PENN BIOGRAPHY CONTINUED
PENN IN POLITICS
SOME very severe laws had been enacted against the Roman Catholics by the British Parliament in 1582; one of which imposed a fine of twenty pounds a month for absence from the parish churches on the days appointed for Divine worship, and another passed shortly after the discovery of the gunpowder treason, in 1605, made it optional with the king whether he should exact twenty pounds a month, or all the personal and two thirds of the real estate of the offender. The persecutors of Friends failing in their efforts to repress the rising Society by the cruel measures they had before taken, had recourse to these laws, which answered the double purpose of grievously oppressing Friends and putting money into the pockets of their oppressors.
In England, Parliament proposed a law, which would render the laws applicable only to those who should refuse to take the oath of allegiance and supremacy, which was, in effect, an oath abjuring popery and denying the power of the Pope to absolve British subjects from their allegiance to the crown. By this means, it was said, the laws would act only against the Roman Catholics, and other dissenters would be free. But as the Quakers could not take an oath at all, this bill would put them in a worse plight than ever. They would be classed with the Roman Catholics and Jesuits, and would be in a position to have it said that they refused to acknowledge their allegiance as British subjects.
Penn, as the representative of the Quakers, appealed to Parliament, presented petitions, and made arguments before a committee in favor of a slight amendment by which Quakers should give their word instead of an oath, and be subject to the same penalties for perjury as if they had been under oath. The old charge that he was a Jesuit in disguise was evidently rife at this time, for a large part of the two speeches he made before the committee is taken up in protesting against this accusation, and in declaring that he and all the Quakers were in the truest sense of the word Protestants, not by any means enemies of the crown and government, but, on the contrary, anxious to support government if they were only allowed to do so in a way approved by their conscience.
He was successful before the House of Commons. They accepted his suggestion and passed the bill with a clause allowing the Quakers to affirm in place of taking an oath; but before the bill could be passed by the House of Lords, Parliament was dissolved. It seemed impossible for the Quakers to have any good luck, and in the summer of that year, 1678, that extraordinary creature, Titus Oates, professed to have discovered the popish plot. The British are a courageous people; but even in recent times they have been put into what seems to other nations a ridiculous panic by the suggestion of a French invasion, and in earlier periods the suggestion of a Jesuit plot would create among them still greater excitement. Oates, having an insane craving for notoriety, took advantage of both these sources of panic, and told a wonderful tale of what he had learned while he was among the Jesuits. The Pope, he said, had turned over the government of England to the Jesuits, who had already issued commissions appointing Catholics to all the offices of state. The present British statesmen were to be murdered. The king was to be stabbed, or poisoned, or shot with silver bullets. The shipping of the Thames was to be set on fire, and at a given signal the English Catholics were to murder their Protestant neighbors. And, to make sure of the success of all this devilish work, a French army was to land in Ireland. Oates was a disorderly and disgraced clergyman of the Church of England. He had turned Roman Catholic, or, at least, had made professions of that faith, and had lived at some of the English Jesuit colleges on the continent He had, of course, heard there, all sorts of loose talk about the best means of converting England ; and as force was then a recognized means of conversion, he had, no doubt, actually heard individuals suggest some of the things he reported. These scraps of conversation he wove into a connected tale of an actual organized plot which was to be carried out. He reminded his hearers that London had once been burnt, and insinuated that this work of the Jesuits would be repeated. Circumstances favored his story. When the papers of Edward Coleman, one of the Catholics he accused, were looked for, it was found that he had just destroyed most of them, and that those which remained spoke of the great expectations in which Romanists might indulge from the present situation in England. Soon after, the magistrate before whom Oates had testified against Coleman was found murdered in a field. When we remember, in addition to this, that the English people, although they did not know of Charles II's secret agreement with the King of France, strongly suspected it, that they felt sure of his leaning towards Romanism, and knew that his brother the Duke of York, heir to the throne, had actually turned Romanist and married a Roman Catholic woman; when we remember, also, that they had in their minds the Gunpowder Plot, which was the work of Catholics, the Catholic conspiracies against Queen Elizabeth, and the cruelties of the reign of their Catholic queen, Bloody Mary, it is not hard to understand how they readily believed the tale of Oates and were roused by it to the utmost pitch of fury.
The jails soon contained more papists than Quakers. London was put under the protection of the militia, cannon were collected, barricades for the streets prepared, every good Protestant citizen carried weapons under his clothes, and guards sat day and night in the vaults under Parliament to save that august body from being blown into the air. This strange commotion had occurred while the amendment suggested by Penn allowing Quakers to affirm instead of swear was pending in Parliament. But Parliament was now busy excluding Roman Catholic lords from their seats in the upper house, driving the Duke of York from his seat in the Privy Council, and impeaching the lord treasurer for treason. In the hope of stopping this impeachment of his lord treasurer, which might disclose his secret treaty with the King of France, Charles dissolved Parliament in January, 1779, before Penn's amendment could be passed.
The slaughter of the Catholics suspected of the plot now began. Oates was becoming the richest and most powerful man in England. The informers who had been earning small livings by bringing Quakers and Puritans to justice recognized in him a master of their art. They were soon discovering all manner of popish wickedness: armies of invasion preparing abroad and secret assassination plotted at home; and Oates, to remain their leader, was compelled to add new wonders to his original tale.
In this confusion Penn wrote a letter of advice to the Quakers exhorting them to abstain from a worldly spirit. "Flee as for your lives," he says, “from the snares within this, and get into your watch-tower, the name of the Lord." He wrote a book on the public situation which passed through two editions, and was called “An Address to Protestants of all Persuasions. The cause of the troublous times was, he says, the attempt to propagate religion by force. The papists had such a terrible history of cruelty in forcing religion that now the country was in a turmoil of fear of them. There never would be peace, however, until the Protestants gave up the cruelty of persecution, which they were imitating from Rome.
"Revive," he says, “the noble principle of liberty of conscience on which the Reformation rose; for in vain do we hope to be delivered from papists until we deliver ourselves from popery. This coercion upon conscience and persecution for religion are that part of popery which is most justly hated and feared. And if we either fear or hate popery for its cruelty, shall we practice the cruelty we fear or hate it for!"
He had now an opportunity to argue again on his favorite subject of religious liberty, a subject which he was always eager to press on public attention. He reasoned on this occasion not very brilliantly, it must be confessed; in fact, with much dullness except here and there a striking sentence. In one passage he comes near writing a good aphorism, but spoils it with too many words and interjected ideas. Freed from his verbiage it would be, “Zeal without knowledge is superstition; zeal against knowledge is interest or faction; but zeal with knowledge is religion." The first part of his book is taken up with a tirade against the wickedness of the times; drunkenness, whoredom, luxury, gambling, cursing, and irreverence, which are also, he thinks, causes of England's troubles. The very plain speaking he indulges himself in here is interesting as a comment on the times. After reading through all he says we are left with an impression that two hundred years have not added much in the way of excessive luxuries. Penn himself lived well even when he was in his wilderness colony of Pennsylvania. He liked handsome furniture, good wines, a well-supplied table, horses, fruit-trees, flower-gardens, and boats for travel. The luxury which he condemns must therefore have been a luxury far in excess of what his career required as Governor of Pennsylvania and court lobbyist, [Penn cites solid silver chairs in use by the rich in his Maxims]. He believed in good cooking, but French cookery, he says, was ruining England. “Natural relish," he says, " is lost in the crowd of the cook's ingredients;" and in furnishing houses it is a most inexcusable superfluity to bestow an estate to line walls, dress cabinets, embroider beds, with a hundred other unprofitable pieces of state, such as massy plate, rich china, costly pictures, sculpture, fret work, inlayings, and painted windows."
Such complaints, however, have been made in all times. The golden as well as the virtuous age is always in the past or hoped for in the future. The real truth about such matters is that good and bad fashions in morals are perpetually changing. Different periods are virtuous in some things and vicious in others. The peculiar vicious fashion of Penn's time seems to have been wholesale corruption and treachery to one another among the upper classes, and reckless obscene coarseness in speech and manners, indulged in by women as well as by men. [As well as a very promiscuous behavior of the upper class women].
It is, perhaps tedious to mention so many details of Penn's efforts on behalf of liberty; but only by these details can his character be known. He followed up his address to Protestants by a petition to William, Prince of Orange, the famous Hollander, who within a decade was to become King of England and accomplish the reforms in which Penn was wearing out his life. The object of the petition was to ask relief from persecution for some of the people Penn had recently visited at Crevelt on the Rhine; and he renews his old argument of the ridiculous inconsistency of Protestants protesting against papist persecutions, when Protestants were persecuting Protestants. Penn was by nature a public man. His deep interest in religious liberty and broad questions of public policy, his liberal education, his ability as a writer, his long experience in public speaking and in directing the interests of his sect in stormy political times, besides the associations of his father, the admiral, naturally turned him towards politics. He would surely have taken a very large part in state-craft if Quaker principles had not restrained him. The Quakers abstained almost entirely from political life, and in many instances even from voting, because politics were disturbing to religious contemplation and involved taking and administering oaths and countenancing war. But this was, it seems, only a general rule, which admitted of exceptions when necessary.
The king's dissolution of Parliament compelled a new election, and, with the fears of the popish plot and the hostility to the king for his popish leaning, the contest was hot and exciting. Questions of religious liberty and questions deeply affecting the Quakers were involved, and Penn threw himself into the contest with enthusiasm. He was a Whig, of course, and he had become a friend of Algernon Sydney, a man of very liberal opinions, who was the Whig candidate for Guildford. Sydney's opinions, indeed, were so extreme that he was considered dangerous to monarchy, and he had been in exile on the continent for many years; but he had been allowed to return for a time to settle his father's estate. Penn made speeches for him, and in the midst of one of these an attempt was made to arrest him as a Jesuit. But his most important effort was a short pamphlet called “England's Great Interest in the Choice of a New Parliament."
From this pamphlet we learn that Penn believed that there was a popish plot as described by Oates ; for he says that the first object to be gained by this election is "to pursue the discovery and punishment of the plot." In another passage he advises the voters to choose only sincere Protestants; and they can know false Protestants, he says, “by their laughing at the plot, disgracing the evidence."
That there was an intention at that time and long afterwards on the part of Roman Catholics, both in England and on the continent, to capture the British government and force Catholicism on England admits of no doubt Protestants were fully justified in guarding against this and in offsetting the Catholic tendency of their king. But Oates's evidence went farther than this mere intention, and professed to disclose a regularly organized plot, to be accompanied by wholesale assassination, and this is now believed to have been a mere delusion. But there were thousands who believed in it.
There is nothing else in his pamphlet which calls for particular comment. He repeats many of his old arguments for a restoration of Anglo-Saxon liberty, and calls for impeachment of the evil counselors who were misguiding the king. We must be secured, he says, from popery and slavery, and Protestant dissenters must be eased. If this be accomplished the king should be rewarded with increased revenues. It is to be observed that he is hot against popery, and stanch for the defense of English Protestant government
Algernon Sydney was not elected. He received a majority of the votes, but was not returned because he was not a freeman of Guildford. Penn had not at this time much luck in attaining what he wanted in politics. His political party, the Whigs, secured, however, a large majority in Parliament This did not suit the king, so he immediately dissolved Parliament again, and there was another election.
Algernon Sydney became a candidate for Bamber, in Sussex, was again earnestly supported by Penn, and again defeated.
By his efforts to assist the Whig party against popery, Penn was hoping to show that he was not a Jesuit and that the Quakers were not Jesuits. But in the extremely suspicious state of people's minds there were no doubt many who became all the more suspicious and believed his zeal for the Whigs was only a cunning cover to his secret Jesuitism. After Sydney's second failure to be elected to Parliament, Penn wrote another pamphlet called "One Project for the Good of England," which was intended to assist the Whigs and at the same time put the Quakers in a better position. He argued that Protestants must be united against their old enemy, and that the dissenters and the Church of England must drop their quarrels and present a united front to Rome. In the church of Rome, he said, religion meant not love of God and your neighbor, but civil empire; and to seize the government of England was the prime object of Roman Catholics. Should not the Church of England then, he asks, stop persecuting us dissenters? Is mere conformity to her worship dearer to her than the general cause of Protestantism and ~ the safety of the British government? Is she not doing what Rome desires her to do: scattering, impoverishing, and disuniting the dissenters, and weakening the cause of Protestantism? Would a Churchman refuse the help of a Quaker or Baptist to pull him out of a ditch? And why should he deprive himself of that help in the great cause of Protestantism?
He argues again on his old subject of religious liberty as not only right in itself but as a wise policy which will unite the nation, give it power against Jesuit plots, and also commercial supremacy.
In conclusion, he says the most important safeguard is to prevent papists passing themselves off as Protestants. The test oath was insufficient because Quakers could not take an oath, and thus were unfairly put in a position of being suspected of popery, and the papists, as the last six months had shown, could get dispensation to take any kind of oath, whether it was against their religion or not. So he offers a new kind of test, which is not a test oath, but a test affirmation which can be taken by Quakers and everybody who is an honest protestant. He gives a form of this test affirmation, which is certainly a stiff one. The affirmation declares, "in good conscience and in the sight of God and man," that Charles II is the lawful king, that the Pope has no authority to depose him or absolve his subjects from their allegiance, or give them the right to conspire against him or assassinate him ; and then the affiance goes on denying all the important doctrines of Romanism, and closes by declaring that he does this without any equivocation or mental reservation, and that the words he uses are to be taken in their plain and usual sense.
This test, Penn proposed, should be administered through magistrates and parish officers to every one in England; and every one should be compelled to take it annually on Ash Wednesday, the day "when the Pope curses all Protestants." It would, he argued, unite the whole Protestant interest. It would certainly, if it had been adopted, have put the Quakers in a much-improved position, and relieved them from the violent accusations of the rabble. Penn's serious proposal of it no doubt helped to relieve to some extent both him and his sect from the suspicion of Jesuitism.
THE HOLY EXPERIMENT OF PENNSYLVANIA
ALMOST immediately after Penn's first experience in practical politics in his attempt to secure the election to Parliament of Algernon Sydney, he came into still closer contact with political life and government. His efforts for Sydney and his pamphlet against popery were in the year 1679, and in 1680 we find him moving to obtain from the crown a grant of the land in America which he was to call Pennsylvania. At first sight this might seem to be a rather sudden move on his part; but there is reason to believe that the project had been more or less in his mind for twenty years. His biographers have usually assigned to him the credit of originating this idea of establishing a Quaker colony. But the idea was not at all original with him; and if it originated with any one person, it was with George Fox. Even the tract of land selected for the colony was not of Penn's choosing, for both Fox and the Quakers had had their attention directed towards it for a long time. Almost as soon as they were conscious of being a sect, the Quakers had thought of establishing a refuge for themselves in the American wilderness. Suffering so severely from the laws made against them, it was natural that they should have this thought The Puritans had gone out to Massachusetts, where they were having their own way in religious matters, and the Roman Catholics, under the leadership of Lord Baltimore, had gone to Maryland. But where should the Quakers go? They must have a territory and colony of their own, for those of them who had gone to Massachusetts were being whipped at the cart's tail, and four of them were hung. They were worse off in Massachusetts than in England. They could not get land anywhere in New England. They did not care to go among the Churchmen in Virginia, nor among the Roman Catholics in Maryland; and the Dutch held New York As early almost as the year 1650, certainly as early as 1656 or 1657, George Fox had fixed his thoughts on that great region which lay unoccupied just north of Maryland and behind New Jersey. It had not been taken by anybody in particular, because it was some distance back from the sea-shore. But a great river, which the Dutch had called the Zuydt, the Swedes New Swedeland Stream, and the English the Delaware, led up to it, and it was said to be easy enough of access.
There was a Quaker in those days named Josiah Cole, who had already traveled in America and had been among the Indian tribes. Fox consulted with him, and when Cole made a second journey to America, in 1660, he was commissioned to treat with the Susquehanna Indians, who were supposed to be the red lords of that great space north of Maryland. Cole went among these Indians, and told them his errand. But they were at war with other tribes, and William Fuller, a Maryland Quaker of much influence, who must be relied upon to make the purchase, was absent. Nothing could be done at that time, and in November, 1660, Cole reported this result to Fox in a letter, which may still be read in Bowden's “History of the Friends in America." Although nothing could be done, the subject was no doubt debated among the followers of Fox in England, and in the year after Cole's letter was written the discussion must have reached the ears of Penn, who was then a student at Christ Church College; for twenty years afterwards he writes, “I had an opening* of joy as to these parts in the year 1661 at Oxford."
It was about this same time that Penn received his first impulse towards the Quaker faith, from the preaching of Thomas Loe, and at the meetings where he heard Loe he must have heard also of the plan for a Quaker colony in America, so the two great things of his life, his religion and his colony, were suggested to his mind at almost the same time, or at least within a year of each other, while he was a youth at college.
The thought of starting life and religion afresh in the virgin forests of America would appeal strongly to Penn and carry him away into boundless enthusiasm. It must have touched him deeply when it first entered his young mind. He says it was an "opening of joy," and we can easily how a college boy's imagination would run riot with such a suggestion. Even if he had not been religious, the thought of subduing nature and the adventures of the wilderness would arouse the strongest energies of a soul that was naturally vigorous and manly. But when, in addition, his rather over-serious moral nature saw the vision of leading out a persecuted people to liberty and happiness, delivering them from imprisonment, tithes, and corruption, and establishing for them, far from contamination, the primitive religion of Christ, we can understand why he describes it as "an opening of joy."
In the year 1680, when he began to negotiate with the crown for the great tract of land he had dreamed of when a boy and which the Quakers had so long hoped to secure, he had already had some experience in colonial business. New Jersey had been divided into two colonies,-East Jersey, belonging to Sir George Carteret, and West Jersey, belonging to Lord Berkeley. West Jersey was sold, in 1775, by Lord Berkeley to John Fenwick, in trust for Edward Byllinge. Both Fenwick and Byllinge were Quakers, and getting into a dispute about the property, called upon Penn to act as arbitrator. The Quakers were very much opposed to lawsuits among their own people, and wherever it was possible, peacemakers, as they were called, settled all disputes. Fenwick was dissatisfied with Penn's decision, and Penn seems to have been very uneasy lest there might still be a lawsuit, which would bring discredit on their faith. The efforts he used to bring about a settlement seem to show that the avoidance of lawsuits was at that time of prime importance. He pleaded hard with Fenwick to "prevent the mischief that will certainly follow divulging it in Westminster Hall," and at last he was successful.
Byllinge, however, soon went bankrupt, and transferred his interest in West Jersey to Penn and some others to hold as trustees for the benefit of his creditors. Penn was active in managing the property, secured a definite boundary line between it and East Jersey, and appears to have assisted in drawing up, in 1676, a constitution for its government. In this constitution religious liberty is established, as we should naturally expect in any constitution Penn or the Quakers were concerned with, and fair trial by jury is also secured, for Penn had suffered much from the violation of fair trial in England. Many Quakers went out to West Jersey, and their descendants still form a respectable element in the population. So Penn was instrumental in establishing somewhat of a refuge for his people in West Jersey five or six years before he received the grant of Pennsylvania.
Sir George Carteret, who owned East Jersey, died in 1679, and by his will left directions that his province should be sold; and Penn and eleven others became the purchasers. They soon admitted twelve more to share the property with them, so that there were twenty-four proprietors. They appointed as governor Robert Barclay, who had become a Quaker about the same time as Penn, and he was now a theologian and the author of the book known as Barclay's Apology. But he never went to the province. He remained in England and sent out deputies to govern in his name. Under this Quaker governor and the Quaker proprietors, a few of the sect were added to the population.
But neither East nor West Jersey became Quaker strongholds. It seemed to be impossible to make them such. They never realized the original expectations of Fox and others when they had looked upon the land north of Maryland as the future home of their faith in America. There were few elements of prosperity in the Jerseys. The soil was not so fertile and the general characteristics not so attractive as the vast forests and mountain ranges of Pennsylvania. Penn's interest in New Jersey was slight, and soon disappeared altogether from his life; for in 1702 the proprietors of both the Jerseys surrendered their rights to Queen Ann, and from then on the two provinces were one under the direct rule of the crown.
The original plan which Fox had entertained of securing the land north of Maryland having remained in abeyance for twenty years, there must have been some special reason why Penn determined to act upon it and carry it out in the year 1680. But of this reason we are not informed, and can only conjecture.
Possibly in the four or five years since 1676, during which he had been concerned with the management of the Jerseys, he not only learned of the vast superiority of the land which lay the other side of the Delaware, but he saw that the Jerseys could never be made into a real Quaker colony, the sort of colony which Fox and the early Quakers had originally designed. No doubt he also saw that if this original design was ever to be carried into effect, some one man must take hold of it and push it through with enthusiasm. He was rich, burdened with no cares except those he chose to create, and he had inherited a valuable friendship and influence with the king and with the Duke of York, who was heir to the throne.
Why wait longer? After thirty years of struggle, ardent advocacy of liberty of conscience, and heroic endurance of imprisonment, the Quakers, though greatly increased in numbers, were as much persecuted as ever. They had failed to convince the governing powers that they ought to be let alone; they had failed to establish as the universal practice of England the old Anglo-Saxon freedom. Why should not some of them go where they could create such freedom as they chose?
There was also a little circumstance which might be a great help. Admiral Penn had never received all his salary as a naval officer from the crown, and he had lent the crown money for naval purposes. This debt now amounted to £16,000, not a large sum in our times for a government to pay; but Charles II was always in want of money. He had an expensive court, and expensive favorites and mistresses to keep amused, and was, indeed, so straightened that he had sacrificed his own honor and the honor of his country for the sake of receiving secret assistance from the King of France. He would never pay Penn £16,000 in money. He would keep putting it off; no matter how urgently pressed. But he might be willing to pay it in wild uninhabited land. A suggestion to that effect would strike him at once as a good bargain. He would get rid of a troublesome debt without paying a penny, he would strengthen the colonial possessions of the empire, and get rid of many thousands of Quakers who were always complaining and making an expensive trouble at home.
It would be interesting if we knew exactly when and how it occurred to Penn to make this use of the debt he had inherited from his father. But we have no details at this time. We only know that in 1680 he sent a petition to the king asking that in payment of the debt of £16,000 he be given a tract of land in America lying north of Maryland, "bounded on the east by the Delaware River, on the west limited as Maryland, and northward to extend as far as plantable."
Penn must have previously discussed this grant with the leading Quakers, and discussed also his future plans for settling and governing his province. It is impossible to think of his not doing so; and he must also have sounded some of the people at court and gauged the probability of success for his petition. We know from his subsequent letters that he secured the assistance and influence of Lord North and Lord Sunderland.
When the petition came before a committee of the king's privy council there was considerable discussion about the boundaries, whether they would not conflict with the lines of some of the New England colonies whose charters extended them westward to the Pacific Ocean, and there was also some difficulty about the boundaries on Maryland. The committee settled all these questions to their own satisfaction; but the settlement was by no means permanent. No colony was ever given boundaries which occasioned so much dispute. Terrible controversies and disastrous petty warfare followed because Pennsylvania was believed to cut off the western extension of Connecticut The boundary on Maryland was litigated for over seventy years. Suffice it to say now that through an unfortunate mistake the apparent boundaries of Maryland had thirty years before been made to include a large part of what is now Pennsylvania; and through an equally unfortunate mistake the apparent boundaries of Pennsylvania were made to include nearly the whole of Maryland. If the Maryland boundaries were right, Philadelphia was a Maryland town, and if the Pennsylvania boundaries were right, Baltimore was a Pennsylvania town.
But independently of all these questions, the tract of land which Penn and his heirs finally received, and which it was the intention of the king that they should receive, was an enormous one, containing over forty thousand square miles of territory, the largest tract that had ever been given in America to a single individual, and, as we now know, the richest in natural resources of coal, iron, petroleum, and a fertile soil. It was the only royal grant in America that was bought with money. In all other instances when a province was given to a single individual, as to Lord Baltimore, or to a corporation, as in the case of Massachusetts, no price was paid. The agreement of the people to risk their lives and fortune in settling the province was supposed to be a sufficient consideration for the grant. But Penn paid what was in effect a very large sum by agreeing to accept his grant in extinguishing of the debt due him from the crown. This partially explains the vast size of his province. As he was offering a larger consideration than anyone before him had offered, he was certainly entitled to receive more land than any of his predecessors had received. Then, too, we must remember that both the king and the Duke of York felt particularly bound to Penn for his father's sake, and had promised the father that they would aid and protect the son. There was surely no other Quaker whose circumstances and hereditary influence would have enabled him to obtain for his people such a huge and valuable territory. On the 4th of March, 1681, the charter received the king's signature, and Penn was lord of a domain considerably larger than Ireland, and lacking only about six thousand square miles of being as large as England.
The charter was modeled largely on the one granted to Lord Baltimore for Maryland fifty years before, and was thoroughly feudal in its nature. Penn was in somewhat the same position as the lord of an old English manor. The land was all his, and the colonists were to be his tenants, paying him rent. In exchange for this great privilege he was to pay to the king two beaver-skins annually, to be delivered at the king's castle at Windsor, and the king was also to receive a fifth of all the gold and silver that should be found in the province.
Penn was, however, compelled by the charter, as Lord Baltimore had been compelled by his charter, to give his colonists free government. The laws were to be made by him with the assent of the people or their delegates, which, translated into actual practice, gave the people the right to elect a legislative body, and gave Penn a veto on such acts as this legislative body should pass. He had also the power to appoint magistrates, judges, and other officers, and to grant pardons for crimes. By the charter he was the perpetual governor of the colony; but he usually remained in England, and appointed a deputy governor to exercise his authority. In brief the people controlled the legislative part of the government, while Penn, through his power to appoint all officials, controlled the executive.
About a month after he received his charter, he commissioned his cousin, William Markham, a son of Admiral Penn's sister, to go out to Pennsylvania, take possession of it in his name, and, until a regular government could be established, rule over the scattered families of Swedes, English, and Dutch who were living along the banks of the Delaware. Markham reached the Delaware about the first of July, 1681, and made his head-quarters at a place called Upland, about fifteen miles below the present site of Philadelphia. He remained there in charge of affairs more than a year, for Penn did not arrive in his province until October, 1682.
In the meantime Penn secured an addition to his territory. Learning from Markham that Lord Baltimore disputed his boundaries, he obtained, by a grant from the Duke of York, the land now included in the State of Delaware. Penn's object in getting this additional land was to secure control of the whole western shore of the Delaware River and Bay from his province down to the ocean, and at the same time to strengthen himself against Lord Baltimore, whose claims, according to Markham's account, cut far into the southern half of Pennsylvania. Penn also, before he started for his province, advertised for settlers, and explained fully the conditions and prospects. At the same time he warned the public, in his careful, conscientious way, that they must not rush inconsiderately into this new enterprise. They would have to endure a winter in Pennsylvania before they could enjoy a summer, and be willing to go two or three years without the comforts and conveniences of England. But, on the other hand, the planting of colonies, he said, was great and glorious work, and he went on to show how it would strengthen England, instead of weakening her, as some supposed.
Those who wished to come to him could have land by paying £100 for five thousand acres, and annually thereafter a shilling rent for every hundred acres. Those who had not ready money to pay in this way could have two hundred acres or less at the rent of a shilling per acre. They should have their own legislature; no laws should be passed or money raised without the people's consent; and they should have all the British rights and liberties. Penn was, indeed, very busy with preparations during the year Markham waited for him. He would have started immediately, but could not. He wished to take out with him a large number of settlers. Many had agreed to go, but they wanted time to settle their home affairs. He was expecting people from France, Holland, and Scotland, as well as from England. In a letter written at this time he speaks of his enterprise as a holy experiment, a phrase which has now for a long time been applied to it by the Quakers.
He must have enjoyed the preparations, and looked forward with delight and impatience to the day when he could plunge with his people into the wilderness. And here it should be said that he intended that his province should be profitable. This was not inconsistent with calling his enterprise a holy experiment, nor with his intention to establish a refuge for the people of his faith. He intended to accomplish both; to accomplish, indeed, everything; to prove that complete religious liberty was not only right and Christian, but profitable and advantageous in every way. He would show how people would flourish under it in agriculture, commerce, and all the arts and refinements of life. He would show that government could be carried on without war and without oaths, that the pure, original, primitive Christianity of the times of the apostles could be maintained without an established church, without a hireling ministry, without cruelty or persecution, without ridiculous dogmas or unmanly ritual, simply by its own innate power, the spirit of Christ, the inward light He would do this through the aid of his followers, the Quakers, who would never desert him, through his own sincerity of purpose and energy of mind, through his feudal ownership of a vast domain, and through the power which wealth would give.
The principles that actuated the Friends who emigrated to Pennsylvania and the other American provinces, are set forth in a contemporary publication, called the Planter's Speech made by Penn, as follows:
It was a stupendous plan, an heroic grasp for a whole world of light and truth by one who had been living for centuries in darkness; for Penn was typical of his time; he was the voice of his time crying passionately for light after the long night of the Middle Ages.
Men came to him at this time, and said that they would organize a company and give him £6000, if he would give to them the monopoly of all the trade with the Indians in his province, but he refused it.
He had peculiar opinions about the Indians, opinions which were very peculiar in his time, but shared with him by the Quakers. He believed that the Christians must pay for every rod of the land, and in their trade and dealings with the Indians treat them with perfect fairness and honor. This idea of scrupulously paying the Indians for their land was not original with him, but suggested, as he tells us, by the Bishop of London. It was easy enough to write or repeat a philanthropic proposition like this. Many have done so. But Penn lived up to it. He prepared a paper called "conditions or concessions," by which his province should be governed until a regular government could be established. These conditions provided for the survey of a city, laying out of roads, and the last part attempted to regulate intercourse with the Indians in such a way that they should not be defrauded. Trade with them was to be openly and honestly conducted. A colonist who wronged an Indian was to be punished as if he had wronged a white man. Disputes between colonists and Indians were to be settled by a jury of twelve, six of whom should be Indians.
He objected to giving anyone a monopoly of trade with the Indians, not only because the Indians might be defrauded, but because the monopoly would be unfair. For the same reason he refused large prices for particular points of advantage in the province, because he wished to treat all alike. Some of the people of his own faith tried to drive special bargains with him for land; but he refused, and declared that all must buy at the same rates. One who had been thus disappointed reports in a letter, “I believe he truly does aim more at justice and righteousness, and spreading of truth than at his own particular gain."
He succeeded in getting some ships started with emigrants, although he was unable to accompany them; and in the autumn after Markham started he sent out three commissioners to fix upon a site for a town, and negotiate with the Indians. From his instructions to these commissioners we learn how he was planning his great experiment, and what a pleasure it must have been to imagine to himself an ideal Quaker town, and send men to lay it out in the fresh wilderness.
This was his first conception of Philadelphia; and his commissioners had no trouble in locating it; for we learn from other sources that the scattered families that lived along the river had long known where was the best site for a great town. The advantages Penn mentions were, on the whole, best combined at a spot a few miles north of the mouth of the Schuylkill, which was the sort of creek he wanted, navigable for boats up into the country.
He has told us in a passage already quoted why the province was given its name, but we have no explanation of why Philadelphia was so called. The word means brotherly love, but I do not think that was the reason. It was also the name of an ancient city in Asia Minor where one of the seven churches of the primitive Christians was established, and referenced in the Book of Revelation as the single faithful church, and who Christ lauded with these words:
So the name is basically the name of the only successful Christian Church in Revelation - as was the church of the Quakers, who experienced the return of Jesus and his Kingdom, who he came quickly to.
He goes on to tell the commissioners how to lay out the land, to "be impartially just and courteous" to any old settlers they found on it, to “be tender of offending the Indians, and hearken by honest spies, if you can hear that anybody inveigles them not to sell, or to stand off and raise the value upon you." He arranges the figure of the town with uniform streets, places the store-houses and markets where he thinks they should be, and directs that they should select a place in the middle of the line of houses facing the river “for the situation of my house."
“Let every house be placed, if the person pleases, in the middle of its plat, as to the breadth way of it, that so there may be ground on each side for gardens or orchards, or fields, that it may be a green country town, which will never be burnt and always wholesome."
Then the commissioners were to see that “no vice or evil conversation went uncensored of or unpunished in any; that God be not provoked to wrath against the country." He sent an excellent letter to the Indians, whom he told of the Great Spirit who had made both the white man and the red.
While he was making all these preparations he did not forget George Fox, and set aside for him a gift of twelve hundred and fifty acres of land. He had also other things to think of besides Pennsylvania. His writings were during this year all published together in folio, several of his essays, notably No Cross, No Crown, having reached a second edition. He was obliged, at the same time, to resist a defection within the Quaker ranks caused by John Wilkinson and John Story, who objected to the strictness of discipline. They protested against the increasing control over the conduct and conversation of individuals who, they said, should be left more to themselves, each one being guided by the divine light within him. The Quakers believed that their members should conduct their lives in accordance with standards of Christian conduct: no drunkenness, no swearing, no profane language, no fits of rage, honesty in business, and truthfulness to all; the Quakers believed anyone who claimed the name of Quaker must conform to restrictions. The Lord Jesus had left instructions for how members of his church should be disciplined:
The Quakers warned such erring members as Jesus commanded. But if the erring member refused to repent, then he was referred to the Discipline Meeting, of which only the spiritually mature were members; they heard the charges. If the erring member still refused to acknowledge their error in writing, they would be disassociated from membership with a publically posted notice of the disassociation. This was done to clear the reputation of the Quakers and the truth.
Wilkinson and Story seem to have maintained that there should be no disowning; the church should merely advise or remonstrate; to attempt more than this was to drift into ecclesiasticism. Fox stated that these dissenters were typically opposed to women with any role in the society, Women's Meetings, and women preachers particularly, and they used the cry of "freedom of conscience" to cover their true motivation for separation. Fox was spending the greatest part of his last years trying to maintain an discipline within the Quakers, in order to protect the unity of the Spirit in the body and to protect the reputation of the faith; he issued several letters on the subject. It was, indeed, a delicate question to decide how far the liberty which the Quakers had been so earnest in advocating should be limited and controlled. Penn wrote on the question a pamphlet called The State of Liberty Spiritual. Like Fox, Penn was always in favor of the discipline, without which, he said, there would be nothing but confusion. It would never do, he said, to accept Wilkinson's and Story's plea, "What have you to do with me? Leave me to my freedom and to the grace of God in myself:" One might say I see no evil in “paying tithes to a hireling priest;" another, I see no evil in "hiding in times of persecution," or in "marrying by the priest," or in “keeping my shop shut upon the world's holidays and mass days," or in "declining public testimony in suffering times;" and so the society would be broken up and scattered.
At that very time there was plenty of temptation to hide from persecution; for the magistrates, especially in Bristol, were bestirring themselves, meetings were broken up, heavy fines inflicted, and men, women, and even children, led away to prison. Children of twelve years and under met to worship after all their parents were jailed; and then they too were jailed and brutally whipped by the authorities. There was more need than ever for a refuge in Pennsylvania. But Penn must pause in the delightful work of planning the details of that ideal province and follow his more usual avocation of comforting and assisting those who were suffering under the law. He had become such an important man that he had been for many years free from arrest and annoyance. But now, although he was enough in favor with the king to receive the gift of an empire of land, he was ordered by a constable to stop preaching when he rose in the meeting on Gracechurch-street. He paid no attention to the order; and it is said that the constable, although supported by soldiers, was so affected by the solemnity of the meeting and by what he heard, that he made no attempt to interfere.
Penn was now such a prominent figure in England, the owner of a great tract of land given him by the king, that he was able to help those Quakers who got into trouble with the government; and when he was not busy planning his colony, he was usually helping some persecuted members of his faith, and urging them to join him in his new province where liberty in religion was to be the keynote. He also drew up a constitution for Pennsylvania. In preparing his constitution for Pennsylvania he consulted with many besides Algernon Sydneys. We know now what was not known to his previous biographers, that he consulted with Benjamin Furly, who was an Englishman from Colchester, who had gone to live in Holland. He became a prosperous merchant at Rotterdam, was a patron of letters, a collector of rare books, a writer of some little celebrity, and very much interested in all separatist sects, especially the Quakers, whose faith he seems to have for a time adopted. His house was the resort of learned and distinguished men, and, among others, of Algernon Sydney, and also Locke, the philosopher, who had been at college with Penn at Christ Church. Furly had welcomed and traveled with Penn and his companions when they made their missionary journey to Holland and Germany. He interested himself to procure German emigrants for Pennsylvania, and was, in effect, Penn's agent on the continent.
Penn sent him the final draft of the constitution, and must also have submitted to him a previous draft, for Furly compares the final draft with a previous draft, which he appears to have had in his possession. He wrote a long criticism on the final draft, making some forty or fifty suggestions, which we need not here describe in detail, because Penn rejected them all. In one point at least, however, Furly proved to be right; Penn had given to the upper house of the legislature, or provincial council, as he called it, the sole power of originating laws. Furly said that the lower house should also have this right; and when the constitution had been in force for some years, this change was made after repeated demands for it by the people.
Judging from all this, from the internal evidence of the Constitution itself and from some other evidence which we are about to mention, we can say that Penn consulted very widely and earnestly, and took the greatest pains in preparing his constitution, or frame, as he called it. He was evidently determined to have for his holy experiment the best government possible, and to obtain the assistance of the most advanced and enlightened thought on the subject. Exactly what suggestions he obtained from different people cannot now be determined. Apparently he did not take many, preferring to work out the problem in his own way, using the suggestions he received merely as hints to perfect his own plans, without radically altering them.
Among the Penn papers in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania are a collection of about twenty different drafts of the constitution which he prepared or had prepared before he got one which entirely satisfied him. These drafts have been arranged in an order which shows the gradual development of his ideas, and also, we may perhaps say, of the ideas of those who assisted him, from the first crude suggestions down to the finished document which was finally adopted.
None of them are entirely in his handwriting. They are usually very neatly written, some apparently by clerks and others, possibly by persons who were offering them as suggestions; and some of them are arranged in diagram form, evidently for the sake of greater clearness in studying and reflecting on the subject Many of them are interlined and marked in various ways in Penn's handwriting. His constitution had in it some interesting provisions. It was the first constitution which provided a method for its own alteration and amendment This was quite an advanced thought Locke had provided that his Carolina constitution should never be altered, and other constitutions and charters were silent on the subject. But all American frames of government are now like Penn's, and contain a provision for their orderly amendment without violence or revolution.
His method of impeachment, by which the lower house was to bring the impeachment, and the upper house to try it, was also new in American governments, and is now universal among them. He was also the first person to lay down the principle that any law which violated the constitution should be void. Constitution-makers had been much troubled to provide a method to protect their constitutions from violation, and had suggested various complicated devices. But Penn was the first one to hit upon the foundation or first step in the true principle, now the universal law in the United States, that the unconstitutional law is void. If he had taken the next step, and provided that the courts had power to declare such a law void whenever it came before them in a case, he would have been the inventor of the complete system as we now have it. But this step of declaring such power in the courts was not made until one hundred years after his time.
Taken altogether, this constitution was very characteristic of Penn. It was an earnest, zealous attempt to attain the best sort of government; but, as often happened with him, some of its idealism was not successful; and yet in the end, when all was said and done, his untiring energy had furnished some ideas and principles of permanent value.
The final draft of the constitution was dated April 25, 1682, and was agreed to by Penn and some of those who were to go out to the province. They also, a few weeks later, agreed upon certain laws which, with the constitution, they intended to take out to Pennsylvania and propose to the people there for their acceptance. These laws contained many of the advanced ideas which had for many years been animating the Quakers.
To the Constitution, or frame as he called it, he added a noble preface, containing his thoughts upon the origin, nature, object, and modes of government, most of which is appended :
Of the laws agreed upon and published with the frame of government, two or three speak of a religious character:
This system was signed by the Governor and freemen in the Third month, 1682.
In this preamble, Penn made a profound statement:
All prisons were to be work-houses and places for reformation and cleanliness, instead of the pestilential dungeons of idleness, dirt, and increasing vice in which the Quakers had suffered so much wretchedness and death in England. An attempt was made to abolish lawyers and lessen litigation by providing that every one might plead his own cause, and, as the ancient adage has it, have a fool for a client. Trial by jury was carefully established, but no oaths were required. All children were to be taught some useful trade, a practice which the Quakers had long advocated, but had not been able to enforce among all their members, and they were equally unsuccessful in enforcing it by law in Pennsylvania.
Religious liberty was, of course, established in these laws; but only in the sense in which it was then sometimes understood, and was confined to those who believed in God. Atheists were not within the sphere of its protection. Similarly, one could hold office in the government unless he professed faith in Jesus Christ This was not the first establishment of liberty of conscience in the colonies. It had been established by the charter of "Rhode Island in 1663, in East Jersey in 1655, by Locke's Carolina constitution of 1669, and in West Jersey in 1677, and rather more liberally and broadly than Penn established it, for it was not confined to those who believed in God.
The Quakers were very much opposed to capital punishment, especially the wholesale capital punishment for minor offences prevailing at that time in England. Accordingly, we find in Penn's code only treason and murder deemed worthy of death; and the property of murderers, instead of being forfeited to the state, was divided among the next of kin of the sufferer and of the criminal.
Penn's biographers have usually given him the credit of all these very advanced ideas; but it is hardly just, for they were the ideas of the Quakers, and he was merely trying to put them in practice. There were also laws which reflected the religious convictions among the Quakers. Cursing, swearing, drunkenness, health-drinking, cards, dice, gambling, stage-plays, scolding, and lying in conversation, were strictly prohibited. Having finished the Constitution, in the summer of 1682, he was ready to set sail for his new domain.
FIRST VISIT TO PENNSYLVANIA
AT last, in the summer of 1682, a little more than a year after he had received his charter, he was ready to start for Pennsylvania. For his wife and children he left an outstanding letter of farewell, [full text available] which is full of love, wisdom, and speaks with authority. He speaks with a reality and directness which seem to show that his nature was strongest and at its best when aroused by tenderness and affection. From several passages in the letter one may infer that he had learned from experience that this tender side was also his weak side, and that he saw the danger of wasting one's energy in friendships. "Guard against encroaching friendships. Keep them at arm's end: for it is giving away our power and self too, into the possession of another; and that which might seem engaging in the beginning may prove a yoke and burden too hard and heavy in the end. Therefore keep dominion over yourself, and let yourself children, good meetings, and Friends be the pleasure of your life." Another passage is of interest, not only for the natural way in which it is expressed, but because it gives us a glimpse of his wife, the pretty Guli whom he had married with so much love ten years before. "Therefore honor and obey her, my dear children, as your mother and your father's love and delight; no love her too, for she loved your father with a deep and upright love, choosing him above all her many suitors; and though she is of a delicate constitution and noble spirit, yet she descended to the utmost tenderness and care for you, performing the plainest acts of service to you in your infancy, as a mother and a nurse too. I charge you before the Lord, honor and obey, love and cherish, your dear mother."
From this letter we learn also that Penn had some large bills coming due. His family and the public projects in which he was absorbed consumed more than his rather large income. So he admonishes his wife to be saving. “Remember," he says, “thy mother's example, when thy father's public spiritedness had wasted his estate (which is my case)."
On the 30th of August he embarked at Deal, on board the Welcome, with about one hundred passengers. About eight weeks afterwards, on the 24th of October, he was within the capes of the Delaware. It had been a long voyage, and, as not infrequently happened in those days, smallpox broke out among the passengers, and thirty died at sea.
The Welcome took three days to sail up the Delaware to New Castle, which was the chief settlement of the area. This place was in the territory that had been granted to Penn by the Duke of York, and here the agents of the duke gave the title to the land to its new owner in their master's name by the old ceremony of "turf and twig and water," a custom long continued in Pennsylvania, and which meant that the former owner, by giving the new owner a piece of turf, a bit of twig, and a cup of water, transferred to him full possession of whatever was to be found on the land in question. After this ceremony Penn sailed on up the river to the small village of Upland, where his agent, William Markham, was waiting for him. When he had landed at Upland, he asked his friend Pearson to choose a name for the town there, and Pearson, who hailed from the town of Chester in England, gave the settlement the name of that English place. From Chester William Penn began to explore his new possessions. He found a soil that was rich, woods and fields filled with animals and birds of many kinds, and a wide river with many tributary streams that led far into the interior of his province. Along the Delaware wild birds were plentiful, and every day Indians brought deer from the forests and sold them to the settlers for small amounts of tobacco. The settlers who were already living in the clearings along the Delaware were chiefly Swedes and Dutch, with a few English, who fished in the river, hunted in the bays, and pastured their cattle in the open meadows along the river banks.
Penn was rowed in a barge up the Delaware past a place called Old Tinicum, which had been the residence of the Swedish governor, past that point where the Schuylkill joins the Delaware at what is now League Island, and on to a stretch where the Delaware grew narrower and deeper and where there was high land with a good frontage for deep draft boats. Here the shore was covered with pines, chestnuts, walnuts, oaks, and laurel, and a small stream flowed into the river. This was the place that Penn's commissioners had chosen for the site of his city. He landed at the mouth of the small stream called Dock Creek, which today flows into the sewer under Dock Street, on the water front of Philadelphia, and where then stood a log tavern known as "The Sign of the Blue Anchor." Tradition says that some English settlers and Indians were on the shore to greet the new owner, and that he sat down with the Indians and ate the hominy and roasted acorns that they offered him. Then they indulged in some athletic sports for his entertainment, and Penn himself took part in a jumping match. Tradition has it that he out jumped the best of the natives!
<<Part IV of PENN>>>>
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