penn wrote a "Treatise on Oaths." He also addressed the general public with "England's Present Interest Considered," an argument against the attempt to compel uniformity of belief. He petitioned the king and Parliament in "The Continued Cry of the Oppressed." "William Brazier," he said, "shoemaker at Cambridge, was fined by John Hunt, mayor, and John Spenser, vice-chancellor, twenty pounds for holding a peaceable religious meeting in his own house. The officer who distrained for this sum took his leather last, the seat he worked upon, wearing clothes, bed, and bedding." "In Cheshire, Justice Daniel of Danesbury took from Briggs and others the value of one hundred and sixteen pounds, fifteen shillings and tenpence in coin, kine, and horses. The latter he had the audacity to retain and work for his own use," and so on, instance after instance. Penn's acquaintance at court and his friendships with persons of position never made him an aristocrat. He was fraternally interested in farmers and cobblers, and cared for the plain people. Quakerism, as he held it, was indeed a system of theology which he studiously taught, but it was also, and quite as much, a social and intellectual democracy. What he mightily liked about it was that abandonment of artificial distinctions, whereby all Quakers addressed their neighbors by their Christian names, and that refusal to be held by formulas of faith, whereby they were left free to accept such beliefs, and such only, as appealed to their own reason.
About this time he engaged in controversy with Mr. Richard Baxter. Baxter is chiefly remembered as the author of "The Saints' Everlasting Rest," but he was a most militant person, who rejoiced greatly in a theological fight. Passing by Rickmansworth, and finding many Quakers there,—to him a sad spectacle,—he sought to reclaim them, and thus fell speedily into debate with Penn. The two argued from ten in the morning until five in the afternoon, a great crowd listening all the time with breathless interest. Neither could get the other to surrender; but so much did William enjoy the exercise that he offered Baxter a room in his house, that they might argue every day.
In 1677, having now removed to an estate of his wife's at Worminghurst, in Sussex, Penn, in company with Fox, Barclay, and other Quakers, made a "religious voyage" into Holland and Germany, preaching the gospel. His journal of these travels is printed in his works. "At Osnaburg," he writes, "we had a little time with the man of the inn where we lay; and left him several good books of Friends, in the High and Low Dutch tongues, to read and dispose of." Then, in the next sentence, he continues, "the next morning, being the fifth day of the week, we set forward to Herwerden, and came thither at night. This is the city where the Princess Elizabeth Palatine hath her court, whom, and the countess in company with her, it was especially upon us to visit." Thus they went, ministering to high and low alike, in their democratic Christian way making no distinction between tavern-keepers and princesses. As they talked with Elizabeth and her friend the countess, discoursing upon heavenly themes, they were interrupted by the rattling of a coach, and callers were announced. The countess "fetched a deep sigh, crying out, 'O the cumber and entanglements of this vain world! They hinder all good.' Upon which," says William, "I replied, looking her steadfastly in the face, 'O come thou out of them, then.'" This journey was of great importance as affecting afterwards the population of Pennsylvania. Here it was that Penn met various communities "of a separating and seeking turn of mind," who found in him a kindred spirit. When he established his colony, many of them came out and joined it, becoming the "Pennsylvania Dutch."
During these travels Penn wrote letters to the Prince Elector of Heidelberg, to the Graf of Bruch and Falschenstein, to the King of Poland, together with an epistle "To the Churches of Jesus throughout the world." This was a kind of correspondence in which he delighted. Like Wesley, after him, he had taken the world for his parish. He considered himself a citizen of the planet, and took an episcopal and pontifical interest in the affairs of men and nations. He combined in an unusual way the qualities of the saint and the statesman. His mind was at the same time religious and political. Accordingly, as he came to have a better acquaintance with himself, he entered deliberately upon a course of life in which these two elements of his character could have free play. He applied himself to the task of making politics contribute to the advancement of religion. Many men before him had been eminently successful in making politics contribute to the advancement of the church. Penn's purpose was deeper and better.
He came near, at this time, to getting Parliament to assent to a provision permitting Quakers to affirm, without oath; but the sudden proroguing of that body prevented it. In the general election which followed, he made speeches for Algernon Sidney, who was standing for a place in Parliament. He wrote "England's Great Interest in the Choice of a New Parliament," and "One Project for the Good of England." The project was that Protestants should stop contending one with another and unite against a common enemy.
This was in 1679. The next year he took the decisive step. He entered upon the fulfillment of that great plan, which had been in his mind since his student days at Oxford, and with which he was occupied all the rest of his life. He began to undertake the planting of a colony across the sea.
Penn had already had some experience in colonial affairs. With the downfall of the Dutch dominion in the New World, England had come into possession of two important rivers, the Hudson and the Delaware, and of the countries which they drained. Of these estates, the Duke of York had become owner of New Jersey. He, in turn, dividing it into two portions, west and east, had sold West Jersey to Lord Berkeley, and East Jersey to Sir George Carteret. Berkeley had sold West Jersey to a Quaker, John Fenwick, in trust for another Quaker, Edward Byllinge. These Quakers, disagreeing, had asked Penn to arbitrate between them. Byllinge had fallen into bankruptcy, and his lands had been transferred to Penn as receiver for the benefit of the creditors. Thus William had come into a position of importance in the affairs of West Jersey. Presently, in 1679, East Jersey came also into the market, and Penn and eleven others bought it at auction. These twelve took in other twelve, and the twenty-four appointed a Quaker governor, Robert Barclay.
Now, in 1680, having had his early interest in America thus renewed and strengthened, Penn found that the king was in his debt to the amount of sixteen thousand pounds. Part of this money had been loaned to the king by William's father, the admiral; part of it was the admiral's unpaid salary. Mr. Pepys has recorded in his diary how scandalously Charles left his officers unpaid. The king, he says, could not walk in his own house without meeting at every hand men whom he was ruining, while at the same time he was spending money prodigally upon his pleasures. Pepys himself fell into poverty in his old age, accounting the king to be in debt to him in the sum of twenty-eight thousand pounds.
Penn considered his account collectible. "I have been," he wrote, "these thirteen years the servant of Truth and Friends, and for my testimony's sake lost much,—not only the greatness and preferment of the world, but sixteen thousand pounds of my estate which, had I not been what I am, I had long ago obtained." It is doubtful, however, if the king would have ever paid a penny. It is certain that when William offered to exchange the money for a district in America, Charles agreed to the bargain with great joy.
The territory thus bestowed was "all that tract or part of land in America, bounded on the east by the Delaware River, from twelve miles northward of New Castle town unto the three and fortieth degree of northern latitude. The said land to extend westward five degrees in longitude, to be computed from the said eastern bounds, and the said lands to be bounded on the north by the beginning of the three and fortieth degree of northern latitude and on the south by a circle drawn at twelve miles distance from New Castle, northward and westward, unto the beginning of the fortieth degree of northern latitude, and then by a straight line westward to the limits of longitude above mentioned."
This was a country almost as large as England. No such extensive domain had ever been given to a subject by an English sovereign: but none had ever been paid for by a sum of money so substantial.
On the 4th of March, 1681, the charter received the signature of Charles the Second. On the 21st of August, 1682, the Duke of York signed a deed whereby he released the tract of land called Pennsylvania to William Penn and his heirs forever. About the same time, by a like deed, the duke conveyed to Penn the district which is now called Delaware. Penn agreed, on his part, as a feudal subject, to render yearly to the king two skins of beaver, and a fifth part of all the gold and silver found in the ground; and to the duke "one rose at the feast of St. Michael the Archangel."
This association of sentiment and religion with a transaction in real estate is a fitting symbol of the spirit in which the Pennsylvania colony was undertaken. Penn received the land as a sacred trust. It was regarded by him not as a personal estate, but as a religious possession to be held for the good of humanity, for the advancement of the cause of freedom, for the furtherance of the kingdom of heaven. He wrote at the time to a friend that he had obtained it in the name of God, that thus he may "serve his truth and people, and that an example may be set up to the nations." He believed that there was room there "for such an holy experiment."
That Penn undertook the "holy experiment" without expectation or desire of profit appears not only in his conviction that he was thereby losing sixteen thousand pounds, but in his refusal to make his new estates a means of gain. "He is offered great things," says James Claypole in a letter dated September, 1681, "£6000 for a monopoly in trade, which he refused.... He designs to do things equally between all parties, and I believe truly does aim more at justice and righteousness and spreading of truth than at his own particular gain." "I would not abuse His love," said Penn, "nor act unworthy of His providence, and so defile what came to me clean. No, let the Lord guide me by His wisdom, and preserve me to honour His name, and serve His truth and people, that an example and standard may be set up to the nations."
So far removed was he from all self-seeking, that he was even unwilling to have the colony bear his name. "I chose New Wales," he says, recounting the action of the king's council, "being, as this, a pretty hilly country,—but Penn being Welsh for head, as Pennanmoire in Wales, and Penrith in Cumberland, and Penn in Buckinghamshire, the highest land in England—[the king] called this Pennsylvania, which is the high or head woodlands; for I proposed, when the secretary, a Welshman, refused to have it called New Wales, Sylvania, and they added Penn to it; and though I much opposed it, and went to the king to have it struck out and altered, he said it was past, and he would take it upon him; nor could twenty guineas move the under-secretary to vary the name, for I feared lest it should be looked on as a vanity in me, and not as a respect in the king, as it truly was, to my father, whom he often mentions with praise."
The charter gave the land to Penn as the king's tenant. He had power to make laws; though this power was to be exercised, except in emergencies, "with the advice, assent, and approbation of the freemen of the territory," and subject to the confirmation of the Privy Council. He was to appoint judges and other officers. He had the right to assess custom on goods laden and unladen, for his own benefit; though he was to take care to do it "reasonably," and with the advice of the assembly of freemen. He was, at the same time, to be free from any tax or custom of the king, except by his own consent, or by the consent of his governor or assembly, or by act of Parliament. He was not to maintain correspondence with any king or power at war with England, nor to make war against any king or power in amity with the same. If as many as twenty of his colonists should ask a minister from the Bishop of London, such minister was to be received without denial or molestation.
The next important document to be prepared was the Constitution, or Frame of Government, and to the task of composing it Penn gave a great amount of time and care. It was preceded by two statements of principles,—the Preface and the Great Fundamental.
The Preface declared the political policy of the proprietor. "Government," he said, "seems to me a part of religion itself, a thing sacred in its institution and end." As for the debate between monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy, "I choose," he said, "to solve the controversy with this small distinction, and it belongs to all three: any government is free to the people under it, whatever be the frame, where the laws rule, and the people are a party to those laws." His purpose, he says, is to establish "the great end of all government, viz., to support power in reverence with the people, and to secure the people from the abuse of power, that they may be free by their just obedience, and the magistrates honourable for their just administration; for liberty without obedience is confusion, and obedience without liberty is slavery."
In a private letter, written about the same time, Penn stated his political position in several concrete sentences which interpret these fine but rather vague pronouncements. "For the matters of liberty and privilege," he wrote, "I propose that which is extraordinary, and to leave myself and successors no power of doing mischief, that the will of one man may not hinder the good of an whole country; but to publish these things now and here, as matters stand, would not be wise."
The Great Fundamental set forth the ecclesiastical policy of the founder: "In reverence to God, the father of light and spirits, the author as well as the object of all divine knowledge, faith and workings, I do, for me and mine, declare and establish for the first fundamental of the government of my province, that every person that doth and shall reside there shall have and enjoy the free profession of his or her faith and exercise of worship towards God, in such way and manner as every such person shall in conscience believe is most acceptable to God."
These principles of civil and religious liberty constituted the "holy experiment." They made the difference between Penn's colony and almost every other government then existing. In their influence and continuance, until at last they were incorporated in the Constitution of the United States, they are the chief contribution of William Penn to the progress of our institutions.
The Constitution was drawn up in Articles to the number of twenty-four, and these were followed by forty Laws.
The Articles provided for a governor, to be appointed by the proprietor, and for two legislative bodies, a provincial council and a general assembly. The provincial council was to consist of seventy-two members. Of these a third were elected for three years, a third for two, and a third for one; so that by the end of the service of the first third, all would have a three-year term, twenty-four going out and having their places filled each year. The business of the council was to prepare laws, to see that they were executed, and in general to provide for the good conduct of affairs. The general assembly was to consist of two hundred members, to be chosen annually. They had no right to originate legislation, but were to pass upon all bills which had been enacted by the council, accepting or rejecting them by a vote of yea or nay.
The Laws enjoined that "all persons who confessed the one almighty and eternal God to be the Creator, Upholder, and Ruler of the world, and who held themselves obliged in conscience to live peaceably and justly in society, were in no ways to be molested for their religious persuasion and practice, nor to be compelled at any time to frequent any religious place or ministry whatever." All children of the age of twelve were to be taught some useful trade. All pleadings, processes, and records in the courts of law were to be as short as possible. The reformation of the offender was to be considered as a great part of the purpose of punishment. At a time when there were in England two hundred offenses punishable by death, Penn reduced these capital crimes to two, murder and treason. All prisons were to be made into workhouses. No oath was to be required. Drinking healths, selling rum to Indians, cursing and lying, fighting duels, playing cards, the pleasures of the theatre, were all put under the ban together.
Penn's provincial council suggested the Senate of the United States. As originally established, however, the disproportion of power between the upper and the lower house was so great as to cause much just dissatisfaction. The council was in effect a body of seventy-two governors; the assembly, which more directly represented the people, could consider no laws save those sent down to them by the council. The Constitution had to be changed.
One of the good qualities of the Constitution was that it was possible to change it. It provided for the process of amendment. That customary article with which all constitutions now end appeared for the first time in Penn's Frame of Government. Another good quality of the Constitution was that it secured an abiding harmony between its fundamental statements and all further legislation. "Penn was the first one to hit upon the foundation or first step in the true principle, now the universal law in the United States, that the unconstitutional law is void."
Whatever help Penn may have had in the framing of this legislation, from Algernon Sidney and other political friends, it is plain that the best part of it was his own, and that he wrote it not as a politician but as a Quaker. It is an application of the Quaker principles of democracy and of religious liberty to the conditions of a commonwealth. From beginning to end it is the work of a man whose supreme interest was religion. It is at the same time singularly free from the narrowness into which men of this earnest mind have often fallen. Religion, as Penn considered it, was not a matter of ordinances or rubrics. It was righteousness, and fraternity, and liberty of conscience.
In this spirit he wrote a letter to the Indian inhabitants of his province. "The great God, who is the power and wisdom that made you and me, incline your hearts to righteousness, love, and peace. This I send to assure you of my love, and to desire you to love my friends; and when the great God brings me among you, I intend to order all things in such a manner that we may all live in love and peace, one with another, which I hope the great God will incline both me and you to do. I seek nothing but the honour of his name, and that we, who are his workmanship, may do that which is well pleasing to him.... So I rest in the love of God that made us."
Now colonists began to seek this land of peace across the sea. A hundred acres were promised for forty shillings, with a quit-rent of one shilling annually to the proprietor forever. In clearing the ground, care was to be taken to leave one acre of trees, for every five acres cleared. All transactions with the Indians were to be held in the public market, and all differences between the white man and the red were to be settled by a jury of six planters and six Indians. Penn also counseled prospective colonists to consider the great inconveniences which they must of necessity endure, and hoped that those who went would have "the permission if not the good liking of their near relations."
There were already in the province some two thousand people, besides Indians,—a peaceable and industrious folk, mostly Swedes and English. They had six meeting-houses; the English settlers being Quakers. They lived along the banks of the Delaware. In the autumn of 1681, the ship Sarah and John brought the first of Penn's emigrants, and in December the ship Bristol Factor added others. In 1682, Penn came himself.
The journey at that time was both long and perilous. If it was accomplished in two months, the voyage was considered prosperous. To the ordinary dangers of the deep was added the terror of the smallpox. Scarcely a ship crossed without this dread passenger. William, accordingly, as one undertaking a desperate adventure, took a tender leave of his family. He wrote a letter whose counsels might guide them in case he never returned. "My dear wife and children," he said, "my love, which neither sea, nor land, nor death itself can extinguish or lessen towards you, most endearedly visits you with eternal embraces, and will abide with you forever; and may the God of my life watch over you, and bless you, and do you good in this world and forever." "Be diligent," he advised his wife, "in meetings for worship and business, ... and let meetings be kept once a day in the family to wait upon the Lord, ... and, my dearest, to make thy family matters easy to thee, divide thy time and be regular; it is easy and sweet.... Cast up thy income, and see what it daily amounts to, ... and I beseech thee to live low and sparingly, till my debts are paid." As for the children, they are to be bred up "in the love of virtue, and that holy plain way of it, which we have lived in, that the world in no part of it get into my family." They are to be carefully taught. "For their learning be liberal, spare no cost." "Agriculture is especially in my eye; let my children be husbandmen and housewives; it is industrious, healthy, honest, and of good example." They are to honor and obey their mother, to love not money nor the world, to be temperate in all things. If they come presently to be concerned in the government of Pennsylvania, "I do charge you," their father wrote, "before the Lord God and the holy angels, that you be lovely, diligent and tender, fearing God, loving the people, and hating covetousness. Let justice have its impartial course, and the law free passage. Though to your loss, protect no man against it; for you are not above the law, but the law above you. Live the lives yourselves, you would have the people live."
Unhappily, of Guli's children, seven in number, four died before their mother, and one, the eldest son, Springett, shortly after. Springett inherited the devout spirit of his parents; his father wrote an affecting account of his pious death. Of the two remaining, William fell into ways of dissipation, and Letitia married a man whom her father disliked. Neither of them had any inheritance in Pennsylvania.
Penn's ship, the Welcome, carried a hundred passengers, most of them Quakers from his own neighborhood. A third part died of smallpox on the way. On the 24th of October, he sighted land; on the 27th, he arrived before Newcastle, in Delaware; on the 28th, he landed. Here he formally received turf and twig, water and soil, in token of his ownership. On the 29th, he entered Pennsylvania. Adding ten days to this date, to bring it into accord with our present calendar, we have November 8 as the day of his arrival in the province. The place was Upland, where there was a settlement already; the name was that day changed to Chester.
Penn was greatly pleased with his new possessions. He wrote a description of the country for the Free Society of Traders. The air, he said, was sweet and clear, and the heavens serene. Trees, fruits, and flowers grew in abundance: especially a "great, red grape," and a "white kind of muskadel," out of which he hopes it may be possible to make good wine. The ground was fertile. The Indians he found to be tall, straight, and well built, walking "with a lofty chin." Their language was "like the Hebrew," and he guessed that they were descended from the ten lost tribes of Israel. Light of heart, they seemed to him, with "strong affections, but soon spent; ... the most merry creatures that live." Though they were "under a dark night in things relating to religion," yet were they believers in God and immortality.
"I bless the Lord," he wrote in a letter, "I am very well, and much satisfied with my place and portion. O how sweet is the quiet of these parts, freed from the anxious and troublesome solicitations, hurries, and solicitations of woeful Europe!"
In the midst of these fair regions, beside the "wedded rivers," the Delaware and the Schuylkill, in the convenient neighborhood of quarries of building stone, at a place which the Indians called Coaquannoc, he established his capital city, calling it Philadelphia,—perhaps in token of the spirit of brotherly love in which it was founded, perhaps in remembrance of those seven cities of the Revelation wherein was that primitive Christianity which he wished to reproduce.
Here he had his rowers run his boat ashore at the mouth of Dock Creek, which now runs under Dock Street, where several men were engaged in building a house, which was afterwards called the Blue Anchor Tavern. Penn brought a considerable company with him. In the minutes of a Friends' meeting held on the 8th (18th) of November, 1682, at Shackamaxon, now Kensington, it was recorded that, "at this time, Governor Penn and a multitude of Friends arrived here, and erected a city called Philadelphia, about half a mile from Shackamaxon." Presently, the Indians appeared. They offered Penn of their hominy and roasted acorns, and, after dinner, showed him how they could hop and jump. He is said to have entered heartily into these exercises, and to have jumped farther than any of them.
The governor had already determined the plan of the city. There were to be two large streets,—one fronting the Delaware on the east, the other fronting the Schuylkill on the west; a third avenue, to be called High Street (now Market), was to run from river to river, east and west; and a fourth, called Broad Street, was to cross it at right angles, north and south. Twenty streets were to lie parallel with Broad, and to be named First Street, Second Street, and so on in order, in the plain Quaker fashion which had thus entitled the days of the week and the months of the year. Eight were to lie parallel with High, and to be called after the trees of the forest,—Spruce, Chestnut, Pine. In the midst of the city, at the crossing of High and Broad Streets, was to be a square of ten acres, to contain the public offices; and in each quarter of the city was to be a similar open space for walks. The founder intended to allow no house to be built on the river banks, keeping them open and beautiful. Could he have foreseen the future, he would have made the streets wider. He had in mind, however, only a country town. "Let every house be placed," he directed, "if the person pleases, in the middle of its plot, as to the breadth way of it, that so there may be ground on each side for gardens or orchards or fields, that it may be a green country town, which will never be burnt and always wholesome."
Among those houses was his own, a modest structure made of brick, standing "on Front Street south of the present Market Street," and still preserved in Fairmont Park. He afterwards gave it to his daughter Letitia, and it was called Letitia House, from her ownership.
In the mean time, he was making his famous treaty with the Indians. Penn recognized the Indians as the actual owners of the land. He bought it of them as he needed it. The transfer of property thus made was a natural occasion of mutual promises. As there were several such meetings between the Quakers and the Indians, it is difficult to fix a date to mark the fact. One meeting took place, it is said, under a spreading elm at Shackamaxon. The commonly accepted date is the 23d of June, 1683. The elm was blown down in 1810. There is a persistent tradition to the effect that William was distinguished from his fellow Quakers in this transaction by wearing a sky-blue sash of silk network. But of this, as of most other details of ceremony in connection with the matter, we know nothing.
Penn gives a general description of his various conferences upon this business. "Their order," he says, "is thus: the king sits in the middle of a half-moon, and has his council, the old and wise, on each hand. Behind them, or at a little distance, sit the younger fry in the same figure." Then one speaks in their king's name, and Penn answers. "When the purchase was agreed great promises passed between us of kindness and good neighbourhood, and that the English and the Indians must live in love as long as the sun gave light, ... at every sentence of which they shouted, and said Amen, in their way." Some earnestness may have been added to these assuring responses by the Indians' consciousness of the fact that the advantages of the bargain were not all on one side. The Pennsylvania tribes had been thoroughly conquered by the Five Nations. There was little heart left in them. But their condition detracts nothing from Penn's Christian brotherliness.
In some such manner the great business was enacted. "This," said Voltaire, "was the only treaty between these people and the Christians that was not ratified by an oath, and that was never broken." That it was never broken was the capital fact. Herein it differed from a thousand other treaties made before or since. In the midst of the long story of the misdealings of the white men with the red, which begins with Cortez and Pizarro, and is still continued in the daily newspapers, this justice and honesty of William Penn is a point of light. That Penn treated the Indians as neighbors and brothers; that he paid them fairly for every acre of their land; that the promises which he made were ever after unfailingly kept is perhaps his best warrant of abiding fame. Like his constitutional establishment of civil and religious liberty, it was a direct result of his Quaker principles. It was a manifestation of that righteousness which he was continually preaching and practicing.
The kindness and courtly generosity which Penn showed in his bargains with the Indians is happily illustrated in one of his purchases of land. The land was to extend "as far back as a man could walk in three days." William walked out a day and a half of it, taking several chiefs with him, "leisurely, after the Indian manner, sitting down sometimes to smoke their pipes, to eat biscuit and cheese, and drink a bottle of wine." Thus they covered less than thirty miles. In 1733, the then governor employed the fastest walker he could find, who in the second day and a half marked eighty-six miles.
The treaty gave the new colony a substantial advantage. The Lenni Lenape, the Mingoes, the Shawnees accounted Penn's settlers as their friends. The word went out among the tribes that what Penn said he meant, and that what he promised he would fulfill faithfully. Thus the planters were freed from the terror of the forest which haunted their neighbors, north and south. They could found cities in the wilderness and till their scattered farms without fear of tomahawk or firebrand. Penn himself went twenty miles from Philadelphia, near the present Bristol, to lay out his country place of Pennsbury.
Ships were now arriving with sober and industrious emigrants; trees were coming down, houses were going up. In July, 1683, Penn wrote to Henry Sidney, in England, reminding him that he had promised to send some fruit-trees, and describing the condition of the colony. "We have laid out a town a mile long and two miles deep.... I think we have near about eighty houses built, and about three hundred farms settled round the town.... We have had fifty sail of ships and small vessels, since the last summer, in our river, which shows a good beginning." "I am mightily taken with this part of the world," he wrote to Lord Culpeper, who had come to be governor of Virginia, "I like it so well, that a plentiful estate, and a great acquaintance on the other side, have no charms to remove; my family being once fixed with me, and if no other thing occur, I am likely to be an adopted American." "Our heads are dull," he added, "but our hearts are good and our hands strong."
In the midst of this peace and prosperity, however, there was a serious trouble. This was a dispute with Lord Baltimore over the dividing line between Pennsylvania and Maryland. By the inaccuracy of surveyors, the confusion of maps, and the indefiniteness of charters, Baltimore believed himself entitled to a considerable part of the territory which was claimed by Penn, including even Philadelphia. The two proprietors had already discussed the question without settlement; indeed, it remained a cause of contention for some seventy years. As finally settled, in 1732, between the heirs of Penn and of Baltimore, a line was established from Cape Henlopen west to a point half way between Delaware Bay and Chesapeake Bay; thence north to twelve miles west of Newcastle, and so on to fifteen miles south of Philadelphia; thence due west. The surveyors were Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, and the line was thus called Mason and Dixon's Line. This boundary afterwards parted the free States from the slave States. South of it was "Dixie."
Penn now learned that Lord Baltimore was on his way to England to lay the question before the Privy Council. The situation demanded William's presence. "I am following him as fast as I can," he wrote to the Duke of York, praying "that a perfect stop be put to all his proceedings till I come." He therefore took leave of his friends in the province, commissioned the provincial council to act in his stead, and in August, 1684, having been two years in America, he embarked for home.
On board the Endeavour, on the eve of sailing, he wrote a farewell letter. "And thou, Philadelphia," he said, "the virgin settlement of this province, named before thou wert born, what love, what care, what service and what travail has there been to bring thee forth and preserve thee from such as would abuse and defile thee! O that thou mayest be kept from the evil that would overwhelm thee; that faithful to the God of mercies in the life of righteousness, thou mayest be preserved to the end. My soul prays to God for thee that thou mayest stand in the day of trial, that thy children may be blessed of the Lord, and thy people saved by thy power. My love to thee has been great, and the remembrance of thee affects mine heart and mine eye. The God of eternal strength keep and preserve thee to his glory and peace."
When Penn left the province in 1684, he expected to return speedily, but he did not see that pleasant land again until 1699. The fifteen intervening years were filled with contention, anxiety, misfortune, and various distresses.
In the winter of 1684-85, Charles II. died, and the Duke of York, his brother, succeeded him as James II. And James was the patron and good friend of William Penn. But the king was a Roman Catholic. One of his first acts upon coming to the throne was to go publicly to mass. He was privately resolved upon making the Roman Church supreme in England. Penn was stoutly opposed to the king's religion. In his "Seasonable Caveat against Popery," as well as in his other writings, he had expressed his dislike with characteristic frankness. That he had himself been accused of being a Jesuit had naturally impelled him to use the strongest language to belie the accusation. Nevertheless, William Penn stood by the king. He sought and kept the position of favorite and agent of the court. He upheld, and so far as he could, assisted, the projects of a reign which, had it continued, would probably have contradicted his most cherished principles, abolished liberty of conscience, and made an end of Quakers.
This perplexing inconsistency, which is the only serious blot on Penn's fair fame, appears to have been the result of two convictions.
He was sure, in the first place, of the honesty of the king; he believed in him with all his heart. James had been true to the trust reposed in him by William's father. He had befriended William, taking him out of prison, increasing his estates, granting his petitions. "Anybody," said Penn, "that has the least pretense to good-nature, gratitude, or generosity, must needs know how to interpret my access to the king." With his advance to the crown James's graciousness had increased. He kept great lords waiting without while he conversed at leisure with the Quaker. He liked Penn, and Penn liked him. In spite of the disparities in their age, rank, and creed, William Penn and James Stuart were fast friends, united by the bond of genuine affection.
It was characteristic of Penn to be blind to the faults of his friends. He brought great troubles both upon himself and upon his colony by his refusal to believe the reports which were made to him against the character of men whom he had appointed to office: he was unwilling to believe evil of any man. He fell into bankruptcy, and even into a debtor's prison, by his blind, unquestioning confidence in the agent who managed his business. His faith in James was of a piece with his whole character. He appears to have been temperamentally incapable of perceiving the unworthiness of anybody whom he liked.
Together with this conviction as to the king's honesty, and bound up with it, was a like belief in the wisdom of the king's plan. The king's plan was to remove all disabilities arising from religion. He purposed not only to put an end to the laws under which honest men were kept in prison, but to abolish the "tests" which prevented a Roman Catholic from holding office. And, without tarrying for the action of a cautious Parliament, his intention was to do these things at once by a declaration of the royal will. All this was approved by William Penn.
That the laws which disturbed Protestant dissenters should be changed, he argued at length in a pamphlet entitled "A Persuasion to Moderation." Moderation, as he defined it, meant "liberty of conscience to church dissenters;" a cause which, with all humility, he said, he had undertaken to plead against the prejudices of the times. He maintained that toleration was not only a right inherent in religion, but that it was for the political and commercial good of the nation. Repression and persecution, he said, drive men into conspiracies. The importing of religious distinctions into the affairs of state deprives the country of the services of some of its best men. His father, upon the occasion of the first Dutch war, had submitted to the king a list of the ablest sea officers in the kingdom. The striking of the names of nonconformists from this list had "robbed the king at that time of ten men, whose greater knowledge and valour, than any other ten of that fleet, had, in their room, been able to have saved a battle, or perfected a victory." As for a declaration of indulgence, Penn deemed it "the sovereign remedy of the English constitution."
That the "tests" should be removed, he urged on James's behalf upon William of Orange, to whom he went in Holland on an informal commission from the king. William, by his marriage with James's daughter, was heir apparent to the throne of England, and his consent was necessary to any serious change of national policy. He insisted on the tests. Theoretically, Penn was right. The ideal state imposes no religious tests; every good citizen, no matter what his private creed may be, is eligible to any office. Practically, Penn was wrong, as William of Orange plainly saw. That prince, as appeared afterwards, was as zealous for religious freedom as was Penn himself; but it was plain to him that as matters stood at that time in England, it was necessary to enforce the tests in order to prevent the rise of an ecclesiastical party whose supremacy would endanger all that Penn desired. Penn, with his stout faith in the king, could not see it. There were times, indeed, when he was perplexed and troubled. "The Lord keep us in this dark day!" he wrote to his steward at Pennsbury. "Be wise, close, respectful to superiors. The king has discharged all Friends by a general pardon, and is courteous, though as to the Church of England, things seem pinching. Several Roman Catholics got much into places in the army, navy, court." Nevertheless, the king's plan, as he understood it, gave assurance of liberty of conscience, and the end of persecution for opinion's sake; and he supported the king.
Under these conditions, misled by friendship, seeing, but not perceiving, Penn persuaded himself that he could excellently serve God and his neighbors by becoming a courtier. He took a house in London, within easy distance of Whitehall, and visited the king daily. A great many people therefore visited Penn daily; sometimes as many as two hundred were waiting to confer with him. They desired that he would do this or that for their good with the king. Most of them were Quakers; many were in need of pardon, or were burdened by some oppression.
For example, Sir Robert Stuart of Coltness had been in exile as a Presbyterian, and on his return found his lands in the possession of the Earl of Arran. He brought his case to Penn. Penn went to Arran. "What is this, friend James, that I hear of thee?" he said. "Thou hast taken possession of Coltness's castle. Thou knowest that it is not thine." "That estate," Arran explained, "I paid a great price for. I received no other reward for my expensive and troublesome embassy to France, except this estate." "All very well, friend James," said Penn, "but of this assure thyself, that if thou dost not give me this moment an order on thy chamberlain for two hundred pounds to Coltness to carry him down to his native country, and a hundred a year to subsist on till matters are adjusted, I will make it as many thousands out of thy way with the king." Arran complied immediately.
Again, one day after dinner, as they were drinking a glass of wine together, one of Penn's clients said, "I can tell you how you can prolong my life." "I am no physician," answered William, "but prithee tell me what thou meanest." The client replied that a good friend of his, Jack Trenchard, was in exile, and "if you," he said, "could get him leave to come home with safety and honour, the drinking now and then a bottle with Jack Trenchard would make me so cheerful that it would prolong my life." Penn smilingly promised to do what he could, and in a month the two friends were drinking his good health.
This was the kind of business which he transacted. He had found a way to be of eminent service to his neighbors, and especially to his Quaker brethren, and he made the most of the opportunity. There is no evidence that he departed from the disinterested life which he had previously lived. He attended the court of King James, as he had undertaken the settlement of Pennsylvania, not for what he could get out of it, but for the good he could do by means of it. What he did, he tells us, was upon a "principle of charity." "I never accepted any commission," he says, "but that of a free and common solicitor for sufferers of all sorts and in all parties." Neither is there any instance of his asking anything to increase his own estate or position.
Indeed, he was losing money; for the expenses of life at court were great. Worse still, he was losing his good name. His Quaker friends found him hard to understand. It was true that he had cast in his lot with them, and had suffered for their cause,—he was their great theologian and preacher; but he seemed, nevertheless, to be still a cavalier and a worldly person. They heard—though there was no truth in the report—that he had set up a military company in Pennsylvania. They saw with their own eyes that he lived in a style which must have seemed to them altogether inconsistent with simplicity, and that he consorted with courtiers. And they did not like it,—they said so frankly.
As for enemies, the king's favorite had many, inevitably. The lords who waited in the antechamber while Penn was closeted with James did not look pleasantly at him when he came out. The stout Protestants, who hated the king's ways, and suspected the king's designs, could not easily think well of one who was so closely in his counsels. One of Penn's friends told him what these people said of him: "Your post is too considerable for a Papist of an ordinary form, and therefore you must be a Jesuit; nay, to confirm that suggestion, it must be accompanied with all the circumstances that may best give it an air of probability,—as that you have been bred at St. Omer's in the Jesuit College; that you have taken orders at Rome, and there obtained a dispensation to marry; and that you have since then frequently officiated as a priest in the celebration of the mass, at Whitehall, St. James's, and other places." It seems absurd enough to us, but many intelligent persons, even Archbishop Tillotson of Canterbury, believed it. The detail of St. Omer came, probably, from a confusion of the name with Saumur. The other suspicions grew out of Penn's place in the favor of the king.
It seemed as if nothing could prejudice the king's matters in the eyes of Penn. Monmouth's rebellion came, and the king's revenge followed. Judge Jeffreys went on his bloody circuit. "About three hundred hanged," Penn wrote, "in divers towns of the west; about one thousand to be transported. I begged twenty of the king." It was all bad, and one regrets to find Penn concerned in it. Still, his twenty probably fared better than their neighbors. It is likely that he sent them to be colonists in Pennsylvania.
In the matter of the maids of Taunton, William seems clearly to have had no part. A company of little schoolgirls, led by their teacher, had marched in procession to celebrate the landing of Monmouth. For this offense their parents were heavily fined, and the fines were given to the queen's maids of honor. These ladies wrote to a "Mr. Penne" to get him to collect them. Macaulay thought that this pardon-broker was William Penn. It is flagrantly inconsistent with his character, and he has been adequately vindicated by various writers. The agent in this case was probably George Penne, a person in that business.
Penn's course is not so clear in the matter of the presidency of Magdalen College. One of the steps in James's plan to change the religion of England was to get a foothold for teachers of his faith at the universities. He intended to capture Oxford and Cambridge. He had so far succeeded at Oxford as to get possession of Christ Church and University College, and, the presidency of Magdalen falling vacant, he ordered the fellows to elect a man of his own choice. The fellows refused to obey the order,—thereupon Penn, who had at first taken their part with the king, advised them to surrender. "Mr. Penn," said Dr. Hough, representing the fellows, "in this I will be plain with you. We have our statutes and oaths to justify us in all that we have done hitherto; but, setting this aside, we have a religion to defend, and I suppose yourself would think us knaves if we would tamely give it up. The Papists have already gotten Christ Church and University; the present struggle is for Magdalen; and in a short time they threaten they will have the rest."
To this Penn replied with vehemence: "That they shall never have, assure yourselves; if once they proceed so far they will quickly find themselves destitute of their present assistance. For my part, I have always declared my opinion that the preferments of the Church should not be put into any other hands but such as they are at present in; but I hope you would not have the two universities such invincible bulwarks for the Church of England, that none but they must be capable of giving their children a learned education. I suppose two or three colleges will content the Papists." Finally, the king's men broke down the doors, turned out the professors and students, and gave the king his way. Penn was thus the agent of tyranny; but he was an innocent agent. He made a bad blunder; but he made it honestly and ignorantly. It was in accord with his democratic ideas that the universities should be places of instruction for all the people; he would have liked to see not only the Roman Catholics, but all the great divisions of religion in England represented there. And that fine idea misled him. To hold him guilty, here or elsewhere, of malice or hypocrisy, is to misread his character. He was simply mistaken,—mistaken in the king, mistaken in the application of his own principles.
Meanwhile, the nation at large was making no mistake. The people saw James as he was, and detected his designs upon the liberties of England. At last, in April, 1688, he issued a Declaration of Indulgence. He added insult to injury by ordering that it should be read in every church in the realm. The seven bishops who protested were sent to the Tower. Then the end came with speed. William of Orange was invited into England. The nation welcomed him with acclamations. James fled before him into France, where he lived the remainder of an inglorious life.
This was a hard change for William Penn, and he seems to have done nothing to make it easier. There were courtiers who passed with incredible swiftness from one allegiance to the other; he was not among them. Others fled to France, but he stayed. He was arrested. In his examination before the Privy Council he declared that he "had done nothing but what he could answer for before God and all the princes in the world; that he loved his country and the Protestant religion above his life, and had never acted against either; that all he had ever aimed at in his public endeavors was none other than what the king had declared for [religious liberty]; that King James had always been his friend, and his father's friend, and that in gratitude he himself was the king's, and did ever, as much as in him lay, influence him to his true interest." Penn was released.
The new king began his reign with the Toleration Act, which Parliament passed in 1688, and from which dates the establishment of actual and abiding religious liberty in England. Thus Penn's great purpose was accomplished by one with whom he was not in accord. Sometimes a political party adopts the projects for which its opponents have long labored, and carries them out even more vigorously than they had been planned originally. The initial reformers are glad that their ideals have been realized, but their zeal must be uncommonly impersonal if the success brings them quite so much joy as it logically ought. It is not likely that the Toleration Act filled the soul of William Penn with great jubilation. Indeed, we know that he insisted to the end of his life that James, if he had been let alone, would have done all that William did, and more too, and better.
The years which followed were full of trouble. Macaulay says that in 1689 Penn was plotting against the government; but the evidence does not suffice to establish the fact. The Privy Council, in 1690, confronted Penn with an intercepted letter to him from James, asking for help. But, as Penn said, he could not hinder the king from writing to him. He added, however, with characteristic boldness, that since he had loved King James in his prosperity he should not hate him in his adversity. He was again discharged.
In that same year, however, James invaded Ireland, and the situation of his friends in England was thereby made increasingly difficult. Penn was arrested with others, and in prison awaited trial for several months. The result was as before,—he was found in no offense. But before a month had passed, he learned that another warrant was out against his liberty. Officers went to take him at the funeral of George Fox, but arrived too late. By this time he had concluded that the path of prudence was that which led into a wise retirement. He hid himself for the space of three years. He was publicly proclaimed a traitor, and was deprived of the government of his colony. He was "hunted up and down," he says, "and could never be allowed to live quietly in city or country."
Finally, the government were persuaded either that Penn was innocent, or that no further danger was to be apprehended from him, and several noblemen, interceding with the king, procured his pardon. They represented his case, he says, as not only hard, but oppressive, there being no evidence but what "impostors, or those that fled, or that have since their pardon refused to verify (and asked me pardon for saying what they did) alleged against me." The king announced that Penn was his old acquaintance, and that he might follow his business as freely as ever, and that for his part he had nothing to say to him.
Thus again, and at last, the political accusations against William Penn came to nothing. He had been in a hard position as the faithful friend of a dethroned monarch in a day when conspiracies were being made on every hand. That he should have been suspected of treason was inevitable. That in his unconcealed affection for James and disapproval of William he said imprudent things is likely enough. Prudence was not one of his virtues. He was never calculatingly careful of his own welfare. But that he was ever untrue to William, or did any act, or consented to any, which could reasonably be called treacherous, is not only quite unproved, but is out of accord with the true William Penn as he is revealed in his writings and in all his life. The only fault which has been clearly established against him is that of liking James better than he liked William. He was a stanch friend to his friend; that is the sum of his offending, wherein the only serious regret is that his friend was not more worthy of his steadfast and unselfish friendship. "At no time in his life," says Mr. Fiske, "does he seem more honest, brave, and lovable, than during the years, so full of trouble for him, that intervened between the accession of James and the accession of Anne."
The thoughts with which Penn's mind was occupied during the years of hiding appear in his book, "Some Fruits of Solitude." Robert Louis Stevenson found a copy of it in a book-shop in San Francisco, and carried it in his pocket many days, reading it in street-cars and ferry-boats. He found it, he says, "in all places a peaceful and sweet companion;" and he adds, "there is not a man living, no, nor recently dead, that could put, with so lovely a spirit, so much honest, kind wisdom into words."
"The author blesseth God for his retirement," so the book begins, "and kisses the gentle hand which led him into it; for though it should prove barren to the world, it can never do so to him. He has now had some time he can call his own; a property he was never so much master of before; in which he has taken a view of himself and the world, and observed wherein he hath hit and missed the mark. And he verily thinks, were he to live his life over again, he could not only, with God's grace, serve him, but his neighbor and himself, better than he hath done, and have seven years of his life to spare."
Government and Religion have the longest chapters in this volume of reflections, as being the matters in which William was most interested. "Happy that king," he says, "who is great by justice, and that people who are free by obedience." "Where example keeps pace with authority, power hardly fails to be obeyed, and magistrates to be honoured." "Let the people think they govern, and they will be governed." "Religion is the fear of God, and its demonstration good works; and faith is the root of both." "To be like Christ, then, is to be a Christian." "Some folk think they may scold, rail, hate, rob, and kill too: so it be but for God's sake. But nothing in us, unlike him, can please him." So the book goes, page after page, always serious and sensible, full of simplicity and kindliness, cheerful and brotherly and unfailingly religious. It is the work of one who is trying his best to live for his brethren and in Christ's spirit.
Another significant writing of this period is Penn's "Plan for the Peace of Europe." The calamities of the war then in progress on the Continent gave him arguments enough for the desirableness of peace. The means of peace is justice, and the means of justice is government. It is plain to all that a state wherein any private citizen might avenge himself upon his neighbor would be a place of confusion and distress. "For this cause they have sessions, terms, assizes, and parliaments, to overrule men's passions and resentments, that they may not be judges in their own cause, nor punishers of their own wrongs." Penn proposes that the same relation between peace and justice which is enforced between citizen and citizen be also enforced between nation and nation. "Now," he says, "if the sovereign princes of Europe ... for love of peace and order [would] agree to meet by their stated deputies in a general Diet, Estates or Parliament and there establish rules of justice for sovereign princes to observe one to another; and thus to meet yearly, or once in two or three years at the farthest, or as they shall see cause, and to be stiled, The Sovereign or Imperial Diet, Parliament or State of Europe: before which Sovereign Assembly should be brought all differences depending between one sovereign and another that cannot be made up by private embassies before the sessions begin; and that if any of the sovereignties that constitute these imperial states shall refuse to submit their claim or pretensions to them, or to abide and perform the judgment thereof and seek their remedy by arms, or delay their compliance beyond the time prefixt in their resolutions, all the other sovereignties, united as one strength, shall compel the submission and performance of the sentence, with damages to the suffering party, and charges to the sovereignties that obliged their submission; ... peace would be procured and continued in Europe." The principle of international arbitration, the Conference at the Hague, and all like meetings which shall be held hereafter, are thus foreshadowed.
These two productions of Penn's season of retirement—the "Fruits of Solitude," and the "Plan for the Peace of Europe"—illustrate again the two qualities which make him singularly eminent among the founders of commonwealths. He was at once a philosopher and a statesman; he was interested alike in religion and in politics. There have been many politicians to whom religion has been of no concern. There have been many religious persons in high positions who have been so shut in by church walls that they have been incapable of a wider outlook; they have accordingly been narrow, prejudiced, and often unpractical people; they have been blind to the elemental social fact of difference; they have hated the thought of toleration. Penn was almost alone among the good men of our era of colonization in being at the same time a man of the world and a man of the other world.
Penn came out of his exile in 1693 burdened with misfortune. He had been deprived of his government; he was sadly in debt; he had lost many of his friends. His colonists in Pennsylvania declined to lend him money. His brethren in England drew up a confession of wrong-doing for him to sign: "If in any things during those late revolutions I have concerned myself either by words or writings, in love, pity or good will to any in distress [meaning the king] further than consisted with Truth's honor or the Church's peace, I am sorry for it." But he would not sign. To these troubles was added a greater grief in the death of his wife. "An excellent wife and mother," he said of her, "an entire and constant friend, of a more than common capacity, and greater modesty and humility; yet most equal and undaunted in danger." A brave soul, no doubt, as befitted her parentage, and of a devout and consecrated spirit.
But William was ever of a serene and cheerful disposition. Neither loss, nor disappointment, nor bereavement could shut out the sun. His religious faith strengthened him. "We must needs disorder ourselves," he had written in his "Fruits of Solitude," "if we only look at our losses. But if we consider how little we deserve what is left, our passions will cool, and our murmurs will turn into thankfulness." "Though our Saviour's passion is over, his compassion is not. That never fails his humble, sincere disciples; in him they find more than all that they lose in the world."
During the six years which followed, this strong confidence was justified. He regained his government and his good name. He also married a second wife, Hannah Callowhill, a strong, sensible, and estimable Quaker lady of some means, living in Bristol.
The only satisfactory information as to the personal appearance of Penn in mature life is that which is given by Sylvanus Bevan. Bevan was a Quaker apothecary in London, who had a remarkable gift for carving portraits in ivory. After Penn's death, he made such a portrait of him from memory. The men who had known William liked it greatly. Lord Cobham, to whom Bevan sent it, said, "It is William Penn himself." It represents him in a curled wig, with full cheeks and a double chin—a pleasant, masterful, and serious person. Clarkson says that in his attire he was "very neat, though plain." Penn advised his children to choose clothes "neither unshapely nor fantastical;" and he illustrated to King James the difference between the Roman Catholic and the Quaker religions by the difference between his hat and the king's. "The only difference," he said, "lies in the ornaments that have been added to thine." His dress was probably that which was common to gentlemen in his day, but without extremes of color or adornment. For some time after becoming a Quaker he wore his sword, having consulted Fox, who said, "I advise thee to wear it as long as thou canst." Presently Fox, seeing him without it, said, "William, where is thy sword?" To which Penn replied, "I have taken thy advice: I wore it as long as I could."
The sober cheerfulness of Penn's attire comported well with his conversation. It is true that Bishop Burnet, who did not like him, says that "he had a tedious, luscious way of talking, not apt to overcome a man's reason, though it might tire his patience." But Dean Swift enjoyed him, and testified that "he talked very agreeably and with great spirit." The Friends of Reading Meeting even noted that he was "facetious in conversation," and there is a tradition of a venerable Friend who spoke of him "as having naturally an excess of levity of spirit for a grave minister." A handsome, graceful, and even a merry gentleman it was who married Hannah Callowhill.
For a time he devoted himself again to the work of the ministry. He went about, as in former days, preaching, sometimes in the market-hall, sometimes in the fields. Once, in Ireland, the bishop sent an officer to disperse the meeting, complaining that Penn had left him "nobody to preach to but the mayor, church-wardens, a few of the constables, and the bare walls."
His heart, however, was in his province. The affairs of Pennsylvania had been going badly. There had been a hot contention between the council and the assembly, and another between the province and the territory. The officials, too, whom Penn had appointed, had quarreled among themselves. William complained that they were excessively "governmentish;" meaning that they liked authority and that they took details very seriously. The situation, however, was inevitably difficult. In his relation to the king, the governor was a feudal sovereign; in his relation to the people he was, by Penn's arrangement, the executive of a democracy. Penn himself reconciled the two positions by his own tact and unselfishness, as well as by a certain masterfulness to which those about him instinctively and willingly yielded. He proved the motto of his book-plate, Dum Clavum Teneam; all went well while he with his own hands held the helm. But his deputies were not so competent. The colony fell into two parties, the proprietary and the popular, representing these two ideas. Then the governor whom the king had appointed during Penn's retirement was a soldier, and his un-Quakerlike notions as to the right conduct of a colony brought a new element of confusion into affairs which were already sufficiently confounded.
At last, in 1699, it became possible for the founder to make another visit to his province. He brought his family with him, evidently intending to stay. Philadelphia was now a city of some seven hundred houses, and had nearly seven thousand inhabitants. The people were at that moment in deep depression, having just been visited with a plague of yellow fever. The pestilence, however, had abated, and Penn was received with sober rejoicings. He took up his residence in the "slate-roof house," a modest mansion which stood on the corner of Second Street and Norris Alley; it was pulled down in 1867.
Now began a season of good government. The business of piracy had for some time been merrily carried on by various enterprising persons, some of whom lived very respectably in Philadelphia. William put a stop to it. The importing of slaves from Africa was at that time considered by most persons to be a good thing both for the planters and for the slaves. Already, however, at the Pennsylvania yearly meeting of Friends in 1688, some who came from Kriesheim, in Germany, had protested against it,
And, in consequence, though slaves were still imported, they were humanely treated. Penn interested himself in the improvement of their condition. He was also concerned in the progress of the prison reforms which he had proposed in the original establishment of the colony. He employed a watchman to cry the news, the weather, and the time of day in the Philadelphia streets. Regarding the Constitution, about which there had been so much contention, he addressed the council and the assembly in terms of characteristic friendliness. "Friends," he said, "if in the Constitution by charter there be anything that jars, alter it. If you want a law for this or that, prepare it." He advised them, however, not to trifle with government, and wished there were no need to have any government at all. In general, he said, the fewer laws, the better. The result was a new Constitution. It provided that the council should be appointed by the governor, and that the assembly should have the right to originate laws. It was more simple and workable than the previous legislation, and lasted until the Revolution.
Meanwhile, Penn was journeying about the country in his old way, preaching. At Merion, a small boy of the family where he was entertained, being much impressed with the great man's looks and speech, peeped through the latchet-hole of his chamber door, and both saw and heard him at his prayers. Near Haverford, a small girl, walking along the country road, was overtaken by the governor, who took her up behind him on his horse, and so carried her on her way, her bare feet dangling by the horse's side.
Clarkson, the chief of the biographers of Penn, who collected these and other incidents, gives us a glimpse of him as he appeared at this time at Quaker meetings. "He was of such humility that he used generally to sit at the lowest end of the space allotted to ministers, always taking care to place above himself poor ministers, and those who appeared to him to be peculiarly gifted." He liked to encourage young men to speak. When he himself spoke, it was in the simplest words, easy to be understood, and with many homely illustrations. At the same time, on state occasions, as the proprietor of Pennsylvania and representative of the sovereign, he used some ceremony, marching through the Philadelphia streets to the opening of the assembly with a mace-bearer before him, and having an officer standing at his gate on audience days, with a long staff tipped with silver. Acquainted with affairs, and with a knowledge of the relations between government and human nature drawn from a wide experience, he knew the distinction, at which some of his Quaker brethren stumbled, between personal humility and the proper dignity of official station.
In the intervals left him by the demands of church and state, he busied himself with the improvement of his place at Pennsbury. Here he had a considerable house in the midst of pleasant gardens. He took great pleasure in personal superintendence of the grounds and buildings, planting vines and cutting vistas through the trees. "The country is to be preferred," he wrote in "Fruits of Solitude." "The country is both the philosopher's garden and library, in which he reads and contemplates the power, wisdom, and goodness of God." "The knowledge and improvement of it," he declared, is "man's oldest business and trade, and the best he can be of."
Within were silver plate and satin curtains, and embroidered chairs and couches. The proprietor's bed was covered with a "quilt of white Holland quilted in green silk by Letitia," his daughter. "Send up," he writes to James Logan, at Philadelphia, "our great stewpan and cover, and little soup dish, and two or three pounds of coffee if sold in town, and three pounds of wicks ready for candles." Mrs. Penn asks Logan to provide "candlesticks, and great candles, some green ones, and pewter and earthen basins, mops, salts, looking-glass, a piece of dried beef, and a firkin or two of good butter."
Penn rode a large white horse, and had a coach, with a black man to drive it, and a "rattling leathern conveniency," probably smaller, and a sedan chair for Mrs. Penn. In the river lay the barge, of which William was so fond that he wrote from England to charge that it be carefully looked after. Somebody expressed surprise one day when Penn went out in it against wind and tide. "I have been sailing all my life against wind and tide," he said.
Much of the work of the estate was done by slaves. The fact troubled the proprietor's conscience. He laid it upon his own soul, as he did upon the souls of his brethren in the colony, "to be very careful in discharging a good conscience towards them in all respects, but more especially for the good of their souls, that they might, as frequent as may be, come to meeting on first-days." A special meeting was appointed for slaves once a month, and their masters were expected to come with them. Finally, Penn liberated all his slaves. In his will of 1701, "I give," he says, "to my blacks their freedom, as is under my hand already, and to old Sam 100 acres, to be his children's after he and his wife are dead, forever."
The Pennsbury house had a great hall in the midst, where the governor in an oak armchair received his neighbors, the Indians. Here they came, in paint and feathers,—"Connoondaghtoh, king of the Susquehannah Indians; Wopaththa, king of the Shawanese; Weewinjough, chief of the Ganawese; and Ahookassong, brother of the emperor of the five nations;" and many other humbler braves. John Richardson, a Yorkshire Quaker, visited Penn at Pennsbury and saw them. William gave them match-coats, he says, and "some other things," including a reasonable supply of rum, which the chiefs dispensed to the warriors severally in small portions: "So they came quietly, and in a solid manner, and took their draws." He did not smoke, a fact which the Indians must have noted as a curious eccentricity. Then they made a small fire out of doors, and the men sat about it in a ring, singing "a very melodious hymn," beating the ground between the verses with short sticks, and, after a circling dance, departed. Penn got on most happily with the Indians. The peaceful Quakers went about unarmed and were never in danger. The only disorderly folk thereabout were white men.
In the midst of these rural joys, news came that a movement was on foot to put an end to proprietary governments, thereby bringing all colonies under the immediate control of the crown. Penn felt that it was necessary for him to return to England to block this inconvenient legislation. On the 28th of October, he assembled the citizens of Philadelphia, and presented them with a charter for their city. In the Friends' meeting, he said that he "looked over all infirmities and outwards, and had an eye to the regions of the spirit, wherein was our sweetest tie." Then, says Norris, "in true love he took his leave of us." Thus, after two years wherein peace and quietness prevailed over all misunderstanding and opposition, he set sail in 1701, and never saw Pennsylvania again.
His house at Pennsbury fell into ruins,—due in large part to the leakage of a leaden reservoir on the roof,—and was taken down before the Revolution. The furniture was gradually dispersed. For some years it was "deemed a kind of pious stealth," among those who were most loyal to the proprietor, to carry away something out of the house when they chanced to visit its empty halls. One gentleman rejoiced in the possession of the mantelpiece; another had a pair of Penn's plush breeches.
William Penn's four years of actual residence gave him all the satisfaction which he ever got from his colonial possessions. All else was worry, labor, and expense. The province was a sore financial burden. As proprietor he was charged with the payment, in large part, of the expenses of government. The returns from rents and sales were slow and uncertain. The taxes on imports and exports, to which he had a charter right, he had generously declined. When he asked the assembly, in remembrance of that liberality, to send him money in his financial straits, they were not minded to respond. Penn belonged to that high fraternity of noble souls who do not know how to make bargains. His impulses were generous to a fault, and he had an invincible confidence that his neighbors would deal with him in the same spirit. The consequence was that year by year the expenses grew, and there was but a slender income. "O Pennsylvania," he cries, "what hast thou cost me? Above thirty thousand pounds more than I ever got by it; two hazardous and most fatiguing voyages, my straits and slavery here, and my child's soul, almost."
The last allusion is to Guli's son, William, whose dissipation Penn always attributed to a lack of fatherly care during his first visit to the province. Penn finally sent the boy to Pennsbury, hoping that the quiet, the absence of temptation, and the wholesome joys of a country life, might amend him. But William went from bad to worse, was arrested in Philadelphia in a tavern brawl, was formally excommunicated by the Quakers, and came home to England to give his father further pain.
To the financial burdens of the province were added the difficulties of government. Penn succeeded very well in keeping his colony,—he defended his boundaries against Lord Baltimore, and he defeated those who would have taken away his rule and given it to the king; but the governing of the colony across three thousand miles of sea was another matter. The moment he withdrew the restraining influence of his personal presence, all manner of contentions came into the light of day.
The question of the prudence of bearing arms was vigorously debated. James Logan, secretary of the province, and Penn's ablest counselor, urged the need of military defenses. Conservative Friends opposed it.
Churchmen had been settling in the province. One of William's oldest friends, George Keith, who had accompanied him on his religious mission to Holland, had gone into the Episcopal ministry. Logan says, in a letter to Penn, that "not suffering them to be superior" was accounted by the churchmen as the equivalent of persecution.
Colonel Quarry, a judge of the admiralty, appointed by the British government to enforce the navigation laws in the colony, was responsible to the Board of Trade in London, and independent of the governor and of the assembly. He exercised his office of critic and censor to the annoyance of Penn.
To these various sources of trouble was added an unending strife between the governor's deputy and the people. Penn's habit of looking always on the best side made him a bad judge of men, and the deputies whom he sent were few of them competent; some were not even respectable. Penn, with his characteristic invincible blindness, took their part.
Finally, the disputations, protests, and complaints, with direct attacks upon Penn's interests, and even upon his character, got to such a pass that he addressed a letter of expostulation to the people. "When it pleased God to open a way for me to settle that colony," he wrote, "I had reason to expect a solid comfort from the services done to many hundreds of people.... But, alas! as to my part, instead of reaping the like advantages, some of the greatest of my troubles have sprung from thence. The many combats I have engaged in, the great pains and incredible expense for your welfare and ease, to the decay of my former estate ... with the undeserved opposition I have met with from thence, sink into me with sorrow, that, if not supported by a superior hand, might have overwhelmed me long ago. And I cannot but think it hard measure, that, while it has proved a land of freedom and flourishing, it should become to me, by whose means it was principally made a country, the cause of grief, trouble, and poverty."
So heavy was the financial burden, and so vexatious and disheartening the bickering and ingratitude, that Penn thought seriously of selling his governorship; and it was in the market for several years awaiting a purchaser. Indeed, in 1712, he had so far perfected a bargain to transfer his proprietary rights to the crown for £12,000, that nothing remained to be done save the affixing of his signature. Before his name was signed, he fell suddenly ill, and the transaction went no farther.
In the midst of these many troubles, in themselves serious enough, there came another. Penn's business manager for his estates in England and Ireland was Philip Ford. For a long time, Ford's payments had been less and less; Penn was continually complaining that he got so little from his property. Still, Ford's accounts went without examination, and some of his financial reports were not so much as opened. William had his customary confidence in his agent's honesty. At last, when things got so bad that something had to be done, it appeared by Ford's books that, instead of Ford's being in debt to Penn, Penn was in debt to him for more than ten thousand pounds. This was the result of long, ingenious, and unmolested bookkeeping. And Penn had made himself liable by his careless silence. Then Ford died, and his widow and children claimed everything which stood in Penn's name. Penn, it appeared, had borrowed money of Ford, and had given him a mortgage on his Pennsylvania estates as security. When the loan was paid, the mortgage had not been returned. Not only did Mrs. Ford retain it, but she sued Penn for three thousand pounds rent, which was due, she said, from the property of which William was once owner, but which he now held as tenant of the Fords. So far was this iniquitous business pursued, that Penn was arrested as he was at a religious meeting in Gracechurch Street, and was imprisoned for debt in the Fleet, or its precincts.
This was the turn in the tide. Everybody disapproved of treatment so unjust and extortionate. William's friends raised money, and made a compromise with the Fords, and got him free. In Pennsylvania, too, the contentions were quieted by a good governor. And as the wars came to an end, trade so increased that the province presently yielded a substantial income.
Penn retired to Ruscombe, in Berkshire, in the pleasant country. Here he had his family about him. He was now a grandfather, his son William having a son and a daughter. "So that now we are major, minor, and minimus. I bless the Lord mine are pretty well,—Johnny lively; Tommy a lovely, large child; and my grandson, Springett, a mere Saracen; his sister, a beauty." Of his second marriage there were six children, four of whom—John, Thomas, Margaret, and Richard—became proprietors of Pennsylvania. Thomas had two sons, John and Granville; Richard had two, John and Richard. When the proprietary government ended, in 1776, it was in the hands of the heirs of William Penn.
In 1711, Penn wrote a preface to John Banks's Journal, dictating it, as his custom was, walking to and fro with his cane in his hand, thumping the floor to mark the emphasis. "Now reader," he concludes, "before I take leave of thee, let me advise thee to hold thy religion in the spirit, whether thou prayest, praisest or ministerest to others, ... which, that all God's people may do, is, and hath long been the earnest desire and fervent supplication of theirs and thy faithful friend in the Lord Jesus Christ, W. Penn." This is the last word of his writing which remains.
The next year he had a paralytic stroke, and another, and another. This impaired his memory and his mind. Thus he continued for six years, as happily as was possible under the circumstances. He went often to meeting, where he frequently spoke, briefly, but with "sound and savory expressions." He walked about his gardens, saw his friends, and delighted in the company of his wife and children. Each year left him weaker than the year before; but his days were filled with serenity. He was surrounded with all the comforts which a generous income, an affectionate family, the respect of his neighbors, and the approval of God, could give him.
"He that lives to live forever," he had written in his "Fruits of Solitude," "never fears dying. Nor can the means be terrible to him, that heartily believes the end. For though death be a dark passage, it leads to immortality; and that is recompense enough for suffering of it.... And this is the comfort of the good, that the grave cannot hold them, and that they live as soon as they die."
Into the fullness of this life he entered on the 30th of July, 1718, being seventy-four years old.
The chief authorities for facts concerning William Penn are—
The Riverside Press
Electrotyped and printed by H. O. Houghton & Co.
Cambridge, Mass., U. S. A.
The following changes have been made to the text:
Page 23: "seventeeenth" changed to "seventeenth".
Page 42: "Quaker brethen" changed to "Quaker brethren".
Page 49: "died when he" changed to "died when she".
Page 57: "serious inprisonment" changed to "serious imprisonment".
Page 62: "body prevented" changed to "body prevented it".