Colony Of Pennsylvania

Summary & History

Important Dates


1616 - Dutch Captain Cornelius Hendrickson First to Sail Delaware River 
1630 - Failed Dutch Settlement Lower Delaware River 
1638 - Swedish Settlement at Wilmington, Delaware 
1638 - New Sweden Established, Both Sides of Delaware Claimed 
1643 - Swedish Settlement "Upland" at Tinicum Island (Chester, PA) 
1648 - Quaker Religion Established in England by George Fox 
1655 - New Sweden Conquered by Dutch Without Violence 
1656 - Quaker Persecution in New England Begins 
1664 - New Amsterdam (New York City) Ceded by Dutch to English 
1667 - William Penn Becomes a Quaker in England 
1681 - Pennsylvania Land Grant to William Penn (settlement of debt) 
1681 - William Markham Takes Possession of Upland (Chester, PA) 
1681 - Philadelphia Established with a Grid of Streets Planned 
1682 - William Penn Arrives at Newcastle, DE aboard the Welcome 
1682 - William Penn Treaty with Native Americans at Kensington 
1682 - First Government Assembly Established at Chester 
1684 - Penn Returns to England, Eventually Lands in Debtor's Prison 
1689 - Friends' Public Grammar School Chartered at Philadelphia 
1699 - William Penn Returns to Pennsylvania until late 1701 
1701 - New Pennsylvania Constitution Adopted 
1701 - Governor (Ruler), Provincial Council (Judges), Assembly (Laws) 
1718 - Penn Dies, Hannah Penn Takes Over, Keith Administration 
1719 - First Newspaper Published at Philadelphia 
1736 - Border Skirmishes with Maryland 
1737 - Three Days' Walk Fraud against Indians to Take Lands 
1754 - Ben Franklin Attends Albany Congress about Indian Relations 
1754 - Fort Duquesne at Pittsburgh built by French 
1754 - Fort Necessity Surrendered to French by Washington


Approximate Population


1680 - 400 
1720 - 30,000 
1730 - 45,000 (Philadelphia, 12,000) 
1740 - 55,000 
1750 - 120,000 (Philadelphia, 18,000) 
1760 - 200,000 
1770 - 300,000 
1790 - 440,000 (Philadelphia, 45,000) 
1800 - 600,000 
1810 - 800,000 


Early Settlement & Colonial History



Social Studies Links



William Penn


"Pennsylvania was so named, in 1681, after William Penn, the founder of Philadelphia.

William Penn was the son of Sir William Penn, an admiral in the British navy, who rendered important services to the nation, on account of which, and by way of recompense [debt], Charles II granted to the son the territory of Pennsylvania, and so naming it after Penn himself.

This patent encroached on the territory of Lord Baltimore in Maryland by one whole degree, or sixty-nine and a half miles; and on the north, nearly three hundred miles, across the whole territory conveyed to Connecticut in 1631 and confirmed by the royal charter of 1662. Hence arose contentions between the colonies of Pennsylvania and Connecticut about boundaries, that were not settled until a century later. Within a short time from the date of the grant by King Charles to Penn, two other conveyances were made to him, by the Duke of York. One was a bill of sale of Newcastle, and a territory of twelve miles around it. The other conveyance was a bill granting a tract of land south of the former, as far as Cape Henlopen. These two deeds embraced the whole State of Delaware, known at that time by the name of the 'Territories.'

Penn was himself a Quaker, or member of the Society of Friends; a man of large and liberal views, and of great benevolence and integrity of purpose. Arid now, having obtained possession of a valuable territory, he was desirous of founding a colony where civil and religious liberty might be enjoyed, and the people of which might dwell together in the bonds of peace.

To the Swedish settlements already existing in the territory he gave the assurance that they should in no way be molested in their religion or laws. He desired their welfare, and they might seek it in their own way.

As it was Penn's object and interest to forward the settlement of his territory, he issued an invitation to purchasers, offering them land on the liberal condition of one thousand acres for twenty pounds, or at an annual rent of one penny per acre. Many persons, chiefly Quakers, were induced to purchase; and, in the fall of 1681, three ships, with settlers, sailed for Pennsylvania. In one of these ships came over the agent and deputy-governor of the proprietor, William Markham, to supervise the affairs of the colony, and to establish a good understanding with the Indians. At the same time, Penn addressed a letter to the Indians, residing on the territory, assuring them of his pacific disposition, and his determination, should difficulties arise between them and the emigrants, to have them settled on principles of equity.

In 1682, Penn published a form of government, by which the supreme power was lodged in a general assembly, to consist of a governor, council, and house of delegates: the council and house to be chosen by the freemen; the proprietor and governor to preside, and to have a treble voice in the council, which was to consist of seventy-two members. It was also agreed that every person of good moral character, professing his faith in Christ, should be a freeman, and capable of holding any office; and that none who believed in one God should be molested in his religion, or be compelled to attend or maintain religious worship.

In November, Penn, with, two thousand planters, mostly Quakers, arrived at Newcastle, which was a part of the 'Territories.' Upon this tract he found settled, as already noticed, about three thousand Dutch, Swedes, and Finns. He proceeded to Chester, where, in December, he convoked an assembly; but, so few delegates appearing, he ordered that, instead of seventy-two, only three members should constitute the council, and nine in the house of assembly. This assembly annexed the 'Territories.' to the province, adopted a frame of government, and enacted a body of laws.

Markham having, according to instructions, secured a treaty with the neighboring Indians. Penn, some weeks after his arrival, met with a numerous delegation of these tribes, to ratify the same. This was one of the most interesting scenes in our colonial history. The spot selected for the transaction was beneath a large elm tree, at Shaxamaxon, since then known as Kensington, the northeast suburb of Philadelphia. On his arrival at the spot, attended by a few friends, the simple children of the forest gathered around him, and he thus addressed them: "We meet on the broad pathway of good faith and good will; no advantage shall be taken on either side, but all shall be openness and love. I will not call you children; for parents sometimes chide their children too severely: nor brothers only; — brothers differ. The friendship between me and you, I will not compare to a chain; for the rains may rust, or the falling tree might break. We are the same as if one man's body were to be divided into two parts, — we are all one flesh and blood."

Touched by this warm-hearted and generous address, the Indians accepted the presents which followed, and in return, gave a belt of wampum. And to this they added, 'We will live in love with William Penn and his children, as long as the moon and the sun shall endure,' 'And now,' says an 19th century historian, 'the simple sons of the forest, returning to their wigwams, kept the history of the covenant by strings of wampum; and long afterwards, in the cabin, would count over the shells on a clean piece of bark, and recall to the memory, and repeat to their children or to strangers, the words of William Penn.' And it is remarkable that all this was accomplished so kindly, so gently, when the more northern colonies of New England had just been embroiled in a long and disastrous war with Indian tribes. But Penn was eminently bent on peace, and he had the advantage of the sad experience of others. The result of and the reward of his kindness and integrity was, 'that not a drop of Quaker blood was ever shed by an Indian.'

A few months after Penn's arrival, he commenced the city of Philadelphia, or 'Brotherly Love,' — a name in keeping with all his other transactions. The land being part of the tract owned by the Swedes, who had already erected a church there, he purchased it of them. The growth of the city was rapid, numbering at the close of a year, nearly a hundred houses and cottages, and at the expiration of the second year, two thousand five hundred inhabitants.

Pennsylvania had a more rapid and prosperous settlement than any of the other colonies. This was doubtless owing, in part, to its healthful climate and fruitful soil; partly to the fact, that the great obstacles of settlement had been overcome by the other colonies; and, partly, to the religious tolerance, mildness and equity, which characterized its laws and their administration.

In 1683, Penn convened a second assembly, which was held in Philadelphia; and at the request of the freemen and delegates, granted them a second charter, by which eighteen persons were to form a council, and thirty-six the assembly. At this time it was ordained, 'that, to prevent lawsuits, three arbitrators, to be called peace-makers, should be chosen by the county courts, to hear and determine small differences between man and man; that children should be taught some useful trade; that factors wronging their employers should make satisfaction; that all causes of rudeness, cruelty and irreligion, should be repressed; and that no man should be molested for his religious opinions.' To these wholesome regulations Pennsylvania was. indebted for her great prosperity and rapid settlement.

In 1684, Penn returned to England, leaving the administration of the government in the care of five commissioners. Soon after, James II abdicated the throne. For this monarch Penn felt a sincere regard, and continued, even after his expulsion from the throne, to administer the colonial government in his name. This excited the displeasure of William, successor of James, his friends caused Penn to be imprisoned several times; and the government of the colony was taken from him, and given to Colonel Fletcher, Governor of New York. But some time after, the charges of disloyalty to William having been proved to be unfounded, he was permitted to resume the exercise of his rights, whereupon he appointed William Markham to be his deputy-governor.

In 1699, Penn made a second visit to Pennsylvania. Finding discontent had crept in, in relation to the government, he humanely prepared a new charter, on still more liberal principles. This was offered on November 7th 1701, and accepted, on the same day by the people of Pennsylvania; but the "Territories," now Delaware, declining, they were allowed a distinct assembly, under the same governor. The assembly was first convened in 1703.

Having thus settled affairs, Penn again returned to England, leaving the executive authority to be exercised by a deputy-governor. Discontentment, however, again appeared, and at times the deputy-governors became quite obnoxious to the people. Still, the colony prospered; they lived in great harmony with the Indians, and increased in numbers and wealth.

William Penn died in England in 1718. He left his interest in Pennsylvania and Delaware to his surviving sons, John, Thomas, and Richard, who continued to hold the same, and to administer the government, by agents or deputies, until the American Revolution. At the commencement of the Revolutionary War, the people formed a new constitution, by which the proprietor was excluded from all participation in the government; and, by way of discharging all rents due from the inhabitants, he was allowed about five hundred and eighty thousand dollars.


— A History of the United States, by Charles A. Goodrich, 1857 (edited)


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