Monday night, January 8, the National Park Service announced it would cease attempts to destroy William Penn’s presence at a Philadelphia park dedicated to his memory.
The tumultuous time for the founder of Pennsylvania began on Friday, January 5, when the Biden administration sent some help to Philadelphia. Relief for out-of-control crime or the neighborhoods lost to drug zombies? No. Those are local issues. For the White House, the matter at hand was correcting the reverence paid to William Penn. According to a press release from the National Park Service, the agency proposed “to rehabilitate Welcome Park to provide a more welcoming, accurate, and inclusive experience for visitors.” Rehabilitation meant removing Penn’s statue and replica home in the park devoted to him.
Friday news cycles are often used to “take out the trash” or release information the administration would rather not see the light of day. The tactic didn’t work here. In three days, the headline turned into such a problem it required an after-hours news release titled “Park withdraws review of Welcome Park rehabilitation proposal.” While the story spread far and wide via popular conservative social media accounts, it seems to be a Democrat who pulled Penn’s statue out of the fire. In an X post on Monday evening, Pennsylvania Governor Joshua Shapiro claimed credit for engineering the switch:
“My team has been in contact with the Biden Administration throughout the day to correct this decision. I’m pleased Welcome Park will remain the rightful home of this William Penn statue — right here in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Penn founded.”
What else was released on Monday? As it happens, it was revealed that a “Presidential Voting Intention poll of 6,029 swing state voters finds Donald Trump leading Joe Biden in all six states polled.” That would include Pennsylvania – in fact, the poll by Redfield & Wilton Strategies showed that, of the regions surveyed, Biden had the lowest approval in the Keystone State (-16%).
Conducted in partnership with The Telegraph, the poll is from an aptly named source. Apparently, the voters just haven’t realized how well off they are under Bidenomics. Governor Shapiro must have reminded someone at the White House that only four states have more electoral votes than Pennsylvania. Maybe they could duck a punch instead of leaning into one?
The Importance of William Penn
Welcome Park is a postage stamp sandwiched between the massive parks at Penn’s Landing and Independence Hall. The administration announcement said it would be “reimagined” without Penn’s statue and replica of his home. Why? To make room for the “expanded interpretation of the Native American history of Philadelphia.”
William Penn was not “native.” He was born in London to a wealthy admiral father, to whom the king owed a debt. That’s why King Charles II gave Penn’s son 45,000 acres of land in the colonies in 1681 and called it Pennsylvania. Penn used his land to lay the groundwork for the America we know today, and he had been imprisoned by the same king many times for his insistence on religious freedom. Pennsylvania was a beacon of religious liberty, and Penn was known as an honest dealer with the area natives, famously agreeing to a peace treaty with them. Many of the conventions he instilled in his Pennsylvania became a foundation for the United States. His 1701 Charter of Privileges “guaranteed religious freedom, strengthened the separation of church and state, granted popularly-elected officials the ability to enact laws, and balanced power between the offices of the governor, legislature, and judiciary.”
When President Ronald Reagan posthumously conferred honorary US citizenship to William Penn in 1984, he said:
“In the history of this Nation, there has been a small number of men and women whose contributions to its traditions of freedom, justice, and individual rights have accorded them a special place of honor in our hearts and minds, and to whom all Americans owe a lasting debt.”
Thomas Jefferson remarked, “William Penn was the greatest lawgiver the world has produced, being the first, in either ancient or modern times, who has laid the foundation of government in the pure and unadulterated principles of peace, reason, and right.” Being honored and celebrated by Jefferson and Reagan is cause for concern today, if not outright condemnation. The degradation of Penn made sense to those in power in the world of woke politics last week. At least taxpayers will save the smelting fees – for now.
What a Difference a Few Years Makes
An interesting sidenote perfectly illustrates that what is normal today was radical just a few short years ago. In a 2018 New Yorker article, Nikil Saval wrote flatteringly about the famous architects Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown. He did single out one of their works for criticism, however – Welcome Park:
“[It] is a strangely conceived space that flaunts scale and proportion until the joke falls flat. At its center, perched on a thick marble cylinder, is a comically undersized bronze of William Penn, the city’s founder, who presides over an almost invariably empty plaza. Not far away is a tiny model of the Slate Roof House, the city’s first house of government. The whole experience … is ridiculous in a way that punctures the solemnity of Philadelphia’s heritage — but it also denudes the city of a usable public space.”
When he isn’t writing about architecture, Saval serves as a Pennsylvania state senator who won office after challenging an establishment Democrat – from the left. A member of the Democratic Socialists of America, Saval has worked for Bernie Sanders. Yet even he, while writing in the progressive New Yorker, didn’t bring up colonialism or oppression to criticize the park. Nowadays, that’s enough to see Penn’s tribute reimagined right into the garbage bin. Well, not anymore – until after the election, anyway.