Early English Governors

Pennsylvania After Penn

Affairs in the Province — When Penn went home in 1701, he left his province in a very good state.

The farmers were doing very well, having everything they needed except money. This all went to England to pay the debts of the colony, so that a gold or silver coin was rarely seen. So far there was no paper money. Yet mills rattled merrily, making wealth for their owners, business in the city was active, and a large number of ships carried the produce of the province to England. Many of these went by the way of the West Indies, where they would exchange part of their cargo for the goods of that region.

Affairs in [Philadelphia] — The main growth of the city was along the river above and below Market Street, or High Street, as it was then called. The city stretched back from the river to Fifth or Sixth Street, the houses being mostly of brick and well built. Trades and business of various kinds went on, and Philadelphia was quite a thriving and busy place, one of the most active in the colonies. Houses for official purposes, however, were wanting, and the Assembly often had to sit in the Friends‘ meeting houses. Ale houses were rented for the use of the Council, or rooms taken in private houses.

Governor Evans — Colonel Markham had done much for the city, but he was now growing old and feeble, so when Governor Hamilton, appointed by Penn, died in 1704, Markham was not again appointed to the office, a new governor, John Evans, being chosen. This was as bad a choice as Penn could well have made. Evans was a young man, wild in habits and hasty in acts. He had poor judgment and he acted in a way not well suited to the good of the colony.

William Penn, Jr. — William Penn had a son of his own name but of very different habits. He was given to evil ways and kept such bad company in London that his father sent him to America, putting him in the care of Logan and Evans, and telling them to keep a close watch over the young man and try to interest him in hunting. Other men of high standing were also asked to use their influence.

Governor Evans, as it proved, did far more harm than good to the wild youth, joining him in his follies. They lived [party] lives, visited low taverns, and took part in rows and riots in the street. Late one night a constable was beaten while doing his duty and the city guard had to be called out. Evans escaped, but Penn was arrested and held guilty of serious offenses against the public peace. He sold a fine estate which his father had given him and returned to England deeply in debt. There he died a few years later. Evans was left in office, where he performed still worse acts of folly.

A False Alarm — War then existed between England and France and Governor Evans thought the city ought to have a military force, but the Quakers in the Assembly would not vote the money or do anything else to carry out plans that had to do with war. He then decided to try and scare them into it.

An annual fair was being held in the city and into the crowd a messenger rode in great haste, calling out loudly that the French fleet was coming up the Delaware.

In a moment there was wild alarm. The governor rode through the streets on horseback, sword in hand, calling on the people to muster and arm for the public defense. This led to a panic of fright.

Ships left the wharves in haste; articles of value were thrown into wells ; women went into hysterics and children were sent into the country for safety.

Many of the people mustered, but few of these were Friends. It was the day for the mid-week meeting and the members went to the meeting house as usual, as if nothing more than ordinary was taking place.

The truth came out before night. There was no French fleet and the whole alarm proved a foolish fraud. Those who had helped the governor to raise the panic had to flee from the fury of the people, and Governor Evans lost the respect of all citizens of sense by his absurd and wicked act.

Governor Evans’ FortDelaware had for a time been part of Pennsylvania but in 1703 it was made a separate colony under its present name. It was given its own Assembly but it was under the governor of Pennsylvania. Governor Evans took advantage of this to get the Delaware Assembly to build a fort at New Castle and charge a toll on all vessels passing. This was a blow at the trade of Philadelphia, and some of the leading merchants decided not to submit to it.

Three Quaker ship owners had a vessel loaded for Barbados, and one of them, Richard Hill, an old sailor, took command. He proposed to defy the fort. Evans heard of this and set out for the fort, bent on collecting the toll. On came the ship, dropped anchor near the fort, and two of the merchants went ashore, where they told the commander that their vessel was regularly cleared and would not pay the toll.

On went the ship and shots were fired from the fort, one of them going through its mainsail. The commander now sprang into an open boat and pursued the vessel. He was allowed to come on board but was at once locked up in the cabin. Governor Evans also pursued and went on board the vessel at Salem, New Jersey, where it had stopped. Here, to the surprise of all, they found Lord Cornbury, governor of New York and New Jersey. The matter was left to his decision and he quickly decided in favor of the merchants. Evans nt back home very angry, but he found that everybody was opposed to him and he was forced to order the fort to be demolished.

David Lloyd and His Doings — During all this time a man named David Lloyd, very able as a lawyer, had been the leading power in the Assembly. He was supported by the popular party and bitter toward Penn and his interests, against which he stirred up a great deal of feeling. He went so far in the end that Penn was driven to prosecute him, but he escaped through some flaw in the indictment.

The attacks on the founder of the colony at length turned the tide in his favor, and in 1709 a. new Assembly was elected, made up of his friends. David Lloyd was defeated and went to Chester to live. After this he seemed to be a different man and acted in a way that was a credit to him.

A New Governor — One of the reasons of the change in public opinion was the dismissal by Penn of Governor Evans in 1709, Colonel Charles Gookin being made governor in his place. Gookin had been a soldier and was a man of hasty temper and small wisdom.

Yet he meant well and was not likely to play idle pranks like those of Evans. An early thing he was asked to do was to raise one hundred and fifty men to be paid for by the province and take part in the war then going on with the French in Canada.

He saw trouble ahead with the Quakers in the Assemlbly, but asked them to vote £4,000, saying that they would not be asked to hire men as soldiers, that being left to him. The Assembly refused.

They would not promise more than £500, and they must be satisfied that this would not be used for the war. In the end they voted £2,000 "for the queen's use," and as a token of their duty. The war ended in 1713, and it was long before such a question came up again.

The Question of Oaths — On the question of taking oaths for jury service and in courts Governor Gookin and the Assembly were unable to agree.

In 1711, an act was passed giving those whose conscience would not let them take an oath the right to affirm that the evidence they gave should be "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth." In 1714 the Queen repealed this law. A year later it was passed again, but was again set aside. No Quaker could now give evidence, sit on a jury, or hold any civil office. For two years the colony got along with very little government, and then, as Gookin refused to sign any more bills about oaths, Penn was requested to dismiss him. He did so, and appointed Sir William Keith governor in 1717.

This was William Penn’s last important act. He died the following year, and in that year the Assembly again passed an act permitting men to affirm instead of taking oaths. This was in a form that satisfied the English government and it was allowed to stand.

— History Of Pennsylvania by Charles Morris (1913)

 

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