Ridpath's History of the United States
Volume II


Chapter IV
Pennsylvania

The Quakers were greatly encouraged with the success of their colonies in West New Jersey. The prospect of establishing on the banks of the Delaware a free State, founded on the principle of universal brotherhood, kindled a new enthusiasm in the mind of William Penn. For more than a quarter of a century the Friends had been buffeted with shameful persecutions. Imprisonment, exile, and proscription had been their constant portion, but had not sufficed to abate their zeal or to quench their hopes of the future. The lofty purpose and philanthropic spirit of Penn urged him to find for his afflicted people an asylum of rest. In June of 1680 he went boldly to King Charles, and petitioned for a grant of territory and the privilege of founding a Quaker commonwealth in the New World.

The petition was seconded by powerful friends in Parliament. On the 5th of March, 1681, a charter was granted; the great seal of England, with the signature of Charles II., was affixed; and William Penn became the proprietor of Pennsylvania. The vast domain embraced under the new patent was bounded on the east by the river Delaware, extended north and south over three degrees of latitude, and westward through five degrees of longitude. Only the three counties comprising the present State of Delaware were reserved for the duke of York.

In consideration of this grant, Penn relinguished a claim of sixteen hundred pound sterling which the British government owed to his father's estate. He declare that his objects were to found a free commonwealth without respect to the color, race, or religion of the inhabitants; to subdue the natives with no other weapons than love and justice; to establish a refuge for the people of his own faith; and to enlarge the borders of the British empire. One of the first acts of the great proprietor was to address a letter to the Swedes who might be included within the limits of his province, telling to be of good cheer, to keep their homes, make their own laws, and fear to oppression.

Within a month from the date of his charter, Penn published to the English nation a glowing account of his new country beyond the Delaware, praising the beuty of the scenery and salubrity of the climate, promising freedom of conscience and equal rights, and inviting emigration. There was an immediate and hearty response. In the course of the summer three shiploads of Quaker emigrants left England for the land of promise. William Markham, agent of the proprietor, came as leader of the company and deputy-governor of the province. He was instructed by Penn to rule in accordance with law, to deal justly with all men, and especially to make a league of friendship with the Indians. In October of the same year the anxious proprietor sent a letter directly to the natives of the territory, assuring them of his honest purposes and brotherly affection.

The next care of Penn was to draw up a frame of government for his province. The consitution which he framed was liberal almost to a fault; and the people were allowed to adopt or reject it as they might deem proper.

In the meantime, the duke of York had been induced to surrender his claim to the three reserved counties on the Delaware. The whole country on the western bank of the bay and river, from the open ocean below Cape Henlopen to the forty-third degree of north latitude, was now under the dominion of Penn. The summer of 1682 was spent in further preparation. On the 27th of October, the proprietor at the head of a large company of emigrants landed at New Castle, where the people were waiting to receive them.

William Penn, the founder of Philadelphia, was born on the 14th of October, 1644. He was the oldest son of Vice-Admiral Sir William Pann of the British navy. At the age of twelve he was sent to the University of Oxford, where he distinguished himself as a student until he was expelled on account of his religious opinions. Afterward he traveled on the Continent; was again a student; returned to study law at London; went to Ireland; became a soldier; heard the preaching of Loe, a famous Quaker, and was converted to that faith. His disappointed and angry father drove him out of doors, but he was not to be turned from his course. He publicly proclaimed the doctrines of the Friends; was arrested and imprisoned for nine months in the Tower of London. Being released, he repeated the offense, and lay for half a year in a dongeon at Newgate. A second time liberated, but despairing of toleration for his people in England, he cast his gaze across the Atlantic. West Jersey was purchased; but the boundary was narrow, and the great-souled proprietor sought a grander and more beautiful domain. His petition was heard with favor and the charter of Pennsylvania granted by King Charles. Colonists came teeming; and now the Quaker king himself, without pomp or parade, without the discharge of cannon or vainglorious ceremony, was come to New Castle to found a government on the basis of fraternity and peace. It was fitting that he should call the new republic a holy experiment. As soon as the landing was effected, Penn delivered an effectionate and cheerful address to the crowd of Sweded, Dutch, and English who came to greet him. His former pledges of a lliberal and just government were public renewed, and the people were exhorted to sobriety and honesty.

Before Penn's arrival, treaties had been made, lands purchased, and pledges of friendship given between the Friends and the Red men. Now a great conference was appointed with the native chiefs. All the sachems of the lenni Lenapes and other neighboring tribes were invited to assemble. The council was held on the banks of the Delaware under the open sky. Penn, accompanied by a few unarmed friends, clad in the simple garb of the Quakers, came to the appointed spot and took his station under a venerable elm, now leafless; for it was winter. The chieftains, also unarmed, sat, after the manner of their race, in a semicircle on the ground. It was not Penn's object to purchase lands, to provide for the interests of trade, or t make a formal treaty, but rather to assure the untutored children of the woods of his honest purposes and brotherly affection. Standing before them with grave demeanor and speaking by an interpreter, he said: "My Friends: We have met on the broad pathway of good faith. We are all one flesh and blood. Being brethren, no advantage shall be taken on either side. When disputes arise, we will settle them in council. Between us there shall be nothing but openness and love." The chiefs replied: "While the rivers run and the sun shines we will live in peace with the children of William Penn."

No record was made of the treaty, for none was needed. Its terms were written, not on decaying parchment, but on the living hearts of men. No deed of violence or injustice ever marred the sacred covenant. The Indians vied with the Quakers in keeping unbroken the pledge of perpetual peace. For more than seventy years during which the province remained under the control of the Friends, not a single war-whoop was heard within the borders of Pennsyvania. The Quaker hat and coat proved to be a better defense for the wearer than coat-of-mail and musket.

During the winter Penn busied himself with drawing a map of his proposed capital. The beautiful neck of land between the Schuykill and the Delaware was selected and purchased of the Swedes. In February of 1683 the native chestnuts, walnuts, and ashes were blazed to indicate the lines of the streets, and Philadelphia--City of Brotherly Love--was founded. Within a month a general assembly was in session at the new capital. The work of legislation was begun and a form of government adopted which was esentially a representative democracy. The leading officers were the governor, a council consisting of a limited number of men chosen for three years, and a larger popular assembly, to be annually elected. Penn conceded everything to the people; but the power of vetoing objectionable acts of the council was left in his hands.

The growth of Philadelphia was astonishing. In the summer of 1683 there were only three or four houses. The ground-squirrels still lived in their burrows, and the wild deer ran through the town without alarm. In 1685 the city contained six hundred houses; the schoolmaster had come and the printing-press had begun its work. In another year Philadelphia had outgrown New York. Penn's work of establishing a free State in America had been well and nobly done. In August of 1684 he took an affectionate farewell of his flourishing colony, and sailed for England. Thomas Lloyd was appointed as president during the absence of the proprietor, and five commissioners, members of the provincial council, were chosen to assist in the government.

Nothing occurred to disturb the peace of Pennsylvania until the secession of Delaware in 1691. The three lower counties, which, ever since the arrival of Penn, had been united on terms of equality with the six counties of Pennsylvania, became dissatisfied with some acts of the general assembly and insisted on a separation. The proprietor gave a relunctant consent; Delaware withdrew from the union and received a separate deputy-governor.

William Penn was a friend and favorite of the Stuart kings. It was from Charles II. that he had received the charter of Pennsylvania. Now that the royal house was overthrown, he sympathized with the fallen monarch and looked with coldness on the new sovereigns, William and Mary. For some real or supposed adherence to the cause of the exiled James II., Penn was several times arrested and imprisoned. In 1692 his proprietary rights were taken away, and by a royal commission the government of Pennsylvania was transferred to Fletcher of New York. In the following year Delaware shared the same fate; all the provinces between Connecticut and Maryland were consolidated under Fletcher's authority. In the meantime, the suspicions against Penn's loyalty were found to be groundless, and he was restored to his rights as governor of Pennsylvania.

In December of 1699, Penn again visited his American commonwealth. The prosperity of the was all that could be desired; but the people were somewhat dissatisfied with the forms of government. The lower counties were again embittered against the acts of the assembly. In order to restore peace and harmony, the benevolent proprietor drew up another consitution, more liberal than the first, extending the powers of the people and omitting the objectionable features of the former charter. But Delaware had fallen into chronic discontent, and would not accept the new frame of government. In 1702 the general assemblies of the two provinces were convened apart; and in the following year Delaware and Pennsylvania were finally separated. But the rights of Penn as proprietor of the whole territory remained as before, and a common governor continued to preside over both colonies.

In the winter of 1701, William Penn bade a final adieu to his friends in America and returned to England. The English ministers had formed the design of abolishing all the proprietary governments, with a view to the establishment of royal governments instead. The presence and influence of Penn were especially required in England in order to prevent the success of the ministerial scheme. After much controversy his rights were recognized and secured against encroachment. But the end of his labors was at hand. In July of 1718 the magnanimous founder of Pennsylvania sank to his final rest. His estates, vast and valuable, but much encumbered with debt, were bequeathed to his three sons, John, Thomas, and Richard, who thus became proprietors of Pennsylvania. By them, or their deputies, the province was governed until the American Revolution. In the year 1779, the entire claims of the Penn family to the soil and jurisdiction of the State were purchased by the legislature of Pennsylvania for a hundred and thirty thousand pounds sterling.

The colonial history of the State founded by William Penn and the Quakers is one of special interest and pleasure. It is a narrative that recounts the victories of peace and the triumph of the nobler virtues over violence and wrong. It is doubtful whether the history of any other colony in the world is touched with so many traits of innocence and truth. When the nations grow mercenary and the times seem full of fraud, the early annals of Pennsylvania may well be recited as a perpetual protest against the seeming success of evil. "I will found a free colony for all mankind," were the words of William Penn. It was fitting that the bells of his capital city should one day ring out the first glad notes of American Independence.


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