By Rebekah H, age 12

“Can these services get any more boring?” thought ten-year-old Jacob. “We’ve been here for two hours and no one has said a thing. I don’t believe the Holy Spirit even visits here. Maybe he thinks that this is a good place to take a nap. I bet that the Quaker leaders came up with these meetings, so their sons and daughters can have a dent in their heads. What’s that noise? Oh it’s only a bug. Wouldn’t it be funny if it went to the women’s side and up boring old Bessie’s dress? That would be funny. Oh boy, I need to go to use the privy and Elder John has just gotten up; he’s the longest speaker! What shall I do? His speech could go on for ages. Asking father is out of the question, and it’s disrespectful to leave while someone’s talking because I’ll get a rap on the head. I hope that I will make it, but that’s doubtful. Ouch! Oh no, the watchman saw me squirming and gave me a rap on the head, and I exclaimed out loud! Now Father’s taking me out, probably to scold me. Well, at least I don’t have to listen to Elder John drone on and on during that boring meeting, but now my backside will hurt for the rest of the day.”

Jacob was right. Quaker meetings were silent and boring because the Quakers meditated and prayed while waiting for the Holy Spirit to speak to them. If a person felt led to speak, then they would, but mostly there was silence. No talking, smiling, or laughing was allowed. The meeting would go for hours while the Quakers sat segregated on hard wooden benches. It was to this religion that William Penn converted.

William Penn is best known as the founder of Philadelphia, but there is more to his story than that.

William Penn was born to Sir William Penn, a naval sea captain, and Margret Jasper during the time of the English Civil War. At age sixteen he was enrolled in Oxford University, but he disagreed with the school forcing students to attend church. Penn was expelled a year later. Penn’s parents didn’t agree with Penn’s religious views, so they sent him to first to Paris, then to Ireland where the family estate was.

Much to the disappointment of his parents, Penn’s religious views didn’t cool off. In fact, they got stronger. Penn met Thomas Lowe, a Quaker preacher who taught Penn about Quakerism. William Penn converted to Quakerism at age twenty-three, and since Quakerism was  hated by the English government, the going wasn’t easy. Penn was thrown in jail numerous times for preaching in public, but he wasn’t put down easily. Instead of his jail time going to waste, Penn used it to write a book, and as soon as he got out of jail, Penn immediately started preaching again which meant going back to jail.

William Penn received Pennsylvania from King Charles II—the largest piece of property ever given to one man—as a way for the king to pay off a debt. Penn personally wanted to have freedom of religion in Pennsylvania, so in addition to German and Dutch emigrants, many Quakers also came to Pennsylvania, much to the satisfaction of King Charles II who hated the Quakers and wanted them out of his country.

As a land owner, Penn lived anything but a normal Quaker life. In his seventy-three years, Penn was expelled from school, lived in four different countries, went to jail numerous times. But the most important thing that Penn did was to establish Pennsylvania.

 


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