William Penn Statue—Saved, for Now

Recently, the Biden administration was going after a statue of William Penn in the city he founded, Philadelphia, in a state literally named after his family. The administration was calling for the “rehabilitation of Welcome Park.” Welcome was the name of the ship on which the founder of Pennsylvania sailed to these shores in 1682.

The park service’s website declares, “The National Park Service proposes to rehabilitate Welcome Park to provide a more welcoming, accurate, and inclusive experience for visitors.”

They added that their plans included, “expanded interpretation of the Native American history of Philadelphia and was developed in consultation with representatives of the indigenous nations.”

They wanted more Native-American presence in the park, at the expense of Penn, who called his settlement a “holy experiment” in tolerance—religious and otherwise. It was all based on Christ’s golden rule (Matthew 7:12) to treat others as you want to be treated.

But the park service stated, “The Penn statue and Slate Roof house model will be removed and not reinstalled.”

Anybody who doubts that there is a war on America as founded need look no further than such plans.

Gary Bauer of Our American Values commented, “So, we’ve gone from love of our Founding Fathers to now erasing our Founding Fathers. We’ve gone from leftists attacking statues in 2020 to the Biden administration officially using the power of the federal government in 2024 to erase our history.”

After a great outcry against this attempted purging of an aspect of our American history, the park service relented (for now). But Bauer notes, “Sadly, I guarantee that they haven’t completely abandoned the idea. They will be back at some point when they hope we aren’t paying attention.”

Interestingly, the National Park Service website has the slogan, “Our History is America’s History.” But in examples like this, it seems more like their history is of the revisionist kind.

Writing for the Federalist, John Daniel Davidson, notes, “the removal of statues and memorials by radical Democrats has never been about the past, it’s always been about the raw exercise of political power and the assertion of tyranny over a free people in the here and now.”

Dr. Peter Lillback, the founding president of Providence Forum, for which I serve as executive director, has a few insightful video commentaries on William Penn, a great hero of the Christian faith. That includes videos actually shot at Welcome Park. One of the videos features Penn’s timeline—one of the items that had been slated to be removed.

It’s ironic that the park service was going after Penn, of all people, ostensibly on behalf of Native Americans. In one of the videos, Lillback notes: “Because he was a man of peace, [Penn] established a peaceable agreement between the Native-Americans and the Quaker settlement.”

I reached out to Lillback for a commentary on this attempt to “rehabilitate” Welcome Park by  purging William Penn.

Lillback provided an in-depth statement for me on this story. He said, “It is truly extraordinary that, of all the places, the Biden administration would seek to reassert the Native Americans’ legacy at Welcome Park in Philadelphia….[Penn] came to establish what he had already termed ‘the seed of a nation’ and ‘a holy experiment.’”

Of course, Penn named his prize city, Philadelphia, from the Bible, with the intent that “brotherly love” (the meaning of phil-adelphia) was to be practiced there.

Lillback added, “The one American that cannot possibly be accused of any hostility toward the original inhabitants of the land in North America is William Penn. Purchasing the land from them, at the famous Treaty Tree, he negotiated a peace treaty that held for his entire tenure of leadership. Philadelphia was in reality, a city of peace. It had no army and was a city without walls….Penn’s friendship with the Indians was legendary.”

But these days you can never be too politically correct. In the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol, there is a stone frieze of Penn making a treaty with the Indians. Is that at risk too?

Lillback noted, “If there is a desire to truly honor the Native American legacy, there are many ramshackle sites throughout the historic city that could be taken down, and an exquisite celebration of Native American culture could be a built to commemorate their culture and history.”

Dr. Lillback views this whole story as something that should jolt us awake to what’s happening in the attempted remaking of America: “Hopefully, this will be a wake-up call of the cultural battle that is being waged with relentless hostility against the Judeo-Christian legacy—a legacy that established a nation that still is the beacon of liberty to the world.”

Hat tip to Rob Westman who produced the Peter Lillback videos on William Penn.

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