Quakers History: How the Quakers established themselves in the New World

In 1638 a colony of Swedes settled on Christiana Creek, in the present State of Delaware. Governor Kieft, of New Amsterdam, considered this an intrusion on his territory, and, as a check to their aggression, rebuilt the previously abandoned Fort Nassau, below the present Camden. The Swedes gradually extended their settlements, the territory occupied reaching from Cape Henlopen to a point opposite Trenton. Their governor built a fort and a residence on the island of Tinicum, below Philadelphia. In 1655 the Swedes were attached by the Dutch, and their forts taken. The most of them continued on their estates, under Dutch authority. The territory of New Jersey was granted in 1664 to Lord Berkeley and Sir George Carteret. Berkeley sold his share in 1674 to John Fenwick, in trust for Edward Byllinge, who subsequently assigned his claim to William Penn and two other Quakers.

The province was then divided, Carteret receiving the eastern portion, and the Quaker assignees the western portion, on the Delaware. It was in this way that William Penn first became interested in the settlement of America. As two colonies, Massachusetts and Maryland, had already been formed through the desire for religious liberty, it occurred to him to establish a refuge in the New World for the persecuted sect of which he was a member. This was first attempted in West Jersey. A free constitution was given to the settlers, granting important privileges of civil and religious liberty. Quakers were specially recommended to take advantage of it, and more than four hundred emigrated to the province in 1677. In 1682, William Penn and eleven others purchased East Jersey, so that the whole province then came under Quaker control. Robert Barclay, author of the "Apology for Quakers," was appointed governor for life.

In 1681, Penn obtained from Charles II, a grant of all the lands embraced in the present State of Pennsylvania. His purpose in this was not alone to convert and civilize the Indians, as expressed in the charter, but also to form an asylum for those desirous of civil and religious liberty, in which the principles of Peace, as advocated by his sect, might be efficiently carried out. He soon after obtained a grant of the present State of Delaware, then called "The Territories." In September, 1682, he set sail for his new province, with a large number of emigrants of his own religious belief. Others had preceded him.

Return to The Great Republic by the Master Historians (Vol 1)