Centre of the Americas Lecture: The Penntrification of the Delaware Valley, ca. 1670-1750

‘Great Capitalists’ vs. ‘Ancient Settlers’: The Penntrification of the Delaware Valley, ca. 1670-1750

Dr Mark Thomson, Department of American Studies

Wed. 18 March, 16:00-18:00. Room: 1315. 0037.

This paper considers how one set of “ancient settlers” negotiated the transformation of the Delaware Valley into an English colonial space. Commonly known as “the Swedish nation,” they were Finns and Swedes who had lived along the river since the mid-seventeenth century or they were these settlers’ relatives or descendants. They had built farms on both sides of the Delaware River, and they owned land that the strangers coveted. These latter-day Finns and Swedes responded in varied ways to the English settlers and their Quaker-led governments. In the early years they provided the newcomers with much-needed assistance, not least by selling their land at low rates to settlers and to their officials, including William Penn. They soon regretted their deference and, in time, organized themselves to protect what they still possessed. Under pressure from provincial officials and “great capitalists” who wanted to “usurp” their lands, they drafted spokesmen from the Swedish clergy, made alliances with legislators, and even tried to take their protests directly to the Crown of Sweden. These efforts met with mixed results, and Pennsylvania’s officials responded by identifying “those called the Swedes” as “Insolent” and “rebellious.” In fact, these “ancient Settlers and Owners of Land” had learned to play the game of property and politics, and in doing so, they demonstrated their Britishness. The paper frames these events by illustrating how folk memories of these bitter struggles with Penn, Quakers, and anglicization lasted well into the eighteenth century.

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