Penn, William


Penn, William

biographical name

(born Oct. 14, 1644, London, Eng.—died July 30, 1718, Buckinghamshire) English Quaker leader and founder of Pennsylvania. Expelled from Oxford for his Puritan beliefs, he was sent to manage the family estates in Ireland, where he joined the Society of Friends in 1667. He was imprisoned four times for stating his Quaker beliefs in print and in speech; one of his trials resulted in the precedent-setting Bushell's Case, which established the independence of juries. In The Great Case of Liberty of Conscience (1670), Penn advocated religious toleration and envisioned a colony based on religious and political freedom. On his father's death, he inherited his estates and his influence with Charles II, who granted him a vast province on the Delaware River in payment for debts owed his father. In 1682 he drafted a Frame of Government that established freedom of worship in the settlement. Upon his arrival later that year, he negotiated a series of treaties with the local Indians. In 1684 he traveled to England to defend his interests against claims by neighbouring Maryland. With the accession of his friend the duke of York as James II, he secured the release of imprisoned Quakers. He returned to Pennsylvania in 1699, where he wrote the Charter of Privileges, which allowed the assembly greater autonomy. The years after his return to England in 1701 were clouded by debt and illness.

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