Run-Up to the Revolution: Philadelphia’s Response to the Taxation Crisis

Colonial America in the 18th century was a dynamic environment — constantly shifting, changing and growing as its population increased and governments and institutions developed to support it. More merchants progressively established shops in cities such as Philadelphia, Boston and New York, selling a dizzying array of necessities and luxury goods both domestic and imported. These goods,...
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Historian of Pennsylvania Exceptionalism: Samuel W. Pennypacker

Reflecting on “the play of forces” that propelled him to Pennsylvania’s governor’s office in 1903, Samuel Whitaker Pennypacker (1843–1916) confidently declared, “there is no such thing as an accident” (a notion popularized by Sigmund Freud, the founding father of psychoanalysis). This was not to say chance plays no part in history because he pronounced with equal certitude: “To every man certain...
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Clinton County: Still Part of Penn’s Woods

Clinton County, one of the sixth-class counties of Pennsyl­vania, occupies 900 square miles of river valley and mountain land near the geographical center of the state. Nearly two-thirds of the area re­mains forested, al though most of the trees are second growth after a near denuding of the land by a booming lumber industry in the second half of the last century. It was in the wood­lands of...
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Courting the Constitution

If the delegates to the Constitutional Convention were to awaken this sum­mer in Independence Hall from two centuries of sleep, they would undoubtedly enjoy an exciting session. George Washington as president of the convention, after persuading Ben Franklin to stop tinkering with his electric table light, would call the Convention to order. Upon learning that the government devised by them had...
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The Making of a Miracle

Early in 1788, George Washington wrote his friend the Marquis de Lafayette that there had been a “miracle” in Phila­delphia. Considering the many efforts and failures be­tween 1765 and 1787 to estab­lish an enduring form of government, first for individ­ual states and then for all­ – fundamental laws, orders of government, plans of union, resolutions, declarations,...
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Chronology of Events Relating to Pennsylvania During Year 1776

January 1776   1 Defeat of the American Assault on Quebec involves heavy losses of troops from Pennsylvania. 2 The Second Continental Congress, sitting in Philadelphia, pro­tests against brutality employed by the British Army in the war against the colonies. The Pennsylvania Committee of Safety, operating in Phila­delphia, begins to vote recommendations for officers to command the 4...
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The Consequences of the American Revolution in Pennsylvania

One of the more interesting and controversial aspects of the American Revolution concerns its consequen­ces upon colonial institutions and society in general. Was the society left almost unchanged by a movement fun­damentally conservative in its causes, or was it profoundly altered by a revolution radical in its results, if not in its origins? Specifically, what happened to the society of...
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“Prepare Thyself … to Meet the Lord Thy God!”: Religion in Pennsylvania During the Revolution

Religion in the colony of Pennsylvania was distinctive. In contrast to most areas of the western world, this province practiced freedom of religion. It never had an established church. Friends who controlled the first legislative assembly, meeting in Upland, now Chester, in 1682, specified that no one was “at any time [to] be com­pelled to frequent or Maintain anie religious worship, place...
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John Dickinson, Reluctant Revolutionist

Students of American history will recognize John Dickinson as the Pennsylvania delegate to the Continental Congress who had the temerity to speak against separation from Great Britain and the obstinacy to refuse to sign the Declaration of Independence. Paradoxically, Dickinson had been an early leader of the patriot cause in Pennsylvania, author of the “Farmers’ Letters”...
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A Quaker Testimony to the American Revolution

On a cool, pleasant early autumn morn­ing in the year 1834, John Price Wetherill made his way hastily down the vacant streets of Philadelphia towards the city’s western edge. Most of the respectable people were already seated in their churches, listening to the angelic sound of a choir or the piercing exhortation of a min­ister. Little did Wetherill care on this Sunday morning about...
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