Deed between William Penn and the Delaware Indians, July 15-August 1, 1682
In 1681, King Charles II of England granted a large tract of land to William Penn to fulfill a debt owed to Penn's father. Penn used the land to found the colony of Pennsylvania. While other British colonies in the New World relied on the king's authority for their territorial claims, Penn was not so easily satisfied. Instead, he intended to purchase the land from Native Americans. "In dealing with Indians," historian Jean S. Soderlund states, "William Penn had two concerns: the establishment of trade and gaining title to Pennsylvania lands in a peaceful manner" (William Penn and the Founding of Pennsylvania, 1680-1684: A Documentary History [Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1983], 155). This deed, struck between Penn and the Delaware Indians on July 15, 1682, is proof of those concerns.
Negotiated by one of William Penn's agents, William Markham, the deed specifies the goods Penn agreed to exchange for land. Penn's agreement was so stringent that, upon reconvening in August to write a memorandum, he instructed that ten more guns were owed to the Delawares, as too few had been delivered in the previous month. Penn's exactness is representative of his goal to make all relations with Native Americans mutually beneficial. By the same token, Penn expected his Delaware partners to hold up their bargain as well. It's no surprise that Penn wanted written assurance of their dealings, as one of the Delaware representatives, Oreckton, had sold land to the English in 1675 only to dispute the sale four years later in 1679. In the same memorandum, four chiefs who had held onto claims to Penn's newly acquired land signed an agreement to drop them.
Penn foresaw freedom as essential for the success of his new colony: freedom for settlers to come, farm, trade, and freely practice their religion, and freedom for Indians to not live in fear of territorial invasion. Penn's insistence on equal representation, as seen here by the diverse witnesses of the treaty, almost certainly served as a precursor to a similar inclusion of equal judicial representation in his 1701 Charter of Privileges. The deed is highly indicative of Penn's desire for a "holy experiment" in which relationships between Europeans who would emigrate to his new colony and the Native American inhabitants of the land would be peaceful and productive.
For encoding and annotation of this document, the Preserving American Freedom Project staff relied heavily on the transcriptions and notes in The Papers of William Penn, vol. 2, 1680-1684, edited by Richard S. Dunn and Mary Maples Dunn (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1982), 261-268, and William Penn and the Founding of Pennsylvania, 1680-1684: A Documentary History, edited by Jean R. Soderlund (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1983), 156-158.