William Penn

William Penn

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William Penn

William Penn was born in London, England, on October 14, 1644. His father was Admiral William Penn, who served in the Commonwealth Navy during the English Civil War. Lord Oliver Cromwell rewarded Admiral Penn's service by giving him estates in Ireland. William's mother was named Margaret Jasper, and she was the daughter of a wealthy merchant from Rotterdam. Little William developed small pox as a child, and lost all of his hair for good. At the time there were no public schools in England. Instead, education focused on the teachings of the Anglican Church(Church of England). Penn first attended the Chigwell School, and then when he was few years older he attended Christ Church School in Oxford. At Christ Church William enjoyed the classics. He especially liked Shakespeare.

Before long, William Jr. became an advocate for both democracy and religious freedom. At the time, the Penn family was very wealthy and young William had large landed estates in both Ireland and England. William Jr.also had a beautiful country home in Sussex, and an annual income of about $4,000 a year, which was a huge amount in those days. He also had a staff of 8 servants. As a young man, William had converted to Quakerism, against his father's wishes. At the time, there were approximately 50,000 Quakers in England. They referred to themselves as the Friends of God.

Before long, William Penn Jr. became an advocate for both democracy and religious freedom. Soon, he began hearing stories about the New World and he longed for his own colony in America. Eventually his wish would come true when the king agreed to grant the younger Penn 45,000 square miles west of the Delaware River on condition that the older Penn canceled a debt of $30,000 that the government owed him. This area included what would eventually become the states of Pennsylvania and most of Delaware. As much as Penn was in favor of getting rich, he was also very serious about the promotion of his own faith. While he promised a “Free Colony” religiously, he still expected the new immigrants to pay him for their land as well as pay an annual tax.

Quaker beliefs were considered radical at the time. They believed that everyone was equal in Gods eyes. They were against bearing arms, slavery, social hierarchy, church tithes, and they were pacifists. They also didn't put much emphasis on the Bible and the scriptures. Instead, they relied on mystical experiences to lead them to God. Before long, local magistrates began to whip and fine thousands of Quakers for their beliefs, and William Penn, the most vocal of them all would spend 2 years in prison himself between 1667-1671.

In order to raise money for the colonies, Penn sold or subscribed 750,000 acres to 600 men. About 50 percent of them migrated to the new land. The money made it possible for Penn to send more than 4,000 new colonists from England to the new Province of Pennsylvania. By 1686, there were more than 8,000 colonists, and the new city of Philadelphia had 350 houses and 2,500 inhabitants. Before long, many of the colonists began to protest against what they saw as Penn's greed. They believed that it was his intent to keep them poor while he enriched himself and his cronies through his land speculation deals. Then in 1684, Penn left for England and his critics dominated the Pennsylvania political climate. At the time, they refused to pay their “quitrents” or taxes, which angered Penn because of the great deal of his own money that he had spent. He was now spending more money than he was bringing in. William Penn continued donating to the Quaker causes until he ended up in debtors prison in 1707.

William Penn negotiates a treaty with the Native Americans in 1683