PennsylvaniaVirtue, Liberty, and Independence


Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania,
      Blessed by God's own hand,
            Birthplace of a mighty nation,
                  Keystone of the land.  
From Pennsylvania by Eddie Khoury

George Clymer
Ben Franklin
Robert Morris
John Morton
George Ross
Benjamin Rush
James Smith
George Taylor
James Wilson
Farewell Address

Pennsylvania, 1776, Preamble

 We, the people of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of civil and religious liberty, and humbly invoking His guidance, do ordain and establish this Constitution.

 And I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts.

Psalms 119:45

Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us.  Benjamin Rush


The Religious Society of Friends         WILLIAM PENN CHAPTER of DAR is in Glenside, PA

        The state of Pennsylvania was founded by William Penn as a safe place for Quakers to live and practice their faith.  Quakers, influential in the history of the world, moved to abolish slavery, acknowledge the equal rights of women, and end warfare. They have also promoted education and the humane treatment of prisoners and the mentally ill through the founding or reforming of various institutions.  Wikipedia

        Some Quakers were conscientiously convinced that they could, despite the Friends' peace testimony, take up arms against the British during the revolutionary war. Calling themselves "Free Quakers," they organized in Philadelphia.  However, the majority of Quakers adhered to the denomination's traditional position of pacifism and disowned their "belligerent brethren." To those of our Brethren who have disowned us.  Broadside, July 9, 1781  Manuscript Division, Library of Congress

            After William Penn obtained a charter for the province of Pennsylvania, he and religious liberty attracted about 8,000 Quakers to the area by 1685. 

Penn's Frame of Government

In his charter of religious liberty, Penn pledged that all citizens who believed in "One Almighty and eternal God . . . shall in no wayes be molested or prejudiced for their Religious Perswasion or Practice in matters of Faith and Worship, nor shall they be compelled at any time to frequent or maintain any Religious Worship, Place or Ministry whatever." Pennsylvania became a reference point a century later for Americans opposing plans for government-supported religion. "Witness the state of Pennsylvania," a group of Virginians urged its House of Delegates in 1785, "wherein no such [religious] Establishment hath taken place; their Government stands firm and which of the neighbouring States has Members of brighter Morals and more upright Characters."

The Frame of the Government of the Province of Pennsilvania in America, 1682

William Penn   England: William Bradford, before 1689   Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress




The only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be laid in religion.   Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty.

Benjamin Rush

  A Bible and a newspaper in every house, a good school in every district--all studied and appreciated as they merit--are the principal support of virtue, morality, and civil liberty.  

Benjamin Franklin


Institutions of Higher Learning

1755  Chartering of College of Philadelphia [subsequently the University of Pennsylvania] by civic leaders seeking a non-denominational college.      "America's first University"

Pennsylvania, University of:  One of the first colonial colleges, opened in 1751.  The concept which formed its beginnings was presented by Benjamin Franklin in his pamphlet Proposals for the Education of Youth in Pensilvania.

    The school was different from other colonial colleges in that it would not focus on education for the clergy.  Its purpose would be to prepare students for their careers in business and public service, which would include "the excellency of the Christian religion above all others, ancient or modern."             

"Recognized as America's first university, Penn remains today a world-renowned center for the creation and dissemination of knowledge. It serves as a model for research colleges and universities throughout the world."
For additional information on Penn's heritage visit University Archives.      Copyright 2003, University of Pennsylvania  3451 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104


Let the children who are sent to those schools be taught to read and write and above all, let both sexes be carefully instructed in the principles and obligations of the Christian religion. This is the most essential part of education. 

Benjamin Rush, "To the citizens of Philadelphia: A Plan for Free Schools," 1787


1783  Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, was named to honor John Dickinson.

    Dickinson College:  The College began as a grammar school in 1773 in Carlisle.  Dr. Benjamin Rush persuaded board members that they needed a college in its place. In 1783, just six days after England signed the Treaty of Paris, the charter for a college was granted to make Dickinson the first college chartered in the newly independent nation.  The charter, drafted by James Wilson and Benjamin Rush, granted the institution authority to award degrees.

Excerpts from:  Charter of Dickinson College, 1783 (somewhat modernized)
An Act for the Establishment of a College at the Borough of Carlisle, in the County of Cumberland, in the State of Pennsylvania.

Sect. 1  Whereas the happiness and prosperity of every Community (under the direction and government of divine providence) depends much on the right education of the Youth who must succeed the Aged in the important offices of Society, and the most exalted Nations have acquired their pre-eminence by the virtuous principles and liberal knowledge instilled into the minds of the rising generation:
Sect. 2  And whereas, after a long and bloody contest with a great and powerful Kingdom, it has pleased Almighty God to restore to the United States of America the blessings of a general peace, whereby the good people of this State, relieved from the burthens of war, are placed in a condition to attend to useful arts, Sciences, and Literature, and it is the evident duty and interest of all ranks of people to promote and encourage, as much as in them lies, every attempt to disseminate and promote the growth of useful knowledge: ......
.....9 Persons of every religious denomination among Christians shall be capable of being elected trustees; nor shall any person, either as principal, professor or pupil, be refused admittance for his conscientious persuasion in matters of religion; provided he shall demean himself in a sober, orderly manner, and conform to the rules and regulations of the College.
10 As it has been found by experience that those persons separated from the busy scenes of life, that they may with more attention study the grounds of the Christian religion, and minister it to the people, are in general zealous promoters of the education of Youth, and cheerfully give up their time and attention to objects of this kind; therefore whenever a vacancy shall happen by the want of qualification, resignation or decease of any Clergy man hereby appointed a trustee, such vacancy shall be filled by the choice of another Clergy man of any Christian denomination, and so toties quoties such vacancy shall happen, whereby the number of Clergy men hereby appointed trustees shall never be lessened.........
Signed by order of the house,

Frederic A. Muhlenberg, Speaker.
Enacted into a law, at Philadelphia, on Thursday, the ninth day of September, in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred eighty-three.
Peter Z. Lloyd, clerk of the general Assembly.    

Liberty Song  by John Dickinson

Come, join hand in hand, brave Americans all,
And rouse your bold hearts at fair Liberty's call;
No tyrannous acts shall suppress your just claim,
Or stain with dishonor America's name.

In Freedom we're born and in Freedom we'll live.
Our purses are ready. Steady, friends, steady;
Not as slaves, but as Freemen our money we'll give.

Our worthy forefathers, let's give them a cheer,
To climates unknown did courageously steer;
Thro' oceans to deserts for Freedom they came,
And dying, bequeath'd us their freedom and fame.

The tree their own hands had to Liberty rear'd,
They lived to behold growing strong and revered;
With transport they cried, Now our wishes we gain,
For our children shall gather the fruits of our pain.

Then join hand in hand, brave Americans all,
By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall;
In so righteous a cause let us hope to succeed,
For heaven approves of each generous deed.

All ages shall speak with amaze and applause,
Of the courage we'll show in support of our laws;
To die we can bear - but to serve we disdain,
For shame is to freedom more dreadful than pain.

This bumper I crown for our Sovereign's health
And this for Britannia's glory and wealth;
That wealth and that glory immortal may be,
If she is but just - and if we are but Free.

In Freedom we're born and in Freedom we'll live.
Our purses are ready. Steady, friends, steady;
Not as slaves, but as Freemen our money we'll give


Benjamin Rush to John Armstrong   March 1783Letters 1:294--95     Re:  College at Carlisle

        The early respect I was taught to entertain for your character, and the agreeable connection we once had together, are the only apologies I shall offer for opening a correspondence with you upon the subject of a college at Carlisle.

        I am no stranger to the opposition that has been excited against the scheme in your county by some gentlemen in this city, nor am I unacquainted with the very illiberal reflections that have been thrown upon me for favoring the design by two of those gentlemen. I have nothing to say against them by way of retaliation. The only design of this letter is to explain more fully to you the advantages to be derived to the state at large and the Presbyterian society in particular from a nursery of religion and learning on the west side of the river Susquehannah.

        The manner in which the Presbyterians seized their present share of power in the University of Philadelphia has given such general offense that there is little doubt of an attempt being made in the course of a few years to restore it to its original owners. The old trustees say that the present charter is contrary to the Constitution of the state and to every principle of justice, and I find a great many of the most respectable members of the Assembly are of the same opinion, among whom is the Reverend Mr. Joseph Montgomery.

        But supposing the present trustees held the University by the most equitable and constitutional tenure, it cannot be viewed as a nursery for the Presbyterian Church. Only 11 out of 24 of the present trustees are Presbyterians. Dr. Ewing was elected by a majority of a single vote. He will probably be the last Presbyterian clergyman that ever will be placed at the head of that institution, should it even continue upon its present footing. From its extreme catholicism, I am sorry to say that, as no one religion prevails, so no religious principles are inculcated in it. The fault here is only in the charter, for all the teachers I believe are friends to Christianity and men of pious and moral characters.

        Religion is best supported under the patronage of particular societies. Instead of encouraging bigotry, I believe it prevents it by removing young men from those opportunities of controversy which a variety of sects mixed together are apt to create and which are the certain fuel of bigotry. Religion is necessary to correct the effects of learning. Without religion I believe learning does real mischief to the morals and principles of mankind; a mode of worship is necessary to support religion; and education is the surest way of producing a preference and constant attachment to a mode of worship. Religion could not long be maintained in the world without forms and the distinctions of sects. The weaknesses of human nature require them. The distinction of sects is as necessary in the Christian Church towards the perfection and government of the whole as regiments and brigades are in an army. Some people talk loudly of the increase of liberality of sentiment upon religious subjects since the war, but I suspect that this boasted catholicism arises chiefly from an indifference acquired since the war to religion itself.  We only change the names of our vices and follies in different periods of time. Religious bigotry has yielded to political intolerance. The man who used to hate his neighbor for being a Churchman or a Quaker now hates him with equal cordiality for being a tory. Colleges are the best schools for [divinity. But divinity] cannot be taught without a system, and this system must partake of the doctrines of some one sect of Christians--hence the necessity of the College being in the hands of some one religious society. The universities of England, Scotland, and Ireland, and I believe of every other kingdom in Europe are in the hands of particular societies, and it is from this circumstance they have become the bulwarks of the Christian religion throughout the world.

        The expense of an education in Philadelphia alone, exclusive of the influence of a large city upon the morals of youth, is sufficient to deter the farmers from sending their sons to the University of Philadelphia. The distance of the College of New Jersey from the western counties of this state makes the difference of one fifth of the expense in the education of a young man in traveling twice a year backwards and forwards to and from his father's house.

        It has long been a subject of complaint among us that the principal part of the emigrants from Pennsylvania into new countries were Presbyterians. This has greatly reduced our numbers and influence in government. It is I believe pretty certain that we do not now compose more than one fourth or fifth part of the inhabitants of the state. A college at Carlisle, by diffusing the light of science and religion more generally through our society, may check this spirit of emigration among them. It may teach them to prefer civil, social, and religious advantages, with a small farm and old land, to the loss of them all with extensive tracts of woods and a more fertile soil.

    See: Letters of Benjamin Rush. Edited by L. H. Butterfield. Memoirs of the American Philosophical Society, vol. 30. Princeton: Princeton University Press for the American Philosophical Society, 1951.


From early governing documents:


  "Section. 2. That all men have a natural and unalienable right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their Own consciences and understanding: And that no man ought or of right can be compelled to attend any religious worship, or erect or support any place of worship, or maintain any ministry, contrary to, or against, his own free will and consent: nor can any man, who acknowledges the being of a God, be justly deprived or abridged of any civil right as a citizen, on account or his religious sentiments or peculiar mode of religious worship: And that no authority can or ought to be vested in, or assumed by any power whatever, that shall in any case interfere with, or In any manner controul, the right of conscience in the free exercise of religious worship.

  Section 10... shall each [representative] before they proceed to business take... the following oath or affirmation:

'I do believe in one God, the creator and governor of the universe, the rewarder of the good and punisher of the wicked. And I do acknowledge the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by Divine inspiration.'

And no further or other religious test shall ever hereafter be required of any civil officer or magistrate in this state."  Pennsylvania Constitution, 1776

  "That no person, who acknowledges the being of God and a future state of rewards and punishments, shall, on account of his religious sentiments, be disqualified to hold any office or place of trust or profit under this commonwealth."  Pennsylvania Constitution, Article IX, Section 4  1790

        The early settlers developed colonial charters that were decidedly evangelical in their purpose, often expressing a goal for their colony to advance the Christian religion.  As the country progressed up to the revolutionary war period, state constitutions evolved from the charters.  Those state constitutions served to maintain the order already established by the original charters, the charters based on Christianity.