William Penn established Philadelphia in 1682 as the capital of his Province of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia is Latin for “brotherly love” and that is exactly what Penn wanted his colony to be about. Penn and his fellow Quakers believed that all humanity were brothers and sisters and should be treated as such. Penn wanted Philadelphia specifically and Pennsylvania in general to be open to and tolerant of people of different faiths, ideas, and backgrounds.
The openness of Philadelphia stood in direct contrast to Massachusetts which resisted any disagreements with the Puritan leadership. Though founded fifty years after Boston, Philadelphia surpassed it as the largest colonial city by the American Revolution and was the site of the creation of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, and served as the first capital of the United States. Philadelphia had among the earliest colonial hospital, library, and fire department, and a number of philosophical societies. Benjamin Franklin, the most famous Philadelphian, was instrumental in the founding of the previously mentioned institutions, and serves as a symbol of the intellectual, social, and political openness and tolerance that Philadelphia created. Centrally located between New England and New York to the North and Virginia to the South, Philadelphia served as a trading center and port on the Delaware River.
Perhaps the greatest example of the Quaker desire to treat all people with brotherly love is Pennsylvania’s policy with the Indians. William Penn believed that the Indians were the rightful owners of the New World, and deserved be treated fairly in land deals. According to legend, Penn and Chief Tamanend or Tammany of the Lenni-Lenape or Delaware Indians negotiated a treaty in the village of Shackamaxon. This led to one hundred years of the most peaceful though not perfect relations between English Colonists and their Indian neighbors.
Editors Note: Travis Childs is a history instructor at Cameron University in Lawton, Okla. He is a graduate of Midway High School and lives in Bluegrove. He is currently president of the Clay County Historical Society.