Benjamin Franklin, the First Civilized American

By Phillips Russell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V The New Home

I

IT is forty years after the landing of William Penn. Strong colonies founded by English Quakers and Welsh and Irish farmers line the banks of the Delaware from the falls of Trenton to Chester. Frugal and hard-working Germans have given their village on the Wissahickon the name of Germantown. Philadelphia is a market town of 5,000 people, surrounded by thick forests of hardwoods sheltering bear, deer, Indians, and an abundance of other wild game.

The Pennsylvanians have thrived since the beginning. Their community life is not rent by religious factionalism as in Boston, but they have an internal quarrel sufficiently troublesome. It is between the land-owning class and the common people. The former consists of the Proprietaries, who originally acquired title to tracts in the vast area of land granted to Penn by Charles II, lying between the possessions of the Duke of York, in New Jersey, and those of Lord Baltimore in Maryland. The Proprietaries occasionally are disturbed in their serene enjoyment of ownership by threats of taxation. They cannot bear the idea. They become clamorous and abusive. They fence themselves in. This fence has created a line of division between two opposing forces. Every newcomer, as soon as he acquires an influence, however small, is compelled to take one side or the other. He must "line up." The freshly arrived immigrant from Boston, capital one dollar, is only a journeyman

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