American Heritage: William Penn built colony to honor God

Published 11:02 pm Wednesday, April 25, 2012

“…I eyed the Lord in the obtaining of it and more was I drawn inward to look to Him, and to owe it to His hand and power than to any other way.  I have so obtained it, and desire that I may not be unworthy of His love, but do that which may answer his kind providence, and serve his truth and people; that an example  may be set up to the nations; there may be room there, though not here, for such a holy experiment.” (William Penn, paragraph from a letter written to a friend about the land he was given, Jan. 1, 1681)

Once William Penn was granted his land in the New World, he began to build a colony that he felt would honor the God whom he credited for giving it to him. He made land available to individuals at the rate of $10 per 100 acres. He also promised complete and full religious freedom. To make the colony more secure, he treated the Iroquois Indians with fairness and gained their respect.

Because of unfair treatment of  people who wanted religious freedom, people began to move to this new colony in great numbers.

In this new colony, murder was the only capital offense, which was quite different than in the old land of England where many offenses were punished by death. His was the first province to express opposition against slavery in what is known as the Germantown protest of 1688.

More can be learned about his concept of government as seen in these words that he had penned when setting up his “Frames of Government:” “Governments, like clocks, go from the motion men give them; and as governments are made and moved by men, so by them they are ruined too … Let men be good, and the government cannot be bad; if it will be ill, they will cure it.”

Mr. Penn had only made two voyages to his colony. The first trip was made in 1682 and the second was made in 1699. He did not spend as much time as he had desire to spend there.  He had only stayed there for four years in his two trips.

How did Mr. Penn feel about the Indians in the surrounding area and how did his dealings effect his colony? His colony was never attacked by the Indians, according to any historical records.

In a letter that was written by him on Aug. 18,  1681,  to the Indians in Pennsylvania, he wrote, “… I desire to enjoy it with your love and consent, that we may always live together as neighbors and friends…”

In the same letter he wrote, “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…”

We will conclude our look at William Penn in the next article.