Quotable Pennsylvania: Its History

Pennsylvania has a lot of history.

To kick off my new blog series on historical quotes about Pennsylvania, I thought I’d start with a few lines that were uttered about the history of the Keystone State. The first one comes from French-born intellectual and scholar Peter Stephen Du Ponceau. In 1836 he represented the American Philosophical Society and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, two old and venerable Philadelphia organizations, by presenting a memorial to the State Legislature in 1836 “recommending the publication of certain ancient records.” Ponceau knew it wasn’t enough to preserve the records of Pennsylvania’s past, they also needed to be accessible. Fortunately, Pennsylvania did act on his advice and published the voluminous “Published Pennsylvania Archives,” a series of transcribed letters and early government records that have been the lifeblood of many historical projects.

The second quote comes from Theodore Roosevelt (who’ll appear in later posts with more Pennsylvania quotes!). This one was given at the dedication of the Pennsylvania State Capitol building in 1906. Even though it was a cold and cloudy October day, newspaper accounts of this speech say it was very well received by the huge crowd in Harrisburg.

“In every respect her history is full of interest and will become so more and more. It is therefore of the highest importance, that the authentic records from which that history can be deducted should not be lost to posterity.”

-Peter du Ponceau, 1836
Memorial of the Philosophical Society, and of the Historical Society of Philadelphia Recommending the Publication of Certain Ancient Records (Minutes of the Provincial Council)

TR Capital
Theodore Roosevelt giving the dedication speech at the Pennsylvania Capitol, October 4, 1906. Pennsylvania State Archives.

“In every crisis of our Government the attitude of Pennsylvania has been of crucial importance, as the affectionate name of “Keystone State” signifies. Pennsylvania has always looked before she leaped, and it was well that she should do so. But having finally made up her mind, in each great crisis of our national history, her weight has been cast unhesitatingly upon the right side, and has been found irresistible. This was true alike at the time of the Declaration of Independence, at the time of the adoption of the Constitution and during the terrible years when the issue was the preservation of the Union.

Pennsylvania’s soil is historic. It was within Pennsylvania’s borders that the contest which was to decide whether the valiant soldiers of France would be able to bar this continent against the domination of the people of the English-speaking colonies. It was on Pennsylvania’s soil that the Declaration of Independence was signed and the constitutional convention held. It was in Pennsylvania that Washington wintered at Valley Forge, and by keeping his army together during that winter definitely turned the scales in our favor in the contest for independence. It was again on Pennsylvania’s soil, at Gettysburg, that the tide turned in the Civil War. In the composition of her people, moreover, Pennsylvania has epitomized the composition of our Union; for here many old world races have mingled their blood to make that new type, the American. Finally, in all branches of the public service, in peace and in war, the native or adopted citizen of Pennsylvania have attained the highest eminence.”

-Theodore Roosevelt, October 4, 1906
Roosevelt’s Address at the Dedication of the Capitol


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