William Penn didn’t like cities and he did not want to bring the horrors of European urban life to the shores of his New World experiment. He sought to prevent the crowded conditions found in London by designing a capital city with wider streets. Five major squares dotted the cityscape, and Penn hoped that each dweller would have a family garden. He distributed land in large plots to encourage a low population density. He thought this would be the perfect combination of city and country. In 1681, he made it happen.
Penn carefully chose Philadelphia. It was situated at the junction of the Schuylkill and Delaware rivers. He hoped that the Delaware would supply the needed outlet to the Atlantic and that the Schuylkill would be the needed artery into the interior of Pennsylvania.
With Penn promoting religious toleration, people of many faiths came to Philadelphia. The Quakers too were tolerant of religious differences, but were fairly uncompromising with moral digressions. Upholding the city's moral code was taken very seriously. The code did not extend, however, to slavery, which was commonplace in Philadelphia. William Penn himself was a slaveholder.
William Penn spent only about four years of his life in Pennsylvania. In his absence, Philadelphia quibbled about many issues. Still, before long Philadelphia prospered as a trading center. Within twenty years, it was the third largest city, behind Boston and New York. A century later, it would emerge as the nation’s largest city, first capital, and the cradle of the Liberty Bell, Declaration of Independence, and Constitution.
Source: City of Brotherly Love—Philadelphia
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