American biography: or, An historical account of those persons who have been distinguished in America, as adventurers, statesmen, philosophers, divines, warriors, authors, and other remarkable characters .. (Volume 2) online

. (page 20 of 24)
Online LibraryUnknownAmerican biography: or, An historical account of those persons who have been distinguished in America, as adventurers, statesmen, philosophers, divines, warriors, authors, and other remarkable characters .. (Volume 2) → online text (page 20 of 24)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

fervation of timber and mulberry-trees ; the'
terms of improvement and cultivation ; the
traffic with the Indians, and the means of
preferring peace with them ; of preventing
debtors, and other defaulters, from rnaking
their efcape ; and, of preferving the morals
of the planters, by th execution of the penal
laws of England, till an AfTembly {hould

Thefe preliminaries being adjufted, the
firft Colony, under his authority, came over
to America, and began their fettlement abovef
the confluence of the Schuylkill with the
Delaware. By them the Proprietor fent a
letter to the Indians, informing them- that
" the GREAT GOD had been pleafed to make
him concerned in their part of the world ;
and that the King of the country where he
lived had given him a great province therein ;
but, that he did not defire to enjoy it with
out their confent \ that he was a man of
peace, and that the people whom he fent
were of the fame difpofition ; but if any dif



F E N N. 403

jference fhould happen between them, it might
be adj ufted by an equal number of men, cho-
fen on both fides," With this letter, he ap
pointed Commiflioners to treat with the In
dians, about purchafing land, and promifed
them, that he would ftiortly come and con-
verfe with them in perfon.

About this time (N 7 ov, 1 68 1 ) he was elect-


ed a fellow of the Royal Society.

The next fpring, he completed a frame
of government (April 25, 1682) with the
exprefs defign " to fupport power in rever
ence with the people, and to fecure the peo
ple from the abufe of power." It is prefac
ed with a long difcourfe on the nature, ori
gin, ufe and abufe of government ; which
{hews that he had not only well ftudied the
fubject, but that he was fond of difplaying
liis knowledge.

By this frame of government, there waa
to be a Provincial Council, confiding offiven^
ty-tiuo perfans, anfwering to the number of
elders in the Jewifh fanhedrim, who were
to be divided into three claffes ; twenty-four
to ferve for three years, twenty-four for two
years, and twenty-four for one year; the
vacancies thus made to be fupplied by new

elections ;



$ elections ; and after feven years, every one
of thofe who went off yearly, were to be in
capable of re-election for one year following.
This rotation was intended " that all might
be fitted for government, and have experi
ence of the care and burthen of it." Of
this council two-thirds were to be a quorum,
and the confent of two-thirds of this quo
rum was to be had in all matters of moment ;
but in matters of leffer moment one-third
might be a quorum, the majority of whom
might determine. The diflinction between
matters of moment, and of lefler moment
was not defined ; nor was it declared who
was to be judge of the diftinction. The
Governor was not to have a negative but a
treble voice. The Council were to prepare
k and propofe bills to the General Affembly^

which were to be published, thirty days be
fore its meeting. When met, the Aflembly
might deliberate eight days, but on the ninth
were to give their aflent or diflent to the
propofed bills ; two-thirds of them to be a
quorum. With refpect to the number of
the Aflembly, it was provided, that the firft
year all the freemen in perfon might com-
pofe it ; afterward a delegation of two hun-

PEN N.. 405

.dred, which might be increafed to five hun
dred. The Governor, with the Council, to
be the fupreme executive, -with a parental
and prudential authority, and to be divided
into four departments of eighteen each ; one
of which was called a committee of planta
tions, another of juftice and fafety, another

pf trade and revenue, and another of man-

ners, education and arts,
i .

To this frame of government was fubjoin-
ed a body of fundamental laws, agreed upon
by Penn and the adventurers in London, ,
which refpe&ed moral, political and econom
ical matters ; which were not to be altered,
but by the confent of the Governor, or his
heirs, and fix parts in feven of the freemen,
met in Provincial Council and AfTembly.
In this code we find that celebrated declara
tion, which has contributed more than any
thing elfe to the profperity of Pennfylvania, *

viz. " That all perfons living in the Province,
who confcfs and acknowledge the ONE al
mighty and eternal GOD, to be the creator,
upholder and ruler of the world ; and hold
themfelves obliged in ,confcienee to live
peaceably and juftly in civil fociety, frail in
no ways be molefted for their religious per-
fuafion or prattire, in matters of faith anc

4 o6 P E N N,

fjfct worihip ; nor {hall they be compelled at any

r . . ,. .

time to frequent or maintain any religious

worfhip, place or miniftry whatever*" To
which was added another equally conducive
to the welfare of fociety. " That according
to the good example of the primitive Chrif-
tians, and the cafe of tfa creation, every firft
day of the week, called the Lord's Day, peo
ple fhall abftain. from their common daily la
bour, that they may the better difpofe them-
felves to worfhip God, according to their un-

Thefe laws were an original compact be
tween the Governor and the freemen of the
Colony. They appear to be founded in,
wifdom and equity, and fome of them have
been copied into the declarations of rights
prefixed to feveral of the prefent republican
conftitutions in America. The fyftem of
government which Penn produced has been
regarded as an Utopian project ; but though;
in fome parts vifionary and impracticable,
yet it was liberal and popular, calculated to
gain adventurers with a profpect of republi
can advantages. $ome of its provifions, par
ticularly the rotation of the Council, have
been adopted by a very enlightened body of


if E N tt. 407 '

American legiflators, after the expiration of a
eentury. The experiment is now in opera
tion, and without experiment nothing e'ari be
fairly decided in the political, any more than
in the phyfical world.

Having by the help of Sir William Jones^
and other gentlemen of the long robe con-
ftru&ed a plan of government, for his Colony.
Mr. Penn prepared to make the voyage td *%
America, that he might attempt the execu
tion of it.

A part of the lands comprehended withiri
his grant,had been fubject to the government,
which was exercifed by the deputy of the
Duke of York. To prevent any difficulty,
he thought it convenient to obtain from
the Duke a deed of fale, of the Province of
Pennfylvania, which he did on the 2ift of


Auguft, 1682; and by two fubfequent deeds,
in the fame month, the Duke conveyed to
him the town of Newcaftle, fituate on the
weftern fide of the Delaware, with a circle of
1 2 miles radius from the centre of the town,
and from thence extending foutherly to the
Hoar-Kills, at Cape-Henlopen, the weftern
point of the entrance of Delaware Bay ;
which trad contained the fettlements made



N N.

*jgfr > by the Dutch, Swedes and Finns. This was 1

called //> Territory* in diftinclion from
^ 7

Province of Pennfylvania, and was divided
into three counties, Newcaftle, Kent and


At this time, the penal laws againft Diffent-
crs were executed with rigour in England,
which made many of the Quakers defirous
of accompanying or following Penn into

' -

America, where they had a profpecl of the
moft extenfive liberty of confcience. Hav
ing chofen fome for his particular compan
ions, he embarked with them in Auguft,
1682, and from the Downs, where the fhip
lay waiting for a wind, he wrote an affection
ate letter to his friends, which he called " a
farewel to England." After a pleafant paf-
fage of fix weeks, they came within fight of

. n

the American coaft, and were refrefhed by
the land breezes, at the diftance of twelve
leagues. As the fhip failed up the Delaware,
the inhabitants came on board, and faluted
their new Governor with an air of joy and
fatisfaction. He landed at Newcaftle, and
fummoned the people to meet him, when pof-
feffion of the foil was given him in the legal
form of that day ; and he entertained them


* JtJ









P E N N. 409

with a fpeech, explaining the purpofe of his
coming, and the views of his government ;
alluring them of his intention to preferve
civil and religious liberty, and exhorting ^heni
to peace and fobriety. Having renewed the
commiflions of their former magiftrates, he
went to Chefter, where he repeated the fame
things, and received their congratulations.
The Swedes appointed a Delegate to com
pliment him on his arrival, and to allure him

of their affection and fidelity.

At this time, the number of inhabitants

was about three thoufand. The firft plant
ers were the Dutch, and after them the
Swedes and Finns. There had been for
merly difputes among them, but for above
twenty years, they had been in a ftate of
peace. The Dutch were fettled on the bay,
and applied themfelves chiefly to trade : At
Newcaftle they had a court-houfe and a
place of worlhip. The Swedes and Finns 4^
lived higher up the river, and followed huf-
bandry. Their fettlements were Chriftina,
Tenecum, and Wicoco ; at each of which
they had a church. They were a plain,

1 * ^ ^

robuft, fober and induftrious people, and
moft of them had large families. The Col-
D D d ony

. . *

410 P E N N.


ony which Perm had fent over the year be
fore, began their fettlement above Wicoco,
and it was by fpecial direction of the pro
prietor, called PHILADELPHIA. The prov
ince was divided into three counties, Chefter,
Buckingham, and Philadelphia.

Three principal objects engaged the atten
tion of Mr. Penn ; one was to unite the ter
ritory with the province ; another was to en
ter into a treaty with the Indians ; and a
third was to lay out a capital city.

The firft was entered upon immediately.
Within a month after his arrival, he called a
General Aflembly at Chefter, when the con-
ftitution, which had been formed in England ,
was to undergo an experiment. The free
men both of the province and territory were
fummoned to compofe this aiTembly in per-
Jon. Inftead of which, they elected twelve
members in each county,, amounting in all
to feventy-two, the precife number, which
by the frame of government was to com
pofe one houfe only. The elections were
accompanied by petitions, to the Governor,
importing " that the fewnefs of the people,
their inability in eftate, and unfkilfulnefs in
government, would not permit them to ferve


P E N N. 4 u

in fo large a council and afiembly, and there
fore it was their defire, that the twelve now
returned from each county, might ferve both
for Provincial Council and General Aflembly,
with the fame powers and privileges which
by the Charter were granted to the whole."

The members were accordingly distributed
into two houfes ; three out of each county
made a Council, confifting of eighteen, and
the remaining part formed an Aflembly of
fifty-four. In this Aflembly was pafled " the
at of fettlement," in which the frame of
government made in England, being ftyled
a probationary att^ was fo far changed, as that
three perfons of each county might compofe
the Council, and fix the Aflembly. After
feveral other " variations, explanations and
additions," requefled by the Aflembly, and
yielded to by the Governor, the aforefaid
Charter, and frame of government was " re-
cognifed and accepted, as if with thefe alter
ations it was fuppofed to be complete." The
Aflembly is ftyled " the General Afiembly
of the Province of Pennfylvania and the ter
ritories thereunto belonging."

Thus the lower counties, at this time,
manifefted their willingnefs to be united with
the province of Pennfylvania ; but the pro

4*2 P E N N.

prietor had not -received from the Crown,
any right of jurifdiction over that territory,
though the Duke had fold him the right of
foil ; and it was not in the power of the
people, as fubjects of the King of England,
to put themfelves under any form of gov
ernment, without the royal authority. The
want of this, with the operation of other
caufes, produced difficulties, which afterward
rendered this union void ; and the three
lower counties had a feparate Afiembly,
though under the fame Governor,

Mr. Penn's next object was to treat with
the natives. The benevolence of his difpo-
fition led him to exercife great tendernefs
toward them, which was much increafed by
an opinion which he had formed, and which
he openly avowed, that they were defcend-
ants of the ten difperfed tribes of Ifrael. He
travelled into the country, vifite,d them in their
cabins, was prefent at their feafts, converfed
with them in a free and familiar manner,
and gained their affections by his obliging
carriage, and his frequent acts of generofity.
But on public occafions, he received them
with ceremony, and tranfacted bufmefs with
folemnity and order.


PEN 413

In one of his excurfions in the winter, he
found a chief warrior fick, and his wife pre
paring to fweat him, in the ufual manner,
by pouring water on a heap of hot flones,
in a clofely covered hut, and then plunging
him into the river, through a hole cut in the
ice. To divert himfelf during the fweating
operation, the Chief fang the achievements
of his anceftors, then his own, and concluded
his fong with this reflection : " Why are we
fick, and thefe ftrangers well ? It feems as if
they were fent to inherit the land in our ftead !
Ah ! it is becaufe they love the Great Spirit,
and we do not !" The fentiment was
rational, and fuch as often occurred to the
fagacious among the natives : We cannot
fuppofe it was difagreeable to Mr. Penn,
whofe view was to imprefs them with an
idea of his honeft and pacific intentions, and
to make a fair bargain with them.

Some of their Chiefs made him a volun
tary prefent of the land which they claimed ;
others fold it at a ftipulated price. The form
of one of thefe treaties is thus defcribed, in
a letter which he wrote to his friends in
England. " The King fat in the middle of
a half-moon, and had his Council, old and
wife, on each hand. Behind, at a little



diflance, fat the young ones, in the fame
figure. Having confulted and refolved the
bufmefs, the King ordered one of them to
fpeak to me. He flood up, came to me,
took me by the hand, faluted me in the
name of the King, told me he was ordered
by the King to fpeak to me, and that now it
was not he that fpoke, but the King* becaufe
what he fhould fay was the King's mind.
[Having made an apology for their delay,}
he fell to the bounds of the land they had
to difpofe of, and the price, which is now
dear, that which would once have bought
twenty miles, not now buying two. Dur
ing the time this perfon was fpeaking, not a
man of them was obferved to whifper or
fmile. When the purchafe was agreed,
great promiies pafled between us of kindnefs
and good neighbourhood, and that the Eng-
lifh and Indians muft live in love, as long as
the fun gave light. Which done, another
made a fpeech to the Indians in the name of
all the Sachems, firft to tell them what was
done, next to charge them to love the Chrif-
tians, to live in peace with me and my peo
ple, and that they mould never do me or
my people any wrong. At every fentence
of which they Ihouted and faid Amen, in


P E N N. 415

their way. The pay or prefents I made
them, were not hoarded by the particular
owners, but the neighbouring Kings and
their clans being prefent when the goods were
brought out, the parties chiefly concerned
confulted what and to whom they Ihould give
them. To every King, then, by the hands
of a perfon, for that work appointed, was a
proportion fent, forted and folded, with that
gravity which is admirable. Then that King
fubdivided it in like manner among his de
pendants, they hardly leaving themfelves an
equal fhare with one of their fubje&s."

Mr. Penn was fo happy as to fucceed in
his endeavours to gain the good will of the
Indians. They have frequently, in fubfe-
quent treaties many years after, exprefled
great veneration for his memory ; and to
perpetuate it, they have given to the fuc-
ceffive Governors of Pennfylvania the name
of Onas, which fignifies a Pen. By this
name they are commonly known and ad-
drefled in the fpeeches made by the Six Na
tions in all their treaties.

One part of his agreement with the In
dians was, that they mould fell no lands to
any perfon but to himfelf or his agents ;



P E N Ni

another was> that his agents fhould not occii-
py nor grant any lands, but thofe which
were fairly purchafed of the Indians; Thefe
ftipulations were confirmed by fubfequent
acts of Aflembly ; and every bargain made
between private perfons and the Indians
without leave of the proprietor, was declared
void. The charter which Mr. Penn had
obtained of the Crown, comprehended a far
greater extent of territory, than it was prop
er for him at firft to purchafe of the natives*
He did not think it for his intereft to take
any more at orlce than he had a profpect of
granting away to fettlers. But his Colony
increafed beyond his expectation, and when
new tracts were wanted, the Indians rofe in
their demands. His firft purchafes were
made at his own expenfe ; and the goods
delivered on thefe occafions, went by the
name of prefents. In a courfe of time when
a treaty and a purchafe went on together, the
Governor and his fucceflbrs made the fpeech-
es, and the Aflembly were at the expenfe of
the prefents. When one paid the coft, and
the other enjoyed the profit, a fubject of al
tercation arofe between the Proprietary and
the popular interefts, which other caufes con
tributed to increafe and inflame.


-? E N N. 4*7

The purchafes which Mr. Perm made of
the Indians were undoubtedly fair and hon
ed ; and he is entitled to praife for his wifd
and peaceable conduct toward them. But there
is fuch a thing as over-rating true merit. lie
has been celebrated by a late author,* as having
in thefe purchafes " fet an example of mod
eration and juftice, in America, which was
never thought of before by the Europeans."
It had been a common thing in New-Eng
land, for fifty years before his time, to make
fair and regular purchafes of land from the
Indians ; and many of their deeds are pre
fer ved in the public records. As early as
1633, a law was enacled in the Colony of
MafTachufetts, that " no perfon {hall put any
of the Indians from their planting grounds,
or fiihing places ; and that upon complaint
and proof thereof, they fhall have relief in
any of the Courts of juftice, as the Englifh
have." To prevent frauds in private bar
gains, it was ordered by the fame act, that
" no perfon fhall buy land of any Indian,
without licenfe firft had and obtained of the
General Court." Other regulations refpccl-
ing traffic with them, were made at the fame
time, which bear the appearance, not only

EEC of

* Abbe Raynal.

P E N N.

of juftice and moderation,, but of a parental
regard to their intereft and property.

Nor is it to be fuppofed that other Euro
peans neglected their duty in thefe refpects.
Several purchafes Were made before Penn's
time, in New-Jerfey. Mr. Penn himfelf, in
one of his letters, fpeaking of the quarrels
between the Dutch and the Swedes, who
had occupied the lands on the Delaware
before him, fays, " the Dutch, who were the
firft planters, looked on them [the Swedes]
as intruders on their purcbafe and pofTeffion."
Of whom could the Dutch have purchafed
thofe lands, but of the natives ? They could
not have occupied them without the confent
of the Indians, who were very numerous,
and could eafily have extirpated them, or
prevented their fettlement. It is probable
that this Dutch purchafe is referred to in
that part of Penn's letter before quotedj
where he fpeaks of the land at that time,
(1683) as "dearer" than formerly, for how
could this have been afcertained but by com
paring his with former purchafes ?

It may then be proper to confider Mr.
Penn as having followed the " examples of
juftice and moderation," which had been fet


PEN 419

by former Europeans, in their conduit
toward the natives of America ; and as
having united his example with their's, for
the imitation of fucceeding adventurers.
This will give us the true idea of his merit,
without detracting from the refpecl: due to
thofe who preceded him in the arduous
work of colonizing America.

Mr. Penn eafily forefaw that the fituation
of his province, and the liberal encourage
ment which he had given to fettlers, would
draw people of all denominations thither, and
render it a place of commerce ; he therefore
determined to lay the- plan of a capital city,
which, in conformity to his catholic and
pacific ideas, he called PHILADELPHIA.
The fcite of it was a neck of land between
the river Delaware on the eaft, and the
Schuylkill (Hiding Creek) a branch cji the
weft ; and he defigned that the city fhould
extend from one to the other, the diftance
being two miles. This fpot wa> chofen on
account of the firm foil, the gentle rifmg
from each river toward the rnidft, the nu
merous fprings, the convenience of coves
capable of being ufed as docks, the depth of
water for mips of burden, and the good
anchorage. The ground was iurveyed, and

P E N N.

a plan of the intended city was drawn by
Thomas Holme, fu-rveyor-general. Ten
ftreets, of t:wo miles in length, were laid out
from river to river, and twenty ftreets of one
mile in length, crofiing them at right angles.
Four fquares were referved for common pur-
pofes, one in each quarter of the city, and in
the centre, on the moft elevated fpot, was a
larger fquare of ten acres, in which were to
be built a State-houfe, a market-houfe, a
fchool-houfe, and a place of worfhip. On
the fide of each river it was intended to
build wharves and ware-houfes, and from
each front ftreet nearefl to the rivers, an
open fpace was to be left, in the defcent to
the fhores, which would have added much
to the beauty of the city. All owners of
one thoufand acres were entitled to a city-lot,
in the front ftreets, or in the central high
ftreet, and before each houfe was to be an
open couvt, planted with rows of trees.
Smaller purphafers were to be accommoda
ted in the other ftreets ; and care was taken
in all, that no building ftiould encroach on
the ftreet fines. This laft regulation has
been always attended to, though in fome
other refpets the plan has been either dif-

regarded or not complet&fl.


PEN N. 431

The city was begun in 1682, and within
le<~. than a year, " eighty houles and cottages
were built, wherein merchants and mechanics
exerciled their refpective occupations ;" and
they foon found the country around them fo.
well cultivated by the planters, as to afford
them bread and vegetables, while the venifon,
fowl and fifh, made an agreeable variety with
the falted proviiions which they imported.
Penn himfelf writes, with an air of cheerful-
nefs, that he was well contented with the
country, and the entertainment which he
found in it. This letter is among his print
ed works, and in the fame collection we find
an affectionate addrefs to the people of Penn-
fylvania ; in it he appears to have a tender
concern for their moral and religious im
provement, and warns them againft thQ
temptations to which they were expofed.
Their circumftances were indeed peculiar ;
they had fuffered contempt and perfecution
in England, and were now at reft ; in the
enjoyment of liberty, under a popular form
of government ; the eyes of the world were
upon them ; their former enemies were
watching their conduct, and would have
been glad of an opportunity to reproach
them ; it was therefore his defire that they


P E N N.

mould be moderate in profperity, as they
had been patient in adverfity. The con
cluding words of this addrefs, may give us a
fpecimen of his ftyle and manner of preach
ing. " My friends, remember that the Lord
hath brought you upon the ftage ; he hath
now tried you with liberty, yea, and with
power ; he hath put precious opportunities
into your hands ; have a care of a perverfe
fpirit, and do not provoke the Lord by doing
thofe things by which the inhabitants of the
land that were before you, grieved his fpirit ;*
but fan&ify God, the living God in your
hearts, that his blefling may fall and reft as
the dew of heaven on you and your offspring.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 20 22 23 24

Online LibraryUnknownAmerican biography: or, An historical account of those persons who have been distinguished in America, as adventurers, statesmen, philosophers, divines, warriors, authors, and other remarkable characters .. (Volume 2) → online text (page 20 of 24)