William Penn was an English real estate entrepreneur, philosopher, early Quaker and founder of the Province of Pennsylvania, the English North American colony and the future Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
William Penn (October 14, 1644–July 30, 1718) founded the Province of Pennsylvania, the British North American colony that became the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. The democratic principles that he set forth served as an inspiration for the United States Constitution. Ahead of his time, Penn also published a plan for a United States of Europe, "European Dyet, Parliament or Estates."
Born the privileged son of a land-owning gentleman, young William Penn was greatly affected by the preaching of Quaker minister Thomas Loe. Expelled from Oxford University in England in 1662 for refusing to conform to the Anglican Church, Penn joined the Quakers. He was locked up in the Tower of London four times for stating his beliefs in public and in print. After his father died in 1670, Penn inherited the family estates and began to frequent the court of King Charles II, campaigning for religious freedom.
Seeing no prospects for religious tolerance or political reform in England, Penn looked to America, which he had visited briefly in 1677. In a 1682 document, Penn guaranteed absolute freedom of worship in Pennsylvania. Rich in fertile lands as well as religious freedom, the colony attracted settlers and grew rapidly.
Penn is also remembered for peaceful interaction with the Lenni Lenape Indians and his draft of the Plan of Union, a forerunner of the U.S. Constitution. Thanks to William Penn, Pennsylvania, which guaranteed religious freedom for its citizens, was established in the New World.