Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Pennsylvania-Maryland War

My mother reads Now I Know by Dan Lewis. She recently sent me his post about Cresap's War, a border dispute between Maryland and Pennsylvania. The map via Wikipedia effectively illustrates the competing claims.

Pennsylvania's charter references the Twelve Mile Circle* around New Castle, Delaware and it's intersection with the 40 degree latitude line as its southern boundary. However, the circle is well south of 40 degrees. Both colonies used this error to try and extend their claims. Maryland claimed up to the 40 degree parallel (the northern red line on the map), thus including Philadelphia, the capital of Pennsylvania at the time. Pennsylvania proposed that the charter's error should be compensated for by moving the border further south. Britain issued a proclamation in 1724 prohibiting the establishment of new settlements until the border issue was resolved.

The resolution of this border did not come easily and hostilities broke out throughout the 1730's after Marylander Thomas Cresap set up settlements and ferry service across the Susquehanna River while collecting taxes for Maryland. His presence was not welcomed by the Pennsylvania settlers. An agreement between the colonies was reached in 1732, and then reneged upon by the governor of Maryland. After much nastiness and many failed attempts to capture him, Cresap was finally arrested by the Lancaster County sheriff. As he was paraded through the streets of Philadelphia with "his spirit unbroken", he announced, "Damn it, this is one of the prettiest towns in Maryland!**"

King George II intervened and in 1738 the parties signed a peace treaty in London. The 1732 agreement was upheld and the border was set at 39 degrees, 43 minutes and various seconds (it is not purely a line of latitude.) Mason and Dixon surveyed the line from 1763-1767 and it went on to greater fame as a political, cultural and metaphorical line.

* The Twelve Mile Circle is also an interesting historical anomaly, with it's own border disputes and may be worthy of a future blog post - stay tuned.

 ** This quote is from John Gibson, ed., History of York County, Pennsylvania via Wikipedia - the link to the original text is broken.

Boring Personal Note:  At the time of Cresup's War, all of Philadelphia lay south of the 40th parallel, now the line is well inside the city. When I lived in Philadelphia, I liked to imagine that when I was traveling up Bustleton Avenue, I'd cross from Kansas (home of my grad school) into Nebraska at Grant Ave - same latitude in other words. However due to an error, either on the map I was using, or my interpretation of it, I was pretty far off. The line is well to the south, approximately at Tioga Station on the elevated Market-Frankford subway line, or if you prefer, the corner of Broad and Clearfield. It also runs through the area depicted on this blog's header image.

1 comment:

Michael5000 said...

Cool. Love that 12-mile circle!