William Penn

William Penn

William Penn, the son of Sir William Penn (1621-70), was born in 1644. Penn was sent down from Oxford University for refusing to conform to the restored Anglican Church.

Admiral Penn sent his son France, hoping that he would lose his Puritan beliefs. He returned to study law in London and in 1666 went to Ireland where he managed his father's estates in Cork. While in Ireland he attended Quaker meetings and this led to his arrest and imprisonment.

Penn moved back to England and was soon in trouble for writing Sandy Foundation Shaken. This attack on the Anglican Church resulted in him being imprisoned in the Tower of London. While in prison Penn wrote No Cross, No Crown and Innocency With Her Open Face. He was eventually released but in 1671, Penn, now a devout Quaker, was sent to Newgate Prison for six months for preaching. On his release he made a preaching tour of Holland and Germany where he advocated toleration of all religious faiths.

In 1681 Penn purchased a large area of land in America from Charles II. Penn saw the venture as a "holy experiment" and hoped he would be able to establish a colony where people of all creeds and nationalities could live together in peace. The first settlers began arriving in Pennsylvania in 1682 and settling around Philadelphia (the city of brotherly love) at the junction of the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers.

Penn returned to London in 1684 and led the campaign for religious toleration in England. Two years later, all people imprisoned on account of their religious opinions, including 1200 Quaker, achieved their freedom.

In 1689 Penn returned to Pennsylvania and made changes to a constitution which had proved to be unworkable. This included conflicts over the keeping of slaves. William Penn died in 1718.

© , September 1997 - April 2014