Laws are like spider-webs which, if anything small falls into them they ensnare it, but large things break through and escape. — Solon of Athens

Story of the Thirteen Colonies - Helene Guerber




Penn and the Indians

In the meantime, the Friends in England had greatly increased in number. There were now many rich and clever people among them besides William Penn, who was a scholar and a preacher. He had become a Quaker in spite of all his father's efforts to make him a courtier, for the elder Penn was an admiral, and a great friend of Charles II., to whom he lent large sums of money. As the king could not repay this money, William Penn suggested, after his father's death, that Charles should give him, instead of all other payment, a large tract of land in the New World. Charles was only too happy to clear his debt in such an easy way. He therefore made Penn a grant of woodland, which he insisted upon calling Pennsylvania ("Penn's Woodland"). But we are told that Penn tried to bribe the clerk to write the name "Sylvania" only, as he thought it absurd that the land should bear his name. In exchange for this tract, all the king asked was two beaver skins a year, and one fifth of all the gold and silver found there. The land secured, Penn prepared to carry out a long-cherished plan, which was to found colonies of Friends in the New World. For that purpose, he had already bought a share in the West New Jersey colony, and, in 1682, he crossed over to America himself.

As soon as Penn set foot in West New Jersey, we are told that the colonists brought him a sod in which was planted a green twig, to show that he owned the land and all that grew upon it. Next they presented him with a dish full of water, because he was master of the seas and rivers, and with the keys of the fort, to indicate that he was in command of the army and had all the power. Penn graciously accepted these offerings, and, as you shall see, made a noble use of his authority over his province. Although Pennsylvania had been given him by the king, he rightly considered the Indians the real owners of the soil, and decided to pay them for it.

Penn's Treaty
PENN'S TREATY.


He therefore sent for the chiefs, whom he met under a huge elm. Penn came among the Indians unarmed, and, after smoking a peace pipe with them, bargained for the purchase of a large tract of land. Under this elm he also made a treaty which lasted for more than sixty years,—"the only one never sworn to and never broken."

On this occasion Penn made a speech, to which the Indians replied by saying: We will live in peace with Penn and his children as long as the moon and the sun shall endure." Then the two parties exchanged gifts, the Indians bestowing upon the Quaker a wampum belt on which a paleface and a redskin were represented hand in hand. This belt is still carefully kept by the Pennsylvania Historical Society.

The elm under whose branches this interview took place was carefully preserved for many years. Even during the Revolutionary War, sentinels mounted guard over it, so that none of its branches should be cut off for fire wood. But in 1810 it was unfortunately blown down, and a monument, bearing the inscription, "Unbroken faith," now marks the spot where Penn and the Indians first met.

Before crossing the Atlantic, Penn had written out laws for his province, granting his people the right to do as their conscience bade in religious matters, to vote, and to be tried by a jury of twelve men. He now added that if there was any trouble between an Indian and a settler, the case was to be tried by six Indians and six colonists, to make sure that justice should be equally well meted out to both parties.

When the Quakers first left England for the New World, people made great fun of them, declaring that, since the fighting Puritans, Dutch, and Virginians had such hard times with the Indians, the Quakers, whose religion forbade them to return blow for blow, would soon be killed. They were greatly mistaken, however, for none of the colonies suffered less from the natives than Pennsylvania.

The Friends were so gentle that they treated every one kindly, and a little story will show you how good and generous even the children were. We are told that a little girl sat at the door of a log house, one day, eating her milk porridge. Her mother heard her softly say again and again: "Now, thee shan't;" then, "Keep to thy part." As no gone was near, the mother stole up on tiptoe to find out to whom the child could be talking. Imagine her surprise when she saw her little girl sharing her supper with a big black snake, which ate from one side of the bowl while she helped herself from the other, patting him on the head with her spoon whenever he tried to come over to her side!

It was Penn himself who founded the first town in his grant. He called it Philadelphia, or the "City of Brotherly Love," because he wished all the people to live in peace together, like one family. The first houses were built of wood; then brick dwellings were seen; and each cottage was soon surrounded by a neat garden, in which bloomed gay flowers. Many Germans came over before long, at Penn's invitation, and settled just north of Philadelphia, in what is still known as Germantown.

These were joined by other colonists, from different parts of central Europe; and as the English did not perceive any difference between the various forms of the German language and that used in Holland, they generally called all the newcomers Dutch. These settlers managed to understand one another, however, by using a strange dialect, which is still heard in some parts of Pennsylvania, where it is now known as "Pennsylvania Dutch."

As Pennsylvania had no seacoast of its own, Penn was glad to buy some land south of him,—called Delaware, in honor of one of the governors of Virginia. Having placed his colony on a good footing, Penn went back to England. He had spent much money in doing this, and was no longer as rich as he had once been. Besides, his opinions got him into trouble, and we are told he went to prison rather than pay what he thought an unjust debt. For a time he was even deprived of his lands; but they were finally given back to him, and he and his heirs ruled Pennsylvania until the Revolution.

Old Swedish Church at Wilmington, Delaware
OLD SWEDISH CHURCH AT WILMINGTON, DELAWARE.


It was within the limits of Delaware that the Dutch, as we have seen, had built Fort Nassau. They were driven away by the Indians, and that part of the country belonged for seventeen years to the Swedes, who called it New Sweden. At the end of that time, however, it again fell into the hands of the Dutch, who, about eighteen years later, finally gave it up to the English, with all the rest of the New Netherlands.

Thus within less than fifty years Delaware had completely changed hands four times, when it was purchased by Penn as seaboard for his state. For a time it was part of Pennsylvania; but after 1703 it had an assembly of its own, and it is counted as one of the thirteen famous English colonies founded in North America.



Contents

Front Matter

Our Country Long Ago
The Barbarous Indians
The Mounds
Where the Northmen Went
The Northmen in America
Queer Ideas
Prince Henry the Navigator
Youth of Columbus
Columbus and the Queen
"Land! Land!"
Columbus and the Savages
Home Again
Columbus Ill-treated
Death of Columbus
How America Got its Name
The Fountain of Youth
"The Father of Waters"
The French in Canada
French and Spanish Quarrels
The Sky City
Around the World
Nothing but Smoke
Smith's Adventures
The Jamestown Men
Smith Wounded
Pocahontas Visits England
Hudson and the Indians
The Mayflower
Plymouth Rock
The First Thanksgiving
Snake Skin and Bullets
The Beginning of Boston
Stories of Two Ministers
Williams and the Indians
The Quakers
The King-Killers
King Phillip's War
The Beginning of New York
Penn and the Indians
The Catholics in Maryland
The Old Dominion
Bacon's Rebellion
A Journey Inland
The Carolina Pirates
Charter Oak
Salem Witches
Down the Mississippi
La Salle's Adventures
Indians on the Warpath
Two Wars with the French
Washington's Boyhood
Washington's Journey
Washington's First Battle
Stories of Franklin
Braddock's Defeat
Wolfe at Quebec
England and her Colonies
The Stamp Tax
The Anger of the Colonies
The Boston Tea Party
The Minutemen
The Battle of Lexington
Bunker Hill
The Boston Boys
The British leave Boston
Declaration of Independence
A Lady's Way of Helping
Christmas Eve
The Fight at Bennington
Burgoyne's Surrender
Winter at Valley Forge
The Quaker Woman
Putnam's Adventures
Indian Cruelty
Boone in Kentucky
Famous Sea Fights
The "Swamp Fox"
The Poor Soldiers
The Spy
A Traitor's Death
Two Unselfish Women
Surrender of Cornwallis
British Flag hauled down
Washington's Farewell