Colonial Times

More than half of American history took place before 1776, but after 1492. For Philadelphia, Colonial history lasted about a century.

When William Penn landed in 1683, he found about 900 white people already living here. That's quite a little town, mostly composed of Swedes and Dutch. The British monarchy had already taken care of the political problems, relieving the pacifist Quaker settlers from the awkwardness of military disputes.

Problems with the Indians were greatly eased by finding the rather un-warlike tribe of Lenni Lanapi inhabiting the region, fitting right in with the determination of Penn to treat the Indians fairly. The swampy region between the Delaware and Hudson Rivers had a lot to do with making English settlement come fifty to eighty years later than to the rest of the Atlantic coast. Penn had time to consider the mistakes of the earlier settlers, the vast abundance of wilderness land to share, and the folly of imposing culture and religion on primitive people against their wishes, which proprietors in neighboring colonies had discovered to their cost. Furthermore, land was cheap and Penn had rather deep pockets. He had bought the land from the King of England, but he bought it a second time from the Indians, sometimes a third or fourth time.

He gave strict orders to his agents that no white settlement would be permitted on land which had an unclear title from the Indians. He eventually had more problems with the eager white settlers about this policy than he had with the Indians.