Adapted from C. E. Vulliamy's biography, the son of an admiral becomes a Quaker, marries, and founds a pacifist colony in America.
In London in 1667 King Charles II (Dennis Arundell) is attended by women. Admiral William Penn (Charles Carson) sees a Quaker dunked in beer without complaining; but his son William Penn (Clifford Evans) stops it. William suggests to the Quakers that they stand up for their rights. Admiral Penn objects to his son throwing away his career for the Quakers; but William gives up his sword. William preaches equality, unity, liberty, and charity. He seems to prefer the Bible to a woman. Guglielma (Deborah Kerr) hears William preaching to servants, who say they are converted. She invites him into the dining room. William says they are bored but could help others. William tells Guglielma he is going to marry her.
In London William is arrested. Guglielma says he is not seditious, because he loves people. The royal chaplain asks William to admit he is wrong or he may be executed. William has faith in a jury. He is fined for not removing his hat in court. William appeals to common law against the act prohibiting his meeting. A judge has William knocked out; but the jury finds him not guilty. Judges threaten the jurors and lock them up without food. Twenty times their verdict is not guilty. Judges imprison the jurors; but they are freed by order of King Charles.
William weds Guglielma. She cooks for him but is better at music. William learns he has a son. Quakers are threatened with death and are persecuted; but William is not arrested. Guglielma suggests America as a new world for liberty. King Charles sees William, who asks for the 17,000 pounds owed his late father so they can buy land in America. Charles consents and calls it Pennsylvania. William tells Guglielma, who wants to go. In 1681 Charles signs the charter, and William proclaims freedom of conscience. William says goodbye to Guglielma and promises to make a home for her. William takes a stallion to sire horses. On the ship he treats small pox victims against the captain's order. William is welcomed to a settlement and asks Cockle (Herbert Lomas) to teach him the Indian language. William plans a city with parks and names it Philadelphia for brotherly love.
Guglielma gets a letter. William stops a man from punishing an Indian. William goes to the Indians and arranges to sign a treaty with the Algonquins. William goes back to England and finds Guglielma ill; she dies. Servant Hannah says William does not move; but he goes to America with new colonists and gains self-government for Pennsylvania. Years later he reads an old letter from Guglielma and dies.
This inspiring story of the "holy experiment"
initiated by William Penn is factually accurate but is only a
brief outline of his great life.