The State Museum of Pennsylvania Image of Penn's Treaty
An Image of Peace: The William Penn Treaty

Article Titles

An Image
of Peace

Deeds of Peace

The Elegant Land

The Common People

Brother Onas...
William Penn

Creating an
Image of Peace

Spreading an
Image of Peace

Celebrating an
Image of Peace

Sharing an
Image of Peace

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Brother Onas … William Penn
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

WM Penn

John Sartain (American, 1808-1897)
WM Penn (The Armor Portrait after 1666 portrait, Penn aged 22, only one taken from life)
c. 1895
Engraving and etching
10 1/2 x 7 1/2
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Meyer P. Potamkin

William Penn, wealthy aristocrat turned persecuted Quaker, wrote in March 1681, "this day my country was confirmed to me … by the name Pennsylvania …" This grant of New World land launched yet another wave of migration across the Atlantic. Some new settlers came for economic opportunities, others sought spiritual refuge in what William Penn called his "Holy Experiment."

At age twenty-two William Penn posed for his portrait wearing armor. A future military career doubtless received support from his father, Admiral Sir William Penn of the Royal Navy. Within months of sitting for the original painting young Penn made a radical change in his life. After meeting a Quaker missionary Penn shed his affiliation with the Anglican Church and adopted the Quaker faith. For the remainder of William Penn's life, the Quaker principles of equality, friendship and peace governed his actions.

In 1648 the Religious Society of Friends began in northern England. Detractors mockingly called them Quakers because they sometimes shook or "quaked" during religious observances. Friends believed God could speak to everyone through their "inner light." They refused to bear arms,
swear oaths of allegiance, and endorse a state
supported church, landing many Quakers
in England's prisons.

William Penn often put his defense of the Quaker faith into print. This volume, written by Penn and fellow Friend George Whitehead, was issued as a reply to an attack by a Presbyterian clergyman a year earlier. This was William Penn's personal copy of the book, indicated by his bookplate bearing the Penn family coat of arms.

A Serious Apology for the Principles & Practices of the People call'd Quakers George Whitehead and William Penn
A Serious Apology for the Principles & Practices of the People call'd Quakers, Againft the Malicious afpertions, Erronious Doctrines, and Horrid Blafphemies of Thoma Fenner and Timothy Taylor, in their Book, entituled, Quakerifm Anotamiz'd, and Confuted, divided into two Parts, 1671
7 3/4 x 6 x 1 1/4
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. 
Meyer P. Potamkin
96. 72. 12

William Penn petitioned Charles II, King of England, for a grant of land in America to repay a debt owed to the Penn family. The king likely agreed to Penn's requests as a step towards removing the bothersome Quakers from England. Penn's 1681 charter set the boundaries of the colony, established Penn as Proprietor with the right to dispose of the land and write laws for its inhabitants. The King bestowed the name Pennsylvania upon the land in honor of Admiral Sir William Penn.

William Penn Receiving the Charter of Pennsylvania Unknown
William Penn Receiving the Charter of Pennsylvania from Charles II
19th Century
The London Printing and Publishing Company Limited
Engraving, 6 7/8 x 10 1/2
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. 
Meyer P. Potamkin

William Penn actively promoted Pennsylvania as a place offering religious freedom. He wrote several pamphlets, some reprinted in the various European languages, encouraging settlement in the new colony. Although a progressive thinker, Penn remained a man of his times. While he guaranteed freedom of religion, Penn permitted only Christians to serve in government.