Colonial America column from May 23, 2026, Weekly issue of Coin World:
Elections were entirely local issues in Colonial times. As long as
you were a white male Anglican adult landowner, you could cast votes
for any number of local offices, including representation in Colonial
assemblies and town councils. Some Colonies allowed members of
dissenting faiths to vote (Pennsylvania, for instance, which was long
dominated by Quakers), and the requirements to own land fell by the
wayside in some areas in later decades. Those who ran tended to be
wealthy and well known, either of aristocratic stock or from the
Elected assemblies had little practical power in many colonies,
serving as rubber stamps for governors appointed by England.
Pennsylvania’s governor was chosen by the descendants of the
colony’s original proprietor, William Penn.
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Those who favored the policies of the proprietor, who by the
mid-18th century was Anglican instead of Quaker, became known as the Proprietary Party,
while the dominant opposition party was the Quaker or Anti-Proprietary Party.
The battles between the Pennsylvania parties became vicious in the
1740s and 1750s, coming to a head during the French and Indian War.
The Quakers, who tended to be wealthy men from Philadelphia and its
environs, took a much more commercial and pacifist approach to the
conflict, while those of the Proprietary Party, which was more
dominant in central and western Pennsylvania, would have rather
exterminated the Native Americans than make money trading with them.
This political struggle manifested itself numismatically with the 1757
Quaker peace medal.
Struck in Philadelphia at the behest of the Quaker Party, the medal
was only the second struck in what would become the United States,
crafted from dies by the clockmaker Edward Duffield and struck in the
shop of the Quaker silversmith and politician Joseph Richardson.
The medals were presented at the signing of the Treaty of Easton in
1757, where the Quaker Party met with Pennsylvania Indians to renounce
the warlike posture the Proprietary Party had established against them.
As the Quakers made a great deal of money from the Indians, it was
easy to stick to pacifist principals when money was at stake. It is
ironic but unsurprising that the only earlier American medal was the
Kittanning Destroyed medal, coined by the same team of Duffield and
Richardson, to celebrate the destruction of an Indian village in 1756.