Independence Day is the perfect opportunity to remember one of our earliest founding fathers, the Quaker activist William Penn.
Penn came from a powerful Anglican family. In fact, the King of England owed Penn’s father a large sum of money. After his father’s death, Penn negotiated to be repaid with a land grant in colonial America. In 1681, the King's Council granted him an area that spanned 45,000 square miles. They called it Pennsylvania, meaning “Penn's woods.”
Penn wanted Quaker convictions about religious freedom to be the standard for more democratic governing. He created laws that gave people a voice in government, reformed the justice system, and established religious liberty as a core American belief. Thomas Jefferson called Penn "the greatest law-giver the world has produced."
William Penn was also one of the first city planners. He carefully laid out a city that would reflect his Quaker ideals. He called it Philadelphia, which Penn interpreted to mean "city of brotherly love."
Philadelphia became a center of intellectual and economic life in the colonies and eventually our nation’s first capital. The city has grown far beyond Penn’s original design, but for centuries his statue above city hall has kept watch over Philadelphia’s growth.
While overseeing the development of Pennsylvania in the late 1600s, Penn proposed a plan to unite the American colonies. The idea was ignored at the time, but 100 years later it was realized in the Declaration of Independence.
So, happy 4th of July! Oatmeal anyone?
Check out this history resource from SAS Curriculum Pathways to learn more about William Penn and the Middle Colonies.
Looking for more Colonial America resources? Check these out!
The Stamp Act
The Trial of Anne Hutchinson
The Declaration of Independence: Evolution of an Idea
Colonial Regions: New England, Middle Colonies, and Southern Colonies
The Jamestown Colony
Age of Exploration: Spain and the New World
Albany Plan of Union (May 9, 1754)
Letters from a Pennsylvania Farmer, Letter 2 (1767)
Boston Massacre, Anonymous Account ( March 5, 1770)
Letter from Abigail Adams (March 31, 1776)
A Valley Forge Surgeon's Diary (December 12, 1777)