The Middle Colonies

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How did Pennsylvania become a state?

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The colony of Pennsylvania was founded in 1681 when King Charles II of England awarded a land charter to William Penn in lieu of payment for a large sum of money he owed to Penn's father, also called William Penn. The name Pennsylvania means "Penn's woods," named—at Charles's insistence—after Willam Penn Sr. William Penn Jr was none too thrilled as he thought that people might think that Pennsylvania was named after him, that it was some kind of giant vanity project. But the king wouldn't change his mind, and so the new territory remained Pennsylvania, the name it has retained to this day.

In its time, Charles's land grant was one of the most generous in history, though Penn, as a devout Quaker, was less concerned with the enormous wealth that it would bring, seeing the new territory instead as a potential haven for those fleeing religious persecution. It was this reputation for liberty that would in due course propel Pennsylvania to such a prominent role in the American Revolution. Philadelphia, the largest city in Pennsylvania, was the site of many important events in American history such as the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. Philadelphia also served as the nation's capital before a permanent capital was established in Washington, D.C.

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