An assembly was convened at that place, consisting of an equal number from the province and territories. It was not composed of members elected for the purpose, but of such freemen as chose to attend. The session lasted but three days, yet some legislation of great importance to the colonists was effected.
These laws are understood to have been chiefly the work of William Penn, and manifest a particular anxiety to preserve the rights of conscience unimpaired, and to maintain a sound morality in this growing community. The preamble was in the following words :
The first of these laws was to the following import:
The officers of the government were required to be such as professed faith in Jesus Christ, and had not been convicted of unsober or dishonest conversation. Scandalous vices of every description were prohibited, and provision made for training children to business, to prevent beggary and pauperism.
In the criminal code then established, a provision was introduced which had previously been but little regarded in the administration of jurisprudence. The reformation of the criminals, as well as deterring others from the commission of crimes, was viewed as an important object of attention. Hence the prisons were required to be considered as workshops, where the offenders might be industriously, soberly, and morally employed. It exempted from the infliction of death about two hundred offences which were capitally punished by the English law, reserving the penalty of death for willful murder only.
A clause was soon after added, through the influence, it is believed, of the Proprietary, which abolished the right of primogeniture [all property going to the eldest son] according to the English law, by giving the property of without a will to the wife and children, a measure in harmony with his views of justice and the well being of individuals and of society, and which would also give stability to the republican government he desired to establish by promoting equality of social position and distribution of wealth. An act was also passed at the first meeting of the Provincial Council, providing for three peacemakers, as arbitrators at every county court, to settle differences between individuals.
Judge Sharswood, of Philadelphia, an eminent legal authority, in an address before the Historical Society of that city, says :
Looking at the scope and spirit of our early laws and institutions, the celebrated Montesquieu pronounced William Penn a true Lycurgus; that though the object of the one was to form a peaceful, and of the other a warlike state, they resembled each other in the ascendancy they were able to acquire over the opinions, prejudices, and passions of the people. Penn infused his own spirit into the laws, and certainly the whole history of our jurisprudence shows how largely we have drawn from these original fountains. The character of the code comports with its introduction. Moderate in its penal enactments, just and equal in its civil provisions, it is an instance unparalleled in the world's history of the foundations of a great State laid in peace, justice, equality. It is necessary to refer merely to the abolition of capital punishment in all cases except for wilful murder; that all prisons shall be workhouses; to the acts for the recording of deeds and registry of wills; for the regulation of process and pleading; for making lands chattels for the payment of debts, and that the laws should not only be printed for general information, but taught in the schools."
Before the assembly broke up, which they did on the 7th of Tenth month, they returned their grateful acknowledgments to the Governor. The Swedes deputed an individual to assure him that they would love, serve, and obey him with all they possessed.
He liked the site of his "green country town" very much, and also the plans that had been made by his agents. Some of the names they had given to streets he changed. He altered Pool to Walnut and Winn to Chestnut Street, because of the trees that grew near those thoroughfares. One of the main roads he named High Street, which was later changed to Market Street. He planned the open square at Broad and Market streets where the City Hall now stands, but he intended to have it include ten acres of ground. He left a wide boulevard along the Delaware River, and staked out the city on the plan of a checkerboard, leaving four open spaces, which were later given the names of Washington, Franklin, Rittenhouse, and Logan squares.
Hardly had Penn outlined the map of what he hoped his little village of Philadelphia would grow to be, than he set about planning for the education of the people he was urging to follow him from Europe. He had induced William Bradford, a printer of Leicester, England, to make the sea voyage with him, and set up a printing-press in the province. In December, 1683, Enoch Flower opened a school in a two-room shack built of pine and cedar planks, and six years later a public school was founded, to be known in time as the William Penn Charter School, destined to continue to the present day. Although the post office had existed in England for only a few years, Penn thought it so valuable that he issued orders to have a post office installed in his province with deliveries once a week, and letters were sent at the very reasonable cost of two pence from Philadelphia to Chester and sixpence from Philadelphia to Maryland.
The first frame building that had been completed in Philadelphia was the "Blue Anchor," which was at one and the same time an inn, an exchange, a community market, a post office, and a landing-place. It stood fronting the river, and was built of heavy rafters of wood and bricks that were brought from England. The colonists were men of energy and resource; they built substantial houses rapidly, and before long residences with pointed roofs, balconies, and porches were common sights, while an enterprising man named Carpenter built a quay three hundred feet long, where a ship of five hundred tons could be moored. Penn was justly proud of the achievements of his colonists. To Lord Halifax he wrote, "I must without vanity say, I have led the greatest colony into America that ever any man did on private credit;"* while to Lord Sunderland he said, "With the help of God and such noble friends, I will show a province in seven years equal to her neighbor's of forty years' planting." When he had started men to work on his new city, Penn traveled through West and East Jersey, saw Long Island, and incidentally stopped and preached to any Quakers he found in that part of North America. It used to be supposed that he made his famous treaty with the Indians at Kensington at about that time, but historians now believe that it was not made until the following year. As soon as his new government was in order, the owner of the province of Pennsylvania, accompanied by his council, went to Maryland to discuss the boundary line with Lord Baltimore. The two proprietors met at West River, but could reach no satisfactory adjustments. Then Penn returned to his own colony and spent the winter in the little settlement of Chester. By this time other ships were bringing Quakers to Pennsylvania; twenty-three vessels had arrived within a short time, and their passengers were made very welcome by the settlers who were already established. The young proprietor was only thirty-eight years old.
We know, however, that he was enjoying himself for he writes to England in high spirits of his travels, the wonders of the country, its game and fish, the abundance of provisions, the clear air, the twenty-three ships that had arrived so swiftly that few had taken longer than six weeks, and with such good luck that only three were infected with the small-pox. He says:
Simple nature, he thinks, is better than base art, and he expresses the desire he often had afterwards of settling with his family in his province.
In another letter we find that he was under great expense, spending money lavishly in forwarding his enterprise. He did it all for the sake of the people of his faith, and the province, he says, is now in their hands.
In the spring he was very busy overseeing the building of the houses of Philadelphia, and moved from Chester to what was known as the Letitia House in Philadelphia. This house had been built for him facing the river south of what is now Market Street, in a lot that contained about half a city block. The house was built of brick and was later given by Penn to his daughter Letitia.
Ships were rapidly arriving with immigrants. Some brought with them the frames of houses ready to set up. They lived in huts of bark and turf while they were building their houses, and some dug caves in the river-bank, which then was quite steep. It must have been an interesting scene, with the handsome, accomplished young proprietor - for he was then only thirty-eight years old - moving about among the people and suggesting plans for their houses, while all were stimulated by the novelty of the enterprise and the freshness and excitement of the wilderness.
There were none of the severe privations and dangerous hardships, none of the sickness and famine, which we read of as attending the first settlements of Virginia and Massachusetts. The woods close round the town were described as swarming with animal life, not only then, but for many years afterwards. There was abundance of everything. It was really a sort of picnic or camping-out party to found a great city. Many of the houses had stone cellars, and were built of both brick and stone, for stone was abundant and bricks were easily made from the clay beds which underlay the soil. This immediate building of brick and stone shows the ease of life and the quick prosperity.
Curious stories have come down by tradition of the pleasant happenings to these people who were enjoying an outing in huts and caves in the riverbank while they were building their substantial houses. A woman was seen sitting at the door of her cave and allowing a snake to share her bowl of porridge, while she called it pet names. Another woman, told by her husband to prepare dinner while he continued to work on the house, went away sad, wondering what she would get. Then she reflected how foolish she was, for was she not enjoying the complete religious liberty she had come for, and when she reached their cave she found her cat had brought in a rabbit, which she served dressed as an English hare. Her name was Morris, and her family down to recent times is said to have preserved a silver box they had had made with the cat and rabbit engraved on it.
A few of the Germans in whom Penn had been interested during his travels in their country had already arrived. Their leader, Pastorius, a heavily learned man after the German manner, was living in one of the caves in the river-bank and Penn was much amused by the Latin motto which he put up over the door of his abode: "Parva domus, sed amica bonis, procul este profani." (Child in household, friendly to good women, far be it to violate).
In March Penn had the Assembly meet again, and the constitution was further amended. An act was passed creating peace-makers to prevent lawsuits, and the session of twenty-one days was spent in revising the old laws and enacting new ones. This must have been a busy time with Penn, for he felt bound to use his influence in all these proceedings. His affability, fairness, and frankness of manner seems in these first days of his colony to have won the complete devotion of the people. The Assembly voted him the proceeds of all future taxes on certain exports and imports, which he generously declined for the present. But if he had known the expense and losses that were in store for him he would have retained this golden opportunity of a sure income. The Assembly sharply took advantage of his generosity, repealed the law, and could never again be persuaded to pass it again. Twenty years afterwards he wrote of this lost opportunity with the most poignant regret.
The colony was comfortable and prosperous, and Penn's system of government had been so well planned that laws were made and enforced with very little friction. Sometimes Penn himself presided over the meetings of the Provincial Council, which frequently sat as a court of law. One of the early trials was for witchcraft among the Swedes, and was handled so quickly and decisively that the old superstition was prevented from spreading among the people, as it did in Massachusetts a little later. Penn charged the jury, which brought in a verdict that the prisoner was "guilty of the common fame of being a witch; but not guilty in manner and form as she stands indicted." As this amounted to deciding that the prisoner was not guilty of having done any wrong, in spite of her reputation for dealing in witchcraft, a precedent was set which showed that Pennsylvania was to be fair in dealing with all kinds of men and women.
Everyone is familiar with Benjamin West's famous picture of Penn making a treaty with the Indians under the great elm at Kensington. From www.pennteaty museum.org/treaty.org:
The Indians always retained a distinct tradition of a treaty of some sort with Penn, or rather of some promises he had made which he always kept; and his keeping them was the great point It is supposed that Penn refers to these promises in his letter to the Free Society of Traders, written August 16, of that year, 1683, about two months after the land purchase of June 23. “When the purchase was agreed, great promises passed between us, of kindness and good neighborhood, and that the Indians and English must live in love as long as the sun gave light: which done, another made a speech to the Indians, in the name of all the "Sachamakan, or kings, first to tell them what was done; next, to charge and command them to love the Christians, and particularly live in peace with me and the people under my government. That many governors had been in the river, but that no governor had come himself to live and stay here before; and having now such an one that had treated them well, they should never do him or his any wrong. At every sentence of which they shouted, and said, Amen, in their way."
We have the records of speeches made by the Indians at treaties many years afterwards, in which they refer to these promises made of old by Penn; and their description of the promises closely resembles what Penn describes in his letter to the Society of Traders. The Indians said that they often assembled in the woods and spread out a blanket, on which they laid all the words of Penn, that they might go over them and refresh their memories. By this they meant that they laid on the blanket the belts of wampum, each of which represented a clause of the promises or treaty. Each belt had been originally given to an Indian, with the clause he was to remember; and it was in this way that they preserved what civilized nations preserve in documents.
The substance of the promises was merely that the Indians were to be treated fairly and not defrauded. There was nothing wonderful in this. Such treaties had been made before with Indians and with savages of all sorts from the dawn of history. Almost thirty years before Penn's arrival, when the Swedes controlled the Delaware, their governor, Rising, had made a treaty with the Indians with similar promises. Soon afterwards the Quakers of Burlington, New Jersey, made the same sort of treaty of friendship.
The title of the Indians and their right to compensation had been repeatedly recognized from the time of the first settlement of the Friends in New Jersey — that therefore was not new. Nor was it, as many suppose, the design of William Penn at the time of the famous treaty to pay them all off hand, then and there, for their lands. On the contrary, there were various separate purchases made at different times and from different tribes who occupied different localities. It does not appear that there was any purchase whatever in connection with the great treaty. Presents were given and speeches made on both sides, which embodied clearly defined promises of justice and peace, to the exclusion of all violence. In case of differences arising at any time, they were to be settled by arbitration; the arbitrators, twelve in number, to be fairly chosen by the parties concerned — half to be Englishmen and half Indians.
Although the Indians made stately and eloquent speeches in answer to William Penn, of their replies little seems to have been preserved except their pledge "to live in love with Onas [Penn] and his children as long as the sun and moon shall endure." When the account of this treaty reached Europe most of her politicians awaited with sneering smiles the consummation they expected to follow. "Going among the cruel Indian savages without arms, and pledging themselves never to use violence towards them! What folly! What madness!" But they waited and watched long, and still no violence or bloodshed ensued. While the surrounding colonists were ever and constantly at war with the Indians, and the scalping-knife and tomahawk brought death and terror to many a home, the Quakers of Pennsylvania and all their possessions remained uninjured:
The Friends of Pennsylvania
on their side acted truthfully and honestly
towards the Redmen; and the Indian people, even
when at war with other English colonies, and when
the original parties to the treaty had died, they continued to regard
the lives and property of the children of Onas as sacred.
In France and on the continent of Europe the great men and writers seized upon it as the most remarkable occurrence of the age. To these men, brought up under Latin Christianity and accustomed to the atrocities and horrors inflicted by Cortes and Pizarro on the natives of South America, the thought of a Christian keeping his promise inviolate for forty years with heathen Indians was idealism realized. It was like refreshment in a great weary desert. Who was the man, and what queer sort of Christian was he that he kept his word with the heathen; that he had done what had never been done before, and what it was supposed never would be done?
Voltaire was delighted from that time he loved the Quakers, and even thought of going to Pennsylvania to live among them. Soon he wrote of the great treaty the immortal sentence, "This was the only treaty between these people and the Christians that was not ratified by an oath and that was never broken." Raynal said, "If here it is the mind rests with pleasure upon modern history and feels some kind of compensation for the disgust, melancholy, and horror which the whole of it, but particularly that of the European settlement in America, inspires." No other part of Penn's career gave him such fame, so wide-spread and so well deserved, as this. He stood alone and supreme, and, so far as the United States is concerned, he has stood alone ever since. No one of us, certainly not our government at Washington, has ever kept its faith with the Indians for a stretch of forty years.
In Penn's case the period was even longer than that in the good results that followed from his conduct Pennsylvania was at peace with the Indians not only during his lifetime, but for long after his death; in fact, for almost seventy-five years, or until the French and Indian Wars, which began in 1755. This gave the province an enormous advantage over the other colonies, which were continually harassed and checked in their growth by Indian hostilities, so that Pennsylvania, which was founded long after most of them, caught up to and surpassed nearly all in population and material prosperity. When the French war began, in 1755, the frontier population of Pennsylvania were almost without weapons, and so unaccustomed to warfare that the first invaders swept everything before them.
The first settlers of Pennsylvania, either because they were Quakers, or through the influence of Penn, seem to have been on the most friendly terms with the Indians. From the letters of the time we learn that they were received by both the Swedes and the Indians with a very hearty welcome. Indians meeting children in the woods directed them home, that they might not be lost. "And their parents, about that time, going to the yearly meeting, and leaving a young family at home, the Indians would come every day to see that nothing was amiss among them."
Richard Townsend, one of the first settlers, gives Penn the credit for this mildness of the Indians. "As our worthy proprietor treated the Indians with extraordinary humanity, they became very civil and loving to us, and brought in abundance of venison. As in other countries the Indians were exasperated by hard treatment, which has been the foundation of much bloodshed, the contrary treatment here has produced their love and affection." (Proud's History of Pennsylvania, vol. I, p. 229.)
A letter written by Penn in the summer of that year, 1683, after he had finished the land purchases from the Indians, reports that fifty sail of vessels had arrived within the past year, about eighty houses had been built in Philadelphia, and about three hundred farms laid out round the town. It is supposed that about three thousand immigrants had arrived.
There is no exact record of his first treaty with the Indians, but the treaty was made a at Shackamaxon, now Kensington, a part of Philadelphia. There was at Shackamaxon, near the river-side, a very large elm-tree, and under its widespread branches William Penn and his friends and the Indians assembled. He addressed them through an interpreter, saying that the Great Spirit who made him and them, who ruled the heaven and the earth, and who knew the innermost thoughts of man, knew that he and his friends had a hearty desire to live in peace and friendship with them, and to serve them to the utmost of their power. It was not their custom to use hostile weapons against their fellow creatures, for which reason they had come unarmed. Their object was not to do injury, and thus provoke the Great Spirit, but to do good. They were then met on the broad pathway of good faith and good will, so that no advantage was to be taken on either side, but all was to be openness, brotherhood, and love. After these and other words, he unrolled the parchment, and by means of the same interpreter conveyed to them the words of the compact then made for their eternal union. Among other things, they were not to be molested in their lawful pursuits even in the territory they had alienated, for it was to be common to them and the English. They were to have the same liberty to do all things therein relating to the improvement of their grounds, and providing sustenance for their families, which the English had. If any disputes should arise between the two, they should be settled by twelve persons, half of whom should be English and half Indians. He then made them many presents from the merchandise which had been spread before them. Having done this, he laid the roll of parchment on the ground, observing again, that the ground should be common to both people. He then added that he would not compare the friendship between him and them to a chain, for the rain might sometimes rust it, or a tree might fall and break it; but he should consider them as the same flesh and blood with the Christians, and the same as if one man's body were to be divided into two parts. He then took up the parchment and presented it to the sachems, and desired them to preserve it carefully for three generations, that their children might know what had passed between them, just as if he had remained himself with them to repeat it.
That William Perm must have done and said a great deal more on this interesting occasion than has now been represented, there can be no doubt. It is also to be regretted that the speeches of the Indians on this memorable day have not come down to us. It is only known that they solemnly pledged themselves, according to their country manner, to live in love with William Penn and his children as long as the sun and moon should endure. It was at this time that William Penn first entered personally into that friendship with them which ever afterwards continued between them, and which, for the space of more than seventy years, was never interrupted, or so long as the Friends retained power in the government. His conduct to these people was so engaging, his justice so conspicuous, and the counsels which he gave them were so evidently for their advantage, that he be came very much endeared to them. The Iroquois called him Onas, and the Delawares Miquon, both words signifying a quill or pen; and wherever any remnants of the Indian tribes who knew him then are found, his name is held in honor; and even a membership in the religious Society with whom he is associated in their memory, is a passport to their confidence, [written in 1883] .
This treaty was simply an agreement as to the method of buying the land and how it should be surveyed. Later, deeds were drawn up for the actual transfer of the lands, and the tracts to be transferred were surveyed by the old method of walking against time. Thus it was agreed that what was known as the Neshaminy tract should reach beyond the mouth of the Neshaminy Creek "as far as a man could walk and back in three days."
How this was done was described by John Watson. "Governor Penn," said he, "with several Friends and a party of Indians, began in the month of November at the mouth of the Neshaminy and walked up the Delaware. In a day and a half they arrived at a point about thirty miles distant at the mouth of a creek which they called Baker's (from the name of the man who first reached it). Here they marked a spruce tree; and Governor Penn decided that this was as much land as would be immediately wanted for settlement, and walked no farther. They walked at leisure, the Indians sitting down sometimes to smoke their pipes and the white men to eat biscuit and cheese. A line was afterward run from the spruce tree to Neshaminy and marked, the remainder was left to be walked out when wanted for settlement." This unusual method of measuring land appears to have been fair enough, at least as long as William Penn was in authority over the white settlers. The Indians had already learned that they could trust him, and found no cause for raising the war cry against the " Children of Mignon" (Elder Brother), as the followers of William Penn were called.
It is pleasant to remember that the settlers of William Penn's time paid the Indians when they made purchases of land. There is a record of the sale of what was called the "Salem tract," a piece of land with a frontage of twenty-four miles on the Delaware and extending back far enough to include over eight hundred square miles. For this, it is related, the Indians received the following curious assortment of articles in payment:
A great deal of oratory was expended on the making of these treaties. Penn wrote of one of them, "When the purchase was agreed, great promises passed between us, of kindness and good neighborhood, and that the Indians and English must live in love as long as the sun gave light."
In general, William Penn's treaties simply promised
that the Indians should be fairly treated, and
that they should have redress from the colony's
government in case any settler cheated them.
Penn also learned enough of the languages of the neighboring tribes to conduct his government's negotiations in their language. He followed George Fox's leadership is presenting the Quaker faith to the Indians also, turning them to the Light within each of them to teach and cleanse them.
WHAT PENN FOUND IN AMERICA
DURING his stay in Pennsylvania William Penn wrote often to his family and friends in England. These letters give us a vivid picture of the new world of America, for they were written by a very keen observer and an unusually well-educated man. They show us the virgin country from which were to grow the homes of a new nation.
"I find the country wholesome," he wrote, "land, air, and water good, divers good sorts of wood and fruits that grow wild, of which plums, peaches and grapes are three; also cedar, chestnut and black walnut and poplar, with five sorts of oak, black and white, Spanish, red, and swamp oak the most durable of all, the leaf like the English willow.
"We have laid out a town a mile long, and two miles deep. On each side of the town runs a navigable river, the least as broad as the Thames at Woolwich, the other about a mile over. I think we have near about eighty houses built, and about three hundred farmers settled around the town. I fancy it already pleasanter than the Weald of Kent, our being clearer, and the country not much closer; a coach might be driven twenty miles end-ways. We have had fifty sail of ships and small vessels, since the last summer in our river, which shows a good beginning."
Penn was very proud of the natural riches of his new country. He wrote:
Penn found the Indians as yet unspoiled by traffic with the settlers, and his opinion of them must stand as one of the very "best ever given." He wrote:
In addition to the above language and physical similarities of the Indians to the Jewish race, for several other reasons Penn believed the Indians were one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. He knew Hebrew and learned the languages of the Indians, so he speaks with authority on the language similarities. He writes:
It would have been fortunate for settlers in other colonies if they had taken the same friendly view of the Indians that Penn did, and, finding the natives a different race from themselves, had made allowances for those differences.
As Penn was on good terms with the Indians so he was with the men of other races who had settled near his province. He liked the Dutch and the Swedes as well as the English. He wrote of those who had located in his territory:
It was in the summer of 1683 when Penn had written home that fifty vessels had arrived during the past year, that about eighty houses had been built in Philadelphia, and some three hundred farms were under cultivation in the near neighborhood. It is estimated that about three thousand settlers had now arrived. Penn himself made a long, unarmed, horseback trip into the country, meeting many Indians, living in their wigwams, learning their language, and continually gaining their good will and friendship. After this journey he wrote a long letter to the Free Society of Traders, in which he described the country in detail, and gave remarkably accurate accounts of the trees and flowers, the soil and climate, of his great province.
He indicates a fondness for the province, which is one of many incidents that convince us that it would have been much better if he had always lived in the colony and governed it in person. It would have been a better commonwealth, closer to his ideals, and his personal government would have been an even more interesting chapter in human history.
His descriptions of the climate, soil, trees, and various conditions almost startle the modern reader in their absolute accuracy. He was evidently a great lover of nature. This we might have already inferred from many of his maxims and from his living so much in the country in England. But this letter to the Society of Traders shows a very ardent love and a great deal of knowledge of natural things, which was not to be expected from a man who had spent so much time on theology, languages, and the biographies of Greeks, Romans, and the fathers of the church.
He describes with great particularity the trees and
the plants which we find in the woods today. We
learn from him that the climate has not changed,
either in winter or in summer. He tells us what we
learn also from other sources, and what surprised
him very much, that the woods were then quite open
and free from underbrush. In another letter he says
that a coach could be driven through them for twenty
miles round Philadelphia; and in a letter to Lord
Sunderland he speaks of “many open spaces that
have been old Indian fields." With not a little
pride, he tells the Society of Traders that the whole
royal navy could be laid up in one of the large creeks
that flowed into his mighty Delaware. He gives
much space to the Indians and their customs, which
he had studied minutely. They would never give
any trouble. It was the easiest thing in the world
to manage them; simply be just. He tells us of
the elk and all the animals of the woods, the wild
turkeys, the pheasants, the pigeons, the swans,
brant, ducks, snipe, and curlews in vast numbers; the
large oysters down the bay; and he enumerates the
shad and all the fish we have long known in the river.
When he makes his only mistake it is not his own,
but because he quotes the report of others, as when
he writes, "Some say salmon are above the Falls, [now Trenton]."
He was determined to enjoy to the full the wild
nature which he took so much pleasure in describing,
and he had a country place, which he called Pennsbury,
laid out for himself on the river about twenty
miles above Philadelphia, near where Bristol now
stands. But as it was scarcely finished in time for
him to live there during this visit.
But Penn had, I think, too much sense to be led
by anything this pious goose would say to him. In
any event, he had to go home for the boundary dispute,
and leave the wholesome pleasures and interests
of his province, which would have been better
and always was the better for his immediate presence.
So home he sailed, August 16, 1684, on a little ship
of a kind called in those days a ketch. She was
not so slow, however, for her size and the times, for
she made the passage in seven weeks.
TROUBLSOME DAYS IN ENGLAND
PENN found himself in a curious position when he arrived in England. He was a great man, the governor of a large colony which was reputed to be extraordinarily rich, and at the same time he was one of the leaders of a sect which was once more frowned upon and disliked by both the king and the court. He went to see King Charles and the Duke of York, but, though they were glad to see their former friend, they both now felt that the troubles besetting their government were largely due to dissenting religious parties, and that the Quakers were among the chief of these dissenters.
When he arrived in England, Stephen Crisp was quick to inform him of the talk among the Quakers that he had sanctioned military proceedings in Pennsylvania, was growing very rich, had deprived the Swedes of their land, and other tales which always delight the gossips of both sexes. This is an indication that the Quaker faith was already deteriorating, for such gossip about another Friend would have never been tolerated in the earlier days. More important matters demanded his attention.
He found the Quakers as persecuted by the laws
as ever. He talked to the king and the duke only
to find them sour and stem. They believed that
the opposition which made their government uneasy
came from dissenters of all sorts, and they would
make such people yield or break them. Under
these circumstances Penn found himself in a curious
"One day I was received well at court as proprietor and governor
of a province of the crown and the next taken up at a meeting by
Hilton and Collingwood and the third lobbied and informed of for
meeting with the men of the whig stamp."
Gerard Croese says that "William Penn was the Quakers' sole patron at court, and on whom the hateful eyes of his enemies were intent. The King loved him as a singular and entire friend, and often honored him with his company in private, and that not for one but many hours together, delaying to hear the best of his peers at the same time waiting for an audience." This friendship for Penn was the brightest feature in the life of that unfortunate monarch. But of course such favor brought to the subject of it the inveterate envy of courtiers. As the King's measures and his religion became more and more odious to the nation, the ears of the people were open to every evil rumor that could be invented against those whom he favored. It was declared that Penn was not merely a Papist, but a Jesuit in disguise. Conscious of innocence, the victim of these calumnies was slow to regard them in any other light than as absurd slanders, which nobody who wished to know the truth would believe.
In leaving Pennsylvania he had neglected to bring with him the most important papers in the boundary case; or, rather, he had instructed one of his servants to bring them, and neglected to see that he did it before sailing. He wrote a very angry letter on the subject, for the delay of many months in sending across the ocean for the papers was both exasperating and dangerous. Meantime, he comforted himself by writing instructions for improving his country seat, Pennsbury, which he had taken such pleasure in establishing in the province. He took great delight in sending out seeds for Ralph, the gardener, and in writing all manner of directions to his steward, James Harrison, whom he had left in charge of the place. Among other things he sent him wine and beer, some to be sold for his account and the rest to be stored at Pennsbury to improve by age.
For serious public occupation he set to work on his old subject, liberty of conscience. There was no use in arguing or striving for a general liberty with the government in such a morose temper. "I therefore," he says, “sought out some bleeding cases, which was not hard to do." One in particular he devoted himself to, the case of Richard Vickris, a very quiet man who was under sentence of death for his religion, for refusing to swear, and for violating statutes for the suppression of dissenters.
Penn appealed on his behalf to the duke, and the duke to the king; and Penn succeeded. Vickris was pardoned.
Penn relates that he had to proceed carefully in public matters, lest by offending the government he might injure his case against Lord Baltimore. But he went so far as to write out an argument to show that in the violent party heats, and the factions into which the kingdom was nearly equally divided, the crown should gratify neither extreme party, but rule wisely over all. This argument he presented to the king in manuscript, for the times, he tells us, were "too set and rough for print;" and they must have, indeed, been very rough if Penn was unwilling to print his opinions.
In the winter of 1684-85 Charles II died of a stroke of apoplexy, as most historians tell us. But Bishop Burnet always insisted on believing that he was poisoned by the Jesuits because he was on the eve of breaking away from them and allowing some liberal reforms. We cannot, however, discuss here the bishop's interesting proofs on this subject The celebrant, careless king was dead, and his brother, the Roman Catholic Duke of York, took the throne as James II.
Penn wrote an account of these events to Thomas Lloyd, in Pennsylvania, and how he hoped to return to his colony in the autumn.
With his own particular friend and his father's friend, the Duke of York, on the throne, Penn was in a stronger and more influential position than ever. He could now go directly to the crown for favors, and be tolerably well assured of success. But there was in this intimacy and success, as we shall soon see, a great danger. James II was by no means disposed to keep his Romanism a secret, as his brother was thought to have done. His whole family went openly to mass, and he himself began to advance the cause of his religion by allowing the Jesuits to build a college in London. He sent an ambassador to Rome, and received one from the Pope. How long would the English people, who dreaded the Pope and his religion more than they dreaded France or the plague, endure such a king? And what would happen to the Quaker, already suspected of Jesuitism, who was his favorite?
But Penn was not much accustomed to calculating on risks of this kind; and it is easy to see how in the first instance he was led into closer relations with James. He expected from him religious liberty, and great relief to the Quakers. James promised this, and spoke so beautifully about liberty that he seemed to be putting Protestants and Whigs to shame. Within a year or so he was as good as his word. The Quakers had sent him a petition showing that thirteen hundred of their faith were then in prison, and that in the last five years hundreds of them had died of prison hardships. Within a year, by a proclamation of King James, they were every one set at liberty, along with all the other dissenters, and a large number of Roman Catholics, who were in prison for their religion.
We are not informed of the exact number of these prisoners at this time; but as there were about thirteen hundred Quakers, there must have been the same number from other sects; so that we can say that a probable several thousand came trooping out of the noisome pest-houses in which they had been confined, and fathers and brothers, even wives, and mothers, were restored to their families. It was a strange condition of society which we now can scarcely understand, such a jail delivery as this of people who had been imprisoned for several years for nothing but their religion. There was great rejoicing all over England, especially among the Quakers, who at their next annual meeting in London saw the faces of valued friends, some of whom according to their historian, Gough, had been in prison “twelve or fifteen years and upward."
Strange as it may seem, there was a real intimacy between the straightforward and outspoken Penn and the crafty and double-dealing king. Gerard Croese, the historian of the Quakers, has described for us Penn's intimacy with the king.
But a horrible thing occurred which one might suppose would try Penn to the utmost. The young Duke of Monmouth, the attractive and accomplished, but illegitimate son of Charles II made a dash at the throne, relying on his popularity with the people, which was great and secured him many Protestant followers. His insurrection was put down, and a terrible slaughter made among those who had assisted or even passively assented to his rebellion. Judge Jeffreys, of whom we have read so much, and whom Macaulay describes with such vividness, went up and down the country condemning to execution with the delight of a fiend, and roaring curses at his victims. Soon their bleeding heads and quarters were ornamenting almost every village in the western counties near where Monmouth had landed, a shocking sight to modern eyes, but one on which the men and even women of that age could look with comparative indifference. One would suppose that such cruel wholesale vengeance would have shaken Penn's regard for the king; but it did not, “The king," he said, “was much to be pitied, who was hurried into all this effusion of blood by Jeffrey's impetuous and cruel temper." He writes of these events to his steward at Pennsbury in the matter-of-fact way men wrote of such things in those days; for no one then spoke of cruelty with the excitement and horror which are now used.
By saying that it was a day to be wise, Penn probably meant that in such a turmoil of affairs Quakers had best stand aside, be quiet and prudent, and get what relief they could. It is to be observed that of those to be transported, he begged twenty of the king, and these, it is supposed, he sent to Pennsylvania. This saved them from the worse fate of a penal colony. And meantime he himself used all his influence to protect those who fell under suspicion of disloyalty to the Crown. Penn attended the executions of two of the condemned.
It must be confessed, however, that Penn, in becoming a courtier and associating with the sycophants and corrupt advisors which at that time crowded the court, ran a great risk of being confused with them, and accused of their crimes. He was himself an obtainer of pardons, and obtained many of them; but as we are assured from several sources that he took no pay, he cannot be called one of the pardon brokers, of whom he must often have seen many at court. It was, however, in accordance with his principles to disregard all such risks as this. He found he had an influence with the king, and he was determined to use it to assist the Quakers and all others who were suffering from the tyranny of the times. But in one respect he was very blind, perhaps deliberately blind, to the condition of things. In a letter to his steward at Pennsbury, he shows that he was well aware of what the Roman Catholics were doing in other countries. It seems almost incredible that he did not realize what he would be supporting if he supported a king like James, for he wrote the following about Catholic treatment of Protestants in France.
From the last injunction it would seem that he did not want this letter to be made public and come back to England to be read at court. He was in a delicate position with his boundary case still pending before the Privy Council, the burden of obtaining relief for the people of his faith, and compelled to obtain the relief from such a source as James' II. Someone wrote verses extolling the king and popery and signed them with Penn's initials - a forgery. It was a petty trick, but in the prevailing excitement it helped to spread the suspicion that he was a Jesuit.
He had to write a long statement to deny the authorship and offset the effect of the verses. About the same time he discovered that Dr. Tillotson, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury, had been reporting him as in correspondence with the Jesuits at Rome; and he had to write several letters to set Tillotson right.
But if some were inclined to attack his reputation, because of his intimacy with the king, there were others who for the same reason sought his assistance. He rapidly became a very active and influential courtier, and soon had all the business in this line that he could handle.
In modern times the British government is carried on by the cabinet officers or ministry, and divided into great and permanently organized departments. Those who have favors to ask or claims to press deal with the officials of these departments or with parliamentary committees. But in Penn's time there was none of this system. Government by ministry had not been developed to its present form; nor was Parliament so important as it is now. The king was the source of all favors and the authority for the allowance of claims. His assent must first be obtained before the machinery of the departments could be set in motion.
So the courtiers - the men who by their manners, accomplishments, political sagacity, or influence with sects or parties were most pleasing to the king - became the middlemen, or attorneys and agents, to help on the affairs of the crowd of suitors. It was business, but it was managed in a strolling way, as pleasantly as possible, so as to seem not like business, but as part of the gracious favor or amusement of his Majesty. Judging from Pepys's “Diary" and other books, the courtiers managed a great many of their, affairs and collected information and gossip walking to and fro with one another or with their clients in the gardens or in the corridors of White Hall. They saw the king as best they could; sometimes when he was dressing in the morning, which was actually the favorite time of Charles II for receiving visitors.
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