William Penn's Peaceable Kingdom

In 1681, William Penn transformed his debt from the English crown into a colonial charter for what would become the colony of Pennsylvania. A recently converted Quaker, Penn established the colony as a haven for members of this religious sect. What had started out as a refuge for Quakers, however, soon became a settlement for a diverse group seeking opportunity and tolerance in a new world. In addition to the lure of land and the promise of religious freedom, Penn had to find other inducements to populate his new colony. He wrote several letters back to friends in Europe, some of which ended up being published. These letters served as promotions for his new colony in America. This lesson examines one of these promotional tracts, “Letter to the Free Society of Traders.”

Shortly after his arrival in Pennsylvania in 1683, Penn met Francis Daniel Pastorius. Pastorius was a German who emigrated in 1683. He was commissioned by the Frankfort Land Company and a group of merchants from Crefeld, Germany, to form a settlement in America. The merchants purchased fifteen thousand acres in Pennsylvania, and Germantown was born. After meeting William Penn, Pastorius converted to Quakerism. By juxtaposing the different promotional tracts of Penn and Pastorius, your students understand the ethnic diversity of Pennsylvania along with the “pull” factors of migration in the seventeenth century English colonies.

Guiding Questions

What were the significant similarities and differences in the English and German perspectives on emigration and colonization in Pennsylvania?

Learning Objectives

After completing this lesson, students will be able to: explain the methods Penn used to attract settlers to his colony.

Compare and contrast Penn’s account of the colony with Daniel Pastorius’ account.

Evaluate the effectiveness of Penn’s ability to attract settlers to the colony.

Predict the success of the colony based on the early descriptions and enticements offered to Europeans.