1740 to 1750 is far from the “golden era” of Quaker-Penn Frame of Governments Policy System. If you value efficient and effective government, this decade ain’t going to be pretty. By 1740 the political culture and the politics and economics it fostered created the essentials of Pennsylvania First Policy System. For a decade it played political ball in pretty much an appalling, New York Mets fashion. By the end of the 1740’s one is left wondering how long this First Policy System could last? Instead of collapsing, however, it will muddle on, persisting, of a sort, until overthrown in 1776–overthrown in large measure not by Pennsylvanians, but by outsiders from other colonies. Nevertheless, this Quaker mono-culture policy system in 1748 is as close to a failed system as Somalia is today. Yet it refused to die, until killed–not failing to leave behind an inheritance that will itself persist to the present day. Our answer why is arguably surprising to the reader. The Penn Frame Policy System survived as long as it did because it reflected the limited anti-authoritarian political aspirations of those who adhered to its core political culture (Quakers and Germans). The Anglicans and the Scots-Irish in particular were outside that culture–and resisted the drift of its politics–and in later modules we shall see its–and in different ways its economics.
The fault lies less with Penn’s Frame of Government, or even his style/competence of leadership, than with the sole proprietary colonial system. Between Penn and that faulty sole proprietary colonial rule a sort of buffer existed between the Crown, Privy Council and Board of Trade and the inevitable drive to Pennsylvania domestic autonomy from England. Like a pillow, you could punch at the Penn sole proprietorship all day and night long with little result. The only solution was to replace it with an alternative. In the following modules, that effort will be intensified, as Pennsylvania anti-Penn politics dedicated its all to replacing Penn with a royal governor. That was the drive Pennsylvania elites brought into the politics of the American Revolution. When the time came to revolt, Pennsylvania political elites were dancing to the waltz, not the cha-cha. Non-elites were throwing people into the mosh pit.
The module attempts a description of the structural and cultural chaos that was a logical by-product, of Quaker values, the uphill, if not impossible implementation of an ill-defined Holy Experiment, mentality and political behavior of those attracted to Quakerism, the behavior of Penn/family succession, the consequences from his sole proprietorship, and, most importantly the intense and widespread political opposition the aggregation of these internal contradictions engendered in its die-hard Quaker elite and the legislative voting coalition it fabricated. Separate from all this–as if it were not sufficient to itself–was the added complexities and issues associated with incredible economic/population growth.
That both population and economic growth overlapped these aggregated systemic dynamics hints that, in some strange way, the structural/political outputs (or their lack) either facilitated, or at least did nothing to impede, Pennsylvania’s attraction for immigrants, the propensity of those immigrants to successfully innovate and become prosperous entrepreneurs/farmers. The geographic vehicle for this dynamic growth was the City of Philadelphia, which in the Penn Frame policy system had become a wasteland of coherent government. The reader may suspect I am dancing around the proposition that the almost-failed Penn/Quaker Frame of Governments, complete with its dysfunctional and conflict-ridden politics, proved to be no barrier to making Pennsylvania the second largest state at the time of the Revolution, Philadelphia the new nation’s largest city, and its on-again, off-again capitol. Someone like Ayn Rand would be willing to take this a step further, but that is not my wont.
What are its “moving parts”, the dynamics we did not explicitly discuss in the past module that played out during this period? Looking beyond War and Pacifism, we can see:
- the blending of Quaker and German political cultures coalescing in contested elections between Quakers and Proprietary. The two cultures and ethnic groupings did not yet like each other, often could not speak to each other, but each found a way to trust each other and depend on each other to secure their needs and uphold their value priorities. The peak of German immigration would immediately follow 1748, and so the political-cultural mass necessary for an effective blending lie in the future. A good part of the discrimination against the Germans during these years, came less from more tolerant Quakers, than from the other non-Quaker English (which counterintuitively included the Penn Deputy Governors). What was missing in 1748 was a German culture that had neither achieved sufficient volume to press its political and ethnic identity, but also the internal maturing of that ethnic group to develop its own elites, and amass its own capital, ethnic institutions, and political self-identity. That will mature only in the 1760’s. A reminder, Pennsylvania Germans will be exceptions in colonial America; they are the only major non-English ethnic group in the thirteen colonies–save, of course, American blacks.
- a reinforcement, support for, our earlier contention that the Sole Penn Proprietorship created structures, institutions, political behaviors, and politics in Pennsylvania that were sufficiently distinctive–and enduring. These patterns, structures and (lack of) institutions explain why Pennsylvania became an American state with a different structural and policy background that finds no clone or carbon copy in the other colony-states. Why is Pennsylvania so different today? My simple answer is Penn’s Sole Proprietorship ignited a Bunsen Burner conflict-heat that catalyzed Pennsylvania’s internal dynamics in ways different from other colonies, and installed patterns, structures, and (a lack of) consensual shared institutions. There is in Pennsylvania as early as 1740 a competing set of redundant branches of government, levels of government, and a Privatist backstop that fills in when the melange threatens to collapse completely. The other colonies evolved different patterns, and like Pennsylvania incorporated them into their new American republican state-local government/policy system.
- a more intensive look at colonial America’s only non-English, European major immigration: the German. Lost in history, when they arrived they were Pennsylvania’s first challenge to the values, beliefs, historical and economic legacy of England. Initially disliked and distrusted more than the other immigrant flow (the Scots-Irish), Germans had to cope, more or less, on their own–just like many Asian, Hispanic, African and Middle Eastern immigrants today. This “coping” will play out in their Mainstream and Community Economic Development (MED and CD) policies, initiatives, strategies and economic development structures (EDOs/CDOs) that will develop in the 1750’s and 1760’s (and after). This is the start of our discussion on the Midlands contribution to American Economic and Community Development that will appear in later modules.
- as the 1740’s the internal crisis intensified, the internal contradictions of the Penn Frame policy system permitted–if not necessitated–new private non governmental actors to fashion their own non-political political fixes to bring order and coherence to the policy-making muddle. As we shall see, one charismatic private sector fixer-upper will install himself as a new feature of the Penn policy system. Later to be called, Privatism, the governmental personification of which is Benjamin Franklin, provided expertise, and order on its own dime, bypassing the paralysis logjam, imposing a solution, and then, like Cincinnatus, seemingly returning home. But Privatism was here to stay, and its arrival/addition to Pennsylvania’s policy-making added not only emergency capacity/innovation but new, community development-oriented policy inputs. The privatist “plug in” endured and future Pennsylvania policy systems retained an active partnership with the private sector as a normal partner in policy-making, alongside formal government structures. As we shall later see, the Association for General Defense was not the only example of Privatist filling in the gaps caused by Penn Frame Policy System.
- the chief policy cause of the 1740’s polarization, policy logjam, and electoral turmoil was War, or its threat. As we tried to describe, during the 1740’s there were two related by separate threat of war: from Indians in the western periphery, and French/Spanish privateers in its coastal areas. In Quaker Pennsylvania, both threats activated Quaker pacifism, the Third Rail of Pennsylvania policy-making. As we shall see in the following chapters, it was the threat from the west that was more consequential in the long run. The western hinterland counties input into Pennsylvania policy-making was a game-changer for the Penn-Frame policy system–totally unlike Virginia’s previously described experience. We will concentrate more on this in the next module, but the effects and consequences of western settlement have just begun in the 1740’s. But as we shall see like the other American colonies, each colony had evolved its own version of western periphery policy-making and eastern core policy-making. Colonial sub-state regionalism has entered into our history.
Subtleties in the Merging of Quaker and German Political Cultures during the 1740’s
Take a Step Back 1-Through 1748, Pennsylvania politics were so fragmented, polarized and divisive that it could not muster a majority anywhere to defend itself from foreign attack and destruction of its own shipping and port. The Legislature had opposed the Crown, Board of Trade, the Penn Proprietary, and a goodly portion of its own affluent elite. Its government could not be described as simply “limited, low tax”, but was viewed more aptly as a “Never Penn” movement that was unable to write constructive legislation and work with others on matters that did not involve the Never Penn contentions. Whether or not there was good and ample reason for the Never Penn polarization, fixation, and poisoned atmosphere, residents, businessmen, and most citizens live day-to-day in an era of perpetual fighting and opposition and a general inability to actually govern the colony and its communities. In the end, that is why the Board of Trade never pressed the point–they viewed the place as ungovernable and wanted as little to do with its governance, preferring to leave it to the Penns to muddle their way through. Had anything changed since the 1685-1710 time of chaos?
There is a point to this inserted commentary: what we see is the background for the famous Pennsylvania/Philadelphia Privatism. By 1747, frustrated with Pennsylvania’s inability to mobilize a militia to defend itself from foreign attack, a responsible and well-respected private businessmen took the lead, and on his own dime, wrote an article that presented a framework for Proprietary and Quakers to come to an agreement to organize/fund a militia. Not the first time he had engaged in public action as a private businessman, it was destined to be among the last. Benjamin Franklin, now a retired businessman (not really), inventor, scientist, Enlightenment rationalist had been drawn in to Pennsylvania politics to get something that needed to be done, done. What we will see as Franklin begins his political career is the personification of Pennsylvania Privatism as a derivative of the fragmented and ill-governed Pennsylvania policy system.
Urging the various groupings, including the Germans and Scots-Irish, Franklin’s “blog” presented his case for a militia that allowed Quakers enough wiggle room to support some action for a militia. In the end the businessman paid a goodly amount of his own funds, and conducted a public lottery to arm and provide ammunition to defend the port–and to recruit militia to man the forts. He came under some attack from Thomas Penn for his efforts, and the Proprietary never was completely on board with his militia project–largely because it distrusted the businessman, and feared he would in short order turn his attention away from foreign invaders to fight the Proprietary. Both Allen and eventually Thomas Penn came to see in this upstart a rival and an activist who would challenge their Proprietary. That in a time for foreign attack, these motivations prevailed over working with Franklin to defend the colony is testimony to the rather complex and often contradictory governance of the Proprietary.  For a more detailed description of Franklin’s actions, a brief and interesting summary can be found in Theodore Thayer, Pennsylvania Politics and the Growth of Democracy, 1740-1776, pp. 20-4. From this context, Benjamin Franklin in the late forties evolved into a political activist and in 1751 was first elected to the General Assembly–as an anti-Proprietary Quaker Party endorsed candidate.
Take a Step Back 2– The Quaker Party successfully resisted the Proprietary attack by holding tight to the loyalty of incremental numbers of Germans as voters and “election day mercenaries”. As we shall soon see this increasing reliance of the Quaker Party on Germans will cause some unease within elements of its coalition (Franklin, the most obvious), but if the Germans provided the “muscle”, and a solid cohesive base the lesson of its increasing power was likely felt by the Germans themselves, and by Quakers who saw in German unwillingness to enter into a war absent anything short of direct invasion as akin to their Quaker pacifism.
While Anglicans perceived German intransigence as disloyalty and secular Quakers as a lack of pragmatism, the congruence with Quaker values and priorities did not go unnoticed-amid both populations. They shared values that clearly marked each as not prone to war, unwilling to pay for war through taxes, and reluctant in the extreme to go to war as individuals. Theirs was a common bond of primary concern for the individual, his/her inner light to relationship with God, family and friends, his material well-being and economic success, and perhaps most of all to his home, the geographic and physical manifestation of core concern. There was little need to conquer the world, not make it safe, to demonstrate to all the sanctity, the exceptionalism of what they were creating in America. There was little desire for internationalist involvement, at least so long as the international environment kept its distance from the home and community, or interfered with attainment of economic and personal aspirations. True the German most likely lacked the theological-moral concerns of the Quaker, but they arrived at the same place politically. In this decade of ill-governance, one can see that one culture’s ill-governance is another’s proper governance and Quakers and Germans stood on the same side.
There is no need to trace this common position and value preferences (domestic focus not international, decidedly not war-prone, and not especially messianic) from the writings of great philosophers, or the urgings of political ideologies, this shared cultural strand was but the simple preference, the logical conclusion of the aggregation of their shared primary motivations and goals. As the Quakers were reluctant to advertise their personal wealth for fear to make them captive to wealth and a visible celebration of it that contrasted with their devotion to what counted, a relationship to God, or for the German to home, family, local community, and one’s personal inner lights. Play-by-the rules, live as an individual among many, an Average Joe, a term that was not one of disrespect, but an acknowledgement of a higher Being or set of values–a commitment to the preservation of one’s core values and meaning to life.
Keep all this in the back of your mind reader. It shall return as part of the Midlands political culture. A culture, which I repeat, is present today and in great numbers. Also, keep in mind today, one does not need to have Quaker or German DNA to be a member of that culture; it is a set of attitudes, values, life preferences, beliefs, and expectations that in our modern society has pretty much delinked itself from religion, ethnicity–but not necessarily from class or geography.
Take a Step Back 3– From the German perspective, Pennsylvania politics of this decade suggest a dynamic that may be common to all large-scale immigrant migrations. Newly-arrived immigrant populations and their communities take time to “jell”–to develop capacity (leadership, identity, and geographic coherence), increase population to achieve political-economic scale, and to develop resources (wealth, skills, and access to political institutions and structures), and to form an elite. To me, this is what is going on within the German community during the 1720’s, 1730’s and in the 1740’s. It was the 1750’s that the German community formed, achieved sufficient capacity and resources, and developed its elite willing to assert itself to the larger society and polity. That time lag, so necessary, to develop an identity, culture and leadership, was over by the 1750’s. It all came together to pursue a shared need, predictably Maslowian. Having sufficiently satisfied the “physiological” daily needs of life, “safety” needs came next, and then “belongingness and love”. The latter two will join with the physiological as the German community came together to demand reforms of indenture and immigration processes.
Pennsylvania’s ED War-Related Monetary Institutionalization Wreaks Havoc and Paralysis
Passing the Baton to the 1750’s
If the Penn Executive Branch were divided into a colony-wide and local government competing structures, the Provincial Council the colony-wide Proprietary cabinet created an image, and occasional source of strength to buttress the Proprietorship in its struggle with the Legislature. Likewise the Judiciary had been captured by the Assembly at the colony-level, but justices of the peace (the county court-semi-legislature) coexisted on the lower. The thriving city of Philadelphia had been carved out of Philadelphia County, set up in an independent Municipal Corporation, that as the years went by evolved, if that was the word, into a social and political system of Philadelphia Quaker elites and their dynastic families.
The Assembly on the other hand centralized its power in the hands of a powerful speaker (somewhat unique in the colonies), and its own cabinet-committee oligarchy, almost totally dominated by Quakers, which by 1740 swam in a sea of Anglicans, Episcopalians, Germans, Scots-Irish and a host of other ethnic voters. By 1740, Quakers were fast becoming a minority in their own colony–they were already a minority in Philadelphia–and in that year and the decade after War and division fractured the Quakers religiously, and secularized many so that the latter physically dominated the Legislature when combined with a separate set of religious groups such as Anglicans and Presbyterians that were brokered into a coalition by the Speaker to challenge the Proprietorship. The politics of war put on the final touches as by the end of the decade, private leaders, Benjamin Franklin being the most charismatic and impactful, arrived just in time to reestablish some order, but probably not coherence or government capacity. Policy-wise little sustained coherence existed and issue-by-issue policy-making polarized, factionalized, fragmented, only to come together for a fleeting moment in compromise, that seldom was able to be subsequently implemented as policy.
When the Pennsylvania [General] Assembly convened for the first time in 1682, it operated as a unicameral legislature… No provision had been made [in the Penn Frames] for choosing Provincial Council members [the Cabinet of the Penn executive branch]. The initial session [of the Legislature (1683)] was somewhat a harbinger of the position the Assembly would occupy after 1701 when it began to carry the full load of legislative responsibility [i.e. in the first session the Assembly rejected Penn’s first Frame of Government]. [The Legislature’s] accumulation of power was a slow but steady encroachment, first upon the Provincial Council [Executive Branch], and then after the [1701 final Frame] the Charter of Privileges, upon the Proprietor and his deputy [Governor]. [The] gradual absorption of both legislative and executive prerogatives [the legislature created a rival competing set of local governments] by the People in their Assembly was a fitting counterpart to the liberal and benevolent spirit which Penn had breathed into his Colony. The political scientist may look askance upon his colonial union of executive and legislative functions, but as long as the Proprietorship existed it was the only way the freemen [voters] could control the political system under which they were governed. In spite of a weak Governor and an [largely] absent Proprietor, the Assembly afforded the people of the Quaker province a free and liberal government by the middle of the eighteenth century  Chester Raymond Young, “the Evolution of the Pennsylvania Assembly, 1682-1748” (Pennsylvania History, Vol 35, No 2, April, 1968). p. 168