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It has been observed that one of the greatest advantages in Biography is the display of the formation and progress of character. This exhibition is, perhaps, still more useful in professional, than in general subjects. The young divine, physician, counsellor, lawyer, met. chant, and soldier, though he may receive entertainment, information, and instruction from the history of men, in all conditions, yet will derive lessons more beneficial to him from viewing him in such a state and circumstances as he is himself likely to be.
OUTLINES OF THE LIFE AND CHARACTER
OF WILLIAM PENN.
It is a singular fact, though not perhaps unaccountable, that the Founder of Pennsylvania is nowhere less known, at this day, than in the country which he founded ; nowhere less celebrated than among the people who repose, in security, under the laws which he framed. The Revolution, by which the British Colonies burst from the leadingstrings of the mother country, has obliterated the fainter traces of their discovery and settlement; and the well-earned fame of the sages who led our ancestors into the wilderness in pursuit of Religious liberty, is eclipsed by the more brilliant exploits of the heroes who achieved for us Political independence.
“ A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and among them of his own house”: It was the Abbe Raynal and the French literati that taught Europeans to venerate the name of Penn ; and it is only from the feeble and faultering voice of Tradition, that VOL. 1.
the youth of Pennsylvania hear anything more of their Founder, than that, after the lapse of a century, the rest of the world have agreed to rank the American Lawgiver with the Solons and the Numas of Greece and Rome.
Be it our present task to remove the imputation of domestic neglect from that “fair and venerable name,” which, more than any other peculiarity, distinguishes, in foreign countries, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania from her sister States.
William Penn, only son of William Penn, of the Penns of Penn's Lodge, in the county of Wilts, Vice-Admiral of England in the time of Cromwell, and afterward knighted by King Charles II, for his successful services against the Dutch, was born at London, in the year 1644.
He appears to have been seriously inclined, from his youth, having imbibed religious impressions as early as the twelfth year of his age ; which were soon afterward confirmed by the ministry of Thomas Loe, an eminent preacher among the people called Quakers, then newly associated in religious fellowship.
In his fifteenth year, he was notwithstanding, entered as a gentleman commoner of Christ-Church, Oxford, where, meeting with some other students who were devoutly inclined, they ventured to hold private meetings among themselves, wherein they both preached and prayed. This gave great offence to the heads of the College ; by whom these zealous tyros were at first only fined for nonconformity: but, persisting in their religious exercises, they were finally expelled the University.
On bis return home, his father endeavoured, in vain, to divert him from his religious pursuits, as being likely to stand in the way of his promotion in the world ; and at length, finding him inflexible in what he now conceived to be his religious duty, beat him severely, and turned him out of doors. Relenting, however, at the intercession of his mother, and hoping to gain his point by other means, he sent his son to Paris, in company with some persons of quality ; whence he returned, so well skilled in the French language, and other polite accomplishments, that he was again joyfully received at home.
After his return from France, he was admitted of Lincoln's Inn, with a view of studying the law, and continued there till his twentysecond year, when his father committed to him the management of a considerable estate in Ireland; a circumstance which unexpectedly proved the occasion of his finally adhering to the despised cause of the Quakers, and devoting himself to a religious life.
At Cork, he met again with Thomas Loe, the person whose preaching had affected him so early in life. At a meeting in that city Loe began his declaration with these penetrating words, “There is a faith that overcomes the world, and there is a faith that is overcome by the
world”; which so reached Penn, that from that time he constantly attended the meetings of the Quakers, though a time of hot persecution. He was soon afterward, with many others, taken at a meeting in Cork, and carried before the mayor, by whom they were committed to prison ; but young Penn was soon released, on application to the Barl of Orrery, then Lord President of Munster.
His father being informed of his conduct, remanded him home, and finding him unalterably determined to abide by his own convictions of duty, in respect to plainness of speech and deportment, he would have compounded with him if he would only consent to remain uncovered before the King, the Duke (afterward James II), and himself. Being disappointed in this, he could no longer endure the sight of his son, and a second time, drove him from his family. Yet after a while, becoming convinced of his integrity, he permitted him to return; and though he never openly countenanced him, he would use his interest to get. him released, when imprisoned for his attendance at religious meetings.
It was in the year 1668, the twenty-fourth of his age, that he first appeared as a minister, and an author; and it was on account of his second essay, entitled, The Sandy Foundation shaken,” that he was imprisoned in the Tower, where he remained seven months; during which time he wrote his most celebrated work, “No Cross no Crown;". and finally obtained his release from confinement by an exculpatory vindication, under the title of “Innocency with her open face.”
In 1670, the meetings of Dissenters were forbidden, under severe penalties. The Quakers, however, believing it their religious duty, continued to meet as usual; and when forcibly kept out of their meeting-houses, they assembled as near to them as they could in the street.
At one of these meetings, William Penn preached to the people, thus assembled for divine worship: for which pious action he was committed to Newgate, and at the next session, at the Old Bailey, was indicted for “being present at and preaching to an unlawful, seditious, and riotous assembly." He pleaded his own cause, though menaced: by the Recorder, and was finally acquitted by the Jury: but he was nevertheless detained in Newgate, and the Jury fined. Such was Enga lish liberty in those days.
Sir William died this year, fully reconciled to his son, to whom he left a plentiful estate, taking leave of him in these memorable words: "Son William, let nothing in this world tempt you to wrong your conscience. So will you keep peaoe at home, which will be a feast to you in a day of trouble.”
Shortly after this event, our author travelled, in the exercise of his ministry, into Holland and Germany.