William Penn and The Liberty Bell

  • July 2, 2015
  • Posted By: Pennsbury Manor

Liberty BellAs the 4th of July holiday approaches, we remember The Liberty Bell one of America’s most iconic symbols. It has served as a constant reminder of freedom for centuries. Abolitionists, civil rights advocates, Native Americans, immigrants, and war protesters have all used a Liberty Bell as a symbol for their causes. Originally the bell was simply known as the State House Bell, it wasn’t called the Liberty Bell until the 1830s when the abolitionists began calling it that. The abolitionists used the bell as their symbol because of the words inscribed on it from Leviticus 25:10, “Proclaim Throughout All the Land unto All the Inhabitants thereof.” The verse is referring to the “Jubilee”, or instructions to the Israelites to return property and free slaves every 50 years.

The Bell resides in Philadelphia at 6th & Market Street. The Liberty Bell is one of many nationally recognized sites in Philadelphia. The Bell was originally placed in the tower of Independence Hall. Independence Hall is of course iconic for being the building where the signing of the Declaration of Independence took place. The Document was declaring American independence from Great Britain. That is the reason why the Bell has become so iconic. It is part of the birthplace of American Independence. Many people don’t know without William Penn this bell may not have ever existed. The bell was cast in 1751 to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Pennsylvania’s Charter of Privileges. The Charter granted religious freedoms, procedures for a democratic government, and fair treatment of criminals. Penn’s frame of government was very different from other colonies in North America at the time. It guaranteed freedom of speech and freedom from cruel and unusual punishment. Penn had a 15 year absence from Pennsylvania and during that time many different governments were proposed but they all ultimately failed. When he returned in 1699 the assembly came up with a new frame of government. This frame of government became the Charter of Privileges. In the Charter of Privileges the provincial assembly would be the legislative authority. It would be self governing, have the ability to elect its own officers, form its own committees, propose and vote on legislation, and impeach government officials. The government would also be a representative government with members from each county being elected from the province. Penn was afraid of what the masses would do with large amounts of democratic power so he trusted small groups of elites to govern society. This relates back into the Liberty Bell because of Penn’s progressive thinking inspired the bell which made the bell the perfect symbol for all the progressive thinkers in history. It is this kind of forward thinking that inspired the bell to go from the State House bell to the Liberty bell and it may have never existed without William Penn.


Billy Lovering, Intern 2015

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