William Penn and the Quakers
Quaker religion was established by 1647 George
Fox responding to the need of people who were
tired of the "showmanship" of traditional
churches. Fox taught the Quakers that that
Christ was to be experienced directly and not
through a church ritual or minister. The
congregations called themselves "Friends", or
the the Society of Friends, but the term
"Quakers" was applied to the religion to
ridicule the way many Quakers shook as they
prayed to God. Refer to
in the Colonies.
Facts about William Penn
The following facts about William Penn
provide interesting facts and an overview and
description of the
life and times and his involvement in the
early colonization of America and the Pennsylvania Colony.
When was William Penn born? He was
born on October 14, 1644. Where was William Penn born? He was born in Tower
Hill, London, England
William Penn came from an Anglican family with a strong naval tradition. His
father was Admiral Sir William Penn and his mother's name was Margaret
Jasper.William Penn was well educated and attended at Christ church, Oxford.
Whilst at Oxford he was converted to Quakerism by the preaching of a disciple of
George Fox, named Thomas Loc
William Penn was extreme in his new religious fervor and was in 1662 was
expelled from Oxford, along with some other Quaker students, for attacking
Anglican (Church of England) students. William Penn argued with his furious
father and sent off to the family estates in Ireland, they argued again on his
return and William was sent to Europe in 1661
He undertook the grand tour of Europe with the Earl of Crawford. King Louis XIV
receives them at the French court and then William Penn returned home to England
In 1665 he prepared for a career in law at Lincoln's Inn, Chancery Lane, London.
The “Five Mile Act” was passed in 1665 prohibited dissenting teachers and
preachers to come within that distance of any borough. The Quakers were
especially targeted and their meetings were deemed as criminal.
In the same year the Great Plague of London occurred and William travels to
Ireland to practice laws. The following year another disaster struck England -
1666 the Great Fire of London. Penn returned to find the once great city in
In 1669 William Penn meets George Fox, the founder of the Quakers, in London.
His father nearly disowns him. Undeterred William Penn writes the pamphlet "The
Sandy Foundation Shaken." He is sent to the Tower of London without trial at the
urging of the Bishop of London. William Penn spends 8 months in the Tower of
London before he is released
In 1672 he married Gulielma Maria Springett, of a well-known Quaker family. His
marriage completed his religious commitment.
1675 is the year of William Penn's first involvement in colonization. He
arbitrates dispute between Quakers in West Jersey and becomes a trustee of West
With the New Jersey foothold in place, Penn pressed his case to extend the
Quaker region in America. King Charles II owed the Penn family 16000 pounds for
money loaned him by the admiral. William Penn's father writes to the King asking
for land in America as payment.
In 1680 King Charles II grants an generous charter which made William Penn the
world’s largest non-royal landowner, with over 45,000 square miles of land
William Penn wanted to call the land "Sylvania" meaning 'forest land' but the
King wanted to recognize Penn's father and insisted it be called "Pennsylvania".
Pennsylvania is not, therefore, named after William Penn - it is named after his
On August 30, 1682 leaves England and sails on the Welcome to Pennsylvania.
William Penn travels to the site of Philadelphia and lands at Dock Creek. The
city of "Brotherly Love" (or Phil-Adelphia) is established. Philadelphia was the
first planned, and surveyed city in the western hemisphere. He makes binding
treaties with the Lenape Native Indians. During his lifetime not a single treaty
that he had made with the Native tribes was ever broken.
In 1684, Penn returns to England from Pennsylvania to visit his family. February
6, 1685 - Charles II dies and the Duke of York takes the throne as King James II
of England and declares himself a Catholic.
The Glorious Revolution follows in 1689 led to the 1689 English Bill of Rights
William Penn is arrested in 1690 for corresponding with the deposed King James
II, but is soon released
January 13, 1691 George Fox, the founder of the Quakers dies in London. William
Penn speaks at his funeral. William Penn is charged with treason and goes into
hiding. In 1692, the King William takes Pennsylvania from Penn and places it
under the Governor of New York.
William Penn is cleared of the treason charge but on February 23, 1694 Gulielma
Springett Penn dies. William Penn is given control of Pennsylvania in August
1694 and the colony is returned to his authority
He marries Hannah Callowhill, the daughter of a Quaker, on 5 March 1696. In 1699
William Penn and his family return to Pennsylvania but soon return to England in
In 1707 there is a dispute between a Quaker family from Bristol, called the
Fords and William Penn. Philip Ford was a financial advisor to Penn who is said
to have cheated him of many thousands of pounds. Not content with this the Fords
foreclose on a loan to Penn and claim Pennsylvania for the Ford family.
William Penn is arrested for non-payment of debt in 1708. He is freed in
December 1708, after his friends negotiate a deal with the Ford family.
In 1712, with debts a constant issue, William Penn attempted to sell
Pennsylvania back to the king. During this time he suffered a major stroke
leading to a total loss of memory and the inability to speak
William Penn died penniless on July 30, 1718 (aged 73) at his home in Ruscombe,
near Twyford in Berkshire. He was buried in an unmarked grave next to his first
wife in the cemetery of the Jordans Quaker meeting house near Chalfont St Giles
in Buckinghamshire, England.