SPECIAL NOTE: THE ANECDOTE REGARDING WILLIAM PENN AND
HIS SUPPOSED EXCHANGES WITH GEORGE FOX REGARDING HIS
[The following is, as far as I have been able to tell, the first written account of the alleged
discussions between William Penn and George Fox re: William Penn's sword. This is taken from
Samuel M. Janney, The Life of William Penn; With Selections from His Correspondence and
Auto-Biography. Philadelphia: Hogan, Perkins, and Co., 1852. (Chapter 3, pages 42-43; from the
copy in Spruance Library, Bucks County Historical Society.) My research indicates that while this
tale is a very popular and entrenched urban legend among Friends, it is nonetheless, a self serving
falsehood unworthy of a people who are supposed to be committed to truth. -pds.]
"When William Penn was convinced of the principles of Friends, and became a frequent attendant at
their meetings, he did not immediately relinquish his gay apparel; it is even said that he wore a
sword, as was then customary among men of rank and fashion . Being one day in company with
George Fox, he asked his advice concerning it, saying that he might, perhaps, appear singular among
Friends, but his sword had once been the means of saving his life without injuring his antagonist,
and moreover, that Christ has said, "he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one."
George Fox answered, "I advise thee to wear it as long as thou canst." Not long after this they met
again, when William had no sword, and George said to him, "William, where is t hy sword?" "Oh!"
said he, I have taken thy advice; I wore it as long as I could." This anecdote, derived from reliable
tradition,* seems to be characteristic of the men and the times. It shows that the primitive Friends
preferred that their proselytes should be led by the principle of divine truth in their own minds, rather
than follow the opinions of others without sufficient evidence.
"It must have been .manifest to George Fox that his young friend, while expressing his uneasiness
about the sword, was under the influence of religious impressions that would, if attended to, lead
him, not only into purity of life, but likewise into that simplicity of apparel which becomes the
disciples of a self-denying Saviour."
*Related to me by J. P. of Montgomery County, Pa., who had it from James Simpson.