The ultimate driving force of William Penn’s adult life is inaccessible, as the Quaker phrase ‘Inner Light’ suggests. While a young man administering the family estates in Ireland, Penn experienced ‘convincement’, another Quaker term for what other Dissenters called conversion. But while these experiences were inward and personal, they had public consequences. Since they were potentially available to anyone, they brought in their wake a tendency towards egalitarianism, manifested in plain speaking, pacifism, and a refusal to swear oaths or doff one’s hat. These outward manifestations of private experience inevitably caused ructions in the hierarchical social structure of 17th-century England.
Ironically, Penn’s position in that hierarchy would have made him more liable to be doffed to than to doff.