Penn, William by Faye Huntington
The other day I was looking at a map of
Philadelphia, and at once my thoughts
went back to my schooldays and the primary
geography in which occurred the question,
"What can you say of Philadelphia?" And
the answer, "It is regularly laid out, the streets
crossing each other at right angles like the lines
on a checker-board." And again, "What is
Philadelphia sometimes called?" Answer,
"The City of Brotherly Love."
And now I wish I could set before you the
calm, sweet, yet strong face of the man who
founded and named this city, who truly desired
it to be a city of love.
William Penn was a native of London. He
was born nearly a quarter of a century after the
Pilgrims landed upon Plymouth Rock; he belonged
to a good family, his father being Admiral
Sir William Penn of the British Navy.
It appears that the son was of a religious turn of
mind, and when he was a boy of twelve years he
believed himself to have been specially called to
a life of holiness. He was very carefully educated,
but he offended his father by joining the
Quakers; indeed, it seems that several times in
the course of his life his father became very much
displeased with him, but a reconciliation always
followed, and at last the Admiral left all his
estate to the son who had been such a trial to
him. While a student at the University, Penn
and his Quaker friends rebelled against the
authority of the college and was expelled. The
occasion of the rebellion was in the matter of
wearing surplices and of uncovering the head in
the presence of superiors. You know that the
Quakers always keep their hats on, thinking it
wrong to show to man the honor which they
consider belongs only to God.
I cannot follow with you all the vicissitudes of
Penn's life; after leaving the University he
travelled upon the Continent. Afterwards he
studied law in London; he became a soldier.
This strikes us as being somewhat curious when
we remember that the sect to which he belonged
are opposed to war, and preach the doctrine of
love and peace. However, he was not long in
service, and meeting a noted Quaker preacher
he became firmly fixed in his devotion to the
society of Friends, and was ever after a strong
advocate of its doctrines; nothing could turn
him from the path he had chosen. He was several
times imprisoned on account of his religious
opinions and suffered persecution and abuse.
Through all he adhered to his views, and stood
by his Quaker friends in the dark days of persecution.
He had inherited from his father a
claim against the British Government of several
thousand pounds, and in settlement of this claim
he received a large tract of land in the then New
World. With the title to the land he secured
the privilege of founding a colony upon principles
in accordance with his religious views.
And in 1682 he came to America and laid the
foundations not only of the City of Brotherly
Love, but of the State of Pennsylvania. His object
was to provide a place of refuge for the oppressed
of his own sect, but all denominations
were welcomed, and many Swedes as well as
English people came. While other colonies
suffered from the attacks of the Indians, for
more than seventy years, so long as the colony
was under the control of the Quakers, no Indian
ever raised his hatchet against a Pennsylvania
Under a great elm-tree, long known as Penn's
elm, he met the Indians in council, soon after
his arrival in the territory which had been
ceded to him.
He said to them:
"My friends, we have met on the broad pathway
of good faith. We are all one flesh and
blood. Being brethren, no advantage shall be
taken on either side. Between us there shall be
nothing but openness and love."
And they replied, "While the rivers run
and the sun shines, we will live in peace with
the children of William Penn."
It has been said that this is the only treaty
never sworn to and never broken.
William Penn lived to see his enterprise
achieve a grand success. Philadelphia had
grown to be a city of no small dimensions and
no little importance. The colony had grown to
be a strong, self-supporting State, capable of
"I will found a free colony for all mankind,"
said William Penn. Were these the words of
a great man?
Unswerving integrity, undaunted courage, adherence
to duty, and devotion to the service of
God—are these the characteristics of a great
Then William Penn may well be placed in
our Alphabet of Great Men.