Chapter V. The Troubles Of Penn And His Sons

The material prosperity of Penn's Holy Experiment kept on proving
itself over and over again every month of the year. But meantime
great events were taking place in England. The period of fifteen
years from Penn's return to England in 1684, until his return to
Pennsylvania at the close of the year of 1699, was an eventful
time in English history. It was long for a proprietor to be away
from his province, and Penn would have left a better reputation
if he had passed those fifteen years in his colony, for in
England during that period he took what most Americans believe to
have been the wrong side in the Revolution of 1688.

Penn was closely tied by both interest and friendship to Charles
II and the Stuart family. When Charles II died in 1685 and his
brother, the Duke of York, ascended the throne as James II, Penn
was equally bound to him, because among other things the Duke of
York had obtained Penn's release in 1669 from imprisonment for
his religious opinions. He became still more bound when one of
the first acts of the new King's reign was the release of a great
number of people who had been imprisoned for their religion,
among them thirteen hundred Quakers. In addition to preaching to
the Quakers and protecting them, Penn used his influence with
James to secure the return of several political offenders from
exile. His friendship with James raised him, indeed, to a
position of no little importance at Court. He was constantly
consulted by the King, in whose political policy he gradually
became more and more involved.

James was a Roman Catholic and soon perfected his plans for
making both Church and State a papal appendage and securing for
the Crown the right to suspend acts of Parliament. Penn at first
protested, but finally supported the King in the belief that he
would in the end establish liberty. In his earlier years,
however, Penn had written pamphlets arguing strenuously against
the same sort of despotic schemes that James was now undertaking;
and this contradiction of his former position seriously injured
his reputation even among his own people.

Part of the policy of James was to grant many favors to the
Quakers and to all other dissenting bodies in England, to release
them from prison, to give them perfect freedom of worship, and to
remove the test laws which prevented them from holding office. He
thus hoped to unite them with the Roman Catholics in extirpating
the Church of England and establishing the Papacy in its place.
But the dissenters and nonconformists, though promised relief
from sufferings severer than it is possible perhaps now to
appreciate, refused almost to a man this tempting bait. Even the
Quakers, who had suffered probably more than the others, rejected
the offer with indignation and mourned the fatal mistake of their
leader Penn. All Protestant England united in condemning him,
accused him of being a secret Papist and a Jesuit in disguise,
and believed him guilty of acts and intentions of which he was
probably entirely innocent. This extreme feeling against Penn is
reflected in Macaulay's "History of England," which strongly
espouses the Whig side; and in those vivid pages Penn is
represented, and very unfairly, as nothing less than a scoundrel.

In spite of the attempts which James made to secure his position,
the dissenters, the Church of England, and Penn's own Quakers all
joined heart and soul in the Revolution of 1688, which quickly
dethroned the King, drove him from England, and placed the Prince
of Orange on the throne as William III. Penn was now for many
years in a very unfortunate, if not dangerous, position, and was
continually suspected of plotting to restore James. For three
years he was in hiding to escape arrest or worse, and he largely
lost the good will and affection of the Quakers.

Meantime, since his departure from Pennsylvania in the summer of
1684, that province went on increasing in population and in
pioneer prosperity. But Penn's quitrents and money from sales of
land were far in arrears, and he had been and still was at great
expense in starting the colony and in keeping up the plantation
and country seat he had established on the Delaware River above
Philadelphia. Troublesome political disputes also arose. The
Council of eighteen members which he had authorized to act as
governor in his absence neglected to send the new laws to him,
slighted his letters, and published laws in their own name
without mentioning him or the King. These irregularities were
much exaggerated by enemies of the Quakers in England. The
Council was not a popular body and was frequently at odds with
the Assembly.

Penn thought he could improve the government by appointing five
commissioners to act as governor instead of the whole Council.
Thomas Lloyd, an excellent Quaker who had been President of the
Council and who had done much to allay hard feeling, was
fortunately the president of these commissioners. Penn instructed
them to act as if he himself were present, and at the next
meeting of the Assembly to annul all the laws and reenact only
such as seemed proper. This course reminds us of the absolutism
of his friend, King James, and, indeed, the date of these
instructions (1686) is that when his intimacy with that bigoted
monarch reached its highest point. Penn's theory of his power was
that the frame or constitution of government he had given the
province was a contract; that, the Council and Assembly having
violated some of its provisions, it was annulled and he was free,
at least for a time, to govern as he pleased. Fortunately his
commissioners never attempted to carry out these instructions.
There would have been a rebellion and some very unpleasant
history if they had undertaken to enforce such oriental despotism
in Pennsylvania. The five commissioners with Thomas Lloyd at
their head seem to have governed without seriously troublesome
incidents for the short term of two years during which they were
in power. But in 1687 Thomas Lloyd, becoming weary of directing
them, asked to be relieved and is supposed to have advised Penn
to appoint a single executive instead of commissioners. Penn
accordingly appointed Captain John Blackwell, formerly an officer
in Cromwell's army. Blackwell was not a Quaker but a "grave,
sober, wise man," as Penn wrote to a friend, who would "bear down
with a visible authority vice and faction." It was hoped that he
would vigorously check all irregularities and bring Penn better
returns from quitrents and sales of land.

But this new governor clashed almost at once with the Assembly,
tried to make them pass a militia law, suggested that the
province's trade to foreign countries was illegal, persecuted and
arrested members of the Assembly, refused to submit new laws to
it, and irritated the people by suggesting the invalidity of
their favorite laws. The Quaker Assembly withstood and resisted
him until they wore him out. After a year and one month in office
he resigned at Penn's request or, according to some accounts, at
his own request. At any rate, he expressed himself as delighted
to be relieved. As a Puritan soldier he found himself no match
for a peaceable Quaker Assembly.

Penn again made the Council the executive with Thomas Lloyd as
its President. But to the old causes of unrest a new one was now
added. One George Keith, a Quaker, turned heretic and carried a
number of Pennsylvania Quakers over to the Church of England,
thereby causing great scandal. The "Lower Counties" or
Territories, as the present State of Delaware was then called,
became mutinous, withdrew their representatives from the Council,
and made William Markham their Governor. This action together
with the Keithian controversy, the disturbances over Blackwell,
and the clamors of Church of England people that Penn was absent
and neglecting his province, that the Quakers would make no
military defense, and that the province might at any time fall
into the hands of France, came to the ears of King William, who
was already ill disposed toward Penn and distrusted him as a
Jacobite. It seemed hardly advisable to allow a Jacobite to rule
a British colony. Accordingly a royal order suspended Penn's
governmental authority and placed the province under Benjamin
Fletcher, Governor of New York. He undertook to rule in
dictatorial fashion, threatening to annex the province to New
York, and as a consequence the Assembly had plenty of trouble
with him. But two years later, 1694, the province was returned to
Penn, who now appointed as Governor William Markham, who had
served as lieutenant-governor under Fletcher.

Markham proceeded to be high-handed with the Assembly and to
administer the government in the imperialistic style of Fletcher.
But the Assembly soon tamed him and in 1696 actually worried out
of him a new constitution, which became known as Markham's Frame,
proved much more popular than the one Penn had given, and allowed
the Assembly much more power. Markham had no conceivable right to
assent to it and Penn never agreed to it; but it was lived under
for the next four years until Penn returned to the province.
While it naturally had opponents, it was largely regarded as
entirely valid, and apparently with the understanding that it was
to last until Penn objected to it.

Penn had always been longing to return to Pennsylvania and live
there for the rest of his life; but the terrible times of the
Revolution of 1688 in England and its consequences had held him
back. Those difficulties had now passed. Moreover, William III
had established free government and religious liberty. No more
Quakers were imprisoned and Penn's old occupation of securing
their protection and release was gone.

In the autumn of 1699 he sailed for Pennsylvania with his family
and, arriving after a tedious three months' voyage, was well
received. His political scrapes and mistakes in England seemed to
be buried in the past. He was soon at his old enjoyable life
again, traveling actively about the country, preaching to the
Quakers, and enlarging and beautifying his country seat,
Pennsbury, on the Delaware, twenty miles above Philadelphia. As
roads and trails were few and bad he usually traveled to and from
the town in a barge which was rowed by six oarsmen and which
seemed to give him great pride and pleasure.

Two happy years passed away in this manner, during which Penn
seems to have settled, not however without difficulty, a great
deal of business with his people, the Assembly, and the Indian
tribes. Unfortunately he got word from England of a bill in
Parliament for the revocation of colonial charters and for the
establishment of royal governments in their place. He must needs
return to England to fight it. Shortly before he sailed the
Assembly presented him with a draft of a new constitution or
frame of government which they had been discussing with him and
preparing for some time. This he accepted, and it became the
constitution under which Pennsylvania lived and prospered for
seventy-five years, until the Revolution of 1776.

This new constitution was quite liberal. The most noticeable
feature of it was the absence of any provision for the large
elective council or upper house of legislation, which had been
very unpopular. The Assembly thus became the one legislative
body. There was incidental reference in the document to a
governor's council, although there was no formal clause creating
it. Penn and his heirs after his death always appointed a small
council as an advisory body for the deputy governor. The Assembly
was to be chosen annually by the freemen and to be composed of
four representatives from each county. It could originate bills,
control its own adjournments without interference from the
Governor, choose its speaker and other officers, and judge of the
qualifications and election of its own members. These were
standard Anglo-Saxon popular parliamentary rights developed by
long struggles in England and now established in Pennsylvania
never to be relaxed. Finally a clause in the constitution
permitted the Lower Counties, or Territories, under certain
conditions to establish home rule. In 1705 the Territories took
advantage of this concession and set up an assembly of their own.

Immediately after signing the constitution, in the last days of
October, 1701, Penn sailed for England, expecting soon to return.
But he became absorbed in affairs in England and never saw his
colony again. This was unfortunate because Pennsylvania soon
became a torment to him instead of a great pleasure as it always
seems to have been when he lived in it. He was a happy present
proprietor, but not a very happy absentee one.

The Church of England people in Pennsylvania entertained great
hopes of this proposal to turn the proprietary colonies into
royal provinces. Under such a change, while the Quakers might
still have an influence in the Legislature, the Crown would
probably give the executive offices to Churchmen. They therefore
labored hard to discredit the Quakers. They kept harping on the
absurdity of a set of fanatics attempting to govern a colony
without a militia and without administering oaths of office or
using oaths in judicial proceedings. How could any one's life be
safe from foreign enemies without soldiers, and what safeguard
was there for life, liberty, and property before judges, jurors,
and witnesses, none of whom had been sworn? The Churchmen kept up
their complaints for along time, but without effect in England.
Penn was able to thwart all their plans. The bill to change the
province into a royal one was never passed by Parliament. Penn
returned to his court life, his preaching, and his theological
writing, a rather curious combination and yet one by which he had
always succeeded in protecting his people. He was a favorite with
Queen Anne, who was now on the throne, and he led an expensive
life which, with the cost of his deputy governor's salary in the
colony, the slowness of his quitrent collections, and the
dishonesty of the steward of his English estates, rapidly brought
him into debt. To pay the government expense of a small colonial
empire and at the same time to lead the life of a courtier and to
travel as a preacher would have exhausted a stronger exchequer
than Penn's.

The contests between the different deputy governors, whom Penn or
his descendants sent out, and the Quaker Legislature fill the
annals of the province for the next seventy years, down to the
Revolution. These quarrels, when compared with the larger
national political contests of history, seem petty enough and
even tedious in detail. But, looked at in another aspect, they
are important because they disclose how liberty, self-government,
republicanism, and many of the constitutional principles by which
Americans now live were gradually developed as the colonies grew
towards independence. The keynote to all these early contests
was what may be called the fundamental principle of colonial
constitutional law or, at any rate, of constitutional practice,
namely, that the Governor, whether royal or proprietary, must
always be kept poor. His salary or income must never become a
fixed or certain sum but must always be dependent on the annual
favor and grants of a legislature controlled by the people. This
belief was the foundation of American colonial liberty. The
Assemblies, not only in Pennsylvania but in other colonies, would
withhold the Governor's salary until he consented to their
favorite laws. If he vetoed their laws, he received no salary.
One of the causes of the Revolution in 1776 was the attempt of
the mother country to make the governors and other colonial
officials dependent for their salaries on the Government in
England instead of on the legislatures in the colonies.

So the squabbles, as we of today are inclined to call them, went
on in Pennsylvania--provincial and petty enough, but often very
large and important so far as the principle which they involved
was concerned. The Legislature of Pennsylvania in those days was
a small body composed of only about twenty-five or thirty
members, most of them sturdy, thrifty Quakers. They could meet
very easily anywhere--at the Governor's house, if in conference
with him, or at the treasurer's office or at the loan office, if
investigating accounts. Beneath their broad brim hats and grave
demeanor they were as Anglo-Saxon at heart as Robin Hood and his
merry men, and in their ninety years of political control they
built up as goodly a fabric of civil liberty as can be found in
any community in the world.

The dignified, confident message from a deputy governor, full of
lofty admonitions of their duty to the Crown, the province, and
the proprietor, is often met by a sarcastic, stinging reply of
the Assembly. David Lloyd, the Welsh leader of the
anti-proprietary party, and Joseph Wilcox, another leader, became
very skillful in drafting these profoundly respectful but deeply
cutting replies. In after years, Benjamin Franklin attained even
greater skill. In fact, it is not unlikely that he developed a
large measure of his world famous aptness in the use of language
in the process of drafting these replies. The composing of these
official communications was important work, for a reply had to be
telling and effective not only with the Governor but with the
people who learned of its contents at the coffeehouse and spread
the report of it among all classes. There was not a little
good-fellowship in their contests; and Franklin, for instance,
tells us how he used to abuse a certain deputy governor all day
in the Assembly and then dine with him in jovial intercourse in
the evening.

The Assembly had a very convenient way of accomplishing its
purposes in legislation in spite of the opposition of the British
Government. Laws when passed and approved by the deputy governor
had to be sent to England for approval by the Crown within five
years. But meanwhile the people would live under the law for five
years, and, if at the end of that time it was disallowed, the
Assembly would reenact the measure and live under it again for
another period.

The ten years after Penn's return to England in 1701 were full of
trouble for him. Money returns from the province were slow,
partly because England was involved in war and trade depressed,
and partly because the Assembly, exasperated by the deputy
governors he appointed, often refused to vote the deputy a salary
and left Penn to bear all the expense of government. He was being
rapidly overwhelmed with debt. One of his sons was turning out
badly. The manager of his estates in England and Ireland, Philip
Ford, was enriching himself by the trust, charging compound
interest at eight per cent every six months, and finally claiming
that Penn owed him 14,000 pounds. Ford had rendered accounts from
time to time, but Penn in his careless way had tossed them aside
without examination. When Ford pressed for payment, Penn, still
without making any investigation, foolishly gave Ford a deed in
fee simple of Pennsylvania as security. Afterwards he accepted
from Ford a lease of the province, which was another piece of
folly, for the lease could, of course, be used as evidence to
show that the deed was an absolute conveyance and not intended as
a mortgage.

This unfortunate business Ford kept quiet during his lifetime.
But on his death his widow and son made everything public,
professed to be the proprietors of Pennsylvania, and sued Penn
for 2000 pounds rent in arrears. They obtained a judgment for the
amount claimed and, as Penn could not pay, they had him arrested
and imprisoned for debt. For nine months he was locked up in the
debtors' prison, the "Old Bailey," and there he might have
remained indefinitely if some of his friends had not raised
enough money to compromise with the Fords. Isaac Norris, a
prominent Quaker from Pennsylvania, happened at that time to be
in England and exerted himself to set Penn free and save the
province from further disgrace. After this there was a reaction
in Penn's favor. He selected a better deputy governor for
Pennsylvania. He wrote a long and touching letter to the people,
reminding them how they had flourished and grown rich and free
under his liberal laws, while he had been sinking in poverty.

After that conditions improved in the affairs of Penn. The colony
was better governed, and the anti-proprietary party almost
disappeared. The last six or eight years of Penn's life were free
from trouble. He had ceased his active work at court, for
everything that could be accomplished for the Quakers in the way
of protection and favorable laws had now been done. Penn spent
his last years in trying to sell the government of his province
to the Crown for a sum that would enable him to pay his debts and
to restore his family to prosperity. But he was too particular in
stipulating that the great principles of civil and religious
liberty on which the colony had been established should not be
infringed. He had seen how much evil had resulted to the rights
of the people when the proprietors of the Jerseys parted with
their right to govern. In consequence he required so many
safeguards that the sale of Pennsylvania was delayed and delayed
until its founder was stricken with paralysis. Penn lingered for
some years, but his intellect was now too much clouded to make a
valid sale. The event, however, was fortunate for Pennsylvania,
which would probably otherwise have lost many valuable rights and
privileges by becoming a Crown colony.

On July 30,1718, Penn died at the age of seventy-four. His widow
became proprietor of the province, probably the only woman who
ever became feudal proprietor of such an immense domain. She
appointed excellent deputy governors and ruled with success for
eight years until her death in 1726. In her time the ocean was
free from enemy cruisers, and the trade of the colony grew so
rapidly that the increasing sales of land and quitrents soon
enabled her to pay off the mortgage on the province and all the
rest of her husband's debts. It was sad that Penn did not live to
see that day, which he had so hoped for in his last years, when,
with ocean commerce free from depredations, the increasing money
returns from his province would obviate all necessity of selling
the government to the Crown.

With all debts paid and prosperity increasing, Penn's sons became
very rich men. Death had reduced the children to three--John,
Thomas, and Richard. Of these, Thomas became what may be called
the managing proprietor, and the others were seldom heard of.
Thomas lived in the colony nine years--1732 to 1741-- studying
its affairs and sitting as a member of the Council. For over
forty years he was looked upon as the proprietor. In fact, he
directed the great province for almost as long a time as his
father had managed it. But he was so totally unlike his father
that it is difficult to find the slightest resemblance in feature
or in mind. He was not in the least disposed to proclaim or argue
about religion. Like the rest of his family, he left the Quakers
and joined the Church of England, a natural evolution in the case
of many Quakers. He was a prosperous, accomplished, sensible,
cool-headed gentleman, by no means without ability, but without
any inclination for setting the world on fire. He was a careful,
economical man of business, which is more than can be said of his
distinguished father. He saw no visions and cared nothing for
grand speculations.

Thomas Penn, however, had his troubles and disputes with the
Assembly. They thought him narrow and close. Perhaps he was. That
was the opinion of him held by Franklin, who led the
anti-proprietary party. But at the same time some consideration
must be given to the position in which Penn found himself. He had
on his hands an empire, rich, fertile, and inhabited by
liberty-loving Anglo-Saxons and by passive Germans. He had to
collect from their land the purchase money and quitrents rapidly
rolling up in value with the increase of population into millions
of pounds sterling, for which he was responsible to his
relatives. At the same time he had to influence the politics of
the province, approve or reject laws in such a way that his
family interest would be protected from attack or attempted
confiscation, keep the British Crown satisfied, and see that the
liberties of the colonists were not impaired and that the people
were kept contented.

It was not an easy task even for a clear-headed man like Thomas
Penn. He had to arrange for treaties with the Indians and for the
purchase of their lands in accordance with the humane ideas of
his father and in the face of the Scotch-Irish thirst for Indian
blood and the French desire to turn the savages loose upon the
Anglo-Saxon settlements. He had to fight through the boundary
disputes with Connecticut, Maryland, and Virginia, which
threatened to reduce his empire to a mere strip of land
containing neither Philadelphia nor Pittsburgh. The controversy
with Connecticut lasted throughout the colonial period and was
not definitely settled till the close of the Revolution. The
charter of Connecticut granted by the British Crown extended the
colony westward to the Pacific Ocean and cut off the northern
half of the tract afterwards granted to William Penn. In
pursuance of what they believed to be their rights, the
Connecticut people settled in the beautiful valley of Wyoming.
They were thereupon ejected by force by the proprietors of
Pennsylvania; but they returned, only to be ejected again and
again in a petty warfare carried on for many years. In the summer
of 1778, the people of the valley were massacred by the Iroquois
Indians. The history of this Connecticut boundary dispute fills
volumes. So does the boundary dispute with Maryland, which also
lasted throughout the colonial period; the dispute with Virginia
over the site of Pittsburgh is not so voluminous. All these
controversies Thomas Penn conducted with eminent skill,
inexhaustible patience, and complete success. For this
achievement the State owes him a debt of gratitude.

Thomas Penn was in the extraordinary position of having to govern
as a feudal lord what was virtually a modern community. He was
exercising feudal powers three hundred years after all the
reasons for the feudal system had ceased to exist; and he was
exercising those powers and acquiring by them vast wealth from a
people in a new and wild country whose convictions, both civil
and religious, were entirely opposed to anything like the feudal
system. It must certainly be put down as something to his credit
that he succeeded so well as to retain control both of the
political government and his family's increasing wealth down to
the time of the Revolution and that he gave on the whole so
little offense to a high-strung people that in the Revolution
they allowed his family to retain a large part of their land and
paid them liberally for what was confiscated.

The wealth which came to the three brothers they spent after the
manner of the time in country life. John and Richard do not
appear to have had remarkable country seats. But Thomas purchased
in 1760 the fine English estate of Stoke Park, which had belonged
to Sir Christopher Hatton of Queen Elizabeth's time, to Lord
Coke, and later to the Cobham family. Thomas's son John, grandson
of the founder, greatly enlarged and beautified the place and far
down into the nineteenth century it was one of the notable
country seats of England. This John Penn also built another
country place called Pennsylvania Castle, equally picturesque and
interesting, on the Isle of Portland, of which he was Governor.