Penn, William 
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Time Period
10/14/1644  - 7/30/1718
William Penn settled the Pennsylvania colony in hopes of establishing the ideal Christian society. Having been persecuted for his Quaker beliefs in London, he desired for his colony to promote religious tolerance, pacifism, and fair treatment to the local Delaware Indians. He wrote many books on his religious faith and the ideal style of government, including No Cross, No Crown (1669) and Frame of Government (1682), the latter of which influenced the U.S. Constitution.
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William Penn (1644-1718) was the son of a wealthy war hero, Admiral Sir William Penn. His relationship with his father was often tumultuous, as young Penn was expelled from the house on more than one occasion. The first instance occurred when he was expelled from Oxford at age 18 for resisting the school’s mandatory religious requirements, such as daily chapel attendance.

While administering to his father’s estates in Ireland years later, he interacted with a group of Irish Quakers and admired their religious faith under such intense persecution. He eventually converted to Quakerism, and became one of the leading English Quakers, writing multiple books and tracts to defend the faith. He was jailed four times for his beliefs.

In 1681, King Charles II granted the Penn family a parcel of land in North America, which became known as the colony of Pennsylvania. Penn desired for the land to become the ideal Christian society, a place offering religious tolerance, no militia and fair trade with the local Delaware Indians.

Penn visited the colony at various times from 1682 to 1701. In 1701, he transformed the colony’s government into a more democratic system after settlers became agitated with the oligarchic authority vested in the proprietor. Returning to England, he continued to promote Quakerism and his colony until he suffered a stroke in 1712. He died six years later in London on July 30, 1718.
Religious Groups
Timeline Entries for the same religious group European Free-Church Family (Brethren, Mennonites, Quaker, Amish)
European Free-Church Family (Brethren, Mennonites, Quaker, Amish): Other ARDA Links


William Penn portrait- Internet Archive- from The Life of William Penn by Samuel M. Janney

William Penn portrait- Internet Archive- from A Collection of the Works of William Penn, vol 1

William Penn landing- Library of Congress, LC-USZC4-12141

William Penn portrait- Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-12218

William Penn treaty- Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-2583
Book/Journal Source(s)
Queen, Edward, Stephen Prothero and Gardiner Shattuck, 1996. The Encyclopedia of American Religious History. New York: Facts on File.
Web Page Contributor
Benjamin T. Gurrentz
Affliated with: Pennsylvania State University, Ph.D. in Sociology

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