The Quaker faith.—The Reformation produced many religious sects. Writh the breaking down of one authoritative church and the substitution of the idea that any one might read and interpret the Bible, religious groups began forming. Among the numerous sects were the Quakers, the followers of George Fox. Seventeenth century religion was based upon the fundamental idea that the universe was dualistic, natural and supernatural. The question on which men split was how the chasm was to be bridged. Most of the Protestant sects believed that the crossing was made by a definite revelation of the word of God. Fox believed "that it was bridged by the communication of a supernatural Light given to each soul."
The coming of the Quakers.—Most of the seventeenth century religious sects, once in power, were as intolerant as the Catholics had been. The Quaker was looked upon with disfavor and persecution was his lot. In America he hoped to find an abiding place. Between 1655 and 1680 Quakers appeared in nearly all the colonies. Fox came to America in 1671 and in the course of the following year visited the Quaker communities from Barbados to Rhode Island.
Penn obtains lands on the Delaware.—The desire to obtain lands where they would be in complete control was long in the minds of the Quaker leaders. In 1680 William Penn petitioned for lands along the Delaware north of Maryland, in payment of a debt of 16,000 pounds. In spite of his faith Penn stood well at court, and on March 4, 1681, the charter of Pennsylvania was signed. The extent of the grant was defined as follows: "All that Tract or parte of land in America, with all the Islands therein conteyned, as the same is bounded on the East by Delaware River, from twelve miles distance, Northwarde of New Castle Towne unto the three and fortieth degree of Northerne Latitude if the said River doeth extend soe farre Northwards; But if the said River shall not extend soe farre Northward, then by the said River soe farr as it doth extend, and from the head of the said River the Easterne Bounds are to bee determined by a Meridian Line, to bee drawne from the head of the said River unto the said three and fortieth degree, The said lands to extend westwards, five degrees in longitude, to bee computed from the said Eastern Bounds, and the said lands to bee bounded on the North, by the beginning of the three and fortieth degree of Northern latitude, and on the South, by a Circle drawne at twelve miles, distance from New Castle Northwards, and Westwards unto the beginning of the fortieth degree of Northerne Latitude; and then by a streight Line westwards, to the Limitt of Longitude above mentioned."
Both the northern and southern boundaries caused future disputes. Penn claimed as far north as the forty-third parallel, while New York insisted on the forty-second, a difference which was settled a century later in favor of New York. On the south the boundaries conflicted with the claims of Baltimore. In 1682 the question was further complicated by a grant to Penn from the Duke of York of the territory on the western shore of Delaware Bay. The difficulty was finally settled in 1760, and seven years later two surveyors, Mason and Dixon, ran the present line between Maryland and Pennsylvania at 39° 44', and erected the present boundaries of the state of Delaware.
Powers of the proprietor.—By the charter Penn was made a proprietor, having the right to make laws with the advice and consent of the freemen. The proprietor was given power to execute the laws, issue ordinances, appoint judges and magistrates, pardon criminals except in cases of treason and willful murder, erect municipalities, and grant manors. The form of government in the colony was left to the proprietor. Laws had to be sent to the privy council for approval, but if action were not taken within six months, they were valid. The king reserved the right of hearing appeals. The navigation laws were to be enforced, and if damages accrued from non-enforcement and were not settled within a year, the king had the right to take over the government of the colony until payment was made.
The founding of Philadelphia.—Penn published a prospectus of his colony which was widely circulated, and drew up a body of conditions and concessions which dealt with the division and settlement of the province and with Indian relations. In 1681 he sent to America as deputy-governor his cousin, William Markham, who received the allegiance of the settlers already within the colony. Shortly afterward the first body of colonists arrived bearing instructions to lay out a town. The site of Philadelphia was surveyed the following year, a symmetrical plan being adopted which made Penn's capital the best-arranged city in colonial America.
The "frame of government."—The government devised by Penn consisted of "the Governor and freemen of the said province, in form of a Provincial Council and General Assembly, by whom all laws shall be made, officers chosen, and publick affairs transacted." An elective council was to consist of seventy-two persons "of most note for their wisdom, virtue and ability." This body, with the governor, was to prepare and propose all bills, and together they were to share executive powers. They were to erect courts of justice, elect county officers, provide schools, and perform numerous other duties. The assembly, which was to consist at first of not more than two hundred members, was to be elected annually. Its chief business was to consider and pass upon bills prepared by the governor and council.
Penn's first sojourn in the province.—Penn arrived on the ship Welcome in the fall of 1682 and immediately called an election for an assembly, in this case ignoring the details of the frame of government. The first assembly annexed the territory on the western shore of Delaware Bay, naturalized foreigners, and adopted a set of laws proposed by the proprietor, which provided for liberty of conscience, a strict code of morals, and for capital punishment for treason and murder only. Penn inspected his province, watched the building of Philadelphia, and visited New York, Maryland, and West New Jersey. He also held several meetings with the Indians, entering in June, 1683, into a treaty with them which had the salutary effect of keeping Pennsylvania free from Indian war. The number of representatives provided for in the frame of government proving too large, a new frame was drawn up by which the council was reduced to eighteen and the lower house to thirty-six members.
Penn's activities in England.—In August, 1684, Penn went to England to obtain a settlement of his disputes with Baltimore and to aid the persecuted Quakers. His claim to the Delaware tract was confirmed and he secured the release from English jails of more than twelve hundred Quakers. In 1688 he also succeeded in keeping his province from being incorporated within the jurisdiction of Andros.
Friction in the colony.—The political peace for which Penn had hoped was soon disturbed. Friction over the right to initiate legislation broke out between the council and assembly. Trouble with one of the justices also occurred. Hoping to quiet affairs, Penn took away the executive powers of the council and appointed a commission of five councillors who were to compel all to do their duty. As trouble continued, he did away with the commission and appointed Captain Blackwell, a Puritan, to act for him. This choice proved unfortunate, for the Puritan could not get along with the Quakers. In despair, Penn recalled Blackwell and allowed the council to select its own executive. The council again assumed the governorship, and chose Thomas Lloyd president. Friction also existed between the settlers along the shore of Delaware Bay and those in the river settlements, a difficulty which eventually led to the separation of Delaware from Pennsylvania.
Growth of the colony.—In spite of frictions the colony prospered. When Penn acquired his province, it contained about a thousand Swedes, Finns, and Dutch, and a few Quakers. By 1685 the population had increased to more than eight thousand, made up of diverse elements; Quakers, mostly from central and southwestern England and from Wales, Mennonites from the Rhineland, Swedes, Scotch, Irish, and French. Philadelphia soon boasted a tannery, sawmill, and kiln; linen manufacture began; and the colony entered upon a prosperous intercolonial trade in flour, staves, and horses. A weekly post and a school were established, and a printing press installed. It was evident that Penn's "holy experiment" had justified itself.
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