PENNSYLVANIA STATE HISTORY
The Founding of Pennsylvania
- William Penn and the Quakers
Penn was born in London on October 24, 1644, the son of Admiral Sir
William Penn. Despite high social position and an excellent education,
he shocked his upper-class associates by his conversion to the beliefs
of the Society of Friends, or Quakers, then a persecuted sect. He used
his inherited wealth and rank to benefit and protect his fellow believers.
Despite the unpopularity of his religion, he was socially acceptable
in the king's court because he was trusted by the Duke of York, later
King James II. The origins of the Society of Friends lie in the intense
religious ferment of 17th century England. George Fox, the son of a
Leicestershire weaver, is credited with founding it in 1647, though
there was no definite organization before 1668. The Society's rejections
of rituals and oaths, its opposition to war, and its simplicity of speech
and dress soon attracted attention, usually hostile.
- The Charter
King Charles II owed William Penn £16,000, money which Admiral
Penn had lent him. Seeking a haven in the New World for persecuted Friends,
Penn asked the King to grant him land in the territory between Lord
Baltimore's province of Maryland and the Duke of York's province of
New York. With the Duke's support, Penn's petition was granted. The
King signed the Charter of Pennsylvania on March 4, 1681, and it was
officially proclaimed on April 2. The King named the new colony in honor
of William Penn's father. It was to include the land between the 39th
and 42nd degrees of north latitude and from the Delaware River westward
for five degrees of longitude. Other provisions assured its people the
protection of English laws and kept it subject to the government in
England to a certain degree. Provincial laws could be annulled by the
King. In 1682, the Duke of York deeded to Penn his claim to the three
lower counties on the Delaware, which are now the state of Delaware.
- The New Colony
In April 1681, Penn made his cousin William Markham deputy governor
of the province and sent him to take control. In England, Penn drew
up the First Frame of Government, his proposed constitution for Pennsylvania.
Penn's preface to First Frame of Government has become famous as a summation
of his governmental ideals. Later, in 0ctober 1682, the Proprietor arrived
in Pennsylvania on the ship Welcome. He visited Philadelphia, just laid
out as the capital city, created the three original counties, and summoned
a General Assembly to Chester on December 4. This first Assembly united
the Delaware counties with Pennsylvania, adopted a naturalization act
and, on December 7, adopted the Great Law, a humanitarian code which
became the fundamental basis of Pennsylvania law and which guaranteed
liberty of conscience. The second Assembly, in 1683, reviewed and amended
Penn's First Frame with his cooperation and created the Second Frame
of Government. By the time of Penn's return to England late in 1684,
the foundations of the Quaker Province were well established. In 1984,
William Penn and his wife Hannah Callowhill Penn were made the third
and fourth honorary citizens of the United States, by act of Congress.
On May 8, 1985, the Penns were granted honorary citizenship of the Commonwealth
Population and Immigration
Although William Penn was granted all the land in Pennsylvania by the
King, he and his heirs chose not to grant or settle any part of it without
first buying the claims of Indians who lived there. In this manner,
all of Pennsylvania except the northwestern third was purchased by 1768.
The Commonwealth bought the Six Nations' claims to the remainder of
the land in 1784 and 1789, and the claims of the Delawares and Wyandots
in 1785. The defeat of the French and Indian War alliance by 1760, the
withdrawal of the French, the crushing of Chief Pontiac's Indian alliance
in 1764, and the failure of all attempts by Indians and colonists to
live side by side led the Indians to migrate westward, gradually leaving
English Quakers were the dominant element, although many English settlers
were Anglican. The English settled heavily in the southeastern counties,
which soon lost frontier characteristics and became the center of a
thriving agricultural and commercial society. Philadelphia became the
metropolis of the British colonies and a center of intellectual and
Thousands of Germans were also attracted to the colony and, by the time
of the Revolution, comprised a third of the population. The volume of
German immigration increased after 1727, coming largely from the Rhineland.
The Pennsylvania Germans settled most heavily in the interior counties
of Northampton, Berks, Lancaster and Lehigh, and neighboring areas.
Their skill and industry transformed this region into a rich farming
country, contributing greatly to the expanding prosperity of the province.
Another important immigrant group was the Scotch-Irish, who migrated
from about 1717 until the Revolution in a series of waves caused by
hardships in Ireland. They were primarily frontiersmen, pushing first
into the Cumberland Valley region and then farther into central and
western Pennsylvania. They, with immigrants from old Scotland, numbered
about one-fourth of the population by 1776.
- African Americans
Despite Quaker opposition to slavery, about 4,000 slaves were brought
to Pennsylvania by 1730, most of them owned by English, Welsh, and Scotch-Irish
colonists. The census of 1790 showed that the number of African-Americans
had increased to about 10,000, of whom about 6,300 had received their
freedom. The Pennsylvania Gradual Abolition Act of 1780 was the first
emancipation statute in the United States.
Many Quakers were Irish and Welsh, and they settled in the area immediately
outside of Philadelphia. French Huguenot and Jewish settlers, together
with Dutch, Swedes, and other groups, contributed in smaller numbers
to the development of colonial Pennsylvania. The mixture of various
national groups in the Quaker Province helped to create its broad-minded
tolerance and cosmopolitan outlook.
Pennsylvania's political history ran a rocky course during the provincial
era. There was a natural conflict between the proprietary and popular elements
in the government which began under Penn and grew stronger under his successors.
As a result of the English Revolution of 1688 which overthrew King James
II, Penn was deprived of his province from 1692 until 1694. A popular party
led by David Lloyd demanded greater powers for the Assembly, and in 1696
Markham's Frame of Government granted some of these. In December 1699, the
Proprietor again visited Pennsylvania and, just before his return to England
in 1701, agreed with the Assembly on a revised constitution, the Charter
of Privileges, which remained in effect until 1776. This gave the Assembly
full legislative powers and permitted the three Delaware counties to have
a separate legislature. Deputy or lieutenant governors (addressed as "governor")
resided in Pennsylvania and represented the Penn family proprietors who
remained themselves in England until 1773. After 1763, these governors were
members of the Penn family. From 1773 until independence, John Penn was
both a proprietor and the governor. William Penn's heirs, who eventually
abandoned Quakerism, were often in conflict with the Assembly, which was
usually dominated by the Quakers until 1756. One after another, governors
defending the proprietors' prerogatives battered themselves against the
rock of an Assembly vigilant in the defense of its own rights. The people
of the frontier areas contended with the people of the older, southeastern
region for more adequate representation in the Assembly and better protection
in time of war. Such controversies prepared the people for their part in
- The Colonial Wars
As part of the British Empire, Pennsylvania was involved in the wars
between Great Britain and France for dominance in North America. These
wars ended the long period when Pennsylvania was virtually without defense.
The government built forts and furnished men and supplies to help defend
the empire to which it belonged. The territory claimed for New France
included western Pennsylvania. The Longueuil and Celoron expeditions
of the French in 1739 and 1749 traversed this region, and French traders
competed with Pennsylvanians for Indian trade. The French efforts in
1753 and 1754 to establish control over the upper Ohio Valley led to
the last and conclusive colonial war, the French and Indian War (1754-1763).
French forts at Erie (Fort Presque Isle), Waterford (Fort LeBoeuf),
Pittsburgh (Fort Duquesne) and Franklin (Fort Machault) threatened all
the middle colonies. In 1753, Washington failed to persuade the French
to leave. In the ensuing war, Gen. Braddock's British and colonial army
was slaughtered on the Monongahela in 1755, but Gen. John Forbes recaptured
the site of Pittsburgh in 1758. After the war, the Indians rose up against
the British colonies in Pontiac's War, but in August 1763, Colonel Henry
Bouquet defeated them at Bushy Run, ending the threat to the frontier
in this region.
Society and Culture
From its beginning, Pennsylvania ranked as a leading agricultural area
and produced surpluses for export, adding to its wealth. By the 1750s,
an exceptionally prosperous farming area had developed in southeastern
Pennsylvania. Wheat and corn were the leading crops, though rye, hemp,
and flax were also important.
The abundant natural resources of the colony made for early development
of industries. Arts and crafts, as well as home manufactures, grew rapidly.
Sawmills and gristmills were usually the first to appear, using the
power of the numerous streams. Textile products were spun and woven
mainly in the home, though factory production was not unknown. Shipbuilding
became important on the Delaware. The province early gained importance
in iron manufacture, producing pig iron as well as finished products.
Printing, publishing, and the related industry of papermaking, as well
as tanning, were significant industries. The Pennsylvania long rifle
was an adaptation of a German hunting rifle developed in Lancaster County.
Its superiority was so recognized that by 1776 gunsmiths were duplicating
it in Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina, and Maryland. The Conestoga
wagon was also developed in Lancaster County. Capable of carrying as
much as four tons, it was the prototype for the principal vehicle for
American westward migration, the prairie schooner.
- Commerce and Transportation
The rivers were important as early arteries of commerce and were soon
supplemented by roads in the southeastern area. Stagecoach lines by
1776 reached from Philadelphia into the southcentral region. Trade with
the Indians for furs was important in the colonial period. Later, the
transport and sale of farm products to Philadelphia and Baltimore, by
water and road, formed an important business. Philadelphia became one
of the most important centers in the colonies for the conduct of foreign
trade and the commercial metropolis of an expanding hinterland. By 1776,
the province's imports and exports were worth several million dollars.
- The Arts and Learning
Philadelphia was known in colonial times as the "Athens of America"
because of its rich cultural life. Because of the liberality of Penn's
principles and the freedom of expression that prevailed, the province
was noted for the variety and strength of its intellectual and educational
institutions and interests. An academy which held its first classes
in 1740 became the College of Philadelphia in 1755, and ultimately grew
into the University of Pennsylvania. It was the only nondenominational
college of the colonial period. The arts and sciences flourished, and
the public buildings of Philadelphia were the marvel of the colonies.
Many fine old buildings in the Philadelphia area still bear witness
to the richness of Pennsylvania's civilization in the 18th century.
Such men of intellect as Benjamin Franklin, David Rittenhouse, John
Bartram, and Benjamin West achieved international renown. Newspapers
and magazines flourished, as did law and medicine. Pennsylvania can
claim America's first hospital, first library, and first insurance company.
Quakers held their first meeting at Upland (now Chester) in 1675, and
came to Pennsylvania in great numbers after William Penn received his
Charter. Most numerous in the southeastern counties, the Quakers gradually
declined in number but retained considerable influence. The Pennsylvania
Germans belonged largely to the Lutheran and Reformed churches, but
there were also several smaller sects: Mennonites, Amish, German Baptist
Brethren or "Dunkers," Schwenkfelders, and Moravians. Although the Lutheran
Church was established by the Swedes on Tinicum Island in 1643, it only
began its growth to become the largest of the Protestant denominations
in Pennsylvania upon the arrival of Henry Melchior Muhlenberg in 1742.
The Reformed Church owed its expansion to Michael Schlatter, who arrived
in 1746. The Moravians did notable missionary work among the Indians.
The Church of Eng land held services in Philadelphia as early as 1695.
The first Catholic congregation was organized in Philadelphia in 1720,
and the first chapel was erected in 1733; Pennsylvania had the second
largest Catholic population among the colonies. The Scotch brought Presbyterianism;
its first congregation was organized in Philadelphia in 1698. Scotch-Irish
immigrants swelled its numbers. Methodism began late in the colonial
period. St. George's Church, built in Philadelphia in 1769, is the oldest
Methodist building in America. There was a significant Jewish population
in colonial Pennsylvania. Its Mikveh Israel Congregation was established
in Philadelphia in 1740.
Pennsylvania on the Eve of the Revolution
By 1776, the Province of Pennsylvania had become the third largest English
colony in America, though next to the last to be founded. Philadelphia had
become the largest English-speaking city in the world next to London. There
were originally only three counties: Philadelphia, Chester, and Bucks. By
1773, there were 11. Westmoreland, the last new county created before the
Revolution, was the first county located entirely west of the Allegheny
The American Revolution had urban origins, and Philadelphia was a center
of ferment. Groups of artisans and mechanics, many loyal to Benjamin Franklin,
formed grassroots leadership. Philadelphia was a center of resistance
to the Stamp Act (1765) and moved quickly to support Boston in opposition
to the Intolerable Acts, in 1774.