October 14, 2010

Happy Birthday, William Penn

Born in London, England, in 1644, William Penn's father was an Admiral who was given lands by Oliver Cromwell and shortly after rewarded for switching loyalties, to Charles II, with a knighthood. William Penn was raised to be a member of the ruling class and live a pretty comfy life.

Instead, he turned from the Church of England and the English Protestant group we know as the Puritans and became a Quaker. Like other Quakers, Penn faced persecution (bad treatment) because of his religious beliefs. And like many other people who faced religious persecution, Penn and a group of Quakers looked to the New World as a place to start fresh and gain religious freedom.

The colony that Penn helped to start ended up being called...you guessed it, Pennsylvania!

But that name wasn't given in honor of William Penn. Instead, it was called that by the king, in honor of William's father!

The king did more than that—he granted Penn a charter over such a large tract of land, that Penn became the largest non-royal landowner known in the world at the time. Penn was deemed the sole owner and ruler of that territory! A lot of people in this situation would have wallowed in the wealth and power—and maybe abused it—but Penn made sure that laws were in place that limited his power. He thought that the colony was a “Holy Experiment,” and he made sure that laws were fair and that people accused of crimes would receive trial by jury. He planned progressive prisons that would correct through workshops rather than punish, and he planned representational democracy.

Good ideas. Good guy.

Find out more here and here.

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