Province of Pennsylvania

The Province of Pennsylvania, also known as Pennsylvania Colony, was a North American colony granted to William Penn on March 4, 1681 by King Charles II of England. Pennsylvania got its name for William Penn's father and the Latin word: sylvania, meaning: "forest". The name itself means "Penn's Woods".


William Penn received the colony as payment in lieu of a £16,000 debt that the Crown owed his father, naval hero Sir William Penn. Establishment of the colony also solved the problem of the growing Society of Friends or "Quaker" movement in England, which was causing much embarrassment to the established Church of England. While still in England, Penn wrote his First Frame of Government, which outlined the governmental structure for the colony and promised certain rights to its citizens.

One of the Middle Colonies, Pennsylvania was a proprietary colony. Unlike other proprietary colonies, its taxes were enforced by the British Parliament. The colony was demarcated by the 42nd and 39th lines of latitude on the north and south and from the Delaware River in the east with an east-west width of 5 degrees of longitude It was bordered by the colonies of New York, Maryland (defined by the historic 1763 Mason-Dixon line geographical survey), and New Jersey. The three counties of the Delaware Colony, captured from the Dutch, were deeded to William Penn by the Duke of York in 1682, but regained a separate existence in 1704

The first governor was William Markham, a relative of Penn.

Religious Freedom and Prosperity

William Penn and his fellow Quakers heavily imprinted their religious values on the Pennsylvania government. Among the most radical belief was religious freedom for everyone, as well as fair dealings with Native Americans. This extreme tolerance led to significantly healthier relationships with the local Native tribes (the Lenape and Susquehanna, mainly) than most other colonies had. It also encouraged the rapid growth of Philadelphia into America's most important city, and of the Pennsylvania Dutch Country hinterlands, where German (or "Deutsch") religious and political refugees prospered on the fertile soil and spirit of cultural creativeness. Among the first groups were the Mennonites, who founded Germantown in 1683; the Northkill Amish Settlement, established in 1740, is identified as the first Amish settlement in the Americas.

In 1737, the Colony exchanged a great deal of its political goodwill with the Native Lenape for more land. The colonial administrators claimed that they had a deed dating to the 1680s in which the Lenape-Delaware had promised to sell a portion of land beginning between the junction of the Delaware River and Lehigh River (near present Wrightstown, Pennsylvania) "as far west as a man could walk in a day and a half." This purchase has become known as the Walking Purchase. Although the document was most likely a forgery, the Lenape did not realize that. Provincial Secretary James Logan set in motion a plan that would grab as much land as they could possibly get and hired the three fastest runners in the colony to run out the purchase on a trail which had been cleared by other members of the colony beforehand. The pace was so intense that only one runner actually completed the "walk," covering an astonishing 70 miles (113 km). This netted the Penns 1,200,000 acres (4,860 km²) of land in what is now northeastern Pennsylvania, an area roughly equivalent to the size of the state of Rhode Island in the purchase. The area of the purchase covers all or part of what are now Pike, Monroe, Carbon, Schuylkill, Northampton, Lehigh and Bucks counties. The Lenape tribe fought for the next 19 years to have the treaty annulled, but to no avail. The Lenape-Delaware were forced into the Shamokin and Wyoming Valleys, which were already overcrowded with other displaced tribes.

1751 was an auspicious year for the colony. Pennsylvania Hospital, the first hospital in the British American colonies, and The Academy and College of Philadelphia, the predecessor to the private University of Pennsylvania, both opened.

Despite Quaker opposition to slavery, by 1730 colonists had brought about 4,000 slaves into Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Gradual Abolition Act of 1780 was the first emancipation statute in the colonies which would become the United States. 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 Rise of Revolutionary Sentiment

As the colony grew, however, colonists and British military forces came into conflict with Natives in the Western half of the state. With the debilitating French and Indian War just over and Pontiac's War beginning, the Royal Proclamation of 1763 banned colonization beyond the Appalachian Mountains. This proclamation affected Pennsylvanians and Virginians the most, as they had been racing towards the rich lands surrounding Fort Pitt (modern-day Pittsburgh). The fighting was both colonist against native and colonist against colonist: in 1774, Justice Arthur St. Clair ordered the arrest of the officer leading Virginia troops into confrontations with armed settlers loyal to Pennsylvania.

Heightened revolutionary sentiment among Pennsylvanians, along with the pre-eminent position of Philadelphia, made that city the natural choice for meetings of the Continental Congress, the first coordinated act towards independence. The publication of the Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776 by locally-elected revolutionaries concluded the history of the Colony and began the history of the Commonwealth.

Famous Colonial Pennsylvanians

  • Benjamin Franklin moved to Philadelphia at age 17 in 1723; during his later years he was Pennsylvania's most famous citizen. Among his accomplishments was founding in 1751 The Academy and College of Philadelphia, the predecessor to the private University of Pennsylvania.
  • Thomas McKean was born in New London, Pennsylvania. He was an officer in the Continental Army during the American Revolution, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, the second President of the U.S. Congress under the Articles of Confederation, Acting President of Delaware, and Chief Justice and Governor of Pennsylvania.
  • Gouverneur Morris, one of the leading minds of the American Revolution, lived in New York City during most of the colonial period, but moved to Philadelphia to work as a lawyer and merchant during the Revolution.
  • Robert Morris, moved to Philadelphia around 1749 at about age 14. He was known as the Financier of the Revolution, because of his role in securing financial assistance for the American Colonial side in the Revolutionary War. In 1921, Robert Morris University was founded and named after him.
  • Thomas Paine emigrated to Philadelphia in 1774 at Benjamin Franklin's urging. His tract, Common Sense, published in 1776, was arguably the most famous and influential argument for the Revolution. He was also the first to publicly champion the phrase "United States of America."
  • William Penn, the colony's founder
  • Arthur St. Clair moved to Ligonier Valley, Pennsylvania in 1764. He served as a judge in colonial Pennsylvania, a general in the Continental Army, and a President under the Articles of Confederation.
  • James Wilson moved to Philadelphia in 1765 and became a lawyer; he signed the Declaration of Independence and wrote or worked on many of the most difficult compromises in the U.S. Constitution, including the Three-Fifths Compromise, which defined slaves as three-fifths of a person for purposes of census-taking and therefore government appropriation

Immigrants ships


See also

External links

Search another word or see bélandreon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature