ON October 14th, 1644, a son was born to Admiral Penn and his Dutch wife; he was given the name of William. The family resided in London, though the father had to spend long periods of time on the sea. Even at an early age the boy proved to be headstrong. He liked to follow his own way and refused to conform. He learned well, though, but not always as expected or in what instructed.
The older he grew, the more difficult he was to handle. He became a well-behaving and religious young man. Brought up in the Anglican faith, he yet dared to think and to feel for himself. At first he had disturbing mystical experiences; next he came under the influence of Puritanism. In fact, he showed deep interest in a variety of creeds and argued a great deal. Then he turned to Quakerism at that time rising in England, with much more enthusiasm than his distinguised father wished to see in his son. Finally he was expelled from Oxford University for non-conformity.
In anger and despair, Admiral Penn sent William to France and Italy to look for diversion. The youth seemed to enjoy the social life of Paris for a few months, for he had access to the glamorous court of Louis XIV. But he soon got tired of superficialities of idleness, light conversation, and light flirtation. So he turned to more natural people and more interesting ideas.
On his return home he demonstrated that his earlier leanings toward Quakerism were anything but dead. Indeed, by the age of twenty-three he became an ardent and vigorous convert to the movement. He threw himself into the midst of controversy, mainly on the defensive side. Among his writings of the period The Sandy Foundation Shaken ( 1668) and No Cross, No Crown ( 1669) were outstanding even if not successful. As a result of these activities young Penn spent nine months in the Tower of London, but was finally released. Nevertheless, he would not be intimidated, he would not give up. His religious polemics continued and extended, especially after his father's death. He under
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Publication information: Book title: American Philosophy. Contributors: Ralph B. Winn - Editor. Publisher: Philosophical Library. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1955. Page number: 227.
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