At twenty, William Penn seemed destined for a brilliant military or diplomatic career. For this handsome, cultured, witty youth, life held the worldly and social success that usually awaited the talented son of a famous seventeenth-century English admiral.
But one day he attended a meeting of the Friends of Truth - called Quakers by the unconvinced - and became a follower of this persecuted, peaceful, and "unfashionable" religion. Ignoring his father's threats of disinheritance, heedless of the inevitable loss of his social position, Penn became a devoted leader of the Friends.
Frequently imprisoned because the Quaker principles of peace, democracy, and freedom directly opposed the prevailing English concepts of Church and State, Penn came to be a defender of all the oppressed, defying the courts, whose justice was administered only when convenient. In one of the highly dramatic scenes, richly portrayed by Miss Gray, Penn's resistance established once and for all the right of trial by jury. But despite this and other triumphs, Penn and the Quakers realized that religious toleration could be firmly established, on a permanent basis, only in a new land, and to America they came to set up a new order where freedom and liberty should prevail.
As governor of the new colony of Pennsylvania, Penn put into practice the principles for which the Quakers had struggled so long. His treat of peace and friendship with the Indians remained unbroken until his death. His colony's constitution, with its guarantees of civil liberties, served as a model for the Constitution of the United States. Despite many reversals of fortune, both in the New World and in the Old, he lived to see his colony grow and thrive, a momument to his courage and faity.