The starting point in my Pennsylvania model is the uniqueness of Penn’s Sole Proprietary Corporation and its effects on the development of Pennsylvania’s first policy system. The Sole Proprietary System was not a unique form of British colonialism, Maryland and Lord Calvert was awarded a similar one in Maryland, the Duke of York (James II), got one for New Jersey. There were many others as well; Virginia’s Jamestown Company was also proprietary but not a sole proprietary in the name of one person, but of a joint stock company. The dynamics of governance are quite different between a joint stock company and that of one man/family’s personal ownership and rule. Penn, like Calvert formed a corporation but he held total control over its affairs. Penn’s sole proprietorship adopted a religious motif, the Holy Experiment, but that too was Penn’s conception of creating in the New World a society, economy and government conducive to Quaker practice and congruent with Quaker beliefs. John Fox, the founder of Quakerism, was a member of Penn’s corporation, and he was awarded land by Penn in Pennsylvania (which he never took title). The key aspect-dynamic of the sole proprietorship that materially affected Pennsylvania’s governance and its future policy system is personalism.

The land itself was in Penn’s name. The King himself inserted the name: Penn’s Forests (Pennsylvania). The Board did not enjoy any powers sufficient to question or challenge Penn’s decisions and actions–and I have no indication it ever did–or ever formally met. Penn ran the colony out of his own mind, and equally important out of his pocket. Penn did not borrow funds from others; nor did he invite other investor owners as did a joint stock company. Penn proposed to pay the bills incurred in the settlement by selling of land and other commercial ventures (fur trading, export agricultural products). He hoped and initially believed he could personally profit from the execesses from these ventures. He didn’t and he literally drove himself into debtors prison, and spent considerable time in English courts on matters related to his ownership and his dire personal finances. The governance and the method of finance to pay for the colony never took root. His legal power sustained his institutions, but in a remarkably short time, not only was he back in London but the government in charge increasingly followed its own path to the extent it could–and the legislature had a new enemy to fight along with Penn.

The point of all this is Penn and later the Penn family; their governance of Pennsylvania was a personal patrimony, an estate or manor. The quality of his governance, the consistency, reflected his personal life and condition–and his decision not to invite others to share the fun. Went things went south, as we know they did, Penn–and his family– was personally the one to blame, not the King, or his royal governor appointed. If the colonial Board of Trade passed a Navigation Act, Penn himself was responsible for its implementation and administration. If the King demanded an oath of loyalty (forbidden to Quakers) Penn was held responsible for its resolution. The alternative to Penn during the colonial period was always his sacking and replacement by a Crown-appointed royal governor. Penn’s Frame of Government established an independent legislature (originally two houses, the upper one under his dominance and the lower one elected by his First Purchaser land owners., The latter was the only truly independent body in the Frame, and it, practically from Day One, opposed his management and his use of the colony for  personal ends. The hundred years war of struggle between this rock (Penn) and a hard place (the General Assembly)–Pennsylvania’s first policy systems were the most obvious beneficiary-victim of that war.

Accordingly, one could argue that despite his legal authority, Penn was not in charge. The first task before us in this module is to understand the factors and dynamics affecting Penn’s Proprietary during the formative years of the Pennsylvania’s first policy system: 1681 to 1725 (or so).

Penn’s Family Time Line and Internal Dynamics of the Sole Proprietorship

Penn Family dynamics provide texture and granularity for a good deal of the particulars of the pre-1725 period.  After the 1701 Charter, and despite its role in allowing a good deal of autonomy to the Legislature, the Penn Family Proprietorship still retained de facto dominance over the governorship and the institutions of Pennsylvania governance. Penn’s Frame, even as amended by the Charter of Privileges, preserved for the Penn family definition of, and control over, the Executive Branch of the Colony within which was housed the judicial branch as well. While the Legislature held the formal authority to approve counties, Penn retained the right to create their subsidiary: the township.. The Charter was a major reform of Penn’s first two Frames as it established the Legislature as an autonomous force in its own right.

Over the next forty years, the Legislature asserted its authority over various policy areas (such as taxes), and simply by legislative action acquired considerable control over key sub-state government functions from the Executive Branch. The question that arises is why did all this happen as it did? Did Penn lose that struggle? Did he oppose these changes? My conclusion is he never really was able to assert his control sufficiently and consistently to achieve his will or even to protect his proprietorship. The fault for this line not just with Penn himself, but the failure of his plan to finance the colony, the internal dynamics of his family and personal administrators, and eventually the deterioration in his health. The remarkable and little known reality is that Penn after 1703 had actively placed his colony on the market–to sell hopefully to the Crown. He wanted out.

William Penn returned to England in 1701, never to return to Pennsylvania. He relied principally on his Deputy Governors, his Personal Secretary in Pennsylvania (James Logan), his second wife Hannah, and their sons. Penn was fifty-one and Hannah twenty-five when they married in 1796. Of note, Penn left behind ‘two families” when he died in 1718: those children borne by his strong-willed and well-connected first wife Gulielma Maria  with whom two daughters and one, son William, survived her death. With Hannah, Penn fathered eight children, three of whom were sons: John, Richard, and Thomas . They would play a prominent role in Pennsylvania affairs-Their youngest son Thomas was in charge of the Proprietorship until Thomas died in 1776. When William died, his will split his colony into two, leaving the governance portion in the hands of several trustees, and the land to the families, with Hannah as executor.

Over the years, William (and Hannah) hired several Deputy Governors and sent over a scattered variety of advisors/officials until his first stroke in 1712. James Logan Penn’s Personal Secretary (and a powerful player in Pennsylvania politics) was arguably his chief non-family advisor. Always preoccupied with his distressed finances and his frustrated aspirations for land profit in Pennsylvania, Penn remained faithful  to the early ideals of his Holy Experiment and Quakerism, but the experiences and frustrations of his first twenty years (1681-1701) were harshly etched into his decision-making and priorities. He defended, for the most part, as best he could, Pennsylvania, its autonomy from harsh British colonial administration, insulating it a bit from the not–too–sympathetic Crown, Privy Council and Boards of Trades. There were periods in which the King stripped him of his colony, but gave it back  afterwards Pennsylvania was an expensive affair, and after 1701 it was clear to Penn that Pennsylvania would not provide personal sustenance as hoped, to him or his family. Penn’s finances in the meantime went from bad to worse; in 1708 he spent nine months in debtor’s prison. In 1712 he renewed his efforts to sell the colony. A surplus of income over expenses just didn’t happen, and so Penn gave serious consideration to selling the colony–most likely to the Crown. In 1712 he suffered his first debilitating stroke. With each following year, his health worsened.

Had he been been able to hold the line against the Legislature after 1701, Penn would have still maintained a strong presence in the Pennsylvania policy system. But he did not. In 1701, he still controlled, with considerable autonomy, his own agency, the Land Office headed by his personal Provincial Secretary and through appointment powers controlled the judiciary and sub-provincial governance. The land office and is head, the Personal Secretary Logan, were entrusted with providing revenues to pay the bills and make Penn rich. The money from land sales went into Penn’s pocket, not the Pennsylvania treasury–and the taxes (quit rents) that came from these land sales were supposed to go to Penn as well. That individual and the Office had to that point been the driver for Penn’s settlement (city/town-building) strategy through land grants/sales, a settlement plan with some design and layout principles, and a very critical component of acquiring land through negotiation and purchase from the Native Americans.

In the early years, Thomas Holme, his surveyor general, was his principal agent in these activities, but with Penn’s departure in 1685–and his disengagement during his troubled 1685-1699 period–reduced that agency’s involvement in the settlement of Pennsylvania. The Land Office existed, but few paid taxes to it; Penn’s Provincial Secretary sold land, but he engaged in other ventures and the net balance between the two added to Penn’s debt load. Penn, in large measure, returned to Pennsylvania in 1699 in order to secure payment of all the quitrents, to evict tenants, or secure land sale to them. In 1699 Penn appointed James Logan to Provincial Secretary and a commissioner of property in his Land Office. Logan was competent, reasonably loyal, but also prone to use his powers to accumulate wealth, land, a personal country estate, and eventually his own political and social independence. Logan remained in power well into the 1730’s.

The key to Penn’s fiscal viability was always the Land Office. True to form Penn set up the Land Office as an EDO (economic development organization) and placed it deep in the bowels of his first Frame of Government sole proprietorship. Titled simply, “the land office” it lay outside the control of the Deputy Governor, and beyond the jurisdiction of the Legislature–or even the Judiciary whose decisions often tilted in Penn’s favor. Staffed by three to five commissioners (of property) over the period–each a proprietary appointees–and a surveyor general, the Land Office was empowered to make land grants, sell lands, negotiate loans to land borrowers, commission and implement land services for settlements and plots of land, and issue the important end result to a land buyer: a clear title (which BTW included a commitment the land had been legally purchased from its Native American previous landholder). Penn’s inability to use the Land Office as his intermediary backfired against him, leading him to negotiate the Charter of Privileges, and within days after its approval he left the colony never to return. It must have been evident to him that the Land Office lacked sufficient capacity to keep track of his immense holdings without the cooperation of the locals and county and township officials which he no longer could count on.

The burden for handling Penn’s Pennsylvania’s affairs was left to Logan. In 1702 Penn and Logan saw opportunity in fur trade with Native Americans. In 1703 Penn wrote to Logan asking if “thou wouldst do all that is possible to master furs and skins for me“. Trade and commerce in particular was attractive to a great number of the First Purchasers, and to Penn as well. Whatever Quaker beliefs were they were never anti-profit or anti-proto capitalist.   Indian war, and Pennsylvania precarious location, however, put a damper on this project, but after the 1702-1713 Queen Anne’s war things would settle down, and offer opportunity. France had ceded Acadia to England and the West Indies opened up to trade. It also put an end to Indian fighting. So when the War ended Logan in 1713 (Penn suffered from the lasting and worsening effects of his stroke) was pretty much left to his own devices.

During the Probate Period after Penn’s death, that office lost much of its energy and, if used at all, was manipulated to create profits for Logan, and secondarily Penn. Settlement of Pennsylvania–which accelerated greatly after 1700, was largely unsupervised and unplanned, and followed its own dynamics as we shall later see. The real issue during the Probate period was that with Penn dead, and the will actively contemplating the sale of Penn’s governance interests to the Crown, the major players, save Hannah and the children who contested the will in court, all took for granted the trustees would reach some accommodation with the Crown. It was no mystery to others of Penn’s idea to sell the proprietorship to the Crown. That the Provincial Secretary Logan had a “dog in that hunt” should not be a surprise. He pushed Penn to sell the colony as early as 1702 when he wrote to Penn (summarized by Illick) that Penn’s Pennsylvania allies would approve the sale as “the belief was widespread … that war would oblige Parliament to annex the private colonies to the crown, “nor can I find, even of our friends, desirous that it should be  otherwise, provided thou canst make good terms for thyself and them [his friends] for they seem both weary and careless of government[99] Joseph Illick, Colonial Pennsylvania: a History, p. 79; see also pp. 130-1. Accordingly Penn filed his first proposal for the Crown  (Board of Trade) to do so in June, 1703.

Over the next few years, Logan created a near-fur monopoly over the Susquehanna Valley area, Setting up an business that traded for the skins, and sending them on to London, allowed Logan to funge Proprietary money as investment capital (he made land grants to pay for the skins) and by hook and crook divert profits. His personal estate grew more than five-fold in eight years. “By 1713 he had gathered up a large parcel of land in Philadelphia, 850 acres in the “Northern Liberties {suburbs], 6,000 acres of unallocated land, and a 7,500 acre estate on the Schuylkill“. These were Logan’s most prosperous period and with David Lloyd maneuvered into a temporary retirement, Logan climbed to the top of Pennsylvania’s  political and economic pinnacle. During the Probate Period Logan was, while basically loyal to the Proprietary, an independent actor. He was also in his own right a member of the newly-formed Quaker aristocracy of Pennsylvania/Philadelphia [99]  .Joseph Illick, Colonial Pennsylvania: a History, pp. 109-111. Not surprisingly perhaps, Logan had not invested much time or effort in the Land Office, which for all practical purposes closed down during the Probate period. This was unfortunate for the Penn Estate in that around 1715 the German, and a few years later Scots-Irish migration horde began to arrive–just in time to settle down on Penn’s unsupervised land holdings.

By the early 1720’s men like Logan and a ton of newly-arrived and First Purchaser generation merchants had by dint of their standing in the Quaker community-elite began to assume positions in the Assembly and in local government. Instead of David Lloyd’ fire-breathing evangelical Quakers and hot-blooded Philadelphia artisans, a new membership entered into the Quaker political elite–mature, wealthy by Pennsylvania standards, and primarily interested in economics and to a much lesser degree politics and political fighting. The temper and tone of Pennsylvania politics were changing and the goal was more to do what was politically necessary to lay the foundations for economic growth–which was possible until the Penn Family returned to control the Proprietorship and return physically to Pennsylvania (1731). It was in the period after Queen Anne’s War, a period of economic and demographic growth, a changing of the guard in Pennsylvania’s elites, and a “lull of sorts” in anti-Proprietary bad feeling that the first major effort was hesitantly started to assume local control over local governments.


Enter Deputy Governor William Keith.

In his will, Penn separated Pennsylvania land ownership from governance of the colony, leaving the latter to his family, and the former to a group of “trustees” identified in the will. William Penn’s intention was to sell the Proprietorship to the Crown and retain ownership of the land. Between 1718 and 1726, when she died, Penn’s second wife navigated the family’s management of Pennsylvania with considerable competence, yet several serious mistakes were made. Perhaps the most serious was her–and her near-death husband’s–appointment (1717) of William Keith as Deputy Governor. Following the recommendation of Logan, the Provincial Secretary, Logan, pursued a lone wolf-renegade administration that, to the extent it considered the family’s position on an issue, he usually rejected it. During his administration, and in several instances led by him, significant “reforms” in Proprietary powers were approved by the Legislature and signed into law by Keith. What possessed Logan to recommend him to Penn is unknown to me as Logan himself aggressively opposed much of Keith’s decisions and policy instinct?

Beyond the control of the family, however, the trustees of the land periodically proposed and negotiated several potential transactions, all of which languished in a limbo where no transaction was ever closed. The Penn family was quite unhappy with this and contested the will in court, where it was not resolved, favorably to the Penn family until 1728. In Keith’s defense, he was no Quaker and he held no particular sympathy for the application of its beliefs and values. He never had any previous loyalty to Penn personally, nor experience in high-level colonial administration.  How to govern a colony up for sale is not taught in Oxford. and governance was delegated to the Deputy Governor as a practical necessity. How a Deputy Governor would react to non-supervision is not easy to fathom either. A cantankerous administrator by personality, in the back of Keith’s mind was always the possibility the Proprietary governance  (i.e. his job)  was to be transferred to the King. Keith plodded his way for most of the next decade (until 1726), free to make alliance du jour with the Legislature, various elements in Pennsylvania politics, at times with potential owners, and mostly with the Crown. Without natural allies, Keith replaced the seriously ill Penn as the arch-enemy of Pennsylvania domestic politics.

Keith proved to be independent of both the Quaker Party and the allies of the Proprietor. He played them off against each other–sometimes for personal advantage, but often for sound policy as he saw it. The sometimes bewildering coalitions of Pennsylvania opposition to Keith (at one point both Logan and Lloyd were temporarily in alliance against Keith) produced (1) a Proprietary faction, which will allied to the perpetuation of the Penn family proprietorship, did so for their own personal, business, and philosophical motivations. Divided and not at all formally organized, the Proprietary Group was led by James Logan, who while attached to the Penn Family played to his own agenda in Pennsylvania. In any event he was the chief protagonist against the Legislature and its charismatic leader, David Lloyd-the leader of the anti-Proprietary Group, and also on occasion Speaker of the House. More than anything, Pennsylvania and Philadelphia faced dilemmas created by economic and population growth, which during this period were quite spectacular, so much so that the Legislature, Deputy Governor, and Penn’s domestic allies had to respond with serious adjustments to Penn’s rather ineffective system of governance.The most pressing need as always was how to pay for the stuff that change demanded; the next most pressing need was to create or empower a political structure to satisfy and manage the response to that need. The direction of reform was a radical relook at Penn’s sub-provincial system.

The changes that I allude are very significant disruptions to the colony: the drive to settle the Pennsylvania hinterland (western expansion/Native American relations); the migration and settlement of Germans and Scots-Irish (and others) in huge numbers relative to the size of the Quaker community; the need to accommodate economic growth by providing the necessary currency and commercial liquidity (paper money); and the need to pay for the expenses of governing in both the Philadelphia and the hinterland counties.

Western Expansion–Keith needed money, and he decided his best opportunity to get some was to directly challenge Logan and his hold on the Land Office and the revenues and quitrents presumably at its disposal. German migration in particular was in full flow. Logan was unwilling to dispossess Native Americans of their land, fearing it would jeopardize his considerable fur-trading empire by risking offending Native Americans who were not thrilled with the immigrant newcomers arriving into geographies they still considered their own. To compound matters, new tribes, the Shawnee and Iroquois, were far more aggressive and unwilling to tolerate American settlement. Logan had skillfully convinced them to sell vulnerable parcels in return for consideration in the fur trade; he then sold it to the Germans/Scots-Irish. Not all of this was on the up and up, and in some areas around modern Harrisburg, Logan was the prime beneficiary of this complicated transaction. Keith’s constant intrusions into this nexus of misdeeds continued until he was forced from office in 1726.

The politics of land was not lost on the Indian tribes. Logan’s relationships with them when the latter, wisely, appealed directly to Keith for satisfaction of their grievances. Keith convinced the Penn Family that Logan was not the loyal Provincial Secretary they thought–and he alerted the Legislature to Logan’s manipulations and activities. What followed was a decade long conflict in which Logan at the end proved to be the ultimate winner–and Native Americans the chief loser. Whether Keith or Logan got involved, the outcome was land was “transferred” from the Indians to German and Scots-Irish, and the proceeds flowed to the white man. A new dimension of western growth into unsettled Indian territory (contemporary central and southwestern Pennsylvania) pushed the tribes inland into the Ohio Valley and areas in the  Pennsylvania northwest (Pittsburgh). The fabled Quaker positive relations with Native Americans was pushed to the brink of war, and Logan was the prime instigator–the one who most personally benefited. The tension gathered momentum  and by 1732, (after the Penns had regained legal control of the whole of Pennsylvania land and governance) it was so bad that Penn’s eldest surviving son, John, returned to Pennsylvania to handle this matter. We shall deal with that later.

What goes into our hidden-in-plain-sight file: during the decade-long Probate period, there is a virtual three way (actually four with London land trustees) civil war within the Proprietorship. The Family, the Deputy Governor, and the Provincial Secretary were  actors with serious autonomy and self-interest that were not on the same page. This strained interaction involves economic development-relevant policies, strategies and EDOs. This will become ever more complicated when we are finished with our next section on German/Scots-Irish migration. In any event, whatever power , cohesion and capacity the Proprietorship had in 1701 was at first chipped away by the Legislature, and then in 1722-4 “reformed” by a bipartisan coalition that was coordinated by a rogue Deputy Governor Keith. We shall relate that tale in our next module. In retrospect what was really damaged during this period was the Executive Branch as an effective and cohesive component of Pennsylvania policy-making. We are most likely witnessing the start of a Pennsylvania weak executive branch heritage that will persist for centuries. We also see the fragmentation of local government commencing and the dispersal of power among specialized government agencies and specialized functional districts.

At the provincial level Forced to live with the sole proprietor, the General Assembly led  by the Lloyd-led Quaker Party majority, took on Penn, his rogue Deputy Governor and his Proprietary executive branch faction.. They asserted with each passing year more dominance over the structures and institutions of Pennsylvania policy-making. By intention and by default, that created a very large role for private leaders to involve themselves as needed in government, and to develop their own private structures and practices to handle matters themselves so they did not have to be involved in politics. We called all this Privatism. Benjamin Franklin came from these ranks. In any event, this privatism also fostered Pennsylvania’s broker-style political leadership. Underscoring these shifts, I believe, was the tilt in Pennsylvania politics that was reflective of its majority Quaker political culture of limited government, low to no taxes, and an unwillingness to be governed by outsiders to their community. A quite enlightening description of this is provided by David Woodard’s perspective of Pennsylvania’s pre-1750 policy system:

Early Pennsylvania was an economic success, but its Quaker-run government was a complete disaster. The Quaker ideals proved to be at odds with successful governance. Believing that all people were followers of Christ and innately good, the Quakers assumed citizens could govern themselves through more self-discipline and the application of the Golden Rule. This turned out not to be the case as Quakers were also by nature inclined to challenge authority and convention at every juncture. The community’s leaders quarreled with one another over doctrinal questions while government fell into disarray, failing to maintain public records or to pass laws essential to the functioning of the court system. The governing council couldn’t manage to hold regular meetings, while the colony went through six governors in its first decade. The Dutch, Swedes and Finns of the [lower three counties] became so desperate for proper government that they broke away to form one of their own [within the jurisdiction of Penn’s Proprietorship].  … None of them succeeded in getting Quaker leaders to assume responsibility for the community they’d created. Philadelphia’s Quakers preferred to focus on their own Inner Lights then to tend to the worldly responsibilities of running a colony [99] Colin Woodard, American Nations, pp.97-8.


In the next module we detail the great reforms of the 1720’s. The reforms, as they played out over the 1730’s’, considerably weakened the Penn Family Proprietorship–to the point the remnants of their Executive Branch, along with their creation the Philadelphia municipal corporation, were marginalized, pushed to the sidelines of governance. While they could not be eliminated save by revolution or total rejection by the British Crown, the Penn Family was reduced to the role of disruptor, and was itself driven by the need and desire to use their power to produce monies for the Family, and less by their vision of Pennsylvania as a colony, nevermind a Holy Experiment.