William Penn started the colony of Pennsylvania as a British colony in North America. Penn influenced the fledgling principles of democracy that later became the basis of the American Constitution, explains USHistory.org.
In 1681, Penn received a land grant from King Charles II of England that he named Sylvania ("woods" in Latin). The king added Penn to the name to honor the family. Although the colony's rule belonged to the King, Penn created a democratic-like government with elected officials, separation of powers, freedom of religion and fair trials, says USHistory.org. Despite the riches to be made in North America, Penn died penniless in a debtor's prison.