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William Penn--Proverbial Wisdom

William Penn founded Pennsylvania but had his origins in England where he was the son of an admiral. Penn is a village in Buckingham shire, England where the Penn's family name came from.

William was kicked out of Oxford University for religious nonconformity and became a Quaker in 1667. Involvement in political campaigns was his passion and he wrote over forty books and pamphlets. He eventually published a book "Sandy Foundation Shaken" that prompted the authorities to throw him in prison at the Tower of London. He advocated religious tolerance and free elections.

It took Admiral Penn's influence to secure William's release. Continual persecution followed until he inherited the family wealth. After a spell as a trustee managing the West Jersey colony, where he developed its charter with the notable Concessions and Agreements, an opportunity presented itself. A debt owed by King Charles II was exchanged in 1681 for a 45,000 ace land grant in North America. Here William could found a colony and put his many ideas into practice for his fellow believers. He introduced a Frame of Government in person in 1682. The king suggested "Pennsylvania" as a suitable name in honor of the deceased admiral.

Penn supervised the laying out of Philadelphia and founded a public grammar school -- The William Penn Charter School. He also had a plan for the union of the American states presented to the London Board of Trade.

This worthy gentleman is noted for his attempts at friendly reconciliation with the local Delaware Indians and planning. He wrote a charter for the colonists ensuring religious freedom. His friendship with James the II secured advantages for the Quakers but his later years were marred with ill-health.

In "Advice to His Children" (1699) William Penn tells them: "The Wisdom of Nations lies in their Proverbs, which are brief and pithy. Collect and learn them... They are notable measures and directions for human life. You have Much in Little; they save time and speaking, and on occasion may be the fullest and safest answers."

A stroke led to William Penn's death in 1718 but his widow and sons continued to manage the affairs of the colony into the 1770's. His collected works, with a journal of his life, was published in 1726.


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