Land of the Brave

William Penn

William Penn

Colonial America - William Penn

Short Biography about William Penn
William Penn (1644-1718) was famous as a Quaker and the leader of the Pennsylvania Colony. He was a land investor and a philosopher who promoted the ideals of religious tolerance.

The city of Philadelphia was planned and developed under the direction of William Penn. This article contains a short biography and fast facts and information about the early American colonist, William Penn.

Who was William Penn and why was he famous?

William Penn and the Quakers
The 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 Religion 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 ruins

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 New Jersey

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 father.

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 1701

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.

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