(WHTM) — William Penn was a very busy man in the early 1680s. On March 3, 1681, King Charles II, in settlement of a debt owed to Penn’s late father, Admiral William Penn, granted a charter for lands in North America. The King insisted it be named after Penn’s father, and thus was born the colony of Pennsylvania.
Penn spent the next year and a half laying the groundwork for his new colony. He sent his cousin William Markham to America to act as his agent. Markham dealt with the 3,000 or so European settlers already there, began negotiations with the Native Americans for purchasing land, and started construction of Penn’s future home, Pennsbury, in what would be Bucks County.
Back in England, Penn was laying out his plans for his capital city of Philadelphia, and perhaps most importantly, writing his Frame of Government for Pennsylvania, which would influence the constitutions of other colonies, and ultimately the Constitution of the United States.
By the end of August 1682, Penn was finally ready to cross the ocean and see his new colony for himself. On Aug. 30, he boarded the ship Welcome at the port of Deal, (from Old English “dael,” “valley”) in Kent, England. With him on the voyage were about 100 colonists and a ship’s crew of about 36.
It was not a pleasant voyage. The Welcome was a small cargo ship, about 120 to 150 feet long. Most of the time passengers stayed belowdecks, out of the weather — at least until the weather came spilling in through leaks. Any washing or cleaning had to be done with seawater. (Most of the passengers probably wore the same set of clothes for the entire voyage.) Food consisted mostly of “salt horse” (salted meat, usually beef, pork, or fish) and ship’s biscuit, or as it’s more commonly known, hardtack. This was supplemented with dried peas and beans, cheese, and butter, all of which quickly went rancid and moldy. And let’s not forget the maggots…
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To top things off, smallpox swept through the ship. Of the 100 passengers, 31 died of the disease. Penn, who had survived smallpox when he was three years old, helped tend to the sick.
(An actual passenger list for the Welcome has not survived, but a reconstructed list of possible passengers may be found here.)
This went on for 57 miserable days.
Finally, on Oct. 27, 1682, the Welcome arrived at New Castle, Delaware. (Delaware was part of Penn’s grant, and in decades to come was often referred to as The Lower Counties.)
Penn spent two years in Pennsylvania, during which he served as governor, fine-tuned the plans for Philadelphia, negotiated a treaty with the Native American tribes that endured until 1737, and persuaded the Pennsylvania Assembly to adopt his Frame of Government.
Finally, though, enough unaddressed issues accumulated in England (the dispute with Lord Baltimore over the boundary between Pennsylvania and Maryland being one of them) that he felt obliged to return there to attend to them. He left for England on Aug. 12, 1684.
He would not return until 1699.