1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Penn, William (English Quaker)

4566531911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 21 — Penn, William (English Quaker)Osmund Airy

PENN, WILLIAM (1644–1718), English Quaker and founder of Pennsylvania, son of Admiral Sir William Penn (1621–1670) and Margaret Jasper, a Dutch lady, was born at Tower Hill, London, on the 14th of October 1644. During his father’s absence at sea he lived at Wanstead in Essex, and went to school at Chigwell close by, in which places he was brought under strong Puritan influences. Like many children of sensitive temperament, he had times of spiritual excitement; when about twelve he was “suddenly surprised with an inward comfort, and, as he thought, an external glory in the 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.” Upon the death of Cromwell, Penn’s father, who had served the Protector because there was no other career open, remained with his family on the Irish estates which Cromwell had given him, of the value of £300 a year. On the resignation of Richard Cromwell he at once declared for the king and went to the court in Holland, where he was received into favour and knighted; and at the elections for the convention parliament he was returned for Weymouth. Meanwhile young Penn studied under a private tutor on Tower Hill until, in October 1660, he was entered as a gentleman commoner at Christ Church. He appears in the same year to have contributed to the Threnodia, a collection of elegies on the death of the young duke of Gloucester.

The rigour with which the Anglican statutes were revived, and the Puritan heads of colleges supplanted, roused the spirit of resistance at Oxford to the uttermost. With this spirit Penn, who was on familiar terms with John Owen (1616–1683), and who had already fallen under the influence of Thomas Loe the Quaker, then at Oxford, actively sympathized. He and others refused to attend chapel and church service, and were fined in consequence. How far his leaving the university resulted from this cannot be clearly ascertained. Anthony Wood has nothing regarding the cause of his leaving, but says that he stayed at Oxford for two years, and that he was noted for proficiency in manly sports. There is no doubt that in January 1662 his father was anxious to remove him to Cambridge, and consulted Pepys on the subject; and in later years he speaks of being “banished” the college, and of being whipped, beaten and turned out of doors on his return to his father, in the anger of the latter at his avowed Quakerism. A reconciliation, however, was effected; and Penn was sent to France to forget this folly. The plan was for a time successful. Penn appears to have entered more or less into the gaieties of the court of Louis XIV., and while there to have become acquainted with Robert Spencer, afterwards earl of Sunderland, and with Dorothy, sister to Algernon Sidney. What, however, is more certain is that he somewhat later placed himself under the tuition of Moses Amyraut, the celebrated president of the Protestant college of Saumur, and at that time the exponent of liberal Calvinism, from whom he gained the patristic knowledge which is so prominent in his controversial writings. He afterwards travelled in Italy, returning to England in August 1664, with "a great deal, if not too much, of the vanity of the French garb and affected manner of speech and gait."[1]

Until the outbreak of the plague Penn was a student of Lincoln's Inn. For a few days also he served on the staff of his father—now great captain commander—and was by him sent back in April 1665 to Charles with despatches. Returning after the naval victory off Lowestoft in June, Admiral Penn found that his son had again become settled in seriousness and Quakerism. To bring him once more to views of life not inconsistent with court preferment, the admiral sent him in February 1666 with introductions to Ormonde's pure but brilliant court in Ireland, and to manage his estate in Cork round Shannangarry Castle, his title to which was disputed. Penn appears also later in the year to have been "clerk of the cheque" at Kinsale, of the castle and fort of which his father had the command. When the mutiny broke out in Carrickfergus Penn volunteered for service, and acted under Arran so as to gain considerable reputation. The result was that in May 1666 Ormonde offered him his father's company of foot, but, for some unexplained reason, the admiral demurred to this arrangement. It was at this time that the well-known portrait was painted of the great Quaker in a suit of armour, and it was at this time, too, that the conversion, begun when he was a boy by Thomas Loe in Ireland, was completed at the same place by the same agency.[2]

On the 3rd of September 1667 Penn attended a meeting of Quakers in Cork, at which he assisted to expel a soldier who had disturbed the meeting. He was in consequence, with others present, sent to prison by the magistrates. From prison he wrote to Lord Orrery, the president of Munster, a letter, in which he first publicly makes a claim for perfect freedom of conscience. He was immediately released, and at once returned to his father in London, with the distinctive marks of Quakerism strong upon him. Penn now became a minister of the denomination, and at once entered upon controversy and authorship. His first book, Truth Exalted, was violent and aggressive in the extreme. The same offensive personality is shown in The Guide Mistaken, a tract written in answer to John Clapham's Guide to the True Religion. It was at this time, too, that he appealed, not unsuccessfully, to Buckingham, who on Clarendon's fall was posing as the protector of the Dissenters, to use his efforts to procure parliamentary toleration.

Penn's first public discussion was with Thomas Vincent, a London Presbyterian minister, who had reflected on the "damnable" doctrines of the Quakers. The discussion, which had turned chiefly upon the doctrine of the Trinity, ended uselessly, and Penn at once published The Sandy Foundation Shaken, a tract of ability sufficient to excite Pepys's astonishment, in which orthodox views were so offensively attacked that Penn was placed in the Tower, where he remained for nearly nine months. The imputations upon his opinions and good citizenship, made as well by Dissenters as by the Church, he repelled in Innocency with her Open Face, in which he asserts his full belief in the divinity of Christ, the atonement, and justification through faith, though insisting on the necessity of good works. It was now, too, that he published the most important of his books, No Cross, No Crown, which contained an able defence of the Quaker doctrines and practices, and a scathing attack on the loose and unchristian lives of the clergy.

While completely refusing to recant Penn addressed a letter to Arlington in July 1669, in which, on grounds of religious freedom, he asked him to interfere. It is noteworthy, as showing the views then predominant, that he was almost at once set at liberty.

An informal reconciliation now took place with his father, who had been impeached through the jealousy of Rupert and Monk (in April 1668), and whose conduct in the operations of 1665 he had publicly vindicated, and Penn was again sent on family business to Ireland. At the desire of his father, whose health was fast failing, Penn returned to London in 1670. Having found the usual place of meeting in Gracechurch Street closed by soldiers, Penn, as a protest, preached to the people in the open street. With William Mead he was at once arrested and indicted at the Old Bailey on the 1st of September for preaching to an unlawful, seditious and riotous assembly, which had met together with force and arms. The Conventicle Act not touching their case, the trial which followed, and which may be read at length in Penn's People's Ancient and Just Liberties Asserted, was a notable one in the history of trial by jury. With extreme courage and skill Penn exposed the illegality of the prosecution, while the jury, for the first time, asserted the right of juries to decide in opposition to the ruling of the court. They brought in a verdict declaring Penn and Mead "guilty of speaking in Gracechurch Street," but refused to add "to an unlawful assembly", then, as the pressure upon them increased, they first acquitted Mead, while returning their original verdict upon Penn, and then, when that verdict was not admitted, returned their final answer "not guilty" for both. The court fined the jurymen 40 marks each for their contumacy, and, in default of payment, imprisoned them, whereupon they vindicated and established for ever the right they had claimed in an action (known as Bushell's case from the name of one of the jurymen) before the court of common pleas, when all twelve judges unanimously declared their imprisonment illegal.

Penn himself had been fined for not removing his hat in court, had been imprisoned on his refusal to pay, and had earnestly requested his family not to pay for him. The fine, however, was settled anonymously, and he was released in time to be present at his father's death on the 16th of September 1670, at the early age of forty-nine. Penn now found himself in possession of a fortune of £1500 a year, and a claim on the Crown for £16,000, lent to Charles II. by his father. Upon his release Penn at once plunged into controversy, challenging a Baptist minister named Jeremiah Ives, at High Wycombe, to a public dispute and, according to the Quaker account, easily defeating him. No account is forthcoming from the other side. Hearing at Oxford that students who attended Friends' meeting were rigorously used, he wrote a vehement and abusive remonstrance to the vice-chancellor in defence of religious freedom. This found still more remarkable expression in the Seasonable Caveat against Popery (Jan. 1671).

In the beginning of 1671 Penn was again arrested for preaching in Wheeler Street meeting-house by Sir J. Robinson, the lieutenant of the Tower, formerly lord mayor, and known as a brutal and bigoted churchman. Legal proof being wanting of any breach of the Conventicle Act, and the Oxford or Five Mile Act also proving inapplicable, Robinson, who had some special cause of enmity against Penn, urged upon him the oath of allegiance. This, of course, the Quaker would not take, and consequently was imprisoned for six months. During this imprisonment Penn wrote several works, the most important being The Great Case of Liberty of Conscience (Feb. 1671), a noble defence of complete toleration. Upon his release he started upon a missionary journey through Holland and Germany; at Emden he founded a Quaker society, and established an intimate friendship with the princess palatine Elizabeth.

Upon his return home in the spring of 1672 Penn married Gulielma Springett, daughter of Mary Pennington by her first husband, Sir William Springett, she appears to have been equally remarkable for beauty, devotion to her husband, and firmness to the religious principles which she had adopted when little more than a child.[3] He now settled at Rickmansworth in Hertfordshire, and gave himself up to controversial writing. To this year, 1672, belong the Treatise on Oaths and England's Present Interest Considered. In the year 1673 Penn was still more active. He secured the release of George Fox, addressed the Quakers in Holland and Germany, carried on public controversies with Thomas Hicks, a Baptist, and John Faldo, an Independent, and published his treatise on the Christian Quaker and his Divine Testimony Vindicated, the Discourse of the General Ride of Faith and Practice,[4] Reasons against Railing (in answer to Hicks), Counterfeit Christianity Detected, and a Just Rebuke to One-and-twenty Learned Divines (an answer to Faldo and to Quakerism no Christianity). His last public controversy was in 1675 with Richard Baxter, in which, of course, each party claimed the victory.

At this point Penn's connexion with America begins. The province of New Jersey, comprising the country between the Hudson and Delaware rivers on the east and west, had been granted in March 1663-1664 by Charles II. to his brother; James in turn had in June of the same year leased it to Lord Berkeley and Sir G. Carteret in equal shares. By a deed, dated 18th of March 1673-1674, John Fenwick, a Quaker, bought one of the shares, that of Lord Berkeley (Stoughton erroneously says Carteret's) in trust for Edward Byllinge, also a Friend, for £1000. This sale was confirmed by James, after the second Dutch War, on the 6th of August 1680. Disputes having arisen between Fenwick and Byllinge, Penn acted as arbitrator, and then, Byllinge being in money difficulties, and being compelled to sell his interest in order to satisfy his creditors, Penn was added, at their request, to two of themselves, as trustee. The disputes were settled by Fenwick receiving ten out of the hundred parts into which the province was divided,[5] with a considerable sum of money, the remaining ninety parts being afterwards put up for sale. Fenwick sold his ten parts to two other Friends, Eldridge and Warner, who thus, with Penn and the other two, became masters of West Jersey, West New Jersey, or New West Jersey, as it was indifferently called.[6] The five proprietors appointed three commissioners, with instructions dated from London the 6th of August 1676, to settle disputes with Fenwick (who had bought fresh land from the Indians, upon which Salem was built, Penn being himself one of the settlers there) and to purchase new territories, and to build a town—New Beverley, or Burlington, being the result. For the new colony Penn drew up a constitution, under the title of "Concessions." The greatest care is taken to make this constitution "as near as may be conveniently to the primitive, ancient and fundamental laws of the nation of England." But a democratic element is introduced, and the new principle of perfect religious freedom stands in the first place (ch. xvi.). With regard to the liberty of the subject, no one might be condemned in life, liberty or estate, except by a jury of twelve, and the right of challenging was granted to the uttermost (ch. xvii.). Imprisonment for debt was not abolished (as Dixon states), but was reduced to a minimum (ch. xviii.), while theft was punished by twofold restitution either in value or in labour to that amount (ch. xxviii.). The provisions of ch. xix. deserve special notice. All causes were to go before three justices, with a jury. "They, the said justices, shall pronounce such judgment as they shall receive from, and be directed by the said twelve men, in whom only the judgment resides, and not otherwise. And in case of their neglect and refusal, that then one of the twelve, by consent of the rest, pronounce their own judgment as the justices should have done." The justices and constables, moreover, were elected by the people, the former for two years only (ch. xli.). Suitors might plead in person, and the courts were public (ch. xxii.). Questions between Indians and settlers were to be arranged by a mixed jury (ch. xxv.). An assembly was to meet yearly, consisting of a hundred persons, chosen by the inhabitants, freeholders and proprietors, one for each division of the province. The election was to be by ballot, and each member was to receive a shilling a day from his division, "that thereby he may be known to be the servant of the people." The executive power was to be in the hands of ten commissioners[7] chosen by the assembly. Such a constitution soon attracted large numbers of Quakers to West Jersey.

It was shortly before these occurrences that Penn inherited through his wife the estate of Worminghurst in Sussex, whither he removed from Rickmansworth. He now (July 25, 1677) undertook a second missionary journey to the continent along with George Fox, Robert Barclay and George Keith. He visited particularly Rotterdam and all the Holland towns, renewed his intimacy with the princess Elizabeth at Herwerden, and, under considerable privations, travelled through Hanover, Germany, the lower Rhine and the electorate of Brandenburg, returning by Bremen and the Hague. It is worthy of recollection that the Germantown (Philadelphia) settlers from Kirchheim, one of the places which responded in an especial degree to Penn's teaching, are noted as the first who declared it wrong for Christians to hold slaves. Penn reached England again on the 24th of October. He tried to gain the insertion in the bill for the relief of Protestant Dissenters of a clause enabling Friends to affirm instead of taking the oath, and twice addressed the House of Commons' committee with considerable eloquence and effect. The bill, however, fell to the ground at the sudden prorogation.

In 1678 the popish terror came to a head, and to calm and guide Friends in the prevailing excitement Penn wrote his Epistle to the Children of Light in this Generation. A far more important publication was An Address to Protestants of all Persuasions, by William Penn, Protestant, in 1679; a powerful exposition of the doctrine of pure tolerance and a protest against the enforcement of opinions as articles of faith. This was succeeded, at the general election which followed the dissolution of the pensionary parliament, by an important political manifesto, England's Great Interest in the Choice of this New Parliament, in which he insisted on the following points: the discovery and punishment of the plot, the impeachment of corrupt ministers and councillors, the punishment of "pensioners," the enactment of frequent parliaments, security from popery and slavery, and ease for Protestant Dissenters. Next came One Project for the Good of England, perhaps the most pungent of all his political writings. But he was not merely active with his pen. He was at this time in close intimacy with Algernon Sidney, who stood successively for Guildford and Bramber. In each case, owing in a great degree to Penn's eager advocacy, Sidney was elected, only to have his elections annulled by court influence. Toleration for Dissenters seemed as far off as ever. Encouraged by his success in the West Jersey province, Penn again turned his thoughts to America. In repayment of the debt mentioned above he now asked from the Crown, at a council held on the 24th of June 1680, for "a tract of land in America north of Maryland, bounded on the east by the Delaware, on the west limited as Maryland [i.e. by New Jersey], northward as far as plantable"; this latter limit Penn explained to be "three degrees northwards." This formed a tract of 300 m. by 160, of extreme fertility, mineral wealth and richness of all kinds. Disputes with James, duke of York, and with Lord Baltimore, who had rights over Maryland, delayed the matter until the 14th of March 1681, when the grant received the royal signature, and Penn was made master of the province of Pennsylvania. His own account of the name is that he suggested "Sylvania," that the king added the "Penn" in honour of his father, and that, although he strenuously objected and even tried to bribe the secretaries, he could not get the name altered. It should be added that early in 1682 Carteret, grandson of the original proprietor, transferred his rights in East Jersey to Penn and eleven associates, who soon afterwards conveyed one-half of their interest to the earl of Perth and eleven others. It is uncertain to what extent Penn retained his interest in West and East Jersey, and when it ceased. The two provinces were united under one governor in 1699, and Penn was a proprietor in 1700. In 1702 the government of New Jersey was surrendered to the Crown.

By the charter for Pennsylvania Penn was made proprietary of the province. He was supreme governor; he had the power of making laws with the advice, assent and approbation of the freemen, of appointing officers, and of granting pardons. The laws were to contain nothing contrary to English law, with a saving to the Crown and the privy council in the case of appeals. Parliament was to be supreme in all questions of trade and commerce; the right to levy taxes and customs was reserved to England, an agent to represent Penn was to reside in London; neglect on the part of Penn was to lead to the passing of the government to the Crown (which event actually took place in 1692), no correspondence might be carried on with countries at war with Great Britain. The importunity of the bishop of London extorted the right to appoint Anglican ministers, should twenty members of the colony desire it, thus securing the very thing which Penn was anxious to avoid—the recognition of the principle of an establishment.

Having appointed Colonel (Sir William) Markham, his cousin, as deputy, and having in October sent out three commissioners to manage his affairs until his arrival, Penn proceeded to draw up proposals to adventurers, with an account of the resources of the colony. He negotiated, too, with James and Lord Baltimore with the view, ultimately successful, of freeing the mouth of the Delaware, wrote to the Indians in conciliatory terms, and encouraged the formation of companies to work the infant colony both in England and Germany, especially the "Free Society of Traders in Pennsylvania," to whom he sold 20,000 acres, absolutely refusing, however, to grant any monopolies. In July he drew up a body of "conditions and concessions." This constitution, savouring strongly of Harrington's Oceana, was framed, it is said, in consultation with Sidney, but the statement is doubtful. Until the council of seventy-two (chosen by universal suffrage every three years, twenty-four retiring each year), and the assembly (chosen annually) were duly elected, a body of provisional laws was added.

It was in the midst of this extreme activity that Penn was made a Fellow of the Royal Society. Leaving his family behind him, Penn sailed with a hundred comrades from Deal in the "Welcome" on the 1st of September 1682. His Last Farewell to England and his letter to his wife and children contain a beautiful expression of his pious and manly nature. He landed at New Castle on the Delaware on the 27th of October, his company having lost one-third of their number by small-pox during the voyage. After receiving formal possession, and having visited New York, Penn ascended the Delaware to the Swedish settlement of Upland, to which he gave the name of Chester. The assembly at once met, and on the 7th of December passed the "Great Law of Pennsylvania." The idea which informs this law is that Pennsylvania was to be a Christian state on a Quaker model. Philadelphia was now founded, and within two years contained 300 houses and a population of 2500. At the same time an act was passed, uniting under the same government the territories which had been granted by feoffment by James in 1682. Realistic and entirely imaginative accounts (cf. Dixon, p. 270), inspired chiefly by Benjamin West's picture, have been given of the treaty which there seems no doubt Penn actually made in November 1683 with the Indians. His connexion with them was one of the most successful parts of his management, and he gained at once and retained through life their intense affection.

Penn now wrote an account of Pennsylvania from his own observation for the "Free Society of Traders," in which he shows considerable power of artistic description. Tales of violent persecution of the Quakers, and the necessity of settling disputes, which had arisen with Lord Baltimore, his neighbour in Maryland, brought Penn back to England (Oct. 2, 1684) after an absence of two years. In the spring of 1683 he had modified the original charter at the desire of the assembly, but without at all altering its democratic character.[8] He was, in reference to this alteration, charged with selfish and deceitful dealing by the assembly. Within five months after his arrival in England Charles II. died, and Penn found himself at once in a position of great influence. Penn now took up his abode at Kensington in Holland House, so as to be near the court. His influence there was great enough to secure the pardon of John Locke, who had been dismissed from Oxford by Charles, and of 1200 Quakers who were in prison. At this time, too, he was busy with his pen once more, writing a further account of Pennsylvania, a pamphlet in defence of Buckingham's essay in favour of toleration, in which he is supposed to have had some share, and his Persuasive to Moderation to Dissenting Christians, very similar in tone to the One Project for the Good of England. When Monmouth's rebellion was suppressed he appears to have done his best to mitigate the horrors of the western commission, opposing Jeffreys to the uttermost.[9] Macaulay has accused Penn of being concerned in some of the worst actions of the court at this time. His complete refutation by Forster, Paget, Dixon and others renders it unnecessary to do more than allude to the cases of the Maids of Taunton, Alderman Kiffin, and Magdalen College (Oxford).

In 1686, when making a third missionary journey to Holland and Germany, Penn was charged by James with an informal mission to the prince of Orange to endeavour to gain his assent to the removal of religious tests. Here he met Burnet, from whom, as from the prince, he gained no satisfaction, and who greatly disliked him. On his return he went on a preaching mission through England. His position with James was undoubtedly a compromising one, and it is not strange that, wishing to tolerate Papists, he should, in the prevailing temper of England, be once more accused of being a Jesuit, while he was in constant antagonism to their body. Even Tillotson took up this view strongly, though he at once accepted Penn's vehement disavowal. In 1687 James published the Declaration of Indulgence, and Penn probably drew up the address of thanks on the part of the Quakers. It fully reflects his views, which are further ably put in the pamphlet Good Advice to the Church of England, Roman Catholics, and Protestant Dissenters, in which he showed the wisdom and duty of repealing the Test Acts and Penal Laws. At the Revolution he behaved with courage. He was one of the few friends of the king who remained in London, and, when twice summoned before the council, spoke boldly in his behalf. He admitted that James had asked him to come to him in France; but at the same time he asserted his perfect loyalty. During the absence of William in 1690 he was proclaimed by Mary as a dangerous person, but no evidence of treason was forthcoming. It was now that he lost by death two of his dearest friends, Robert Barclay and George Fox. It was at the funeral of the latter that, upon the information of the notorious informer William Fuller (1670-1717?), an attempt was made to arrest him, but he had just left the ground; the fact that no further steps were then taken shows how little the government believed in his guilt. He now lived in retirement in London, though his address was perfectly well known to his friends in the council. In 1691, again on Fuller's evidence, a proclamation was issued for the arrest of Penn and two others as being concerned in Preston's plot. In 1692 he began to write again, both on questions of Quaker discipline and in defence of the sect. Just Measures in an Epistle of Peace and Love, The New Athenians (in reply to the attacks of the Athenian Mercury), and A Key opening the Way to every Capacity are the principal publications of this year.

Meantime matters had been going badly in Pennsylvania. Penn had, in 1686, been obliged to make changes in the composition of the executive body, though in 1689 it reverted to the original constitution; the legislative bodies had quarrelled, and Penn could not gain his rents. The chief difficulty in Pennsylvania was the dispute between the province—i.e. the country given to Penn by the charter—and the "territories," or the lands granted to him by the duke of York by feoffment in August 1682, which were under the same government but had differing interests. The difficulties which Quaker principles placed in the way of arming the colony—a matter of grave importance in the existing European complications—fought most hardly against Penn's power. On the 21st of October 1692 an order of council was issued depriving Penn of the governorship of Pennsylvania and giving it to Colonel Benjamin Fletcher, the governor of New York. To this blow were added the illness of his wife and a fresh accusation of treasonable correspondence with James. In his enforced retirement he wrote the most devotional and most charming of his works—the collection of maxims of conduct and religion entitled The Fruits of Solitude. In December, thanks to the efforts of his friends at court, among whom were Buckingham, Somers, Rochester, and Henry Sidney, he received an intimation that no further steps would be taken against him. The accusation, however, had been public, and he insisted on the withdrawal being equally public. He was therefore heard in full council before the king, and honourably acquitted of all charges of treason. It was now that he wrote an Essay towards the Present and Future Peace of Europe, in which he puts forth the idea of a great court of arbitration, a principle which he had already carried out in Pennsylvania.

In 1694 (Feb. 23) his wife Gulielma died, leaving two sons, Springett and William, and a daughter Letitia, afterwards married to William Aubrey. Two other daughters, Mary and Hannah, died in infancy. He consoled himself by writing his Account of the Rise and Progress of the People called Quakers. The coldness and suspicion with which he had been regarded by his own denomination had now ceased, and he was once more regarded by the Quaker body as their leader. About the same time (Aug. 20) he was restored to the governorship of Pennsylvania, and he promised to supply money and men for the defence of the frontiers. In 1695 he went on another preaching mission in the west, and in March 1696 he formed a second marriage, with Hannah Callowhill, his son Springett dying five weeks later. In this year he wrote his work On Primitive Christianity, in which he argues that the faith and practice of the Friends were those of the early Church. In 1697 Penn removed to Bristol, and during the greater part of 1698 was preaching with great success against oppression in Ireland, whither he had gone to look after the property at Shannangarry.

In 1699 he was back in Pennsylvania, landing near Chester on the 30th of November, where the success of Colonel Robert Quary, judge of the admiralty in Pennsylvania—who was in the interests of those who wished to make the province an imperial colony—and the high-handed action of the deputy Markham in opposition to the Crown, were causing great difficulties. Penn carried with him particular instructions to put down piracy, which the objections of the Quakers to the use of force had rendered audacious and concerning which Quary had made strong representations to the home government, while Markham and the inhabitants apparently encouraged it. Penn and Quary, however came at once to a satisfactory understanding on this matter, and the illegal traffic was vigorously and successfully attacked. In 1696 the Philadelphian Yearly Meeting had passed a resolution declaring slavery contrary to the first principles of the gospel. Penn, however, did not venture upon emancipation; but he insisted on the instruction of negroes, permission for them to marry, repression of polygamy and adultery, and proposed regulations for their trial and punishment. The assembly, however, a very mixed body of all nations, now refused to accept any of these proposals except the last-named. His great success was with the Indians; by their treaty with him in 1700 they promised not to help any enemy of England, to traffic only with those approved by the governor, and to sell furs or skins to none but inhabitants of the province. At the same time he showed his capacity for legislation by the share he took with Lord Bellomont at New York in the consolidation of the laws in use in the various parts of America.

Affairs now again demanded his presence in England. The king had in 1701 written to urge upon the Pennsylvania government a union with other private colonies for defence, and had asked for money for fortifications. The difficulty felt by the Crown in this matter was a natural one. A bill was brought into the lords to convert private into Crown colonies. Penn's son appeared before the committee of the house and managed to delay the matter until his father's return. On the 15th of September Penn called the assembly together, in which the differences between the province and the territories again broke out. He succeeded, however, in calming them, appointed a council of ten to manage the province in his absence, and gave a borough charter to Philadelphia. In May 1700, experience having shown that alterations in the charter were advisable, the assembly had, almost unanimously, requested Penn to revise it. On the 28th of October 1701 he handed it back to them in the form in which it afterwards remained. An assembly was to be chosen yearly, of four persons from each county, with all the self-governing privileges of the English House of Commons. Two-thirds were to form a quorum. The nomination of sheriffs, coroners, and magistrates for each county was given to the governor, who was to select from names handed in by the freemen. Moreover, the council was no longer elected by the people, but nominated by the governor, who was thus practically left single in the executive. The assembly, however, who, by the first charter, had not the right to propound laws, but might only amend or reject them, now acquired that privilege. In other respects the original charter remained, and the inviolability of conscience was again emphatically asserted. Penn reached England in December 1701. He once more assumed the position of leader of the Dissenters and himself read the address of thanks for the promise from the Throne to maintain the Act of Toleration. He now took up his abode again at Kensington, and published while here his More Fruits of Solitude.

In 1703 he went to Knightsbridge, where he remained until 1706, when he removed to Brentford, his final residence being taken up in 1710 at Field Ruscombe, near Twyford. In 1704 he wrote his Life of Bulstrode Whitelocke. He had now much trouble from America. The territorialists were openly rejecting his authority, and doing their best to obstruct all business in the assembly; and matters were further embarrassed by the injudicious conduct of Governor John Evans in 1706. Moreover, pecuniary troubles came heavily upon him, while the conduct of his son William, who became the ringleader of all the dissolute characters in Philadelphia, was another and still more severe trial. This son was married, and had a son and daughter, but appears to have been left entirely out of account in the settlement of Penn's proprietary rights on his death.

Whatever were Penn's great qualities, he was deficient in judgment of character. This was especially shown in the choice of his steward Ford, from whom he had borrowed money, and who, by dexterous swindling, had managed, at the time of his death, to establish, and hand down to his widow and son, a claim for £14,000 against Penn. Penn, however, refused to pay, and spent nine months in the Fleet rather than give way. He was released at length by his friends, who paid £7500 in composition of all claims. Difficulties with his government of Pennsylvania continued to harass him. Fresh disputes took place with Lord Baltimore, the owner of Maryland, and Penn also felt deeply what seemed to him the ungrateful treatment which he met with at the hands of the assembly. He therefore in 1710 wrote, in earnest and affectionate language, an address to his "old friends," setting forth his wrongs. So great was the effect which this produced that the assembly which met in October of that year was entirely in his interests; revenues were properly paid; the disaffected were silenced and complaints were hushed; while an advance in moral sense was shown by the fact that a bill was passed prohibiting the importation of negroes. This, however, when submitted to the British parliament, was cancelled. Penn now, in February 1712, being in failing health, proposed to surrender his powers to the Crown. The commission of plantations recommended that Penn should receive £12,000 in four years from the time of surrender, Penn stipulating only that the queen should take the Quakers under her protection; and £1000 was given him in part payment. Before, however, the matter could go further he was seized with apoplectic fits, which shattered his understanding and memory. A second attack occurred in 1713. He died on the 30th of May 1718, leaving three sons by his second wife, John, Thomas and Richard, and was buried along with his first and second wives at Jourdans meeting-house, near Chalfont St Giles in Buckinghamshire. In 1790 the proprietary rights of Penn’s descendants were bought up for a pension of £4000 a year to the eldest male descendant by his second wife, and this pension was commuted in 1884 for the sum of £67,000.

Penn’s Life was written by Joseph Besse, and prefixed to the collected edition of Penn’s Works (1726); see also the bibliographical note to the article in Dict. Nat. Biog. W. Hepworth Dixon’s biography, refuting Macaulay’s charges, appeared in 1851. In 1907 Mrs Colquhoun Grant, one of Penn’s descendants, brought out a book, Quaker and Courtier: the Life and Work of William Penn. (O. A.) 

  1. Pepys, August 30, 1664.
  2. Webb, The Penns and Penningtons (1867), p. 174.
  3. For a very charming account of her, and the whole Pennington connexion, see Maria Webb's The Penns and Penningtons.
  4. See on this Stoughton's Penn, p. 113.
  5. The deed by which Fenwick and Byllinge conveyed West New Jersey to Penn, Lawry and Nicholas Lucas is dated the 10th of February 1674-1675.
  6. The line of partition was "from the east side of Little Egg Harbour, straight north, through the country, to the utmost branch of Delaware River."
  7. Penn's letter of the 26th of August 1676 says twelve, and Clarkson has followed this; but the Concessions, which were not assented to by the inhabitants until the 3rd of March 1676-1677, say ten.
  8. Dixon, p. 276.
  9. Burnet, iii. 66; Dalrymple, i. 282.