It took all kinds of people to make up America. Most of them were humble folk led by such sturdy members of the middle class as Captain John Smith and John Rolfe of Virginia, Miles Standish and William Bradford of Plymouth.
No individual founder of a colony contributed more fruitfully towards assisting English men and women in the attainment of their goal of a better life in America than William Penn
William Penn Quaker
William Penn was a well-educated aristocrat, schooled at Oxford, the son of a British Admiral, Sir William Penn. He read won friendships and lasting influence in high places. William Penn was born into the Church of England, but was converted to the Quakers by Thomas Loe, a Quaker preacher.
As a Quaker, Penn quickly became a powerful advocate of freedom of conscience, preaching and writing to advance the teachings of the Quakers, and promoting acceptance of the doctrines of political liberty, being an opponent of economic oppression of the many by the few.
By virtue of his legal training at Lincoln's Inn, he was a successful defender of the security and property of Englishmen. William Penn was a man of no compromise. While in prison for his religious convictions, he wrote, No Cross, No Crown, setting forth many of the principles that Americans call, the American way of life.
Penn's Interest In America
At the age of thirty-three, Penn first became interested in America, having his great convictions formed and developed. He was given the opportunity to put them to practice when he was made one of the trustees to manage the property of West New Jersey, which the Society of Friends had acquired as a refugee for its members.
In 1677 Burlington was founded under a charter of "Laws, Concessions, and Agreements" large drawn up by William Penn, guaranteeing religious freedom with the statement that 'no Men, or number of Men upon Earth, hath Power or Authority to rule over Men's Consciences in religious Matters. "At first opportunity Penn had written his liberalism into fundamental law and put it into practice in a new society.
William Penn Influences Pennsylvania and Delaware
In 1681 Charles II, King of England, paid a long-standing debt to Admiral Pen by granting the son, William, a huge tract of land north of Maryland. Penn named it Pennsylvania in honor of his father. The following year, Duke of York, transferred the territory known as Delaware to him.
Now Penn could work out all of his social and political ideas, people of any faith could dwell and worship there in peace, a place where large land owners, as himself, and small farms could lie with the same rights, under the same frame of government, which he issued in 1682, "that any government is free to the People under it where the laws rule and the People are a Party to those Laws". History tells us that it worked. Pennsylvania and Delaware are the results.
William Penn did not spend much time America, less than four years in the colonies, but great things he accomplished for them. In 1682 he crossed over to the colonies and began to construct a great estate on the Delaware above Bristol, which he named Pennbury. Although He remained in the colonies for only twenty-two months, he saw to the laying out of Philadelphia, the sound and permanent establishment of the government, the attracting, by skillful advertising, of thousands of colonists from Holland, Ireland and England, and the concluding the last peace with the Indians.
Penn returned again to the colonies in 1699 to 1701 and keep them a more liberal charter. This act completed his career as a constructive colonizer.
William Penn's influence on America was paramount. He shared prominently in establishing Pennsylvania and Delaware. He saw that humble folks got a chance to start their lives anew under favorable conditions; he preached and practiced religious freedom; he was a great humanitarian in an inhumane age and his ideals helped form the democracy we have today in America.