Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

for one year; in such manner that there should be an annual succession of twenty-four new members, &c. The General Assembly was at first to consist of all the freemen, afterwards of two hundred, and never was to exceed five hundred.

The laws agreed upon in England were in all forty; partly political, partly moral, and partly economical. They are of the nature of an original compact between the proprietary and the freemen, and as such were reciprocally received and executed.

But in the following year, the scene of action being shifted from the mother country to the colony, the deportment of the legislator was shifted too. Less of the man of God now appeared, and more of the man of the world.

One point he had already carried against the inclination of his followers; namely, the reservation of quitrents, which they had remonstrated against as a burden in itself, and, added to the purchase-money, was without precedent in any other colony; but, he artfully distinguishing the two capacities of proprietary and governor, and insinuating that government must be supported with splendor and dignity, and that by this expedient they would be exempt from other taxes, the bait took, and the point was carried.

To unite the subtlety of the serpent with the innocence of the dove is not so easily done as said. Having in this instance experienced the weight of his credit and the power of his persuasion, he was no sooner landed, than he formed a double scheme for uniting the province with the territory, though it does not appear he was properly authorized so to do, and to substitute another frame of government in lieu of the former; which, having answered the great purpose of inducement here at home [in England] for collecting

of subjects, he was now inclined to render somewhat more favorable to himself in point of government.

Of much artifice we find him accused (by the provincial Assembly of 1704, in a representation addressed to himself,) in the whole course of this proceeding; whether justly or not let the world determine.

They tell him, for example, in so many words, "That we find by the minutes of the Assembly and other papers, as well as living witnesses, that, soon after thy first arrival here, thou, having obtained the Duke's grant for the Three Lower Counties [the territory that is to say] prevailed with the people of the province to unite in legislation and government with them of the lower counties; and then, by a subtle contrivance and artifice, laid deeper than the capacities of some could fathom, or the circumstances of many could admit them time then to consider of, a way was found out to lay aside that, and introduce another charter, which thou completed in the year 1683."

At a place called Chester, in December, 1682, the freemen both of the province and territory were convened; but those of the province, having by election returned twelve persons to serve for each county as members of the provincial council, were induced to accompany that return with significations and petitions by their sheriffs, &c., importing that, because of the fewness of the people, their inability in estate, and their unskilfulness in matters of government, their desire was, that the twelve, so returned for each county, might serve both for provincial council and general assembly; that is to say, three of each twelve for members of council, and the remaining nine for assemblymen; with the same powers and privileges granted by the charter or frame of government to the whole. And, according to these significations and petitions of theirs,

[merged small][ocr errors]

an act of settlement was drawn up and passed, in which, after the said charter or frame has been artfully mentioned as one of those probationary laws, which by the council and assembly might be altered at pleasure, the model of the said council and assembly so reduced is admitted; the persons so returned are declared and enacted to be the legal council and assembly; the number of the said council is fixed at three persons out of each county for the time to come; the number of assembly-men for each is reduced to six; and, after a variety of farther regulations, the said charter or frame is solemnly recognised and accepted; as if with these alterations and amendments it was understood to be complete.

The act for uniting the province and the territory humbly besought, as it is therein specified, by the deputies of the said territory, was also passed at the same time and place; in virtue of which all the benefits and advantages before granted to the provincials, were equally communicated to both; and both from that time were to be as one people under one and the same government.

Of this act, however, the provincial assembly of 1704, in the representation to their proprietary before cited, complain in the terms following;

"And as to the conveniency of the union of the Province and Lower Counties, we cannot gainsay it, if the King had granted thee the government as the Duke had done the soil; but, to our great grief and trouble, we cannot find that thou had any such grant; and if thou had, thou would not produce it, though often requested so to do; therefore we take it the harder that thou, who knew how precarious thy power was to govern the lower counties, should bring thy province into such a state and condition, that when

K*

ever the crown had assumed that government, or the people there revolted, or refused to act with us in legislation, as they often did, that then the said second charter should become impracticable, and the privileges thereby granted of no effect to the province, because the representatives of the lower counties were equal in number with those of the province, and the charter required a greater number than the province had, or by charter could elect for members of council and assembly; and our numbers, by the charter, could not be increased without the revolters' consent."

In the interval between this session at Chester, in December, 1682, and the next at Philadelphia in March and April, 1683, Mr. Penn, notwithstanding the act of settlement, furnished himself with another frame, in part conformable to the first, in part modified according to the said act; and in part essentially different from both; and concerning this, again, the assembly of 1704, in their representation aforesaid, thus freely expostulate with the proprietary; to wit,

"The motives which we find upon record, inducing the people to accept of that second charter, were chiefly two, viz. that the number of representatives would prove burdensome to the country; and the other was, that, in regard thou had but a treble vote, the people, through their unskilfulness in the laws of trade and navigation, might pass some laws over thy head repugnant thereunto, which might occasion the forfeiture of the King's letters patent, by which this country was granted to thee; and wherein is a clause for that purpose, which we find much relied upon, and frequently read or urged in the assembly of that time; and security demanded by thee from the people on that account." "As to the first motive, we know that the number of representatives might have been very well

reduced without a new charter; and, as to the laws of trade, we cannot conceive that a people so fond of thyself for [their] governor, and who saw much with thy eyes in those affairs, should, against thy advice and cautions, make laws repugnant to those of trade, and so bring trouble and disappointment upon themselves, by being a means of suspending thy administration; the influence whereof, and hopes of thy continuance therein, induced them, as we charitably conclude, to embark with thee in that great and weighty affair, more than the honor due to persons in those stations, or any sinister ends destructive to the constitution they acted by. Therefore we see no just cause thou had to insist on such security, or to have a negative upon bills to be passed into laws in general assemblies, since thou had by the said charter (pursuant to the authority and direction of the King's letters patent aforesaid) formed those assemblies, and, thereupon reserved but a treble vote in the provincial council, which could not be more injurious to thee than to the people, for the reasons aforesaid."

And again, afterwards;

"Thus was the first charter laid aside, contrary to the tenor thereof, and true intent of the first adventurers; and the second charter introduced and accepted by the General Assembly held at Philadelphia, in the first and second months, 1683, where thou solemnly testified, that what was inserted in that charsolely intended by thee for the good and benefit of the freemen of the province, and prosecuted with much earnestness in thy spirit towards God at the time of its composure."

ter was

In less than three years after Mr. Penn's arrival in the province, and when it began to wear a thriving face, a dispute between Lord Baltimore, proprietary of

« ZurückWeiter »