A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature/Penn, William
Penn, William (1644-1718).—Quaker apologist, s. of Sir William P., a celebrated Admiral, was b. in London, and ed. at Oxf., where he became a Quaker, and was in consequence expelled from the Univ. His change of views and his practice of the extremest social peculiarities imposed by his principles led to a quarrel with his f., who is said to have turned him out of doors. Thereafter he began to write, and one of his books, The Sandy Foundation Shaken (c. 1668), in which he attacked the doctrines of the Trinity, the atonement, and justification by faith, led to his being, in 1668, imprisoned in the Tower, where he wrote his most popular work, No Cross, No Crown (1668), and a defence of his own conduct, Innocency with her Open Face (1668), which resulted in his liberation. Shortly after this, in 1670, on the death of his f., who had been reconciled to him, P. succeeded to a fortune, including a claim against the Government amounting to £15,000, which was ultimately in 1681 settled by a grant of the territory now forming the state of Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, however, he had again suffered imprisonment for preaching, and employed his enforced leisure in writing four treatises, of which one, The Great Cause of Liberty of Conscience (c. 1671), is an able defence of religious toleration. In 1682, having obtained the grant above referred to, he set sail for America, with the view of founding a community based upon the principles of toleration. Having established a Constitution and set matters in working order there, P. returned to England in 1684 and busied himself in efforts for the relief of those Quakers who had remained at home. The peculiar position of affairs when James II. was endeavouring to use the Dissenters as a means of gaining concessions to the Roman Catholics favoured his views, and he was to some extent successful in his efforts. His connection with the Court at that time has, however, led to his conduct being severely animadverted upon by Macaulay and others. In 1690 and for some time thereafter he was charged with conspiring against the Revolution Government, but after full investigation was completely acquitted. His later years were embittered by troubles in Pennsylvania, and by the dishonesty and ingratitude of an agent by whose defalcations he was nearly ruined, as a consequence of which he was imprisoned for debt. He d. soon after his release in 1718.