Provincial Governors Historical Sketches

 

Peter Minuit (no signature)

Term 3, 1626-1633  Germany

 

Peter Minuit (no signature)

Term 6, 1638-1638  Germany

 

William Markham (no signature)

Term 31, 1681-1682  England

 

32  William Penn (no signature)

Term 32, 1682-1684  England

 

37  William Markham (no signature)

Term 37, 1693-1699  England

 

William Penn (no signature)

Term 38, 1699-1701  England

 

James Logan

Term 45, 1736-1738

 

Who was James Logan?  James Logan, 1674-1751, born in Ireland, was a Scot-Irish Quaker.  His physical appearance is described as having been tall, graceful, and grave. From the History of Franklin Co., Pa. 1887, James Logan is described as, “… a man of singular urbanity and strength of mind, and withal a scholar.”   Upon Penn’s second return to Pennsylvania in 1699, he brought with him James Logan, who made his home in Stenton near Germantown.

 

He was an author with several works published in Latin, well trained in the ancient languages and sciences, and America’s first physiological botanist. Logan was Penn’s loyal secretary and was appointed the Confidential Agent for the Penn family, thereby handling their legal affairs.  His love of learning led him to collect a vast library.  Upon his death, in 1751 about the age of 77, his collection was bequeathed to the people of Pennsylvania and it is now known as the Loganian Library.

 

In 1701, Penn chose James Logan for Secretary of the province and Clerk of the Council. Logan’s public service record included: being elected mayor of Philadelphia; Chief Commissioner of Property; Agent for the purchase and sale of lands; Receiver General; Member of Council; President of Council; Chief Justice, and was acting governor from 1736 – 1738.  He was a man of great influence and dedicated himself to the interests of the Penn family.  His influence and many positions of public office provided continuity to the affairs of state during some very turbulent times under Governors Evans, Gookin, Keith, Gordon, Thomas, and Hamilton.

 

During his administration, the ever-present boundary dispute with Maryland reached a critical point. Much blood was shed in border skirmishes when the settlers in the York County area who took title to their lands from Maryland to avoid taxes then tried to come under the protecting wing of Pennsylvania.

 

Logan’s ideas of focusing primarily on the Iroquois Confederation controlled the Indian policy of Pennsylvania after 1732 up until the Revolutionary War.  Logan foresaw the problems that would be caused by the Scot-Irish “settling” in the western territories still owned by the Indians. They would kill the natives turning them from friends into enemies. Logan suspected also, that the French would lay claim to territory south and east of Lake Erie extending into western Pennsylvania. Logan, knowing the Quaker-run Assembly would not support military defense proposed an alliance with the Six Nations as security against the French. Logan did not always abide by William and Hannah Penn’s policy of fairness to the Indians – treating the Indians as prior owners of the “Pennsylvania” land and entitling them to the same legal consideration as Europeans in trade.

 

About the document, Allison-Antrim Museum’s oldest archive: It is a William Penn document dated March 10, 1715/16 with James Logan’s signature. In Tom Brumbaugh’s words, “… a very rare document, and considering its age in fine condition.” The document will be 288 years old in March 2003.

 

The document is on animal skin parchment and traces the history, dating back to June 1, 1707, of two contiguous lots of land in the City of Philadelphia. Both lots were eventually sold to Gabriel Wilkinson, a trader living in Philadelphia.  Through research and by visiting Philadelphia, it’s been discovered that this piece of land is located in the heart of the historic Quaker district in Old Philadelphia City.  Extensive archaeological digs were done in this historic area; and during the end of January 2001, artifacts were found - the news of which made the Philadelphia headlines. Wilkinson’s land was bordered on the east by Sixth Street, on the south by Mulberry Street now called Arch Street, and on the north by lots that bordered Sassafras Street which is now called Race Street. This land is located in the northeast part of the Independence National Historical Park area of present-day Philadelphia, just blocks away from Independence Hall.

 

James Logan signed the document in his, then, capacity as Commissioner of Property.

 

The handwriting in cursive is difficult to read. Within the document, individual letters are formed in a couple different ways.  It would have taken a long time to hand write this document. How did the recorder of this deed write in perfectly straight rows without ruled lines? Why does one very rarely see mistakes of spelling or omission on such documents?  From what notes or records was this deed written? After reading this document in total, one realizes legal terminology has a long history of its own.

 

 

 

George Thomas

Term 46, 1738-1746

 

The boundary dispute between Pennsylvania and Maryland was his first problem. But a compromise came about when he suggested that the governors of Pennsylvania and Maryland should take jurisdiction over their own subjects, no matter where they settled, until the dispute could finally be settled sometime in the future.

 

Thomas’ term was plagued by endless disputes with the Assembly. The Assembly refused to vote him a salary when he refused to sign their bills because of instructions from William Penn. Eventually a compromise was reached.

 

The State House of Pennsylvania was completed during his administration, Pennsylvania’s first worthy Capitol – the place where a nation would be born.

 

 

 

James Hamilton

Terms 48, 51, & 53, 1748-1754, 1759-1763, & 1771-1771

 

Hamilton was the first American-born governor of Pennsylvania. He is the only person to hold three separate terms as governor of Pennsylvania.  Hamilton was well known for his lavish entertaining at both the State House and at his home in Bush-Hill, Philadelphia.

 

Two problems continued throughout his first term – the problem of paper currency and relations with the Indians. The proprietary dual-control under which he labored presented too many problems for which he was being held responsible. He was required by the proprietors to refuse to sign bills passed by the Assembly which levied a tax on the proprietors, so he resigned in 1753.

 

Hamilton’s second term, when he replaced William Denny, was a period of the bloodiest Indian murders. Pontiac, the Indian chief organized attacks along the entire western frontier and the slaughter was so extensive that even Cumberland County became a mere wilderness outpost

 

His third term was a brief interim period between the departure of John Penn and the arrival of John’s brother, Richard, as resident Governor.

 

About the document: It is dated February 17, 1775 Philadelphia

 

 

William Denny

Term 50, 1756-1759, born in England.

 

William Denny, like his predecessors was caught in a “Catch Twenty-two” situation.  He arrived in Pennsylvania, suddenly bearing his commission papers as Governor from the proprietors. His instructions from the proprietors included that he was not allowed to sign any bill passed by the Assembly that would tax the proprietors.  The Assembly’s usual method of dealing with this situation was to not vote for the Governor’s salary.  Because of this, Denny literally reached a state of destitution and gave in and signed a bill that taxed the proprietors.  He then received one thousand pounds in return from the Assembly, but was also recalled as governor because he disobeyed the proprietary instructions.

 

It was during Denny’s term that a plan proposed by Governor Morris, Denny’s predecessor was carried out and produced the most wholesome and pacifying effect on the Indians.  A strong detachment from the militia was sent to Kittanning, along the Allegheny River, which was one of the largest Indian towns in Pennsylvania.   Undetected, three hundred men marched on the town and attacked from two directions. The Indians refused to surrender and were slaughtered with few Indians, if any, left alive to tell the story.

About the document: The document is a letter written by Philip Mann petitioning Denny on his own behalf asking for forgiveness of a ten pound accrued fine.  Mann was sued and taken to Quarter Sessions Court.  The matter was not resolved during the hearing requiring him to return at a later Quarter Sessions hearing. At the second court hearing, he was exonerated of claims made against him in the suit. But he was fined, because he did not make an appearance. It was impossible for him to appear at the second Quarter Sessions court hearing because he, “having amongst many others been involved in the general calamity (the French and Indian War) of the times.” Mann asked Denny to, “Remit the aforesaid fine and hereby save him and his large family from ruin.”  Based on the request from Mann along with the recommendation of character from Charles Swain, the clerk of sessions, Denny replied in writing just above his signature, “I, as on the above recommendation, forgive this fine.” Signed – William Denny

 

Could Denny have empathized with Philip Mann, knowing himself what it was like to be destitute?

 

 

John Penn

Term 52 & 55

1763-1771 & 1773-1776

Born in England.

 

During his first term as governor of Pennsylvania, John Penn, son of Richard Penn, and grandson of William, declared war against the "savages" and won.

 

The death of his father Richard took him back to England in 1771. When he returned as resident Governor in 1773 to replace his brother, Richard, they, together, performed two "lasts." Richard delivered to England the last petition to the King of England and John was the last proprietary governor of Pennsylvania.

 

John Penn was the first governor to realize that settlers were streaming in from Connecticut and claiming land belonging to Pennsylvania. When he protested, the matter was taken before a committee of the Continental Congress who ruled in Connecticut’s favor. From 1775 to 1802, when the Congress of the United States reversed the earlier decision, Connecticut owned a wedge-shaped chunk of north central Pennsylvania.

 

He also had to deal with Virginia’s claim to Pittsburgh and the Monongahela Valley. In response, John Penn issued a counter-proclamation to Virginia Governor Dunmore’s claim.

 

By this time, the spark of liberty had spread throughout all the colonies. Penn was literally and figuratively nearsighted. He saw only what he wanted to see and would not or could not deal with greatest issue of the times - liberty for the colonies. Some who knew him said he secretly sided with the cause of the Revolution. But by refusing to convene the Pennsylvania Assembly to consider united action on behalf of Massachusetts (at that time suffering from the penalties placed against them for the Tea Party), he placed himself, forever in the history books, as being on the side of England.

 

Delegates who were comprised mostly of Radical and Moderate Party members came together from all the counties of Pennsylvania at a convention. At that time, they issued recommendations to the Pennsylvania Assembly that delegates should be appointed to the General Congress of all the colonies. The Assembly complied allowing the first Continental Congress to be held in Philadelphia in 1774.

 

On June 30, 1775, the Pennsylvania Assembly named the General Committee of Safety to supervise all military activity and to defend the province against the British. The Committee of Safety met for the first time on July 3, 1775 at which time Benjamin Franklin was elected the Committee’s president. Having a legitimated constitutional base by appointment, the Committee of Safety became the new government of Pennsylvania; and acting upon the strong recommendations from the Continental Congress, declared the old Pennsylvania Assembly "not competent" during a public meeting in Philadelphia.

 

In June 1776, Pennsylvania delegates met again in convention to draft a Constitution and new government for the Commonwealth. The Assembly was in effect for almost a century. It continued to try to rule, albeit unsuccessfully, until the passage of the Pennsylvania Constitution.

 

Through the actions of the new congress, Benjamin Franklin became the official Governor. John Penn was not officially ousted because Franklin was very involved with the affairs of the Revolution. Penn continued to live in Pennsylvania and stand on the sidelines allowing events to play themselves out. He was even arrested on occasion as the Continental Congress did not trust him.

 

John Penn died in 1795 in Bucks County.

 

About the document: John Penn’s signature is under the crisscrossed ribbon at the bottom of the pre-printed document that is dated July 27, 1768

 

 

 

 

 

 

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