What was the second language of Pennsylvania in the 1770s? Who were “Palatines” back then?

German was the second language. About 1/3rd of those inhabiting the Pennsylvania colony before the Revolution were German immigrants. About 100,000 of them arrived over the course of the 18th century, and as they did it was announced in the newspaper, The Pennsylvania Gazette, that more Palatines were due to arrive on the next few ships. This was referred to as the Palatine immigration. The Palatinate was that portion of the Rhine River in German-speaking territory where wars had ravaged the countryside for over 100 years: The Thirty Years’ War, 1618-1648, the Wars of Louis XIV (1667-1697), the Wars of the Spanish Succession (1700-1713) decimated the upper Rhine Valley, which was the southwestern corner of present-day Germany. Then settlers came north from Zurich and other places in Switzerland, where it was punishable by death not to baptize your infant baby, and the Mennonites there (of which the Amish were a sect) did not believe in infant baptism, but instead in believer’s baptism. They would not fight wars either, so they were persecuted, as were other Anabaptists, or re-baptizers. Each prince of the many principalities of the Rhineland was a Lutheran, Reformed, or Catholic– and as soon as he took office, he wanted all his subjects to accept HIS religion. This led to many conflicts.

William Penn wanted good, hard-working, effective German farmers to populate his new colony in North America and he actively recruited these Palatines (in the 1690s) by going to Germany, speaking, and leaving printed posters for his principles of religious toleration in the new land. Eventually, Palatines paid him back by immigrating in droves, in large groups of families, and voting for the government run by the Quakers who shared their pacifist faith. This continued at least until the French & Indian War when the Quakers non-resistant ways lost them many votes and they were reduced in political power in the colony. A small group of these Palatines were Mennonites (including Amish) and German Baptist Brethren. They saw immigration as a way out and on to an interesting opportunity where land was plentiful and fertile. Families that emigrated wrote back to Germany describing how tolerant this new land was.

Find out how this promise of religious toleration turned out when the book appears. The South East Prospect of the City of Philadelphia.

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