The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a state in the United States, founded by Quakers.
Pennsylvania's population in 2000 was 12,281,054. Of these, 8,448,193 were estimated to belong to some sort of organized religion. According to the Association of religion data archives at Pennsylvania State University, reliable data exists for 7,116,348 religious adherents in Pennsylvania in 2000, following 115 different faiths. Their affiliations, including percentage of all adherents, were:
- Roman Catholic – 3,802,524 – 53.43%
- Orthodox – 75,354 – 1.06%
- Mainline Protestant – 2,140,682 – 30%
- Evangelical Protestant – 704,204 – 10%
- Other theology – 393,584 – 5.53%
- Jewish estimate – 283,000 – 3.98%
- Muslim estimate – 71,190 – 1.00%
- Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations – 6,778 – 0.10%
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – 31,032 – 0.44%
Pennsylvania is also noted for having the highest concentration of an Amish population in the United States.
While Pennsylvania owes its existence to Quakers and many of the older trappings of the state are rooted in the teachings of the Religious Society of Friends (as they are officially known), practicing Quakers are a small minority today.
In 1681, Charles II granted a land charter to William Penn, to repay a large debt owed to William's father, Admiral Penn. This was one of the largest land grants to an individual in history. The land included present-day Delaware and Pennsylvania. It was called Pennsylvania, meaning "Penn's Woods", in honor of Admiral Penn.
Penn established a government with two innovations that were much copied in the New World: the county commission, and freedom of religious conviction. Writer Murray Rothbard in his four-volume history of the U.S., Conceived in Liberty, refers to the years of 1681–90 as "Pennsylvania's Anarchist Experiment."
Between 1723 and when it was shut down by Parliament with the Currency Act of 1764, the Pennsylvania Colony made its own paper money, generally called Colonial Scrip and it is generally regarded as the most successful currency experiment by any government that ever existed. The Colony issued "bills of credit" which were as good as gold or silver coins because of their legal tender status. Since they were issued by the government and not a banking institution, it was an interest-free proposition, largely defraying the expense of the government and therefore taxation of the people. It also promoted generally employment and prosperity. Benjamin Franklin had a hand in creating this currency, of which he said its utility was never to be disputed and it also received the high praise of Adam Smith.
After the Stamp Act Congress of 1765, Delegate John Dickinson of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania wrote the Declaration of Rights and Grievances. The Congress was the first meeting of the thirteen colonies, called at the request of the Massachusetts Assembly, but only nine colonies sent delegates. Dickinson then wrote Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, To the Inhabitants of the British Colonies, which were published in the Pennsylvania Chronicle between December 2, 1767, and February 15, 1768.
When the Founding Fathers of the United States were to convene in Philadelphia in 1774, 12 colonies sent representatives to the First Continental Congress. The First Continental Congress drew up and signed the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia, but when that city was captured by the British, the Continental Congress escaped westward, meeting at the Lancaster courthouse on Saturday, September 27, 1777, and then to York. There they drew up the Articles of Confederation that formed 13 independent colonies into a new nation. Later, the Constitution was written, and Philadelphia was once again chosen to be cradle to the new American Nation.
For half a century, the state legislature met at various places in the general Philadelphia area before starting to meet regularly in Independence Hall in Philadelphia for 63 years. But it needed a more central location, as for example the Paxton Boys massacres of 1763 had made them aware. So, in 1799 the legislature moved to the Lancaster Courthouse, and finally in 1812 to Harrisburg. The legislature met in the old Dauphin County Court House until December 1821, when the Redbrick Capitol was finished. It burned down in 1897, presumably due to a faulty flue. The legislature met at Grace Methodist Church on State Street (still standing), until the present capitol was finished in 1907.
The new state Capitol drew rave reviews. Its dome was inspired by the domes of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome and the United States Capitol. President Theodore Roosevelt called it the "the most beautiful state Capitol in the nation", and said "It's the handsomest building I ever saw" at the dedication. In 1989, the New York Times praised it as "grand, even awesome at moments, but it is also a working building, accessible to citizens ... a building that connects with the reality of daily life."
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