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1911 Encyclopedia Britannica

Sir Isaac Penington

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SIR ISAAC PENINGTON ( c. 1587-1661), lord mayor of London, eldest son of Robert Penington, a London fishmonger, was born probably in 1587. His father besides his London business had landed estates in Norfolk and Suffolk, which Isaac inherited in addition to a property in Buckinghamshire which he himself purchased. In 1638 Isaac became an alderman and high sheriff of London. In 1640 he was elected to the House of Commons as member for the city of London, and immediately took a prominent place among the Puritan party. In 1642 he was elected lord mayor of London, but retained his seat in parliament by special leave of the Commons; and he was elected lord mayor for a second term in the following year, continuing while in office to raise large sums of money for the opposition to the Court party. From 1642 to 1645 he was lieutenant of the Tower, in which capacity he was present at the execution of Laud; but, though one of the commissioners for the trial of Charles I., he did not sign the death warrant. After the king's death Penington served on Cromwell's council of state, and on several committees of government. His services were rewarded by considerable grants of land, and a knighthood conferred in 1649. He was tried and convicted of treason at the Restoration, and died while a prisoner in the Tower on the 17th of December 1661. He was twice married, and had six children by his first wife, several of whom became Quakers.

Isaac Penington (1616-1679), Sir Isaac's eldest son, was one of the most notable of the 17th-century Quakers. He was early troubled by religious perplexities, which found expression in many voluminous writings. No less than eleven religious works, besides a political treatise in defence of democratic principles, were published by him in eight years. He belonged for a time to the sect of the Independents; but about 1657, influenced probably by the preaching of George Fox, whom he heard in Bedfordshire, Penington and his wife joined the Society of Friends. His wife was daughter and heiress of Sir John Proude, and widow of Sir William Springett, so that the worldly position of the couple made them a valuable acquisition to the Quakers. Isaac Penington' was himself a man of very considerable gifts and sweetness of character. In 1661 he was imprisoned for refusing to take the oath of allegiance, and on several subsequent occasions he passed long periods in Reading and Aylesbury gaols. He died on the 8th of October 1679; his wife, who wrote an account of his imprisonments, survived till 1682. In 1681 Penington's writings were published in a collected edition, and several later editions were issued before the end of the 18th century. His son John Penington (1655-1710) defended his father's memory against attack, and published some controversial tracts against George Keith. Edward Penington (1667-1711), another of Isaac Penington's sons, emigrated to Pennsylvania, where he founded a family. Isaac Penington's stepdaughter, Gulielma Springett, married William Penn.

See Maria Webb, The Penns and Peningtons of the 17th Century (London, 1867); Lord Clarendon, History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England (7 vols., Oxford, 1839); Bulstrode Whitelocke, Memorials of English Affairs: Charles I. to the Restoration (London, 1732); J. Gurney Bevan, Life of Isaac Penington (London, 1784); Thomas Ellwood, History of the Life of Ellwood by his own hand (London, 1765); Willem Sewel, History of the Quakers (6th ed., 2 vols., London, 1834).

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Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Sir Isaac Penington'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. 1910.

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