The political affiliations for Speakers during the colonial era of Pennsylvania's history can be characterized by both religious affiliations and their attitude towards the Proprietorship. Many early settlers to Pennsylvania often sought religious freedoms as the colony gained a reputation for religious tolerance under the Proprietorship of William Penn, a practicing Quaker. These colonists represented a wide variety of religious and ethnic groups, and this diversity was reflected in those elected to the colonial Assembly. Quakers, as well as several other Christian populations including Anglicans, Presbyterians, and Lutherans, served in the Assembly alongside one another — a distinctive characteristic of Pennsylvania's government compared to other British colonies. In addition to these varied religious affiliations, Pennsylvania’s Assembly was also often at odds over the amount of power the Proprietor, William Penn, should have in the colony’s government. Penn, as Proprietor of Pennsylvania, was granted the right to establish laws in the colony so long as they did not conflict with British law. Penn could also appoint a Governor to rule in his absence. Support for the Proprietorship often waned during times that Penn left the colony to return to England when he made unpopular choices for Pennsylvania’s Governor in his absence, and as anti-British sentiments grew.
In this book, affiliations for pre-Revolutionary War Assembly members will note both their religious affiliation (if applicable), as well as their stance on the Proprietorship during their time as Speaker. The terms "Pro-Proprietorship" or "Anti-Proprietorship" will be used as general identifiers of the Speakers' positions, as sentiments toward the Proprietorship often shifted throughout their political careers. These affiliations are not to be confused with today's political parties. There were not defined ideologies connected with these terms, and often one Speaker's reason for supporting or not supporting the Proprietorship was different from others who held the same general positon.