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IBERTY, Equality and Fraternity have
been preached through all time but
it was left for William Penn, the Quaker, to come nearer establishing the ideal of this Trinity than any other being called Human before or since his day.
It may be argued that more was due to the Faith he held than to the Man. Yet this must be answered that it took some more than ordinary Man to absorb and fulfill the requirements of such a Faith. There have been many Quakers and but one Penn!
Born on the 15th of October, 1644, in the angry days of the Roundhead Revolt, his early years were spent in an intensely religious atmosphere that saturated his soul, but at the same time bred detestation of bigotry and persecution. If he seemed to be performing out of his class because of his family's eminence, it should be recalled that this was acquired, not inherited. His father, Admiral Sir William Penn, was the son of Giles Penn, a merchant navigator trading into the Mediterranean, and his wife Margaret Jasper, daughter of Hans Jasper, a sea trader of Rotterdam: From these forbears the youth received independence of thought and firmness of mind. He was therefore less of an anomaly than he appeared to be.
The rigid religious rule of Cromwell, under which he had spent his youthful years, had passed and in its stead befell a period of loose living and easy ways. Puritanism, though speaking and acting in the name of Liberty, possessed but little of that quality either for mind or body. In setting up for the great cause he fared as well, or better, with all his persecutions, than did his Quaker brethren in that New England which had been founded for opinion's sake.
Entering Oxford at fifteen the boy soon fell under the influence of Thomas Loe, a preacher of Quaker doctrine and became imbued with his teachings. This clashed at once with his surroundings and the College requirements. He refused to attend chapel or to wear the customary gown, deeming it a sort of surplice. A little group of students who had accepted Loe's principles joined him in this obduracy, going so far as to strip the gowns from the persons of willing wearers.
This led to his expulsion.
Samuel Pepys mentions him in his diary on October 31st, 1661, as having "but come from Oxford ” and meeting his father at Pepys' house. On the 25th of January, 1662, the Admiral discussed with Pepys a plan for sending his son to Cambridge or some private college. Pepys undertook to write Dr. Fairbrother and inquire into the merits of Hezekiah Burton at Magdalen, as an instructor for the difficult youth. It was impossible to fit him into any school under the dominion of the Church of England and in wrath his father forbade him the house. His mother interceded, with the result that he was sent to Europe for the grand tour, presumably with outward success, for on August 6, 1664, Mrs. Pepys informs Samuel that “Mr. Pen, Sir William's son, is come back from France and come to visit her. A most modish person, grown, she says, a fine gentleman.”
After dinner on the 30th of the same month “comes Mr. Pen to visit me, and staid an hour talking with me. I perceive something of learning he has got, but a great deal, if not too much of the vanity of the French garb and affected manner of speech and gait. I fear all real profit he hath made of his travel will signify little.”
The home coming soon stripped Penn of the “vanity of the French garb," and he became once more a problem. He tried the study of law, but could not interest himself in it. To keep him out of the way and repress his dangerous thoughts he was given the management in 1665, of an estate owned by the Admiral in Ireland, where he went and did as he pleased, falling in again with Thomas Loe and resuming his Quaker views. December 29th, 1667, Pepys records a call from Mrs. Turner “... and there, among other talk, she tells me that Mr. William Pen, who is lately come over from Ireland, is a Quaker again, or some very melancholy thing; that he cares for no company, nor comes into any; which is a pleasant thing, after his being abroad so long, and his father such a hypocritical rogue and at this time an Atheist."
This return he signalized by intense activity in pressing Quakerism upon the public, to the vexation of his father who was one of the notables of England, as Admiral both under Cromwell and the King. He