William Penn, solicitor of the Quakers, and the interplay between legal and religious language

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Abstract

English law is repeatedly referred to in the works of the Quaker leader William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania and a great advocate of religious tolerance. A literary and linguistic analysis of the works of William Penn, therefore, can give a vivid, interesting picture of the religious debate which characterized the political arena in 17th and 18th century England, especially as far as legal, political and religious discourse and terminology are concerned. The first part of my paper deals with the importance of law for William Penn and among Friends, underlining how such relevance was given expression in 17th century Quaker literature. Secondly, it concentrates on the interplay between legal and religious language, by considering both lexis and metaphors in Penn's The Great Case of Conscience (1673, on religious tolerance) and No Cross No Crown (1682, on Quaker doctrine) and in other works written to deny accusations against the Religious Society of Friends. Thirdly and finally, it compares William Penn’s legal and religious discourse with similar text-types and works published by such authoritative thinkers and writers as Sidney, Harrington or Locke.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)547-560
Number of pages13
JournalTEXTUS
VolumeXXI (3)
Publication statusPublished - 2008

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