Minor punctuation errors have been changed without notice. Printer errors have been changed and are listed at the end.
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, 75 cents; School Edition, 50 cents, net
HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN & CO. BOSTON AND NEW YORK
The Riverside Biographical Series
HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN AND COMPANY
Boston: 4 Park Street; New York: 11 East Seventeenth Street Chicago: 378-388 Wabash Avenue
The Riverside Press, Cambridge
COPYRIGHT, 1901, BY GEORGE HODGES ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
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 THE PROVINCE 68
VII. AT THE COURT OF JAMES THE SECOND, AND "IN RETIREMENT" 93
VIII. PENN'S SECOND VISIT TO THE PROVINCE: CLOSING YEARS 113
A PURITAN BOYHOOD: WANSTEAD CHURCH AND CHIGWELL SCHOOL
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.
AT OXFORD: INFLUENCE OF THOMAS LOE
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 Irenaeus 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 FRANCE AND IRELAND: THE WORLD AND THE OTHER WORLD
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.
PENN BECOMES A QUAKER: PERSECUTION AND CONTROVERSY
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 protege 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 mediaeval 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."
THE BEGINNING OF PENN'S POLITICAL LIFE: THE HOLY EXPERIMENT
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 reestablish 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."
THE SETTLEMENT OF PENNSYLVANIA: PENN'S FIRST VISIT TO THE PROVINCE
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, "L6000 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.
"All Europe with amazement saw The soul's high freedom trammeled by no law."
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.