Academic journal article Pennsylvania Literary Journal

A Biography of Pennsylvania's Founder

Academic journal article Pennsylvania Literary Journal

A Biography of Pennsylvania's Founder

Article excerpt

A Biography of Pennsylvania's Founder Andrew R. Murphy, William Penn: A Life. $34.95. 480pp, 6X9". ISBN: 978-0-190234249. Oxford: Oxford University Press, November, 2018.

The name "Penn" stands out in my mind because Edgar Allan Poe intended to name the journal that he never managed to start, The Penn. It also makes me think about Franklyn's successful newspapers in New England, and what liberties became available in early America that prompted the revolutionary ideas that eventually inspired the colonists to separate from Great Britain. Thus, any biography of the man after whom the state of Pennsylvania was named, William Penn, is something I would like to read. The cover explains his significance: "On March 4, 1681, King Charles II granted William Penn a charter for a new American colony. Pennsylvania was to be, in its founder's words, a bold 'Holy Experiment' in religious freedom and toleration, a haven for those fleeing persecution in an increasingly intolerant England and across Europe. An activist, political theorist, and the proprietor of his own colony, Penn would become a household name in the New World, despite spending just four years on American soil." Thus, the ideals that America was built on would not have solidified if Penn did not become a Quaker in his twenties, which pushed him to become one of the Dissenters and thus a close ally of King James II. Then, despite owning Pennsylvania, he ended up being jailed on suspicion of treason and served time in debtor's prison. This is apparently the first biography of Penn in forty years, and "the first to make full use of Penn's private papers." Every time I attempt archival research, I am surprised with how most of the materials in archives has never been published before, but the notion that one of America's key founders has a significant volume of private papers that have not been used in any earlier biography is particularly shocking. The author, Andrew R. Murphy is a professor of political science at Rutgers University. The biography is chronologically organized with titles that summarize the main themes in his life: celebrity, Popish plots, America, seclusion, public life, pirates, William Jr. …

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