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Quaker groups silent on William Penn cancel attempt

Historian calls potential cancellation ‘concerning’

Quaker universities and research associations have remained quiet on the attempted cancellation of William Penn.

The College Fix contacted seven different groups affiliated with Quakers via email multiple times in the past month to ask for comment on the National Park Services’ brief decision to tear down a statue of Penn, a Quaker, at Welcome Park in Philadelphia.

He founded what is now the state of Pennsylvania.

The NPS quickly retracted the January decision following backlash from Democratic Governor Josh Shapiro as well as his 2022 gubernatorial opponent, Republican state senator Doug Mastriano, among others.

The Park Service proposed to “rehabilitate Welcome Park to provide a more welcoming, accurate, and inclusive experience for visitors.”

The project to make Welcome Park more “accurate” and “inclusive” included removing the Statue of William Penn and the model of his home, Slate Roof House, from the Park.

The Park stands on the site of his old home.

William Penn University, Haverford College, Earlham School of Religion, University of Birmingham, and St. Lawrence University all did not respond or declined to comment on Penn’s legacy and the proposal. The Quaker Studies Research Association and the Friends Association for Higher Education also did not provide comment.

Listed Parks Service spokesman Andrew McDougall, has not responded to two emails sent in the last two weeks by The Fix, requesting what research led to this proposal.

The Park Services only said the proposal “had not been subject to a complete internal agency review, and is being retracted” in its withdrawal statement.

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A historical scholar and commentator called the proposed cancellation “concerning.”

“I find it quite concerning,” Mary Grabar, a fellow at The Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization, wrote in an email to The Fix.

The proposal is made particularly concerning “by the fact that the proposal came from the National Park Service,” she said. “It’s one thing to have a bunch of agitated college students and Antifa tearing down statues, but this is the federal government. And it seems so arbitrary.”

The Bill of Rights Institute says Penn showed concern for the proper treatment of Native Americans.

“Like all Quakers, he was a pacifist, and he was adamant that his new colony would avoid the bloodshed and war between Indians and other English colonists that had occurred in New England and Virginia,” the group states.

“One year before his trip across the Atlantic Ocean, Penn had written a letter to the ‘Kings of the Indians,’ explaining that he was coming to settle in their land,” according to the group. “He regretted the ‘unkindness and injustice’ that Indians had experienced from other Europeans and promised that Pennsylvania would be different.”

Penn bought every acre of land obtained from the “Kings of the Indians.”

Grabar says the cancellation “is an attempt to wipe out the civilizational importance” of Penn.

Instead, society should honor people who have shown virtues and contribute to the formation of the youth.

“Statues should be erected to people who have some significance in history (Columbus, Thomas Jefferson, etc.) or have demonstrated some virtues,” Grabar said.

“[They are people who have been leaders and made positive contributions to society, for example, in government, the sciences, religion, the arts, etc. They are not perfect of course, but they should be models in some way for youth.”

MORE: Check out the Campus Cancel Culture Database

IMAGES: Public domain

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About the Author
College Fix contributor Aidan Mays is a student at Franciscan University of Steubenville studying English with a writing focus, while also studying Greek and tutoring at the Writing Center. He is enrolled in the Honors program and is an active member of Sigma Tau Delta and the Treasurer for his local chapter.  He is a Krav Maga and Muay Thai practitioner.