William Penn served as governor of Pennsylvania for two years and did much to encourage its development. He urged acceptance of people from all faiths and wrote the Frame of Government, the colony's first constitution, which provided for representative government. Penn assured positive relations with the area's Native Americans by paying them for the lands he had been given by the King.
Philadelphia, along with Charleston, South Carolina, was a successful example of a planned city. Its ordered layout soon accommodated the largest and most diverse population in the American colonies. Penn worked diligently to attract settlers and was notable for his honesty in advertising his venture — a practice few other promoters of the day followed. Despite his efforts and the prosperity of many of the settlers, Penn profited little from the colony and would later spend some time in debtors’ prison.
Much tension developed between the aristocratic upper house of the Pennsylvania assembly and the more democratic lower house. This unease reflected a broader strain between the urban interests centered in Philadelphia and the rural areas of the colony. Penn was persuaded to grant a Charter of Liberties in 1701, a reform measure that provided the following:
Penn temporarily lost control of his colony in 1692-93; the new English monarchs, William and Mary , were suspicious about his close relationship with the previous king, James II. For the remainder of Penn's life, Pennsylvania was in some ways a troubled colony, at least from the political perspective. His heirs continued to govern the colony until the outbreak of the War for Independence.
- Replaced the existing two-house legislature with a unicameral assembly
- Placed various restrictions on the powers of the proprietor
Enabled the Three Lower Counties to form their own assembly. This area would continue to share a governor with Pennsylvania, but eventually would become a separate entity, Delaware.
Conflicts with the French and Native Americans
Despite Penn's efforts to treat the Native Americans fairly, tensions developed later and involved Pennsylvania in the widespread warfare among the French, English and Native Americans.
In 1755, General Edward Braddock was dispatched to reduce French forts that had been erected on Pennsylvania's western frontier. Marching from Virginia to Fort Duquesne, Braddock displayed a fatal adherence to old school tactics. Dismissing the advice of his staff, including young George Washington, led to his force's entrapment next to the Monongahela River by a combined French and Native American force. The English and colonists were grouped tightly together, making them easy targets for their opponents. Braddock fought with great bravery, having several horses shot out from under him, but sustained a fatal wound. English losses were tremendous: Only 459 soldiers of 1,373 avoided being killed or wounded.
As a result of this stunning defeat, the Pennsylvania frontier was ravaged by the French and their allies. Fort Duquesne was taken finally by British and American forces in 1758, then renamed Fort Pitt.
See Exploration and Indian Warfare .
See also Indian Wars Time Table .