The first permanent European settlements in Pennsylvania were due to the Swedes, who established New Sweden with its capital near present-day Philadelphia. The Dutch drove out the Swedes in 1655 and held the territory until they were in turn displaced by the English in 1664. Administration of Pennsylvania was given to the governor of New York.
In 1681, Charles II of England granted the region to William Penn in order to settle a debt owed to Penn's father. Penn was a Quaker and wanted a place where Quakers and others could practice their religion in peace. He chose the name Sylvania for his colony and King Charles added Penn to create the name Pennsylvania. The Penn family governed Pennsylvania until the outbreak of the War for Independence. Work began on the Mason-Dixon Line in 1763, but it required another 23 years for the results to be accepted and the border between Pennsylvania and Virginia finally established.
During the War of Independence, Pennsylvania played a leading role. The first Continental Congress convened in Philadelphia in 1774, and the Declaration of Independence was proclaimed there on July 4, 1776. The British seized Philadelphia in 1777, and after George Washington failed to retake the city, he retreated to Valley Forge for the winter.
After the war, Philadelphia was the site of the constitutional convention in 1787. Pennsylvania was the second state to ratify the Constitution, partly due to the expectation that the capital of the new nation might come to the state. In fact, the national capital was Philadelphia from 1790 until 1800, at which time it was moved to Washington, D.C.
In his final years, Benjamin Franklin kept an interesting in the politics of his home state. When proposals were made in late 1789 to revise the Pennsylvania constitution to provide two legislative houses, one elected by large property owners and the other by everybody else, Franklin composed a set of remarks which took issue with the arguments that had been presented:
The combinations of civil society are not like those of a set of merchants who club their property in different proportions for building and freighting a ship, and may therefore have some right to vote in the disposition of the voyage in a greater or less degree according to their respective contributions. But the important ends of civil society, and the personal securities of life and liberty there, remain the same in every member of the society. And the poorest continues to have an equal claim to them with the most opulent, whatever difference time, chance, or industry may occasion in their circumstances.
The proposal to establish a rich-only legislative body failed in Pennsylvania, running as it did against the tide of an expanded franchise of men with equal rights.
In the 19th century, Pennsylvania developed as the center of mining and manufacturing in the United States. Its large deposits of anthracite coal and iron ore supported a growing steel industry. In 1859, the first oil well in Pennsylvania was drilled near Titusville, and further exploration resulted in the first major oil fields in the United States.
See Pennsylvania .
---- Selected Quotes ----
Quotes regarding Pennsylvania.
By William Penn
The king of the country where I live hath given me a great province, but I desire to enjoy it with your love and consent, that we may always live together as neighbors and friends....
Letter to the Indians of Pennsylvania, 1681
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Philadelphia Friends Schools by Janet Chance, Mark Franek.
William Penn envisioned a society dedicated to religious toleration, participatory government, and liberty. Central to this Holy Experiment was his be...
Center City Philadelphia in the 19th Century by Library Company of Philadelphia.
Philadelphia, as laid out in the 1680s, extended from the Delaware River to the Schuylkill River and from Vine Street to South Street, an area known t...
Valley Forge by Stacey A. Swigart.
Valley Forge is a name that resonates in the minds of many Americans. As the site of the 1777-1778 encampment of the Continental Army during the Revol...
A History of Company C, 50th Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteer Infantry Regiment by J. Stuart Richards.
From the Camp, the Battlefield and the Prison Pen, 1861-1865This collection of Civil War soldiers' letters home to Pennsylvania, personal narratives a...
Massacre of the Conestogas On the Trail of the Paxton Boys in Lancaster County by Jack Brubaker.
On two chilly December days in 1763, bands of armed men raged through camps of peaceful Conestoga Indians. They killed twenty women, children and men,...
Legends & Lore of Western Pennsylvania by Thomas White.
Oppaymolleah’s curse. General Braddock’s buried gold. The original man of steel, Joe Magarac. Such legends have found a home among the rich folklore o...
Gettysburg by Stephen W. Sears.
A masterful, single-volume history of the Civil War's greatest campaign. Drawing on original source material, from soldiers' letters to official mil...
The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough.
At the end of the last century, Johnstown, Pennsylvania, was a booming coal-and-steel town filled with hardworking families striving for a piece of th...