Admiral William Penn & His Son – Founder of Pennsylvania, Defender of Religious Liberty, Friend of the Indians

Admiral William Penn

American Minute with Bill Federer

The English and the Dutch fought together to defeat the Invincible Spanish Armada in 1588.

Afterwards, while the rest of Europe was caught up in the bloody Thirty Years War, 1618-1648, the English and the Dutch increased their economic and military power to have colonial world empires.

The Dutch were simultaneously engaged in the Eighty Years’ War of independence from Spain, which was united with Portugal.

Dutch captured Brazil from the Portuguese in 1630, as well as Goa, India, and Jakarta, Indonesia.

They captured the Portuguese Gold Coast of Africa, and had a monopoly on trade with Japan.

The English had a Civil War, 1642-1651, and beheaded King Charles I.

Afterwards, England captured Northern Ireland, and increased their colonial possessions around the world, including:

– Virginia,
– New England,
– Maryland,
– Nova Scotia,
– Bermuda,
– Caribbean,
– India, and the
– Indonesian Spice Islands.

England was also referred to as Britain or the United Kingdom.

Holland was also referred to as the Dutch or the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands.

Tensions increased between the English and the Dutch.

In 1623, the Amboina Massacre occurred, with captives even being “water-boarded” to get confessions.

A Dutch colonial officer suspected the English were planning an attack, so he carried out a preemptive strike, massacring English soldiers and driving the British East India Company from the Spice Islands.

English pirates began capturing and looting over a hundred Dutch ships.

This ignited the First Anglo-Dutch War, 1652 to 1654, which had fall-out in colonies around the world.

In 1654, the Dutch lost Dutch Brazil, which caused Jewish inhabitants there to flee to Jamaica then to the Dutch Colony of New Amsterdam, becoming the first permanent Jews in North America.

The Dutch captured the American colony of New Sweden in 1655.

Admiral William Penn gained fame for fighting in the English Civil War and for helping the English defeat the Dutch in the First Anglo-Dutch War.

The leader of the English Commonwealth was Oliver Cromwell .

He sent Penn to the Caribbean, where he captured Jamaica from the Spanish in 1655.

After Oliver Cromwell died, Admiral Penn helped restore Charles II to his father’s throne in 1660, ending the English Commonwealth.

Charles II knighted him, giving the rank of Lord High Admiral, and the honorable title of “Sir.”

The Second Anglo-Dutch War took place 1665-1667.

Admiral Sir William Penn again helped defeat the Dutch navy.

This resulted in Britain capturing the Dutch colonies in America, including:

– New Amsterdam, which was renamed New York; and

– the land that had been New Sweden, which was renamed Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

William Penn’s son William, Founder of Pennsylvania

Sir William Penn had high hopes for his son, also named William Penn, who functioned as a messenger between himself and the King.

When young Penn was around 15 years old, while his father was in the Caribbean, a Quaker missionary named Thomas Loe visited the Penn household and shared about the light of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Penn later recalled that it was during this time that:

“… the Lord visited me and gave me divine Impressions of Himself.”

The younger Penn attended the prestigious Oxford University. Being from an aristocratic family, he was of the prestigious group called “Cavaliers.”

When the restored British government began enforcing religious uniformity, young William Penn became critical of the King’s church and began associating with the Quaker movement.

Numerous times the younger Penn was arrested, and his father, Admiral Sir William Penn, used his influence to get him freed from jail.

Young Penn urged his father: “I entreat thee not to purchase my liberty.”

His actions caused considerable embarrassment to his father, who had spent his career carefully avoiding political entanglements.

At one point, when young Penn publicly embraced Quaker beliefs, it so dishonored his father that the elder Penn beat him with a cane, drove him out of the house and threatened to disinherit him.

Young Penn fled England and lived in France for several years.

He met and traveled with George Fox (1624-1691), the founder of the Quakers.

Penn returned to England and wrote The Sandy Foundation Shaken, which was critical of the King’s Church.

In 1668, when the government tried to force Penn to deny his conscience and abandon his religious convictions, he refused, resulting him being imprisoned in the Tower of London for eight months.

Guards gave him pen and paper, thinking he wanted to write a recantation of his beliefs, but instead, Penn wrote his famous work “No Cross, No Crown,” stating:

“Christ’s cross is Christ’s way to Christ’s crown … The unmortified Christian and the heathen are of the same religion, and the deity they truly worship is the god of this world.

It is a false notion that they may be children of God while in a state of disobedience to his holy commandments, and disciples of Jesus though they revolt from his cross.”

Upon being freed, Penn argued on behalf of the thousands of persecuted Quakers.

In Bushel’s Case, 1670, Penn was arrested and tried.

When the jury came back with a not guilty verdict, the judge put the entire jury in jail.

Admiral Sir William Penn again helped his son get released from jail.

Admiral Penn realized after his death there would be no one to intercede for his son, so he spent his final days securing a promise from King Charles II to be favorable to his son.

Among his last correspondence, Admiral Penn wrote to his son: “Let nothing in this world tempt you to wrong your conscience.”

In 1670, the same year Admiral Sir William Penn died, Charles II made the secret Treaty of Dover with his cousin, King Louis XIV of France, promising to convert to Catholicism at some unspecified date in the future if France would give 60 warships and 4000 troops to help in England in the Third Anglo-Dutch War, which took place 1672-1674.

After his father’s death, Penn wanted to use his inheritance to buy West Jersey in America — land that had previously been part of New Sweden, before being taken over by the Dutch, then the English.

His hope was to let persecuted Quakers emigrate there.

On MARCH 10, 1681, Penn met with King Charles II to get permission for the land purchase, but to his surprise, the King gave him a land grant of 45,000 square miles, making Penn the largest non-royalty landowner in the world.

Charles II named it “Pennsylvania” in honor of the father, Admiral Sir William Penn.

Charles II died in 1685, being succeeded by his brother, the Duke of York, for whom New York was named, who later was crowned King James II.

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Penn wanted to make his colony of Pennsylvania a “holy experiment” where Christians of different denominations, who were persecuted in Europe for conscience sake, could flee for refuge and live together.

This was an unprecedented endeavor in the world, taking place at a time in history when most of Europe was ruled by kings, China was ruled by emperors of the Qing dynasty, and Turkish Sultan Mahmet IV’s 200,000 Ottoman Muslim soldiers were laying siege to Vienna, Austria.

Emphasizing his Christian tolerance, Penn named the colony’s main city “Philadelphia,” which is Greek for “Brotherly Love.”

Not only were Quakers allowed in, but Presbyterians, Lutherans, Baptists, Moravians, Mennonites, and Amish.

Pennsylvania was one of the few colonies to allow in Catholics and Jews.

William Penn wrote in England’s Present Interest Considered, 1675:

“Force makes hypocrites, ’tis persuasion only that makes converts.”

On January 1, 1681, Penn wrote to a friend concerning the land given to him, declaring he would:

“Make and establish such laws as shall best preserve true Christian and civil liberty, in all opposition to all unchristian … practices.”

Pennsylvania’s first legislative act was The Great Law of Pennsylvania, December 7, 1682:

“No person … who shall confess and acknowledge one Almighty God to be the Creator, Upholder and Ruler of the World … shall in any case be molested or prejudiced for his, or her Conscientious persuasion or practice but shall freely and fully enjoy his or her Christian Liberty without any interruption.”

History records that William Penn insisted on treating the Delaware Indians with honesty, paying them a fair sum for their land, resulting in his city of Philadelphia being spared the Indian attacks and scalpings that other colonies experienced.

Before arriving, William Penn wrote to the Delaware Indian chiefs, August 18, 1681:

“My Friends,
There is one great God and Power that hath made the world and all things therein, to whom you and I and all people owe their being and well-being, and to whom you and I must one day give an account, for all that we doe in the world;

This great God hath written His law in our hearts by which we are taught and commanded to love and help and doe good to one another and not to doe harm and mischief one unto another …

Now this great God hath pleased to make me concerned in my parts of the world, and the king of the country where I live, hath given unto me a great province therein,

but I desire to enjoy it with your love and consent, that we may always live together as neighbors and friends, else what would the great God say to us, who hath made us not to devour and destroy one another, but to live soberly and kindly together in the world …

I have great love and regard towards you, and I desire to gain your love and friendship by a kind, just and peaceable life, and the people I send are of the same mind, and shall in all things behave themselves accordingly …

I shall shortly come to you myself at which time we may more freely and largely confer and discourse of these matters.

Receive those presents and tokens which I have sent to you as a testimony to my goodwill to you and my resolution to live justly, peaceably and friendly with you.

I am your loving friend, William Penn.”

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Self-Educated American Contributing Editor, William J. Federer, is the bestselling author of “Backfired: A Nation Born for Religious Tolerance no Longer Tolerates Religion,” and numerous other books. A frequent radio and television guest, his daily American Minute is broadcast nationally via radio, television, and Internet. Check out all of Bill’s books here.