Biden Admin Reverses Decision to Remove William Penn Statue

The Biden administration has reversed a decision by the National Park Service to remove a statue of William Penn from a park in Philadelphia. Penn was the founder of Pennsylvania (named for his father) in the late 1600s and is a revered figure in the state.

(Previous TGP report on the planned removal of the statue posted by David Greyson at this link.)

The Park Service recently announced plans to renovate the park where the statue is located, Welcome Park, to make it “inclusive” of Native Americans, even thought the park is built where Penn’s home once stood and is named after the ship, the Welcome, that brought Penn to the New World from England in 1682. The Park Service also planned to remove a replica of Penn’s home, the Slate Roof House, as well as a Penn timeline on a wall at the park. In other words, the Biden administration was erasing Penn.

Biden Admin Reverses Decision to Remove William Penn Statue

National Park Service photos.

The Interior Department, which oversees the National Park Service, is led by Biden appointee Secretary Deb Haaland, a radical progressive who is the first Native American to serve as a cabinet secretary.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland with a park ranger identified as "Pattie Gonia."
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland with a transgender park ranger identified as “Pattie Gonia.” (@SecDebHaaland / X screen shot) October 2023.

Pennsylvania’s Democrat Governor Josh Shapiro took credit for the reversal, “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.”

Apparently Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA), who recently said he is not a progressive, did not issue a comment on the Biden administration’s proposal to remove the William Penn statue.

Dave McCormick, a Republican candidate running against incumbent Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), called out Casey on Monday for staying “silent”, “Bob Casey has been totally silent as the Biden Admin works to strip our commonwealth of its history in the name of “inclusivity.” Casey is too weak to lead. Time for new leadership.”

Casey spoke out Monday evening after the Park Service had already caved, “I heard concerns that there were plans to permanently remove William Penn’s statue from Welcome Park. After checking in with the Department of the Interior, I’m pleased to report that there are no plans to remove William Penn at this time.”

New Park Service statement issued Monday evening, January 8:

Park withdraws review of Welcome Park rehabilitation proposal

Independence National Historical Park has withdrawn the review of a draft proposal to rehabilitate Welcome Park and closed the public comment period. The preliminary draft proposal, which was released prematurely and had not been subject to a complete internal agency review, is being retracted. No changes to the William Penn statue are planned.

The National Park Service (NPS) remains committed to rehabilitating Welcome Park as the nation prepares to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence in 2026. Upon completion of all the necessary internal reviews, the park looks forward to engaging in a robust public process to consider options for refurbishing the park in the coming years.

The park is located on the site of William Penn’s home, the Slate Roof House, and is named for the ship, Welcome, which transported Penn to Philadelphia. The design and construction of Welcome Park was funded by the Independence Historical Trust and was completed in 1982.

Updates on the project may be found on the park’s website at www.nps.gov/INDE.

The original language of the Park Service proposal released January 5 read:

Park seeks input on the rehabilitation of Welcome Park

The National Park Service proposes to rehabilitate Welcome Park to provide a more welcoming, accurate, and inclusive experience for visitors. Welcome Park was designed by the internationally acclaimed design firm Venturi & Scott Brown Associates. The park is located on the site of William Penn’s home, the Slate Roof House, and is named for the ship, Welcome, which transported Penn to Philadelphia. The design and construction of Welcome Park was funded by the Independence Historical Trust and was completed in 1982.

The proposed rehabilitation of Welcome Park includes expanded interpretation of the Native American history of Philadelphia and was developed in consultation with representatives of the indigenous nations of the Haudenosaunee, the Delaware Nation, Delaware Tribe of Indians, the Shawnee Tribe, and the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma. The reimagined Welcome Park maintains certain aspects of the original design such as the street grid, the rivers and the east wall while adding a new planted buffer on three sides, and a ceremonial gathering space with circular benches. The Penn statue and Slate Roof house model will be removed and not reinstalled. In a separate and future effort, new exhibit panels will be installed on the south site wall to replace the Penn timeline.

The public is invited to submit comments on this proposed design for the rehabilitation of Welcome Park for a 14-day period from January 8th – 21st, 2024 through the National Park Service’s Planning, Environment and Public Comment (PEPC) at https://parkplanning.nps.gov. Comments submitted through social media, phone calls, email or mail will not be accepted. All public comments must be received through PEPC by midnight Sunday, January 21st, 2024.

For information about Independence National Historical Park, visit the park website at www.nps.gov/INDE.

Background from a Pennsylvania Historical Society essay by Cary Hutto (excerpt):

William Penn and the first settlers of Pennsylvania sailed across the Atlantic Ocean on the ship Welcome. The Welcome departed from Deal, England, on August 31, 1682, and arrived at the mouth of the Delaware River (now New Castle, Delaware) on October 27, 1682, completing the Atlantic crossing in 57 days which was slow by 17th century standards. The voyage did not end without incident; nearly one-third of all the ship’s passengers died of smallpox. On October 28, 1682, the ship anchored at Upland (now Chester, Pennsylvania) on the site that had been chosen by Thomas Holme, Penn’s surveyor general.

King Charles II of England granted Penn ownership of the land in order to pay off a large debt to Penn’s father, Admiral Sir William Penn. The younger Penn had first called the area Sylvania (Latin for woods), which the king later changed to Pennsylvania in honor of the elder Penn. One of the first counties of Pennsylvania was named Bucks County after Buckinghamshire (Bucks) in England, Penn’s family seat and the hometown of many of the first settlers.

Excerpt from USHistory.org

William Penn (October 14, 1644–July 30, 1718) founded the Province of Pennsylvania, the British North American colony that became the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. The democratic principles that he set forth served as an inspiration for the United States Constitution. Ahead of his time, Penn also published a plan for a United States of Europe, “European Dyet, Parliament or Estates.”

…Penn was educated at Chigwell School, Essex where he had his earliest religious experience. Thereafter, young Penn’s religious views effectively exiled him from English society — he was sent down (expelled) from Christ Church, Oxford for being a Quaker, and was arrested several times. Among the most famous of these was the trial following his arrest with William Meade for preaching before a Quaker gathering. Penn pleaded for his right to see a copy of the charges laid against him and the laws he had supposedly broken, but the judge, the Lord Mayor of London, refused — even though this right was guaranteed by the law. Despite heavy pressure from the Lord Mayor to convict the men, the jury returned a verdict of “not guilty”. The Lord Mayor then not only had Penn sent to jail again (on a charge of contempt of court), but also the full jury. The members of the jury, fighting their case from prison, managed to win the right for all English juries to be free from the control of judges. (See jury nullification.)The persecution of Quakers became so fierce that Penn decided that it would be better to try to found a new, free, Quaker settlement in North America. Some Quakers had already moved to North America, but the New England Puritans, especially, were as negative towards Quakers as the people back home, and some of them had been banished to the Caribbean.

…Although Penn’s authority over the colony was officially subject only to that of the king, through his Frame of Government he implemented a democratic system with full freedom of religion, fair trials, elected representatives of the people in power, and a separation of powers — again ideas that would later form the basis of the American constitution. The freedom of religion in Pennsylvania (complete freedom of religion for everybody who believed in God) brought not only English, Welsh, German and Dutch Quakers to the colony, but also Huguenots (French Protestants), Mennonites, Amish, and Lutherans from Catholic German states.

Penn had hoped that Pennsylvania would be a profitable venture for himself and his family. Penn marketed the colony throughout Europe in various languages and, as a result, settlers flocked to Pennsylvania. Despite Pennsylvania’s rapid growth and diversity, the colony never turned a profit for Penn or his family. In fact, Penn would later be imprisoned in England for debt and, at the time of his death in 1718, he was penniless.

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