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William Penn


William penn in Pennsylvania
William penn in Pennsylvania

The founder of Pennsylvania was William Penn, the son of the wealthy English Admiral Sir William Penn. The younger Penn was a rebellious youth who became a free thinker and joined the Society of Friends, or Quakers. When his father died in 1670, Penn inherited a sizable fortune, which he soon began to use to help his fellow Quakers escape religious persecution in England.

Penn helped create a Quaker colony in New Jersey, which encouraged him to seek a colony of his own. As payment of a debt the king owed to Penn’s father, Penn asked King Charles II for a portion of the New York colony. The king, happy to be rid of both the debt and the Quakers, consented. On March 4, 1681, the king signed a charter that made Penn proprietor of Pennsylvania, a name chosen to honor the elder Penn. The grant included much of present-day Pennsylvania. Penn later asked for and received the Lower Counties, now Delaware.

Calling his settlement the Holy Experiment, Penn promised religious toleration and participation in lawmaking to anyone who wished to settle there. In response to Penn’s advertisements, English, Welsh, and Dutch Quakers migrated to the colony. They settled much of the area within 40 km (25 mi) of Philadelphia, which was laid out in 1682 at Penn’s request by Thomas Holme, the colony’s surveyor general. Early in the 1700s a large influx of Germans arrived, many of them members of such persecuted religious groups as the Amish, Mennonites, and Schwenkfeldians, followers of Kaspar Schwenkfeld von Ossig, a dissident 16th-century theologian. They settled the rich farmland between Philadelphia and the Blue Mountains, a region that later became known as Pennsylvania Dutch country (Dutch was a corruption of the word Deutsch, meaning “German”).

Beginning about 1718, large numbers of Scots-Irish arrived, and by the 1740s they had settled the mountain valleys beyond the German belt. Many people from Virginia, Maryland, and Connecticut also settled land that, after boundary adjustments, became part of Pennsylvania. The colony grew rapidly, from about 20,000 inhabitants in 1700 to 300,000 in 1776. Many different nationalities and religions were represented, but the major groups remained geographically separate, with the English in the east, Germans in the middle, and Scots-Irish in the west. "Pennsylvania" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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