German Immigration, Settlement Patters and developing relationships with Quaker Party through the 1740’s

The conventional Pennsylvania historical paradigm characterize the post-Charter to 1840 period as one in which a “two party” (Penn Proprietary and Quaker Party) evolved out of the chaotic politics of the Penn pre-Charter of Privileges era. We have amended this somewhat and assert the Quaker Party is a proto-political party, populated and dominated with Quakers–but we asset the Penn Proprietor grouping was more the Pennsylvania executive branch of government, and its supporters and allies tagging along mostly for the goodies. This is more accurate once the Penn sons acquired legal control over their father’s colony during the later 1720’s. It is still, in my mind, too much of a leap to compare it to the UK “court” party. In any case that still leaves us within the historical paradigm as we concur the Quaker Party does  behave more or less as a semi-modern political party, loosely comparable as a wilderness colony-based British “country” or Whig Party.

In an earlier module we made the case the Party repeatedly capture control over the single-legislature, the General Assembly, and due to the nature of the chaotic politics and its basic, consistent and firm, if not die-hard opposition to the Proprietary led to the development of an exceptionally strong and active Speaker, with a corresponding oligarchy composed of his appointed committee chairs and local “bosses”. Mostly Quaker, although by the 1730’s they were moderate Quakers who did not endorse the belief of fundamental Quakers that Quakerism challenged if not precluded the participation of Quakers in active government. Looking at the “party” structure such as it was, and its decision-making style/tactics (for example a reliance on log-rolling), I further asserted the Quaker Party in practice was “political machine-like” especially by the late 1730’s. I waxed, no doubt eloquently on the Quaker Party being the first in what was a long line of Pennsylvania colony-state policy systems that in practice and structure were political machines.

The conventional Pennsylvania historical paradigm for the 1720’s asserts the Quaker Party garnered votes from newly-arrived German citizens. German support of the Quaker Party is undeniable, as is the indisputable statistics that demonstrate that Germans themselves did not hold legislative office in this period. The assertion is usually made that Germans did not want to be political officeholders and they were quite content to support Quaker politicians as their representatives. As far as this goes, the paradigm seems reasonably congruent with actual Pennsylvania practices, but it does little to explain why Germans acted and thought as they were alleged to by the historians. Subsequent attempts to delve deeper into Quaker Party-German relations does suggest that early migration Pietistic Germans shared with the Quakers a strong tilt toward pacifism-through for likely a bit different reasons–including Germans fled Germany precisely because they did not want to be caught up in somebody’s else’s war. Mennonites, as a matter of doctrine did not desire to hold political office for their “religious scruples” [99] Richard Macmaster, Land, Piety and Peoplehood” in Hutson’s Pennsylvania Politics as explained in Robert Fogleman, Hopeful Journeys, p. 131.

Pietists of the early migration period were replaced by mainstream Lutherans as the years went by–and by a equally strong stream of German/Dutch Reform adherents. These folk were much less bound by doctrine, more mainstream in their Protestantism with the latter sympathetic to Calvinism, and the former a more formal Church structured, yet “enlightened” forgiving pathway to establishing a relationship with Christ. By no means war-loving, we should not confuse these people with Scots-Irish, the later mainstream Germans were less pacifist, and had no particular religious scruples that inhibited involvement in politics or office holding. Still, these much more numerous mainstream religious Germans did not enter into active politics and office holding any more than the Pietistic had. What givers? The answer is important because non-Pietistic Germans greatly outnumbered their Pietistic compatriots. After 1720’s it is to them we must look for answer as to why the German support of Quaker Party officeholders was so enduring and, with important exceptions, so firm.

Fogleman asserts that instead of religious scruples or doctrine, the mainstream religious German settlers brought to America, and the new communities in which they founded and settled, the political culture of the Rhineland German villages and towns from which they emigrated. Penn’s English Quakers had done the same, as we described earlier–and so replication of the politics and political structures of the old world in the new is not a leap of considerable faith. Having said that however, a serious difference in political experience and the political culture between the English and German realities manifested itself.  England was in the process of urbanization, early mercantilism, and even proto-manufacturing.. Rhineland Germany much less so. The German village, still feudal in its economic base and politics (German feudal barons with large agricultural manors farmed by serfs or fragile freeman laborers was the German reference point. The Germans in no way sought to copy that in their new world communities–and instead were stoutly determined to make sure it would not occur in their new Pennsylvania townships.

Deference to a feudal lord’s authority did not travel well with these folk. When they arrived in Pennsylvania they came immediately into contact with Penn’s Proprietary which was a pretty close copy of what they were fleeing from. Moreover, they wanted nothing to do with landownership and farming employment that was serf-like. Their American Dream was to own their own household land, free and independent; on this land they would raise their families, earn their living, and form communities with others who thought as they did–and spoke their own German language. Looking ahead to the next chapter on Yankee Puritans, Pennsylvania Germans were quite different in their approach to authority–and to agricultural land ownership. Pennsylvania Germans wanted to own land of their own, and to be left alone to live their lives on it. Expensive land with high taxes combined with a privileged standing of Penn family neighboring parcels was a constant reminder of their old feudal barons–as was a court system still tilted toward Proprietary interests.

The reader no doubt has figured out where I am going with this. Religious mainstream Germans quickly discovered the Proprietary dominated townships and counties. Almost instinctively that predisposed them toward an intense opposition to the Proprietary as local government and its court system perceived with some justification as serving Penn’s interests (or his cronies). Land sales contracts and tax rates and tax collection became an early priority of the Quaker Party whose reform included elections to a assessor/collector offices, and voter control over the bureaucracy. As Germans attempted to charter townships whose population was disproportionately German, they were (1) required to secure the charter from the Penns, who as term of land sale reserved ten percent of the township to Penn’s personal ownership. and (2) the delayed impact of indenture and voting/landowning rights intensified the yearning for the German-version of the American Dream.

So, in a large segment of the German population developed a reaction against slavery, as well as an elite/mass attitudinal legacy (don’t forget increasing numbers of Germans immigrants were indentured servants or former indentured servants as we drifted into the late 1740’s). It did not help, as we have recorded earlier, that from the beginning of German migration, Penn’s governors had taken an early lead in questioning German loyalty to the Crown, and disrespecting Germans precisely because they were German, different and speakers of a different language and holders of a non-English economic, cultural, and political legacy (a bias which also extended to Anglicans and Presbyterians).

Germans once they owned their own land and home brooked little intrusion into their own homestead, and resisted any government decision to which they had not consented–highway construction draft levy for example. This is a recipe for limited, frugal, low tax government with citizen consent for budgets and tax rates as key features of their democracy. While much is made of the English immigrant’s desire for liberty, based much more on individual civil/political rights than the Germans who enjoyed no previous experience with political involvement, elections and democratic principles, instead defined their liberty in terms of land contracts and insulation of their homestead from an intrusive government.

To emphasize this point, immigrant Germans, unlike English transplants, had literally NO experience with an election, voting, democracy, and did not necessarily value it in the same intensity and tone as the typical English colonist. They had little fixation on civil liberties per se, and voting rights, considering the large number of Germans considered as property without voting rights, was not prized. Politics for them was the land of elites–and they had little pretense to demand their participation in it other than to protect their homestead. In German-settled Pennsylvania, a German community and the individuals that resided liberty, therefore, was defined through a prism of individual land ownership as the guarantee of family security and their personal economic well-being. This BTW was not the same definition of liberty that other non-German colonists had.

As we have seen, the Quakers early on had also constructed a definition of liberty centered on religious toleration, limited government which rejected the unification of church and state, and a vast array of individual actions and beliefs that reflected each individual’s Inner Light. Quakers too placed primacy on the family homestead and membership in the community’s meeting house; materialists, they rejected extravagance and intemperateness, avoiding the display of materialistic pretenses that glorified the individual at the expense of devotion to God. Quakers valued hard work, entrepreneurship, and economic success. Other than the primacy of the Quaker meeting house, there was substantial overlap in the priorities each afforded to civic life.

In that Penn’s original Frame defined Pennsylvania’s voting franchise quite broadly as requiring fifty pounds ownership of property and assets (the most liberal of the colonies at the time), it was not difficult at all for German immigrants once they bought their homestead in the hinterland to be eligible for voting. It was also true, however, that the same property requirement was considerable more difficult in Philadelphia where land was much more costly per unit. The German-Quaker alliance took a firm hold in the hinterland core counties, and left for all practical purposes, the Philadelphia municipal corporation to the Quakers, and Anglican-Presbyterian merchants and professions. Germans voting with the Quaker Party served their own self-interests, and in the early years of German migration served as its protector, allowing Germans to settle in and carve their own fortunes and lives in the new world–without having to assume the burden of electing their kin (not an easy task) to elective office.

German tension with the Penn Proprietor was a constant rub and a ever-present opportunity for the Quaker Party to seize advantage.  Given the threat of war was constant, and after 1740 visible on the horizon, Germans, whose homesteads were initially in the peaceful three core counties (where treaties had “regularized” Indian relations) were attracted to Quaker pacifism as a barrier to any Pennsylvania’s participation. This almost natural alliance perpetuated the hold of Quakers over the Quaker Party, and logically over time institutionalized elite Quakers into its leadership-converting the Quaker Party, over the next decades, into an elite oligopoly which “brokered” agreement and benefits from its rather diverse constituency of anti-Penn voters.

By 1730 control of the [General Assembly] had passed to long-settled rural areas [the three core counties] thoroughly dominated by local Quaker leaders, and to their allies, the Quaker mercantile elite of Philadelphia. The increasing overrepresentation of original eastern counties in a chamber that avoided major reapportionment helped to secure this control against any challenge from non-Quaker Philadelphia or the newer western counties. ONLY IN 1756 DID MEMBERS OF THE SOCIETY OF FRIENDS BECOME A MINORITY IN THE ASSEMBLY (capitalization mine], and then only because several Quaker lawmakers resigned their seats during the Seven Years War … The mid-century Quaker Party, an unusually stable coalition of Anglican, former Quaker, and worldly Quaker lawmakers, never lost control of the [General Assembly] before the Revolution. … Friends and former Friends with strong Quaker ties, did hold very nearly half of the seats in the [General Assembly] until October 1775 [99] Richard Alan Ryerson, the Revolution Is Now Begun(University of Pennsylvania Press, 1978), pp. 9-10.

Would it only be this simple and durable an alliance?

Ryerson reflects the conventional historical paradigm of Quaker Party dominance over Pennsylvania colonial politics straight through the Revolution. Once again Ryerson’s quote is accurate–as far as it goes. The Germans are not even mentioned, largely because they declined to elect their own to the legislature, preferring instead to vote for Quaker Party adherents. In point of fact by the late 1730’s the Quaker Party found its hold over the Germans in some question. The delayed and staggered entry of Germans into the voting franchise prevented them from outvoting English and Quaker residents.

The 1739 eruption of the Pennsylvania Great Awakening fractured Quaker consensus and mobilized many a Scots-Irish. By 1739, however, Quakers were in a minority in their core base districts, and in 1740 the Naturalization Act and the potential impact of formerly indentured Germans becoming eligible to the franchise combined to offer a test of this decade long coalition. The “roaring thirties” a feast of prosperity, consensus and growth was abruptly challenged.


Quakers after 1710, evolved from their fractious and contentious pre-1710 politics, settling down a bit and in a period of great economic growth concentrating on their economic interests. Quaker politics was rendered more stable at least until the onslaught of the Great Awakening and War around 1739. The Penn Proprietorship underwent a change in generations with the three Penn son’s assuming legal control and responsibility for the colony’s affairs. John Penn, the oldest, and Thomas, the youngest both came to Pennsylvania in 1732 in an attempt to reform the Proprietary bureaucratic structures to conform with the son’s transition from a Holy Experiment to a profit-seeing enterprise for the family.

The most immediate expression of that transition were their reform of the Land Office, and a series of Indian treaties which greatly increased land owned by the Proprietorship, land which could be subsequently sold to new immigrants. Of necessity, the Penn’s sons reliance on land sales, town-building, and tax collection tilted them toward development of what will be Pennsylvania’s western hinterland (to be considered in a future module). Thomas who lasted until the 1776 American Revolution was the most active in these matters. His most durable success was the “founding” of Reading PA, whose settlement and town-building were administered from England.

It should be observed the Penn brothers until the Revolution were hot and cold in the “governance” of the colony. Plenty of examples can be found of their involvement, but nevertheless, most of Pennsylvania’s affairs, policy-making, and day-to-day governance fell outside their purview or interest. This did not add to the luster and image of the Penns or their Proprietorship–and they remained as had their father and mother the central target of domestic Pennsylvania public opinion. During their fifty year governance, the Quaker Party and the Legislature intensified their efforts to replace the Penns with a royal governor. That it also must be observed runs against the grain of most American colonies which struggled against their royal governors and increasingly drifted to a de facto desire for autonomy from England.

The sons retained reliance on the appointed Deputy Governor for political and administrative governance of the colony. Their choices for governorship were vastly improved given the very low bar set by Penn’s and the Probate period choices. Governors in this period were more competent, congruent to the Penn Proprietary interest, and a bit more prone to successfully navigate through the onslaught of the Quaker Party. What was still a relatively loose cannon was the so-called domestic Pennsylvania Proprietary faction, dominated by our James Logan, and increasingly during the 1730’s by its rising star, William Allen. As Logan lost his luster, and accumulated baggage with his predictable self-serving initiatives, Allen gathered it up. By the end of the 1930’s decade he was ready and able, so he thought, to play ball and give the Quaker Party a challenge it had not faced since 1701.

Allen was one of Pennsylvania’s great leaders. Among the wealthiest merchants of Philadelphia, later in 1762 the founder of Allentown, his claim to fame was the public-private development, financing, and construction of Pennsylvania’s state house during the 1730’s. A Scots-Irish, well-married (himself and his children) he held contacts with key families, various factions including the municipal corporation serving as Philadelphia’s mayor, served in the legislature, and maintained sound relationships with the Penn brothers. An active philanthropist, he will be revisited in our later discussion on Pennsylvania’s contribution to American Community Development. Through them he was able to dominate the Penn appointive decisions, appointments which offered opportunities, status, and resources. Once again, Pennsylvania fragmented politics had facilitated the rise of yet another boss-like powerhouse–this one, however, needed to acquire legislative power in order to establish his power and policy base. In any event by 1740 Allen was ready to launch his assault on the Quaker Party.

The eruption of King George’s War, however, activated Quaker/German pacifism. Penn’s Deputy Governor had on his own enlisted companies of militia to defend Pennsylvania, and he turned to the General Assembly for not only funds to pay them, but to carry out their future activities. Traditional Quakers and most Germans wanted as little to do with the war. The so-called “worldly Quakers” were now on the hot seat, and the preaching of the Great Awakening’s George Whitefield, in the fields of Philadelphia (with his friend Benjamin Franklin in attendance) triggered an intense response as Protestants returned to their doctrinal and Inner Light roots, questioning the relationship with established churches and asserting their own right to a personal relationship with the Almighty.

To be sure, secular Quakers and mainstream German Protestants were not greatly affected by its anti-establishmentarianism, but those of a more fundamental cast of mind, the Pietistic for example, and English Presbyterians (Scots-Irish) were mobilized. Germans, less affected remained more anti-Proprietary, but in view of their increasing access to the franchise and their success in economic endeavors were visibly on the threshold of entering politics on their own dime. The makings of a great electoral tumult seemed in the making. Allen for his part saw divisions caused by the war-Great Awakening among the Quakers to be a once in a lifetime opportunity.

So Thomas Penn returned once more to Pennsylvania (1739) and in 1740 the Proprietary decided to join with Allen, contest the 1740 elections and hopefully break the hold of the Quaker Party on the General Assembly, potentially creating a speed bump in Ryerson’s grand vision of Quaker Party control.

From our perspective, this challenge to Quaker Party dominance in 1740 provides us an opportunity to look deeper into German immigrant political development in Pennsylvania. That development refined and expanded the basis on which German-Quaker Party coalition had heretofore rested. It also resulted in activating Germans to defend their own self-interests and protect the larger German community in Pennsylvania. From this new beginning we will see stirrings not only on German political involvement, but the rise of a German-empowerment community development wing–an early example of the third wing of community development. Finally, with the relationship and understanding between Quakers and Germans, we will see the start of what will become the future Midlands political culture.


After 1710 Philadelphia (combined population) and Pennsylvania’s population exploded. In 1710 the former housed 2684 white residents. It grew by a third each of the  following decades to 1740, reaching 10,117–by 1775 that tripled to 32,973–the largest metro in English North America (ahead of New York’s 25,000 and Boston’s 16,000). Pennsylvania’s population exceeded 250,000 at that point. By the first census of 1790, there were 434,000 Pennsylvanians-of which about one-third were respectively English, Germans, and Scots-Irish. Philadelphia enjoyed its own boom (despite 4 of 5 immigrants settled in the hinterland), Philadelphia annually debarked about 10,000 immigrants who eventually settled in the Greater Philly metro. Unlike the more homogeneous hinterland settlements, Philadelphia was the paragon of diversity, so ethnically and religiously diversified that by 1750 it was no longer Quaker. As early as 1740 an estimated 37% of Philadelphia’s population was English (Quaker and Anglican), 27% Scots-Irish and 26% German. In the same year, nearby hinterland Germantown was 80% German. There were still more to come.

The problem for Pennsylvania Quakers was that Penn’s Deputy Governor appointees were NOT Quakers. Except of Keith (on a rare good day), none were sympathetic to Germans, and the Proprietary Loan Office made so special effort to attract or please in ay way the productive German settlers. The land sale relationship of Proprietary to German settler took no time in becoming distant, negative, if not outright hostile. At certain points in the past, the Proprietary became associated with legislation unfavorable to Germans. The Philadelphia Municipal Council which the Proprietary dominated, became a hostile bastion of anti-German resistance–in which the anti-Proprietary Anglicans shared. Germans as early as the 1830’s developed an affinity, if not loyalty to the Quaker Party, were bitter and determined foes of the Proprietary. On top of that, the Quaker Party had for different reasons turned against the Scots-Irish (Great Awakening evangelicalism, and their propensity to move into western hinterland counties, kill Indians and take their lands). There also was a bit of “culture clash”, as Scots-Irish were decidedly not their kind of folk. In short by the early 1750’s the Quaker Party was not feeling all that well about this immigration thing.

Philadelphia’s population was quite mobile–nearly half migrated out every decade. In the “Greater Philadelphia area” the origination of the population that came from various English colonies between 1710 and 1740 is especially interesting: about 17% arrived from Maryland, Virginia, New England each, 11 percent New York and New Jersey, and 38% from the Caribbean. By the eve of the American Revolution about 2,700 slaves had entered into Philadelphia –the first in 1684; by 1705 about 7% of families owned slaves. “Most slaves arrived in Philadelphia in two peak periods, from 1732 to 1741 [510] … and from 1757 to 1766 [1,200] … In 1710 slaves constituted 10 percent of [Philadelphia’s] population, but only 3 percent by the time of the Revolution” . Most slaves resided in Philadelphia (household and shipping) “Rarely did farmers use slave labor, preferring to use European servants [indentured] [99] Marie Basile McDaniel’s, Immigration and Migration (Colonial Era) https://philadelphiaencyclopedia.org/ archive/immigration-and-migration-colonial-era. To add frosting to the cake, shipboard conditions deteriorated during the peak period, and some of the very worst cases of human abuse occurred in this period. Philadelphians caught the brunt of all this–and had to deal with its consequences, dumped literally on their front door.


The German immigration peak came at the end of King George’s War (1748)–and it lasted until the next war (French and Indian) commenced in 1754-5. Unknown at the time, this rush of Germans into Philadelphia/Pennsylvania would abruptly stop with the new war, and when that ended in 1763, German immigration did not recover. As we discovered in the last module, Germans, despite their historical image of passive citizens, had played a active and controversial role in the polarized politics of the 1740’s. The Quaker Party ought to have been grateful, but not all of its coalition members were. Part of the problem was “mob” actions that had disturbed the 1741 and 1742 election process and the guilt reactions it engendered. As good Quakers, mob violence is still violence–which is not pacifism. That the Quaker Party was complicit in inciting mob violence as was the Proprietary did not sit well with the Quaker Party Leadership. The Quakers, on the whole, preferred Germans to the Scotch-Irish “who lived high and fell into debt”, and whose reaction to the stirrings of the Great Awakening were often disconcerting. In any case, the great numbers of Germans raised the fear “they might Germanize the [colony] … by their very weight of numbers[99] Theodore Thayer, Pennsylvania Politics: the Growth of Democracy, 1740-1776 (Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1953), p. 35

Two other dynamics entered into the equation: Quakers of all stripes were certainly aware they were becoming a minority in their colony of Brotherly Love, and they were equally aware potentially the Quaker Party oligopoly was increasing in a precarious position. As was customary, the blame for all this anxiety was placed on the Penn Proprietary which was usually placed in the awkward position of enforcing Board of Trade/English laws and prescriptions. That made them especially attracted to a cornerstone policy of their new member, Franklin who’s hot button (there were several) was “to royalize” Pennsylvania–i.e., replace the Sole Proprietor with a royal governor. In short, by 1751 the Quaker Party became unduly swayed by its popular, persuasive, quite wealthy new political activist. We are entering into the period of Franklin’s greatest impact in colonial Pennsylvania. Franklin, as we shall now discover, was not all that appreciative of the Germans–at the very time their immigration was at its “high water” period. Among the English, the Moravians were especially criticized and stigmatized as disloyal–alleged by some to be a sort of Roman Catholic subsidiary (not a good thing)–sympathetic to France in a year when war with France on Pennsylvania’s western frontier was a distinct possibility.

Franklin was far from alone in his feelings toward the Germans, and their rapid increase in number prodded him into action as a new (1751) legislator in the General Assembly–and as a very influential force on the oligopoly of the Quaker Party. In 1752 Franklin proposed legislation that precluded all non-English speaking people should be barred from civil and militia positions. He proposed the importation of German language books, and that all publications in German be obliged to provide an English translation on each page. All official Pennsylvania records and deeds should be in English only. Privately, he encouraged German intermarriage with English “to break down their clannishness”, and he urged a quota be placed on the number of Germans allowed into Pennsylvania. “Furthermore, he recommended that English schools be established among the Germans to Anglicize the younger generation” [99] Theodore Thayer, Pennsylvania Politics: the Growth of Democracy, 1740-1776, p. 35 . Franklin was not successful in passing a quota, but he was victorious in setting up the school system.

It was a disaster from the start. Viewed as a direct attack on the German culture, and Germans in general, it drew the attention of the leading German activist of the day, Christopher Sauer, a newspaper editor from Germantown. At its height there were as many as 400 students in these schools, but the issue was an open sore, and after 1759 they declined and by 1764 the schools were closed. The net reactions was precisely the opposite of what Franklin wanted: the Germans set up their own German-language schools, printed their own books and literature, turned even more to their church for unity and community, and in today’s terms found their identity in opposition to the attempt to Anglicize them. To their credit, the Quaker Party never embraced the legislation,, and outwardly aloof if not outright opposed to it. It did not help that Thomas Penn, the sole Proprietor, endorsed the schools as a program intended to do precisely as Franklin intended. Predictably when schools backfired on Penn in the 1754 election, particularly, Penn appealed directly to Parliament to disenfranchise the Germans for the sake of the colony’s defense and security. If that didn’t lock up the German vote for the Quaker Party, nothing did.

Besides all these motivations, immigration, while sanctified by our heritage and political values, is not without its internal complications.  As we described earlier, Germans were often distrusted and not at all “liked” by non-Quaker English, and the German flood that followed the war sent them into a tizzy of anti-German “nativist” reaction. Part of the recidivist frenzy was that post-1748 immigration was not the immigration that been experienced previously. Germans were poorer, more apt to be single males than family households, and were channeled accordingly into the highest rates of indenture yet. Indenture compounded the immigration issue, as do “illegal aliens” today. By 1755, indentured servants were estimated at forty percent of Philadelphia’s population [99] Randall M. Miller and William Pencak, Pennsylvania: a History of the Commonwealth (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2003), p. 108

Indenture, never a pretty picture, got a worse name because a goodly number of indentured–at least as perceived by non-too-friendly Philadelphians–were truly bound labor–convicts (most of which came through other colonies, and were not German).  As the reader remembers, there were many categories of indenture, including the German Redemptionist indenture, “free willers” (who knew what they were doing), and apprenticed. These distinctions were more relevant on board the ship, and for all practical purposes came to at end at the indenture auction in Philadelphia. “Once landed in America, and once his time was sold, it mattered little in law or custom to which category a servant belonged … Once his contract was sold … once his occupation settled, such distinctions disappeared, for transported felons, indentured servants and alien apprentices were equal before the law” [99] William Miller, “the Effects of the American Revolution on Indentured Servitude” (Pennsylvania History, Vol VII, Number 3 (July 1940), p.132. Essentially the larger volumes of convict labor tainted the servants with images of crime, runaways, and the “usual suspects” when something went wrong. German indentured did, especially in Philadelphia, did not escape this distinction–and their young male demographic had an extra burden placed upon them.

All this caught the eye of Philadelphia’s recent political upstart, the now-retired printer, Benjamin Franklin. In 1751 he wrote to the editors of the Pennsylvania Gazette (his employees, he owned the paper), criticizing both the Proprietary and presumably the legislature (for which he was campaigning to enter) for their failure “to make any Law for preventing or discouraging the Importation of Convicts from Great Britain”. Employing his usual satire, Franklin described convict indenture as a “Public Utility, as they tend  to prevent the IMPROVEMENT and WELL Peopling (his capitals) of the Colonies” and he called for Pennsylvania authorities to send their own Pennsylvania felons to London, and leave them off in the then-high rent aristocratic neighborhoods. In the blog, Penn referred to convict indentured as “Human Serpents[99] Benjamin Franklin, “To the Printers of the Gazette“, the Pennsylvania Gazette, May 9, 1751. In fact in 1748 the Legislature had passed a law that questioned British convict indenture. requiring that ship captains have a record of passenger crimes, along with a certificate of permission. The Board of Trade repealed it–and that is what likely motivated our Poor Richard to complain. That and the stark reality that Penn, in today’s language, was a “nativist bigot” who did not like the non-English Germans, nor did he appreciate they spoke German, not the King’s English. Let’s go find a statute we can topple.


As the port of entry, Philadelphia faced a special problem caused by the immigration explosion: public health. The near-hellish conditions onboard during the journey fostered the spread of illness, death, and pandemic illnesses. In 1741, pressed by Philadelphia, the Governor (George Thomas) sent legislation to the General Assembly to create a special “pesthouse and hospital” on a quarantined site on Province Island, to get those ill off the boats so they could move on. The Legislature responded positively, the structures were built and the immigrants transferred to the island and its facilities. The island, reasonably quarantined the illness, but it created a living hell-hole, later described as “a land of the living dead, a vault full of living corpses”. The constant threat of a widespread illness motivated public officials afterward to strive to remedy the problem at its source, with onboard (ship travel) reforms and legislation. The crowded quarters which offered no isolation for its passengers was addressed by provincial legislation in 1750. That legislation specified standards for a “Bed place”, required periodic fumigation and twice weekly vinegar washes. Ships that transported Germans were required to have a physician on board. As Sharon Salinger reported “Without the interference of colonial officials, merchants behavior went unchecked and the route to the Promised Land was lined with the horrors of disease and death [99] Sharon Salinger.” To Serve Well and Faithfully”: Labor and Indentured servants in Pennsylvania, 1682-1800 (Cambridge University Press, 1987,, p. 25.


the German Pale

It is the Third Wave that we are most interested. Fogleman estimates about 80,000 Germans arrived between 1717 and 1775. The third wave were motivated more by economic opportunity, not religious persecution or dislocated by war or pestilence. For most land ownership was the most tangible expression of both personal liberty and economic opportunity. They arrived in families as well as singly.  The migrants were, in aggregate economically bimodal. A sizeable element of the German migrants had access to a limited discretionary wealth, in the form of disposable case, access to loans from their families in Germany, or assistance in some form by American-settled Germans of previous periods. The larger segment did not; these were likely to become candidates for indenture. If able the great majority headed into the hinterland in search of land for yeoman farming. A goodly number did disperse into today’s central Pennsylvania, up to the Lehigh Valley and an considerably enlarged Berks County. The great majority, however, passed into southeastern hinterland counties bordering on Maryland, and as the land filled up, continued on their way into Maryland and by the 1730’s into Virginia Shenandoah and points south. By 1760, Fogleman cites about 50,000 Germans lived in his “Greater Pennsylvania area.

Despite the overlap in time of settlement and geography, Scots-Irish and Germans sorted themselves out into more or less homogenous settlements. This, BTW, was not unique to Pennsylvania, or to Germans/Scots-Irish. By 1790, 72 percent of the white population of Lancaster County was ethnic German, as well as Berks and Dauphin Counties; Northampton was 63 percent, York 49, and Philadelphia hinterland formed into Montgomery County in 1784 was about 57 percent German [99] Aaron Spencer Fogleman, Hopeful Journeys, p.81.Earlier German immigrants settled throughout the original core Quaker counties, into New Jersey across the River, and were buyers of the land offered by land dealers such as Logan, and other Quaker elites. Good land was quickly purchased, land became very expensive (which was noted in German correspondence of the period) and that pushed migration out to the southwestern and central hinterlands–which by the 1760’s were themselves filling up.

By the 1770’s a network of predominantly German settlements (transformed into a community with German schools and churches) ranged in a more or less contiguous swatch from Philadelphia’s hinterland, straight through southwestern Pennsylvania, through western Maryland, and into the northern Virginia Shenandoah Valley. A less contiguous swatch ran into North Carolina and into Georgia. As one might expect due to the complexity of cohort growth, family inheritance succession, success and failure in farming, and network of families, German mobility over time and geography did develop.

In short, a desire to settle near other German-speaking peoples … played an important role in shaping settlement patterns. Many late-arriving immigrants did move to the farthest boundaries of Greater Pennsylvania, but many others stayed in the older areas of settlement. Most settled in, or near, commercial centers and county seats, but with exceptions in Philadelphia, Germantown, and other nearby areas, they did so only if the areas were largely German commercial centers and county seats …[accordingly] similar customs and ways of life should not be overlooked as a factor shaping how and where the Germans settled [99] Aaron Spencer Fogleman, Hopeful Journeys, p. 86.

The German (usually Lutheran) Church played an important and socially meaningful role in German communities of this period. By 1776, the 126 Pennsylvania Lutheran parishes the focal points of hinterland German settlements. Building the church was a first order priority, and the church (much like “good school districts” today) were an important aspect in the selection of the community for future German residents. Even without a formal church, church functions were held in private residences. German Calvinists (the Reformed) added another 123 Reformed congregations in a German-settled community. Highly valuing their language, culture, literature, and the customs of the home country, these churches and congregations often developed their own school systems in these communities. Fogleman’s research concluded that these institutions in German settlements led to a pattern of some individual mobility throughout the German swatch in a household’s early years in America–but when the community was chosen became “stable ethnics rather than mobile individualists” as Scots-Irish were predisposed. Once established, a German household set down roots and made long-term commitments to their geography of residence.

This high level of stability … facilitated the maintenance of village and extended family networks that were so crucial in getting many [future] immigrants settled and established within the rural ethnic enclaves as well as the cities and towns of Greater Pennsylvania. Religion and ethnicity played important and mutually supportive roles in establishing the character and identify of the Reformed and Lutheran majority in the fledgling, scattered church communities [99] Aaron Spencer Fogleman, Hopeful Journeys, p. 99.

That this ethnic/religious solidarity could cement itself so permanently to a cluster of geographies is today evident in the Pennsylvania settlements of the more Pietistic Germans: Amish Moravians, Mennonites, Dunkers and others. These Germans arrived in groups at different times during the Third Phase (1685 Germantown was an early precursor), but a large block arrived in the 1749-54 period. Pietistic utopian-mission communities were founded in several states; several were financed by their missionary organizations (Mennonites and Moravians, especially). Unlike most Germans during this phase, economic opportunity was their prime motivation, not establishing a religious utopia in the New World. As any tourist probably knows, in Pennsylvania the Amish, an offspring from Anabaptist-Mennonite Protestant wing, came initially to Berks County, but under attack from Indians moved to Lancaster County (a second wave decades later went to other states such as Ohio and Illinois. In the 20th Century the Amish founded new settlements in several states including New York).

Pietistic Germans are not especially noted for founding urban centers that became a large city, but Bethlehem PA certainly falls into that category. Founded as a church-owned landed community, it was restricted to Moravians until 1850 (although a French Huguenot cluster also resided in the area). In Northampton County, Bethlehem and nearby Nazareth were founded in the early 1740’s. While the Amish isolated themselves in clusters of individual yeoman farm households in the hinterland, the Moravians (about 850 of whom settled in Pennsylvania), with an aristocratic heritage going back to the 16th Century Czech Hussite Rebellion, were of a different bent. Having access to funds to finance land purchase and infrastructure and travel, Moravians bypassed the Redemptionist indentured trap, and settled on expensive but prime land with river access. Their strong pacifist beliefs fitted well into Pennsylvania Quaker mentality–and politics.

Moravians became skillful in debt-financing to cover the expenses of their expanding worldwide network of closed communities … which included the construction of thriving industries and centers of commerce. Moravians placed heavy emphasis on education and literacy … and on university education for its clergy …They played an important role in an ecumenical movement that developed among radical pietism in Pennsylvania during the 1730’s and 1740’s. … They maintained good relationships with the Lutheran Church” [but in Bethlehem their missionary impulse which included conversion of Lutherans created serious tension] [99] Aaron Spencer Fogleman, Hopeful Journeys, p. 118.

Probably less than five percent of the total Pennsylvania German migration, they too engaged in a mini-Big Sort, settling disproportionately in Northampton and Berks Counties, moving in later years into Chester, Lancaster and York. As Fogleman develops in his case study of the Pietistic Germans developed their own style of farming, and commercial businesses. Overlapping with a communitarian life-style, and distinctive people attraction strategy as well. While these communities may be a subject with which few are interested, it is in these outliers one can see more obviously what is more subtly occurring in the mainstream communities. The German migration is creating small enclaves, villages, and towns each with their distinctive personalities, economic base, and political culture–in short we can more easily see why cities, and states are inherently different from each other, in small ways but which aggregated form a stylistically different process for making of policy and politics.

This stability held important implications not only for the development of a German political subculture, but for its need to deal with and reach accommodation with Pennsylvania’s dominant Quaker political culture. Unlike the Scots-Irish whose culture was profoundly different from the Quaker and whose personal mobility and individualism were so pronounced, the German-Quaker sub-cultures developed over time into a loose but interwoven sharing of interests and values that led to their synergistic common culture, the Midlands.


wokeck p58 redemptioners pp61-2  midcentur horror p.63-4=====interpution by war ——–tail end of german imm after 1763