History of Warren County, Chapter 6

CHAPTER VI

THE PROVINCE OF PENNSYLVANIA

Europeans Struggle for Supremacy Along the Atlantic Coast - Quakers Settle in New Jersey - William Penn Appointed a Trustee - His Labors in Their Behalf - An Early Description of the New Country - Admiral Penn - A Province Granted to His Son - It is Named Pennsylvania - Its Extent - A Miscalculation - Penn Purchases the Lower Counties - Outlines His Policy - Sends Governor Markham to Take Possession - Names Commissioners - Their Duties - An Address to the Indians - The Site for a New City Selected.

WHILE events of so much importance and of such a startling character were taking place in the interior of the New World, others equally important, in their bearing upon the future of America, were being enacted along the Atlantic seaboard. The English, in a manner characteristic of that nation, had claimed the entire coast-line, from the frozen regions of the North to the Gulf of Mexico, and westward to the "South Sea"; but, as we have shown, during the years of active colonization in America, in the early part of the seventeenth century, the French had managed to secure a firm foothold in Canada, the Dutch along the Hudson River, and still later was established a small though thriving colony of Swedes on the lower waters of the Delaware, while the English were rapidly gaining strength in New England, in Maryland, and in Virginia. All were eager, all were grasping for more territory, and all were ready to fight at a moment’s notice in vindication of their claims. The Swedes were regarded as interlopers by the Dutch. Disputes arose, which resulted in the Swedes being overpowered by their more powerful neighbors. The Dutch were in turn conquered by the English, thus leaving the latter and the French alone to contend for supremacy in the temperate regions of North America. Subsequently the conquered Dutch province was granted to the Duke of York, New Jersey to a syndicate of English Quakers, and Maryland to Lord Baltimore.

At this time the hand of the English government bore heavily upon the denomination of Christians called Friends, or Quakers, and the earnest - minded, conscientious worshipers, uncompromising in their faith, were eager for homes in a land where they should be absolutely free to worship the Supreme Being in their own way. Lord Berkeley and Sir George Carteret, to whom the Duke of York had granted New Jersey, were Friends, and the settlements made in their territory were largely of that faith. In 1675 Lord Berkeley sold his undivided half of the province to John Fenwicke, in trust for Edward Byllinge, also Quakers, and Fenwicke sailed in the Griffith with a company of Friends, who settled at Salem, in West Jersey. Byllinge, having become involved in debt, made an assignment of his interest for the benefit of his creditors, and William Penn was induced to become trustee jointly with Gowen Lawrie and Nicholas Lucas.

William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, had felt the heavy hand of persecution for religious opinion’s sake. As a gentleman commoner at Oxford he had been fined, and finally expelled from that venerable seat of learning for non-conformity to the established form of worship. At home he was whipped and turned out of doors by a father who thought to reclaim the son to the more certain path of advancement at court. He was sent to prison by the mayor of Cork. For seven months he languished in the Tower of London, and finally, to complete his disgrace, he was cast into Newgate with common felons. Upon the accession of James II to the throne of England, over fourteen hundred persons of the Quaker faith were immured in prisons for a conscientious adherence to their religious convictions. To escape this harassing persecution and find peace and quietude from this sore proscription was, as already stated, the moving cause which led these people to emigrate to America.

Penn became zealous in promoting the welfare of the New Jersey colony. For its orderly government, and that settlers might have assurance of stability in the management of affairs, he drew up "Concessions and agreements of the proprietors, free holders and inhabitants of West New Jersey in America," in forty - four chapters. Foreseeing difficulty from divided authority, he had managed to secure a division of the province by "a line of partition from the east side of Little Egg Harbor, straight North, through the country to the utmost branch of the Delaware River." Penn’s half was termed New West Jersey, along the Delaware side, Carteret’s, New East Jersey, along the ocean shore. Penn’s purposes and disposition toward the settlers, as the founder of a state, are disclosed by a letter which he wrote at this time to Richard Hartshorn, a Friend, then in America: "We lay a foundation for after ages to understand their liberty, as men and Christians; that they may not be brought into bondage, but by their own consent; for we put the power in the people. So every man is capable to choose or to be chosen; no man to be arrested, condemned, or molested, in his estate, or liberty, but by twelve men of the neighborhood; no man to lie in prison for debt, but that his estate satisfy, as far as it will go, and he be set at liberty to work; no man to be called in question, or molested for his conscience." Lest any should be induced to leave home and embark in the enterprise of emigration unadvisedly, Penn wrote and published in a letter of caution the following: "That in whomsoever a desire to be concerned in this intended plantation, such should weigh the thing before the Lord, and not headily, or rashly conclude on any such remove, and that they do not offer violence to the tender love of their near kindred and relations, but soberly, and conscientiously endeavor to obtain their good wills; that whether they go or stay, it may be of good savor before the Lord and, good people."

As trustee, and finally as part owner of New Jersey, William Penn became much interested in the subject of colonization in America. Many of his people had gone thither, and he had given much study and meditation to the amelioration of their condition, by securing just laws for their government. His imagination pictured the fortunate condition of a country where those in authority should alone study the well - being of the people, and the people should be chiefly intent on rendering implicit obedience to just laws. From his experience in the management of the Jerseys he had doubtless discovered that if he would carry out his ideas of government successfully he must have a province where his voice would be potential and his will almost supreme. He accordingly began looking about him for the acquirement of such a land in the New World.

He had doubtless been stimulated in his desires by the very roseate accounts of the beauty and excellence of the country, its salubrity of climate, its balmy atmosphere, the great fertility of its soil, and the abundance of native fruit, fish, flesh, and fowl. In 1680 one Mahlon Stacy wrote a letter which was extensively circulated in England, in which he said: "It is a country that produceth all things for the support and furtherance of man, in a plentiful manner. I have seen orchards laden with fruit to admiration; their very limbs torn to pieces with weight, most delicious to the taste and lovely to behold. I have seen an apple tree, from a pippin - kernel yield a barrel of curious cider; and peaches in such plenty that some people took their carts a peach gathering; I could not but smile at the conceit of it; they are very delicious fruit, and hang almost like our onions, that are tied on ropes. I have seen and know, this summer, forty bushels of bold wheat of one bushel sown. From May till Michaelmas, great store of very good wild fruits as strawberries, cranberries, and hurtleberries, which are like our billberries in England, only far sweeter; the cranberries, much like cherries for color and bigness, which may be kept till fruit comes again; an excellent sauce is made of them for venison, turkeys, and other great fowl, and they are better to make tarts of than either gooseberries or cherries; we have them brought to our houses by the Indians in great plenty. My brother Robert had as many cherries this year as would have loaded several carts. As for venison and fowls, we have great plenty; we have brought home to our countries by the Indians seven or eight fat bucks in a day. We went into the river to catch herrings after the Indian fashion. We could have filled a three - bushel sack of as good large herrings as I ever saw. And as to beef and pork, there is great plenty of it, and good sheep. The common grass of this country feeds beef very fat. Indeed, the country, take it as a wilderness, is a brave country."

Admiral Penn, the father of William, was one of the most distinguished officers in the British navy. In Cromwell’s time he was sent with a considerable naval and land force to the West Indies, where he gained possession of the island of Jamaica and placed it under English rule. At the restoration of a monarchical government, he promptly gave in his adhesion to the royal cause. Under James, duke of York, he commanded the English fleet which descended upon the Dutch coast, and gained a great victory over the combined naval forces led by Van Opdam. For this great service to his country Admiral Penn was knighted, and became a favorite at court, the king and his brother, the duke, holding him in cherished remembrance. At his death there was due him from the crown the sum of £16,000, a portion of which he himself had advanced for the naval service.

Filled with the romantic idea of colonization, and enamored with the sacred cause of his sect, William Penn, who had come to be regarded with favor because of his distinguished father’s services, petitioned King Charles II to grant him, in liquidation of this debt, "a tract of land in America, lying north of Maryland, bounded east by the Delaware River, on the west limited as Maryland, and northward to extend as far as plantable." There were conflicting interests at this time, however, which were being closely watched at court. The petition was submitted to the privy council, and afterward to the Lords of the Committee of Plantations. The duke of York already held the counties of New Castle, Kent, and Sussex. Lord Baltimore held a grant upon the south, with an undefined northern limit, and the agents of both these provinces viewed with jealousy any new grant that should trench in any way upon their rights.

These claims were fully debated and heard by the lords, and, being a matter in which the king manifested special interest, the lord chief - justice, North, and the attorney - general, Sir William Jones, were consulted both as to the grant itself and the form, or manner, of making it. Finally, after a careful study of the whole subject, it was determined by the highest authority in the government to grant to Penn a larger tract than he had asked for, and the charter was drawn up with unexampled liberality, in unequivocal terms of gift and perpetuity of holding, and with remarkable minuteness of detail; and that Penn should have the advantage of any double meaning conveyed in the instrument, the last section provides - "And, if perchance hereafter any doubt or question should arise concerning the true sense and meaning of any word, clause or sentence contained in this our present charter, we will ordain and command that at all times and in all things such interpretation be made thereof, and allowed in any of our courts whatsoever as shall be adjudged most advantageous and favorable unto the said William Penn, his heirs and assigns."

Doubtless it was a joyful day for Penn when he finally reached the consummation of his wishes, and found himself invested with almost dictatorial power over a province as large as England itself. But his exultation was tempered with the most devout Christian spirit, fearful lest in the exercise of his great power he might be led to do something that would be displeasing to God. At this time, in a letter to his friend Robert Turner, he wrote as follows: "My true love in the Lord salutes thee and dear friends that love the Lord’s precious truth in those parts. Thine I have, and for my business here know that after many waitings, watchings, solicitings and disputes in council, this day my country was confirmed to me under the great seal of England, with large powers and privileges, by the name of Pennsylvania, a name the King will give it in honor of my father. I chose New Wales, being, as this, a pretty hilly country; but Penn being Welsh for a head, as Penmanmoire in Wales, and Penrith in Cumberland, and Penn in Buckinghamshire, the highest land in England, called this Pennsylvania, which is the high or head woodlands; for I proposed, when the Secretary, a Welshman, refused to have it called New Wales, Sylvania, and they added Penn to it; and though I much opposed it, and went to the King to have it struck out and altered, he said it was past, and would take it upon him; nor could twenty guineas move the Under Secretary to vary the name; for I feared lest it should be looked on as a vanity in me, and. not as a respect in the King, as it truly was to my father, whom he often mentions with praise. Thou mayest communicate my grant to Friends, and expect shortly my proposals. It is a clear and just thing, and my God, that has given it me through many difficulties, will, I believe, bless and make it the seed of a nation. I shall have a tender care to the government, that it be well laid at first."

Penn had asked that the western boundary of his grant should be the same as that of Maryland; but the king made the width from east to west five full degrees. The charter limits were "all that tract, or part of land, in America, with the islands therein contained as the same is bounded, on the east by Delaware River, from twelve miles distance northwards of New Castle town, unto the three and fortieth degree of northern latitude. The said land to extend westward five degrees in longitude, to be computed from the said eastern bounds; and the said lands to be bounded on the north by the beginning of the three and fortieth degree of northern latitude, and, on the south, by a circle drawn at twelve miles distance from New Castle northward and westward unto the beginning of the fortieth degree of northern latitude; and then by a straight line westward to the limits of longitude above mentioned."

It is very evident that the royal secretaries did not well understand the geography of the New World (nor do they seem to have cared, since in nearly all early English grants the latest usually overlapped those granted at an earlier date); for by reference to the maps it will be seen that the beginning of the fortieth degree - that is, the end of the thirty - ninth - cuts the District of Columbia, and hence Baltimore, and the greater part of Maryland and a good slice of Virginia, would have been included in the chartered limits of Pennsylvania. But the charters of Maryland and Virginia antedated this of Pennsylvania. Still, the terms of the Penn charter were distinct - the beginning of the fortieth degree - whereas those of Maryland were ambiguous, the northern limit being fixed at the fortieth degree; but whether at the beginning or at the ending of the fortieth was not stated. Penn claimed three full degrees of latitude, and when it was found that a controversy was likely to ensue, the king, by the hand of his royal minister Conway, issued a further declaration, in which the wording of the original chartered limits fixed for Pennsylvania were quoted verbatim, and his royal highness declared that these limits should be respected, "as they tender his majesty’s displeasure." This was supposed to be a settlement of the matter. But Lord Baltimore still pressed his claim, and the question of southern boundary remained an open one, causing much disquietude to Penn during his life, and was not finally settled until more than three - quarters of a century later, when Mason and Dixon established the line. Indeed, since the French already claimed all that portion of the province granted to Penn lying west of the Allegheny Mountains, and as Virginia and Connecticut subsequently made claim to other portions of the present commonwealth, besides the claims of the Indians as original occupants and owners, a clear title was not obtained, and the true boundaries of Pennsylvania were not known and plainly defined until the war for independence had closed, or long after the territory granted to Penn had passed from the control of his heirs.

>From the terms of the charter it is evident that the king, in making the grant, was influenced "by the commendable desire of Penn to enlarge our British Empire, and promote such useful commodities as may be of benefit to us and our dominions, as also to reduce savage nations by just and gentle manners, to the love of civil society and Christian religion," and "out of regard to the memory and merits of his late father, in divers services, and particularly to his conduct, courage and discretion, under our dearest brother, James, Duke of York, in the signal battle and victory, fought and obtained, against the Dutch fleet, commanded by the Herr Van Opdam in 1665."

The charter of King Charles II, granting Pennsylvania to William Penn, was dated March 4, 1681. But lest any trouble might arise in the future from claims founded on the grant previously made to the duke of York, of "Long Island and adjacent territories occupied by the Dutch," the prudent forethought of Penn soon after induced him to obtain a deed of the duke, for Pennsylvania, substantially in the terms of the royal charter. Yet still Penn was not satisfied. He was cut off from the ocean except by the uncertain navigation of one narrow stream. He therefore obtained from the duke a grant of New Castle and a district of twelve miles around it, dated August 24, 1682, and on the same day a further grant from the duke of a tract extending to Cape Henlopen, embracing the two counties of Kent and Sussex, the two grants comprising what were known at an early day as the three "lower counties," and which for many years were part of Pennsylvania, but subsequently became the State of Delaware.

Being now eminently well pleased with his province, and that his titles were secure, the proprietor drew up such a description of the country as from his limited knowledge of it he was able to give, which, together with the royal charter and proclamation, terms of settlement, and other papers pertaining thereto, he published and spread broadcast through the kingdom, taking special pains to have these documents reach the Friends. The terms of sale of lands were forty shillings for one hundred acres, and one shilling per acre rental. The question has been asked, why exact the annual payment of one shilling per acre? and answered, that the terms of the grant by the royal charter to Penn were made absolute on the "payment therefor to us, our heirs and successors, two beaver skins, to be delivered at our castle in Windsor, on the first day of January in every year," and contingent payment of "one - fifth part of all gold and silver which shall from time to time happen to be found clear of all charges." Penn, therefore, held his title only upon the payment of quit - rents. He could, consequently, give a valid title only by the exacting of quit - rents.

With a great province of his own to manage, Penn was now obliged to relinquish his interest in West New Jersey. He had devoted much of his time and energies to its settlement; he had sent fourteen hundred emigrants, many of them people of high character; and under his control farms were improved and the town of Burlington was founded, meeting - houses were erected, good government was established, and the savage Indians were turned to peaceful ways. With satisfaction, therefore, he could now give himself to reclaiming and settling his own province.

The publication of the royal charter and his description of the country attracted much attention, and many purchases of land were made of Penn before leaving England. That these purchasers might have something binding to rely upon, he drew up what he termed "conditions or concessions" between himself as proprietor, and the purchasers of lands in the province. These related to the settling of the country, laying out towns, and especially to the treatment of the Indians, who were to have the same rights and privileges, and careful regard as the Europeans. And, what may be considered a remarkable instance of provident forethought, the eighteenth article provided, "That, in clearing the ground, care be taken to leave one acre of trees for every five acres cleared, especially to preserve oak and mulberries for silk and shipping."

He also drew up a frame of government, consisting of twenty - four articles and forty laws. These were drawn in a spirit of unexampled fairness and liberality, introduced by an elaborate essay on the just rights of government and governed, and with such conditions and concessions that it should never be in the power of an unjust governor to take advantage of the people and practice injustice. Said he: "For the matter of liberty and privilege, I purpose that which is extraordinary, and leave myself and successors no power of doing mischief, that the will of one man may not hinder that of a whole country." This frame gave impress to the character of the early government. It implanted in the breasts of the people a deep sense of duty, of right, and of obligation in all public affairs, and the relations of man with man, and formed a framework for the future State constitution. He had felt the tyranical hand of government for opinion’s sake, and was determined, in the matter of religion, to leave all free to hold such opinions as they might elect, and hence enacted for his province that all who "hold themselves obliged in conscience, to live peaceably and justly in civil society, shall, in no ways, be molested, nor prejudiced, for their religious persuasion, or practice, in matters of faith and worship, nor shall they be compelled at any time, to frequent, or maintain, any religious worship, place, or ministry whatever." Such governmental liberality in matters of religion was at that time almost unknown, though Roger Williams, in the colony of Rhode Island, had previously under similar circumstances, and having just escaped a like persecution, proclaimed it, as had likewise Lord Baltimore in the Catholic colony of Maryland.

Not being in readiness to go to his province during the first year, Penn dispatched three ship loads of settlers, and with them sent his cousin, William Markham, to take formal possession of the country and act as deputy governor. The latter sailed for New York, and upon his arrival there exhibited his commission, and the king’s charter and proclamation, to Captain Anthony Brockholls, acting governor (in the absence of Govenor Andros), who gave him a letter addressed to the civil officers on the Delaware, informing them that Markham’s authority as governor was unquestionable, and requesting them to submit quietly to the new government. Armed with this letter, which was dated June 21, 1681, Markham continued his voyage to the Delaware, where he was kindly received.

As the chief officer in the province, Markham was empowered to call a council of nine citizens to assist him in the government, and over whom he was to preside. He also brought a letter addressed to Lord Baltimore, relating to the boundary between the two grants, and showing the terms of the charter for Pennsylvania. On receipt of this letter, Lord Baltimore came to Upland to confer with Markham. An observation fixing the exact latitude of Upland showed that it was twelve miles south of the forty-first degree, to which degree Baltimore claimed, and that the beginning of the fortieth degree, which the royal charter explicitly fixed for the southern boundary of Pennsylvania, would include nearly the entire province of Maryland. "If this be allowed," was significantly asked by Lord Baltimore, "where is my province?" He returned to his colony, and from this time an active contention was waged for many years for possession of the disputed territory.

Four commissioners - William Crispin, John Bezer, William Haige, and Nathaniel Allen- - appointed by Penn, accompanied Markham. The first named had been designated as surveyor - general, but he died en route, when Thomas Holme was appointed to succeed him. These commissioners, in conjunction with the governor, had two important duties assigned them. The first was to meet and preserve friendly relations with the Indians and acquire lands of them by actual purchase, and the second was to select the site of a maritime city and make the necessary surveys. That they might have a suitable introduction to the natives from him, Penn supplied them with a declaration of his purposes, conceived in a spirit of brotherly love, and expressed in such simple terms that it was supposed the children of the forest would have no difficulty in apprending his meaning.

Said Penn in this declaration: "There is a great God and power that hath made the world, and all things therein, to whom you and I, and all my people owe their being, and well being; and to whom you and I must one day give an account for all that we do in the world. This great God hath written His law in our hearts, by which we are taught and commanded to love, and help, and do good to one another. Now this great God hath been pleased to make me concerned in your part of the world, and the King of the country where I live hath given me a great province therein; but I desire to enjoy it with your love and consent, that we may always live together, as neighbors and friends; else what would the great God do to us, who hath made us, not to devour and destroy one another, but to live soberly and kindly together in the world? Now I would have you well observe that I am very sensible of the unkindness and injustice that have been too much exercised toward you by the people of these parts of the world, who have sought themselves, and to make great advantages by you, rather than to be examples of goodness and patience unto you, which I hear hath been a matter of trouble to you, and caused great grudging and animosities, sometimes to the shedding of blood, which hath made the great God angry. But I am not such a man, as is well known in my own country. I have great love and regard toward you, and desire to gain your love and friendship by a kind, just and peaceable life, and the people I send are of the same mind, and shall in all things behave themselves accordingly; and if anything shall offend you or your people, you shall have a full and speedy satisfaction for the same by an equal number of just men on both sides that by no means you may have just occasion of being offended against them. I shall shortly come to you myself at which time we may more freely confer and discourse of these matters. In the mean time, I have sent my Commissioners to treat with you about land, and form a league of peace. Let me desire you to be kind to them and their people, and receive these presents and tokens which I have sent you as a testimony of my good will to you, and my resolution to live justly, peaceably and friendly with you."

Although this address, or explanation, is clothed with plain and simple words, it is not probable that the savages understood its true intents and purposes, nor cared any more than that mythical dignitary, the Indian "Emperor of Canada," for whose enlightenment Penn at about this time had drawn up an elaborate address, which was subsequently beautifully engrossed on parchment. In substance this message to the aforesaid "Emperor" was a notification that he, Penn, had purchased a province in America and intended to occupy it, and wished to live upon terms of peace and amity with his neighbors. Certainly this was a novel proceeding on the part of Penn, since he must have been aware that the French had been in actual and almost undisturbed possession of Canada for considerably more than fifty years, and who besides him ever supposed there then existed such a personage as a savage "Emperor of Canada?" If there were such we have never read or heard of them.

But the Indians found inhabiting the wilds of Pennsylvania could appreciate kind treatment, and, like all other savages, were always promptly on hand when presents were to be distributed. As a result they became very friendly with Penn’s colonists, and were protected in their rights. When Penn came to propose his laws, one was adopted which forbade private trade with the natives in which they might be cheated; instead, it was required that the valuable skins and furs they had to sell should be exposed in-the market place where all could see them and enter into competition for their purchase. He was offered £6,000 for a monopoly of trade in his province. But he well knew the injustice to which this would subject the simple-minded natives, and he refused it, saying: "As the Lord gave it to me over all amid great opposition, I would not abuse His love, nor act unworthy of His providence, and so defile what came to me clean." To his commissioners he gave a letter of instructions in which he says: "Be impartially just to all; that is both pleasing to the Lord, and wise in itself. Be tender of offending the Indians, and let them know that you come to sit down lovingly among them. Let my letter and conditions be read in their tongue, that they may see we have their good in our eye. Be grave, they love not to be smiled on." Acting upon these suggestions, and by a judicious distribution of presents, the commissioners soon succeeded in making large purchases of lands from the Indians, situated on the right bank of the Delaware and above the mouth of the Schuylkill.

Markham and the commissioners, however, found considerable difficulty in determining upon the site for the new city. Penn had given very particular instructions about this, and it was not easy to find a tract which answered all the conditions. Their search was kept up for seven weeks. The proprietor had written, "be sure to make your choice where it is most navigable, high, dry and healthy; that is, where most ships may best ride, of deepest draught of water, if possible to load and unload at the bank or Key’s side without boating and lightening of it. It would do well if the river coming into that creek be navigable, at least for boats up into the country, and that the situation be high, at least dry and sound, and not swampy, which is best known by digging up two or three earths and seeing the bottom." Further instructions were that the site of the city be between two navigable streams, and embrace at least ten thousand acres in one block. "Be sure," said Penn, "to settle the figure of the town so that the streets hereafter may be uniform down to the water from the country bounds. Let every house be placed, if the person pleases, in the middle of its plat, as to the breadth way of it, so that there may be ground on each side for gardens or orchards or fields, that it may be a green country town, which will never be burnt and always wholesome."

The soil was examined, the streams were sounded, and deep pits were dug, that a location might be found which would gratify the desires of the proprietor. All the eligible sites were inspected from the ocean far up into the country. Penn himself had anticipated that Chester or Upland would be adopted from all that he had learned of the new county; but these grounds were rejected as unsuitable, as was also the territory upon Poquessing Creek and that at Pennsbury Manor above Bristol, which had been carefully considered; and the present site of Philadelphia was adopted as coming nearest to the requirements of the proprietor. It did not embrace ten thousand acres in a solid block or square, but it was between two navigable streams, and the land was high and dry, being for the most part a vast bed of gravel, excellent for drainage and likely to prove, healthful. The streets were laid out regularly, and crossed each other at right angles. As the ground was only gently rolling, the grading was easily accomplished. One wide street, Market, extends from river to river through the center of it, which is crossed at right angles at its middle point by Broad street, of equal width. The name Philadelphia, meaning brotherly love, had been selected by the proprietor before his first colonists sailed from England.

 

SOURCE: Page(s) 38-48, History of Warren County, J.S. Schenck & W.S. Rann, Syracuse, New York: D. Mason, 1887