Patrick Gordon Administration

Deputy Governor, 1726-1736

The New Governor — Patrick Gordon, selected for governor by Mrs. Penn as successor to Governor Keith, was an old soldier and a very old man to be chosen for such a position. He had long served in the English armies and had risen to be colonel of a regiment. He had now reached the age of eighty two, a great age to begin an active duty, but his kindly heart and simple ways saved him from the quarrels and disputes of those who had preceded him and he won the respect and support of the people.

Affairs Under Gordon — Happily, Gordon's era was one of peace and prosperity. The most important affair during his term was the dispute about the border line between Pennsylvania and Maryland. This had now been kept up for some fifty years, and many years were still to pass before it would be settled [on May 10, 1732 a lawsuit was settled that temporarily defined the boundaries between Pennsylvania and Maryland].

Other affairs were of minor importance. There were questions about reducing the duty on salt for the benefit of the shad fishers and about Indian treaties. A new county, that of Lancaster, was formed out of Chester County. An agent was appointed to reside in London and look after the interests of the Penn family, and the man chosen, John Fernando Paris, did excellent work. The French were now beginning to make those claims to the valley of the Ohio which were soon to lead to war.

Franklin Returns — We must say something here about Benjamin Franklin, whom Keith had sent to London on a wild-goose chase. He came back again in 1725, after working as a printer in London, and soon set up an office of his own in Philadelphia. He bought out an unsuccessful paper, the Pennsylvania Gazette, in 1729, and by its aid soon made his influence felt, taking an active part in all that went on in the city.

Franklin's Activity —The old issue [batch] of paper-money had been largely redeemed and more was asked for. Franklin was active in advocating it and his aid in doing so got him the contract for printing the new issue. In 1736 he was made clerk of the Assembly, a position of political influence. There are two other things that Franklin did of importance. In 1731 he got his friends to deposit in one place all the books they could spare, and this was the beginning of the Philadelphia Library, now one of the best in the United States. In the next year, 1732, he began to publish his Poor Richard's Almanac, the most famous almanac that ever appeared. This was a good record for a young man of twenty-six.

The State House Built — The building of the famous State House of Philadelphia was ordered in 1729, during Gordon's administration. The Assembly had by this time grown to be much too important a body to continue its meetings in private houses and the Quaker meeting-houses, as in its former career. The time had come for it to have a building of its own.

Work was begun on this edifice in 1732 and it was completed in 1741, except some finishing touches left till 1745. A part of it was ready for the Assembly in 1735. Previously it had been the custom to use a bell to call the Assembly together, all who were not present in half an hour after it rang being fined a tenpenny bit [a piece of copper cut off from a larger coin]. In 1750 a staircase was ordered to be added to the State House, and also a place where a bell might be hung. A bell was ordered from London, which was to bear the striking inscription "Proclaim liberty throughout the land, to all the inhabitants thereof." This it did in 1776 and it is now America's much loved "Liberty Bell," while the [Old] State House is now the equally esteemed "Independence Hall."

John and Thomas Penn — The death of Mrs. [Hannah Penn], in 1733, ended Governor Gordon's authority, according to the opinion of the Assembly, but a new commission was sent him, signed by her sons, John, Thomas, and Richard, under which his power was restored. 
In the year before his mother’s death, Thomas Penn came to Pennsylvania, eager no doubt to see the great province beyond the Atlantic. He was met at Chester by Governor Gordon and a large number of gentlemen, and Philadelphia welcomed him with the thunder of cannon and ringing of bells.

More than thirty years had passed since William Penn had left the province and this young member of the family, while different from his dissolute brother William, lacked the courtly bearing of his father and was not his father's equal in other respects.

His brother John came over in 1734, and had a like hearty reception. He did not stay long, however, for he learned that Lord Baltimore was seeking to gain possession of Delaware, declaring that it was part of Maryland. John hurried back to contest this claim, but Thomas remained until 1741. A man of business, he looked on Pennsylvania as a valuable estate which should be made to yield as much as possible. John Penn died in 1746. We are not told when Richard died, but Thomas was left the chief proprietor of the province, which in time gave him great wealth.

Death of Gordon — Governor Gordon died in 1736, at the advanced age of ninety-two. It was a great age for a man to hold so responsible a position, but during his ten years of service life had moved serenely with him and he had won the esteem of all with whom he had to deal. A man of kindly, gentle nature, he had kept free from the discord which attended the careers of those who came before and after.

— History Of Pennsylvania by Charles Morris (1913)

 

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