When William Penn was a young man in London, followers of the Quaker religion were scorned and ridiculed and sometimes imprisoned. Penn himself was imprisoned three times for writing and reaching about Quakerism before he came to the American colonies 1682.
Penn met many people who wanted to settle where they could worship in their own way without fear. He realized that the only real hope for the Quakers was in America.
Penn first sailed up the Delaware to the new colony in 1682. He immediately made his first treaty with the Indians. The Indians never attacked the colony because Penn's dealings were always so just.
He returned to England in 1684 and for many years he worked to receive pardons for religious prisoners of many faiths. In 16, he returned to Pennsylvania, where there had been some trouble with government, slavery and piracy.
In 1680, Penn asked King Charles II to repay a debt of about $80,000 which was owed to his father with wilderness land in America. On March 4, 1681, a charter was granted giving Penn the territory west of the Delaware River between New York and Maryland.
The king's council added "Penn" to the suggested name of "Sylvania," making the word Pennsylvania, which means Penn's Woods.
Penn opened the land to the Quakers and other people who were suffering religious persecution. They moved in by the thousands from England, Germany, the Netherlands and Wales. He drew up a Frame of Government for the new colony which later greatly influenced other charters.
Penn settled the colony's problems and rewrote its constitution to meet the new needs of the people who were coming to America.
The influence of Penn's charter is noticeable in the Constitution of the United States.
The king's plan to make Penn's colony of Pennsylvania a royal province, however, never materialized.
Penn returned to London in 1701. He was imprisoned for a year on a fake claim of debts and his health was ruined. In 1712, he suffered a stroke which paralyzed him. He lived six more years, however, he left his interests in Pennsylvania to his four sons when he died.
Penn, who was the son of a knighted admiral in the British navy, had gone to school at Oxford University. Because he was a follower of the Quaker religion, he didn't like the university's rule that everyone had to attend Church of England services.