October 27, 1682 – William Penn Performs a Livery of Seisin

On this day in history, William Penn, according to a historical marker, “first stepped on American soil. He proceeded to the fort and performed Livery of Seisin. ‘He took the key, thereof,…we did deliver unto him 1 turf with a twig upon it, a porringer with river water and soyle, in part of all.’”

Landing Place of William Penn Marker

Landing Place of William Penn Marker

This ritual was performed upon his arrival in what is now New Castle, Delaware, but became part of Penn’s Woodlands (also known as Pennsylvania).

As explained by Wikipedia, livery of seisin is an archaic legal conveyancing ceremony, formerly practiced in feudal England and in other countries following English common law, used to convey holdings in property. The term “livery” is related to, if not synonymous with, the word “delivery” as used in modern contract law. The common law in those jurisdictions once provided that a valid conveyance of a feudal tenure in land required the physical transfer by the transferor to the transferee, in the presence of witnesses, of a piece of the ground itself, in the literal sense of a hand-to-hand passing of an amount of soil, a twig, key, or other symbol.

9-foot-1 statue in New Castle Honoring the Livery of  Seisin

9-foot-1 statue in New Castle Honoring the Livery of Seisin

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