Penn's Holy Experiment:
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"William Penn: Man of Vision, Courage, Action" - N. C. Wyeth
King Charles signing the Charter of Pennsylvania, 1681, mural, Governor's Reception Room, State Capital, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. - Violet Oakley
Facsimile of The Original Charter of Charles II to William Penn, for Pennsylvania, 1681. - The Lakeside Press
WILLIAM Penn (1644-1718) was granted full proprietary rights to Pennsylvania, which then included Delaware, in 1681. This was one of the largest land grants given to an individual in the history of the world, and with it came enormous political power.
Penn's life reflects the changes his Quaker beliefs made in his attitudes towards society and government. He was an Admiral's son who became a pacifist, a lawyer who came to advocate binding arbitration, a man given autocratic power who promoted representative government, a landed gentleman who spent his life working on behalf of the poor and the prisoner. He developed a concept of reciprocal liberty, available to everyone of any gender, race or religion.
In creating his colony's government, Penn expanded upon the experiences of Friends in West New Jersey and Rhode Island in a comprehensive Frame of Government, Great Law, and Charter of Privileges which many historians believe formed the pattern for most of the state and the federal constitutions. Penn invented a new layer of government - the County Commission - as elected officials to keep order and peace, now the model system for most of America's local government. When he suffered a series of strokes, he gladly appointed his second wife, Hannah Callowhill Penn, acting proprietor in his stead. She served from 1712 until her death in 1726, actively promoting commerce and peaceful settlement of the colony's western lands.
William Penn - Francis Place
Hannah Callowhill Penn.
Friends Historical Library,
For you are now fixed at the mercy of no governor that comes to make his fortune great; you shall be governed by laws of your own making and live a free, and if you will, a sober and industrious life. I shall not usurp the right of any, or oppress his person. God has furnished me with a better resolution and has given me his grace to keep it.
- William Penn, 1681, letter to those already residing in Pennsylvania
"Portraiture of the City of Philadelphia", 1682. - Thomas Holme
Thomas Holme, 1624-1695: Surveyor General of Pennsylvania, Irma Corcoran
PENN has been called the first city planner in the New World. He designed Philadelphia and other towns with a grid pattern of streets, buildings and public squares to promote health and fire safety, in reaction to London's various disasters. By 1765 Philadelphia had become the largest city in the thirteen colonies.
William Penn Charter School, the oldest Quaker school in the world, was chartered by Penn in 1689.
IN 1693, Penn wrote a plan for the "Present and Future Peace of Europe," which included settling disputes between nations by arbitration instead of war. This plan is considered a prototype of the United Nations, which acknowledges this legacy by celebrating UN Day on Penn's birthday (October 24).
He suggested a similar union of the American colonies as early as 1696, writing proposals which Benjamin Franklin and others incorporated into the U.S. Constitution a hundred years later. Congress met in Philadelphia for more than 20 years, allowing the representatives to see the effective, daily working of Penn's laws in a multicultural, urban setting.
Plaque, Old St. Joseph's Shrine, Philadelphia
PENN'S guarantee of religious freedom and the rights of conscience attracted other dissenting groups such as the Moravians, Mennonites and Dunkards to Pennsylvania. For much of the 18th century, Penn's colony was the only place under British rule where Catholics could legally worship in public.
All men have a natural and infeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences; no man can of right be compelled to attend, erect, or support any place of worship, or to maintain any ministry against his consent; no human authority can, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience, and no preference shall ever be given by law to any religious establishment or modes of worship.
- William Penn, Declaration of Rights
PENN respected Native American personal, religious and property rights and made every effort to insure justice towards them. Peace existed between the Pennsylvania government and local tribes for 70 years - as long as the Friends controlled the colony's government.
Facsimile of Penn's handwritten letter to the Indians, 1681