Penn and the Middle Class

   William Penn: a Quaker, the founder of the city of Philadelphia, and the colony and what would later be the state of Pennsylvania.  He also, famously, came to a peaceful agreement with the Indians of the Lenape which later backfired on the Natives.  However, when we think of Penn, we usually do not think of his work: Fruits of Solitude.  In this book, Penn discussed about several topics with sometimes the use of aphorisms.  Some of his aphorisms were amazingly well written, others not so well.  However, throughout the work, Penn seemed to be directly talking to the middle class.  Also known as the class not wealthy, but doing well finance-wise.

   The middle class is not wealthy rich.  They get by.  Middle class means that if you have money to achieve all of your and your family’s major needs (clothes, food, a home/other shelter, etc.) and then have some to either spend on something else or put into savings to buy something more expensive.  The rich hoard money.  Buying their needs barely puts a dent in their wealth.  You get the picture.  However, Penn talked about money and the middle and rich class in Fruits of Solitude.

   “The first is leaving off superfluous Expenses; the last bestowing them to the Benefit of others in need.”

   “Lend not beyond thy Ability, nor refuse to lend out of thy Ability; especially when it help other more than it can hurt thee.”

   He said that we should not hoard/save money.  We should give to the more needy if we have met all of our needs.  We will only be happy for a short time or not at all happy with a lot of money.  So do not save.  Give to people less fortunate than you.  It basically all came down to this.

   “Seek not to be Rich, but Happy.  The one lies in Bags, the other in Content: which Wealth can never give.”

   Wealth will only keep you “happy” for a very short time.  Spend on your needs, give the extra away.  That will give you happiness.

   “Eat therefore to live, and do not live to eat.”

   Here he is saying do not spend your life eating.  Eat to live, fill your stomach, give the rest to the less fortunate.

    “If thou art clean and warm, it is sufficient; for more doth but rob the Poor…”

   William is telling us to have a good amount of clothes; no more, no less.  If we hoard clothes or buy more than we need, he is saying we are stealing from the poor who need it more.  Again, give yourself enough, give the rest to the poor.

   Throughout Fruits of Solitude, we see William Penn, the Quaker, the founder, the author, etc., asking us to give and not save.  Help and not steal.  We the middle class who take the middle path between poor and rich, should first make sure we have met our needs, then make sure the poor can meet our needs.  He believed the poor and the rich should join the middle class.  Everyone, he thought, would be better off this way.


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