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The Great Republic by the Master Historians
The Quaker Colony
by Bancroft, Hubert H.


[In 1638 a colony of Swedes settled on Christiana Creek, in the present State of Delaware. Governor Kieft, of New Amsterdam, considered this an intrusion on his territory, and, as a check to their aggression, rebuilt the previously abandoned Fort Nassau, below the present Camden. The Swedes gradually extended their settlements, the territory occupied reaching from Cape Henlopen to a point opposite Trenton. Their governor built a fort and a residence on the island of Tinicum, below Philadelphia. In 1655 the Swedes were attached by the Dutch, and their forts taken. The most of them continued on their estates, under Dutch authority. The territory of New Jersey was granted in 1664 to Lord Berkeley and Sir George Carteret. Berkeley sold his share in 1674 to John Fenwick, in trust for Edward Byllinge, who subsequently assigned his claim to William Penn and two other Quakers. The province was then divided, Carteret receiving the eastern portion, and the Quaker assignees the western portion, on the Delaware. It was in this way that William Penn first became interested in the settlement of America. As two colonies, Massachusetts and Maryland, had already been formed through the desire for religious liberty, it occurred to him to establish a refuge in the New World for the persecuted sect of which he was a member. This was first attempted in West Jersey. A free constitution was given to the settlers, granting important privileges of civil and religious liberty. Quakers were specially recommended to take advantage of it, and more than four hundred emigrated to the province in 1677. In 1682, William Penn and eleven others purchased East Jersey, so that the whole province then came under Quaker control. Robert Barclay, author of the "Apology for Quakers," was appointed governor for life.

In 1681, Penn obtained from Charles II, a grant of all the lands embraced in the present State of Pennsylvania. His purpose in this was not alone to convert and civilize the Indians, as expressed in the charter, but also to form an asylum for those desirous of civil and religious liberty, in which the principles of Peace, as advocated by his sect, might be efficiently carried out. He soon after obtained a grant of the present State of Delaware, then called "The Territories." In September, 1682, he set sail for his new province, with a large number of emigrants of his own religious belief. Others had preceded him. The story of his landing and his actions in the New World we extract from John Stoughton's "William Penn," from the fact that this writer gives the true story of that celebrated "Treaty with the Indians," concerning which so little is actually known, yet which has been made the basis of so many imaginative statements, full of dramatic interest, yet with very small foundation in fact.]

Convenience, thoughts of commerce, the selection of a fitting spot for a great city, the choice of a harbor for the shipping of the world, no doubt mainly determined the site of Philadelphia. But utility and the picturesque often go together.. Whether the commissioners sent out by Penn, who marked the foundation for the noble metropolis of their new State, had much care for landscape beauty, I cannot say; but, at all events, they managed to secure it, even if aiming at far other things. Nearly forty years before, red Indians were haunting the shore about a mile from Fort Nassau, and there some Dutchmen bought land from these wild children of the west, and mounted the flag of their country on a tall boundary-mark as a sign of possession.

[A quarrel ensued with the neighboring Swedes, who tore down the flag.]

Between thirty and forty years afterwards the region remained infested with wolves, and the heads of these animals were brought in to be paid for by the scanty settlers at the rate of fifty-five heads for forty guilders. Some acres between "the land of Wiccaco" and "the land of Jurian Hartsfielder" were granted on petition in 1677 to one Peter Rambo, but on the complaint of a neighboring family, who laid claim to it, the grant was cancelled. This became the site of the new city.

Penn did not land there. His voyage from England lasted two months, and on its way the Welcome was scourged by the small-pox, which swept off no less than one- third of the hundred passengers who had embarked at Deal. The first point on the American coast which the vessel reached was "the Capes," on the 24th of October, 1682, and on the 28th Penn landed at New-Castle. He was "hailed there with acclamation by the Swedes and Dutch," says one authority, who informs us that the Swedes were living in log cabins and clay huts, the men dressed "in leather breeches, jerkins, and match coats," the women "in skin jackets and linsey petticoats;" but the old records of New-Castle give a more stately description of the arrival. Penn produced two deeds of enfeoffment, and John Moll, Esq., and Ephraim Hannan, gentleman, performed livery of seisin by handing over to him turf and twig, water and soil, and with due formality the act was recorded in a document signed with nine names. The inhabitants of the little settlement afterwards gave a pledge of obedience..

After this Penn visited New York, and returned at the end of a month, when he went to a place called Upland, and, turning round to a Quaker friend who had come with him in the Welcome, he said, "Providence has brought us here safe; thou hast been the companion of my perils: what wilt thou that I should call this place?" Pearson said, "Chester," in remembrance of the city whence he came.

The Great Law, as it was called, or rather the body of laws, of the province of Pennsylvania, was passed at Chester the 7th of December, 1682; and here we have the scheme of legislation devised by the founder. It requires attention, as expressing his political views. It lays down the principle of liberty of conscience for the whole province, and it recognizes intolerance as intolerable. "If any person shall abuse or deride any other for his or her different persuasion or practice in matter of religion, such shall be looked upon as disturber of the peace, and be punished accordingly." The observance of the Lord's Day is prescribed, but is not enforced by penalties. All government officers and servants are to profess belief in the Divinity of Christ; profaneness and blasphemy are to be punished, and several criminal offences are carefully specified. Drinking healths, and selling rum to Indians, come under the same category; so do stage plays, and other amusements fashionable in the days of Charles II. Days and months are not to be called by heathen names. These are the only peculiar laws; the rest being provisions for trial by jury, for purity of election, and for strictly legal taxation.

[This code bears a close resemblance, in its provisions for religious tolerance, to that previously passed in Maryland, already quoted.]

The Assembly which passed the laws of Pennsylvania sat for three days, and after its adjournment Penn paid a visit to Maryland, and had an interview with Lord Baltimore respecting the boundaries of the two provinces.. Penn returned to Chester, and thence proceeded to the spot where, in after-time, the capital city of his province was to rise and spread in all its magnificence. His arrival is an event of great interest; but he himself has given no account of it, nor have any of his contemporaries left a connected description of the circumstances. By piecing together scattered fragments of tradition, how-ever, something like a full narrative of what occurred may be constructed.

He proceeded along the river in an open boat till he reached "a low and sandy beach," at the mouth of what was called the Dock Creek; on the opposite side of it was a grassy and wet soil, yielding an abundance of whortleberries; beyond was the "Society Hill," rising up to what is now Pine Street, covered then with wild outgrowths,--the neighborhood containing woods in which rose lofty elms and masses of rich laurels. The margin of the creek here and there produced evergreen shrubs, and near them were wigwams of red Indians, who had settled down for a while as a starting-point for favorite hunting-grounds. When Penn and his companions arrived they found some men busy building a low wooden house, destined, under the name of the Blue Anchor, to be an object of interest and a subject of controversy. These men, and a few European colonists who were scattered about the locality, pressed towards the boat to give a cordial welcome as the Englishmen stepped on shore.

If not immediately, we may be sure that soon afterwards the Indians would come forward to gaze on the white men from the other side of the world; and then would begin those manifestations of kindness towards the children of the forest which made an indelible impression on them, and on others who witnessed the interviews. A lady, who lived to be a hundred, used to speak of the governor as being of "rather short stature, but the handsomest, best-looking, lively gentleman she had ever seen." "He endeared himself to the Indians by his marked condescension and acquiescence in their wishes. He walked with them, sat with them on the ground, and ate with them of their roasted acorns and hominy. At this they expressed their great delight, and soon began to show how they could hop and jump; at which exhibition, William Penn, to cap the climax, sprang up and beat them all." Probably a little imagination enlivened the old lady's recollections, and she condensed several meetings into one; but as Penn was at that time under forty, and he had been fond of active sports in earlier days, the story, on the whole, is quite credible; and it is curious to find an old journalist leaving on record that the founder of Pennsylvania was "too prone to cheerfulness for a grave public Friend," especially in the eye of those of them who held "religion harsh, intolerant, severe."

Blue Anchor Tavern was pulled down years ago, but some archaeological Philadelphians still preserve relics of the old timbers.

The city had been planned beforehand, the streets marked, and the names given; and these being Vine, Walnut, Pine, Sassafras, and Cedar, we may believe that such trees abounded in the woods into the midst of which the city ran. The name of Philadelphia was chosen by the founder, its scriptural and historical associations being probably present to his mind; but the chief object of the choice was a lesson to its inhabitants "touching brotherly love, upon which he had come to these parts, which he had shown to Dutch, Swedes, Indians, and others alike, and which he wished might forever characterize his new dominions."

[The fact stated concerning the founding of Philadelphia is of interest, since it seems to be the only city that was planned and definitely laid out by the early settlers of America. The other ancient cities of the country grew as chance willed. The rectangularity of Penn's idea has its advantages, but its disadvantages as well, and some greater degree of chance growth would have been useful. Penn is said to have purchased the land for his city from its Swedish occupants, and to have made with the Indians a treaty, which has attained great celebrity, though very little is known about it.]

The Treaty-Elm locality--the spot where stood the traditionary elm--is known, and is identified by a monument on the spot; but as to the treaty said to have been ratified there, imagination has had play, for historical information is wanting. Everybody has seen Benjamin West's picture of the treaty between Penn and the Indians, and the artist's fancy has been made the basis of historical description. So unsatisfactory was the state of the question years ago, that the Historical Society of Philadelphia appointed a committee of inquiry. They reported that a treaty did take place, probably in November, 1682 [this date does not agree with that of Penn's first visit to Philadelphia as above given], at Shackamaxon, under an elm-tree blown down in 1810. The treaty was probably made with the Delaware tribes as "a treaty of amity and friendship," and not for the purchase of territory. The speeches made, the dresses worn, and the surrounding scene, appear now to be altogether fictitious.

Materials, however, exist for forming some idea of the manner in which the treaty would be conducted. "I have had occasion," says Penn, "to be in council with them upon treaties for land, and to adjust the terms of trade. Their order is thus:

"The king sits in the middle of an half-moon, and has his council, the old and wise, on each hand. Behind them, or at a little distance, sit the younger fry, in the same figure. Having consulted and resolved their business, the king ordered one of them to speak to me. He stood up, came to me, and in the name of his king saluted me, then took me by the hand, and told me that he was ordered by his king to speak to me, and that now it was not he but the king who spoke, because what he should say was the king's mind. He first prayed with me to excuse them that they had not complied with me the last time. He feared there might be some fault in the interpreter, being neither Indian nor English. Besides, it was the Indian custom to deliberate and take up much time in council before they resolved; and that if the young people and owners of the land had been as ready as he, I had not met with so much delay. Having thus introduced his matter, he fell to the bounds of the land they had agreed to dispose of, and the price, which now is little and dear; that which would have bought twenty miles not buying now two. During the time that this person spoke, not a man of them was observed to whisper or smile, the old grave, the young reverent, in their deportment. They speak little, but fervently, and with elegance. I have never seen more natural sagacity, considering them without the help (I was going to say the spoil) of tradition; and he will deserve the name of wise who outwits them in any treaty about a thing they understand. When the purchase was agreed, great promises passed between us of kindness and good neighborhood, and that the English and Indians must live in love as long as the sun gave light; which done, another made a speech to the Indians in the name of all the sachamakers or kings; first, to tell them what was done; next, to charge and command them to love the Christians, and particularly to live in peace with me and the people under my government; that many governors had been in the river, but that no governor had come himself to live and stay there before; and having now such an one, who had treated them well, they should never do him or his any wrong; at every sentence of which they shouted, and said Amen in their way."

[It is stated that by the terms of one of Penn's treaties of land-purchase with the Indians, the land granted was to extend as far back as a man could walk in three days. Penn and some of his friends, and a number of Indian chiefs, started to measure this territory, and walked leisurely up the Delaware from the mouth of the Neshaminy for a day and a half, and then stopped, concluding that that was sufficient for the present, and that the remainder might be measured when needed. In 1733 the then Governor of Pennsylvania undertook to measure the remainder. He employed a walker noted for his speed, who succeeded in covering eighty-six miles in his day and a half. This shrewd and rascally trick caused the first breach in the confidence of the Indians, and it is significant that the first murder of a white man by an Indian in Pennsylvania was upon the ground of which they had been thus robbed.]

When Penn had enjoyed possession of his territory a little while, he wrote an account of it to the "Free Society of Traders of Pennsylvania," and in it he manifests a power of graphic description really admirable. It brings the whole country vividly before our eyes; the land, "the best vales of England watered by brooks; the air, sweet; the heavens, serene like the south of France; the seasons, mild and temperate; vegetable productions abundant, chestnut, walnut, plums, muscatel grapes, wheat and other grain; a variety of animals, elk, deer, squirrel, and turkeys weighing forty or fifty pounds, water-birds and fish of divers kinds, no want of horses; and flowers lovely for color, greatness, figure, and variety.".

"Philadelphia, the expectation of those who are concerned in this province, is at last laid out, to the great content of those here who are any way interested therein. The situation is a neck of land, and lieth between two navigable rivers, Delaware and Sculkill, whereby it hath two fronts upon the water, each a mile; and two from river to river. Delaware is a glorious river; but the Sculkill, being a hundred miles boatable above the falls, and its course northwest toward the fountain of Susquehanna (that tends to the heart of the province, and both sides our own), it is like to be a great part of the settlement of this age. I say little of the town itself, because a platform will soon be shown you by my agent, in which those who are purchasers of me will find their names and interests. But this I will say, for the good providence of God, of all the places I have seen in the world, I remember not one better seated; so that it seems to me to have been appointed for a town, whether we regard the rivers, or the conveniency of the coves, docks, and springs, the loftiness and soundness of the land, and the air, held by the people of these parts to be very good. It is advanced within less than a year to about fourscore houses and cottages, such as they are, where merchants and handicrafts are following their vocations as fast as they can; while the countrymen are close at their farms."

[Within two years of his arrival the infant city contained three hundred houses, and the population was reckoned at two thousand five hundred. Penn returned to England in 1684. There he met with misfortunes, and in 1692 his proprietary right was taken from him; but it was restored in 1694. In 1699 he again visited America. He found the people dissatisfied, and demanding further concessions and privileges. He framed a new charter, more liberal than the former. The city now contained seven hundred houses, and was very prosperous. He returned to England in 1701, after having made new treaties with the Indians and done all in his power to settle the affairs of his province. He died in 1718, leaving his interest in Pennsylvania to his sons. It continued in the family until the Revolution, when the claims of the Proprietors were purchased by the commonwealth for a value of about five hundred and eighty thousand dollars.]

John Stoughton

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