Beyond Philadelphia? The American Revolution in the Pennsylvania Hinterland

By John B. Frantz; William Pencak | Go to book overview

Introduction: Pennsylvania and Its Three Revolutions

John B. Frantz William Pencak

Much has been written about the Revolution in, but not much of the literature deals with the hinterland. Instead, most historians have directed their attention to Philadelphia.1 Perhaps this is understandable. The city was the largest in British North America, and the colony's capital. Its attorneys, merchants, and artisans were active in the protests that became the revolt against British. rule. It was in Philadelphia that the Continental Congresses met, and there that the delegates declared independence. Nevertheless, only a fraction of the colony's inhabitants lived in the City.2 The vast majority lived in the hinterland. If the story of the Revolution in Pennsylvania is to have any claim to comprehensiveness, it must include more about what happened outside Philadelphia than heretofore has been available.

From the time William Penn founded Pennsylvania in 1681, to the outbreak of hostilities in 1775, the colony had a lively history. Its location between older settlements to the north, specifically New York, and to the south, Maryland and Virginia, combined with a deepwater port on the Delaware Bay, made it a center of trade. West of the Delaware River, its eastern border, lay fertile soils that were heavily forested on the surface with limestone, iron ore, and other resources beneath, which could sustain agriculture and suggest manufacturing.

The area that became Pennsylvania was sparsely populated when William Penn Jr. first visited this land in 1682. The exact number of Native American

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