Philadelphia Reflections

The musings of a physician who has served the community for over six decades


There were three Quaker colonies, all of them founded by William Penn: New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.

Quakers and Government

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John Dickinson, Quaker Hamlet

John Dickinson

John Dickinson (1732-1808) would probably be better known if his abilities were less complex and numerous. It would have been particularly helpful if he had consistently remained on only one side of the important issues of his day. Born in a Quaker family and buried in a Quaker graveyard, he was for years a notable Episcopalian and soldier. He outwitted John Penn, the Pennsylvania Proprietor who was trying to keep Pennsylvania from sending representatives to the Continental Congress, by having the Pennsylvania representatives hold a meeting in the same small room of Carpenters Hall at the same time as the Congress. But he ultimately refused to sign the Declaration of Independence. Although he was the main author of the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution which replaced it would not have been ratified without his idea of a bicameral Congress. Although he was Governor of Pennsylvania, he was also Governor of Delaware, having been the central figure in the separation of the two states. In fact, for fifteen years he was a member of the Legislature of both states. Dickinson seems in retrospect to have been on every side of every argument, but he was immensely respected in his time.

Two events seem to have been central in the organization of his life. The first was his education as a lawyer. At that time and for a century afterward, lawyers were trained by apprenticeship. Dickinson, however, studied in London at the Inns of Court for four years, and was by far the most distinguished lawyer in North America for the rest of his life. Furthermore, he absorbed the principles of the Magna Carta and the approaches of Francis Bacon so thoroughly that he never quite got over his pride in his English heritage. Throughout his leadership of the colonial rebellion he acted as a better Englishman than the English themselves. His demand was for American representation in the British Parliament, not independence from England. It would not be hard to imagine Dickinson standing before a firing squad, gritting the words of St. Paul, Civis Romani Sum.

His other pivotal experience was the Battle of Brandywine. Dickinson had been the organizer or chairman of the two main Pennsylvania military organizations, the Pennsylvania Committee of Safety and Defense, and the so-called Associators (today's 111th Infantry, the first battalion of troops in Philadelphia). Both of these peculiar names were a characteristic gesture to conciliating pacifist Quaker feelings. Nevertheless, when Dickinson refused to sign the Declaration, he did temporarily become so unpopular he resigned his military commands. A few months later, when General Howe landed at Elkton at the narrow neck of the Delmarva peninsula, Dickinson enlisted as a common soldier to defend the southern perimeter of the defense line Washington had hastily thrown up to defend Philadelphia. Shortly afterward, Dickinson's friend and neighbor Caesar Rodney made him a Brigadier General in charge of the garrison around Elizabeth New Jersey, but the Battle of Brandywine taught an important lesson. Little states like Delaware and Maryland could not possibly defend themselves without alliance and coordination with the larger states. Delaware was later very active in persuading the other small states to surrender sovereignty in the Constitutional Convention, to be the first to ratify the Constitution, and eventually in the Civil War to remain within the Union in spite of being a slave state.

Going back to the Battle of the Brandywine, the lesson was permanently and indelibly taught that a foreign army in Elkton, could gobble up Dover or Baltimore within a week. And that, too, is part of an overarching theme of Dickinson's life which makes many inconsistencies consistent. He devoutly believed in peace and order within a large nation. If it could not be within the British Empire, at least it had to be more than just a little state consisting of a few counties. Once he finally accepted the idea of separation from England, he devoted his life to achieving a voluntary union of formerly sovereign states, on terms acceptable to each other. Central to this mission was resistance to the idea of a unicameral national Legislature, with representation based on population. From his position, the larger states would then always dominate the smaller ones, and residents of the smaller states could never achieve national prominence. Although Benjamin Franklin proposed the compromise of the bicameral Legislature with one body selected by state rather than population, Franklin and Dickinson had been lifetime collaborators in assembling a national Union, and Franklin was surely intervening on behalf of his friend and colleague. Many large nations have been unified by armed force; ours was and continues to be the only one to do it voluntarily. Dickinson and Franklin were central to the concept of honest negotiation and necessary compromise, which even today continues to escape the United Nations and the European Union. In fact, the need for a bicameral Legislature in this sort of Union is now so well accepted, that opposition to bicameral is mostly a sly method to oppose the Union without confessing your true position.

John Dickinson was known as the "Penman of the Revolution" in his day because of his persuasive arguments, but the hotheads refused to grasp his wise advice that the King would be more persuaded by economic pressures on his merchants than by Colonials shooting his Redcoats. The Tories and the proprietors, on the other side, never forgave him for denouncing their own abuses of power. Super-patriots distrusted him once more, after he refused to sign the Declaration, while those who were bankrupted by the Revolution resented that at some times, by some definitions, he remained the richest man in Philadelphia. Meanwhile, the really serious Quakers would never forgive any member who organized, led and fought as a soldier, no matter what else he might have done. To a person of his sophistication however, none of these resentments really proved he was being inconsistent.

Perhaps some understanding of Dickinson can be gleaned from the 1779 summary of him in the Diary of John Adams:

"He [Chevalier de la Luzerne] inquired after Mr. Dickinson, and the reason why he disappeared. I explained, as well as I could in French, the inconsistency of the Farmer's Letters, and his perseverance in that inconsistency in Congress, Mr. Dickinson's opposition to the Declaration of Independency. I ventured, as modestly as I could, to let him know that I had the honor to be the principal disputant in Congress against Mr. Dickinson upon that great question; that Mr. Dickinson had the eloquence, the learning, and the ingenuity, on his side of the question; but that I had the hearts of the Americans on mine; and, therefore, my side of the question prevailed. That Mr. Dickinson had a good heart, and an amiable character; but that his opposition to independency had lost him the confidence of the people, who suspected him of timidity and avarice, and that his opposition sprung from those passions; but that he had since turned out with the militia against the British troops, and, I doubted not, might in time regain the confidence of the people."

This statement of John Adams' respect for the Declaration continues his insistence that the critical moment was when Congress decided to act on his proposal, not when Jefferson penned some propaganda for it. The point for Dickinson over Adams is best summarized: Adams felt the point of no return had been reached long before July 4, 1776, whereas Dickinson felt it had not been reached even then. Dickinson was entirely right that the artificial fuss over the Tea Act was no reason to go to war. Adams was right that public hysteria had surged to a point where further resisting the public would cost you your ability to lead it. It was the Quaker in Dickinson coming out; he was "morbidly principled". Only when the Redcoats were actually marching across the neck of Delaware, would he concede that events had overtaken logic.

Robert Morris was no Quaker, but he joined his friend John Dickinson in the Quaker position of refusing to sign the Declaration of Independence. Both men eventually joined the revolution, but largely out of allegiance to their fellow Americans. History has vindicated that position, to the extent that the decisive defeat of the British at Saratoga brought their most ardent adversary himself to agree with them. Lord North of all people, then offered the colonists the compromise of an American parliament within a commonwealth of parliaments, independent except that trading relationships with Great Britain would be maintained. Gouvernor Morris was selected to answer the British. Without a military defeat, the British might not have made the offer, but Gouvernor Morris' rejecting Lord North's offer for the expedient reasons earlier expressed by John Adams could be described as making the war last six years longer than it needed to, in order to remain in charge of it.

As a footnote, it can probably be surmised from Franklin's life that he was in total agreement with Morris and Dickinson's assessment, except for the comparatively brief period when the British aristocracy had publicly humiliated the most accomplished man on earth in the cockpit at Whitehall. That does leave one other persuasive theory of the Revolutionary War. The Americans first joined with the British in 1754 to drive out the French from America. And then a few years later in 1778, the Americans joined with the French to drive the British out. According to this mostly Canadian description, what New Englanders had wanted all along, was to dominate the continent.

A Pennsylvania Farmer in Delaware

{over Air Force Base}
John Dickinson

It is difficult to have a coherent view of the mind of John Dickinson. Seriously offended by the Townshend Acts, he rightly perceived them to be the work of a few malignant personalities in British high places who would mostly soon be replaced. Later on, he refused to be troubled by the inconsequential Tea Act, which he appraised as a face-saving gesture of reconciliation, but more recent historical information demonstrates was more likely aimed at avoiding an unrelated vote of no-confidence in Parliament. Unfortunately, Dickinson was too remote from these events, and additionally could not comprehend reckless hotheads among his own neighbors. Reckless hotheads in turn seldom comprehend the measured meekness of Quakers. In any event, although Dickinson played a major role in the Declaration of Independence, he refused to sign it when the time came, evidently sensing an opportunity to separate the three lower counties from Pennsylvania and its Proprietors. A few months later when the British actually invaded the new State of Delaware on the way to capturing Philadelphia by way of Chesapeake Bay, Dickinson enlisted as a common soldier and fought at the Battle of Brandywine. Obviously, he was seriously conflicted.

{John Dickinson's Farmhouse}
John Dickinson's Farmhouse

Dickinson had become internationally famous for twelve letters he had meant to publish anonymously. The Letters From a Pennsylvania Farmer were written about 1768 out of resistance to the Townshend Acts. Because the three counties which were to become the State of Delaware were then still part of Pennsylvania, many school children have become understandably confused about the actual location of the man who became governor of both states, simultaneously.

The causes of the separation of the two colonies are still a little vague. Delaware schoolchildren are taught the two states separated, but often report they didn't retain much information about why it happened. The Dutch and Swedes who originally settled southern Delaware were not sympathetic with Quaker rule, which could be seen as a reaction to their living here for generations as Dutchmen before William Penn arrived, but then saw the colony sold out from under them. As a further conjecture, there might have been friction with the Quakers over slavery, similar to hostility of other Dutch settlers in northern New Jersey when William Penn purchased that area. This pro-slavery attitude resurfaced in both areas during the Civil War. One alternative theory which has considerable currency in Delaware is local dissension about Quaker pacifism during the Revolutionary War. On a recent visit to Dickinson's home outside Dover, a school teacher was overheard to instruct his flock that the Dutch Delawarians wanted to fight the British King, but the Quakers wouldn't give them guns. "We value peace above our own safety," was the unsatisfying response they received from the Pennsylvania Assembly. But that line of reasoning bumps up against Dickinson's role in local affairs, his ambiguity over the Declaration, and his vacillation in warfare. One would suppose the simultaneous Governor of both states would play a major role in the separation of the two.

{over Air Force Base}
over Air Force Base

Dickinson's plantation, quite elaborately restored and displayed, is tucked behind the Dover Air Force Base. Perhaps all that aircraft noise will discourage subdevelopment in the area of Dickinson's plantation and the rural atmosphere may persist for years. At the time of the Cuban missile crisis, your correspondent happened to be driving past, observing the sky filled with bombers, just circling and circling until the diplomats settled matters. Since eight-engine bombers are seldom seen around Dover, it has always been my presumption that they came from elsewhere to be refueled at Dover; but that's just a presumption. One of the pilots later told me he was carrying nuclear "eggs" and was completely prepared to take a long trip to deliver them.

To get back to Dickinson's wavering about the Declaration, maybe there was a good reason to waver. Joseph J. Ellis (in His Excellency, George Washington) relates that after the devastating British defeat at the Battle of Saratoga, Lord North made an offer to settle the war on American terms. In a proposal patterned after the concepts of the separatists in Ireland, America could have its own parliament as long as it maintained trade relationships with England. As an opening offer, that comes pretty close to what the colonists had been demanding. Gouverneur Morris was active in disdaining this offer, although it is unclear whether he was acting alone or as the agent of others. The offer came too late to be accepted, but it might have shortened the war by six years, and we might now have a picture of the Queen on our postage stamps.


His Excellency: George Washington: Joseph J. Ellis: ISBN-13: 978-1400032532 Amazon
Letters From A Farmer In Pennsylvania To The Inhabitants Of The British Colonies (1903): John Dickinson: ISBN-13: 978-1163969533 Amazon

July 4, 1776: Patients in the Pennsylvania Hospital on Independence Day

According to the records of the Pennsylvania Hospital, the following 48 persons were patients in the hospital on July 4, 1776:

Richard Brinkinshire (Admitted 11/15/1775) John Ridgeway (Admitted 12/26/1775)
James Chartier (Admitted 1/6/1776) patient (Admitted 1/6/1776)
patient (Admitted 1/20/1776) patient (Admitted 1/20/1776)
Mary Yell (Admitted 2/7/1776l) John Beckworth (Admitted 2/7/1776)
Bart. McCarty (Admitted 2/10/1776) John King (Admitted 2/10/1776)
Robert Alden (Admitted 2/17/1776) William Patterson (Admitted 3/6/1776)
Elizabeth Hanna (Admitted 3/9/1776) John McMahon (Admitted 3/13/1776)
Mary Burgess (Admitted 3/23/1776) Mary Anderson (Admitted 4/10/1776)
John Hatfield (Admitted 4/15/1776) Eliza Haighn (Admitted 4/17/1776)
Charles Whitford (Admitted 4/24/1776) patient (Admitted 5/8/1776)
Susanna Carrington (Admitted 5/8/1776) patient (Admitted 5/8/1776)
William Johnson (Admitted 5/13/1776) Lazarus Chesterfield (Admitted 5/22/1776)
Mary Spieckel (Admitted 5/22/1776l) William Edwards (Admitted 5/22/1776)
patient (Admitted 5/23/1776, Lunatic) Jane White (Admitted 5/25/1776)
Charles McGillop (Admitted 5/29/1776) ---Fitzgerald (Admitted 6/1/1776)
Michael Rowe (Admitted 6/6/1776) patient (Admitted 6/6/1776)
John Hughes (Admitted 6/12/1776) Joseph Smith (Admitted 6/15/1776)
Esther Munro Lunda (Admitted 6/15/1776) Mathew Coope (Admitted 6/19/1776)
Anne Patterson (Admitted 6/19/1776) Thomas Savoury (Admitted 6/20/1776)
Rebecca Winter (Admitted 6/26/1776) Elizabeth Manning (Admitted 6/26/1776)
Negro (Admitted 6/24/1776) Elex. Scanvay (Admitted 6/24/1776)
Fanny Stewart (Admitted 6/24/1776) Peter Barber (Admitted 6/29/1776)
Catherine Campbell (Admitted 6/29/1776) Ann McGlauklin (Admitted 7/3/1776)
Elizabeth Lindsay (Admitted 7/3/1776) Ann Jones (Admitted 7/3/1776)

The records indicate the following diseases were the reason for admission of those patients. Although in Colonial times there was no medical delicacy to avoid offending readers, present privacy standards require that we strip the diagnoses from the name of the patient and list them independently. There is some overlap, sometimes making it difficult to judge which disorder caused the admission.

The following physicians were elected at the Managers Meeting dated 5/13/1776:

William Penn, Justice Holmes, and the Inner Light

William Penn

WILLIAM Penn and Oliver Wendell Holmes, both lawyers, can be imagined debating fiercely across two centuries, about The Inner Light. Holmes famously stated his position at the opening of his book The Common Law : "The life of the law has not been logic, it has been experience." Penn, on the other hand, urged his Quaker followers to strip away centuries of books, teaching and traditions, viewing in quiet contemplation their individual Light Within. Since the other central Quaker belief is that "there is that of God in every man", the implication is that it is open to everyone to know the right behavior by thinking hard enough about it. No books, preachers, ceremonies needed, and in fact such tokens of society's experience can be badly misleading. Penn did not forcefully pursue how much of the outcome came directly from God and how much was then elaborated by logic; his point was the truth is most readily discovered by contemplation, uncluttered by the world's discussion.

Oliver Wendell Holmes

That Penn would have acknowledged some truth to Holmes' position can be surmised from the struggle he had with the argument that solitary contemplation cannot lead to an organized moral code of behavior within a society. The example of his time was a the Hippie generation is a more familiar example. What is to prevent a society which depends on silent introspection from concluding that monogamy,personal Hygiene,, and recreational drug avoidance are useless intrusions into the joy of personal freedom? Responses having to do with sexually transmitted diseases, harm to the education and welfare of unparented children, disagreeable responses to the undesirable body odors of others, and the spread of addiction by example to those who wish to minimize unnecessary temptations, are all examples of hostility by others who may not have achieved equal illumination from their inner lights. Over centuries of observed experience, societies have reached comparatively similar views on what behavior should be prohibited by force, or discouraged by social pressure. Societies which reach these conclusions may hold themselves open to discussion, but often assert a right to punish those who violate the codes without offering plausible arguments beyond merely mystical ones, closed to debate.

Penn's response to such critiques was of the nature of insisting that Quakers obey the law unless the law insists on behavior prohibited by their religion. Within the realm of unwritten societal pressures, Penn was more relaxed. Sometimes he urged bizarre behavior having to do with hats and clothing, as a silent reproach to society on some issue, but in general he urged that Quakers consider themselves Protestant Christians as a general guide to behavior. A century after he died, most Quakers were abandoning plain dress and plain speech as not plain at all, but ostentatious. Pointless and therefor ostentatious eccentricity could be harmful to the occasional truly important witness about such things as conscientious objection to war. If considered purpose is to be taken seriously, eccentric behavior about trivial issues is to be avoided.

First Amendment: Separation of Church and State

{top quote}
Amendment 1 Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. {bottom quote}
The First Amendment

Simplified histories of America often declare that other Western Hemisphere colonists mostly came to plunder and exploit; whereas English Protestant colonists came with families to settle, fleeing religious persecution. That's a considerable condensation of events covering three centuries, but it is true that before the Revolutionary War, eleven of the thirteen American colonies approximated the condition of having established religions. Massachusetts and Virginia, the earliest colonies, had by 1776 even reached the point of rebelliousness against their religious establishments. The three Quaker colonies (New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware) were late settlements, in existence less than a century before the Revolution, and still comfortable with the notion they were religious utopias. While differing in intensity all colonials respected the habits of thought and forms of speech, natural to utopians residing in a religious environment.

Once Martin Luther had let the Protestant genii out of its religious bottle, however, revisionist logic was pursued into its many corners. Ultimately, all Protestant questers found themselves confronting -- not religious dogmatism, but its opposite -- the secularized eighteenth century enlightenment. Comparatively few colonists were willing to acknowledge doubts openly about miracles and divinity. However, private doubts were sufficiently prevalent among colonial leaders to engender restlessness about the tyrannies and particularly the rigidities of the dominant religions. To this was added discomfort with self-serving political struggles observable among their preachers, and alarm about occasional wars and persecutions over arguable religious doctrines. Arriving quite late in this evolution of thought -- but not too late to experience a few bloody persecutions themselves -- the Quakers sought to purify their Utopia by eliminating preachers from their worship entirely. Thus, the most central and soon the most prosperous of the colonies made it respectable to criticize religious leaders in general for the many troubles it was believed they provoked.

{London Yearly Meeting}
London Yearly Meeting
{Congress Hall}
Congress Hall

In all wars, diplomatic arts and religious restraints get set aside as insufficient, if not altogether failures for an episode of utter barbarism. In the Revolution, some Quakers split from pacifism and became Free Quakers, many more drifted into Episcopalianism, never to return to pacifism. The Constitutional Convention of 1787 was eventually held in this persisting environment; previous service in the War counted for something, and the great goal was to strengthen the central government -- for more effective regional defense. A great many leaders were Masons, holding that much can be accomplished by secular leadership, independent of religious reasonings. Neither Washington nor Madison revealed much of their religious positions, although Washington the church attender always declined communion; Franklin and probably Jefferson were at heart deists, believing that God might well exist, but had wound up the universe like a clock to let it run by itself. The New England Calvinist doctrines have since evolved as Unitarianism, which outsiders would say theologically is not greatly different from deism. Physically surrounding the Philadelphia convention was a predominantly Quaker attitude; entirely too often, preachers get you into trouble.
James Madison

When the first Congress finally met under their new constitution, they immediately confronted over a hundred Constitutional amendments, mostly submitted from the frontier and fomented by Jefferson and Patrick Henry, demanding a bill of rights. The demand within these amendments was overwhelmingly that the newly-strengthened central government must not intrude into the rights of citizens. Recognizing the power of local community action, states rights must similarly be strengthened. Just where these rights came from was often couched in divine terms for lack of better proof that they were innate, or natural. From a modern perspective, these rights in fact often originated in what theologians call Enthusiasm; the belief that if enough people want something passionately enough, it must have a divine source. The newly minted politicians in the first Congress recognized something had to be done about this uproar. Congress formed a committee to consider matters, and appointed as chairman -- James Madison. Obviously, the chief architect of the Constitution would not be thrilled to see his product twisted out of shape by a hundred amendments, but on the other hand, a man from Piedmont Virginia would be careful to placate the likes of Patrick Henry. The ultimate result was the Bill of Rights, and Madison packed considerably more than ten rights into the package, in order to preserve the cadence of the Ten Commandments. The First Amendment, for example, is really six rights, skillfully shaped together to sound more or less like one idea with illustrative examples. Overall freedom of thought comfortably might include freedom of speech (and the press), along with freedom of religion and assembly, and the right to petition for grievances. But what it actually says is that Congress shall not establish a national religion. Since eleven states really had approximated a single established religion, the clear intent was to prohibit a single national religion while tolerating unifications within the various states. Subsequent Supreme Courts have extended the Constitution to apply to the states as well, responding to a growing recognition that religious states had the potential to get so heated as to war with each other. No matter what their doctrines, it seemed wise to deprive organized religions of political power as a firm step toward giving the Constitution itself dominant power over the processes of political selection.

At first however it was pretty clear; one state's brand of religion was not to boss around the religion of another state. Eventually within one state, Virginia for example, the upstate Presbyterian ministers were not to push around the Episcopalian bishops of the Tidewater. Madison and Jefferson saw well enough where political uprisings tended to start in those days, in gathered church meetinghouses. In this way, an Amendment originally promoted to protect religions had evolved into a way to ease them out of political power. The idea of separation of church and state has grown increasingly stronger, to the point where most Americans would agree it defines a viable republic. No doubt, the spectacle of preachers exhorting the same nation in opposite directions during the Civil War, settled what was left of the argument.

For Quakers, the most wrenching, disheartening revelation came when they were themselves in unchallenged local control during the French and Indian War. The purest of motives and the most earnest desire to do the right thing provided no guidance for those in charge of government when the French and Indians were scalping western settlers and burning their cabins. Yes, the Scotch-Irish settlers of the frontier had unwisely sold liquor and gunpowder to the Indians, and yes, the Quakers of the Eastern part of the state had sought to buffer their own safety from frontier violence by selling more westerly land to combative Celtic immigrant tribes. Similar strategy had worked well enough with the earlier German settlers, but reproachful history was not likely to pacify frontier Scots in the midst of a massacre. The Quaker government was expected to do what all governments are expected to do, protect their people right or wrong. To trace the social contract back to William Penn's friend John Locke was too bland for a religion which prided itself on plain speech. Non-violent pacifism just could not be reconciled with the duties of a government to protect its citizens. The even more comfortably remote Quakers of the London Yearly Meeting then indulged themselves in the luxury of consistent logic; a letter was dispatched to the bewildered Quaker Colonials. They must withdraw from participation in a government which levied war taxes. And they obeyed.

Although the frontier Scots were surely relieved to have non-Quakers assume control of their military duty, the western part of the state has still neither forgotten nor forgiven. In their eyes, Quakers were not fit to be in charge of anything. Quaker wealth, sophistication and education were irrelevant; only Presbyterians are fit to rule. A strong inclination toward pre-destination lurks in that idea. Once more, the attractiveness of clear separation of church and state is reinforced.

The French and Indian War in fact had turned out fairly well; most of its victories were located on the European side of the Ocean, anyway. But twenty years later the Revolutionary War turned into a reassertion of the British conquest of all of North America, not merely the part to the west of the Appalachian mountains. To Americans this came in the form of a demand for taxes to help pay off the costs of a war which greatly benefitted them. The Quaker colonies did not fully sympathize with rebellion, but they had once given up control of a territory larger than England rather than pay war taxes, so they were resistant to both sides in the dispute. Many prosperous and educated Quakers solved their dilemma by fleeing to Canada, but the ardent Quaker proposal for dealing with a coercive British government was not at all impractical. John Dickinson in particular argued that since the British motives were economic, success was most likely to come from economic counter-pressure, adroitly leveraged by three thousand miles of intervening ocean. That was shrewd, and potentially effective. But the Scots-Presbyterian position was simpler and more direct. If you want us to fight your war, you are going to have to fight to win. The Virginia cavaliers were probably more likely to win a conventional war if put in charge, but the blunt and almost savage frontiersmen were ideally suited for what has come to be called guerrilla warfare. Washington was a leader, French money was welcome and Ben Franklin was a diplomat, but the clarion call to this particular battle was the voice of Patrick Henry. All in all, the issue of an established religion was far more complicated than merely the affirmation of a right to free exercise of religious belief. What united all the colonies was a recognition that, using the church, an arm of the government was just as likely to cause trouble as conducting the state as an instrument of church interests. Eventually, considering how religious America was at the time, there was remarkably little resistance to the firm separation of Church and State in its Constitution.

Pennsbury Manor

1680 c. May. Petitions Charles II for a colony in America. June. Crown officials begin their consideration of WP's petition.

1681 January-February. Crown officials revise WP's draft of the charter for Pennsylvania.

4 March. Receives his charter for Pennsylvania.

14 March. Son William Penn, Jr. (1681-1720) is born.

April. Appoints William Markham as deputy-governor of Pennsylvania.

Writes Some Account of Pennsylvania, his first advertising pamphlet.

Spring-summer. Begins work on his constitution for Pennsylvania.

June. Begins lobbying to secure the lower counties (Delaware) from the duke of York.

July. Announces his plan of land distribution in Pennsylvania.

July-August. Publishes a Map of Pennsylvania.

Takes his first land selling trip to Bristol.

August. His deputy governor arrives in Pennsylvania.

16 September. Writes to planters in Maryland, claiming the northern quarter of that colony.

September-October. Sees his first settlers and land commissioners off to Pennsylvania.

October. Writes a letter of friendship to the chiefs of the Delaware Indians.

1682 January-April. WP and Thomas Rudyard complete the first constitution and laws for Pennsylvania.

February-March. The Free Society of Traders founded.

c. 1 March. His mother, Lady Margaret Penn, dies.

25 April-5 May. Publishes his Frame of Government and Laws Agreed upon in England.

15 July. His agents conclude their first deed with the Delaware Indians.

24 August. Receives the deeds to the lower counties (Delaware) from the duke of York.

30 August. Sails for America on the Welcome.

28 October. Lands at New Castle, Delaware.

October-November. Visits Chester, Pennsylvania, and the site of Philadelphia.

November. Visits New York and East New Jersey.

December. His first Assembly convenes at Chester.

Meets with Lord Baltimore concerning the Maryland-Pennsylvania boundary dispute.

Twenty-three ships arrive in 1681 -1682; the colony grows rapidly.

1683 January. Quakers begin meeting in Philadelphia; the Philadelphia County Court is established.

March. Visits East New Jersey and sits on its Council. Begins distributing large numbers of Philadelphia lots. His second Assembly approves a revised Frame of Government. 29 May. Meets with Lord Baltimore at New Castle. Spring-summer. Acquires his country manor Pennsbury, in Bucks County.

August. Writes Letter to the Free Society of Traders.

August-September. Tries to buy Susquehanna Valley lands from the Iroquois, but is blocked by New York's Governor Thomas Dongan.

September-November. Many ships arrive; both Philadelphia and Pennsylvania continue to expand.

October. Germantown surveyed.

November. Attempts to collect his quitrents.

1684 March. The Welsh Tract surveyed.

April-May. Decides to return to England to defend his boundary against Lord Baltimore.

May. Lord Baltimore leaves for England.

The Assembly passes an excise tax, which WP suspends.

July. Philadelphia's waterfront residents protest WP's city land distribution policy.

August. Prepares to leave for England; appoints Thomas Lloyd president of the Provincial Council.

18 August. Sails for England from Lewes, Delaware.

5 October. Lands at Worthing, Sussex.

October. Writes to Thomas Lloyd to get copies of documents needed for his defense against Lord Baltimore.

Meets with Charles II and the duke of York.

December. The Lords of Trade postpone the hearing of the Penn-Baltimore controversy.

Unalienable Rights Before 1776

Magna Carta

In 1976, the bicentennial birthday celebration of the Declaration of Independence contained two major exhibits of its conceptual origins. Mr. H. Ross Perot of Texas loaned his copy of the 1215 Magna Carta, and the Proprietors of West Jersey loaned their 1677 original of William Penn's Concessions and Agreements to the colonists of New Jersey. The purpose of the exhibit was to emphasize the historical origins of the concepts within the Declaration, but even the language of the Concessions is remarkably similar, quite evidently lifted by Jefferson when he was writing. On one point, Penn had the better of Jefferson; he correctly wrote about inalienable rights, while somehow Jefferson gave us unalienable ones.

William Penn

The matter came up recently at a Socrates meeting of the Right Angle Club, where at least one member felt there was no such thing as a natural right, while others wavered. In discussing the rights which the Creator, William Penn and/or Thomas Jefferson may have given us, the various contexts must be held in mind. At the time of declaring our intention to sever relations with Britain's King, there was no Constitution to refer to as a source, and it was impolitic to assert the rights had been given by English kings, like King John. Therefore, the language cleverly short-cuts around the divine right of kings to make a direct connection between the Creator and the colonists. William Penn on the other hand, was a real estate promoter, offering enticements and assurances to prospective colonists who were naturally fearful of risking their lives in sailboats, only to face the possible tyranny of a vassal king who might be even worse than the anointed one. Not only did Penn renounce any suggestion of a Royal role for himself, but went to considerable length describing the legally binding concessions and agreements he was offering. The right of trial by jury, for example, became a right to be punished only by a jury of twelve of one's neighbors. He wasn't talking to lawyers, he was making important distinctions very clear to laymen. These were not rights given by a Divinity who could be trusted, nor something which grew out of Mother Nature. They were the personal promises of William Penn, in personal legal jeopardy of the English courts if he reneged on them. He even had a ready answer for those who discovered religious language in legal documents -- the Quaker belief that, occasional appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, There is That of God, in every man.

H. Ross Perot

As a small side light of the Concessions document, it had long been housed in the little brick hut on Main Street in Burlington NJ, where the Proprietors of West Jersey keep their treasures. The obscurity of these papers was probably their best protection, but the risk of displaying them in Philadelphia at the centennial brought out the need to insure them, hence to appraise their value. The figure of four million dollars was kicked around. Ross Perot might have felt comfortable with this sort of expense as the natural cost of being a rare book collector, but it seemed highly unnatural to Quakers. Sometime afterward, the Surveyor General, William Taylor, was awakened by a call from Burlington neighbors that someone was trying to break in the roof to steal contents of the Proprietorship building. The burglars were unaware that underneath the shingles, the roof was actually made of concrete a foot thick. So the perps were frustrated in their aims, but Bill Taylor was greatly troubled by the implications, actually unable to sleep at night worrying about what was in his custody. So, in time the State of New Jersey constructed a suitable archives building, and the valuable documents were transferred up to Trenton. Time will tell what the Soprano State does with such a valuable possession, but at least the Quakers can now sleep at night.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Being a Small Country
very pleasant

LIVING in a small country seems to be very pleasant, and many people prefer it to the hustle, bustle and high taxes of living in a large country. Unfortunately, big neighbors are tempted to conquer and enslave you. Aside from this one disadvantage, many people would prefer a simple, quiet life among blood relatives, all tending to think the same way. It's one step above tribalism, and maybe it's a form of peaceful tribalism.,.JPG

But our revolutionary ancestors didn't think they could afford this luxury. They lived in a strange wilderness filled with fierce aborigines who often took a notion to scalp you, even if you were willing to become a hunter-gatherer like them, because they scalped other hunter-gatherers, too. And they were good at making war. Later historians sometimes contend that European settlers only gained a foothold in the New World because the Indians had been weakened by smallpox, measles, and other contagion which advanced ahead of the exploring Europeans. English settlers along the Atlantic coast were able to overcome the Dutch and Swedes who preceded them, but the French in Quebec and the Spanish in Florida were a greater threat. Worst of all enemies were the rulers of England, who seemed to think it was natural to enjoy the benefits of the New World without the nuisance of living there. A century or more of conflict from the enemies who surrounded them, had pretty well convinced the English Atlantic settlers that they simply had to get bigger and stronger. Otherwise, one of the many enemies surrounding them would eventually succeed in what seemed to be a universal goal: conquest.

{The summer of 1787}
The summer of 1787

The colonists had learned one other thing. Their own loose federation of small peaceful states was in some ways worse than rule by an outside King. The Confederation had been constantly reluctant to surrender local power to a unified defense; almost by definition, an invader was better disciplined than the defenders of a loose tribal alliance. The defense alliance had few advantages for keeping local bickering under control, and was definitely less effective with families and children to protect against a mobile force of adult male warriors. The Confederation barely held together during an eight year war against a common enemy, and it was rapidly coming apart after peace was declared in 1783. The English and French could see all this, too. Once they settled their own war with each other, each of them planned to envelop the former colonies. So George Washington and James Madison gathered the Best and the Brightest together in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787, intending to construct a practical plan for what almost all the colonists wanted: a Union. A Union strong and big enough so other nations would leave them alone. A Union benign enough so its citizens would enjoy the same Liberty they had as a loose alliance. Divided informally into four interest groups, each of the four needed concessions to be made. But each also needed to leave the other three feeling they had gained something important as the price of surrendering to what the some other group could not do without. Having found the vital concessions, it was then still necessary to tinker and re-balance, so that everyone could still "live with it". In essence: 1) The South had to be given time and forbearance to work out its difficult problem of slavery, moral qualms notwithstanding. 2) The nine small states had to be protected against perpetual domination by the three big ones, of Virginia, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. 3) If America was to realize the full advantage of growing from thirteen states to fifty, existing old states must not take advantage of new ones. 4) Political revolution was not the end of it; there was also the Industrial Revolution. Fishing, lumbering, farming, trade, and cotton, would in some way need to accommodate banking and manufacturing, assisting rather than upsetting other compromises. Given these tangled issues, it would be a long, hot summer in Philadelphia.
Treaty of Westphalia in 1648

Three of the four main problems were obvious, demanding to be addressed. Slavery was obvious from the start; you either solved this problem or the South would walk out. The western wilderness was bigger than existing America; it too could not be ignored. And finally, huge variations of climate and resources led to local specialization; a marvelous thing, if you could trust your suppliers and customers to cooperate. But curiously, none of these issues got directly to the political problem the Constitutional Convention was meant to solve, which was unifying thirteen different sovereignties, each of which was prepared to get up and walk out. The modern nation state was created by the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648; its guiding principle was mutual respect for local sovereignty. Having pacified over a hundred contentious central European states, it required a great deal of self-assurance for anyone to flout it. It seemed hard to imagine any way to remain sovereign, without commanding a vote equal to that of other sovereignties. The delegates from the State of Delaware, which had separated from Pennsylvania within the past decade, were "prohibited [by their legislature] from changing the Article in Confederation establishing an equality of votes among the States". Just what agitated the minds of the Legislature of Rhode Island was kept private, but something about a Union bothered them so much they refused to send delegates to Philadelphia even to discuss Union. After they assembled and started having dinner together at taverns, and later as they were beginning to vote in coalitions, one thing began to emerge. The small states banded together, hung out together, talked alike, and began to vote alike. Their emerging leader was John Dickinson of Delaware, the author of the Articles of Confederation, and very likely one of the prime agitators in the lower three counties of Pennsylvania -- breaking off from Pennsylvania and becoming the State of Delaware. Furthermore, Dickinson had been Governor of both Delaware and Pennsylvania, so he was very familiar with the deplorable behavior of the Legislature of Pennsylvania, now and for decades in the past. It took a long time for this sly old political operator to show his cards, but when he did, he gave James Madison the shock of his life. Madison, the near neighbor of George Washington and leader of the Virginia delegation, the author of the Virginia Plan, and the clear authority on the politics of government in America, was busily consumed with working out the details of the emerging Constitution. Obviously, it went to his head a little, and so he was dumbfounded when Dickinson drew him aside in the corridor to tell him he wasn't going to have a Constitution at all. Dickinson was walking around with the votes in his pocket of five or six of the nine small states, and was telling Madison that the small states were fed up, and not going along. Young Madison was suddenly confronted by the most respected lawyer in America, whose timing was perfect. For what may have been the first time in his life, Dickinson fully revealed the depth of his annoyance, that the big states would always take the little ones for granted. That the little ones were always expected to be deferential to the big fellows in charge of the big states. And then the clincher: "I would rather risk conquest from a foreign state, than be forever dominated by my larger neighbors." That put it in a nutshell. If the only reason for joining a Union was to be protected from foreigners, Dickinson wasn't so sure he preferred his coalition partners. Evidently, this was the feeling of most of the other small states at the Convention, and it may well be the feeling of all small states, anywhere and everywhere.

{Promoting the Abolition of Slavery}
Promoting the Abolition of Slavery

Once the Convention got the idea, solving it became comparatively easy, but why waste an opportunity? There is good reason to suppose it was Ben Franklin, silent as a cat watching a mouse, who matched it up with slavery. His fellow Pennsylvania delegate, James Wilson, had prepared the way by starting the discussion of granting 3/5 representation for slaves, but it had received comparatively little notice in the previous few weeks. Franklin rammed it home, adding a sop to the large states by according the House of Representative sole power to introduce money legislation. Two of the main issues of the convention were solved with one agreement, small-state representation and slavery. Who can say how long he had been nursing this idea. He had agreed to be president of the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery, about a month before the Constitutional Convention began. Prior to that, he and his wife had owned a slave or two, for many years. On June 2, the society adopted a resolution to end the slave trade and presented it to Dr. Franklin, asking him to present it to the Convention. He never did, explaining later it was "advisable" to let the matter lie over. In August, Alexander Hamilton blocked a similar resolution from the New York Manumission Society, even though he had been a fervent lifelong opponent of slavery.

The Origin of States Rights, a Rumination
Patrick Henry

ALMOST alone among the British colonies in America, Pennsylvania's western border was specified in the King's charter of the colony. It was "five degrees longitude west of the point where the eastern boundary crosses the Delaware" [River]; however, its actual location on the ground was not actually marked until 1784. It's a few miles west of the present city of Pittsburgh, located at the forks of the Ohio River, where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers join. However, until 1784 it was not a certainty that this complex was within Pennsylvania instead of Virginia. The origin of the Ohio is at the only major water gap in the North-South mountains, and the tributary rivers are fairly large. The three merging rivers thus form a nearly continuous water route along the base of the mountain range, from the Great Lakes south to Pittsburgh, or from the Chesapeake Bay north to Pittsburgh, and then to the Mississippi, going past the best topsoil farming land in the world. The forks of the Ohio were the great prize of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth centuries, the place where young George Washington himself started the French and Indian War. To include these treasures, it seems vaguely possible that William Penn insisted on having the border of his state safely include the water gap at the beginning of the Ohio. Perhaps not, of course, perhaps it was just a sense of tidiness on the part of the ministers of Charles II. The original document stated that the border was a hundred miles east of there, to match where Maryland ended. When the document was returned to Penn by the King's ministers, however, it had the new language.

The existence of this north-south termination of Pennsylvania began to take on a new significance when other states made claims for their land grant to extend to the Pacific Ocean, and the extensions collided with each other. Virginia then developed its territory to include modern Kentucky and West Virginia. That resulted in Virginia's land aspirations veering northward, to include the Ohio Territory west of Pennsylvania's fixed boundary. By the legal standards of the day, Virginia had a fairly good claim to all of the Indian territories, not merely to the west of Pennsylvania, but extending at least to the Great Lakes, perhaps farther. Maryland, Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts had conflicting claims from infinite extension of their western boundaries. As a consequence, it was impossible to achieve ratification of the Articles of Confederation for five years. The various states involved were fearful the creation of a combined political entity might result in a court which would be enabled to rule against their individual aspirations. The stakes were high; the land mass involved would be several times as large as England.

The person who finally broke this deadlock might well have been Robert Morris, who was disturbed that this inter-state dissention was injuring his ability to borrow foreign funds for the Revolutionary War. The internal negotiations took place under wartime conditions, and are poorly researched. No doubt some person deserves credit for bringing this wrangle to a close. Virginia had the strongest claim, New York the weakest. New York gave up its claim first, Maryland was the last, and Virginia the most disappointed. Pennsylvania, unable to make a claim, took the position that the land belonged to everyone, and eventually was mollified by getting a small notch of land extending to the Great Lakes at Erie. It must be noticed in passing that final resolution of the land claims came at the Treaty of Paris ending the Revolution. Benjamin Franklin, soon to become President of Pennsylvania, was the negotiator of the treaty which reflected Pennsylvania's position that the land belonged to all of us, right?

Even without these western land claims, Virginia was the largest and richest of the colonies, and rather easily adopted the attitude that Virginia would be the leader of the new United States. From their viewpoint, the preservation of states rights would enhance Virginia's leading the country. More or less immediately, the attitude of small states like Delaware hardened into resistance that this must not happen. Much otherwise inexplicable behavior also begins to make a sort of sense: the perverse behavior of the Lee family in the Continental Congress, the quarrels within George Washington's cabinet, the re-location of the capital and the dreams of the Potomac as the nation's main portal of transportation, the rise of Jefferson's political party, the obstructionist behavior of Patrick Henry, the Virginia domination of the Presidency for decades, and countless less famous episodes of history -- make more sense as residuals of Virginia's early land aspirations, than as defenses of slavery or philosophical convictions that states were somehow superior to nations. These suspicions are difficult to clarify and impossible to prove. The best way to see some substance to them is to imagine yourself in the Virginia House of Burgesses, politically connected and vigorous, able to imagine your descendants all inheriting a county or two of rich land as a remote consequence of a few glamorous deeds by their Cavalier ancestor.


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The Origin of States Rights, a Rumination
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