Province of Pennsylvania
Map of the Province of Pennsylvania
Map of the Province of Pennsylvania
Official languagesEnglish, Pennsylvania German
GovernmentProprietary Colony
• 1681–1685
Charles II
• 1685–1688
James II
• 1689–1702
William III & Mary II
• 1702–1714
• 1714–1727
George I
• 1727–1760
George II
• 1760–1776
George III
Lieutenant Governor 
• 1681–1682
William Markham
• 1773-1776
John Penn
LegislaturePennsylvania 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
CurrencyPennsylvania pound
Preceded by
Succeeded by
New Netherland
Today part ofUnited 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]


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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

Main article: History of Delaware

"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.

Indigenous Relations

Benjamin West's painting (in 1771) of William Penn's 1682 treaty with the Lenni Lenape
Benjamin West's painting (in 1771) of William Penn's 1682 treaty with the Lenni Lenape

William Penn had mandated fair dealings with Native Americans in the United States. 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

Further information: Great Britain in the Seven Years' War

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 [1]
Incumbent Tenure Notes
Took office Left office
Arthur Cook 1681 1684
Nicholas Moore 1684 1685
Arthur Cook 1686 1690
John Simcock 1690 1693
Andrew Robson 1693 1699
Edward Shippen 1699 1701
John Guest 20 Aug 1701 10 Apr 1703
William Clark 10 Apr 1703 1705
John Guest 1705 1706
Roger Mompesson 17 April 1706 1715
Joseph Growden, Jr. 1715 1718
David Lloyd 1718 1731
James Logan 20 Aug 1731 1739
Jeremiah Langhorne 13 Aug 1739 1743
John Kinsey 5 April 1743 1750
William Allen 20 Sept 1750 1774
Benjamin Chew 29 April 1774 1776

Famous colonial Pennsylvanians

See also



  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. ^ a b c d "Genealogical Map of the Counties" (PDF). Pennsylvania Historical Museum Commission.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  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. ^ "Penn: About Our Founder". Archived from the original on 2014-03-26. Retrieved 2014-03-25.
  10. ^ a b c d Goode, Michael. "Native American-Pennsylvania Relations 1681-1753". Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia. Retrieved 2021-09-23.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  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.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  13. ^ Kyriakodis, Harry (May 7, 2014). "Respectfully Remembering the Affable One". Hidden City Philadelphia.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  14. ^ Shannon, Timothy J. "Native American-Pennsylvania Relations, 1754-89". Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia. Retrieved 2021-09-23.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  15. ^ Rothbard, Murray N., Conceived in Liberty, Vol. II (Auburn, AL: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 1999), p. 64.

General sources

Coordinates: 40°17′46″N 75°30′32″W / 40.296°N 75.509°W / 40.296; -75.509