Saynonviolence” today and your hearers are likely to think of protest marches and sit-ins, but nonviolence, as Mahatma Gandhi said, “is not the inanity it has been taken for down the ages.” It is a law of nature and can be applied in any relationship or situation, including statecraft. Indeed, Gandhi argued that “it is blasphemy to say that nonviolence can only be practiced by individuals and never by nations which are composed of individuals.”

In North America, an early experiment in nonviolent statecraft began in March 1681, when King Charles II granted William Penn governorship of the vast territory in North America that today bears his name. Penn was a close friend of George Fox, founder of the Religious Society of Friends (the Quakers), and the Quaker regime he created remained an island of peace even as traumatic battles between...

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