The Quaker Connection


Quaker tablecloth

What has a crocheted tablecloth baring the words: “No Cross, No Crown”; Pennsylvania, and the European Union got in common? The answer to that question is: William Penn.

William Penn Jr (14th October 1644 – 30th July 1718) was a religious philosopher and a Quaker, who’s essays and books aggressively criticised religious persecution and frequently antagonised the English monarchy and the Anglican church. One such book, “No Cross, No Crown”, advocated for a return to the simpler adherences of early Christianity, without any of the flair or vanity of the modern churches.

Inspired by a Quaker missionary and the terrible treatment of religious minorities during his time at the University of Oxford, he slowly developed his convictions about religious freedom. On at least a couple of occasions this would lead to his exclusion from his family home as he disagreed with his father who often feared for his families social status.

Eventually, in his fathers old age, Junior’s tenacity would win-out as his father left him with this advice: “Let nothing in this world tempt you to wrong your conscience”. Finally, his father was proud of him. His father would later write a letter to the Duke of York asking for him to protect his son, the Duke and the King acquiesced, after all, Penn Sr had been a loyal servant to the throne.

Finding little improvement within England, he proposed a mass migration of English Quakers to the new world colonies. The king would later extend this territory by a both generous and surprising amount. The land would come by many names before the English king insisted it be named: “Pennsylvania” in honour of William Penn’s father Penn Sr.

Young William would get to work establishing his colony as one which valued religious and personal freedom via a Charter of Liberties, he set up limits to his own power and established a bicameral legislature like that of England.

The spectre of war in Europe became too much for him and in 1693 he wrote the “Essay Towards the Present and Future Peace of Europe by the Establishment of a European Parliament”. This proposed a united Europe that would decide matters on the basis of justice, not arms. Those that refuse to submit to justice would be cowed by the combined might of the rest. He may have perhaps been one of the first to envision a Europe brought together not by war and conquest, but by mutual purpose and benefit, much like the EU.

William Penn Jr could be described as a man ahead of his time, he could be… but like all figures of the past, he was not perfect. His own almost puritanical beliefs and convictions which had guaranteed protections to civil liberties also lead to laws that forbid common pleasure pursuits of the time. Although being considered a pacifist in his older age, in 1666 he temporarily became a soldier and helped put down an Irish rebellion – In the same year he finally declared himself a Quaker.

Like many at the time, he was also a slave owner, not a position that has stood the test of time and his own lack of oversight and sloppy administration almost lost him Pennsylvania. Clearly he was a complicated man, but perhaps the only man who had the vigour, the tenacity and the conviction to do what he did and provide a unique link between Pennsylvania, the EU and lot 258, a crocheted table cloth recently sold at McCartney Auctioneers via for just £50.00

Daniel Jackson for UKauctioneers

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