Liberal Arts Blog — Pennsylvania (Part One): Geography, William Penn (1644–1718), Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790)

John Muresianu
7 min readDec 3, 2023

Liberal Arts Blog — Sunday is the Joy of Humor, Food, Travel, Practical Life Tips, and Random Stuff Day

Today’s Topic: Pennsylvania (Part One): Geography, William Penn (1644–1718), Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790)

What should every thinking citizen know about Pennsylvania? About its geography? history? Have you ever lived there? What are the three most fascinating facts you would like to share with the rest of us about this history-rich state?

This is the eighteenth post in a zigzagging cross-country tour of the United States. So far we’ve been to Biloxi, Mississippi,, Mobile, Alabama, Asheville, North Carolina. We’ve been to Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Arizona, New Mexico. Most recently we’ve been to Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. Today, the state whose motto is “Virtue, Liberty, and Independence.”

Today, we start with a little geography and a little history. Are there two more intriguing figures in the history of the United States than William Penn and Benjamin Franklin? Washington and Lincoln? Tough call. What are the lessons of their lives? What are the chapters most worth remembering?

Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.

THREE RIVER SYSTEMS (Susquehanna, Ohio, Delaware), THE ALLEGHENIES AND THE POCONOS, NO ATLANTIC COASTLINE (just the Delaware estuary)

1. Only One of the Original Thirteen Colonies Not to Have an Atlantic Coastline. It is the one fo the 27 landlocked states that is closest to an ocean. “Pennsylvania only has 140 miles of waterfront along Lake Erie and the Delaware Rivers.

2. “Pennsylvania has the most navigable rivers of any state including the Allegheny, Delaware, Genesee, Ohio, Schuykill, Susquehanna, and others.”

3. The Allegheny Mountains (part of the Appalachians) divide the state with Pittsurgh to the West and Harrisburg Allentown, and Philadelphia to the East. In the northeast corner lie the Poconos (technically not mountains but subsection of the Allegheny Plateau) and Scranton (actually 120 miles northwest of New York City).

NB: 60% of the state is forested. Technically, it has a border with Canada on Lake Erie. It is roughly 310 miles east to west and 180 miles north to south. Its southern border is part of the historic “Mason Dixon LIne.”

QUAKERS: WILLIAM PENN (1644–1718), RELATIVE RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE, RELATIVE PEACE WITH NATIVE AMERICANS, COMMERCIAL ACUMEN (below Benjamin West painting of the treaty betweeen William Penn and the Lenape)

1.”William Penn believed strongly that Indians should be treated fairly. He traveled to the interior of the colony and befriended different Native American tribes.”

2. “He insisted that the Native Americans be paid a fair price for any land that was purchased from them.”

3.”If there was a dispute between the Native Americans and the settlers, he insisted that a committee of equal number of Native Americans and settlers resolve the dispute.”

NB: Above, painting of William Penn, aged 22.In 1681, King Charles II granted a large piece of his North American land holdings along the North Atlantic Ocean coast to Penn to offset debts he owed Penn’s father, the admiral and politician Sir William Penn. Penn’s story is worth checking out. He was an eccentric visionary jailed four times for his beliefs who serendipitously and most improbably became the largest private (non-royal) landowner in the world! You can’t make this stuff up! See fifth link below.

“Penn’s first of many pamphlets, Truth Exalted: To Princes, Priests, and People (1668), was a criticism of all religious groups, except Quakers, which he perceived as the only true Christian group living at that time in England. He branded the Catholic Church as “the Whore of Babylon,” defied the Church of England, and called the Puritans “hypocrites and revellers in God.” He lambasted all “false prophets, tithe mongers, and opposers of perfection.”

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN — GOVERNOR OF PENNSYLVANIA FROM 1785 TO 1788 (AMONG A FEW OTHER THINGS)

1. Born in Boston and with little formal education he fled to Philadelphia at age 17 “seeking a new start in a new city.”

2. “In 1727, at age 21, Franklin formed the Junto, a group of “like minded aspiring artisans and tradesmen who hoped to improve themselves while they improved their community”.

3. “The Junto was a discussion group for issues of the day; it subsequently gave rise to many organisations in Philadelphia. The Junto was modeled after English

coffeehouses that Franklin knew well and which had become the center of the spread of Enlightenment ideas in Britain.”

NB: Out of the Junto would come a long litany of firsts for the American colonies: from the first hospital to the first fire department to the first library. Not to mention the University of Pennsylvania.

Franklin was a titan in the history of humanity — as a writer (The Autobiography and Poor Richard’s Almanack), as a scientist (eg. electricity), and as a statesman (without whom no French alliance, no victory at Yorktown, no USA, easily as indispensable as George Washington). Wow!

FOOTNOTE — A Random Encounter With A Tourist From York, Pennsylvania

1. This post was inspired by a random encounter with a tourist from York, Pennsylvania who informed me that York was once the capital of the United States. What!!! Are you kidding me? No, apparently not. Specifically, it served as “the temporary basis of the Continental Congress from September 30, 1977 to June 27, 1778.

2. “York styles itself the first Capital of the United States, although historians generally consider it to be the fourth capital, after Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Lancaster (for one day). “

3. “The claim arises from the assertion that the Articles of Confederation was the first legal document to refer to the colonies as “the United States of America”. The argument depends on whether the Declaration of Independence would be considered a true legal document of the United States, being drafted under and in opposition to British rule.

NB: “This does not, however, prevent modern businesses and organisations in the York area from using the name, such as the First Capital Dispensing Co., First Capital Engineering and First Capital Federal Credit Union.”

See the last link below for the nine federal capitals of the United States, falling into three categories: Second Continental Congress, Congress of the Confederation, and US Congress. The penultimate link traces the history of the “York Peppermint Pattie” which may have brought you much joy over the years. Another reason to remember York, Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania — Wikipedia

Geography of Pennsylvania — Wikipedia

Allegheny Mountains — Wikipedia

Mason–Dixon line — Wikipedia

William Penn — Wikipedia

Today in History — October 14

Holy Experiment — Wikipedia

Benjamin Franklin | Biography, Inventions, Books, American Revolution, & Facts

Benjamin Franklin — Wikipedia

Junto (club) — Wikipedia

Benjamin West, “Penn’s Treaty with the Indians” (1771–1772) | PAFA — Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

List of Pennsylvania firsts — Wikipedia

York Peppermint Pattie — Wikipedia

List of capitals in the United States — Wikipedia

QUOTE OF THE MONTH

“Make your own Bible. Select and collect all the words and sentences that in all your readings have been to you like the blast of a trumpet.”

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

My spin — then periodically review, re-rank, and exchange your list with those you love. I call this the “Orion Exchange” because seven is about as many as any human can digest at a time. Game?

LAST FOUR YEARS OF POSTS ORGANIZED THEMATICALLY:

PDF with headlines — Google Drive

ATTACHMENTS BELOW:

#1 A graphic guide to justice (9 metaphors on one page).

#2 “39 Songs, Prayers, and Poems: the Keys to the Hearts of Seven Billion People” — Adams House Senior Common Room Presentation, (11/17/20)

#3 Israel-Palestine Handout

NB: Palestine Orion (Decision) — let’s exchange Orions, let’s find Rumi’s field (“Beyond all ideas of right and wrong, there is a field. Meet me there” Rumi, 13 century Persian Sufi mystic)

YOUR TURN

Anything miscellaneous to share? Best trip you ever took in your life? Practical life tips? Random facts? Jokes?

Or, what is the best cartoon you have seen lately? or in the last 10 years? or the last 50?

Or what is your favourite holiday food? Main course? Dessert? Fondest food memories? Favourite foods to eat or prepare?

This is your chance to make someone else’s day. Or to cement in your mind a memory that might otherwise disappear. Or to think more deeply about something dear to your heart. Continuity is key to depth of thought.

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John Muresianu

Passionate about education, thinking citizenship, art, and passing bits on of wisdom of a long lifetime.