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Chapter 15

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
The Dutch and Quaker Colonies
in America

by
John Fiske

published by
Houghton, Mifflin and Company
Boston and New York, 1903

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


[image ALT: link to next section]
Chapter 17

This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

Vol. II
p282
Chapter XVI
The Quaker Commonwealth

When William Penn sailed from Philadelphia to England, in the summer of 1684, it was in the hope of soon returning to take personal supervision of the affairs of his rapidly growing colony. But he soon discovered that England was full of troubles for him. The accession of James II brought Penn into a prominence that had its unfortunate side.

We have seen how it was the dying request of Admiral Penn that the Duke of York should have a care for the welfare of his son. The trust thus confided to James was amply redeemed. There can be little doubt that he was really fond of the young Quaker, and felt in his presence something of the fascination that the brilliant mind will often exert upon minds too narrow and dull to understand it. Moreover, in this case James's policy happened to coincide with his personal inclination. It would be impossible for any two sects within the limits of the Christian Church to differ more profoundly than the Roman Catholics and the Quakers. Yet circumstances were such in Penn's time that this radical hostility did not prevent the existence, for a moment, of something like a tacit alliance between the two; and the same cruel king, who broke the legs and crushed the thumbs of his Scottish Presbyterian subjects with all the zest of an inquisitor, was glad to seize an occasion for setting free the Quakers who crowded the jails of England. This was because Quakers and Catholics differed so far, though in opposite directions, from the opinions generally held by the English people that they were alike condemned by everybody. Even the warmest advocates p285of toleration were wont to make an exception in the case of Catholics and Quakers, who for different reasons were regarded as hardly within the pale of Christianity. Hence Quakers and Catholics had, for the moment, an interest in common, as opposed to the intermediate Christian sects, and hence, both as duke and afterward as king, the Catholic James found it worth his while to befriend the chief of the Quakers. It was a singular alliance, that between the man for whom such words as pity and clemency were meaningless terms, and the man whose faith in the ethical teachings of Jesus was so genuine that he was eager to see them embodied in civil legislation and made the cornerstone of a new Christian state. It is strange to think of the champion of truthfulness and toleration as a Jacobite, leagued in political bonds of sympathy with a family whose very name has come to be almost a synonym for bigotry and falsehood. It is this singular alliance which once kindled the wrath of the prejudiced and impetuous Macaulay, and led him to bring some foul charges against Penn's integrity.

Of Macaulay's charges, the only one that needs mention1 is that which relates to the affair of the Maids of Taunton. When the handsome Duke of Monmouth was making his silly attempt to dethrone James II, and on a bright June day of the year 1685 rode into Taunton with much bustle and parade, he was met in the market-place by a procession of school-girls, from ten or twelve to sixteen years, all in their prettiest summer gowns. They gave him a royal standard richly embroidered, and the good schoolmistress gave him a Bible, and all felt, no doubt, that they p286had done what was right. A few weeks later, when Monmouth had begged for his life in vain, and the ghastly skulls of his adherents were bleaching over many a city gate, and the execrable Jeffreys was holding his Bloody Assizes, some of the queen's maids of honour asked the king for permission to threaten those poor children, of whose frolic they had heard, in order to extort blackmail from their parents. James granted the infamous permission. The story of the consequent distress and misery at Taunton almost makes one ashamed of belonging to the human race. One young girl was snatched from home and thrown into a dungeon, where she died of fever. Another mustered courage to go into court and declare her innocence of evil intent and beg the hyena Jeffreys for mercy. His only answer was to put on one of his hideous frowns and shout, "Take her away, jailer!" She was led away shivering and sobbing, and died within a few hours, literally frightened to death. Out of such sufferings the queen's ladies tried to make £7000, but were obliged to desist long before their greed was satisfied.

Now, when Macaulay found that the name of the solicitor who represented the maids of honour in this devil's work was "Mr. Penne," it seemed to him to furnish welcome proof that anybody who stood high in favour with James II must be more or less of a knave. So he seized the occasion for inculcating a moral lesson for the benefit of all admirers of the founder of Pennsylvania. "The maids of honour," says Macaulay, "requested William Penn to act for them, and Penn accepted the commission. Yet it should seem that a little of the pertinacious scrupulosity which he had often shown about taking off his hat would not have been altogether out of place on this occasion."2 Macaulay went on to speculate ingeniously as to the arguments by which Penn might have succeeded in silencing the voice of conscience. Many of us can still remember how Macaulay's readers, more than forty years ago, were astounded by this grave accusation. But when, after more p287careful inquiry, it turned out that the "Mr. Penne" in question was not the great Quaker after all, but a certain George Penne, a notorious pettifogger and pardon-broker at the Stuart court, the historian's moral lesson lost much of its point, and one could not help feeling that once more in this dull world there had been some very vigorous barking up the wrong tree!

None of the charges brought against William Penn have been adequately supported; and so far was his character from deteriorating through his intimacy with James II, that at no time in his life does he seem more honest, brave, and lovable than during the years, so full of trouble for him, that intervened between the accession of James and the accession of Anne. As for the king, Penn always maintained that, with all his faults, he was not so black as people painted him; and this we may readily admit. A man who had and retained such friends as Nicolls and Dongan could not been entirely devoid of redeeming traits. But there was one side of James's character to which Penn was not sufficiently awake. Unlike other Stuarts in many respects, James was as false as any of the race, but his treacherousness was more or less concealed under an appearance of honest and awkward dulness. One would not look for Machiavelism in such a dense atmosphere. Nevertheless, James was able to impress Penn with the belief that in extending royal favour to Quakers he had the interests of religious liberty at heart, and, so long as Penn was thus hoodwinked, his demeanour towards the king was liable to be such as to excite the suspicion of patriots, who realized how dangerous that personage really was. When the great Quaker came to be known as a royal favourite, and scores of people crowded his doorsteps, in order to obtain through him royal aid for their schemes, he was at once placed in a position that could hardly fail to be misunderstood.

The difficulty of his position was well illustrated in the famous case of the Seven Bishops. It should be distinctly understood that in 1687 England was in serious danger, and p288that the interests of civil and religious liberty were gravely imperilled. All over Europe the Counter-Reformation had made alarming progress; and the ground gained by the peace of Westphalia, in 1648, seemed for the moment lost again. The most recent great event was the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, and Louis XIV seemed as formidable as in later days Napoleon at Tilsit. Under these circumstances the intense anti-Catholic excitement in England was natural; it was one of the forms assumed by the instinct of self-preservation. The new king of England intended to destroy Protestantism, and civil liberty with it, wherever he could. To achieve his ends he relied ultimately upon military force to be summoned from Ireland, and aid to be extended by the king of France, as well as upon the development of a strong party loyal to himself in England. For this latter purpose he offered favours to Dissenters, hoping to secure their support until the time when he should feel strong enough to desert and betray them. Hence his attempt, under the hypocritical pretence of liberality in matters of religion, to annul the various test acts which, in the course of his brother's reign, had been passed against Presbyterians, Independents, Baptists, and Quakers, as well as Roman Catholics. Parliament would not repeal these acts, and so James tried to override them by a royal Declaration of Indulgence, thus setting himself up above the law. Such favours law-abiding Englishmen were slow to avail themselves of; there were many, like Richard Baxter, who suspected the trick and warned their fellow-dissenters. The king, by an order in council, commanded the ministers of all persuasions, in all churches and chapels throughout the kingdom, to read his Declaration aloud to their congregations on two successive Sundays. Before the first Sunday arrived, a petition signed by Sancroft, Archbishop of Canterbury, and six suffragan bishops, protesting against the order in council, was served upon the king. When Sunday came, not more than two hundred clergymen in all England read the Declaration. In Westminster p289Abbey it was read amid such murmurs that not a word could be heard. In another church the minister sarcastically observed that, though he was commanded to read it, the people were not commanded to hear it; so he waited till all had had gone out, and then read it to the walls.3 Forthwith the seven recalcitrant bishops were brought to trial on a criminal information for seditious libel; and in the shouts with which London greeted the verdict of "Not guilty" there resounded the death-knell of Stuart kingcraft.

Now, while these intense popular excitement was thoroughly sound, it cannot be denied that the refusal of the seven bishops was, on the face of it, a protest against a policy of religious toleration, and doubtless, among the motives by which they were actuated, there was something of narrow bigotry as well as of patriotism and reverence for law.4 It was therefore impossible for William Penn to sympathize with these prelates, or with the popular enthusiasm by which they were supported. He did not suspect the king's double-dealing; his zeal for perfect liberty of conscience was much greater than his dread of the Counter-Reformation; and from Episcopacy he and his friends had met with little save contumely and oppression. Politically, while he was as far as possible from sympathizing with the Tories, Penn was clearly not a Whig. His ideals were strongly republican. With regard to the much-desired boon of religious liberty, the object of his lifelong yearning, it seemed too great a boon to refuse, no matter how objectionable the shape in which it might be offered. He would have preferred to see all test acts abolished by Parliament, but when a king undertook to override such vile laws, he could not find it in his heart to oppose him. Thus did Penn find himself, in this national crisis, quite out of sympathy with the national feeling. The natural results p290followed. He was called "William the Jesuit," an emissary in the pay of Rome; he was accused of saying mass at Whitehall; he was supposed to have prompted the king to his Declaration of Indulgence; and even the high-handed arrest of the seven bishops was laid at his door, although he earnestly disapproved of it. No aspersion was too black to be cast upon him.5 He suffered all the more injustice because of the noble courage with which he declared his opinions, then as always. When William III arrived, and it became fashionable to vilify or deride the exiled James, Penn's beautiful fidelity to his old guardian was unimpaired, and he had always his good word to say for the fallen prince.

It followed from all this that many persons believed our good Quaker to be implicated in Jacobite plots, and in the year 1691 he felt that prudence required him to live very quietly in obscure lodgings in the city of London. For an innocent man it seemed better thus than to seek safety abroad,6 and Penn was sure that he could satisfy William III of his innocence of any complicity with Jacobite intrigues. For more than two years he continued to live thus in retirement, writing a number of admirable books and pamphlets, one of which, entitled "Fruits of Solitude," is in some respects the most charming of his p291works. During this period an incident occurred which deserves mention for its intrinsic interest in coupling Penn's name with that of John Locke. In 1685, during Monmouth's insurrection, the great philosopher was in Holland. His patron, Lord Shaftesbury, had once supported Monmouth's claim to the succession, and there were dastardly creatures who whispered in King James's ear suspicions of Locke. At that time Penn wrote to Locke, offering him from the king full pardon and amnesty for whatever he might have done, and bidding him feel quite free to return to England; for, quoth Penn most naïvely, "I am sure none can mistrust the king's word!"

But the sagacious Locke did mistrust it. He replied sententiously that "he had no occasion for a pardon, having committed no crime," and he stayed in the Netherlands. Now in 1691, while Penn was under a cloud, Locke stood very high in the favour of William III, and the spirit moved him to do something for his old Oxford friend. He made his way to Penn's lodgings in the city, and offered to secure for him from the king full pardon and grace for whatsoever complications he might have been drawn into. One fancies it must have been with a merry laugh that Penn, in declining the friendly offer, quoted against Locke his own testimony, "the innocent need no pardon."7

King William was doubtless quite satisfied of Penn's innocence of complicity with Jacobite schemes, but other circumstances came in to influence his conduct toward the proprietor of Pennsylvania. In the mighty and irrepressible conflict with the powers of darkness as embodied in Louis XIV, who could tell what would become of the Dutch and Quaker colonies that occupied the citadel of North America? It would not do to leave Pennsylvania in the hands of men who had conscientious scruples about drawing a sword or firing a gun. Military policy forbade such a thing. Accordingly, in March, p2921693, an order in council deprived Penn of his proprietary government. Pennsylvania was made into a royal province and consigned to the rule of Benjamin Fletcher, the soldier who then governed New York.

This blow was made all the more shocking for Penn by the news of the defection of his old friend, George Keith, who had been one of his companions in the memorable Low German tour of 1677. Keith enjoyed a high reputation for linguistic and scientific attainment. In 1689 he was headmaster of the first Quaker school in Philadelphia, now known as the William Penn Charter School, and there he began to find fault with his brethren for making too much of the Inward Light and too little of Christ and the Scriptures. His dissent grew more and more emphatic, and extended to such matters of detail as the condemnation of capital punishment. The Yearly Meeting at Philadelphia rejected his views, but he had many sympathizers, who were known for some time as "Keithian Quakers." It was not long, however, before Keith passed over into Episcopacy. After a visit to England he came back to America in 1700 as the first missionary of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, and travelled about the country making converts and organizing new Episcopal churches. Most of the Keithian Quakers likewise went back into the Church of England.

The loss of his province, the defection of his old friend, and the knowledge that some of his fellow-Quakers suspected him of sympathy with Jesuits were blows which it taxed all of Penn's buoyant strength to bear. Added to those calamities came the loss of his wife, in February, 1694. But soon after, in the midst of the valley of the shadow of death, there came voices of comfort. Renewed expressions of love and trust on the part of his brethren were followed, in August, 1694, by an order in council restoring to Penn the proprietary government of his woodland in the New World. Again we find p293him travelling and preaching in England and Ireland: in 1696 he is married to Hannah Callowhill, a "devout and comely maiden" of Bristol; and in 1699, with this new wife and his grown‑up children, William and Letitia, he comes once more across the wave to visit his woodland.

When Penn arrived in Philadelphia, the city had scarcely recovered from the panic into which it had been thrown by a deadly visitation of yellow fever. But, in spite of the pale, scared faces, the evidences of prosperity abounded on every side. There were more than p294700 houses in the city, indicating a population of not less than 4000 souls. There were some spacious and well-built brick warehouses, and two Friends' meeting-houses, as well as an Episcopal church. Here and there were gardens brilliant with roses, lilies, and carnations. Penn now dwelt for a while in the famous "Slate-roof House," at the corner of Second Street and Norris Alley, which was pulled down in 1867. But he much preferred a country home, called Pennsbury, in Bucks county, northeast of the little city. There in 1682 he had begun building a fine house, which cost him £7000. An inventory of the furniture mentions plush couches, embroidered chairs, curtains of camlet and satin, and in the drawing-room such a carpet as was seldom seen outside of a palace. The silver and china were of the finest, and Penn's orders to his steward show that asceticism formed no part of his theory of life. Not vain display, but refined and bountiful comfort, was his ideal. He could appreciate a toothsome haunch of venison, and tells how "the old priest at Philadelphia had rare shads." With such a companion he would sit till a late hour discussing learned questions over a stoup of good ale or wine.8 He was much interested, like Washington, in the details of domestic affairs; and the devout maiden of Bristol, whose executive ability was marked and manifold, proved a most competent house wife.

Between his rural mansion and Philadelphia, the Lord Proprietor used either to ride his horse by the river's bank, or to go on the river in a six-oared barge, of which he was very fond. "Above all dead things," he wrote to his steward, "take care of my barge." Once, on a stormy day, as he was fighting the waves with it, the governor of New Jersey overhauled him, and expressed surprise that he should thus venture out against such a wind and tide. Quick and pithy was the reply: "I have been sailing against wind and tide all my life."

p295 In the government of his New World province he encountered other adverse winds and tides than those of the Delaware River. From the outset, there was a human element of strife in the City of Brotherly Love. There was, first, the question as to how much or how little democracy might best comport with the proprietary rule. Penn was, for his age, an advanced democrat; yet he never ceased to regard himself as a kind of patriarch who knew much better what was good for his little sylvan community than the people themselves. In this assumption he was very likely correct; but it is one of the essential features of thorough-going democracy that those who do not know what is best should have a much greater part in governing than those who do know, since they are much the more numerous. In the minds of many people, democracy rests upon the colossal untruth that "one man is as good as another,"9 so that a large number are more likely to be right than a small number. In reality democracy rests upon the ubiquitous p296fact that all men are directly interested in securing a good government, while its successes have often been due to its practical recognition of the truth that some men are born to lead and others to follow. The fact that William Penn was a born leader was too obvious to be questioned, and between him and his people there was not much contention. But with his deputies, when he was absent in England, the case was different. Constitutional questions at once came to the foreground, and one of the first was that which concerned the shares to be taken by the assembly and the council in the work of legislation. It was Penn's original intention to give the sole power of originating laws to the council, while all laws required confirmation by the assembly. But this scheme was never realized. By 1693 all power of law-making was absorbed by the assembly, while the council became a mere board of advisers to the governor; and thenceforth for a hundred years the government of Pennsylvania was practically unicameral.

Along with such questions there were disagreements between the "province" and the "territories," or between Pennsylvania and Delaware, which resulted permanently in separate legislatures for the two. There were also troubles between Quakers and non-Quakers, especially the members of the Church of England. Some increment of confusion and bitterness came from Keith's apostasy. Meanwhile the quit-rents failed to be collected, and each dissatisfied party was inclined to accuse its antagonists of surreptitious dealings with the ubiquitous pirates.

Penn approached the situation in a most amiable spirit. "Friends," said he, "if in the constitution by charter there be anything that jars, alter it." The revised charter of 1701 comprised but nine articles. The first grants liberty of conscience to all who "confess and acknowledge Almighty God," which, on a strict interpretation, would have admitted Mussulmans and Jews, and would have excluded such persons as Denis Diderot or the late Mr. p297Bradlaugh. At the same time, the right to hold executive or legislative offices was restricted to persons "who profess to believe in Jesus Christ," a provision which ought hardly to have barred out Unitarians, but was sometimes used for that purpose.

The second article requires an assembly to be chosen yearly by the freemen, to consist of four persons or more from each county. This assembly has full powers to choose its officers, to judge of the qualifications of its own members, to adjourn itself, to prepare bills and make laws, impeach criminals and redress grievances, 'with all other powers and privileges of an assembly, according to the rights of free-born subjects of England.'

"The third article requires the freemen to elect two or three people for each position of sheriff or coroner or other court officers, and the governor to choose among them; or, if the governor fails to select, the first named shall serve.

"The fourth declares that all laws shall be issued in the form, 'By the Governor, with consent and approbation of the freemen in General Assembly met.'

"The fifth allows all criminals to have the same privileges of witnesses and counsel as their prosecutors.

"The sixth requires that all cases concerning property shall be decided by courts of justice, and not by governor and council.

"The seventh prevents any one receiving a tavern license who is not recommended by the justices and allows the justices to suppress a disorderly public house.

"The eighth prevents the forfeiture of the estates of suicides or intestates; prohibits any law contrary to this charter without the consent of the governor and six sevenths of the assembly; and pledges the Proprietor to observe inviolably the first article concerning liberty of conscience.

"Lastly, the Proprietor binds himself and heirs not to destroy the liberties of the charter, and declares such actions, if attempted, to be of no force or effect."10

p298 Scarcely had this charter begun to go into operation when Penn felt it necessary to return once more to England. There was always a more or less powerful opposition to his lord-proprietorship, and he felt that he must be near the throne in order to protect his interests and ensure the success of the holy experiment. The accession of Queen Anne, in 1701, was in many ways favourable to Penn. The late king, who could admire him for his fearlessness and his breadth of view, was never fully in sympathy with him. Something like a gulf divided the preacher of universal peace and brotherly love from the warlike king to whose lot it had fallen to defeat a most formidable conspiracy for depriving human civilization of all that it had gained since the days of Wyclif. Louis XIV was the great champion of ideas and methods which would have made Europe no better than Cathay, of the spirit of civil and religious despotism, — the accursed thing which Voltaire afterward stigmatized as "The Infamous." The policy of L'Infâme was one of blood and iron, and with blood and iron the mighty Dutchman must oppose it. Thus William of Orange was beset by a characteristic temptation to interfere with the holy experiment. In 1701 he asked Pennsylvania to contribute £350 toward erecting fortifications upon the northern frontier of New York, and thus a serious question was raised. Could a Quaker legislature properly vote money for military purposes? Different opinions were expressed. Some worthy Friends, who abhorred warfare as much as any, nevertheless did not feel bound to sit still and let the enemy cut their throats. Others deemed it right to adhere to their principles and trust in Providence for the result. So for four days "there was an unpleasant parley" which ended in a postponement of the vote, while sundry resolutions were adopted, vague and ambiguous enough for any modern political platform. Warned by such symptoms, Penn was careful to leave in the province deputy-governors without were not averse to fighting in self-defence.

p299 In the Christmas time of 1701, Penn arrived once more in England; before Easter the great king had passed away, and by Whitsuntide the gigantic war of the Spanish Succession had begun. Queen Anne was inclined to befriend Penn for her father's sake, and there was no further serious risk of his losing his province. Of his military deputies, however, one contrived, through excess of zeal, to make much trouble. The appointment of this man, John Evans, was one of a number of instances which seem to show that Penn was liable to err in his judgments of character. He was apt to be too generous in his estimates of men. Evans was a youth of five-and‑twenty or so, with some scholar-like traits which attracted Penn's admiration, but he soon showed himself unworthy of trust. There was not much danger of an attack upon the little Quaker commonwealth on the Delaware River; that community did not extend westward enough, nor did the French-Algonquin conflagration, against which New York and New England were fighting, as yet extend westward enough; the Five Nations, an insuperable barrier, stood between. But Evans, who was not a Quaker, believed in going forth to smite the hosts of Amalek, and to help the cause of England wherever it was imperilled. His call for troops met with no response, whereupon he resorted to an almost incredibly shameful and puerile trick. On a bright spring day in 1706, while the good people of Philadelphia were holding their annual fair, a courier came spurring into town with consternation depicted upon his face, and announced that a dozen French warships were coming up the river. The governor straightway sprang upon his horse and cantered about the streets, waving a drawn sword and calling people to arms. At this sudden alarm, which was simply a brazen falsehood, some people threw their silver spoons and goblets into their wells for p300hiding, some ran out into the woods, some crowded into boats and hurried up the river, a few poor women were frightened into miscarriage; but the scare was soon over, and the silly Evans became an object of scorn.11 The failure of this artificial attempt to create a panic, in the absence of the natural conditions, is instructive. Of the Quakers it is said that very few took part in the momentary excitement. Most of them were gathered at a religious meeting, and during the hubbub they went on quietly with their devotions. Only four Quakers were found under arms at the governor's place of rendezvous.

Still bent upon contributing something to the war against Antichrist, the clumsy Evans persuaded the people of the Delaware settlements to build a fort at Newcastle, and to clap a duty on cargoes passing either to or from Philadelphia. This tax, which was known as "powder money", was a violation of Penn's charter; whereupon three stout Quakers — Richard Hill, Isaac Norris, and Samuel Preston, gentlemen of high consideration — ran a sloop down past the fortress, at the cost of a bullet-hole in their mainsail, and when the commander gave chase they captured him and carried him to Salem, on the Jersey shore, where, after some coarse rebuke from Lord Cornbury, who happened p301to be there, he was sent about his business. This was the end of "powder money."

Evans, moreover, disgusted people by his loose living. Rumour attributed to him scandalous adventures with Indian squaws and white women,12 and he seems to have been something of a tippler and a brawler withal; for once the watchman, "Solomon Cresson, going his rounds at night, entered a tavern to suppress a riotous assembly, and found there John Evans, Esq., the governor, who fell to beating Cresson."13 On such occasions one of the governor's boon companions was young William Penn, the unworthy son of the Proprietor. The antics of this graceless boy nearly broke his father's heart.

These troubles were presently followed by a dire calamity. For steward of his province Penn had appointed one Philip Ford, who turned out to be a scoundrel. It was a fresh illustration of Penn's weakest point, an occasional slowness in recognizing the bad side of human nature. With all the worldly wisdom of which he had so much, Penn now and then showed a streak of guilelessness that reminds one of Tom Pinch. This trait helps us to understand his belief in the honesty of James II. The wretched Ford died in 1706, leaving a very murky set of accounts, and a widow and son as unscrupulous as himself. In these days Penn, in spite of his wealth, often found himself in need of ready money. Large sums were sunk in his holy experiment; his dissolute son had debts amounting to £10,000; and his daughter's husband, William Aubrey, a mean-spirited creature, extorted money from him. At one time Penn borrowed money of Ford, and mortgaged his province of Pennsylvania as security; when he repaid the loan, he neglected to get back from Ford the bond and mortgage. So after For d's death his widow and son brought against Penn a trumped-up claim for £14,000, and petitioned Queen Anne to hand over to them the proprietorship of Pennsylvania. The base attempt p302failed, but not until it had led to Penn's incarceration for nine months in the Fleet prison.

By 1712 Penn was on the point of selling for £12,000 his proprietary government to the crown, while retaining the landed estates which he owned in Pennsylvania. But in the course of that year a paralytic stroke nearly put an end to his power of doing business. He lingered for six years, with memory failing until he could scarcely recognize his nearest friends. The contemplated surrender of the proprietary government was never made, but after divers questions had been decided by the courts, it passed to the founder's three surviving sons by his second wife. Of these the eldest, John Penn, called "the American" because he was born in Philadelphia in 1700, died in England in 1746 without issue. The second brother, Thomas Penn, died in England in 1775, leaving two sons, John and Granville, both of whom attained distinction. The third brother, Richard Penn, died in England in 1771, leaving two sons, John and Richard, who were successively lieutenant-governors of Pennsylvania. When the proprietary government came to an end in 1776, it was in the possession of these heirs of Thomas and Richard. For seven years after the founder's death, while his three sons were still young, the interests of the proprietorship were managed with great ability by his widow.

One of the most important personages in the Quaker commonwealth was James Logan, the friend of the founder and representative of his ideas. This remarkable man, a native of Ulster, was descended from the Scottish Logans of Restabrig who lost their estates for connection with the mysterious Gowrie conspiracy. James was an infant prodigy; at the age of twelve his attainments in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew had attracted much notice, and he afterward attained distinction in modern languages, mathematics, physics, and natural history. Penn brought him to Philadelphia on his second coming, in 1699, and for the next forty years he was always in some high position, — secretary of the p303province, member of the council, judge of common pleas, chief justice, mayor of Philadelphia, and in 1736‑38, acting governor of Pennsylvania. Like his friend Penn, he knew how to win and keep the confidence of the red men, and it was in honour of him that the chieftain Tagahjutè received the name of Logan, long to be remembered for the tale of woe which cast such unjust aspersions upon the fame of Captain Michael Cresap.14 The singular variety of his genius is shown by the fact that his friend Linnaeus, in compliment to his botanical attainments, named after him a natural order of herbs and shrubs, the Loganiaceae, containing some 30 genera in 350 species, of which strychnos nux vomica is one of the best known. He published Latin essays on reproduction in plants, and on the aberration of light; translated Cato's "Disticha" and Cicero's "De Senectute;" and bequeathed to the city his library of 2000 volumes, comprising all the Latin classics, and more than a hundred folios in Greek, with the original edition of Ptolemy's "Almagest" and Timon's commentary, "from my learned friend Fabricius, who published fourteen volumes of his 'Bibliotheca Graeca' in quarto, in which, after he had finished his account of Ptolemy, on my inquiring from him at Hamburg how I should find it, having long sought it in vain in England, he sent it to me out of his own library, telling me it was so scarce that neither price nor prayers could purchase it."

A very different figure was that of the stout Welshman, David Lloyd, whom Penn sent over in 1686 to be attorney-general of the province. At various times Lloyd was member of the assembly and of the council, judge of admiralty, and chief justice of the commonwealth. Without any pretence to such profound and varied attainments as Logan's, he was a learned jurist and had an extensive knowledge of Welsh history and philology. In politics Lloyd represented the popular party, while Logan stood for the proprietary interests and prerogatives of the Penns, and the strife between them was often intense and bitter. The p304general character of Pennsylvania politics early in the eighteenth century we have already indicated; the details are so closely implicated with the struggle against France that they will be best treated in my future volumes which are to deal with that mighty conflict. Lloyd was contentious, and his methods were sometimes objectionable, but they surely helped to carry out Penn's democratic ideas to their logical conclusions.15

The associations connected with such men as Logan and Penn served at once to give something of a literary atmosphere to Philadelphia, which was greatly heightened after the return of Benjamin Franklin from London in 1726. The founding of the Philadelphia Library in 1731, of the American Philosophical Society in 1743, and of the University of Pennsylvania in 1749‑55, were evidences of the rapid development of the Quaker commonwealth in scholarship and in literary tastes. In these respects Philadelphia was in contrast with New York, and by the middle of the eighteenth century her reputation for culture was second only to that of Boston and Cambridge. The immense contributions made by Franklin to the higher life of Philadelphia are a striking commentary upon the excellence of Penn's unflinching insistence upon "soul liberty." Franklin, though born in Boston, was hardly a product of the Puritan theocracy. His parents, who did not quit their ancient home in Northamptonshire until a few years before his birth, were Puritans of a liberal type who had but lately left the Church of England. The atmosphere of Boston was too stifling for the youthful Benjamin, who was born with the p306temperament of a free-thinker, and soon began to hear himself called an "infidel." There can be no doubt that this circumstance was potent in turning the young man's attention to the more liberal Dutch and Quaker commonwealths,16 and thus his footsteps were led to Pennsylvania, which could furnish more work for printers than New York. Thus Boston's loss was Philadelphia's gain.

In spite of their liberalism, the Quakers attached far less importance to education than the Puritans of New England. The majority of their preachers and instructors were men of high moral tone and spiritual insight with scant learning, like George Fox himself. Fox used to say that "God stood in no need of human learning," and that "Oxford and Cambridge could not make a minister." Quakers, in studying the Bible, depended upon their Inner Light rather than that critical interpretation of texts to which the orthodox Puritans attached so much importance. A knowledge of Hebrew, therefore, was not highly valued; and as for Greek and Latin literature, it was the unsanctified work of pagans, while the poets of France and Italy dealt with worldly and frivolous themes. In these respects we must remember that Penn was as far from being a typical Quaker as Milton, with his pervading artistic sense, his love of music and the theatre, and his long curling hair, was from being a typical Puritan. George Fox and John Cotton are respectively the typical men. The latter, who spent twelve hours a day in study and said, "I love to sweeten my mouth with a piece of Calvin before I go to sleep," could write and speak fluently in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew, besides carrying a ponderous burden of philological, metaphorical, and theological erudition. Among the Puritan divines of New England, real scholarship was commonly p307found, and it was sometimes of a high order; and this was because sound scholarship was supposed to be conducive to soundness in doctrines. This explains the founding of Harvard College in the wilderness in 1636.

To the Quaker, whose mind was directly illuminated by light from above, this elaborate equipment was mere rubbish. It was therefore not strange that in colonial times the higher education in Pennsylvania owed little to Quakers. They were nevertheless careful, as people of practical sense, to teach their children "the three R's," and it was unusual to find a member of the community who could not write and cipher. The first school in Philadelphia was opened in 1683, when the town was scarcely a year old. p308In that humble establishment the master, Enoch Flower, taught reading for four shillings per quarter; for six shillings the pupil could add writing, and for eight shillings arithmetic likewise, to his initial accomplishment. In 1689 the Society of Friends set up their public school, which was chartered by Penn in 1711.

The impulse toward literary culture, given from the outset by Penn and his friends, was visible in the early establishment of a printing-press, the first one south of New England, by William Bradford, in 1685. In 1690 the same Bradford set up a paper-mill on the bank of the Schuylkill. After his removal to New York in 1693,17 his son Andrew kept up the press, with a considerable book-store, and in 1719 issued the first newspaper in the middle colonies. In 1735 he was finely established as a bookseller atº the sign of the Bible in Second Street, whence he afterward moved to South Front Street, and in 1741 began to publish "The American Magazine." In the following year Andrew's nephew, William Bradford, started the "Pennsylvania Journal," which was continued under that name until 1801, when it became "The True American." It was in Andrew Bradford's office that Franklin in 1723 found work as a compositor. The standard English books of the period could be found on the shelves of Philadelphia booksellers, and the demand for such work as Robertson's "Charles V" and Blackstone's "Commentaries" was so great that they were reprinted. Among Pennsylvanians who attained distinction for scientific or literary achievement were the astronomer David Rittenhouse, the botanists John Bartram and his son William, the self-taught mathematician Thomas Godfrey, one of the inventors of Hadley's so‑called quadrant,18 and his son Thomas, author of the first American dramatic p311work, "The Prince of Parthia." This tragedy, rapid and strong in action, and dignified, if somewhat monotonous and conventional in its language,19 suggests that, had not the author been cut off at the early age of seven-and‑twenty, he might have won honourable mention among English poets.

p312 At the time when the first American drama was written, the stage was generally viewed with strong disapproval, except in New York, where the first theatre was opened in 1761, in spite of some feeble remonstrances. In Philadelphia a little company of players undertook in 1749 to give the public a taste of Shakespeare under improvised conditions, but the performance was suppressed by the magistrates. After two or three further abortive attempts, the Old Southwark Theatre went into operation in 1766, and the most vehement efforts to close it were unsuccessful. It is worthy of note that, among the strait-laced persons who deemed it scandalous to look on at "Hamlet" or "Othello," there were not a few who took delight in cock-fighting and bull-baiting.20

p313 The chief occupation of Pennsylvanians was agriculture, but there was also a brisk commerce, and towns grew up rapidly. Soon after the middle of the century, Philadelphia, with a population of 30,000, was the largest city of the English colonies; Lancaster, with 10,000, was the largest inland town; York was nearly as large; while Wilmington and Newcastle, in Delaware, were thriving places. Wheat, timber, and furs were exported in such quantities as to employ more than 500 ships and 7000 sailors. Sugar, wines and liquors, and most kinds of manufactured articles, were imported; but some manufactures flourished almost from the start. The ale brewed in Philadelphia soon became deservedly famous. Bradford's printing-press and paper-mill have already been mentioned, and good German glass was made at Germantown and Manheim. By the middle of the eighteenth century, the export of pig iron to England reached 3000 tons.

In such a community negro slavery could not come to be regarded as an economic necessity. As a rule, every farmer owned the house in which he dwelt, and the land p314which he cultivated with the aid of the members of his family and hired servants. But there were a good many indented white servants,21 partly convicts and kidnapped waifs, but in greater part Irish and German "redemptioners" who sold themselves into temporary servitude to defray the cost of their ocean voyage. In the eighteenth century, probably more such redemptioners came to Pennsylvania than to any of the other colonies. They were in general kindly treated. The regular term of service was four years, with five days additional for every day of truancy. They could not be sold out of the province without their consent freely given in open court, or before a justice of the peace; and good behaviour entitled them at the end of their service to a suit of clothes and a set of farm tools. These white freedmen often became useful and respectable members of society.

From the first there were negro slaves in Pennsylvania, used mostly for household service, but seldom as field-hands except in Delaware. But the Quaker conscience was aroused on the subject of slavery at a time when other Christians could see nothing wrong in it. The Memorial of 1688, in which the German Friends of Germantown protested against "the buying and keeping of negroes," is still in existence. During the next half-century the assembly laboured assiduously to check the importation of slaves by imposing prohibitory duties on such traffic. Some years before 1776 slaves had ceased to be brought into Pennsylvania. In 1758 the Yearly Meeting enjoined all Friends to set free their slaves, "making a Christian provision for them." Many complied, but a few held out until "in 1776 a declaration of independence for all slaves held by Friends was decreed, and monthly meetings were directed, after proper effort, to exclude from membership all Quakers who refused to comply."22 Long before the Revolution p315the practice of manumission had been sufficiently frequent to create a much larger class of free blacks than could be found in any of the other colonies.

The Quaker spirit in dealing with pauperism and crime was equally admirable, although with regard to capital punishment it proved impossible to realize the ideal of Penn and confine the death penalty to cases of murder and treason. The list of capital offences grew to fourteen, including highway robbery, horse-stealing, and counterfeiting. In 1731 Catherine Bevan was burned alive at Newcastle for the murder of her husband. It was intended to strangle her before the fire could reach her, but a sudden outbreak of flame severed the rope, and drove away the executioner, so that she died in torment. For larceny, fornication, and assault, the usual penalties were pillory and whipping-post. It was said that the indented white servants furnished the great majority of offenders. In 1703 we find the grand jury presenting all persons known to play at cards in public; nine persons at one time for selling strong drink without a license; "John Walker for using Sassafras Street as a ropewalk;" three barbers for "trimming people on First day," etc.23

The practice in such matters was therefore not very different from that of the other colonies. But Pennsylvania was honourably distinguished for the good care of prisons and the humanity of prison discipline. Visitors from Europe remarked upon Philadelphia prisons as the best in the world. Philadelphia had also the only lunatic asylum in America that was managed upon something like modern methods. It had, moreover, an excellent hospital, a reform school, and no city in the world devoted a larger share of time and thought to philanthropic purposes. In all this we see the direct influence of Quakerism, and of the ideals of William Penn.

Indeed, to cite the words of the illustrious lawyer, Andrew Hamilton, on retiring from his place as speaker of the assembly, p316in 1739: "It is not to the fertility of our soil or the commodiousness of our rivers that we ought chiefly to attribute the great progress this province has made within so small a compass of years in improvements, wealth, trade, and navigation, and the extraordinary increase of people who have been drawn from every country in Europe; it is all due to the excellency of our Constitution. Our foreign trade and shipping are free from all imposts except those small duties payable to His Majesty by the statute laws of Great Britain. The taxes are inconsiderable, for the sole power of raising and disposing of public money is lodged in the assembly. . . . By many years' experience we find that an equality among religious societies, without distinguishing one sect with greater privileges than another, is the most effective method to discourage hypocrisy, promote the practice of moral virtues, and prevent the plagues and mischiefs which always attend religious squabbling. This is our Constitution, and this Constitution was framed by the wisdom of Mr. Penn."

Hamilton was right in attributing the extraordinary increase of people drawn from all parts of Europe to the excellency of Penn's ideas. Although Pennsylvania began her existence seventy-five years later than Virginia and fifty-two years later than the colony of Massachusetts Bay, although she was the youngest of all the colonies save Georgia, yet before the revolution she had come to rank next after Virginia and Massachusetts in populousness. The chief elements in this rapid increase were two great streams of immigration — the Palatinate German and Scottish-Irish streams — which were drawn thither in consequence of Penn's ideas. One of the most interesting aspects in which to consider Pennsylvania is as the chief centre of diffusion of the people who became afterward the pioneers of the democratic West. In our next and concluding chapter, something must be said concerning this matter.


The Author's Notes:

1 They were conclusively refuted by W. E. Forster, in his preface to a new edition of Clarkson's Life of Penn, London, 1850; and by Hepworth Dixon, in his Life of Penn, London, 1851; and others. After Macaulay had replied to his critics, the matter was again taken up and treated with consummate ability, by John Paget, in his New Examen, London, 1861. Mr. Paget's evidence and arguments are absolutely conclusive, and leave Macaulay in a very sorry plight.

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2 Macaulay's History of England, cabinet edition, II.235.

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3 Burnet's My Own Times, III.218.

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4 This view of the case is urged, with plausible eloquence but somewhat superficial argument, by Buckle, in his History of Civilization, I.361‑373.

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5 Clarkson's Life of Penn, II.11.

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6 Macaulay, indeed, makes him escape to France in the autumn of 1691, but his only authority is the Diary of the book-collector Narcissus Luttrell, as worthless a mess of rubbish as was ever printed. On the other hand, Paget has proved that Penn was in London during the whole of his "retirement."

Macaulay goes on: "Scarcely had he again begun to harangue in public about the unlawfulness of war, when he sent a message earnestly exhorting James to make an immediate descent on England with 30,000 men." (History of England, VI.32). The memorandum on which this charge is based is, as Macaulay tells us, "among the Nairne MSS. and was translated by Macpherson," whereat the reader is no doubt duly overawed. Macaulay ought to have added that the writer of the memorandum was one Captain Williamson, a hired spy of low character, whose unsupported statements are of no value.

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7 Stoughton's William Penn, p262; Fox-Bourne's Life of John Locke, II.24.

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8 See Swift's letter to Stella, September 30, 1710, in his Works, ed. Scott, II.37.

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9 The only sense in which this can at all be said to be true is the Irishman's: "Why, Patrick," exclaims the landlord, whose mind is dallying with Bentonian ideas, "is n't one man as good as another?" "Faith, he is, your honour, and a d–––––––––––––d sight better!"

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10 Sharpless, A Quaker Experiment in Government, pp64‑66.

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11 It is of course this false alarm to which one of the old settlers, Thomas Makin, alludes in his Descriptio Pennsylvaniae, 1729, dedicated to James Logan:—

Sed semel haec rumor mendax clamavit ad arma,

Incola cui nimium credulus omnis erat.

Haec malesana die fuit acta tragoedia quadam,

Cum convenerunt undique turba frequens;

Scilicet ut major fieret commotus in urbe,

Notior et mutis rumor ubique foret.

Usque adeo fuit hac confusus in urbe tumultus,

Ut neque tunc leges, ordo nec ullus erat.

Hic removere sua instanti properabat ab hoste,

Ille nihil contra jussit ab urbe vehi:

Sed quodcunque sibi voluit dementia talis,

Haec damno multis est memoranda dies:

Vespere sed tandem fuit hoc stratagema detectum,

Fabula tunc istam finiit acta diem.

See Proud's History of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, 1797, I.469.

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12 Watson's Annals of Philadelphia, II.273.

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13 Id. II.481.

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14 See my American Revolution, Illustrated Edition, II.102.

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15 Cf. Sharpless, A Quaker Experiment in Government, p97.

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16 "I was rather inclined to leave Boston when I reflected that I had already made myself a little obnoxious to the governing party, . . . and farther, that my indiscreet disputations about religion began to make me pointed at with horror by good people as an infidel or atheist." Franklin's Autobiography, ed. Bigelow, 1868, p106.

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17 See above, p235.

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18 This useful instrument, which is more properly called a sextant, was invented by Thomas Godfrey and also by John Hadley. The Royal Society decided that both were entitled to the credit of the invention, and awarded to each a prize of £200.

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19 On a stormy night two arch conspirators thus parley together:—

Vardanes. —

Why rage the elements? They are not cursed

Like me! Evanthe frowns not angry on them:

The wind may play on her beauteous bosom,

Nor fear her chiding; light can bless her sense,

And in the floating mirror she beholds

Those beauties which can fetter all mankind.

Lysias. —

My lord, forget her; tear her from your breast.

Who, like the Phoenix, gazes on the sun,

And strives to soar up to the glorious blaze,

Should never leave ambition's brightest object,

To turn and view the beauties of a flower.

Vardanes. —

O Lysias, chide no more, for I have done.

Yes, I'll forget the proud disdainful beauty.

Hence with vain love! ambition now alone

Shall guide my actions. Since mankind delights

To give me pain, I'll study mischief too,

And shake the earth, e'en like this raging tempest.

Lysias. —

A night like this, so dreadful to behold,

Since by remembrance' birth I never saw.

Vardanes. —

E'en such a night, dreadful as this, they say,

My teeming mother gave me to the world.

Whence by those sages who, in knowledge rich,

Can pry into futurity and tell

What distant ages will produce of wonder,

My days were deemed to be a hurricane.

Lysias. —

Then, haste to raise the tempest,

My soul disdains this one eternal round,

Where each succeeding day is like the former,

Trust me, my noble prince, here is a heart

Steady and firm to all your purposes;

And here's a hand that knows to execute.

Whate'er designs thy daring breast can form,

Nor ever shake with fear.

See Godfrey's Juvenile Poems, ed. Evans, Philadelphia, 1767. The volume contains also, among other things, a poem in pentameter couplets, entitled "The Court of Fancy," a sort of study after Chaucer.

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20 Cf. Miss Repplier's Philadelphia, p69.

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21 I have discussed the subject of indented servants at some length in Old Virginia and her Neighbours, Illustrated Edition, II.159‑171.

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22 Sharpless, A Quaker Experiment, pp31‑33.

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23 Watson's Annals of Philadelphia, I.308, 309.

Page updated: 25 Feb 13