Philadelphia Reflections

The musings of a physician who has served the community for over six decades

Related Topics

Delaware (State of)
DelawareOriginally the "lower counties" of Pennsylvania, and thus one of three Quaker colonies founded by William Penn, Delaware has developed its own set of traditions and history.

Charter of Pennsylvania, from Charles II to William Penn
William Penn suggested what he wanted, and the Royal bureaucracy suggested suitable modifications of the gift. The resulting charter is a shrewd and fair legal document, but contained a major geographical error.

Chester County, Pennsylvania
Chester was an original county of Pennsylvania, one of the largest until Dauphin, Lancaster and Delaware counties were split off. Because the boundaries mainly did not follow rivers or other natural dividers, translating verbal boundaries into actual lines was highly contentious.

Boundaries of the Grant of Pennsylvania

King Charles II

In consideration thereof of our special grace, certaine knowledge, and meere motion, have given and granted, and by this our present Charter for us, our heires and successors, doe give and grant unto the said William Penn, his heires and Assignes:

All that Tract or part of Land in America with all the Islands therein contained, as the same is bounded:

on the East by Delaware River, from Twelve miles distance Northwards of Newcastle Towne unto the Three and Fortieth degree of Northern Latitude, If the said River doth extend so far northwards. But if the said River shall not extend so far northward, then by the said River so far as it doth extend, and from the Head of the said River the Eastern-bounds are to be determined by a Meridian Line to bee drawne from the head of the said River unto the said Three and Fortieth degree;

The said Lands {to} extend westward Five degrees in longi­tude to be computed from the said Eastern bounds,

and the said Lands to be bounded on the north by the beginning of the Three and Fortieth degree of northerne Latitude,
William Penn

and on the South by a Circle drawne of {at} 12 miles distance from Newcastle, northwards and westwards unto the begining of the Fortieth degree of northerne Latitude, and then by a streight line westwards to the limit of Longitude above mentioned.

Note: The 40th parallel crosses the Delaware River at roughly the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge, approximately fifty miles north of New Castle. This southern bound is thus geographically impossible, and tangled bitter lawsuits between Penn and Lord Baltimore, the Proprietor of Maryland. Penn won the lawsuit for many reasons, but the Charter's statement of the southern border inevitably had to be modified by some non-geometric method.

With gratitude to the editors, Richard and Mary Dunn, from The Papers of William Penn, Volume Two, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1982. Underlining added.


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