William Penn established the Pennsylvania Colony in 1681 as one of the thirteen original British colonies in America. It was named after Penn’s father, Admiral William Penn, as a “holy experiment” for religious freedom.
Philadelphia, which means “City of Brotherly Love” in Greek, was the colony’s capital. Pennsylvania had a diversified population that included Quakers, Germans, and African slaves.
It was a pioneer in the abolition of slavery and the establishment of the Underground Railroad, as well as a major hub of industry and commerce, with thriving shipbuilding, iron, and textile industries, as well as agriculture.
The colony’s government was based on democracy and religious tolerance, and it played an important part in the American Revolution, with Philadelphia acting as the capital of the Continental Congress.
Pennsylvania Colony Facts
1. The English Purchased the Land from the Dutch
The ownership and management of the land that formed the Pennsylvania Colony was complicated. For many years, the region on North America’s Eastern Seaboard has been the site of territorial conflicts between European countries.
The English, Dutch, and Swedes were all active in the area, claiming different areas of it. To the south, the English created the colony of Maryland, and the Dutch established settlements in what is now Delaware.
The region along the Delaware River was controlled by the Swedes, who constructed a town at what is now Wilmington, Delaware.
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Through a series of treaties in the late 1600s, the English purchased the land from the Dutch, and William Penn was granted a charter for the region that would become the Pennsylvania colony.
The colony’s limits, however, were not fully determined until the late 1700s, following a series of negotiations and property purchases with Native Americans. The colony was eventually designated as the territory between the 40th and 43rd parallels, as well as the Delaware and Susquehanna rivers.
2. It had a Very Diversified Population
The Pennsylvania Colony was recognized for its diversified population, which included many German immigrants. These immigrants, who arrived from various parts of Germany, brought their own cultural and religious traditions with them.
Among the most noteworthy groups of German immigrants who established in the colony were the Quakers, Mennonites, and Amish. The Quakers, also known as the Society of Friends, were a Christian sect that pushed for equality and peace while believing in Christ’s inner light.
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The Mennonites, a Christian sect, were noted for their humble lifestyle and strong devotion to nonviolence.
Another Christian group was the Amish, who were noted for their traditional way of life and strong focus on community and family.
These groups of German immigrants worked together to shape the culture and civilization of the Pennsylvania Colony.
3. The Settlers Had Good Relations with the Local Tribes
The Pennsylvania Colony had a special relationship with the local Native American tribes. The colony’s founder, William Penn, believed in treating Native Americans with dignity and fairness, and he developed a policy of peaceful cohabitation with the tribes. He believed that this strategy would be more effective than using force.
The Treaty of Shackamaxon, often known as the “Great Treaty” of 1682, was an unsworn agreement between the colony and the Lenape tribe that reflected Penn’s philosophy.
This pact established a mutual respect and collaboration relationship between the colonists and the Native Americans. The Lenape agreed to sell land to the colony in exchange for the colony promising to protect the Lenape’s right to live and hunt on their land.
The colony also committed to pay a yearly rent for the land. This pact provided the groundwork for a 50-year period of peaceful cohabitation between the colony and the Native Americans.
It is important to note that the colony’s relationship with the Native Americans was not always peaceful, and there were some conflicts, but the Treaty of Shackamaxon was a unique and significant agreement that helped to establish a period of relative peace between the colony and the Native Americans.
4. It Produced a Lot of Crops
The Pennsylvania Colony was a notable agricultural producer, particularly of wheat, corn, and flax. The colony’s abundant terrain and warm temperature made these crops excellent for cultivation.
Wheat was one of the most significant crops farmed in the colony and was the economic backbone of the colony. The wheat produced by the colony was of good quality and in high demand in both the American colonies and Europe.
Another important crop farmed in the colony was corn, which was utilized for both food and animal fodder.
Flax was also widely farmed in the colony and used to make linen and other fabrics. The flax business in the colony was so successful that it was regarded as one of the best among the British colonies in America.
Other crops grown in the colony were barley, oats, and rye, as well as livestock such as cattle, pigs, and sheep. Agriculture was able to support the colony’s inhabitants while also contributing to the colony’s economy by exporting surplus to neighboring colonies and Europe.
5. Was a Pioneer in the Abolition of Slavery
The Pennsylvania Colony was a pioneer in the abolition of slavery and the establishment of the Underground Railroad. William Penn built the colony because he believed in religious tolerance and equality for all people.
In 1780, he abolished slavery in the colony, making it one of the first British possessions in America. The state’s constitution, which stated that “all men are born equally free and independent,” recognized this abolition.
As slavery persisted in other states, many enslaved African Americans sought freedom in Pennsylvania. The nature of the state, with its numerous rivers, mountains, and forests, afforded numerous escape routes and hiding places for individuals seeking freedom.
The Underground Railroad, a network of secret passageways and safe houses that assisted enslaved African Americans in escaping to freedom, was very active in the state, with numerous abolitionists and Quakers working to assist and protect people fleeing slavery.
Pennsylvania’s abolitionist movement was also nationally impactful. Many abolitionists and freed slaves from the state, including Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and William Still, played crucial roles in the struggle against slavery and the Underground Railroad.
The state also played an important role in the Civil War, providing the Union army with troops, resources, and political support.
6. The Pennsylvania Colony was Founded as a Proprietary Colony
The Pennsylvania colony was founded as a proprietary colony, which meant it was owned and managed by a single person or group, in this case William Penn and his family.
Proprietary colonies were primarily formed by the British Crown making a grant to an individual or group, who would subsequently manage the colony according to the terms of the grant. In the instance of the Pennsylvania colony, King Charles II granted the territory to William Penn as reimbursement for a debt owing to Penn’s father.
Penn was in charge of the colony’s administration and government, and he constructed a form of government based on democracy and religious tolerance.
Until the American Revolution began in 1775, the colony remained a proprietary colony. The colony, like the other colonies, desired independence from British domination at the time.
The colony’s proprietary administration was abolished and replaced by a state government founded by the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly. The state government played an important part in the American Revolution, with Philadelphia acting as the Continental Congress’s capital.
Following the war, the state was admitted to the Union as one of the thirteen founding states of the United States of America and ratified the new state constitution.
7. At Independence Hall the Continental Congress Adopted the Declaration of Independence
Independence Hall, located in the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is a National Park Service site. The edifice, also known as the Pennsylvania State House, was constructed in 1753 and served as the seat of Pennsylvania’s colonial government.
It is most recognized as the site where the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, and where the United States Constitution was debated and adopted in 1787.
Independence Hall is regarded as one of the most significant historical structures in the United States, as well as a symbol of American independence. It is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well as a National Historic Landmark.
Through exhibitions and guided tours, visitors to Independence Hall can learn about the history of the American Revolution and the early years of the United States.
8. Pennsylvania was the Second State to Ratify the US Constitution
After Delaware, Pennsylvania was the second state to ratify the US Constitution. In December 1787, the Pennsylvania State Convention, comprised of elected members from across the state, met in Philadelphia to consider ratifying the new Constitution.
The convention was split on the subject, with Federalists in favor of ratification and Anti-Federalists opposed. On December 12, 1787, after several weeks of debate and discussion, the conference voted to ratify the Constitution by a vote of 46 to 23.
The acceptance of the Constitution by Pennsylvania was a key milestone in the process of establishing the new national government. The Constitution could not go into effect until nine of the thirteen states ratified it.
With Pennsylvania’s ratification, the Constitution had been ratified by two states, and it was ratified by additional states in the months that followed. On June 21, 1788, New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify the Constitution, completing its ratification.
9. It was a Major Economic Power
With thriving shipbuilding, iron, and textile industries, the Pennsylvania colony was a major center for industry and commerce.
Shipbuilding was a significant sector in the colony, particularly in Philadelphia and Chester. These cities’ ships were utilized for trade and transportation along the Delaware River and the Atlantic coast.
The iron industry was also important in the colony, notably in the colony’s eastern region. This region’s iron mines and forges generated iron for use in construction, agriculture, and other sectors.
The colony also had a thriving textile sector, particularly in woolen goods production. The colony had a large number of woolen mills that produced textiles for both the domestic and foreign markets.
10. The Pennsylvania Dutch
Many of the German settlers who migrated to the Pennsylvania colony in the 1700s spoke Pennsylvania German, often known as “Pennsylvania Dutch.”
This dialect arose as a result of the colony’s isolation of German-speaking communities and the influence of other languages and dialects in the region. The dialect was mostly used for casual speech and not for formal or written communication.
The phrase “Pennsylvania Dutch” derives from the German word “Deutsch,” which meaning “German.” The settlers called themselves “Deitsch” or “Deutsch,” and they were not Dutch at all.
Over time, the word “Pennsylvania Dutch” evolved to apply to the descendants of these German settlers, whether or not they still spoke the dialect.
Today, the descendants of these German settlers are known as “Pennsylvania Dutch,” however the title is rather misleading because they are German-Americans rather than Dutch.