By conventional accounts, the Quakers–industrious, lower middle-class, equalitarian, and persecuted for their mystical religious beliefs–fled the oppressive government of a corrupt English society for the freedom and purity of a New World wilderness. Social visionaries they projected a Quaker dominion between the already established colonies of New York and Maryland. Emerging as their leader was William Penn, a towering figure who dreamed of a new breed of Christians, transplanted across the water and restored to Apostolic purity. Like John Winthrop’s ‘citty [sic] upon a hill’ of a half-century before, Penn’s ‘holy experiment’ has been taken as illustrative of the seventeenth-century search among enlightened Englishmen for a better social order [99] Gary B. Nash, Quakers and Politics,1681-1726 (Northeastern University Press, 1968), p. xv.

While the tale told in this chapter will include this almost romantic quest for a new world enlightenment paradise, our purposes, and the bulk of the story, describes the fate of this holy experiment over the next ninety years or so from its founding in 1681-2. That story departs rather markedly from Winthrop’s Massachusetts story detailed in our next chapter–and it scarcely bears resemblance to Virginia’s outlined in the past chapter. Accordingly our second state under discussion will follow its own path, from its birth to the American Revolution; supporting our contention that from their beginning our American states were different, and as their “twig was bent” in this period, continued on in their differences to this very day. Similarities to be sure, but from 1681 to the present, Pennsylvania and Philadelphia were not then, and are not now, Massachusetts and Boston, nor Virginia or Norfolk.

What I expect the reader will discover in this chapter is a core impression that Penn’s colony failed as a government, and totally succeeded as a prosperous, distinctive economic base that supported the largest urban center in the thirteen colonies, Philadelphia, and served as the port of entry for the two largest immigrations into colonial North America. Its failures as government were colossal, seriously impeding its ability to lead America into its vast trans-Appalachian hinterland, but simultaneously serving as a foundation for America’s future industrial economy. This seemingly mixed performance, can in good measure be attributed to its distinctive political culture (the Quaker-Midlands), that as evolved through the years, has arguably grown to be in contention for America’s largest single political culture in contemporary political life. That political culture did not provide fertile ground for government, but it sure did fertilize individualism, privatism, entrepreneurship–and private family-based community-minded households.

The principal task of this chapter is to explain why and how Pennsylvania’s Holy Experiment government failed. Penn, the reader shall see, and his family bears a great deal of the blame for that. But that burden is lessened by the reality he too was Quaker, and the same personality/values/attitudes that made him and his offspring rather poor politicians and administrators, ran ruin over the population attracted to reside in his colony, making it, by almost everyone’s agreement, virtually ungovernable. Remarkably, as the reader will discover, as near to failure as a government can be, it endured through to the American Revolution in 1776. It even failed at failing. The bypasses it developed along the way, the structural and policy processes it created, the tilt to sub-state policy-making, and its reliance on either political bosses or private leaders riding a white horse arriving in the nick of time.

Its bimodal political culture which tosses its politics between an urbanized electoral base and a populist, to the point of radical hinterland anti governmentalism, has made it a bell-weather in national politics–and further supported its remarkable resilient, democratic, if incredibly inefficient and fragmented, sub-state policy-administrative stable governance. Well-run Pennsylvania may not be; but democratically and often “deplorably” run it has been. In any event, freed largely from a micro-managing government, its private elites have prospered, and have been consistently willing to lend a hand to government when needed. And for the most part, government has returned the favor. Economic development policy has been affected by all this–how could it not? Pennsylvania/Philadelphia developed powerful strategies associated with Mainstream “capitalist” economic development; but on the other hand, private leaders have been early advocates for colonial community development initiatives and movements. American abolitionism was born in Pennsylvania–a slave holding state under William Penn. The immigrant ethnic and racial communities which have resided in Pennsylvania have also supported their forms of community development–and provided a base for Mainstream entrepreneurism and a stable hardworking labor force.

Enough of setting the stage and imparting insights into the plot. Let’s get to work and start explaining why Pennsylvania’s approach to government was not successful.



Penn’s Not-so-Holy Experiment: Governance, Marketing and Real Estate: Quaker First Purchasers

It is wise to keep in mind that Penn received his Pennsylvania charter from the King in March 1681. The first Quaker ship sailed for Pennsylvania in October, 1681. In between Penn did his planning, including his capital investment in foods, basic equipment and materials needed for initial subsistence (in winter), purchase of land from Native Americans, and initial city-building, homesteading and payroll. His Frame went through seventeen drafts and was sent to a number of individuals. Gary Nash’s Quakers and Politics examines these drafts and the reaction to them and from that we are left with what appears to have been an initial very liberal (democratic/representative conception of Pennsylvania governance which, without explanation shifted to the much more rigid, proprietary dominance over the proposed Pennsylvania policy system. The reaction to this seems consistent: readers were not onboard with his shift. Informal discussion previous to his departure from England made Penn aware his Quaker constituency envisioned a lot more democracy and a lot less proprietor/proprietary. This can be very important as a case can be made that while Penn was establishing a “limited” representational democracy in Pennsylvania, there was already a gap in thinking what that meant previous to Pennsylvania settlement. Penn went ahead with his version of the Frame anyway–finishing it up onboard during his passage across the Atlantic.

Why the change? I do not know. My best guess is during this intensive period of planning, Penn engaged in heavy marketing to attract not just “people”, but investors who would both settle in Pennsylvania and purchase land for him. His budget identified a need for 10,000 pounds–a considerable sum, and one Penn may or may not have had sufficient liquidity to tap into. Rather quickly, I suspect, he attached the Forty Laws, signed a number of real estate contracts in which governance and bill of rights issues were included, and eventually a joint stock corporation, the Society of Free Traders which included as members those who purchase the largest parcels of land from him (his First Purchasers to whom he entered into a legal contract).

That Society was entrusted with significant economic and political powers as well as intended to be the governance of the proposed capitol city, Philadelphia. I suspect Penn wrote his Frames with his affluent First Purchasers in mind, and since the First Purchasers had membership in the joint stock corporation, the Society, the Frame were mostly intended to govern the non-urban hinterland–where Penn contemplated as the long-term settlement financing required to pay his bills and make a profit. In the hinterland, Penn’s vision was far more real estate and fiscal budgeting than Holy Experiment or an exercise in being the cutting edge of Whig democracy. As we shall see, if my supposition is correct, that distinction broke down broke down at arrival, and the Society was essential rejected and a modified vastly less powerful political entity held sway over an abbreviated Philadelphia. His First Purchasers also had substantial hinterland land holdings, and his backlog of sales prospects were for hinterland geographies. Hinterland governance was more important than Penn envisioned in England.

In short, the fusion of government, finance, settlement marketing land sales, and an elite that purchased fifty percent of the initial land sales may well have led to the chaos in governance that followed Penn’s landing–and the governance of the colony to the American Revolution.

Penn’s First Purchasers were mainly English, drawn from selected areas of the British midlands and the City of Bristol. But as explained earlier, Quakers were a religion with a missionary impulse. Fox and Penn had engaged in considerable missionary work, especially in Germany (which was not yet a country or nation, and more a language). As Penn recruited purchasers for his Holy Experiment it was both natural and probably inevitable that a Quaker colony would attract non-English elements. Penn is credited with an intensive marketing campaign that attracted principally Dutch, Germans and Welsh. He personally traveled, spoke to groups and private individuals, tapped into his past “missionary rolodex”, and published a number of “tracts and pamphlets. This is a “people attraction strategy” to be sure–but it is as much a real estate promotion strategy with land sales being its primary objective. To the extent it was either, it was evident mostly in the period before he left England. Afterward, he was consumed with other priorities.

As we shall see the non-English attracted to Pennsylvania demanded and got special treatment–or in the Welsh instance didn’t get special treatment. Ethnic or language diversity was not a troublesome issue in and of itself for Quakers, who stressed diversity, free expression, religious tolerance and pacifism/nonviolence. Quakers always attracted a number of sympathetic non-Quakers, free thinkers, and some closely-associated sects. One was the Mennonites. Germans in particular will come to Pennsylvania in great numbers, but not until the early 1700’s; in the initial settlement period, the numbers are quite small, relative to the English Quakers, and quite small period. The key takeaway in my opinion, is that Penn’s colony did not follow the “English only” character of both Virginia and Massachusetts. The diversity is testament to Quaker religious toleration, and an openness to a diverse community. What was more complex was what non-English Quakers wanted in their Pennsylvania settlement.

With their own language and culture, non-English settlers wanted to cluster, live together in a common geography. This required a large contiguous purchase which had to be subdivided. Penn’s original Pennsylvania plan contemplated individual land holdings to extend outward from a village center. Individual fields would be contiguous. Germans, however, were steadfast yeoman farmers with their own separate farmsteads, not necessarily tied to a village but scattered in the hinterland–which required even more land, with less dense settlement than Penn had envisioned. The other issue raised with large purchase was the possibility that land speculation and absentee landlords could result–something  with which Penn was not at all comfortable. There was also a third issue: land sales of size was usually done through a land development company, and that conveyed some measure of autonomy from the strictures and structures Penn envisioned as core to the sustainability of the religious aspects of the Holy Experiment. He was wary of a hinterland significantly composed of diverse groupings not tied to the Quaker experiment.

Five different groupings eventually bought into Penn’s First Purchasers: an almost informal collection of Dutch (not German) Quakers/Mennonites from the village of Crefeld in Orange-Nassau who bought 18,000 acres from a sum of money raised by six members. There was no common land company, but when they arrived in Pennsylvania they wanted their settlement to be contiguous to form a single village. Penn accommodated them with hinterland holdings six miles outside of Philadelphia in a area already previously settled by Germans during the New Netherlands colony. They founded a village which they called Germantown. In a short time they were joined by another grouping, from the Palatine-Rhine area.

Unrelated to the first group, another group had organized its own land development company, the Frankfurt Company. Pietist Germans, they purchased 15,000 acres from Penn. They sent their land agent Daniel Pastorius to Pennsylvania in 1683 to work out the land to be settled–but no colonists came with him. This was of some concern to Penn who wanted immediate as possible settlement. Pastorius converted to Quakerism, and without colonists he recruited thirteen Quaker colonists, and combined forces with the earlier Dutch grouping north of Philadelphia. In 1685 Pastorius also settled in Germantown. Prodded by Pastorius, its freemen set up a local government structure in Germantown, and, in 1689 ,it successfully was incorporated as a town (later borough). Germantown was formally annexed into Philadelphia in 1854. The Germantown “venture” was well-known to Germans in the post-1710 migration into Pennsylvania; it provided credible evidence the province was open to non-English–and as potent a marketing advantage s any economic developer could want. Woodard estimates 5,000 Germans settled in Pennsylvania between 1682 and 1726–most after 1710.

Of considerable note. In 1688, Pastorius and other Germantown Quaker residents crafted a two-page condemnation of slavery and sent it to the Annual Meeting of the Philadelphia/Pennsylvania Quaker Church. This was the first formal effort made by Quakers to abolish slavery within the Society of Friends–and by extension Pennsylvania. The motion was unsuccessful at that time, but many have conferred upon Germantown the honor of being America’s birthplace for the anti-slavery movement. “Many wealthy Quakers, Penn included had come to America with slaves, but within a decade Friends were advising each other that slaveholding violated the Golden Rule. In 1712 the Quaker-run legislature even imposed a prohibitive duty on the import of slaves, but it was overturned by a royal court [99] Colin Woodard, American Nations, p. 97. Pennsylvania did not officially abolish slavery until 1780- many Quakers did own slaves, including Penn himself who had twelve slaves on his personal Pennsylvania manor-plantation.

Finally, two land companies, comprised of Welsh Quakers were also formed and bought land from Penn. They were there waiting for him when he arrived in 1682. The first company, the Lloyd Group, bought 10,000 acres. They were settled on the west bank of the Schuylkill River. The founder, Charles Lloyd’s brother, Thomas, became Penn’s most trusted advisor–and would play a major role in the post 1685 Pennsylvania politics and government–as Penn’s arguably most bitter opponent. The second Welsh company, the Edward Jones and Company purchased 5,000 acres and subdivided it among seventeen landholders. A future Speaker of the Assembly would emerge from this community. Another Welsh company, was the Griffith Owen and Company. All three companies settled land in the same area, forming a compact Welsh community. A final land development company, John Gee and Company, based in Dublin, and interested in speculation–joined the Free Society of Traders. Another group of speculators from England contemplated establishing a refuge for French Huguenots, purchased 30,000 acres in Chester County. The company eventually was managed by Dr. Daniel Coxe, and his family would produce one of Philadelphia’s most famous economic and community developers, Trench Coxe.

) were endowed with the powers of a sole proprietary colony, which as far as Charles II expected would include the recreation of the manor, aristocratic, feudal economy, society and lifestyle as had been installed in Berkeley’s  Virginia. The colony was the personal property of the Penn family: “the True and Absolute Proprietary of Pennsylvania”. Penn was to be the royal governor of that colony, and to Penn, and those he included in his largesse, was the right to whatever wealth and property that colony could create, including taxes (quit-rents). England itself had evolved early forms of modern democracy, Parliament, election franchises, and most importantly English common law, all of which checked aristocratic control by endowing the English citizen with the right to property, trial by jury of peers–and a good deal of restraint for individualism and individual action.

In very short order further developments in Great Britain, the Glorious Revolution of 1689, and the shocking 1689 Declaration of Rights, and the 1690 John Locke’s Treatises on Government were clear indications the tenor of English politics at the time of Penn’s founding of Pennsylvania was not moving back to medieval feudalism–no matter what Charles II intended. The same could be said of its revolutionary economic base in embryo. Penn started his colony under one royalist policy system, and in less than a decade, it started leaving that behind and moving into a oligarchic, Parliamentarian mercantilist British (as opposed to English) empire. Penn’s political timing was not his best strength.

Penn did not intend to revitalize English medieval feudalism–but he didn’t intend to abandon it either. His conception of the policy system included new English forms of democracy accompanied by his Quaker religious and political toleration–as well as permitting a limited number of manors with English aristocratic endowments. Penn was reasonably in step with the times, but was somewhat out of step with his divided Quaker constituency. Accordingly, in England, in consultation with merchant Quaker elites, he fabricated his “constitution”, he called them Frames. He seems to have finished the job while suffering from a rather rough crossing of the Atlantic. He was founding a new community, city, and religious haven-colony, and it will become apparent, Penn lacked his degree in political science or public administration, and wrote his constitution envisioning that his principal political community were those who bought Pennsylvania land from him.

Nevertheless, as Penn devised his framework for Pennsylvania governance, before he had even step foot on the boat that carried him to North America, that framework (which itself underwent ten revisions before it was applied) was quickly rejected and substantially modified within a year after his arrival in the Delaware Valley–not by him, but by the Pennsylvania legislature Penn created. Further modifications occurred over the next decade as well. In this module, therefore, we shall briefly look at Penn’s political and governance wish list, but will move on to outline the reaction to it. He was still sufficiently medieval in his perspective, despite some Whig inclinations when useful, that land was the unit on which he based his policy system and economic base. Land was how you “paid and played”. In short, the Holy Experiment was also a real estate venture.

The Initial Penn Frame

Penn’s first taste of colony-development and governance was in “West” New Jersey (1764) at the behest of Quakers attempting to establish communities and a Quaker colony along the New Jersey side of the Delaware River. His interest in the new world had been at least in part triggered by that of his religious leader, George Fox, the founder of Quakerism. Fox in his missionary work had traveled to the new world, and in his religious mission travel a good deal–as far as Maryland from the Carolinas. His conversations with Native Americans went well, and both sides got off to a good start with a level of, if not trust, a sense of his good intentions. The Quaker movement under Fox was aggressively missionary–to western Europe as well as North America and West Indies. The persecution of Quakers had land a good number in English jails (Penn himself spent time in jail), and the seeds of Penn’s future Holy Experiment were planted by Fox himself, and in return Fox was a shareholder in Penn’s future venture.

Hence, one should appreciate that Quaker colonialization always fused the establishment of a religious haven abroad with the mechanics of actually establishing a colony–legal titles, charters, marketing, logistics, financing, and sustainability of its fiscal and economic viability. It also included the various activities associated with managing a land development corporation and hacking a new community in the wilderness. Blurry-eyed intensely religious missionaries they might have been, Quaker leadership had experience in legal, fiscal and economic matters–it was politics and people getting along with each other that they were still remarkably innocent.

Penn’s West Jersey involvement was at first legal and focused on estate management. He became a trustee (director on the board of directors) in the joint stock land development company that formed to receive the title and charter for “west” New Jersey venture upon its receipt of a charter from the Duke of York for a province. From his work, in England, Penn developed his own ideas for his own “Holy Experiment”, and he set his eyes of the other shore of the Delaware River. His connections at the royal court were excellent, and he benefited from the devotion to his father, and in the end, after his father’s death, the King was convinced to issue a charter for Pennsylvania to pay for loans his father had made him. The King’s charter did include Pennsylvania under the provisions of the Navigation Acts, allowed the King to send his agents to inspect and protect his position, and to require approval of the Privy Council in London within five years of their passage in Pennsylvania. Still the Pennsylvania sole proprietor colony was personal, its lands and governance, left in the hands of one individual–not a corporate board or joint stock corporation–whose governance and administration was expected to be congruent with his own private (religious) and personal goals. In the body and mind of William Penn, public and private interests were blurred and blended.

Despite, the passage of the first Navigation Acts in 1675, Penn was able to secure a sole proprietary charter which granted to Penn (and descendants) personally “free, full and absolute power … to ordeyne, make, Enact, and under his and their Seales to publish any Lawes whatsoever … by, and with the advice, assent and approbation of the freemen of said country, … as well as such power and authoritie to appoint and establish any Judges, and Justices, Magistrates and officers whatsoever” [99] Drawn from the Pennsylvania charter and cited by Joseph P. Illick, Colonial Pennsylvania: a History (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1976), p. 12.  Planted in the charter was an inherent tension between Penn’s near absolute right to establish the institutions and practices of government policy-making, particularly stressing his absolute power of appointment but which also included ascertaining the advice, assent and approbation of Pennsylvania’s freemen–i.e. determining the nature and specifics of local self-determination and democratic participation.

A masterful and creative political mind and personality might have squared that circle, but Penn possessed neither. This is the specific flaw that I believed damned Penn’s sole proprietorship to ninety plus years of ineffective government structure and political hell. It is this “quirk” that caused Pennsylvania’s colonial experience, and the State of Pennsylvania’s inherited legacy to develop along distinctive lines different from other colonies. To be sure there will be other factors that will come into play, but to this one inherent structural tension, a great deal of Pennsylvania’s distinctiveness will follow. “Penn was no democrat. But he was devoted to the contract theory of government … Penn believed that the contract between citizen and government guaranteed the former personal freedom and the protection of his property, as well as participation in government, and trial by jury. Justice was to be mutual, fair and proportionate to the crime. Of these axioms the one which stood in clearest contrast to the principles which Massachusetts operated was individual liberty. From this sprang Penn’s defense of dissent … an integral part of personal freedom, a civil right [99]Joseph P. Illick, Colonial Pennsylvania: a History, p. 14.

From Penn’s sense of Hobbesian contract with the people, Penn would devise a government to which freemen could elect representatives, but whose wishes and needs could be ignored or rejected by the sole proprietor or his appointed officials. The courts on the other hand would protect individual liberty and dissent, and serve as guardians to a mutual, fair and proportionate justice, without the authority to compel the sole proprietor to honor. Likewise, the institutions of government could not enjoy recourse to the courts against the proprietor. There was no arbiter independent judiciary, nor did the legislature enjoy any powers not delegated to it by by the sole proprietor. Yet, given Penn’s strong Quaker beliefs, his compact with his settlers had to include certain “bill of rights” which Penn affirmed in his Forty Laws, which was attached to his “constitutional” Frame of Governance. The Forty Laws could each be repealed by six-sevenths of the both houses of the legislature–OR by the Privy Council in London

The Forty Laws guaranteed the right to worship “to all who believed in God”, protection of personal property under the law, children must be taught trades, taxes must be “levied solely by law”, prisons must be workhouses (This is a liberal/humane right congruent with reform in England), and personal debts had to be paid. In these Forty Laws we see individual and religious rights not found in any other colony, or in England; these individual rights permitted development of a future capitalist economy, and a government tilted to humanistic, enlightenment reform (if it could only act independently). The tension of any of these rights, with the sole proprietary near-dictatorship, however, would naturally grate on the individual citizen-resident, as would the conjunction/blurring of the colony’s public goals and purposes with those of the private sole proprietor–for example Penn’s owned lands could not be taxed by the legislature while the individual citizen’s was.

Penn’s aspirations for Pennsylvania’s provincial government were outlined in his “Frame of Government”–again written in England by Penn, in consultation with several merchant friends there were seventeen drafts, and completed in his passage across the Atlantic.  The Frame empowered the sole proprietor (and successors) as if they were a royal governor. The Governor (in charge of Executive Branch) and the Provincial Council would manage the Treasury, appoint and staff the courts (which are the chief body, a fused legislative-judicial institution, was the core of Penn’s sub-provincial county and town governance. The “judges” (who were both legislative and judicial in function) in these bodies were appointed by the Governor from a list approved by a freeman vote. Penn himself was the sole proprietor and governor simultaneously. If he so desired, he could delegate those powers to a Deputy Governor, to act in his absence. Calling for a two-chamber legislature, the upper house,  the seventy-two member Provincial Council, was more powerful and central to the legislative function. One-third of the Provincial Council was to be annually elected by freemen–the others appointed by the Proprietor/Governor. The Governor would preside over the upper chamber Provincial Council, and he enjoyed  to exclusive ability to introduce all legislation. The Provincial Council was to oversee the execution of laws by the Governor.

The 200 delegate lower house, the Assembly could offer amendments, and disapprove of proposed legislation. The Assembly was composed totally of freeman elected delegates, and was therefore the chief representative body of the province. The Assembly also was empowered to be “the judge” of the eligibility of its membership so that it could not be “packed” by either Governor or King. The freeman electoral franchise was Christian males over twenty-one who owned at least 100 acres by personal purchase, or 50 acres as a payment at termination of indenture contract. The same qualifications held for officeholders. Illick asserts this probably comprised about half of Penn’s first settlers, and compares very favorably with franchise numbers in Massachusetts. Interesting Illick also states that Penn believed his Quaker constituency “was not concerned with “governmental features of Pennsylvania so long as the system was representative, and a more important freedom of worship was guaranteed”. In this reference we can see how the anti-political, non government attitudinal consensus within the Quaker culture may have permeated into Penn’s thoughts about Pennsylvania governance. In this perception, one can argue he was both correct and totally wrong [99] Joseph P. Illick, Colonial Pennsylvania: a History, p. 14, pp. 19-20.

Viewed from a contemporary perspective, this is a sham democracy, but in 1681 it was symmetric with the gold standard for what was considered a democracy at the time, James Harrington’s Oceana. Nine years later (1690), Locke published his Civil Government which advocated for separation of powers (defusing the legislative-judicial functions found in the English local “court” government. As Penn already had embraced, in his fashion, the Hobbesian compact theory of government with his legislature of freemen, and combined with a de facto  “bill of rights” Forty Laws his Frame was a not unreasonable reflection of “democracy in 1681. The Frame did depart from Oceana in one significant aspect. Harrington advocated breaking up the landed aristocracy (and their manors) believing that democracy was only compatible with small scale land ownership held by a larger diffused population.

Penn, probably consciously, rejected that key reform. No doubt in large measure because his plan for Pennsylvania settlement, and his quest for his own personal real estate profits, rested on sale of Pennsylvania land in large bl0cs–although Penn did contemplate smaller household sales as well. Penn himself contemplated construction of his own manor-estate (which he commenced quickly upon landing), and fully expected many of his First Purchasers (see below) to do the same. It would seem that where democracy directly conflicted with his real estate venture, the former was curtailed. Here we see the overlap of the old feudal land-based aristocratic system into the new more democratic Frame policy system. Moreover, that feudal extension was personified in the sole proprietor, who could create, as Berkeley did in Virginia, feudal-style manors/plantations in his new colony. [BTW, Virginia’s Berkeley was Penn’s cousin, and the two knew each other well].

In any event, Penn in congruence with his democratic compact approach to government held off the approval of his Frame until he could “settle into Pennsylvania”, hold elections and seat the first legislature–which would be a year later in early 1683. However, in 1682, he did convene a “consultation group” composed of representatives from the three lower and three upper counties of Pennsylvania. To them he submitted his Frame, the Forty Laws, and about fifty odd pieces of legislation of immediate interest/need. That generated a brew-ha-ha in which nineteen items were rejected, and any decision on the Frame an Forty were deferred to the elected Legislature. While we will have more to say on the 1683 Legislative reaction later, Penn thinking better at the Frame’s huge numbers of delegates, reduced both chambers by half, and with the elections duly held, the Legislature met for the first time in March 1683.

Well, all hell broke out there as well. The honest qualification is the delegates were not a majority of Quakers, lower county Swedes, as well as Anglicans in both sets of counties piled on Penn for all aggravations and opposition developed over the  previous two years. The context of these profound concerns will be discussed in the sections below. The extended session debated the Frame, the Forty and the Society for Free Traders, and over the course of the debate, Penn compiled a compromise Second Frame, which preserved the essentials of his First Frame, but did check his ability to exclusively introduce legislation by empowering the Provincial Council to advise and consent on it.

The Assembly, for its own reasons, found this acceptable in 1683–but that consensus rapidly dissipated and the original concern that it be permitted to introduce legislation (and other concerns as well) reappeared. Penn’s amended Second Frame did come out of the onslaught, and as amended Penn’s Frame was put in place over the next year. Before leaving Pennsylvania in 1684, Penn conceded one additional change: Penn delegated to the Provincial Council to appoint its own members, apart from the one-third elected annually. Obviously, this further expanded the powers of the upper house, which with Penn absentee, was filled with his supporters and together with his Deputy Governor and the appointed Executive Branch sub-provincial system marginalized the Assembly to the point that by 1684 it was opposed in concept and daily practice to the Frames. We will complete this discussion shortly, but first we must consider how the first year of Pennsylvania/Philadelphia’s settlement created issues and concerns that permeated 1683 discussions on the Frame.


Penn’s Initial Approach to Economic Base-Building

The Protestant ethic was never lacking in Quaker hard-working, long-suffering husbandman and entrepreneurs. Quakers had among their approximately 50,000 English adherents (about 5% of English believers in 1670’s). Composed of a husbandman/yeoman element, an urban working class, artisan and business owner groupings, and a sprinkling of wealth/landed aristocrats like Penn, Quaker immigrants were sufficiently diverse to jump-start a new colony in the wilderness. As far as Quaker rank and file were concerned, Quakers included substantial followers from urban centers, practicing a variety of urban occupations and skills. The traditional core Quaker remained in the countryside, but aspired to what we label yeoman small-scale household farming, and rural commercial/manufacturing paths. Those of higher social status, again Penn included, came from manor estate backgrounds, and given their wealth, social upbringing, and connections were looking forward to replicating them in America. As for the working class, Penn assumed a large indentured grouping, and made provisions in his laws to make available incentives after satisfaction of contract to settle into to their chosen occupation–i.e. in Pennsylvania there was an exit strategy after indenture.

Each of these preferences were retained  and made manifest in the New World community. Importantly, families went over to America, as did a number of urban artisans, and young business entrepreneurs with some access to venture capital. Immigrants they well might be, but in terms of class and occupational structure they differed from the later working class and unskilled character of the post-Civil War immigrants that came through Ellis Island. This, of course, would change, especially after 1720, and certainly after 1748. Penn, well-aware of Quaker class and occupational diversity anticipated developing a diversified economic base in his new Pennsylvania; his plans built in the formation of a large urban commercial export-oriented capitol city. Pennsylvania was not to be Berkeley’s bi-modal Royalist plantation elite and accompanying indentured servant migration. Penn’s vision for Pennsylvania was much more robust, balanced, comprehensive, and thoughtful.

From the initial terms or conditions he proposed in  Some Account [the opening words and title to his Pennsylvania plan] , it is apparent Penn hoped to interest more than one economic class of settlers in his venture. Without ‘industrious husbandmen and day-labourers’ no wilderness could be transformed into a settled community. Without a local trade between yeoman farmers and those engaged in ‘labour handicrafts–artisans and mechaniks’–the community could not function, nor could it flourish without adequate funds derived from the wider commerce of ‘merchandise and navigation’. He therefore related his proposals to ‘three sorts of people’, those who would buy land from him, those who would rent from him, and servants[ indentured servants] sent over by masters disinclined  themselves to settle, but willing to invest in the province’s future [99] Hannah Benner Roach, “the Planting of Philadelphia: a Seventeenth Century Real Estate Development: Part I,, the Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography (January, 1968), p. 7

Even in England, Penn stressed not a pure people attraction strategy, but rather a settlement strategy. The income he badly needed to pay his estimated 12,000 pound startup two-year budget was raised by land sales. He raised 12000 pounds before he ever left town. Half of his land sales were small-scale homesteads, but the other half sold land in parcels greater than 5000 acres. One tenth of those who bought bought land lots between 5000-10000 acres. But especially for large lot landowners he discouraged land speculation by requiring actual settlement (“plant a family on every 1000 acres”) and land sale within three years or the title reverted back to him. In later days this settlement feature would hurt him, but not at the beginning as the cost of land was affordable to his customer base. He also retained ten percent of each land parcel sold (a “proprietary reserve”) for his (Penn’s) own use or sale–and his surveyor would identify that parcel. In return he would designate as an incorporated township any acreage sold over 5000 acres. Each land sale required an annual quitrent (land tax) payable to him, forfeiture if not paid and escheat (upon death without successors land reverted to Penn). Quitrents were the shaving blade that resulted from sale of the shaver–that’s where he expected a sustained income flow, which aside from profit to him would be used for infrastructure and costs of development/settlement. He conceded that he would buy the land from the Indians and deliver a “clean title” to the Purchaser, in accordance with a hard-held Quaker preference not to steal, or seize, land from the natives.

Penn also recognized the need for an export urban center to house occupations/skills, and the functional equivalent of an export-finance cluster. He had three specific ideas in regard to this urban center: (1) who-what would direct its economic base and perhaps future governance, and (2) an street plan with residential neighborhoods to accommodate upscale housing for affluent rural-manor land buyers or a commercial class, and (3) a well-placed waterfront zone that minimized its externalities. In his Frame legislative “package” Penn included a charter to a joint stock corporation, the Society of Free Traders, membership of which was composed primarily of wealthy land owners and merchants (plus some friends and family). As we shall see, this was a sort of New World replacement for the guild so essential to urban governance in England. While Penn would micro-manage land sales in the City of Philadelphia (and do a fairly terrible job of it), he ensured the installation of the center street grid, but then more or less outsourced the rest of the urban matter to the Society for Free Traders.

In 1681, the size and nature of the small commercial center (Philadelphia) was more a blank slate; his real focus then was the “greene” hinterland town, in reality of network of small hinterland towns  developed on lands acquired from Indians, connected by roads, which would constitute an attractive English village in which the gentry could flourish and manor lord could avail themselves of urban comforts, security and society. Penn’s settlement vision focused more on hinterland settlements and small urban centers in which his “proprietary reserve” could be used for high-priced land sales or for commercial-manufacturing-professional businesses. He saw opportunities in county seats for public buildings and concentrated usage. He also offloaded hinterland infrastructure to county and incorporated towns. Hannah Benner Roach outlined Penn’s 1681 conception of Pennsylvania’s proposed economic base in what she described as “Pennsylvania’s first regional plan“. That plan envisioned “farm land, the ‘greene’ country [hinterland] town exemplified by the liberty land, and a small commercial center of indeterminate nature“. [99] Hannah Benner Roach, “the Planting of Philadelphia: a Seventeenth Century Real Estate Development: Part II,, the Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography (April, 1968), p. 193.

The reader might note that the this “plan” is not religious in nature, but rather a package of desired products to suit sustainable and balanced settlement. He employed cross-marketing/sales elements, and as we shall see he personally paid attention to people attraction (Quaker missionary tours) and garnered his own set of “leads”, negotiated deal incentive packages, and using his surveyors developed a “shovel ready” parcel available for quick sale. Present-day Germantown is one very successful example of Penn’s settlement “machine”. Say it another way, Penn was approaching the Holy Experiment as a business venture, a real estate development, financed  initially from land sales–not his, or anybody else’s philanthropy. He knew that he could sell land directly to one prospect, rent to another, and the third could be the source of his investment capital. Certainly, Penn knew up-front capital would come from him, but he also expected to be paid back by quit rents (land taxes) as well as land sales. To reach his financial goal, Penn offered different terms and conditions to each prospect so that a necessary balance could be attained. Penn …

thought of patterning the distribution of lands in Pennsylvania on [his past] West Jersey model of selling  one hundred shares of 5,000 acres … However, since there was a great demand for small holdings, the Proprietor convinced that land must be available to rich and poor alike, offered tracts in denominations as small as one hundred and twenty-five acres. As further evidence of his sincerity he refused in September 1681 an offer of 6,000 pounds from a Maryland group [of land speculators] for a tract of 30,000 acres and a monopoly of the Indian trade. Penn [in any case] was to have two and a half per cent of the profits of [each] trade  [and] a quit rent of one shilling per 100 acres to beginning in 1684 … he offered to lease land to settlers at one penny per acre. To attract indentured servants  [he allowed] fifty acres per servant as compensation for transporting them; and the servant themselves , when his term had expired, would be granted fifty acres of land[99] John Pomfret, “the First Purchasers of Pennsylvania: 1681-1700, the Philadelphia Magazine of History and Biography (April, 1956), p. 146

As he had in the West Jersey settlement, Penn formed a joint stock corporation, the First Purchasers of Pennsylvania. To facilitate investment by the “First Purchasers” he formalized  in July his written “Conditions and Concessions” which all Purchasers signed and were witnessed by number of Quaker influential previous to the departures. There was an intended overlap between the First Purchasers and the Society for Free Traders–and for a diversified economic base for Philadelphia, his proposed urban center. As we shall see his Philadelphia land grant to the Society/First Purchasers included choice residential parcels (today’s Society Hill), use monopolies, a structure for civic governance, and even a sort of chamber-club for the entity.

The First Purchasers were an urban rather than rural people. An occupation sampling of three hundred reveals that only forty-six were yeoman, and only thirteen were husbandmen [20%) … The professional groups were … eleven doctors, four schoolmasters, four printer-publishers, but understandably, no lawyers. Outstanding were [Quaker founder], George Fox … and George Whitehead. … More than eighty occupations are represented … with shoekeeping and the crafts predominately … shoemakers, carpenters, tailores, serge makers, maltsters … many bakers, brass makers, brick makers, button makers, chairmakers, cheesemongers, coopers, flax makers … grocers, ironmakers … even a bodice maker. About ten per cent of the First Purchasers are listed as merchants … a majority of First Purchasers were of the artisan-shopkeeper class [99] John Pomfret, “the First Purchasers of Pennsylvania: 1681-1700, pp. 153-54

The “conditions and concessions” were afforded in proportion to the land purchase or investment in the venture. He did modify several terms as needed be, and that he would lay out the “principal city” (Philadelphia) and within that city each Purchaser of a certain scale would receive ten acres for each five hundred purchased. He allowed purchase of 10,000 acres by groups (of Quakers) in which each member would receive 200 acres for a village–and that villages and towns would be connected by highways. Penn further stipulated each man’s land would have access to a navigable stream, and access to a village. As individual investors signed on to the First Purchasers agreement two dynamics appeared. Penn granted himself wiggle room in the implementation of each aspect of the “conditions and concessions” agreement, and (2), distinctions between the “large commercial center”, and the “Greene town” hinterland came at the favor of the large commercial center–and the centrality in the Pennsylvania-wide plan of the Green Towne diminished. Penn did require, however, the Purchaser must settle the land within three years of its purchase, or the deal would default. In the agreement Penn allocated 10,000 acres for himself for each 100,000 acres sold. He intended the acreage to establish manors for himself, his family and associates, or for his own resale.

Penn [in any case] was to have two and a half per cent of the profits of [each] trade  [and] a quit rent of one shilling per 100 acres to beginning in 1681; and “I cannot make money without special concessions, he wrote in July 1681. ‘Though I desire to extend religious freedom, yet I want some recompense for my trouble” [99]First quote from John Pomfret, “the First Purchasers of Pennsylvania: 1681-1700, p. 7, and the second quote, Hannah Benner Roach, “the Planting of Philadelphia: a Seventeenth Century Real Estate Development I, p.9; for an idea how varied and pervasive was his “deal-structuring and people-attraction efforts were, see Joseph P. Illick, Colonial Pennsylvania: a History, p. 20.

By the end of summer 1681, land sales, the willing emigrants, and the venture itself had coalesced to the point ships were laden with “adventurers” and supplies and were heading off. To avoid an inevitable chaos if settlement were to commence before Penn had completed his preparations (and land sales) in England, Penn appointed three commissioners  to supervise the settlement and to ensure their closeness to the conditions and concessions agreements. They left in September, 1681; Penn did not arrive in Pennsylvania (actually New Castle, Delaware) until October 1682. As we shall see in the next section, dealing with the realities of Pennsylvania and the “precise ambiguities” of Penn’s original plan and his “conditions and concessions” agreements had to be dealt with by the three commissioners. The gap was wide and the commissioners made many an adjustment and many a deal on their own before Penn arrived.


For all his efforts, legal, organizational, planning, and intensive marketing, Penn was quickly and well-rewarded. By May 1682, 566,000 acres had been sold. The sales to First Purchasers continued until 1700 by which time approximately 800,000 acres were purchased–in addition to another 165,000 acres sold to a half-dozen land speculation companies. There were in all, over 700 individual purchasers of land. “only an infinitesimal number of the First Purchasers were non-Quakers … a few Welshmen and Dutchmen … It is clear that Pennsylvania was regarded as colony earmarked for Quakers. Looking ahead–over the next four years … 392 purchased holdings from 125 to 675 acres accounting for an aggregate of 155,000 acres. At the other end of the sales spectrum, sixty-nine bought 5,000 acres or more, totaling over 380,000. Still, Penn’s goal of encouraging actual settlement not land speculation seems to have been successful. Fifty percent of the First Purchasers did settle in the New World, including a sizeable element of the largest landowners. It was these initial First Purchasers who did settle that went on to become Philadelphia and Pennsylvania First Families, the core of its future elite society, the key leaders of its economic life and generations of its political leaders.

If Penn’s intent was to establish a social, economic and political elite–much as Governor William Berkeley had done in Virginia–than Penn enjoyed a remarkable and unheralded success. If Penn hoped to establish a model of governance for his Holy Experiment, then what he created with his Frames was a near-disaster that imploded day-by-day over the next fifteen years.


the Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men

Whatever the well-thoughtful and inspirational qualities of Penn’s Made-in-England plans, his Frames, the Society of Free Traders, his Forty Laws, his own real estate business plan, his First Purchasers Contract–and whatever the the tensions, dysfunctional medieval tendencies, its romantic view of the Quaker Holy Experiment, whatever–the entire nexus of his plans crashed dramatically, and fast, upon his landing in Pennsylvania. Worse, the fundamentals underlying the plans were badly shaken, not its details. Penn’s reaction was mixed. In some ways, Indian land negotiations for example, he responded well, better than I would have thought.

But he quickly displayed an insensitivity, a tin ear, to politics and individual sensitivities. His personality and work style–so vital to a colonial administration that completely revolved and was dependent on him personally–proved polarizing, and he was amazingly surprised by the velocity and pervasiveness of Quaker dissent tossed at him. He became the lightning rod for all disappointments felt by the new settlers–particularly on the sale of land. But dangerously, Penn under criticism and pressure proved stubborn , and his decision-making capricious (he was perceived to favor his friends). In particular, he refused to alter his proprietary business model, on which his Frames and settlement policy reflected. If political compromise cost him revenue flow, it was resisted. Penn was about to discover that for him Pennsylvania was his own hell on earth. Penn was about to discover that being a near-dictator had its problems. Somehow all this usually does not get included in contemporary textbooks.

Penn had sent over three commissioners to represent him until he arrived. He was late in coming, arriving in October, and his delegates when they arrived encountered fundamental opposition to the colony, and a host of more practical, but still near-fatal problems to the plans they were to implement. They made decisions which Penn had to accept. Three problems are central to our history: (1) the previous inhabitants of the lower Delaware River, Swedes, Dutch, Finns, and former New York and Maryland residents, wanted nothing to do with Pennsylvania; (2) Pennsylvania’s southern boundaries, with Lord Calvert’s Maryland, were publicly contested; and Penn’s choice of a site for his export-port city Philadelphia were already owned and were not up for sale. Not willing to wait for Penn, winter was coming’ the delegates went up river and chose another site. That site’s topography was less suitable and only one bank of the river was available–meaning the waterfront would be long and narrow, not contained in one district. It too was owned and occupied and that complicated the transition.

Penn’s agents concluded that the best location for a port city lay on a sparsely settled peninsula, formed by the confluence of the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers, and varying two to five miles in width. The land here was largely undeveloped, and at its narrowest point was high, wooded, well-watered, and served by a good harbor on the Delaware side. Titles to it had been granted only recently by the Duke of York [the brother of the King and proprietor of West New Jersey colony], while further inland a large part of the land was [unowned] …. [many of these titles were purchased immediately, by Penn’s Deputy Governor Markham]. The spot which Penn had thought would be the best port location … had been settled for over thirty years [and[ real estate there was so dear [expensive] to fulfill [Penn’s] scheme {i.e. business plan and land sales] [99] Joseph P. Illick, Colonial Pennsylvania: a History, pp. 30-1

When Penn got off the boat (October 28, 1682) , at New Castle, he discovered that he had landed in three counties inherited from Dutch, Swede and New York former colonial settlers, would wanted nothing to do with him–and he was engaged in a great border war with Maryland that wasted little time in making its way back to London. Maryland’s opposition also intensified the Lower Delaware county opposition, and Penn was yanked fifty miles upstream to handle the very pressing task of settling what would become Philadelphia, and three upper counties–before winter set in. In ignorance Penn had sold land to First Settlers that he did not own. The failure to accommodate that and topography wreaked havoc on his land sales and settlement strategy. Between December 1681 and December 1682, twenty-three ships arrived bearing 2,000 settlers. Twenty ships followed in 1683, with another 2,000. By end of 1685, ninety ships had landed with nearly 8,000 debarking. Every ship that landed brought a host of new and unanticipated problems–and the pressure on land for sales for so many, meant negotiations with Indian tribes, a prerequisite for land sale to Quakers, were a first order priority as well. The reader, I suspect, now knows to what the section-title refers!


Lower Three Counties

Pennsylvania’s southern boundary was set on the 40 parallel. Penn had really no firm idea where that line was located, and he did not have on hand any survey. To Penn he was in legal possession of the three lower counties, the former Netherlands-Swede settlements–the non-Quaker and already long-settled  population of which wanted nothing to do with Penn and his Holy Experiment. Further Penn was determined to have direct access to the Atlantic for his colony. That access was critical to his ability to promote the colony and grow it economically. His initial intention was to create three additional counties in the lower Delaware. In 1682, the Duke of York sold his interests to Penn, and Penn formally asserted his right over the territory from that point on–contested by Lord Calvert, and the none–to–happy New Netherlands settlers. Both headed to court in London to resolve the matter. Complicating the court process was the unanticipated event that the Duke of York became King of England, James II–as we know a friend of Penn’s. James split the lower Delaware counties in half and gave to Penn the river access land–thereby moving Maryland’s boundaries northward (1685).

Once his locations had been settled, Penn’s first priority was to acquire the lands from the Native American tribes in possession. This was not simply a legal matter to Penn, but also a religious obligation. He shared Fox’s belief that settlement did could not be through conquest, as it so obviously had been in Virginia and Massachusetts. Quaker pacifism and abhorrence of violence and “things military” was simply immoral to a faithful Quaker. That the Native American concept of land ownership was not European or legal, and their previous experience with the New Netherland and Swedes southern colonies was on the whole reasonable, the local tribe, the Lenape, far from trusting and naïve, were willing to talk.

In 1683, Penn’s timing for land negotiations was good also. The recent, very disruptive Beaver War had decimated the Lenape, and they had been kicked out of Delaware Valley by the Iroquois–who themselves were exhausted with the struggle. Disease exacted a horrible toll as the Lenape were displaced, depopulated, and understandably reluctant to war. Negotiation among the tribes produced an agreement. This agreement by Penn and the Lenape was outside of the framework, and did not follow the process called for in the “Covenant Chain” treaties with England had negotiated with New York-based Iroquois. The Covenant Chain, which will be consider later in more detail, established a loose alliance between Delaware tribes, the Iroquois, and the newly arrived Shawnee. The confederation was willing to work with the English to maintain peace and trade, and given that the lands Penn wanted to buy were not then populated, and given Penn’s honest and sincere, non-military approach to talks, land sales of the desired locations in the Valley were successful.

In 1688 James formally redefined the Pennsylvania-Maryland boundary. That left the New Netherlands settlers on their own, and in 1701 they formally petitioned the Penn for a separate legislature of their own. Penn agreed stipulating that he was the common governor. The lower abridged three counties then had their own legislature–and a struggle between Pennsylvania and the three lower counties ensued–as struggle that was never resolved. The lower three counties of Pennsylvania–their divisive effect on “mainland” Pennsylvania politics and policy-making–deserves a book on it sown, but mercifully this author will not include it, except where necessary, in this book. The Lower Three Counties also will be critical in understanding Pennsylvania politics during the Articles of Confederation period.

Philadelphia Moves Up River: Our History’s First Big City City-Building

Penn had grand ideas about the settlement of Pennsylvania and its economic base. They did not include Philadelphia, the intended port of Pennsylvania being sixty miles up river on one side of the Delaware River–and the other side in another state entirely. Penn had pretensions of being an urban planner, and he had drawn up a prospective plan for Philadelphia, its economic base, and its relationship to the Pennsylvania hinterland. John Reps summarized this best:

In July 1681 [before setting foot on this ship Welcome] Penn produced his general scheme of colonization … publish(ing) the conditions of settlement, including the statement that ‘a very large town or city’ would be laid out, and that ‘every purchaser and adventurer’ [i.e. investor] would be given land in proportion to his investment in the [Pennsylvania] enterprise. Every person buying [at least] 500 acres in the colony would be assigned a ten-acre parcel in the city. Penn then selected three commissioners to accompany the first group of settlers [before Penn himself came over]. To them he handled a long and detailed memorandum of instructions dealing with {laying out, platting] dated September 30, 1681 … these instructions were specific, practical and comprehensive. They dealt first with selection of a suitable town site and the amount of land that would be required [99] John W. Reps, Town Planning in Frontier America (Princeton University Press, 1965, 1969), p. 206

The best laid plans of mice, men and Quakers went awry when the three commissioners arrived, realized no city was going to be built in the Lower Delaware in time, headed north, found a new site (the present site). The topography did not fit Penn’s detailed instructions, the east bank was already settled and uncooperative, and they faced the reality that Penn’s major investors and many affluent settlers had signed onto an incentive deal for investment that could no longer be honored as originally agreed. Even more damaging, Penn had envisioned more waterfront access than the west bank of the Delaware provided–especially if a port was to be included on the waterfront (it wasn’t). For a contemporary economic developer, this mess is normal, with the newspaper and TV howling in the foreground as a added delight of modernity. But when Penn’s boat arrived full of those affluent folk, he had to deal with the old bait-and-switch conundrum. Penn dealt with it as any CEO, government or private would do. He delegated it to his economic development commissioners, writing them …

  you must use your utmost skill to persuade them to part with so much as will be necessary, that so necessary and good a design [for the layout of the city] not be spoiled, urging my regard to them if they will not break this great and good contrivance, and in my name promise them what gratuity or privilege you think fit, as having a new grant at their old rent, half their quit rent [taxes] abated, yea, make them as free purchasers, rather than disappoint my mind in this township .[99] John W. Reps, Town Planning in Frontier America (Princeton University Press, 1965, 1969), p. 207

If someone had granted me that discretion when I was a practicing economic developer, I would be writing this from my jail cell. Penn empowered them to keep the investors on board, plat the new city in a completely unexpected topography, and keep to the original urban design he had devised. That urban design today is celebrated as the magnificent Broad and Market Street central square, with streets laid leading to the square from the waterfront inland [instead of going to another waterfront as the previous location envisioned by Penn was between two rivers], leading to nowhere in particular. That “Plan of Philadelphia” can be found in most any urban planning history, and is celebrated as a monument to the profession. That blessed geography will be the core of a future turn of the 19th century City Beautiful design, and in the late 1950’s and 1960’s, the site of a good deal of Philadelphia’s urban renewal project.

In truth, the design is partially based on Penn’s experience as lawyer for the New Jersey colony’s plan for Burlington New Jersey–home of Burlington Coats, and birthplace of James Fenimore Cooper of Last of the Mohicans fame–and John Reps our foremost colonial historian planner:

Burlington’s modest plan, laid out in 1675 by Richard Noble, was based on similar axes as were standard military camp plans for the standard seventeenth century English armies … It is likely that [Penn’s surveyor in Philadelphia, Thomas Holme] was also familiar with the plan Richard Newcourt proposed for the rebuilding of London in 1666 (after the Great Fire). The chief elements in Newcourt’s plan–a grand central square at the intersection of axial streets which he called High and Broad, symmetrically placed subordinate squares, and the grid pattern formed by intersection streets–were all incorporated in Holme’s [design] Portraiture [99] Hannah Benner Roach, “the Planting of Philadelphia: a Seventeenth Century Real Estate Development I, pp. 33-4

and that  Rep’s [99] John W. Reps, Town Planning in Frontier America, pp. 212-13 belief that

Penn and Holmes had a number of models from which to draw [New Haven, Covent Garden in London, and Newcourt’s London rebuilding], but they did more than copy any existing or proposed city plan of the past. Philadelphia was much larger than previous [models] [so. they established] America’s first designated public parks … in its scale, its open squares, and its consistent use of wide streets intersecting at right angles Philadelphia represented something of an innovation in colonial town design”.

Today, viewed from 10,000 feet up, Philadelphia is mostly grid. And yes, as the conventional planners critique of the grid goes, it was meant to accommodate land sale at a profit– to scale up]made possible, of course, with sweetheart deals and tax abatement. The nasty truth about the grid is that it is not a capitalist “plat” (pardon the play on words for “plot”) and it never was. Ancient cities, mostly aggregated jumbles with a grand boulevard and several gates, also used grid. The grid was but a natural extension of Penn’s Philadelphia, embraced as the city grew at its seams–which in Philadelphia’s case was “instantly”. [Later in the settlement of the American West, scholars will call attention to the western “instant city” and its characteristic effects on simultaneous suburban development. Philadelphia was in 1682 an instant city, and its northern and southern suburbs would require annexation to alleviate horrible dysfunctionalities].

Reps offers a fair and understanding summary of Penn’s (and Holme’s) final negotiated, and readjusted plan of 1682 is that “if Philadelphia must share the blame for the ubiquitous gridiron, it should also be credited as the source of an occasional open square occupied by public buildings or used for park purposes  [and that] understanding [Philadelphia’s] place in the American tradition of city planning there was … to some degree a realization that municipal control over land development was not incompatible with a democratic society” .John W. Reps, Town Planning in Frontier America, pp. 223

The most serious issue Penn confronted in coping with planning and his new capitol city location was his ten acre “liberty lands” farm land on which a goodly number of his most wealthy planners had signed on to. Liberty lands were those acres afforded to the First Purchasers who bought sufficient acreage as an incentive in Penn’s  “conditions and concessions” contract. Finding someplace to put the liberty lands forced yet another planning adjustment, which no one could have anticipated realistically. In any case, the liberty lands  were placed in several tracts to the immediate north of Penn’s city proper. North of Vine Street Holme platted  a string of parcels and assigned their ownership to First Purchasers. They were outside of Philadelphia’s boundaries, and so they were incorporated by Penn as townships, legally independent of the city.  The largest liberty land township, Northern Liberties, located directly on Philadelphia became its first “suburb” during the colonial period. By the 1790 census northern Liberties held nearly 10,000 residents and was the United State’s sixth largest urban center. It was officially annexed by Philadelphia in 1854, one hundred-seventy or so years later. This township was not included in Philadelphia election districts during the critical days of 1775-6, played a significant role in the establishment of Pennsylvania’s first “State” policy system, and affected the character of Pennsylvania’s policy making and was the source of Pennsylvania’s urban populist element.

Observations on our First City-Building- One of Economic Development’s Most Important Strategy-Nexus

Penn’s design and platting of Philadelphia–and transferring land ownership to the First Purchasers gave reality to that “large commercial city’ detailed in his plan(s). There was a forest and fields when he began–and a city when it was over. It  is the first of America’s large cities encountered in this history (Not, of course in English America). We have gone into some depth as to issues, compromises and a general messiness about this very critical economic development strategy–to create a city from a wilderness, or more precisely, nothing but trees, fields, streams, river front, rocks, and hills. City-building will saturate this history–it still continues to this very day as a core, but largely unnoticed  economic development strategy. Composed of a host of auxiliary strategies in combination with principles of planning. there is a lot of city-building in our history–some will call it suburbanization (a suburb is a city too). Anyway, the reader should assume they will encounter an awful lot of it in this history. Philadelphia is on the Atlantic coast and we have to work our way to Honolulu. There is a lot of city/town building ahead of us.

City-building (and also state-building which shall be dealt with later) is not limited to the initial design, platting, land sales and the inherent location of functions to separate geographies. City-building more vitally includes institutionalization: the design and the initial operation of key political, social and economic structures without which a urban center would not succeed. Public buildings, of course, easily come to mind as key to city-building (and renewal), but city-building mostly requires lots of people. There is much literature today about whether jobs follow people or vice versa. We shall firmly declare the definitive answer to this “angels dancing on a head of a pin question” is YES. Try to separate the two questions when you first settle an urban area? I can’t so I leave it to statisticians, in that correlations only can produce a definitive fact.

City-building it is directed and motivated by a few–often who will be titled as city fathers and mothers. Say it in my language: the dominant urban elite of that city. The playground of the urban elite is our policy system, with its sandboxes, slides, swings, and deep (cess) pools. In my city-building playground, one cannot expect its participants to use doggie bags for the inevitable mess and contemptible output. In a jestful manner, I allude to the numerous “scandals, conflicts of interest, as elites scramble to build something from nothing. We have lost our ability to be outraged by this–especially when we have already seen glimpses of what fate befell our deeply religious and seemingly honest and saintly William Penn. It gets worse.

The motivations of this elite–and those of its most powerful members especially–are as they say “complicated”, but this history cannot escape the inevitably that most of what they do falls into the economic development rubric. Lucky us, a lot of fascinating stories to tell, of folk only one step out of jail. I, for one, however, am not ashamed to these guys. City-building requires leadership, disrespects democracy and not infrequently discretion and decency. The city-builders may not be personal role models, but most would surprise even the most skeptical, as to the real life complexity of their motivations. City-building “is what it is”. One last observation. City-building and institutionalization is not the flicking of a light switch–it literally takes decades for both. When we talk of founding a city, that city will be building for several decades after, and its policy system will be evolving before it jells sufficiently to be called its first policy system.

Penn’s City-Building

What does emerge from Penn’s city-building–and his intermittent and inconsistent participation in it–was a gradual but perceptual dissatisfaction with Penn in the Quaker community. It was perceived that Penn in the abstract was a committed Quaker and genuine in the application of the original plan and vision. What was also evident was that Penn protected his own personal interests, and did not respond well to what he perceived as threats or questioning of his authority. Benner-Roach suggests the colony quickly developed a cash-flow and hard currency liquidity deficiency which impeded payment of debts and salaries–while not Penn’s fault directly hit people in the day-to-day pocketbook. A good deal of Penn’s cash reserves were expended in Indian land purchases. In 1683 Penn was expecting that people homesteaders start paying their taxes/quit rents which were not officially due for another year–for both public need and for his personal cash flow. They parted with their taxes, if at all, with much conversation, in in true Quaker fashion, with much dissent. Penn’s deputies and officials, usually individuals close to him or family, demanded their pay, and that fostered a perception that Penn favored his friends unduly. That Penn favored his friends in other decisions complicated the matter.

The winter of 82-83 was hard, by European standards, cold, and food and wood became issues. It was increasingly clear that by Spring, the city of Brotherly Love was a bit stressed. Individuals took to the courts for remediation of their concerns–and that usually made things worse. The courts were conducted by individuals close to Penn. Dissatisfied individuals and households turned to Penn, usually to little avail. The obvious delay in issuing construction/survey warrants by Penn, and the inevitable disappointment with the specific allocation of parcels–both of which were directly attributed to Penn. Here Penn’s promotional materials and his past descriptions of the new world utopia came back to haunt him, as did the gap between his contract and what happened on the ground. Lord Calvert actively resisted Penn’s attempts to manage and to settle residents in the Three Lower Counties–bringing those already unhappy folk to the brink of rebellion.

By March 1684, Penn had it with Calvert, and it was also increasingly uncomfortable in dealing with the never-ending complaints and bad feelings that swept through his own Quaker colony. His political setbacks in 1683 (renegotiated Frames, for example) combined so by early 1684 Penn decided to return to England. One of the Penn’s last acts was to assert control over land tied to waterfront usages (potentially lucrative, of course) as part of his personal estate. He would, of course, pay no taxes on these personal lands. Penn commenced construction of his own manor/estate, even though there was still a backlog in allocation of land plots to Quaker landowners. From the perspective of the general citizen it was not clear whether Penn was quitting town or being ridden out, sans tar and feathers.

Motions were made to repeal Penns “fundamental laws” included in his Frame of Government. In particular attempt was made to limit Penn’s powers of appointment, especially over the courts. In Philadelphia, after the Assembly, streets were no longer named for Penn’s officials in favor of “things that Spontaneously grow in the country”. As Penn prepared to leave, he cleared his desk of accumulated paperwork, and requests for action–possibly without reading them–because serious inconsistencies were easily observed. Penn attempted “damage control” to correct the concerns he had created, but too quickly. To prepare for his departure he left the city for his rural manor. When he returned a month later all hell broke lose as issues of every topic and concern were raised, liberty lots to the establishment of a number of manors on land owned by Penn. “Humble Remonstratives” or petitions for redress were submitted to him, only to be returned with brief and nasty comments. Penn was making things much worse than he needed to.

In this and other actions and comments it was clear Penn was taking these complaints personally, but also as threats to his legal proprietary authority, i.e. almost revolutionary. In total frustration, and virtually on the dock ready to leave, Penn signed a order setting up a commission, composed of his close associates who were to take over his administration, to create a borough charter for Philadelphia. On the day before his departure he formally appointed the Provincial Council, named Thomas Lloyd its President–and headed off to New Castle to catch his boat. He left in mid-August 1684, one year and ten months after his arrival [99] Hannah Benner-Roach, the Planting of Philadelphia: a Seventeenth Century Real Estate Development II (the Pennsylvania Magazine April 1968). He remained in England for the next fifteen years, returning in 1699 for an equally short period of time.