Colonial Pennsylvania: A History

By Joseph E. Illick | Go to book overview

7
NEW SPROUTS: WESTERN SETTLEMENT, IMPERIAL WAR, AND THE GREAT AWAKENING

"He that hath a Trade hath an Estate," observed Poor Richard, summarizing in one pithy statement the ways to wealth in Pennsylvania: commerce and land. Their relative importance varied through time. The two activities were closely related and sometimes collided; Europeans and Indians traded with each other, but they could not share the soil. At the outset of colonization, William Penn established the policy of buying land from the aborigines. In order to underwrite the founding of the colony, he had to sell large chunks of property to wealthy Englishmen. Speculation in real estate was made difficult by the requirement that land had to be settled within three years of the purchase date. The land office, staffed by the secretary of the province, the surveyor general, and three to five commissioners of property, handled the sales of common lands. Usually the secretary issued a warrant of survey to the surveyor general, who would have the land laid out, after which both the warrant and the certificate of survey were registered in the secretary's office; then the purchase money would be paid and the patent, or land grant, would be issued, giving legal title to the settler and reserving the quitrent to the proprietor. (£5 per 100 acres, with one shilling annual quitrent, was the usual rate to 1713, after which it climbed to £10 and two shillings quitrent until 1732,

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