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Toolbox Library, primary resources thematically organized with notes and discussion questionsOnline Seminars, professional development seminars for history and literature teachersAmerican Beginnings: 1492-1690
American Beginnings: 1492-1690
Topic: ContactTopic: ExplorationTopic: SettlementTopic: PermanenceTopic: Power
Topic: Permanence
Toolbox Overview: American Beginnings: 1492-1690
Resource Menu: Permanence
Text 1. Prosperity
Text 2. Cities & Towns
Text 3. English Colonies I: New England Colonies
Text 4. English Colonies II: Middle Atlantic Colonies
Text 5. English Colonies III: Chesapeake/Southern Colonies
Text 6. Servitude (Chesapeake Colonies)

Reading Guide
A Mapp of Ye Improved Part of Pensilvania, ca. 1687
A Mapp of Ye Improved Part of Pensilvania, ca. 1687, detail
English Colonies II: Middle Atlantic Colonies
- Pennsylvania: The arrival of German settlers, 1683
- Pennsylvania: A poem on the colony's success, 1692 (PDF)
- New York: A governor's report to England, 1687 (PDF)
- Houses:

Pennsbury Manor, 1682-1684 (reconstructed), Pennsylvania
Pastorius Homestead, 1683, Pennsylvania
Philipse Manor House, 1693, New York

The Middle Colonies—the region with the most diverse population, the most varied commercial ventures, and the most mobile boundary lines in the 1600s. For the first half of the century there was no such region as the English "Middle Colonies," for the region was bifurcated by powerful New Netherland and (less powerful) New Sweden, blocking a clear line of English claim between its New England and Chesapeake colonies. England was determined to change this state of affairs and by 1664 it had assimilated the rival colonies. Soon King Charles II chartered three new colonies—New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Carolina—and English emigration boomed anew.

Here we read three selections representing Pennsylvania and New York. In a few pages of prose and poetry they express a regional identity with familiar traits from the New England and Chesapeake colonies as well as the emerging "American" characteristics of autonomy, pragmatism, and entrepreneurial initiative. They also reflect the English colonists' growing commercial and political relationships with the Indians. (These readings also serve as footnotes to #1: Prosperity and #2: Cities & Towns.)
  • ARRIVAL OF GERMAN SETTLERS. In 1683 a group of German Mennonites and Quakers bought a tract of land near Philadelphia and founded the settlement of Germantown. They were led by Francis Daniel Pastorius who soon wrote a promotional piece to encourage more Germans to emigrate to Pennsylvania. In this selection, we read of the Germans' voyage from Europe, the towns and people of Pennsylvania, and the 15,000-acre purchase from William Penn.
    [Francis Daniel Pastorius, Positive Information From America, concerning the Country of Pennsylvania, by a German who has migrated thither, 1684]

  • A POEM ON PENNSYLVANIA'S SUCCESS. Richard Frame, about whom we can offer little background, wrote the poem "A Short Description of Pennsilvania" in 1692. The verses are unsophisticated but infectious in their unabashed enthusiasm for all the things "known, enjoyed, and like to be discovered" in the colony, including its natural resources, its towns, and its thriving industries.
    [Richard Frame, "A Short Description of Pennsilvania," poem, 1692]

  • A GOVERNOR'S REPORT on NEW YORK. Almost twenty years after New York became an English colony after the defeat of New Netherland in 1664, it remained economically unstable and politically contentious. Through the steady efforts of Thomas Dongan, appointed governor in 1682, New York achieved stability and commercial strength as an English colony. In this 1687 report to the Committee of Trade in England, Dongan reviews the economic progress and diverse settlement of New York, expressing concern that "his Majesty's natural-born subjects" do not comprise even half of the colony's population. Another concern is the French exploration of the Mississippi River and the resulting settlement that "will prove not only very inconvenient to us but to the Spanish also."
    [Gov. Thomas Dongan, Report to the Committee of Trade (London) on the Province of New York, 1687]
Again, we encourage you to view the three seventeenth-century homesteads—of William Penn, Frances Pastorius, and Frederick Philipse—before reading the selections. No oil portraits accompany this section; for the middle colonies they will appear in abundance in the 1700s. (13 pages.)

Discussion questions
  1. How do these selections reveal the permanence and/or tentativeness of the Middle Colonies?
  2. To what extent did they replicate "something approaching normal European societies"?
  3. What regional characteristics do they highlight? What is important to these settlers?
  4. To what extent are the "lessons" of the early English colonies reflected in the decisions of the Middle Colonies settlers?
  5. What role does religious faith serve in these settlers' lives?
  6. How do trade and commerce contribute to the colonies' stability?
  7. How do the settlers deal with adversity and disappointment?
  8. In what ways are they hopeful or idealistic?
  9. Do their actions reflect a trust in their colony's stability?
  10. How do the homesteads reflect the characteristics of these Middle Colonies settlers?
  11. From these selections, compare the factors that contribute to permanence in the Middle Colonies and the New England colonies. Which region offers more stability from its basic characteristics?

Topic Framing Questions
  •  What factors contributed to the permanent presence of Europe in North America by the mid 1600s?
  •  How did Europeans adjust their cultures and institutions to create permanent societies in North America?
  •  What roles did commerce, religion, geographic setting, population diversity, and cultural perspectives play in developing a stable colony?
  •  What did "North America" signify to Europe in the mid 1600s?

Pennsylvania Germans:   4
Pennsylvania poem:   2
New York report:   2
Homesteads:   5
13 pages
Supplemental Sites
The Middle Colonies as the Birthplace of American Religious Pluralism, from the National Humanities Center

The Quaker Province, from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission

William Penn, Visionary Proprietor, from American Studies at the University of Virginia

Rittenhouse paper mill, Pennsylvania, from Georgia Tech University

Explore Pennsylvania History, from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, et al.

The New Netherland Project, from the New Netherland Institute

Colonial Albany Social History Project, from the New York State Museum

*PDF file - You will need software on your computer that allows you to read and print Portable Document Format (PDF) files, such as Adobe Acrobat Reader. If you do not have this software, you may download it FREE from Adobe's Web site.

   German settlers:History Matters, from George Mason University and the City University of New York (CUNY)
National Humanities Center

   Pastorius Homestead:Places in Time, Bryn Mawr College
   Philipse Manor House
      & Pennsbury Manor:

National Park Service

Image: Philadelphia, 1683, detail of map by Thomas Holme entitled A mapp of ye improved part of Pensilvania in America, divided into countyes, townships, and lotts, surveyed by Tho. Holme, published with William Penn's Letter to the Committee of the Free Society of Traders, 1683. Reproduced by permission of the New York Public Library, The Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division, Digital ID #433922.

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