Admiral Sir William Penn of Britain fought the Dutch navy in the First Anglo-Dutch War, 1652-54. He captured Jamaica from the Spanish in 1655. He helped restore Charles II to the British throne.
Admiral Penn helped defeat the Dutch navy in the Second Anglo-Dutch War, 1665-67, resulting in Britain capturing New Amsterdam and renaming it New York.
When the restored British government began enforcing religious conformity at Oxford, Admiral Penn’s son, William Penn, was expelled for praying in his dorm room rather than attending mandatory daily Anglican chapel.
Admiral Penn had high hopes for his son, William Penn, who functioned as an emissary between himself and the King. When young Penn embraced Quaker beliefs, it so dishonored the admiral that he beat him with a cane, drove him out of the house, and had him live in France for several years.
William Penn associated with George Fox, the founder of the Quakers. In 1668, when the government tried to force William Penn to abandon his conscience and religious convictions, he refused and was imprisoned in the Tower of London for eight months. Upon being freed, Penn argued on behalf of the thousands of persecuted and jailed Quakers.
In Bushel’s Case, 1670, Penn was arrested and tried. When the jury came back with a not guilty verdict, the judge put the entire jury in jail. Penn’s dying father paid the fine to get him out of jail, telling him: “Let nothing in this world tempt you to wrong your conscience.”
After Admiral Penn’s death, King Charles II paid a debt owed to him by giving a land grant to his 26-year-old son, William Penn, on March 10, 1681. William Penn now controlled 45,000 square miles, making him the largest non-royalty landowner in the world.
William Penn endeavored to make his colony of Pennsylvania a “holy experiment” for persecuted Europeans to live together. Not only were Quakers, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Baptists, Moravians, Mennonites, Amish and others allowed in the colony, but Pennsylvania was one of the few colonies to allow in Catholics and Jews. Emphasizing his plan of Christian tolerance, William Penn named the main city “Philadelphia,” which is Greek for “Brotherly Love.”
On Jan. 1, 1681, William Penn wrote to a friend concerning the land given to him, declaring he would: “Make and establish such laws as shall best preserve true Christian and civil liberty, in all opposition to all unchristian … practices.”
History records that William Penn insisted on treating the Delaware Indians with honesty, paying them a fair sum for their land, resulting in his city of Philadelphia being spared the Indian attacks and scalpings that other colonies experienced.
Before arriving, William Penn wrote to the Delaware Indian chiefs, Aug. 18, 1681: “My Friends, There is one great God and Power that hath made the world and all things therein, to whom you and I and all people owe their being and well-being, and to whom you and I must one day give an account, for all that we doe in the world; This great God hath written His law in our hearts by which we are taught and commanded to love and help and doe good to one another and not to doe harm and mischief one unto another. … Now this great God hath pleased to make me concerned in my parts of the world, and the king of the country where I live, hath given unto me a great province therein, but I desire to enjoy it with your love and consent, that we may always live together as neighbors and friends, else what would the great God say to us, who hath made us not to devour and destroy one another, but to live soberly and kindly together in the world. …
“I have great love and regard towards you, and I desire to gain your love and friendship by a kind, just and peaceable life, and the people I send are of the same mind, and shall in all things behave themselves accordingly. … I shall shortly come to you myself at which time we may more freely and largely confer and discourse of these matters. Receive those presents and tokens which I have sent to you as a testimony to my goodwill to you and my resolution to live justly, peaceably and friendly with you. I am your loving friend, William Penn.”
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