The Assassination of William Penn’s Legacy

As only a dog can, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a human named William Penn. He doesn’t come up that much in conversation even though the state that we live in is named for him. Most of you know that “Penn Sylvania” means “Penn’s Woods.” Right?

But did you know that even though Penn founded The Province of Pennsylvania and then had a state named after him, Penn was a disgrace to his father? His father was ashamed of Penn’s Quakerism, his defense of George Fox (a Quaker leader), and his basic dissent from doctrines such as The Trinity.

But Penn wasn’t all bad. Especially when it came to government. He once wrote, “If thou wouldst rule well, thou must rule for God, and to do that, thou must be ruled by him….Those who will not be governed by God will be ruled by tyrants” (in The Sandy Foundation Shaken).

Living in England, Penn became a Quaker at age 22 and was arrested several times for his departure from the government-approved religiosity of the time. Penn got seriously impounded by a judge who even threw the entire jury in jail after they found Penn not guilty. He decided to get out of England and head across the ocean.

It was 1677 when Penn drew up a charter of liberties for a settlement in New Jersey. The rights and freedoms in that charter served as inspiration for another charter, four years later, to the west and south of New Jersey.

The area was called Penn’s Woods after Penn used the term “Sylvania” to describe what we now know as “PA.” Penn, in England, received authority over the county second only to the king. What he really did was market the colony to people in Europe. They moved over. The idea of a colony was to turn a profit somehow.

From 1682-1684, Penn visited the Province of Pennsylvania. The City of Brotherly Love had been built, and Penn made friends with the Indians, giving them legal rights which proved to protect the native Americans much better than in other colonies. Penn also entered into business with Indians, purchasing land rather than taking it. This is still historically significant today, considering the tools of most conquest.

Penn also visited in 1699. At that time, he planned a federation of all English colonies in America. His visit was short, and in the next decade or so, Penn learned his financier had been stealing from him for years. Penn then had a stroke and died pennyless. So much for turning a profit.

His legacy turned out to be much more prosperous than he could have ever known. Penn knew he was walking amongst vast wealth. He tried to develop it. He tried to turn a profit at it…

…but as evidenced by his empty checkbook, Penn was committed to something more than money. (Before you happen to think he might just not be that bright, remember the man communicated in more languages than you and me combined.)

Penn obviously had a different version of prosperity. And it is this that we mourn today. Development at the cost of our environment is not new in Pennsylvania. High-volume slickwater hydraulic fracturing in long laterals is simply the nail in the coffin.

Penn wasn’t shot… he wasn’t murdered… but that’s what has happened to his legacy. Here’s the eulogy:

how little
we remember
Penn walked
these woods–
not on trail
of man or machine,
but panther,
wolf, elk,
and wolverine.


how little
we remember
men clearcut
these woods–
all to wail
by man and machine,
for lumber,
masts, paper,
and tanning


how little
we remember
men mined
these woods–
out to fail
by man and machine,
for iron,
ore, coke,
and coal.


how much
was forgot
about Penn
and clearcutting
and mining
men leased
these woods—
now on bail
by man and machine,
for gas.


new centuries
of false promises
of prosperity
are now ours
in Gasylvania.

Please note that the facts/dates in today’s post are from

About adamaecompton

just a three-legged rescue dog, bloggin about critical citizenship, the environment, and all sorts of literacy.
This entry was posted in Citizenship, HydroFracking, Powerful Stuff. Bookmark the permalink.

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