William Penn

Nonconformity in religious observances was at that time somewhat dangerous. In Scotland, a religious persecution was fiercely raging; and although in other parts of the kingdom the spirit of bigotry on the part of the government did not manifest itself to the same extent; yet everywhere throughout Great Britain and Ireland dissenters were subject to grievous annoyances; and it was in the power of any meddlesome or narrow-minded person to point to numerous persecuting laws existing in the statute-book, and to demand that they should be put in force against them. Accordingly, William Penn soon paid the price of his conscientiousness. Making it a point, ever after his meeting with Loe, to attend the religious assemblies of the Quakers in preference to those of the Established Church, he was apprehended, along with eighteen others, on the 3d of September 1667, and carried before the mayor of Cork, charged with transgressing the act against tumultuous assemblies passed seven years before. The mayor, perceiving Penn to be a gentlemen, offered him his liberty on condition that he would give security for his good behavior in future; but Penn refused to comply with this condition, and was therefore committed to prison with the others. From prison he addressed a letter to the Earl of Orrery, then lord president of Munster, and a friend probably of Admiral Penn, requesting his inteference to procure the release of himself and his companions. The earl immediately ordered the release of Penn; the others, it would appear, however, were permitted to remain in prison.

Meanwhile some friend of the family, resident in Ireland, had conveyed to the admiral the unwelcome intelligence that his son had joined the Quakers. Without any delay the old man summoned his son home; and their first interview was a stormy one. The admiral at length, finding that his son had become a confirmed Quaker, and losing hope of moving him further, only stipulated that the youth should consent to depart so far from the customs of his sect, as to take off his hat in the presence of the king, the Duke of York, and himself! After a violent struggle between filial affection and religious convictions, William announced that he could not agree even to this limited amount of hat worship, and was again turned out of doors.

Thus driven out into the world, and disqualified by his previous education for earning his livelihood by any ordinary profession, Penn would have fared badly, had not his mother, without the admiral's knowledge, kept up a communication with him, and supplied him with money out of her own purse. Not long afterwards, being now in the twenty-fourth year of his age, he began to preach at meetings of those who, like himself, had embraced the tenets of the Quakers. About the same time, too, he commenced his career as a polemical pamphleteer - a character which he kept up till his dying day, having in the course of his life published an immense number of controversial pamphlets in defense of his sect and of religious liberty in general. The title of his first work, published in 1668, was as follows: Truth Exalted, in a short but sure Testimony against all those Religions, Faiths, and Worships, that have been formed and followed in the darkness of Apostacy; and for that Glorious Light which is now risen, and shines forth in the Life and Doctrine of the despised Quakers, as the alone good old way of Life and Salvation.' To account for the somewhat bombastic appearance of this title, as well as for much in the conduct of William Penn and other early Quakers, which might otherwise seem difficult to explain, it must be mentioned that the early Quakers differed considerably from the modern Society of Friends with respect to the ideas which they entertained regarding the importance of their own sect. George Fox, William Penn, and the early Quakers in general, regarded Quakerism as a glorious light' - a new dispensation, destined to abrogate existing forms of faith, and restore Christianity to its primitive purity. Hence their sanguine mode of speaking concerning their own mode of faith; hence their extraordinary exertions to make proselytes; and hence that activity, and even restlessness in society, which distinguished the early Quakers from their modern successors.

William Penn was a great accession to the sect whose views he had adopted. Both by the publication of pamphlets and by public debates, he endeavored to make an impression in favor of the Quakers. One of his publications, a pamphlet, called The Sandy Foundation Shaken,' gave so much offense to some of the established clergy, and especially to the bishop of London, that Penn was apprehended, and sent as a prisoner to the Tower. During his imprisonment here, which lasted seven months, he wrote his No Cross, no Crown,' one of the most popular of all his works; the leading idea of it being, that unless men are willing to lead a life of self-denial, and to undergo privations and hardships in the course of their Christian warfare; that is, unless they are willing to bear the cross, they can not become capable of wearing the crown - the crown namely, of eternal glory.' At length Penn was discharged by an order from the king, who was probably moved to this act of leniency by his brother, the Duke of York, Admiral Penn's friend.