Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia

Pennsylvania (Founding)

William Penn, Portrait by Francis Place

Color portrait of William Penn painted by Francis Place.

William Penn received a generous land grant from King Charles II of England to create a Quaker settlement in North America. The grant settled an old debt owed by the king to Penn’s father. (Historical Society of Pennsylvania)

Historical Society of Pennsylvania

English Quaker William Penn founded Pennsylvania in 1681, when King Charles II granted him a charter for over 45,000 square miles of land. Penn had previously helped found Quaker settlements in West New Jersey and was eager to expand his Quaker colony. In order to generate interest in his new land holdings, Penn wrote a promotional tract, “Some Account of the Province of Pennsylvania in America,” which outlined the terms for obtaining land and promised to clear all Indian titles. In July 1681, he refined these terms in a document titled “Conditions or Concessions.” In this agreement, Penn promised to reserve ten acres of land in Philadelphia for each five hundred acres purchased, planning a “greene country towne” that would extend for miles along the Delaware River. The document also provided for road surveys, set up townships, and outlined the rules of purchase. Among these were that all tracts must be settled within three years of purchase or else they could be offered to another buyer.

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