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Pennsylvania and Delaware

After the Catholics lost control of England during the reign of Henry VIII, many different ideas of religion sprang up. Among the groups that tried to discern the word of God were the Quakers. They called themselves the Religious Society of Friends, but everybody else called them Quakers because they allegedly became so full of the Holy Spirit that they quaked. Quakers had no mandatory beliefs and no preachers; they took turns speaking in their Sunday meetings when the spirit moved them. They refused to fight or join the military and tried to live peaceful lives.

This behavior made everybody hate them. William Penn, a serious-minded English boy from a family with money, decided to become a Quaker and worked to get a colony where Quakers could live in peace. Surprisingly, King Charles II owed Penn's father some money, so he gave William a choice piece of land that the king called Pennsylvania (1681). Thinking the name too egotistical, Penn tried to change it but eventually settled down to work on attracting good settlers. He carefully laid out Philadelphia, "the city of brotherly love," which quickly became the largest and most beautiful city in the colonies.

The Pennsylvania government was fair, with freedom of religion, no church tax, and a representative legislature elected by all male landowners. The death penalty was levied only for treason or murder; by comparison, more than 200 offenses could result in beheading in England at the time. Within 19 years of its founding, Pennsylvania was the third-richest colony in British America. The Quakers treated the American Indians so fairly that some tribes from the South tried to move to the colony.

Pennsylvania had only a minority of Quakers, however, and trouble soon began.

After the English ousted the Dutch from New York, the future Delaware became the Lower Counties of Pennsylvania and became independent in time to be the first state to ratify the Constitution after the Revolution.

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