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Province of Pennsylvania

Coordinates: 40°17′46″N 75°30′32″W / 40.296°N 75.509°W / 40.296; -75.509
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Province of Pennsylvania
Map of the Province of Pennsylvania
Map of the Province of Pennsylvania
Land purchases from Native Americans in Pennsylvania
Land purchases from Native Americans in Pennsylvania
Official languagesEnglish and Pennsylvania Dutch
GovernmentProprietary Colony
• 1681–1718
William Penn (first)
• 1775-1776
John Penn (last)
• 1681-1682
William Markham (first)
• 1773-1776
John Penn (last)
Provincial Assembly
Provincial Conference
• Upper house
Provincial Council
• Lower house
General Assembly
• Land grant by Charles II of England to William Penn
March 4, 1681
July 4, 1776
CurrencyPennsylvania pound
Preceded by
Succeeded by
New Netherland
Today part ofUnited States

The Province of Pennsylvania, also known as the Pennsylvania Colony, was a British North American colony founded by William Penn, who received the land through a grant from Charles II of England in 1681. The name Pennsylvania was derived from "Penn's Woods", referring to William Penn's father Admiral Sir William Penn.

The Province of Pennsylvania was one of the two major Restoration colonies. The proprietary colony's charter remained in the Penn family until they were later ousted following the American Revolution and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania was established as one of the original thirteen states. The lower counties on Delaware, a separate colony within the Pennsylvania Province, broke away during the American Revolution and was established as the Delaware State and also became one of the original thirteen states.

The colony attracted English Quakers, Germans, and Scot-Irish frontiersmen. The Lenape Indian tribe promoted peace with the Quakers. However, after William Penn and Tamanend, who both supported peaceful coexistence, died, wars eventually broke out. The Quakers demonized Lenape mythology even though the Quakers were strong proponents of religious freedom.[1]

Philadelphia, the capital of the Province of Pennsylvania, emerged as a major port and commercial city and central location for the thinking, writings, and planning that ultimately inspired the American Revolution. In the 18th century, Philadelphia emerged as the second-largest city in the British Empire, after London. Following the American Revolutionary War, Philadelphia served as the nation's capital until 1800, when a new capital city in Washington, D.C. was constructed.[2]


Historical population
Source: 1680–1760;[3] 1770–1780[4]

The Province of Pennsylvania's colonial government was established in 1683, by William Penn's Frame of Government. Penn was appointed governor and a 72-member Provincial Council and larger General Assembly were responsible for governing the province. The General Assembly, also known as the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly, was the largest and most representative branch of government but had limited powers.

Succeeding frames of government were produced in 1683, 1696, and 1701. The fourth frame, also known as the Charter of Privileges, remained in effect until the American Revolution. At the time, the Provincial Assembly was deemed too moderate by American revolutionaries, who rejected the General Assembly's authority and held the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia, which produced the Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776 for the newly established commonwealth and created the new Pennsylvania General Assembly.

Penn was an English real estate entrepreneur, philosopher, Quaker, founder of the Province of Pennsylvania, and an advocate of democracy and religious freedom known for fostering peaceful and positive relations with the Lenape Indian tribe through a number of treaties. Under Penn's direction, Philadelphia was planned and developed and served as the largest city and national capital until 1800 when it was surpassed in population by New York City and a new national capital was constructed in Washington, D.C.



Despite having the land grant from King Charles II, Penn embarked on an effort to purchase the lands from Native Americans. The Lenape Indian tribe held much of the land near present-day Philadelphia, and they expected payment in exchange for a quitclaim to vacate the territory.[5] Penn and his representatives (Proprietors) negotiated a series of treaties with the Delaware and other tribes that had an interest in the land in his royal grant.

The initial treaties were conducted between 1682 and 1684, for tracts between New Jersey and the former Delaware Colony in present-day Delaware.[6] The province was thus divided first into three counties, plus the three Lower counties on Delaware Bay. The easternmost, Bucks County, Philadelphia County and Chester County, the westernmost.

Lower counties


The lower counties on Delaware, a separate colony within the province, constituted the same three counties that constitute the present State of Delaware: New Castle, the northernmost, Sussex, the southernmost, and Kent, which fell between New Castle and Sussex County. Their borders remain unchanged to this day.

New Lands and New Counties


Several decades into the 18th century, additional treaties with the Native Americans were concluded. The colony's proprietors made treaties in 1718, 1732, 1737, 1749, 1754, and 1754 pushing the boundaries of the colony, which were still within the original royal grant, north and west.[6] By the time the French and Indian War began in 1754, the Assembly had established the additional counties of Lancaster (1729), York (1749), Cumberland (1750), Berks (1752) and Northampton (1752).[6]

After the French and Indian War concluded, an additional treaty was made in 1768, that abided by the limits of the Royal Proclamation of 1763. This proclamation line was not intended to be a permanent boundary between the colonists and Native American lands, but rather a temporary boundary that could be extended further west in an orderly manner but only by the royal government and not private individuals such as the Proprietors. This effectively altered the original royal land grant to Penn. The next acquisitions by Pennsylvania were to take place as an independent commonwealth or state and no longer as a colony. The Assembly established additional counties from the land before the War for American Independence. These counties were Bedford (1771), Northumberland (1772) and Westmoreland (1773).[6]

Religious freedom and prosperity


William Penn and his fellow Quakers heavily imprinted their religious beliefs and values on the early Pennsylvanian government. The Charter of Privileges extended religious freedom to all monotheists, and the government was initially open to all Christians. Until the French and Indian War, Pennsylvania had no military, few taxes, and no public debt. 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") religions 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; and the Amish, who established the Northkill Amish Settlement in 1740. 1751 was an auspicious year for the colony. Pennsylvania Hospital, the first hospital in the British American colonies,[7] and The Academy and College of Philadelphia, the predecessor to the private University of Pennsylvania,[8] both opened. Benjamin Franklin founded both of these institutions and Philadelphia's Union Fire Company fifteen years earlier in 1736.[9] Likewise in 1751, the Pennsylvania State House ordered a new bell which would become known as the Liberty Bell for the new bell tower being built in the Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia.

Indigenous relations

Benjamin West's 1771 portrait of William Penn's 1682 treaty with the Lenape

William Penn had mandated fair dealings with Native Americans in the United States. This led to significantly better relations with the local tribes, mainly the Lenape and Susquehanna, than most other colonies had.[10] The Quakers had previously treated Indians with respect, bought land from them voluntarily, and had even representation of Indians and whites on juries. According to Voltaire, the Shackamaxon Treaty was "the only treaty between Indians and Christians that was never sworn to and that was never broken."[11][12][13] The Quakers also refused to provide any assistance to New England's Indian wars.

In 1737, the Colony exchanged a great deal of its political goodwill with the native Lenape for more land.[10] 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 in present-day Easton, Pennsylvania "as far west as a man could walk in a day and a half."

The purchase became known as the Walking Purchase.[10] 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 get and hired the three fastest runners in the colony to run out the purchase on a trail that had been cleared by other members of the colony beforehand. The pace was so intense that only one runner completed the "walk," covering an astonishing 70 miles (110 km).[10] This netted the Penns 1,200,000 acres (4,900 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 overcrowded with other displaced tribes.[14]

Limits on further settlement


As the colony grew, colonists and British military forces came into confrontation with natives in the state's Western half. Britain fought for control of the neighboring Ohio Country with France during the French and Indian War. Following the British victory, the territory was formally ceded to them in 1763, and became part of the British Empire.

With the French and Indian War over and Pontiac's War just beginning, the Royal Proclamation of 1763 banned colonization beyond the Appalachian Mountains to prevent settlers settling lands that Indians tribes were using. This proclamation impacted Pennsylvanians and Virginians the most, since they both had been racing towards the lands surrounding Fort Pitt in modern-day Pittsburgh.



The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, consisting of the Chief Justice and at least one other judge, was founded by statute in 1722 (although dating back to 1684 as the Provincial Court) and sat in Philadelphia twice a year.

Chief Justices [1]
Incumbent Tenure Notes
Took office Left office
Arthur Cook 1681 1684
Nicholas Moore 1684 1685
Arthur Cook 1686 1690
John Simcock 1690 1693
Andrew Robson 1693 1699
Edward Shippen 1699 1701
John Guest August 20, 1701 April 10, 1703
William Clark April 10, 1703 1705
John Guest 1705 1706
Roger Mompesson April 17, 1706 1715
Joseph Growden, Jr. 1715 1718
David Lloyd 1718 1731
James Logan August 20, 1731 1739
Jeremiah Langhorne August 13, 1739 1743
John Kinsey April 5, 1743 1750
William Allen September 20, 1750 1774
Benjamin Chew April 29, 1774 1776

Notable people


See also





  1. ^ Hershey, L. B. (2009). Peace through conversation: William Penn, Israel Pemberton and the shaping of Quaker-Indian relations, 1681-1757 [University of Iowa]. https://doi.org/10.17077/etd.hk7i11nh
  2. ^ Joseph E. Illick, Colonial Pennsylvania: A History (1976).
  3. ^ Purvis, Thomas L. (1999). Balkin, Richard (ed.). Colonial America to 1763. New York: Facts on File. pp. 128–129. ISBN 978-0816025275.
  4. ^ "Colonial and Pre-Federal Statistics" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. p. 1168.
  5. ^ Forest, Tuomi J., William Penn Visionary Proprietor http://xroads.virginia.edu/~cap/penn/pnind.html Archived 2018-09-04 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ a b c d "Genealogical Map of the Counties" (PDF). Pennsylvania Historical Museum Commission.
  7. ^ Historic Pennsylvania Hospital, The American Journal of Nursing, Vol. 39, No. 12 (Dec. 1939), pp. 1306-1311
  8. ^ College Founding in the American Colonies, 1745-1775 Beverly McAnear, The Mississippi Valley Historical Review, Vol. 42, No. 1 (Jun. 1955), pp. 24-44
  9. ^ "Penn: About Our Founder". Archived from the original on March 26, 2014. Retrieved March 25, 2014.
  10. ^ a b c d Goode, Michael. "Native American-Pennsylvania Relations 1681-1753". Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia. Retrieved September 23, 2021.
  11. ^ Rothbard, Murray N. (2005). "Pennsylvania's Anarchist Experiment: 1681–1690". LewRockwell.com. Archived from the original on March 13, 2014. Retrieved July 2, 2008.
  12. ^ Newman, Andrew. "Treaty of Shackamaxon". Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia. Retrieved September 23, 2021.
  13. ^ Kyriakodis, Harry (May 7, 2014). "Respectfully Remembering the Affable One". Hidden City Philadelphia.
  14. ^ Shannon, Timothy J. "Native American-Pennsylvania Relations, 1754-89". Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia. Retrieved September 23, 2021.
  15. ^ Rothbard, Murray N., Conceived in Liberty, Vol. II (Auburn, AL: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 1999), p. 64.

General sources

  • Barr, Daniel P. (2014). A Colony Sprung from Hell: Pittsburgh and the Struggle for Authority on the Western Pennsylvania Frontier, 1744–1794. kent: The Kent State University Press. ISBN 978-1606351901.
  • Illick, Joseph E. (1976). Colonial Pennsylvania: A History. New York: Scribner. ISBN 978-0684145655.
  • Lamberton, E. V., et al. “Colonial Libraries of Pennsylvania.” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 42, no. 3, 1918, pp. 193–234. online
  • Leonard, Joan de Lourdes. “Elections in Colonial Pennsylvania.” William and Mary Quarterly 11#3 1954, pp. 385–401. online
  • Merrell, James H. (1999). Into the American Woods: Negotiators on the Colonial Pennsylvania. New York: W W Norton & Co. ISBN 978-0393046762.
  • Nash, Gary B. Quakers and Politics: Pennsylvania, 1681-1726 (Princeton UP, 1993)
  • Smolenski, John. "Embodied politics: the Paxton uprising and the gendering of civic culture in colonial Pennsylvania." Early American Studies 14.2 (2016): 377-407 online.
  • Smolenski, John. Friends and Strangers: The Making of a Creole Culture in Colonial Pennsylvania (U of Pennsylvania Press, 2010).
  • Spero, Patrick (2016). Frontier Country: The Politics of War in Early Pennsylvania. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 978-0812248616.
  • Tully, Alan. Forming American Politics: Ideals, Interests, and Institutions in Colonial New York and Pennsylvania (JHU Press, 2019).

40°17′46″N 75°30′32″W / 40.296°N 75.509°W / 40.296; -75.509