Sunday, January 24, 2010

Philadelphia Welfare 1768-1848

Philadelphia Welfare
Born Dec. 1, 1768 in Chiddingstone, Kent, England. Died Jan. 2, 1848, Hever, Kent, England

This weird name has been a gift to family genealogists - it makes it easy to affirm the branch you are following and make connections. But why name your daughter, deep in rural England, Philadelphia? This is before 1776, so what happened in Philadelphia that would inspire someone in Kent to name their daughter?

After all, 1768 would have been a strange time to appear colonist-friendly in England. The Stamp Act had been repealed in 1766, but the colonists were unhappy with the Townshend Revenue Acts on imported goods. Boston was boycotting British goods, with Pennsylvania and New York merchants joining in. Troops were sent to restore order to Boston and protect British ships. With these conflicts, perhaps it was the idea of Brotherly Love that intrigued them.

In 1767, John Dickinson, a Philaldephia lawyer published "Empire and Nation: Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania," a series of pamphlets arguing, from the 'farmer's' perpective, against the Townshend Act. These pamphlets were distributed widely in England as well as the colonies, and perhaps this was the inspiration for Philadelphia's name, though the city doesn't appear in the letters. From his first letter :

From my infancy I was taught to love humanity and liberty. Enquiry and experience have since confirmed my reverence for the lessons then given me, by convincing me more fully of their truth and excellence. Benevolence toward mankind, excites wishes for their welfare, and such wishes endear the means of fulfilling them. These can be found in liberty only, and therefore her sacred cause ought to be espoused by every man on every occasion, to the utmost of his power. As a charitable, but poor person does not withhold his mite, because he cannot relieve all the distresses of the miserable, so should not any honest man suppress his sentiments concerning freedom, however small their influence is likely to be . . .

. . . I venture at length to request the attention of the public, praying, that these lines may be read with the same zeal for the happiness of British America, with which they were wrote.

At least 2 of Philadelphia Welfare's children made it all the way to Oregon. There is no way to know why she was named this way, but it is an amazing tribute to someone's aspirations.

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