Page images
PDF
EPUB

ter to thems,

ing these people, appears in the following letter, 1681. which he sent them, on this occasion, by his de puty and commissioners; wherein, without perplexing and confusing their untutored ideas, with fine-ipun and unintelligible notions, and forms of belief, so common to fome ecclesiastics, he adapts his subject to their understandings, in the following plain and simple manner. London, the 18th. of the Eighth month 1681.

« My Friends, “ There is a great God and power, that hath made the world, and all things therein; to whom

His let. you and I, and all people owe their being, and well-being; and to whom you and I must one day give an account, for all, that we do in the world.

“ This great God hath written his law in our hearts, by which we are taught and commanded to love and help, and do good to one another. Now this great God hath been pleased to make me concerned in your part of the world; and the King of the country, where I live, hath given me a great province therein; but I desire to enjoy it with your love and consent; that we may always live together, as neighbours and friends; else what would the great God do to us, who hath made us, not to devour and destroy one another, but to live soberly and kindly together, in the world? now I would have you well observe, that I am very sensible of the unkindness and injustice, that have been too much exercised towards you, by the people of these parts of the world; who have fought themselves, and to make great advantages by you, rather than to be examples of goodness and patience unto you; which I hear hath been a matter of trouble to you, and caused great grudging and animosities, sometimes to the shedding of blood; which hath made the great God angry. But I am not such a man; as is well known in

my

Indians.

1681. my own country. I have great love and regard

towards you; and desire to win and gain your love

and friendship, by a kind, just and peaceable life; William and the people I send, are of the same mind, and ter to the shall, in all things, behave themselves accordingly;

and, if in any thing, any fhall offend you, or your people, you shall have a full and speedy

fatis

. faction for the same, by an equal number of just men, on both sides; that, by no means you may have just occasion of being offended against them.

“I shall shortly come to you myself; at which tine, we may more largely and freely confer and discourse of these matters; in the mean time I have sent my commissioners to treat with you about land, and a firm league of peace; let me desire you to be kind to them, and the people, and receive these presents and tokens, which I have sent you, as a testimony of my good will to you, and my resolution to live justly, peaceably and friendly with you.”

“ I am your loving friend,

William Penn." 1682. In the beginning of the year 1682, William Penn

published his frame of government, and certain William laws, agreed on, in England, by himself and the Penn pub- purchasers under him, entitled, “ The frame of

the government of the province of Pennsylvania, in America; together with certain laws, agreed upon, in England, by the Governor, and divers freemen of the aforesaid province. To be further explained and confirmed there, by the first Provincial Council, that Shall be held, if they fie meet.Which frame, &c. may be seen in the appendix, No. II.

In the preface to this frame is exhibited a sketch of the author's sentiments on the nature of government, in general, his reflections on the different modes of it, and his inducement for forming his. It may serve to give some idea of the judgment of the Quakers, in general, on this subjeđ,

respecting

frame of government and Jaws.

ment.

respecting which they have frequently been misre- 1682. presented; I shall, therefore, here give the following extract from it.-The author, after having quoted several parts of the sacred scriptures, relative to government, proceeds, in the following words:

“ This fettles the divine right of government Part of the beyond exception, and that for two ends; first, his frame of to terrify evil doers; secondly, to cherish those, Governthat do well; which gives government a life beyond corruption; and makes it as durable, in the world, as good men shall be. So that government seems to me a part of religion itself; a thing facred, in its institution and end. For, if it does not directly remove the cause, it crushes the effects of evil; and is, as such, a lower, yet an emanation of the same divine power, that is both author and object of pure religion; the difference lying here; that the one is more free and mental, the other more corporal and compulsive, in its operation: but that is only to evil-doers; government itself being otherwise as capable of kindness, goodness and charity, as a more private society.

They weakly err, that think there is no other use of government, than correction; which is the coarsest part of it: daily experience tells us, that the care and regulation of many other affairs, more Loft, and daily necessary, make up much the greater part of government; and which must have followed the peopling of the world, had Adam never fallen; and will continue among men, on earth, under the highest attainments, they may arrive at, by the coming of the blessed second Adan, the Lord from Heaven.”

As to the modes, he further observes," I do not find a model in the world, that time, place, of Governo and some singular emergencies, have not necessa- ment in gerily altered; nor is it easy to frame a civil

government, that shall serve all places alike;"_" Any

government,

ncral.

Part of the

1682. government is free to the people under it (what

ever be the frame) where the laws rule, and the people are a party to those laws; and more than this is tyranny, olygarchy, or confufion.”—

“ There is hardly one frame of government, in the world, fo ill designed by its first founders, that, in good hands, would not do well enough; and history tells us, the best, in ill ones, can do nothing, that is great and good; Witness, the Jewish and Roman states. Governments, like clocks, go from the motion, men give them; and as governments are made and moved by men, fo

them are they ruined too. Wherefore, governments rather depend upon men, than men upon governments. Let men be good, and the government cannot be bad; if it be ill, they will cure it. But, if men be bad, let government be

never so good, they will endeavour to warp and preface to

spoil it to their turn." That, therefore, which makes a good government, must keep it, viz. Men of wisdom and virtue; qualities, that, because they descend not with worldy inheritances, must be carefully propagated by a virtuous education of youth; for which after ages will owe more to the care and prudence of founders, and the fuccessive Magistracy, than to their parents, for their private patrimonies.”

" These confiderations,” (several of which, for brevity, are here omitted) of the weight of government, and the nice and various opinions about it, made it uneasy to me to think of publishing the ensuing frame, and conditional laws, foreseeing both the censures, they will meet with, from men of differing humours and engagements, and the occafion they may give of discourse beyond my design."

“ But, next to the power of necessity (which is a follicitor, that will take no denial) this induced me to a compliance, that we have, (with reve

William Penn's frame of Govern, ment.

Reafon for

frame

rence to God, and good conscience to men) to the 1682. best of our skill, contrived and composed them frame and laws of this government, to the great end of government, viz. To support power in reve- his

publishing rence with the people, and to secure the people from and laws. the abuse of power; that they may be free by their just obedience, and the Magistrates honourable, for their just administration; for liberty without obedience is confusion; and obedience without liberty is slavery. . To carry this evenness, is partly owing to the constitution, and partly to the Magistracy: where either of these fail, government will be subject to convulsions; but where both are wanting, it must be totally fubverted: then, where both meet, the government is like to endure; which I humbly pray, and hope, God will please to make the lot of this of Pennsylvania. Amen.'

The frame itself consisted of twenty-four arti- Purport of cles; and the laws were forty. By the former of governthe government was placed in the Governor and ment. Freemen of the province, in the form of a provincial council, and General Assembly. By them conjunctively all laws were to be made, all officers appointed, and all public affairs transacted. Seventy-two was the number of the Council, to be chosen by the freemen; and though the Governor, or his deputy, was to be perpetual President, he had but a tresle vote. One-third part of them was, at first, to be chosen for three years, onethird for two years, and one-third for one year; in such manner, that there might be an annual fuccession of twenty-four new members, each to continue three years, and no longer.--The General Alfembly was, the first year, to confist of all the freemen, afterwards of two hundred, and never to exceed five hundred. And this charter, or form of government, was not to be altered, changed, or diminished, in any part, or clause of it, without the consent of the Governor, his heirs, or affigns,

and

« PreviousContinue »