William Penn (14 October 1644 – 30 July 1718) was an English real estate entrepreneur, philosopher, and founder of the Province of Pennsylvania, the English North American colony and the future Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. He was an early champion of democracy and religious freedom, notable for his good relations and successful treaties with the Lenape Indians. Under his direction, the city of Philadelphia was planned and developed.

In 1681, King Charles II handed over a large piece of his American land holdings to William Penn to satisfy a debt the king owed to Penn's father. This land included present-day Pennsylvania and Delaware. Penn immediately sailed to America and his first step on American soil took place in New Castle in 1682. On this occasion, the colonists pledged allegiance to Penn as their new Proprietor, and the first general assembly was held in the colony. Afterwards, Penn journeyed up river and founded Philadelphia. However, Penn's Quaker government was not viewed favorably by the Dutch, Swedish, and English settlers in what is now Delaware. They had no "historical" allegiance to Pennsylvania, so they almost immediately began petitioning for their own Assembly. In 1704 they achieved their goal when the three southernmost counties of Pennsylvania were permitted to split off and become the new semi-autonomous colony of Lower Delaware. As the most prominent, prosperous and influential "city" in the new colony, New Castle became the capital.

As one of the earlier supporters of colonial unification, Penn wrote and urged for a Union of all the English colonies in what was to become the United States of America. The democratic principles that he set forth in the Pennsylvania Frame of Government served as an inspiration for the United States Constitution. As a pacifist Quaker, Penn considered the problems of war and peace deeply, and included a plan for a United States of Europe ("European Dyet, Parliament or Estates") in his voluminous writings.

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William Penn Poems

Never Marry But For Love

Never marry but for love;
but see that thou lovest what is lovely.
If love be not the chiefest motive,
thou wilt soon grow weary of a married state and stray from thy promise,... more »

They That Love Beyond The World

They that love beyond the world cannot be separated by it,
death cannot kill what never dies.
Nor can spirits ever be divided that love
and live in the same divine principle,... more »

William Penn Quotes

Much reading is an oppression of the mind, and extinguishes the natural candle, which is the reason of so many senseless scholars in the world.
William Penn (1644-1718), British religious leader, founder of Pennsylvania. Advice to His Children (1699).
No pain, no palm; no thorns, no throne; no gall, no glory; no cross, no crown.
William Penn (1644-1718), British religious leader, founder of Pennsylvania. No Cross, No Crown (pamphlet) (1669).
Let the people think they govern and they will be governed.
William Penn (1644-1718), British religious leader, founder of Pennsylvania. Some Fruits of Solitude (1693).

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