Chapter VII. The Decline Of Quaker Government

When the treaty of peace was signed in 1763, extinguishing
France's title to Canada and turning over Canada and the
Mississippi Valley to the English, the colonists were prepared to
enjoy all the blessings of peace. But the treaty of peace had
been made with France, not with the red man. A remarkable genius,
Pontiac, appeared among the Indians, one of the few characters,
like Tecumseh and Osceola, who are often cited as proof of latent
powers almost equal to the strongest qualities of the white race.
Within a few months he had united all the tribes of the West in a
discipline and control which, if it had been brought to the
assistance of the French six years earlier, might have conquered
the colonies to the Atlantic seaboard before the British regulars
could have come to their assistance. The tribes swept westward
into Pennsylvania, burning, murdering, and leveling every
habitation to the ground with a thoroughness beyond anything
attempted under the French alliance. The settlers and farmers
fled eastward to the towns to live in cellars, camps, and sheds
as best they could.* Fortunately the colonies retained a large
part of the military organization, both men and officers, of the
French War, and were soon able to handle the situation. Detroit
and Niagara were relieved by water; and an expedition commanded
by Colonel Bouquet, who had distinguished himself under General
Forties, saved Fort Pitt.

* For an account of Pontiac's conspiracy, see "The Old Northwest"
by Frederic A. Ogg (in "The Chronicles of America").

At this time the Scotch-Irish frontiersmen suddenly became
prominent. They had been organizing for their own protection and
were meeting with not a little success. They refused to join the
expedition of regular troops marching westward against Pontiac's
warriors, because they wanted to protect their own homes and
because they believed the regulars to be marching to sure
destruction. Many of the regular troops were invalided from the
West Indies, and the Scotch-Irish never expected to see any of
them again. They believed that the salvation of Pennsylvania, or
at least of their part of the province, depended entirely upon
themselves. Their increasing numbers and rugged independence were
forming them also into an organized political party with decided
tendencies, as it afterwards appeared, towards forming a separate

The extreme narrowness of the Scotch-Irish, however, misled them.
The only real safety for the province lay in regularly
constituted and strong expeditions, like that of Bouquet, which
would drive the main body of the savages far westward. But the
Scotch-Irish could not see this; and with that intensity of
passion which marked all their actions they turned their energy
and vengeance upon the Quakers and semicivilized Indians in the
eastern end of the colony. Their preachers, who were their
principal leaders and organizers, encouraged them in denouncing
Quaker doctrine as a wicked heresy from which only evil could
result. The Quakers had offended God from the beginning by making
treaties of kindness with the heathen savages instead of
exterminating them as the Scripture commanded: "And when the Lord
thy God shall deliver them before thee, thou shalt smite them and
utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor
show mercy unto them." The Scripture had not been obeyed; the
heathen had not been destroyed; on the contrary, a systematic
policy of covenants, treaties, and kindness had been persisted in
for two generations, and as a consequence, the Ulstermen said,
the frontiers were now deluged in blood. They were particularly
resentful against the small settlement of Indians near Bethlehem,
who had been converted to Christianity by the Moravians, and
another little village of half civilized basketmaking Indians at
Conestoga near Lancaster. The Scotch-Irish had worked themselves
up into a strange belief that these small remnants were sending
information, arms, and ammunition to the western tribes; and they
seemed to think that it was more important to exterminate these
little communities than to go with such expeditions as Bouquet's
to the West. They asked the Governor to remove these civilized
Indians and assured him that their removal would secure the
safety of the frontier. When the Governor, not being able to find
anything against the Indians, declined to remove them, the
Scotch-Irish determined to attend to the matter in their own

Bouquet's victory at Bushy Run, much to the surprise of the
Scotch-Irish, stopped Indian raids of any seriousness until the
following spring. But in the autumn there were a few
depredations, which led the frontiersmen to believe that the
whole invasion would begin again. A party of them, therefore,
started to attack the Moravian Indians near Bethlehem; but before
they could accomplish their object, the Governor brought most of
the Indians down to Philadelphia for protection. Even there they
were narrowly saved from the mob, for the hostility against them
was spreading throughout the province.

Soon afterwards another party of Scotch-Irish, ever since known
as the "Paxton Boys," went at break of day to the village of the
Conestoga Indians and found only six of them at home--three men,
two women, and a boy. These they instantly shot down, mutilated
their bodies, and burned their cabins. As the murderers returned,
they related to a man on the road what they had done, and when he
protested against the cruelty of the deed, they asked, "Don't you
believe in God and the Bible?" The remaining fourteen inhabitants
of the village, who were away selling brooms, were collected by
the sheriff and put in the jail at Lancaster for protection. The
Paxtons heard of it and in a few days stormed the jail, broke
down the doors, and either shot the poor Indians or cut them to
pieces with hatchets.

This was probably the first instance of lynch law in America. It
raised a storm of indignation and controversy; and a pamphlet war
persisted for several years. The whole province was immediately
divided into two parties. On one side were the Quakers, most of
the Germans, and conservatives of every sort, and on the other,
inclined to sympathize with the Scotch-Irish, were the eastern
Presbyterians, some of the Churchmen, and various miscellaneous
people whose vindictiveness towards all Indians had been aroused
by the war. The Quakers and conservatives, who seem to have been
the more numerous, assailed the Scotch-Irish in no measured
language as a gang of ruffians without respect for law or order
who, though always crying for protection, had refused to march
with Bouquet to save Fort Pitt or to furnish him the slightest
assistance. Instead of going westward where the danger was and
something might be accomplished, they had turned eastward among
the settlements and murdered a few poor defenseless people,
mostly women and children.

Franklin, who had now returned from England, wrote one of his
best pamphlets against the Paxtons, the valorous, heroic Paxtons,
as he called them, prating of God and the Bible, fifty-seven of
whom, armed with rifles, knives, and hatchets, had actually
succeeded in killing three old men, two women, and a boy. This
pamphlet became known as the "Narrative" from the first word of
its title, and it had an immense circulation. Like everything
Franklin wrote, it is interesting reading to this day.

One of the first effects of this controversy was to drive the
excitable Scotch-Irish into a flame of insurrection not unlike
the Whisky Rebellion, which started among them some years after
the Revolution. They held tumultuous meetings denouncing the
Quakers and the whole proprietary government in Philadelphia, and
they organized an expedition which included some delegates to
suggest reforms. For the most part, however, it was a well
equipped little army variously estimated at from five hundred to
fifteen hundred on foot and on horseback, which marched towards
Philadelphia with no uncertain purpose. They openly declared that
they intended to capture the town, seize the Moravian Indians
protected there, and put them to death. They fully expected to be
supported by most of the people and to have everything their own
way. As they passed along the roads, they amused themselves in
their rough fashion by shooting chickens and pigs, frightening
people by thrusting their rifles into windows, and occasionally
throwing some one down and pretending to scalp him.

In the city there was great excitement and alarm. Even the
classes who sympathized with the Scotch-Irish did not altogether
relish having their property burned or destroyed. Great
preparations were made to meet the expedition. British regulars
were summoned. Eight companies of militia and a battery of
artillery were hastily formed. Franklin became a military man
once more and superintended the preparations. On all sides the
Quakers were enlisting; they had become accustomed to war; and
this legitimate chance to shoot a Scotch-Irish Presbyterian was
too much for the strongest scruples of their religion. It was a
long time, however, before they heard the end of this zeal; and
in the pamphlet war which followed they were accused of
clamorously rushing to arms and demanding to be led against the

It is amusing now to read about it in the old records. But it was
serious enough at the time. When the Scotch-Irish army reached
the Schuylkill River and found the fords leading to the city
guarded, they were not quite so enthusiastic about killing
Quakers and Indians. They went up the river some fifteen miles,
crossed by an unopposed ford, and halted in Germantown ten miles
north of Philadelphia. That was as far as they thought it safe to
venture. Several days passed, during which the city people
continued their preparations and expected every night to be
attacked. There were, indeed, several false alarms. Whenever the
alarm was sounded at night, every one placed candles in his
windows to light up the streets. One night when it rained the
soldiers were allowed to shelter themselves in a Quaker meeting
house, which for some hours bristled with bayonets and swords, an
incident of which the Presbyterian pamphleteers afterwards made
much use for satire. On another day all the cannon were fired to
let the enemy know what was in store for him.

Finally commissioners with the clever, genial Franklin at their
head, went out to Germantown to negotiate, and soon had the whole
mighty difference composed. The Scotch-Irish stated their
grievances. The Moravian Indians ought not to be protected by the
government, and all such Indians should be removed from the
colony; the men who killed the Conestoga Indians should be tried
where the supposed offense was committed and not in Philadelphia;
the five frontier counties had only ten representatives in the
Assembly while the three others had twenty-six--this should be
remedied; men wounded in border war should be cared for at public
expense; no trade should be carried on with hostile Indians until
they restored prisoners; and there should be a bounty on scalps.

While these negotiations were proceeding, some of the
Scotch-Irish amused themselves by practicing with their rifles at
the weather vane, a figure of a cock, on the steeple of the old
Lutheran church in Germantown--an unimportant incident, it is
true, but one revealing the conditions and character of the time
as much as graver matters do. The old weather vane with the
bullet marks upon it is still preserved. About thirty of these
same riflemen were invited to Philadelphia and were allowed to
wander about and see the sights of the town. The rest returned to
the frontier. As for their list of grievances, not one of them
was granted except, strange and sad to relate, the one which
asked for a scalp bounty. The Governor, after the manner of other
colonies, it must be admitted, issued the long desired scalp
proclamation, which after offering rewards for prisoners and
scalps, closed by saying, "and for the scalp of a female Indian
fifty pieces of eight." William Penn's Indian policy had been
admired for its justice and humanity by all the philosophers and
statesmen of the world, and now his grandson, Governor of the
province, in the last days of the family's control, was offering
bounties for women's scalps.

Franklin while in England had succeeded in having the proprietary
lands taxed equally with the lands of the colonists. But the
proprietors attempted to construe this provision so that their
best lands were taxed at the rate paid by the people on their
worst. This obvious quibble of course raised such a storm of
opposition that the Quakers, joined by classes which had never
before supported them, and now forming a large majority,
determined to appeal to the Government in England to abolish the
proprietorship and put the colony under the rule of the King. In
the proposal to make Pennsylvania a Crown colony there was no
intention of confiscating the possessions of the proprietors. It
was merely the proprietary political power, their right to
appoint the Governor, that was to be abolished. This right was to
be absorbed by the Crown with payment for its value to the
proprietors; but in all other respects the charter and the rights
and liberties of the people were to remain unimpaired. Just there
lay the danger. An act of Parliament would be required to make
the change and, having once started on such a change, Parliament,
or the party in power therein, might decide to make other
changes, and in the end there might remain very little of the
original rights and liberties of the colonists under their
charter. It was by no means a wise move. But intense feeling on
the subject was aroused. Passionate feeling seemed to have been
running very high among the steady Quakers. In this new outburst
the Quakers had the Scotch-Irish on their side, and a part of the
Churchmen. The Germans were divided, but the majority
enthusiastic for the change was very large.

There was a new alignment of parties. The eastern Presbyterians,
usually more or less in sympathy with the Scotch-Irish, broke
away from them on this occasion. These Presbyterians opposed the
change to a royal governor because they believed that it would be
followed by the establishment by law of the Church of England,
with bishops and all the other ancient evils. Although some of
the Churchmen joined the Quaker side, most of them and the most
influential of them were opposed to the change and did good work
in opposing it. They were well content with their position under
the proprietors and saw nothing to be gained under a royal
governor. There were also not a few people who, in the increase
of the wealth of the province, had acquired aristocratic tastes
and were attached to the pleasant social conditions that had
grown up round the proprietary governors and their followers; and
there were also those whose salaries, incomes, or opportunities
for wealth were more or less dependent on the proprietors
retaining the executive offices and the appointments and

One of the most striking instances of a change of sides was the
case of a Philadelphia Quaker, John Dickinson, a lawyer of large
practice, a man of wealth and position, and of not a little
colonial magnificence when he drove in his coach and four. It was
he who later wrote the famous "Farmer's Letters" during the
Revolution. He was a member of the Assembly and had been in
politics for some years. But on this question of a change to
royal government, he left the Quaker majority and opposed the
change with all his influence and ability. He and his
father-in-law, Isaac Norris, Speaker of the Assembly, became the
leaders against the change, and Franklin and Joseph Galloway, the
latter afterwards a prominent loyalist in the Revolution, were
the leading advocates of the change.

The whole subject was thoroughly thrashed out in debates in the
Assembly and in pamphlets of very great ability and of much
interest to students of colonial history and the growth of
American ideas of liberty. It must be remembered that this was
the year 1764, on the eve of the Revolution. British statesmen
were planning a system of more rigorous control of the colonies;
and the advisability of a stamp tax was under consideration.
Information of all these possible changes had reached the
colonies. Dickinson foresaw the end and warned the people.
Franklin and the Quaker party thought there was no danger and
that the mother country could be implicitly trusted.

Dickinson warned the people that the British Ministry were
starting special regulations for new colonies and "designing the
strictest reformations in the old." It would be a great relief,
he admitted, to be rid of the pettiness of the proprietors, and
it might be accomplished some time in the future; but not now.
The proprietary system might be bad, but a royal government might
be worse and might wreck all the liberties of the province,
religious freedom, the Assembly's control of its own
adjournments, and its power of raising and disposing of the
public money. The ministry of the day in England were well known
not to be favorably inclined towards Pennsylvania because of the
frequently reported willfulness of the Assembly, on which the
recent disturbances had also been blamed. If the King, Ministry,
and Parliament started upon a change, they might decide to
reconstitute the Assembly entirely, abolish its ancient
privileges, and disfranchise both Quakers and Presbyterians.

The arguments of Franklin and Galloway consisted principally of
assertions of the good intentions of the mother country and the
absurdity of any fear on the part of the colonists for their
privileges. But the King in whom they had so much confidence was
George III, and the Parliament which they thought would do no
harm was the same one which a few months afterwards passed the
Stamp Act which brought on the Revolution. Franklin and Galloway
also asserted that the colonies like Massachusetts, the Jerseys,
and the Carolinas, which had been changed to royal governments,
had profited by the change. But that was hardly the prevailing
opinion in those colonies themselves. Royal governors could be as
petty and annoying as the Penns and far more tyrannical.
Pennsylvania had always defeated any attempts at despotism on the
part of the Penn family and had built up a splendid body of
liberal laws and legislative privileges. But governors with the
authority and power of the British Crown behind them could not be
so easily resisted as the deputy governors of the Penns.

The Assembly, however, voted--twenty-seven to three--with
Franklin and Galloway. In the general election of the autumn, the
question was debated anew among the people and, though Franklin
and Galloway were defeated for seats in the Assembly, yet the
popular verdict was strongly in favor of a change, and the
majority in the Assembly was for practical purposes unaltered.
They voted to appeal to England for the change, and appointed
Franklin to be their agent before the Crown and Ministry. He
sailed again for England and soon was involved in the opening
scenes of the Revolution. He was made agent for all the colonies
and he spent many delightful years there pursuing his studies in
science, dining with distinguished men, staying at country seats,
and learning all the arts of diplomacy for which he afterwards
became so distinguished.

As for the Assembly's petition for a change to royal government,
Franklin presented it, but never pressed it. He, too, was finally
convinced that the time was inopportune. In fact, the Assembly
itself before long began to have doubts and fears and sent him
word to let the subject drop; and amid much greater events it was
soon entirely forgotten.