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Pennsylvania - Introduction

William Penn's Treaty with the Indians

Perhaps no other colony started with more potential for inter-cultural harmony than Pennsylvania in 1681. "When the Great God brings me among you, I intend to order all things in such manner, that we may all live in Love and peace one with another," wrote William Penn, even before setting foot in America.

And, again, yet another Penn pledge of brotherhood: "There is one great God and power that hath made the world and all things therein, to whom you and I, and all people owe their being and well-being, and to whom you and I must one day give an account for all that we do in the world; this great God hath written his law in our hearts, by which we are taught and commanded to love and help, and do good to one another, and not to do harm and mischief one to another. Now this great God hath been pleased to make me concerned in your parts of the world, and the king of the country where I live hath given me a great province, but I desire to enjoy it with your love and consent, that we may always live together as neighbors and friends, else what would the great God say to us, who hath made us not to devour and destroy one another, but live soberly and kindly together in the world?"

Love and peace. Love and help. Love and consent. Love. A love powerfully visualized in American consciousness by the seductive tranquility of Benjamin West's William Penn's Treaty with the Indians and Edward Hicks' Peaceable Kingdom.

But in the generation after Penn there is the 1737 legal violence and treaty mockery of the "Walking Purchase" that Elsie Hamel calls "a duplicitous swindle" as she kicks off this section of our Literature of Justification project. And in 1763 the murder and mutilation of twenty peaceful Conestoga men, women, and children by the "Paxton Boys," as well as the popular sympathy and support for their actions, signals the complete disintegration of the Founder's noble ideal. As Benjamin Franklin would say, "the Spirit of killing all Indians, Friends and Foes, [has] spread amazingly thro' the whole Country."

We hope that other students and faculty, even beyond Lehigh University, will build on this work that Hamel completed in spring 2004, so we welcome suggestions, corrections, questions, and, especially, appropriate contributions of all types from bibliographical entries through full essays.

Contact Professor Edward J. Gallagher, Department of English, Lehigh University via e-mail at