Before the English took control of the area, many different groups settled pockets of what is now Pennsylvania. Both the Dutch in New Netherland (New York) and the Swedes in New Sweden (Delaware) had claims to the land, but the English claimed the region after they seized New Netherland from the Dutch in 1664. In 1681, King Charles II of England granted a colonial charter to William Penn to pay off debts owed to his late father Admiral Sir William Penn. William Penn named his colony Pennsylvania in honor of his father. Sylvania is Latin for woodlands.
The facts above are not dissimilar to other colonies, many ethnic groups settled in North America, and other individuals were given control of their own colonies which passed on to their descendants, but there the similarities end. Pennsylvania is unique in colonial history because of founder William Penn’s unique religious beliefs. Penn, like so many before and after, had a religious identity crisis in college. It happens all the time, students leave home for the first time, are exposed to new ideas and new people, and they choose to abandon their parents’ beliefs.
William Penn joined a group of religious dissenters the Religious Society of Friends more commonly known as the Quakers. They were among the most persecuted Christian groups in England. Quakers believed in non-violence, and their refusal to participate in war made them seem unpatriotic and even treasonous. They believed in the equality of all mankind, leading them to address all individuals as “thou” rather than “you” putting the lowest and highest of classes on the same level, controversial in England where nobility was so entrenched. They also were among the first white abolitionists in America. For those reasons and more they needed a place where they could be free to worship and live as they saw fit.