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Essay/Term paper: William penn and the quakers

Essay, term paper, research paper:  History

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The Quakers, also known as the Society of Friends was religious group that

founded Pennsylvania. William Penn, one of the leaders, worked with the Quakers,

Indians and the other population to make an ideal world for him, his followers, and

the other people in his environment. With his efforts, and the help of others, the

Quakers left a huge impact on Pennsylvania and the entire nation.

The Quakers are a religion that originated in England in protest of the

Anglican Church's practices. The man in charge of this religious revolution was

George Fox.1 He believed that God didn't live in churches as much as he lived in

people's hearts.2 In that state of mind, he went out into the world in search of his

true religion. He argued with priests, slept in fields, and spent days and nights trying

to find followers. His first followers were mostly young people and women.

Besides freedom of religion, they wanted freedom of speech, worship and assembly,

refusal to go to war or take oath, and equality of the sexes and social classes.3

In England, between the years of 1650 and 1700, more than 15,000 Quakers

were fined and/or imprisoned; 366 were killed.4 The reason why the Quakers were

put through such torture was because their beliefs and culture was different from the

Anglican Church. At that time, any religion that was practiced in England other than

the Anglican Church would be persecuted. They believed that religion shouldn't be

practiced in a church as much as in your heart. The differences that were between the

Quakers and the Anglican Christians was that the Anglicans practiced strict discipline

in their prayers. They would go to prayer every morning, and ask for forgiveness of

their sins. They believed that the sacred authority was the Bible, the only way to

make your way to heaven was to go to sermon; they should glorify God in the world;

and pay no attention to the irrationality of God. They didn't believe men could

achieve anything for themselves; only God could do that. The Quakers, on the other

hand, believed that God should be in your spirit, not in sermon, and that your sacred

authority shouldn't be a book, it should be your inner light, the force that drives you

through you life. They believed you shouldn't be servants of God, but to be friends of

God. They believed violence was an unnecessary part of life, and things could be

worked out in other ways.5 The Quakers thought the authority of God was absolute,

but didn't need to be preached at a formal meeting as much as the Anglican Church

believed that should happen.

In 1661, William Penn was introduced to Quakerism. He had been studying at

Christ Church in Oxford. He started to notice that he didn't believe in some of the

things that he was studying in his religion. So, he started to go to Quaker meetings,

and believe in that religion instead.6 In England, he was expelled from Oxford in

1662 for refusing to conform to the Anglican Church, so he moved on to

Pennsylvania in the "New World." In this new colony that he established, he set up a

freedom of worship. It became a retreat for many religious groups coming from

Germany, Holland, Scandinavia, and Great Britain.7 He decided to go to the New

World, but first he made a trip with Quaker leader George Fox. When they got there,

the construction from the plans of Penn's was already in progress. 8

In 1682, Pennsylvania was founded by William Penn. He came upon his own

personal ship, Welcome, along with William Bradford, Nicholas Waln, and Thomas

Wynne and other less known men.9 Now they had many established colonies in

Pennsylvania and a strong belief system with which build a state.

One of the things William Penn is known well for is his attitude toward the

Native Americans. He created a friendly environment with his colonies and the

Native Americans. He believed that treating the Native Americans fairly, not harshly,

would prevent any tension between the two groups, which could cause wars

otherwise. He knew that they were different than himself and his followers, but they

should be given much respect for they were in the New World centuries before

England even knew about it. He included them in jury and everyday actions. He

considered them to be equal to him.10

The Natives I shall consider in their Person, Language, Manners,

Religion and Government, with my sence of their Original. For

their Persons, they are generally tall, streight, well-built, and of

singular Proportion; they tread strong and clever, and mostly

walk with Bears-fat clarified, and using no defence against the

Sun or Weather, their skins must needs be swarthy; Their Eye is

little and black, not unlike a straight-look't Jew. The thick Lip

and flat Nose, so frequently with the East-Indians and Blacks, are

not common to them; for I have seen as comely European-like

faces among them of both, as on your side of the Sea; and truly an

Italian Complexion hath not much more of the White, and the

Noses of several of them have as much of the Roman.11

He had great respect for the Indians, and understood their culture, so he, from

then on, would have an excellent relationship with the Indians. On of the most

famous things he had ever done was to have a treaty with the Indians under the Treaty

Elm at Shackamaxon in 1682. Although it has been said it actually happened, there

are no written records of the occurrence.12 He left the New World to go back to

England in August of 1684, knowing he left behind economic wealth, and increasing

political and social strengths.13

William Penn suffered from a crippling stroke in 1712, and managed to stay

alive in a vegetable state until 1718 when he died.14 He was seventy-four.15After

his death, the Delaware Indians sent his widow a cloak sewn from the skins of wild

animals "to protect her whilst passing through the thorny wilderness without her

guide."16 The rest of his family knew they could not let Penn's work go to waste, so

they stepped in and worked to their fullest to keep his ideas alive. His wife became

the Proprietor of Pennsylvania. Her goals had succeeded, and she ruled for eight

years after his death, until she died in 1726.17 Thomas Penn, his middle child, was

named the managing proprietor. He lived in the colony for forty years after his

mother's death. He ruled for almost as long as his father, but like the rest of his

family, he left the Quakers and joined the Church of England.

The French and Indian War broke up the friendly relationship of the Quakers

and the Indians. Although a majority of the Indians stayed on the Englishss side, the

others went to the French side. After the war, the Native Americans didn't agree with

the Quakers, causing tension. They no longer got along. This caused violence on the

part of the Indians. One tribe, on a visit to Philadelphia, killed cattle and robbed

orchards as they passed. Another tribe on their way back from Philadelphia

destroyed the property of the interpreter and Indian agent, Conrad Weiser. 18


The Quakers had an enormous effect on Pennsylvania. They created the

foundations of what is now Pennsylvania. William Penn will be remembered for his

kindness and his hard efforts to help the Quakers and to be a great leader, which he

was. That is why it is reasonable to call the colony that started so many great things


Works Cited

Baltzell, Digby E. Puritan Boston and Quaker Philadelphia. Boston: Beacon

Press, 1979.

Drake, Thomas E. "The Quakers." Dictionary of American History. Volume V.

pp. 469-471. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1976.

Elgin, Kathleen. The Quakers. New York: David McKay Company Inc., 1968.

Fisher, Sidney G. The Quaker Colonies. New York: United States Publishers

Association, 1919.

Janson, Donald. New York Times. "Burlington Awaits Quakers." September 1981. pp.


Morgan, Ted. Wilderness at Dawn. New York: Simon and Schmister, 1993.

Myers, Albert Cook. William Penn's Own Account of the Lenni Lenape or Delaware

Indians. New Jersey: The Middle Atlantic Press, 1970

Today in History: William Penn. November 23, 1999. pp. 1-3


Wright, Louis B. The Cultural Life of the American Colonies. London: Harper &

Row, 1957. 

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