The famed William Penn, the man after whom the U.S. state of Pennsylvania was named, was born on this day. He was born in London, and his father was the notable admiral Sir William Penn. The wealthy family provided their son with a good education. As a young man of 22, Penn became a member of the Quaker religious movement, which angered his father. The admiral disowned his son and drove him away from his house.
Having become homeless, the young Penn started living with Quaker families. The Quakers were a relatively strict religious movement. They were forbidden from swearing and did not have any priests. They called themselves the Religious Society of Friends, and refused to bow before any man, believing all people to be equal. Since they refused to bow down even to the British king, they were outlawed. Penn was arrested and placed in the notorious Newgate Prison in London.
However, Penn’s father was dying and wanted to make peace with his son before he died. Even though the young Penn begged his father not to bail him out of prison, his father decided he couldn’t pass the chance to make peace with his son and did just that. And indeed, Penn was released from prison and made peace with his father, who soon died.
After his father’s death, Penn concluded that the Quakers could no longer live in Britain, where they suffered persecution. He decided that the movement ought to emigrate to America, and asked the British king for help. Since Penn was the son of the king’s loyal admiral, to whom he owed much, he was magnanimous towards Penn (the fact that it was also a good opportunity to get rid of the entire movement to once certainly helped). In any case, the king granted William Penn a written charter for one of the largest landholdings in the world – the current U.S. state of Pennsylvania. Penn thus received some 12,000,000 hectares of land, one of the largest private properties in history.
Under Penn’s leadership, the Quakers migrated to Pennsylvania. Penn named the capital of their new colony Philadelphia, which is derived from the Greek expression “brotherly love”. The colony itself was named Pennsylvania according to the king’s decision, which greatly disturbed himself. As a humble Christian, he did not like the idea of an entire region being named after him. Still, the king refused to change the name and it has persisted until today. Pennsylvania is currently home to some 12.7 million people.