Province of Pennsylvania

Last updated
Province of Pennsylvania
Map of the Province of Pennsylvania
Capital Philadelphia
Official languagesEnglish, Pennsylvania German
Government Proprietary Colony
Charles II
James II
William III & Mary II
George I
George II
George III
Lieutenant Governor  
William Markham
John Penn
Legislature Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly
 Upper house
Pennsylvania Provincial Council
 Lower house
Pennsylvania General Assembly
 Land grant by Charles II of England to William Penn
March 4 1681
July 4 1776
Currency Pennsylvania pound
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Blank.png Lenape
Pennsylvania  Flag of the United States (1777-1795).svg
Today part of United States

The Province of Pennsylvania, also known as the Pennsylvania Colony, was a British North American colony founded by William Penn after receiving a land grant from Charles II of England in 1681. The name Pennsylvania ("Penn's Woods") refers to William'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 hands of the Penn family until they were ousted by the American Revolution, when the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania was created and became one of the original thirteen states. "The lower counties on Delaware," a separate colony within the province, broke away during the American Revolution as "the Delaware State" and was also one of the original thirteen states.

The colony attracted Quakers, Germans, and Scots-Irish frontiersmen. The Lenape promoted peace with the Quakers. However, wars eventually broke out after William Penn and Tamanend were no longer living. Lenape beliefs were demonized by the Quakers even though the latter had come seeking religious freedom in the first place. [1] Philadelphia became a major port and commercial city. [2]


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

The colonial government, established in 1683 by Penn's Frame of Government, consisted of an appointed governor, the proprietor (William Penn), a 72-member Provincial Council, and a larger General Assembly. The General Assembly, also known as the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly, was the largest and most representative branch of government but had little power.

Succeeding Frames of Government were produced in 1683, 1696, and 1701. The fourth Frame was also known as the Charter of Privileges and remained in effect until the American Revolution. At that time, the Provincial Assembly was deemed too moderate by the revolutionaries, who ignored the Assembly and held a convention which produced the Constitution of 1776 for the newly established commonwealth, creating a new General Assembly in the process.

William Penn (14 October 1644 – 30 July 1718) was an English real estate entrepreneur, philosopher, early Quaker, and founder of the Province of Pennsylvania, the English North American colony, and the future Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. He was an early advocate of democracy and religious freedom, notable for his good relations and successful treaties with the Lenape Indians. Under his direction, the city of Philadelphia was planned and developed.


Despite having the land grant from the king, Penn embarked on an effort to purchase the lands from Native Americans. The Delaware (Lenni Lenape) held much of the land near present-day Philadelphia. They would have 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 Swedish / Dutch colonies 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

It was not until several decades into the next century that additional treaties with the Native Americans were concluded. The Proprietors of the colony made treaties in 1718, 1732, 1737, 1749, 1754, and 1754 pushing the boundaries of the colony (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 war was 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.

Indian Relations

Benjamin West's painting (in 1771) of William Penn's 1682 treaty with the Lenni Lenape Treaty of Penn with Indians by Benjamin West.jpg
Benjamin West's painting (in 1771) of William Penn's 1682 treaty with the Lenni Lenape

William Penn had mandated fair dealings with Indians. This led to significantly better relations with the local Native 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 (present Easton, Pennsylvania) "as far west as a man could walk in a day and a half." This purchase has become 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 already 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 war just over and Pontiac's War beginning, the Royal Proclamation of 1763 banned colonization beyond the Appalachian Mountains to prevent settlers settling lands which the Indians were used to wander over. This proclamation affected Pennsylvanians and Virginians the most, as they had been racing towards the lands surrounding Fort Pitt (modern-day Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania).


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
Took officeLeft office
Arthur Cook16811684
Nicholas Moore16841685
Arthur Cook16861690
John Simcock16901693
Andrew Robson16931699
Edward Shippen 16991701
John Guest 20 Aug 170110 Apr 1703
William Clark10 Apr 17031705
John Guest 17051706
Roger Mompesson 17 April 17061715
Joseph Growden, Jr.17151718
David Lloyd 17181731
James Logan 20 Aug 17311739
Jeremiah Langhorne 13 Aug 17391743
John Kinsey5 April 17431750
William Allen 20 Sept 17501774
Benjamin Chew 29 April 17741776

Famous colonial Pennsylvanians

See also

Related Research Articles

Thirteen Colonies 17th and 18th-century British colonies in North America which became the United States

The Thirteen Colonies, also known as the Thirteen British Colonies or the Thirteen American Colonies, were a group of British colonies on the Atlantic coast of North America. Founded in the 17th and 18th centuries, they began fighting the American Revolutionary War in April 1775 and formed the United States of America by declaring full independence in July 1776.

Lenape Indigenous people originally from Lenapehoking, now the Mid-Atlantic United States

The Lenape, also called the Leni Lenape, Lenni Lenape and Delaware people, are an indigenous people of the Northeastern Woodlands, who live in the United States and Canada. Their historical territory included present-day northeastern Delaware, New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania along the Delaware River watershed, New York City, western Long Island, and the Lower Hudson Valley. Today, Lenape people belong to the Delaware Nation and Delaware Tribe of Indians in Oklahoma; the Stockbridge-Munsee Community in Wisconsin; and the Munsee-Delaware Nation, Moravian of the Thames First Nation, and Delaware of Six Nations in Ontario.

Benjamin Chew

Benjamin Chew was a fifth-generation American, a Quaker-born legal scholar, a prominent and successful Philadelphia lawyer, head of the Pennsylvania Judiciary System under both Colony and Commonwealth, and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Province of Pennsylvania. Chew was well known for his precision and brevity in making legal arguments as well as his excellent memory, judgment, and knowledge of statutory law. His primary allegiance was to the supremacy of law and constitution.

Middle Colonies Subset of British American Thirteen Colonies

The Middle Colonies were a subset of the Thirteen Colonies in British America, located between the New England Colonies and the Southern Colonies. Along with the Chesapeake Colonies, this area now roughly makes up the Mid-Atlantic states.

Delaware Colony Former British colony in North America

Delaware Colony in the North American Middle Colonies consisted of land on the west bank of the Delaware River Bay. In the early 17th century the area was inhabited by Lenape and possibly the Assateague tribes of Native Americans. The first European settlers were Swedes, who established the colony New Sweden at Fort Christina at present day Wilmington, in 1638. The Dutch captured the colony in 1655 and annexed it to New Netherland to the north. The English took control from the Dutch in 1664, and in 1682, William Penn, the Quaker Proprietor of Pennsylvania to the north, leased "the three lower counties on the Delaware River" from James, the Duke of York.

History of Pennsylvania Aspect of history

The history of Pennsylvania begins in 1681 when William Penn received a royal deed from King Charles II of England, although European activity in the region precedes that date, like in 1643, when the area was first colonized by the Dutch. The area was home to the Lenape, Susquehannocks, Iroquois, Erie, Shawnee, Arandiqiouia, and other American Indian tribes. Most of these tribes were driven off or reduced to remnants as a result of diseases, such as smallpox, that swept through long before any permanent European colonists arrived.

Brandywine Creek (Christina River tributary) Creek in Pennsylvania and Delaware, US

Brandywine Creek is a tributary of the Christina River in southeastern Pennsylvania and northern Delaware in the United States. The Lower Brandywine is 20.4 miles (32.8 km) long and is a designated Pennsylvania Scenic River with several tributary streams. The East Branch and West Branch of the creek originate within 2 miles (3 km) of each other on the slopes of Welsh Mountain in Honey Brook Township, Pennsylvania, about 20 miles (32 km) northwest of their confluence.

Treaty of Easton 1758 peace agreement between British colonists and various Native American nations

The Treaty of Easton was a colonial agreement in North America signed in October 1758 during the French and Indian War between British colonials and the chiefs of 13 Native American nations, representing tribes of the Iroquois, Lenape (Delaware), and Shawnee. Negotiations over more than a week were concluded on October 26, 1758, at a ceremony held in Easton, Pennsylvania between the British colonial governors of the provinces of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and representatives of 13 Indian nations, including the Iroquois, who sent chiefs of three of their nations to ensure their continued domination of their Ohio Country region; the eastern and western Lenape (Delaware), represented by two chiefs and headmen; Shawnee and others. More than 500 Native Americans attended the outdoor ceremony, after lengthy negotiations to bring peace to the regions of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and the Ohio Country.

Andrew Hamilton (lawyer)

Andrew Hamilton was a Scottish lawyer in the Thirteen Colonies, where he finally settled in Philadelphia. He was best known for his legal victory on behalf of the printer and newspaper publisher John Peter Zenger. His involvement with the 1735 decision in New York helped to establish that truth is a defense to an accusation of libel. His eloquent defense concluded with saying that the press has "a liberty both of exposing and opposing tyrannical power by speaking and writing truth."

Walking Purchase 1737 alleged agreement between the Penn family and the Lenape Native Americans

The Walking Purchase was an alleged 1737 agreement between the Penn family, the original proprietors of the Province of Pennsylvania in the colonial era, and the Lenape native Indians. By it the Penn family and proprietors claimed an area of 1,200,000 acres (4,860 km2) along the northern reaches of the Delaware River at the northeastern boundary between the Province of Pennsylvania and the West New Jersey area to the east of the Province of New Jersey and forced the Lenape to vacate it. The Lenape appeal to the Iroquois Indian tribe further north for aid on the issue was refused.

James Logan (statesman)

James Logan was a Scots-Irish colonial American statesman, administrator, and scholar who served as the fourteenth mayor of Philadelphia and held a number of other public offices.

Lappawinsoe Lenape Chief

Lappawinsoe was a Lenape-Delaware chief. His name signifies "gathering fruit" or "going away to gather food".

James Hamilton (Pennsylvania politician)

James Hamilton, son of the well-known American lawyer Andrew Hamilton, was a prominent lawyer and governmental figure in colonial Philadelphia and Pennsylvania. He served as Deputy Governor of the Province from 1748 to 1754 and again from 1759 to 1763.

Thomas Penn Colonial proprietor of Pennsylvania

Thomas Penn was a hereditary proprietor of the Province of Pennsylvania, the English North American colony that became the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. He was a son of William Penn, the colony's founder and original proprietor.

Conrad Weiser

Conrad Weiser, born Johann Conrad Weiser, Jr., was a Pennsylvania Dutch (German) pioneer who served as an interpreter and diplomat between the Pennsylvania Colony and Native American nations. Primarily a farmer, he also worked as a tanner, and later served as a soldier and judge. He lived part of the time for six years at Ephrata Cloister, a Protestant monastic community in Lancaster County.

William Penn 17th-century British colonizer in North America who founded the Province of Pennsylvania

William Penn was an English writer and religious thinker belonging to the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), and founder of the Province of Pennsylvania, a North American colony of England. He was an early advocate of democracy and religious freedom, notable for his good relations and successful treaties with the Lenape Native Americans. Under his direction, the city of Philadelphia was planned and developed. Philadelphia was planned out to be grid-like with its streets and be very easy to navigate, unlike London where Penn was from. The streets are named with numbers and tree names. He chose to use the names of trees for the cross streets because Pennsylvania means "Penn's Woods".


Teedyuscung was known as King of the Delawares. He worked to establish a permanent Lenape (Delaware) home in eastern Pennsylvania in the Lehigh, Susquehanna and Delaware River valleys. Teedyuscung participated in the Treaty of Easton which resulted in the surrender of Lenape claims to all lands in Pennsylvania. Following the treaty, the Lenape were forced to live under the control of the Iroquois in the Wyoming Valley near modern-day Wilkes-Barre. Teedyuscung was murdered by arsonists on April 19, 1763 as he reportedly lay asleep as his cabin burned around him. This marked the beginning of the end of the Lenape presence in Pennsylvania. Teedyuscung's son Chief Bull conducted a raid on the Wyoming Valley that was part of a greater Indian uprising that resulted in the Lenape being forced to move west of the Appalachian Mountains by the Royal Proclamation of 1763.

John Penn was a proprietor of the colonial Province of Pennsylvania. He was the eldest son of the colony's founder, William Penn (1644–1718), by his second wife, Hannah Callowhill Penn (1671–1726). Since he was the only one of Penn's children to be born in the New World, the Americas, he was called "the American" by his family.

<i>Penns Treaty with the Indians</i> Painting by Benjamin West

The Treaty of Penn with the Indians, sometimes known as Penn's Treaty with the Indians at Shackamaxon or more simply Penn's Treaty with the Indians, is an oil painting by Benjamin West, completed in 1771–72. The painting depicts William Penn entering into the Treaty of Shackamaxon in 1683 with Tamanend, a chief of the Lenape Turtle Clan, under the shade of an elm tree near the village of Shackamaxon in Pennsylvania.


  1. Hershey, L. B. (2009). Peace through conversation: William Penn, Israel Pemberton and the shaping of Quaker-Indian relations, 1681-1757 [University of Iowa].
  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 Archived 2018-09-04 at the Wayback Machine
  6. 1 2 3 4 "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. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-03-26. Retrieved 2014-03-25.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. 1 2 3 4 Goode, Michael. "Native American-Pennsylvania Relations 1681-1753". Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia. Retrieved 2021-09-23.
  11. Rothbard, Murray N. (2005). "Pennsylvania's Anarchist Experiment: 1681–1690". Archived from the original on 2014-03-13. Retrieved 2008-07-02.
  12. Newman, Andrew. "Treaty of Shackamaxon". Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia. Retrieved 2021-09-23.
  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 2021-09-23.
  15. Rothbard, Murray N., Conceived in Liberty, Vol. II (Auburn, AL: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 1999), p. 64.

Secondary sources

Coordinates: 40°17′46″N75°30′32″W / 40.296°N 75.509°W / 40.296; -75.509