When people think of Philadelphia, images of Independence Hall, the drafting of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, come to mind. Philadelphia is the largest city in Pennsylvania and for most of the 18th Century the third largest city in the British Empire. At the time of the American Revolution, it was clearly the most cosmopolitan, the largest, the most diverse, and in many ways the most important city in America with a popluation of over 30000 and extensive trade and manufacturing resources. In 1790, the city was chosen to be the temporary capital of the United States and while, the federal and state governments left in the early 1800’s, the city remained the cultural and financial center of the country.
First settled by the Swedes, who established a community at the mouth of the Schuykill, in 1643, Philadelphia is a master planned city based on a clear geometric grid pattern and founded on clear philosophical and democratic principles that predate the American Revolution. In 1y of 681, King Charles II gave William Penn a large piece of land in America to repay a debt the king owed to Admiral Sir William Penn, Penn’s father. This land included present-day Pennsylvania and Delaware, though a charter that was poorly written and would ultimately create a bloody conflict with Maryland (dubbed Cresap’s War) over land already granted to Lord Baltimore. Penn put together a colonial expedition and fleet, which set out for America in the middle of the following summer. Penn, sailing in the vanguard, first set foot on American soil at the colony at New Castle, Delaware. Afterwards, Penn journeyed up the river with a core group of accompanying Quakers and others seeking religious freedom. On lands he purchased from the Lenape or Delaware nations he founded Philadelphia.
Philadephia, the “City of Brotherly Love”, was founded on the guiding principle of tolerance towards all faiths. Philadelphia attracted people from all over Europe. Quakers, Jews, Muslims, and all manner of Protestant Christians could be found in Philadelphia by 1700 (although only those espousing the Christian faith could hold political office or be licensed in certain professions). The city soon developed a thriving trade with the West Indies and became the largest and most important city in the colonies. It is little surprise that the First and Second Continental Congress choose Philadelphia as the site for their proceedings catapulting our city into the role as “Cradle of Democracy.”