Current Issue Article Abstracts
April 2022, Vol. 146, No. 2
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Between 1740 and 1765, exponential growth and demographic shifts radically reshaped colonial Pennsylvania. German-speaking immigrants filled western territories, where they created communities and counties that complicated colonial elections and power structures. Because many of these immigrants could vote, German colonists played a vital role in a political paradigm resembling the modern two-party system. Initially, supporters of the Penn family resented the fact that that a foreign-born population helped perpetuate Quaker dominance over Pennsylvania's General Assembly. Eventually, however, both the proprietary faction and the Quakers came to fear that Germans might usurp control over the colony should they vote men from their own communities into the lower house. This article describes how these factions staved off this potentiality through blatantly suppressive tactics ranging from strategic districting to physical violence. Due to these measures, voter suppression limited German office-holding until the American Revolution, even as western counties displayed increased interest in proportional ethnic representation.
How many people read newspapers in early America? This is an important question for historians of the American Revolution, who rely on a model of widespread newspaper readership to explain broadscale political change. Yet given the limitations of the documentary record, addressing this question has required scholars to rely on a great deal of guesswork and anecdotal evidence. Building on an analysis of the subscription books of the Pennsylvania Journal from 1766 through early 1774, in dialogue with two Canadian subscription lists from the late eighteenth century, this essay embarks on a more empirically grounded approach to questions of newspaper readership and subscription in revolutionary America. Newspapers were not, as some have concluded, read widely among all classes. Instead, regular access to newspapers usually coincided with social privilege, in ways that trouble some of the prevailing narratives of political mobilization during the American Revolution.
The study of foreign affairs and the ratification of the Constitution is often cast in terms of cosmopolitan Federalists using foreign affairs as an issue against localist Antifederalists. As this article shows, in Pennsylvania, the Federalists paid closest attention to local interests in the public debate, while the Antifederalists argued in national terms. Both sides reflected a mid-Atlantic sensibility regarding commerce. Two elements make Pennsylvania unusual. One was the presence of western Federalism. The other was a ratification convention that considered the Constitution in entirely national terms.
Letter to the Editor
It has come to my attention that during extensive cuts to the manuscript for my 2019 book, World of Trouble: A Philadelphia Quaker Family's Journey through the American Revolution, I accidently removed text from the endnotes for chapter six that included acknowledgments of my indebtedness to two fine essays by David W. Maxey: "The Union Farm: Henry Drinker's Experiment in Deriving Profit from Virtue," Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 107 (1983): 607–29; and "Of Castles in Stockport and Other Strictures: Samuel Preston's Contentious Agency for Henry Drinker," Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 110 (1986): 413–46.