Liberty on the Anvil


The Charters: Contents and Purposes

William Penn signed the Charter of Privileges and the Charter of the city of Philadelphia in 1701, reluctantly expanding the Pennsylvania Assembly's powers while insisting upon guarantees of religious freedom and individual redress against official oppression. These unique liberties attracted settlers from many countries, stimulating rapid economic growth, and giving Pennsylvania a cultural diversity unknown in the other English colonies. But growth and diversity, in turn, created social and political tensions, ultimately forcing changes in the instruments of government. Three centuries of charter reform, and the spread of constitution-style governance around the world, testify to the strength of stable but flexible foundations for self-government.

 The Charter of Priviledges
The Charter of Priviledges

William Penn, 1701
Courtesy of the American Philosophical Society


Copyright 2001 The Historical Society of Pennsylvania

Back to