William Penn and Quaker Legacy is a book written by John Moretta. The protagonist of the book is William Penn Junior, a rebel with a cause. The book’s main focus is the protagonist’s spiritual journey and his change to a Quaker. At the beginning of William Penn and the Quaker Legacy, Moretta claims Penn is often regarded as just “the Quaker Oats guy.” His family “possessed of wealth and status, which gave him almost immediate access to the halls of power in Restoration, England” (Moretta xii). Although William Penn Jar was a successful Admiral’s son, his absence defined his life. Throughout the text, the author not only describes William Penn’s life but also explains the rise of Quakerism.
Since he was around most of the time, William Penn Sir started connecting with William Penn Jar, when the latter was eleven. During the first reign of Charles II as king, Penn Jar and Admiral Penn became the emperor’s favorites. As such, most of the time, Charles II sought their advice. Admiral Penn usually supported William Penn Jar, his son, with connections and resources that would help him become a gentleman. William Penn Jar chose to pursue the path of religious leadership as a career despite his father’s efforts to educate him on the world’s ways. However, due to his deep connection with the ruler and the Duke of York, it was easy for William Penn Jar to avoid typical situations experienced by most religious leaders.
This book follows the protagonist’s experiences as he leaves behind his father’s Shadow to adopt the new religion, Quakerism. Moretta has described the incident when the protagonist surrendered his weapon “announcing that henceforth he would walk unarmed in an armed world” (Moretta 35). At the age of 22, it was in Pennsylvania that William Penn Jar embraced Quakerism and started sowing its seeds. Penn surrendered his social status and embraced the Quakers’ ideal way: perceiving everyone as equal regardless of their wealth or status. After understanding what Quakerism entailed, Moretta claims that Penn began spreading the “inner light” to the rest of England (309). The protagonist’s decision to become a Quaker is regarded as historical. William Penn chose his belief in what was right over his father’s teachings.
Further, Moretta educates the readers by chronicling the central beliefs of Quakers as revealed through William Penn. The author has stated that “Penn and his wealthy Quaker brethren believed in liberty of conscience” (Moretta 114). Additionally, “Quakers rejected all sacraments, liturgies, and paid intermediaries” (Moretta 15). According to this book, Quakers are tolerant in many aspects compared to the Englishmen of the seventeenth century. The author presents the reader with an unbiased analysis of William Penn’s life. Before he found Pennsylvania, Penn was compelled to spend more than 15 years in England to profess Quakerism. In the text, William Penn is specifically determined to maintain Quaker modesty. This commitment explains why he considered naming the state “Sylvania” and agreed to add “Penn” under Charles II’s wishes. Throughout the book, Penn appears to be a paradigm of liberty, equality, and religious tolerance. His peaceful coexistence with the Native Americans is necessitated by his significant belief in ethnic respect and tolerance.
Moreover, Penn’s diplomatic ideas have also helped in thawing hardened tyrants to accept Quakers and speeding up Charles II’s grant of charters. Significantly, Penn is delineated as loyal to the crown and Quakerism doctrines. According to Moretta, Quakers “did not embrace political democracy in nineteenth, twentieth, or twenty-first-century terms” (121). In his book, Moretta has linked Pennyslavia and Quakerism to the Founding Fathers. As the author states, it was the Quakers “that provided the foundation for many of the principles, beliefs, and liberties, which to this day Americans cherish” (4). As the author argues, the United States was founded on Quaker beliefs, especially meritocracy, religious freedom, and amendable constitutions.
The author draws attention to the struggles and opposition faced by Penn due to his revolutionary religious convictions. The protagonist is caught in a mental battle, where he must choose between his dedication to Quakerism and upholding his heritage of loyalty. For example, when he uses the 1681’s “Frame of Government” as the colony’s constitution, Penn betrays his supporters, mainly Algernon Sidney and Benjamin Furly. According to the author, they “felt duped and betrayed by Penn when they heard the news that the Frame of Government was the colony’s constitution” (Moretta 109). This document raised more questions about his honesty as it lacked the precepts on which Quakerism doctrine was based. Penn decided to become James II’s foreign representative and forgone his Pennsylvania return, which made things worse.
The author seems to biasedly agree with Penn’s choices and strategies towards the end of the text. One of these choices involved revising Pennsylvania’s constitution several times. William Penn had raised many questions regarding his inclinations, especially when his fellow Quakers resorted to commercialism instead of implementing “equality and “freedom” in the New World (Moretta 87). The author seems to criticize the learned Quakers who rejected volunteering for government positions.
William Penn and Quaker Legacy have focused majorly on the protagonist’s success. The author of this book, however, leaves several questions answered in the reader’s mind. One of the most significant questions is why Penn’s legislature approvals were not opposed by the church and orthodox monarchy. Towards the end of the text, Moretta reminds his reader that although Penn had revolutionary ideas, he only implemented the ones possible at the moment. This excellent read has brought the protagonist, William Penn, to life. It has also explained the central Quakerism doctrines and what made elites like Penn seek spiritual enlightenment.
Moretta, John. William Penn and the Quaker Legacy. Longman Publishing Group, 2007.