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The "Usual Oaths" of Allegiance and Abjuration


Beginning with an Act of the Provincial Council in 1727 and continuing up until the Revolutionary War, the Province of Pennsylvania required all immigrants to swear to "Oaths of Allegiance and Abjuration". The Act also ordered all ship's captains who were importing the immigrants to provide a list of the passengers' names, occupations and their places of origin. As can be seen from the passenger manifest of the ship Christian, the strict construction of this requirement seems not to have been adhered to very firmly.

The immigrants were obliged to take the following oath upon their arrival at the port of Philadelphia:

"We subscribers, natives and late inhabitants of the Palatine upon the Rhine and places adjacent, having transported ourselves and families into the Province of Pennsylvania, a colony subject to the crown of Great Britain, in hopes and expectation of finding a retreat and a peacable settlement therein, do solemnly promise and engage that we will be faithful and bear true allegiance to his present majesty, King George the Second and his successors, kings of Great Britain, and will be faithful to the proprietor of this province; and that we will demean ourselves peacably to all his said majesty's subjects, and strictly observe and conform to the laws of England and this province, to the utmost of our power and best of our understanding."

As if this weren't enough, beginning in 1729 the immigrants were required to sign two additional oaths, one of which declared in flowery prose ("from my heart abhor, detest and renounce as impious and heretical ") apparently that the immigrant was not a Roman Catholic, the other that he was acknowledging George II as the lawful king and denouncing such pretenders to the throne as James III of Scotland, Queen Anne, James VIII, etc.

Of course, in the long run all this was for naught. After the start of the Revolution, an entirely different oath of allegiance was required in which the immigrants had to renounce their allegiance to the king and pledge their allegiance to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania:

We, the subscribers, do swear of affirm that we renounce and refuse all allegiance to George the Third, King of Great Britain, his heirs and successors, and that we will be faithful and bear true allegiance to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, as a free and independent state, and that we will not, at any time, do, or cause to be done, any matter of thing that will be prejudicial or injurious to the freedom and independence thereof, as declared by Congress, and also, that we will discover and make known, to some justice of the peace of the said State, all treasons and traitorous conspiracies which we now know, and hereafter shall know, to be formed against this or any of the United States of America."

Quite naturally, those who refused to switch their allegiances and sign the oath were subject to confiscation of their property, ostracism by their neighbors, and occasionally had to flee for their lives.