Parliament, Popery, and Liberty, 1678–1681
This chapter explores William Penn’s political thought as it developed during the Popish Plot and Exclusion Crisis (1678–1681). During these years, Penn became an increasingly prominent member of the Quaker leadership, defending Friends in print and before Parliament. He also remained active in the nation’s political life and, given increasingly dim prospects for toleration in England, began exploring the possibility of securing land in America. Penn’s political thinking during these years focused on two primary issues: Parliament and popery. He reiterated his long-standing commitment to Parliament’s role in the governance of the realm and, while echoing popular concerns about the seditious potential of English Catholics, also attempted to find ways to guarantee loyal English Catholics their civil rights. In all these endeavors, Penn sought to articulate a social and political vision that would enable individuals to build a common life together despite their religious differences.
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