History of Pennsylvania

Taken From the History of the counties of McKean, Elk, Cameron and Potter, Pennsylvania :.
Chicago. J.H. Beers & Co.. 1890.

Pages 17-20


Early Settlements

The region which is now known as Pennsylvania was, prior to the coming of Europeans, a vast forest, inhabited by its native Indians. The uncertain traditions which these people have preserved of themselves have often been recorded, and their sad history since the advent of the white man is well known.

Early in the seventeenth century the region watered by the Delaware river was visited by Dutch traders. Such was their success that posts were established and trade was kept up during some years. They did not seek to establish colonies for the cultivation of soil, but limited themselves to the profitable exchange of commodities with the natives.

They were followed by the Swedes, who established settlements along the river and brought hither the habits of industry and thrift in which they had been reared at home. Between the Swedes and the Dutch arose conflicts of authority and hostilities which finally resulted in the subjugation of the former. The Dutch were in turn dispossessed by the diplomany and arms of the aggressive English, who became masters of the territory along the Delaware in 1664.

William Penn

William Penn became a trustee and finally a part owner of West New Jersey, which was colonized by Quakers in 1675. To his father, Admiral Penn, was due, at his death, the sum of 16,000 pounds for services rendered the English government. To son petitioned to 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.

The charter of King Charles II was dated April 2, 1681, and other grants to lands south from the territory originally conveyed were procured in 1682. No being in readiness to go to his province during the first year, he 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. It is hardly necessary to say that these settlers were of the then proscribed sect of Quakers.


William Penn

Having made the necessary preparations and settled his affairs in England, Penn embarked on the ship "Welcome", in August, 1682, in company with a hundred planters, and set his prow toward the new world. He arrived at New Castle in October, and on the site of Philadelphia in November of that year. The arrival of Markham and Penn, with their colonists, on the west bank of the Delaware was the inauguration of a new regime there; that of the people who had never before enjoyed such a measure of self government.

By reason of ignorance of the geography of this country, the language of royal grants was often ambiguous, and sometimes the descriptions covered territory that had been previously granted. Conflicts of claims then arose that were sometimes difficult of settlement.

Soon after his arrival Penn learned of such a conflict in the claims of himself and Lord Baltimore, and he visited the latter to adjust the matter, if possible. In this he was not successful. Subsequent attempts to negotiate also failed, and finally Penn proposed to pay Lord Baltimore for territory which he had already purchased from the crown. The Lord Baltimore refused, and soon afterward made forcible entry on the lands claimed, and drove off those who had purchased from Penn. The latter also learned that secret and ex-parte representations of the case had been made to the lords of the committee of plantations in England and he decided to return and defend his imperiled interests.

He accordingly empowered the provincial council, of which Thomas Lloyd was president, to act in his stead; commissioned Nicholas Moore, William Welch, William Wood, Robert Turner and John Eckley provincial judges for two years; appointed Thomas Lloyd, James Claypole and Robert Turner to sign land patents and warrants; and William Clark as justice of the peace for all the counties, and on the 6th of June, 1684, sailed for England, where his efforts were successful, though the boundary line was not definitely fixed till 1766.

Dissension in the Government

In his absence the affairs of his province exhibited the great need of his strong guiding hand to check abuse, and direct the course of legislation in proper channels. He had labored to place the government in the hands of the people, an idea most attractive in the abstract, and one which, were the entire population wise and just, would result fortunately; yet in practice, he found to his sorrow the results most vexatious.

The proprietor had not long been gone before troubles arose between the two houses of the legislature relative to promulgating the laws as not being in accordance with the requirements of the charter. Nicholas Moore, the chief justice, was impeached for irregularities in imposing fines and in other ways abusing his high trust. But though formally arraigned and directed to desist from exercising his functions, he successfully resisted the proceedings, and a final judgment was never obtained.

Patrick Robinson, clerk of the court, for refusing to produce the records in the trial of Moore, was voted a public enemy. These troubles in the government were the occasion of much grief to Penn, who wrote naming a number of the most influential men in the colony, and beseeching them to unite in an endeavor to check further irregularities, declaring that they disgraced the province, "that their conduct had struck back hundreds, and was ten thousand pounds out of his way, and one hundred thousand pounds out of the country."

In the latter part of the year 1686, seeing the whole council was too unwieldy a body to exercise executive power, Penn determined to contract the number, and accordingly appointed Thomas Lloyd, Nicholas Moore, James Claypole, Robert Turner and John Eckley, any three of whom should constitute a quorum to be commissioners of State to act for the proprietor. In place of Moore and Claypole, Arthur Cook and John Simcock were appointed. They were to compel the attendance of the council; see that the two houses admit of no parley; to abrogate all laws except the fundamentals; to dismiss the assembly and call a new one; and finally he solemnly admonishes them: "Be most just, as in the sight of the all-seeing, all-searching God." In a letter to these commissioners he says: "Three things occur to me eminently: First, that you be watchful that none abuse the king, etc.; secondly, that you get the custom act revived as being the equalest and least offensive way to support the government; thirdly, that you retrieve the dignity of courts and sessions.

Thomas Lloyd acted as president of the council after the departure of Penn. At his own request he was relieved, and Samuel Carpenter was appointed in his place, with Thomas Ellis as alternate. July 27, 1688, Penn commissioned John Blackwell, who was at that time in New England, and who possessed his esteem and confidence, to be lieutenant-governor. With the commission the propietor sent full instructions, chiefly by way of caution, the last one being: "Rule the meek meekly; and those that will not be ruled, rule with authority."

Though Lloyd had been relieved of power, he still remained in the council, probably because neither of the persons designated was willing to serve. Having seen the evils of a many-headed executive, he had recommended the appointment of one person to exercise executive authority. It was in conformity with this advice that Blackwell was appointed. He met the assembly in March, 1689; but either his conceptions of business were arbitrary and imperious, or the assembly had become accustomed to great latitude and lax discipline, for the business had not proceeded far before the several branched of the government were at variance.

Lloyd refused to give up the great seal, alleging that it had been given him for life. The governor, arbitrarily and without warrant of law, imprisoned officers of high rank, denied the validity of all laws passed by the assembly previous to his administration, and set on foot a project for organizing end equipping the militia under the plea of threatened hostility of France. The assembly attempted to arrest his proceedings, but he shrewdly evaded their intents by organizing a party among the members, who persistently absented themselves. His reign was short, for in January 1690, he left the colony and sailed away for England; whereupon the government again devolved upon the council, Thomas Lloyd, president. Penn had a high estimation of the talents and integrity of Blackwell, and adds: "He is in England and Ireland of great repute for ability, integrity and virtue.

Problems in England

Penn's favor at court during the reign of James II caused him to be suspected of disloyalty to the government when William an Mary had come to the throne. He was three times arraigned before the lords of the council, but was each time acquitted. He organized a large party of settlers for his for his colony, but a great accusation compelled him to abandon the voyage, and induced him to go into retirement for two or three years.

His personal grievances in England were the least which he suffered. For lack of guiding influence, bitter dissensions had sprung up in his colony, which threatened the loss of all. Desiring to secure peace, he had commissioned Thomas Lloyd deputy-governor of the province, and William Markham deputy-governor of the lower counties. Penn's grief on account of this division is disclosed in a letter to a friend in the province: "I left it to them to choose either the government of the council, or a deputy. What could be tenderer? Now I perceive Thomas Lloyd is chosen by the three upper, but not the three lower counties, and sits down with this broken choice. This has grieved and wounded me and mine, I fear, to the hazard of all!"

But the troubles of Penn in America were not confined to civil affairs. His religious society was torn with dissension. George Keith, a man of considerable power in argumentation, but of over-weaning self-conceit, attacked the Friends for the laxity of their discipline, and drew off some followers. So venomous did he become that on the 20th of April, 1692, a testimony of denial was drawn up against him at a meeting of ministers, wherein he and his conduct were publicly disowned. This was confirmed at the next yearly meeting. This was confirmed at the next yearly meeting. He drew off large numbers and set up an independent society, who termed themselves Christian Quakers. Keith appealed from this action of the American church to the yearly meeting in London, but was so intemperate in speech that the action of the American church was confirmed. Penn was silenced, and thrown into retirement in England.

It can be readily seen what an excellent opportunity these troubles in America, the separation in the government and the schism in the church, gave his enemies to attack him. They represented that he had neglected his colony by remaining in England and meddling with matters in which he had no business; that the colony in consequence had fallen into great disorder, and that he should be deprived of his proprietary rights. These complaints had so much weight with William and Mary that on the 21st of October, 1692, they commissioned Benjamin Fletcher, governor of New York, to take the province and territories under his government.

There was another motive operating at this time, more potent than those mentioned above, to induce the king and queen to put the government of Pennsylvania under the governor of New York. The French and Indians from the north were threatening the English. Already the expense for defense had become burdensome to New York. It was believed that to ask aid for the common defense from Penn, with his peace principles, would be fruitless, but that through the influence of Gov. Fletcher, as executive, an appropriation might be secured.

Through the kind offices of Lords Rochester, Ranelagh, Sidney and Somers, the Duke of Buckingham and Sir John Trenchard, the king was asked to hear the case of William Penn, against whom no charge was proven, and who would two years before have gone to his colony had he not supposed that he would have been thought to go in defiance of the government. King William answered that William Penn was his old acquaintance as well as theirs, that he might follow his business as freely as ever, and that he had nothing to say to him. Penn was accordingly reinstated in his government by letters patent dated on the 20th of August, 1694, whereupon he commissioned William Markham Lieutenant-governor.

William Penn Returns to America

Free from harassing persecutions at last, and in favor at court, Penn determined to remove with his family to Pennsylvania, and now with the expectation of living and dying here. Accordingly in July, 1699, he set sail, and, on account of adverse winds, was three months tossed about upon the ocean. Great joy was everywhere manifested throughout the province at the arrival of the proprietor and his family, fondly believing that he had now come to stay. He met the assembly soon after landing, but, it being an inclement season, he only detained them long enough to pass two measures aimed against piracy and illicit trade, exaggerated reports of which having been spread broadcast through the kingdom had caused him great uneasiness and vexation. In February, 1701, he met the most renowned and powerful of the Indian chieftains from the Potomac t the Onondagas of the Five Nations, and entered into a formal treaty of active friendship with them.

Several sessions of the Legislature were held in which great harmony prevailed, and much attention was given to revising the recomposing the constitution. But in the midst of their labors for the improvement of the organic law, intelligence was brought to Penn that a bill had been introduced in the house of lords for reducing all the proprietary governments in America to regal ones, under pretense of advancing the prerogative of the crown, and the national advantage. Such of the owners of land in Pennsylvania as happened to be in England remonstrated against action upon the bill until Penn could return and be heard, and wrote to him urging his immediate coming hither.

Though much to his disappointment and sorrow, he determined to go immediately thither. He promptly called a session of the assembly, and in his message to the two houses said: "* * * review again your laws, propose new ones, and you will find me ready to comply with whatsoever may render us happy, by a nearer union of our interests." The assembly returned a suitable response, and then proceeded to draw up twenty-one articles. The first related to the appointment of a lieutenant-governor. Penn proposed that the assembly should choose one. But this they declined, preferring that he should appoint one. Little trouble was experienced in settling everything broached, except the union of the province and lower counties. Penn used his best endeavors to reconcile them to the union, but without avail. The new constitution was adopted on the 28th of October 1701. The instrument provided for the union, but in a supplementary article, evidently granted with great reluctance, it was provided that the province and the territories might be separated at any time within three years. As his last act before leaving, he presented the city of Philadelphia, now grown to be a considerable place, and his deputy he appointed Andrew Hamilton, one of the proprietors of East New Jersey, and sometime governor of both East and West Jersey; and for secretary of the province and clerk of the council he selected James Logan, a man of singular urbanity and strength of mind, and withal a scholar. Pen set sail for Europe of the 1st of November, 1701. Soon after his arrival, on the 18th of January, 1702, King William died, and Anne of Denmark succeeded him.

Gov. Hamilton's administration continued only till December 1702, when he died. He was earnest in his endeavors to induce the territories to unite with the province, they having as yet not accepted the new charter, alleging that they had three years in which to make their decision, but without success. He also organized a military force, of which George Lowther was commander, for the safety of the colony. The executive authority now devolved upon the council, of which Edward Shippen was president. Conflict of authority, and contention over the due interpretation of some provisions of the new charter, prevented the accomplishment of much, by way of legislation, in the assembly which convened in 1703; though in this body was finally determined that the lower counties should thereafter act separately in a legislative capacity. The separation proved final, the two bodies never again meeting in common.

Though the bill to govern the American colonies by regal authority failed, yet the clamor of those opposed to the proprietary governors was so strong that an act was finally passed requiring the selection of deputies to have the royal assent. Hence, in choosing a successor to Hamilton, he was obliged to consider the queen's wishes. John Evans, a man of parts, of Welsh extraction, only twenty-six years old, a member of the queen's household, and not a Quaker, nor even of exemplary morals, was appointed, who arrived in the colony in December 1703. He was accompanied by William Penn, Jr., who was elected a member of the council, the number having been increased by authority of the governor, probably with a view to his election. The first care of Evans was to unite the province and the lower counties, though the final separation had been agreed to. He presented the matter so well that the lower counties, from which the difficulty had always come, were willing to return to a firm union. But now the provincial assembly, having become impatient of the obstacles thrown in the way of legislation by delegates from these counties, was unwilling to receive them. They henceforward remained separate in a legislative capacity, though still a part of Pennsylvania, under the claim of Penn, and ruled by the same governor; and thus they continued until the 20th of September, 1776, when a constitution was adopted, and they were proclaimed a separate State under the name of Delaware. During two years of the government of Evans, there was ceaseless discord between the council, headed by the governor and Secretary Logan on the one side, and the assembly led by David Lloyd, its speaker, on the other, and little legislation was effected.

In conjunction with the legislature of the lower counties, Evans was instrumental in having a law passed for the imposition of a tax on the tonnage of the river, and the erection of a fort near the town of New Castle for compelling obedience. This was in direct violation of the fundamental compact, and vexatious to commerce. It was a length forcibly resisted, and its imposition abandoned. His administration was anything but efficient or peaceful, a series of contentions, of charges and counter-charges, having been kept up between the leaders of the two factions, Lloyd and Logan, which he was powerless to properly direct or control. He was relieved in 1709.

The experience with Gov. Evans led the proprietor to select a more sedate character in his successor. After considering the candidature of his son for a time, the founder finally selected Charles Gookin, who was reputed to be a man of wisdom and prudence, though, as was afterward learned to the sorrow of the colony, he was subject to fits of derangement, which toward the close of his term were exhibited in the most extravagant acts. He has scarcely arrived in the colony before charges were prepared against the late governor, and he was asked to institute criminal proceedings, which he declined. This was the occasion of a renewal of contentions between the governor and his council and the assembly, which continued during the greater part of his administration. In the midst of them, Logan, who was at the head of the council, having demanded a trail of the charges against him, and failed to secure one, sailed for Europe, where he presented the difficulties experienced in administering the government so strongly, that Penn was seriously inclined to sell his interest in the colony. He had already greatly crippled his estate by expenses he had incurred in making costly presents to the natives and in settling his colony, for which he had received small return. In the year 1707 he had become involved in a suit in chancery with the executors of his former steward, in the course of which he was confined in the Old Bailey during this and part of the following year, when he was obliged to mortgage his colony in the sum of 6,600 pounds to relieve himself. Foreseeing the great consequence it would be to the crown to buy the rights of the proprietors of the several English colonies in America before they would grow too powerful, negotiations had been entered into early in the reign of William and Mary for their purchase, especially the "fine province of Mr. Penn." Borne down by these troubles and by debts and litigations at home, Penn seriously entertained the proposition to sell in 1712, and offered it for 20,000 pounds. The sum of 12,000 pounds was offered on the part of the crown, which was agreed upon; but before the necessary papers were executed, he was stricken down with apoplexy, by which he was incapacitated for transacting any business, and a stay was put to further proceedings until the queen should order an act of parliament for consummating the purchase.

A year before the death of Penn, the lunacy of Gov. Gookin having become troublesome, he was succeeded in the government by Sir William Keith, a Scotchman, who had served as surveyor of customs to the English government, in which capacity he had visited Pennsylvania previously, and knew something of its condition. He was a dignified and commanding bearing,  ......TO BE CONTINUED

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