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In this year 1670, came forth the conventicle-act, prohibiting diffenters meetings, under severe penalties : the edge of this new weapon was presently turned upon the Quakers, who, not accustomed to Ainch in the cause of religion, stood most exposed. Being forcibly kept out of their meeting-houle in Gracechurchstreet, they met as near it in the street as they could, and William Penn there preaching, was apprehended. and by warrant from Sir Samuel Starling, then lord mayor of London, dated August 14th, 1670, committed to Newgate, and at the next sessions at the Old-Bailey, was, (together with William Mead) indicted for being present at, and preaching to, an unlawful, feditious, and riotous assembly. At his trial he made a brave defence, discovering at once both the free spirit of an Englishman, and the undaunted magnanimity of a Christian, insomuch that notwithstanding the most partial frowns and menaces of the bench, the jury acquitted him. The trial itself, with a preface and appendix thereunto, as it was soon after published, are inserted in this collection.
Not long after this trial, and his discharge from Newgate, his father died, perfectly reconciled to his son, and left him both his paternal blessing, and a plentiful estate. His death-bed expressions, being very instructive and pathetick, deserve a double readinge. He was buried in Radcliffe fteeple-house in the city of Bristol ; and over, or near, his sepulchre, is erected a fair monument, with the following inscription : “ To the juft memory of Sir William Penn, knight,
" and fometimes General ; born at Bristol, anno “ 1621, son of captain Giles Penn, several years « conful for the English in the Mediterranean, of “ the Penns of Pennodge in the county of Wilts, « and those Penns of Penn in the county of Bucks ;
and, by his mother, from the Gilberts in the
Şeç them in a Treatise intituled, “ No Cross, No Crown," in
serted in this Collection,
« county county of Somerset, originally from Yorkshire ; “ addicted from his youth to maritime affairs : he « was made captain at the years of twenty-one, rear“ admiral of Ireland at twenty-three, vice-admi“ ral of Ireland at twenty-five, admiral to the
streights at twenty-nine, vice-admiral of Eng“ land at thirty-one, and general in the first Dutch
war at thirty-two: whence returning, anno 1655, “ he was parliament-man for the town of Wey“ mouth : 1660, made commissioner of the admi“ ralty, and navy, governor of the town and fort “ of Kingsale, vice-admiral of Munster, and a “ member of that provincial council ; and anno “ 1664, was chosen great captain commander under “ his royal highness, in that signal and most evi“ dently successful fight against the Dutch feet. « Thus he took leave of the sea, his old element, « but continued still his other employs till 1669; “ at that time, through bodily infirmities, con“ tracted by the care and fatigue of publick affairs, “ he withdrew, prepared, and made for his end;
and, with a gentle and even gale, in much peace « arrived and anchored in his last and best port, at " Wanstead in the county of Essex, the 16th of “ September, 1670, being then but forty-nine years ® and four months old. " To his name and memory his surviving Lady
" hath erected this remembrance."
About this time a publick dispute was held at West Wiccomb in Buckinghamshire, between him and one Jeremy Ives, a celebrated Baptist. The subject was,
The universality of the divine light,” which Ives had undertaken to disprove, and came furnished with a stock of fyllogisms ready framed for his purpose. It was his place, as opponent, to speak first; which as foon as he had done (being sensible that his arguments stood in their greatest force while unanswered) he stepped down from his seat, and, with an intention of breaking up the assembly, departed. Some of his
own party followed him ; but the generality of the people tarrying, W. Penn had an opportunity of answering, which he did to the great fatisfaction of the auditory.
In the ninth month of this year being at Oxford, and observing the cruel usage and persecution his innocent friends underwent there from the hands of the junior scholars, too much by the connivance of their superiors, he wrote a letter to the vice-chancellor on that subject.
This winter having his residence at Penn in Buckinghamshire, he published a book intituled, “ A sea“ fonable caveat against Popery,” wherein he both exposes and confutes many erroneous doctrines of the church of Rome, and establishes the opposite truths by sound arguments: a work alone sufficient, on the one hand, to wipe off the calumny cast upon him of being a favourer of the Romish religion; and, on the other, to shew, that his principle being for an universal liberty of conscience, he would have had it extended even to the Papists themselves, under a security of their not persecuting others. The book itself being a þetter vindication of its author in these points than any thing we can here say, is recommended to our reader's serious perusal.
On the 5th of the 12th month this year, being at a meeting in Wheeler-street, a serjeant with soldiers came and planted themselves at the door, where they waited till he stood up and preached, and then the serjeant pulled him down, and led him into the street, where a constable and his assistants standing ready to join them, they carried him away to the Tower, by order from the lieutenant, then at White-Hall, to inform him of the success. After about three hours time, it being evening, he came home, and W. Penn was sent for from the guard, by an officer with a file of musqueteers. There were several in company with Sir John Robinson, the lieutenant of the Tower ; namely, Sir Samuel Starling, Sir John Shelden, Lieutenant-colonel Rycraft, and others. Orders being B 4
given that no person should be admitted up unconcerned in the business, they proceeded to his examination, of which we find the fo.lowing account given by an eye and ear witness; viz.
Sir John Robinson. What is this person's name? [Note, The Mittimus was already made, and bis name
Const. Mr. Penn, Sir.
J. R. I do not know you? I do not defire to know such as you are.
W. P. If not, why didst thou send for me hither? J. R. Is that your name, Sir?
W. P. Yes, yes, my name is Penn; thou knowest it is; I am not ashamed of my name.
J. R. Constable, where did you find him?
Conft. At Wheeler-street, at a meeting, speaking to the people.
J.R. You mean he was speaking to an unlawful assembly ?
Const. I do not know indeed, Sir; he was there, and he was speaking.
J. R. Give them their oaths.
W. P. Hold, do not swear the men ; there is no need of it: I freely acknowledge I was at Wheelerstreet, and that I fpake to an assembly of people there.
J. R. and several others. He confeffes it.
[Note, They were sworn to answer such questions as jould be asked, upon which they gave the evidence before given by the constable.]
J. R. Mr. Penn, you know the law better than I can tell you ; and you know these things are contrary to the law.
W.P. If thou believest me to be better known in the law than thyself, hear me; for I know no law I have transgressed. All laws are to be considered strictly and literally, or more explanatorily and lenitively. In the first sense, the execution of many laws may be extrema injuria, the greatest wrong: in the latter, wifdom and moderation: I would have thee make that part thy choice.
Now whereas I am probably to be tried by the late act against conventicles, I conceive it doth not reach
J. R. No, Sir, I shall not proceed upon that law.
W. P. What law then? I am sure that was intended for the standard on these occasions.
J. R. The Oxford-act of six months.
W.P. That, of all laws, cannot concern me; for first I was never in orders, neither episcopally nor claffically, and one of them is intended by the preamble. of the act.
J. R. No, no; any that speak in unlawful assemblies, and you spoke in an unlawful assembly.
W.P. Two things are to be considered. First, that the words, “ Such as speak in any unlawful af~ semblies," alter the case much; for such is relative of the preamble, and cannot concern persons in any other qualification, than under some ordination or mark of priesthood. I am persuaded thou knowest I am no such person ; I was never ordained, nor have I any particular charge or ftipend, that may intitle me to such a function; and therefore I am wholly unconcerned in the word « such.”
Secondly, An unlawful assembly is too general a word; the act doth not define to us what is meant by an unlawful assembly.
J. R. But other acts do.
W. P. That is not to the purpose; for that may be an unlawful assembly in one act, that may, by circumftances, not be so adjudged in another; and it is hard that you will not stick to some one act or law, but, to accomplish your ends, borrow a piece out of one act, to supply the defects of another, and of a different nature from it.