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America's Founding Principles

Many of America's foundational principles—liberty & freedom, tolerance & diversity, democracy & the political process—were molded and shaped in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. As you explore the Campus of History you will notice that interpretive spaces and programs that highlight these principles are denoted by a corresponding icon. These programs and exhibits demonstrate how the founding principles of the United States have shaped our history and culture for more than 200 years.

In America, our abstract philosophies and our very real ideals of Liberty and Freedom have been debated since our founding. People have fought and died over the precision of the words' definitions and the implications of our attempts to alter their meanings. But the debates over the ethereal clarity of a philosophical perspective cannot overshadow the fact that there were very real people involved in the struggles surrounding liberty and freedom.



Liberty & Freedom examines the history of our quest for freedom here in Lancaster County and in the nation. It looks at our varying definitions of the words and how those meanings have changed over time, and at how this debate continues to the present. It also looks at the people and events that have played important parts in America's never-ending pursuit to protect the liberty and freedom of its people.



In 1856, Lancaster resident James Buchanan, and former congressman, senator, and international diplomat, was elected the 15th president of the United States and became leader of an expanding nation divided over the issues of slavery and states' rights. At the time of Buchanan's election, the future of the Union hung on his ability to assuage the anxieties of both the North and South on the topic of slavery. From the outset of his term, Buchanan failed to meet that goal. Democracy, while a simple ideal, often proves to be far more difficult and messy in practice than our expectations would have us believe.

Democracy & the Political Process delves into the roles of the presidency in the United States, the democratic process of election, the complexity of the constitution, and the political paths that ultimately lead our nation from its founding documents to the 21st Century.



One hundred years after William Penn first laid out plans for his "Holy Experiment," Pennsylvania had the greatest mix of peoples and religions in British North America. The impulse of minorities of various faiths to seek refuge in America in the early 1700s brought to Lancaster County Quakers, Anglicans, Catholics, German Pietists, Calvinists, Jews, and Huguenots, among others. Nowhere in Penn's Woods—aside from Philadelphia—did this diversity flourish with more richness and vigor than in Lancaster County.

Tolerance of religious diversity was a foundational experience among 18th-century Lancastrians. But this culture of tolerance and diversity extended beyond the 18th century and expanded to include diversity of ethnic and social matters. Tolerance & Diversity explores the cultural impacts of the diversity found in Lancaster County and how this diversity gives us insight into the rest of America.




& Country

For hundreds of years Lancaster has helped to shape the story of America.

 This program made possible through the generous support of

the Richard C. von Hess Foundation


the National Endowment for the Humanities

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