A First Book in American History  by Edward Eggleston

William Penn

Part 2 of 2

William Penn presently began to preach and write in favor of the doctrines of the Friends. He soon got into trouble, and was imprisoned in the Tower of London for eight months. The duke of York was a great friend of William Penn's father, and he finally got Penn released from the Tower. The father now gave up opposing his son's religion. William Penn was arrested again in about a year for preaching in the street. He was tried, and spoke for himself very boldly in court. The jury, after listening to him, would not bring in any verdict but that he was guilty of speaking in the street.


Tower of London

The judges were very angry with the jury, but the jurymen would not change their verdict. The judges of that day were very tyrannical. The jurymen in this case were fined, and sent to prison along with William Penn, who was imprisoned for wearing his hat in court. Soon after Penn was released, his father died. The admiral asked the Duke of York to befriend his son, who, he feared, would always be in trouble.


Penn Appeals to the Jury

Penn now traveled in England, Wales, Ireland, Holland, and Germany, on his preaching journeys. He used all the influence he had at court with the king and the king's brother, the Duke of York, to get Quakers and other persecuted people out of prison.

The American colonies had come to be a place for people of all religions to flee to when they were troubled in England. Some members of the Society of Friends—Penn among others—began to be interested in West Jersey, a part of what is now the State of New Jersey, as a place of refuge for Quakers.

The English Government owed Penn's father a large sum of money. Charles II was in debt, and found it hard to pay what he owed, so at length Penn persuaded the king to grant him a tract of land on the west side of the Delaware River. The king named this Pennsylvania, in honor of Admiral Penn. William Penn made the laws of his colony such that nobody in it would be troubled because of his religion. He sent some colonists there in 1681. Some of the people dug holes in the river bank to live in when they first reached Pennsylvania. Penn himself came the next year, and laid out a city, naming it Philadelphia, which means "Brotherly Love."


The site of Philadelphia is marked on this map by the letter "P"

William Penn managed the Indians well, and for many years after his death Pennsylvania had no wars. Penn made a treaty with the Indians under a large elm, in 1682. The woods were filled with savages, all armed and painted. The Quakers were but a handful. They wore neither weapons nor ornaments, except that Penn had a sky-blue sash around his waist. The Indians seated themselves on the ground around their various chiefs in the form of half-moons.


Penn and the Indians

When Penn was a young man he had been famous for his skill in jumping and other exercises. Finding the Indians engaged in a jumping match one day, he took part with them, and they were much pleased to have the great governor share in their sport. Pennsylvania grew much faster than any of the other colonies. The government established by Penn was free, the Indians were friendly, and the land was sold in small farms, so that poor men could own their farms. People, therefore, liked to settle in Penn's colony.

After two years William Penn went back to England. King Charles II died soon after. William Penn's friend, the Duke of York, now became king as James II, and Penn was seen a great deal in the palace. He got the Friends relieved from all their troubles, but he came to be hated a great deal by those who disliked King James. When this king was driven from England, and King William and Queen Mary were set up in his stead, Penn was very much suspected of wishing to bring James back. He was arrested several times, but nothing could be proved against him. The control of Pennsylvania was taken from him also, but this was afterwards restored.

Penn returned to Pennsylvania in 1699. He was once taking a journey through his province when he met a little girl named Rebecca Wood going to "meeting" on foot. He took the little girl up behind him on his horse, and the great proprietor of Pennsylvania was seen riding gravely along with the bare legs and feet of a poor little girl dangling at his horse's side.

Penn returned again to England, and, after many years, died in 1718. His descendants appointed the governors of Pennsylvania until the Revolution.


Wampum Belt Given by the Indians to William Penn