WILLIAM PENN: Apostle of Dissent by Hans Fantel

WILLIAM PENN: Apostle of Dissent

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A meandering tribute to the career of William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania. Fantel takes the view that Penn's major contribution, embodied in his ""constitution"" for his American utopia, lay in the formulation of a government placed at the service of the individual. To some extent, the author feels, Penn based his concepts on the peculiar quality of the Quaker meeting, in which ""free faith took on viable social forms."" Also Fantel credits him with possibly saving the religion from oblivion by giving it both theological and political structure. The author traces Penn's career from childhood and youth as a promising son of an Admiral who served under Cromwell and brought Prince Charles home on his flagship, through a period of imprisonment, conflict and then reconciliation with his father to the gradual and then abrupt conversion to the Society of Friends, and finally the huge grant by Charles II of Pennsylvania land. Penn's character here is dim, since the author is obviously more intrigued with the economic, social and political impact of 17th century dissenters than with the inner spiritual experience. Also Fantel tends toward occasional questionable assertions (""Charles I was negotiating with France to bring Catholicism back to England. . . "") and smatterings of unrelated anecdotes. Spotty and only moderately enlightening.

Pub Date: Nov. 13th, 1974
Publisher: Morrow