A Mover and a Quaker
William Penn Is Born
14, 1644 - How
did Pennsylvania get its name? Its founder, English
reformer William Penn, born on October 14, 1644, in
London, England, named it in honor of his father.
Persecuted in England for his Quaker faith, Penn came to
America in 1682 and established Pennsylvania as a place
where people could enjoy freedom of religion. The colony
became a haven for minority religious sects from Germany,
Holland, Scandinavia, and Great Britain. Penn obtained the
land from King Charles II as payment for a debt owed to
his deceased father.
Born the privileged son of a
land-owning gentleman, young William Penn was greatly
affected by the preaching of Quaker minister Thomas Loe.
Expelled from Oxford University in England in 1662 for
refusing to conform to the Anglican Church, Penn joined
the Quakers. He was locked up in the Tower of London four
times for stating his beliefs in public and in print.
After his father died in 1670, Penn inherited the family
estates and began to frequent the court of King Charles
II, campaigning for religious freedom.
prospects for religious tolerance or political reform in
England, Penn looked to America, which he had visited
briefly in 1677. In a 1682 document, Penn guaranteed
absolute freedom of worship in Pennsylvania. Rich in
fertile lands as well as religious freedom, the colony
attracted settlers and grew rapidly.
Penn is also
remembered for peaceful interaction with the Lenni Lenape
Indians and his draft of the Plan of Union, a forerunner
of the U.S. Constitution. Thanks to William Penn,
Pennsylvania, which guaranteed religious freedom for its
citizens, was established in the New World.