When William Penn asked King Charles II to let him establish a colony in America, the king had two reasons for granting Penn's request. First, he could repay a large debt that he owed to Penn's father, Admiral Penn. Second, he could get rid of William, who had been a thorn in the king's side for several years.
William Penn was a member of the Society of Friends, or Quakers. The Quakers believed in a simple lifestyle and in treating all people equally. They refused to bow before the king, fight in wars, or pay taxes to the Church of England.
In 1668, the king incarcerated Penn, hoping to stop him from preaching the Quakers' ideas. To the king's dismay, Penn continued preaching after his release.
With the Quakers unwelcome in England, Penn sought to establish a colony in America where they would be free to practice their own beliefs.
In 1681, the king granted Penn a huge area of land between the Puritan colonies of New England and the Anglican colonies of the South. In honor of Penn's father, the colony was called Pennsylvania.
Penn advertised his colony all over Europe. Many were drawn to Pennsylvania by his Great Law of 1682, which guaranteed that people of all faiths would be treated equally.
Penn's appeal attracted settlers from several countries. An early colonist in Pennsylvania marveled at the prosperity and peace in the colony. He wrote, “Poor people (both Men and Women) of all kinds, can here get three times the Wages for their Labour they can in England or Wales . . . Here are no Beggars to be seen . . . Jealousie among Men is here very rare . . . nor are old Maids to be met with; for all commonly Marry before they are Twenty Years of Age.”
Penn named his capital city Philadelphia, which is Greek for “City of Brotherly Love.” From there, he wrote important government documents that made Pennsylvania the first democracy in America.