Builders of Our Country: Book I  by Gertrude van Duyn Southworth

William Penn

The Quakers

WHILE everyone in England was quarreling about the right way to worship God, a weaver's son, tending his master's sheep and reading his Bible, found what he thought was the true way. Through his study of the Bible, and through prayer, he came to believe that God had sent His Son into the world that men might learn to live at peace and to love one another.

This man was George Fox, the founder of the Society of Friends, or Quakers, as they came to be called. He went about preaching; and everywhere many people believed in what he said and joined the Society, although they were again and again thrown into prison for believing and preaching this strange new religion of peace and brotherhood.

The Quakers had many beliefs and customs that seemed strange and wrong to the people of other churches. They believed that all men were equal in the sight of God; and so they would not take off their hats to show honor to any man, not even the King.

They addressed everyone as "thee" and "thou," because the pronoun "you" was then used to express respect to a superior. They said that if "thee" and "thou" were good enough for God, they were surely good enough for men.

They thought that no man should take pay for preaching the Gospel, and so they refused to pay taxes to support the English Church.

They did not believe in witchcraft, though at that time men and women were being burned as witches in both England and America.

They believed that women should have equal rights with men.

They believed that the teachings of the Bible should be obeyed; and as the Good Book says "Swear not at all," they would not even take the oath of allegiance to the King.

And since the Bible says, "Blessed are the peacemakers," they would not quarrel with anyone, or seek revenge, or bear arms, even in defense of their own country.

Yet they were a brave people. They would go anywhere and speak what they believed to be true and right, though they knew that they would be cast into prison for it.

I must tell you how they came to be called Quakers. Once their founder, George Fox, was taken before a judge and accused of breaking the law, because he had been preaching in the streets. He bade the judge to "tremble before the Lord." Since "quake" and "tremble" have the same meaning, the Society of Friends came to be called Quakers from this incident. The Quakers approved of dressing very plainly. "If people think too much of their clothes," they said, "they will become proud and envious." They loved to remember that Abraham and Isaac were herdsmen, that John the Baptist wore a rough garment of camel's hair, and, greatest of all, that the Savior was born in a manger and was brought up in a carpenter's home and chose poor workingmen for His followers and friends.

In the year 1660 there was at the University of Oxford a strong, handsome young man by the name of William Penn. One day a Quaker preacher came to Oxford. Penn and many of the other students heard him and were convinced that he spoke the truth. From this time on, Penn refused to wear the student's gown, because, he said, it showed pride. He and some of the other students began to hold Quaker meetings. For this they were expelled from the University.

William Penn's father was an admiral in the British navy and had no use for the peaceful ways of the Quakers. When his son came home Admiral Penn was very angry. He tried to make William say that he would no longer be a Quaker. But William would not yield. His father even whipped him, but it did no good. Finally he was turned out of doors.

William's mother was a very wise and lovely woman and soon persuaded her husband to let their son come home again. Admiral Penn now decided to send the young man traveling, in order that he might forget the Quakers. So he sent him through Europe, and for several years the young man traveled, learning foreign languages and seeing the greatest cities of the world.

But he did not forget the Quakers. When he was twenty-two years of age he was in Ireland looking after some business for his father. Here he heard the same preacher whom he had heard at Oxford. In the same year William Penn was put in jail for being one of a crowd of people who listened to Quaker preaching. When he was set free his father sent for him to come home immediately. He told him that he must give up the ways of the Quakers. William said that he could not do this. Finally Admiral Penn said that if William would take off his hat before King Charles II, the Duke of York, and himself, he should be forgiven everything else. But William said that he could not do even this. So he was once more turned out of his father's house.

Fortunately Mrs. Penn helped her son with money, so that he did not suffer. The King and the Duke of York, too, were always friendly to him for his father's sake.

Once when William went to see King Charles, the King took off his hat.

"Friend Charles," said Penn, "why dost thou remove thy hat?"

"Because," said the King, "where I am, it is the custom for only one to remain covered."

William Penn was put in prison many times for writing about and preaching the Quaker religion.

Penn's father soon saw that his son was determined to remain a Quaker, and a very true one. So once more he permitted him to come home and never again interfered with his religious belief.

When the old admiral was dying, he sent to his friend, the Duke of York, and asked that he and his brother, King Charles II, would be friends to William. Both promised and kept their word.

The Settlement of Pennsylvania

THE Quakers, persecuted everywhere, looked longingly toward America as a place where they might live in peace and do God's will as they saw it. A few had gone to Massachusetts, where they had been treated very badly by the Puritans. Some had gone to Rhode Island, and had received a hearty welcome. Several settlements had been made in East Jersey, while in West Jersey a colony of about four hundred Quakers had been planted.

Now King Charles owed William Penn's father a debt of sixteen thousand pounds. As the King knew how to make debts a great deal better than how to pay them, the debt was still unpaid when Admiral Penn died.

In 1680 William Penn went to the King and asked him for a tract of land in America. The idea pleased Charles very much. It was far easier to give away a piece of woodland which he had never seen and knew nothing about than it would have been to raise the money to pay the debt. So he gave Penn a charter, granting him a tract of land north of Maryland and bounded on the east by the Delaware River. Penn was given the right to make and execute laws, to appoint judges, receive settlers, establish a military force, make cities, and carry on foreign trade.

Penn wanted to call his province New Wales, because Wales is a very mountainous country, and Penn had heard that there were mountains beyond the Delaware River. But King Charles did not like this name, so Penn called it "Sylvania," which is a Latin name meaning "woodland." The King added "Penn" to this name, making it "Pennsylvania." William did not approve of this, for he thought that it looked like vanity; but Charles laughed and said, "We are not naming the province to honor you, but to honor the Admiral, your noble father." So Penn had to be content.

Before long Penn had sent to his province twenty ships with about three thousand people, most of them Quakers. In 1682 he came himself, leaving his wife and children in England. Late in October he landed at Newcastle, on Delaware Bay, where the Dutch and Swedish settlers welcomed him with shouts of joy.

The same day, Penn sailed on up the river until he came to Chester, where some of his settlers had already built their homes. Here he called an assembly of the people to make the laws for their colony. Everyone took part in the assembly. The people of Delaware wanted to join Penn's government and were received at once. The assembly made the following laws:

1. Everyone should be allowed to worship God according to his own conscience.

2. The first day of the week was to be kept as a day of rest.

3. All the members of the family were to be considered equal in the sight of the law.

4. No oath was to be required in any court of justice.

5. Everyone who paid his taxes was to have the right of voting.

6. Every Christian should have the right to hold office.

7. No tax could be collected except by law.

8. There were to be no bullfights, or cockfights, or stage-plays.

9. Murder was to be the only crime punishable by death.

10. Every prison was to be made a workhouse, where the prisoners should be taught how to do useful things and live a better life.

After these laws were made Penn set out to select a site for the city which he had planned before sailing from England. He chose a neck of land between the Schuylkill and Delaware rivers. Here he laid out Philadelphia, the city of freedom. "Philadelphia" is a Greek word, which means "brotherly love"; and Penn meant that brotherly love should rule his city.

The city was laid out like a checkerboard, with broad streets and large lots. Each house was to be built in the center of a lot, so that there might be large and beautiful lawns and also as little danger from fire as possible.

The streets were named after different kinds of trees.

Penn called a meeting of the Indians. They came armed and painted, but Penn and his friends were unarmed and plainly dressed, with the exception that Penn wore a sky-blue sash. He told the Indians that the Quakers had come to be their friends, and that they never carried arms.

Then he read a treaty of peace for the Indians and the Quakers, which the Indians gladly agreed to. The white men were to buy all land of the Indians, not to take it by force. If there was a dispute between white men and Indians, it was to be settled by a council of six white men and six Indians.

After the treaty was agreed to, Penn gave the Indians some presents and then walked with them, sat on the ground with them, and ate with them of roasted acorns and hominy. The Indians were very much pleased with this and began to hop and jump to show their delight. Thereupon Penn sprang to his feet and outdanced them all.

The Indians kept the treaty for many years, living in peace and friendship with the Quakers.

The "City of Brotherly Love" grew rapidly. By the end of 1683 there were three hundred and fifty-seven houses, many built of frame, many of bright-red brick, and still others of logs. By 1685 Philadelphia was a thriving town of twenty-five hundred people.

But William Penn did not have much opportunity to enjoy his colony. In 1684 he received word that the Quakers in England were again being cruelly persecuted. So he sailed for England, hoping soon to be able to return to Pennsylvania. However, it was fifteen years before Penn once more sailed for America, years full of deepest sorrow for him. His enemies in England had made a great deal of trouble for him; and, saddest of all, death had robbed him of his noble wife and several of his children. When he did return to Pennsylvania in 1699, he found Philadelphia a city of seven hundred houses and four thousand people.

Penn stayed in America for two years, part of the time living in Philadelphia, and part of the time in a beautiful country home. Sometimes he would ride to and from the city on horseback, and sometimes he would sail on the Delaware in a little six-oared boat. One day the Governor of New Jersey met him in his boat, struggling against wind and tide.

"I am surprised," said the Governor, "that you venture out against such a wind and tide."

"I have been struggling against wind and tide all my life," replied Penn.

In 1701 his business called him back to England, and he never had an opportunity to return to America.

But the colony planted in brotherly love lived and prospered. To-day Pennsylvania is one of the greatest of the States of the Union, and Philadelphia is one of the most beautiful cities.