American History Stories—Volume I - Mara L. Pratt

[Illustration] from American History Stories - I by Mara L. Pratt

William Penn

The Quakers of England certainly were in great need at this time of someone who would call them together and find for them a place of safety. Such a leader appeared at last.

This leader was William Penn. He was the son of Admiral Penn, of the English navy. Admiral Penn had been brought up to believe only in the English Church, and to hold in contempt all such people as Puritans and Quakers. Imagine that father's astonishment when his son, having returned from college, came before him dressed in the queer garb of a Quaker, and told him that he had resolved to join these much abused people.

The old gentleman was horrified. He scolded and he argued; he raved and he threatened, but not one whit was the son moved by it all. He sent him abroad, hoping that the gay life at Paris and other great cities of Europe would cure him of this foolish freak he had taken.

Penn came back to England still a Quaker. His father's patience was now exhausted; he allowed Penn to live in the house, but he would have nothing to say to him, and for years would not even look at him.

When his father died, Penn made up a large party of Quakers to come to America. On August 31, 1682, he set sail from Deal, England, in the good ship Welcome, and after a voyage of two months arrived at New Castle on the Delaware on October 27, 1682, and immediately began a settlement. To this settlement he gave the name, Philadelphia, which means "brotherly love."

In payment of a debt owed to Penn's father, King Charles of England had already granted to Penn that tract of land which we now call Pennsylvania; still Penn was not willing to take the land from the Indians without paying them also for it. He held a council with them under a large elm tree. There he made a treaty with them, and the agreements were made peaceably and honestly. Think what a strange picture it must have made! There was the Englishman in his long-skirted coat, with blue sash and broad hat, while all around him stood the Indians gorgeous in their feathers and war-paint, glittering with strings of wampum, and wrapped about with furs.

Like Roger Williams, Penn was always loved and reverenced by the Indians. The great elm under which the treaty was made has long since decayed and fallen; but in its place to-day stands a monument which tells the story of Penn and the treaty.

[Illustration] from American History Stories - I by Mara L. Pratt


This treaty of peace, made between the Quakers and the Indians, had no other than the blue sky, the bright sun and the forests for witnesses. But the Indians were a true-hearted race, and if they were treated with any degree of fairness, whatever, were ready and willing to be honorable in their dealings with the white man. There was a simple gratitude about them that was like a child's; and it is a pity that other white men, not Quakers, had not wisdom enough to deal fairly with these simple-souled people.

[Illustration] from American History Stories - I by Mara L. Pratt

The history of this treaty was kept by the Indians by means of their strings of wampum, and long afterwards they would tell the story over to their children, bidding them always in their fights and war-makings to remember their father's promises to the good Quaker, William Penn.

And so it was that, in the years that followed, when war was raging on every side in all the surrounding States, not one drop of Quaker blood was ever spilled.

There is a little story told of how one Quaker saved the lives of many families about him.

One morning, some Indians, incensed at the behavior of certain colonists up the river, fiercely set forth in full war dress, war paint and all, cruelly bent upon revenge.

On the borders of the forest, toward which they strode, lived a good Quaker and his family. As the Indians approached, the Quaker went forth to greet them. Knowing how honorably the treaty with the Quakers was held by these red men, the Quaker had no fear for his own family.

"But they mean bloodshed to the colonists up the river, I am sure," said he to his wife. "I must try to turn them back."

So generous and frank was the Quaker's greeting, that the fierce warriors, thirsting as they were for blood, melted in the warm sunlight of his gentle heart, and turned back to their wigwams, the massacre given up for that day, at least.

As they went away, one of the Indians climbed up on the little porch over the door and fastened there the "white feather of peace," which was a mark among these Indians that the house upon which that was placed should never, under any provocation, be molested.

War raged on every side in the days that followed; many cruel deeds were done, and hundreds of colonists were slain; but the good Quaker and his family dwelt in safety and slept without fear of harm from their savage neighbors.