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tmguisncu navai omccr in tnc aays ot uromwell and Uharles 11.,







Pennsylvania granted to William Penn — His design in obtaining it —
His views on the nature and object of government — Laws for Penn-
sylvania — Many Friends prepare to emigrate to the new country —
William Penn's first visit — His reception and progress — Session of the
first General Assembly — Philadelphia founded — The rapid progress and
promising state of the colony — William Penn returns to England — His
farewell address to Friends of his province.

There are, perhaps, few circumstances connected with the
settlement of Europeans on the continent of North America, or
in the colonial history of the British empire, which are fraught
with greater interest, or the results of which have been more impor-
tant, than the settlement of Pennsylvania Until the year 1682,
this territory, lying immediately north of Maryland, and west of
the Jerseys, was little other than a wilderness, where the native
red man still held undisputed dominion. It measured about
three hundred miles long and about one hundred and sixty in
width, comprehending forty-one thousand square miles, or an area
very little short of that of England. The tribes of the Huron
Iroquois hunted over its northern portion, whilst the southern,
with the exception of some Swedish settlements, was occupied
chiefly by the Lenni Lenape, one of the tribes of the Algonquin
race of North American Indians.

Admiral Penn, the father of William Penn, who was a dis-
tinguished naval officer in the days of Cromwell and Charles II.,



had owing to him, at his decease, a considerable sum of money
for the arrears of his pay, and for loans to the Government
for naval purposes. As time passed on, the amount was aug-
mented by interest, until in 1681, the debt had reached sixteen
thousand pounds, the value of money at that period being at
least threefold that of our present currency. In liquidation of
this debt, William Penn petitioned for the grant of the territory
in question.* The petition was strongly opposed by some of the
most influential of the privy council, who, on the subject of
government, and on civil and religious liberty, were hostile to his
views. But he had powerful friends at Court. The Duke of
York, the Earls Sunderland and Halifax, and Chief Justice
North, favoured his cause, and his exertions to obtain the grant
were ultimately crowned with success, and a charter, recognizing
him as the sole proprietor of Pennsylvania, was issued in the
Third Month 1681. "After many waitings, watchings, solicit-
ings, and disputes in council," he writes, " my country was
confirmed to me under the great seal of England." William
Penn had now become the owner of a territory which, for extent
and natural resources, could scarcely be equalled by any of the
colonies of North America. " God," said he, " hath given it to
me in the face of the world. ... He will bless it, and make
it the seed of a nation/'f

In addition to the grant of Pennsylvania, William Penn
obtained from the Duke of York a free gift of a portion of the
territory belonging to the province of New York, now known as
Delaware, and at that time inhabited by Swedish and Dutch
settlers. This district was then called "the territories of Penn-
sylvania," or " the three lower counties upon Delaware." J
In 1704 it was constituted a separate and independent

The name which he originally fixed for his province was New
Wales. The Secretary, however, who was himself a Welshman,
decidedly objected to this appellation. The proprietor thereupon,

* Pennsylvania Papers, June 14th, 1680, State Paper Office.

t Letter to Turner, Third Month 5th.

J Proud's History of Pennsylvania, vol. i. p. 202.


in reference to the wooded character of the country, proposed
that it should be called Sylvania, to which the King, in honour
of Admiral Penn, prefixed his name.

The design of William Penn, in obtaining the grant of this
extensive territory in the new world, was one worthy of his liberal
and enlightened mind. As a Christian citizen, alive to the
interests of the community, he had watched the operation of the
respective governments of his day, and, as a scholar, he was well
acquainted with the forms and working of those of ancient times.
But in none of these could he discover that the true end of
government had been realized. " The nations," he observes,
" want a precedent — and because I have been somewhat exercised
about the nature and end of government among men, it is reason-
able to expect that I should endeavour to establish a just and
righteous one in this province, that others may take example by
it — truly this my heart desires."* " I eyed the Lord in
obtaining it/' he writes on another occasion, "I have so obtained
it, and desire to keep it, that I may not be unworthy of his love ;
but do that which may answer his kind providence, and serve his
truth and people, that an example may be set up to the nations.
There may be room there, though not here, for such an holy
experiment."^ His aim was truly a bold and noble one, such
as no other founder of a colony, either in ancient or modern
times, has attempted.

Actuated by these feelings, William Penn commenced his
work of legislation for the new colony by publishing a frame of
government, which, however, he concluded to refer for confirma-
tion to the first provincial council to be held in Pennsylvania.
In the preamble to these laws, the enlightened sentiments of the
proprietor on the origin, nature, and object of government, are set
forth. " Government," he says, " seems to me a part of religion
itself ; a thing sacred in its institution and end. — They weakly
err who think there is no other use of government than
correction ; daily experience tells us that the care and regulation
of many other affairs make up much the greatest part. — I know

* Proud's History, vol. i. p. 169. t Ibid.

B 2


what is said by the several admirers of monarchy, aristocracy,
and democracy ; and [these] are the three common ideas of govern-
ment when men discourse on the subject. But I choose to solve
the controversy, with this small distinction, and it belongs to all
three. Any government is free to the people under it (what-
ever be the frame) where the laws rule, and the people are
a party to those laws, and more than this is tyranny, oligarchy,
or confusion. — Governments, like clocks, go from the motion men
give them, so by them they are ruined too. Wherefore govern-
ments rather depend upon men, than men upon governments.
Let men be good, and the government cannot be bad ; if it be
ill, they will cure it. But, if men be bad, let the government be
never so good, they will endeavour to warp and spoil it to their
turn. It is the great end of all government to support power
in reverence with the people, and to secure the people from the
abuse of power ; for liberty without obedience is confusion, and
obedience without liberty is slavery."

His frame of government did not exceed twenty-four articles,
and his original code of laws consisted of but forty, to which,
however, twenty-one were added before the whole received the
sanction of the colonial assembly. As though to give prominence
to the subject, the first in the new code had special reference to
liberty of conscience. This important principle was recognized
in the following words : — " That all persons living in this
province, who confess and acknowledge the one Almighty and
Eternal God to be the Creator, Upholder, and Ruler of the
world, and that hold themselves obliged in conscience to live
peaceably and justly in civil society, shall in no wise be molested
or prejudiced for their religious persuasion or practice in
matters of faith and worship ; nor shall they be compelled at any
time to frequent or maintain any religious worship, place, or
ministry whatsoever/ 5

The penal laws of England did not harmonize with the feelings
of William Penn, who had suffered severely under them ; and,
excepting for wilful murder and treason, no crimes in Penn-
sylvania were punishable by death. In these cases his charter
gave him no power to annul this awful penalty by positive


enactment* It should, however, be known that, during his life-
time, Pennsylvania was not disgraced by the disgusting exhibi-
tion of the gallows, or by an execution in any other mode.

On the subject of prison discipline, he introduced a complete
reform ; and every prison, instead of being a nursery of vice and
idleness, was constituted a place of industry and education.
Oaths were entirely abolished, and profane swearing, cursing,
lying, and drunkenness, were punishable as crimes. The bru-
talizing scenes of bull-baiting, cock-fighting, &c, were also
forbidden, as well as theatrical exhibitions, masques, and card-
playing, as tending to "looseness and irreligion." On the first
day of the week, "according to the good example of the primitive
Christians, and the ease of the creation, people were to abstain
from their daily labour, that they might the better dispose them-
selves to worship God according to their understandings."
Vexatious law-suits were prevented by the appointment of
arbitrators in every county court, whilst distinct courts were
instituted for protecting and assisting orphans and widows. The
rights of the native inhabitants of the country early claimed the
attention of the governor, and one of his first acts was to
protect their interests. f

Such was the early legislation of Pennsylvania, and such the
endeavours of its rulers to promote religion and morality by the
aid of civil checks and restraints upon the people. Well indeed
might one of the freemen exclaim on the passing of these laws : —
" It is the best day we have ever seen I" " Here," said another,
"we may worship God according to the dictates of the divine
principle, free from the mouldy errors of tradition ; here we
may thrive, in peace and retirement, in the lap of unadulterated

* Vide Sec. v. and vii. of the Charter. Among Lord Chief Justice
North's official notes on the draft of the Charter for Pennsylvania are
these : — " W. Penn to pardon all offences committed within the limitts
of his province, treason and murder excepted."

" Felonies and treasons to be the same as by the common laws, and
tryalls to be in the same manner." — State Paper Office, Perm. Papers,
B. T. vol. I.

t Vide his Conditions or Concessions, agreed upon in 1681, inProud's
History, Appendix I.


nature ; here we may improve an innocent course of life on a
virgin Elysian shore. "* The constitution of Pennsylvania, far
in advance of the age, stood unequalled in excellence, and it
is not too much to say that it contained the germ at least, if
not the development, of every valuable improvement in govern-
ment or legislation, which has been interwoven into the political
systems of more modern times. When, more than a century later,
Frederic, king of Prussia, read the account of its government,
he involuntarily exclaimed, " Beautiful !" — " It is perfect if it
can endure."^" " And how happy/' said Peter the Great of
Russia, in alluding to Friends, " must be a community instituted
on their principles."

On becoming the proprietor of Pennsylvania, "William Penn,
for the information of his friends, published a description of the
province, so far as it was then known in England, and offered
lands at forty shillings per hundred acres, to those who inclined
to emigrate. Many of his brethren in religious profession were
still exposed to grievous outrage and spoil from a rapacious and
dominant hierarchy, and aware of the strong bias which the suf-
ferers had to remove to a country where spiritual courts could no
longer harass them, he was induced to accompany his liberal offer
with a word of caution, " that none might move rashly, but to
have an eye to the Providence of God ;" and their movements,
thus guided, he believed, would " turn to the glory of His great
name, and to the true happiness of them and their posterity."

The fame of William Penn as a champion for religious free-
dom, and as a man of universal benevolence, but above all as a
devoted Christian, had spread itself widely, not only in the three
kingdoms, but also on the continent of Europe : the announce-
ment, therefore, that he now possessed an extensive territory in
the new world, quickly drew people to him with proposals for
emigration, and his generous terms brought many purchasers.
The most considerable of these formed a company, called the
" Free Society of Traders/' consisting chiefly of Friends of
London and Bristol ; a German company was also formed, headed

* "The Planter's Speech to his neighbours."
t Herder, xiii., p. 116, in Bancroft.


by Franz Pastorious. The former bargained for 20,000 and
the latter for 15,000 acres.

The first emigrant ships that left the shores of Britain for
Pennsylvania, sailed in the autumn of 1681, having on board a
considerable number of persons from Wales, London, Bristol,
and Liverpool. The ships were three in number, two from
London, and one from Bristol. The " John and Sarah," from
London, was the first that arrived ; the other from that port was
driven out of its course, and did not reach its destination till the
following spring. The one from Bristol did not arrive until
winter, and having ascended the Delaware as far up as Chester,
was there frozen in the same night. In this dilemma, the emi-
grants were obliged to land and winter on the spot, and several of
them had to take up their abode in huts hastily constructed, and
in caves dug in the banks of the river.*

It appears that from the very first William Penn entertained
the idea of settling in Pennsylvania, in order to promote, by a
personal superintendence, the great object he had in view. For
some time therefore, he had been making preparations for the
voyage ; and, in the Sixth Month, 1682, in company with about
one hundred persons, who were mostly Friends from Sussex, the
county in which he resided, he sailed for his transatlantic pos-
sessions. After a tedious and sickly voyage of nine weeks, during
which no fewer than thirty of the passengers had been carried
off by the small-pox, the " Welcome" anchored in the Delaware,
and he landed at Newcastle, on the 27th of the Eighth Month. -f-
The settlers of this district were mostly Dutch and Swedes, and
on hearing of his arrival they hastened to meet their new gover-
nor, and greeted him with hearty demonstrations of joy.j

* Watson's Annals of Philadelphia, p. 14.

t On this occasion the following entry was made in the public records
of Newcastle : — " On the 27th day of October, 1682, arrived before ye
Towne of New Castle, from England, William Penn, Esqe., whoo produced
twoo deeds of feofment for this Towne and twelve myles about itt, and
also for the twoo Lower Counties, ye Whoorekill, and St. James's —
wherefore the said William Penn received possession of ye Towne the
28th of October, 1682."

X Watson's Annals of Philadelphia, p. 16.


At Newcastle, tlie agents of the Duke of York formally sur-
rendered to William Penn the territory on the Delaware.* Con-
vening the settlers at the Court-house, he addressed them on the
nature and object of government, stating his desire to exercise
the powers he had obtained, for the general good of the com-
munity, and concluded by renewing, under his own authority,
the commissions of the existing magistrates. Leaving Newcastle,
he ascended the Delaware to Upland, now Chester. Agreeably
to his instructions, the Commissioners had already caused repre-
sentatives to be elected for the first General Assembly ; and as
Friends' Meeting-house was the most commodious building in
Chester, it was fixed upon as the place of their deliberations.
These primitive legislators of Pennsylvania were an unsophisti-
cated people, and more practical than theoretical. In the course
of their discussion they adopted the salutary restriction, " that
none speak but once before the question is put, nor after, but
once ; and that none fall from the matter to the person ; and
that superfluous and tedious speeches may be stopped by the
speaker." Their session lasted only four days, and notwith-
standing their inexperience in the work of legislation, such was
the good feeling and harmony prevalent among them, and such
their confidence in the sincere desires of William Penn to pro-
mote their welfare, that during this short space of time they
passed the laws already referred to. At the conclusion, being
addressed by the proprietor in the language of christian ex-
hortation,f they retired to their new homes, under the pleasing
reflection that those blessings of civil and religious freedom, which
had been denied to them in the land of their nativity, were now,
in the overrulings of a kind Providence, secured to them and to
their posterity.

William Penn now proceeded on a visit to the authorities of
New York, and next to meet Lord Baltimore in Maryland, to confer
with him on the subject of boundary. Amidst the numerous
important avocations which devolved upon him in this infant

* Hazard's Register, vol. v. p. 79.

+ Votes and Proceedings of the House of Representatives, by
B. Franklin, p. 7.


state of the colony, he was not, it appears, forgetful of his duties
as a gospel minister. " I have been," he writes in the Tenth
Month, 1682, " at New York, Long Island, East Jersey, and
Maryland ; in which I have had good and eminent service for
the Lord. — I am now casting the country into townships for large
lots of land. I have held an assembly, in which many good laws
are passed ; we could not safely stay till the spring for a govern-
ment. I have annexed the lower counties (lately obtained) to
the province, and passed a general naturalization for strangers,
which hath much pleased the people. — As to outward things, we
are satisfied ; the land good, the air clear and sweet, the springs
plentiful, and provision good and easy to come at ; an innu-
merable quantity of wild fowl and fish ; in fine, here is what an
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, would be well contented with ; and
service enough for God ; for the fields are here white for harvest :
0, how sweet is the quiet of these parts, freed from the anxious
and troublesome solicitations, hurries and perplexities, of woeful
Europe !"*

Among the many objects which claimed his attention, few
were more important than the selection of a site for a chief city.
According to his express instructions, the Commissioners had
been industrious in collecting information to assist in determining
the point. Some thought Chester favourably situated for the
capital, but William Penn fixed upon the narrow neck of land
lying between the Delaware and the Schuylkill, f a situation
" not surpassed by one among all the many places he had seen in
the world.'" The establishment of a great city in Pennsylvania
was very early his favourite object ;J while his choice of the
situation, and the grand scale which he laid down for building it,
would have made it inferior to few, whether of ancient or modern
date. As originally designed, with its squares, gardens, and
noble streets lined with trees, it would have covered no less than
twelve square miles. The erection of detached dwellings sur-
rounded by garden-ground, was quite a favourite idea of the
governor ; for he wished the Quaker capital to resemble " a

* Proud, vol. i. p. 209. f Day's Hist. Collections, p. 544-6.

t Vide his Concessions, Fifth Month, 1G81.


greene country town, which might never be burnt, and might
always be wholesome." Its name he decided should be Phila-
delphia, a Greek word, signifying brotherly love, and which he
gave as indicating the spirit which he desired might pervade the
minds of the colonists and rule in all their actions.

The colony of Pennsylvania was now fast peopling ; so rapid
indeed was the influx of settlers, that within three months after
the landing of the governor, no less than twenty-three ships,
filled with emigrants from Great Britain and Ireland, had entered
the waters of the Delaware.* Within a few months from the
foundation of Philadelphia, William Penn could announce that
eighty houses and cottages were ready ; that the merchants and
craftsmen were busily engaged in their respective callings ; that
more than three hundred farms had been laid out and partly
cleared; that ships were continually arriving with goods and
passengers, and that plentiful crops had already been obtained
from the soil.-f- At the time of his return from Pennsylvania,
in the summer of 1684, the city could number three hundred
and fifty-seven houses, " divers of them," he says, " large and
well-built, with cellars •" and at least fifty townships had been
settled :J one year later the houses had increased to no less than
six hundred. § In little more than two years from its settlement,
ninety ships, bringing, according to the estimate of William Penn,
an average of eighty passengers in each, or in all seven thousand
two hundred, had arrived in the colony : || these, together with
the previous colonists and those from the adjacent settlements,
gave a population of about nine thousand to the province. Old-
mixon says, that in 1684 the number was about seven thousand,
of which two thousand five hundred were inhabitants of the new
city ; and that twenty-two townships had been established.^" In

* Proud, vol. i. p. 209.

t W. Penn to the Free Society of Traders, Sixth Month 16th, 1683 ;
Lord Baltimore, Seventh Month, 1683.

$ Further Account of Pennsylvania and its improvements, by
W. Penn.

§ Robert Turner to W. Penn, Sixth Month, 1685.

|| Further Account, &c, by W. Penn.

% Oldmixon's British Empire in America.


three years from its foundation Philadelphia had gained more than
New York had done in half a century, and the progress of the
province was more rapid than even that of New England.
Already schools had been established, and the printing press was
at work, sowing broadcast the seeds of morality and religion. In
the Tenth Month, 1683, Enoch Flower, in a dwelling formed of
pine and cedar planks, commenced the work of education ; his
terms being " to learn to read, four shillings a-quarter ; to write,
six shillings ; boarding scholars, to wit — diet, lodging, washing
and schooling, ten pounds the whole year."

One of the earliest production of the printing press was an epistle
by John Burnyeat, in 1686. In New England the press was not in
operation until eighteen years after its settlement. In New York
seventy-three years elapsed before any book or paper was printed,
and in North Carolina a still longer period ; whilst in Episcopal
Virginia and Popish Maryland the printing press was dis-
couraged as dangerous to religion.* " I must without vanity
say," observes William Penn, in writing to Lord Halifax, " I
have led the greatest colony into America that any man did on
private credit;'' and to Lord Sunderland he says, " with the help
of God, and such noble friends, I will show a province in seven
years equal to her neighbours of forty years' planting."*} -

The boundary line between Pennsylvania and Maryland had
for some time been a subject of dispute between William Penn
and Lord Baltimore, and their conferences on the subject had
issued without any satisfactory result. In the early part of 1684,
Lord Baltimore proceeded to England, with a view to exercise his
personal interest with the government on the disputed question.
The subject was considered by William Penn to be of so much
importance to the interest of his colony, that he deemed it need-
ful to take some course to counteract the court influence of
Baltimore. About this time also he received accounts of the
renewed persecution of nonconformists, more especially those of

Online LibraryJames BowdenThe history of the Society of Friends in America (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 37)