Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

officers of his courts,—and they expelled a member of the House for telling them the truth. Penn bore with them from motives higher and farther-reaching than most of them could understand; whatever might result to him, he was resolved to realize his dream,— to lay a foundation for that Holy Empire, the thoughts of which had cheered him in his darkest hours. "When the Assembly met in Philadelphia, he addressed them in conciliatory terms :—he began by reminding them that though they were only nineteen years old, they were already equal in numbers and prosperity to their neighbours of twice and thrice that standing; they had a good constitution, though it was not perfect; the growth of the province had been so extraordinary that while some of the laws were already obsolete, others were found to be hurtful; these must be looked to. If they wished to have the charter amended, he was willing; he only asked them to lay aside all party feeling, and to do that which was best for all, confident that in the end it would be best for each. So far as regarded a provision for himself, he would only tell them that for nineteen years he had maintained the whole charge of government from his private purse. He placed himself in their hands, and hoped he should never be compelled to leave them again.

When Penn landed in America, Negro slaves were on the soil. Hawkins had the merit of first engaging England in the African slave-trade; but it is fair to state that his royal mistress, Elizabeth, not only approved his expeditions, but joined him in the traffic. No suspicion that this trade was infamous ever crossed her mind. In all the maritime towns of Europe slavery was an ancient institution. The cities of Portugal, Italy, and Spain, were dotted with the dusky forms of Negro and Moorish slaves. The best and most religious men of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries accepted the existing facts of society without a protest. Columbus introduced the Negro into America; Cromwell did nut hesitate to sell his prisoners; Locke provided a place for slaves in his constitution, and forbade them even to aspire to a free condition. Such was the state of things when Penn began to think of it. A century after that period the idea was still general in England that the sale of Africans was a legitimate branch of trade. By a stipulation in the Treaty of Utrecht, Queen Anne became for a time the largest slave-merchant in the world.

It is no demerit in Penn that he did not see at once the evil, and oppose a system which Locke approved. Yet from the first he had his doubts. While acting under the counsels of Sydney, he had provided that, if the Free Society of Traders should receive Negroes as servants, they must at least set them partially free after fourteen years of service— that is, they must become adscripts of the soil; the Free Society giving to each man a piece of land, with the tools for its cultivation, and receiving in return two-thirds of the crops. .If the Negroes should refuse these terms, they were to continue slaves. Many years after this date, Penn spoke of slavery as a thing of course; he constantly hired slaves from their owners; and they formed a regular part of his establishment at Pennsbury. But his mind was not at rest; for his neighbours from the Upper Ehine had started the novel doctrine that it was not Christian-like to buy and keep Negroes. Coming from an inland and agricultural country, where the luxury and license of commercial cities were unknown, these German settlers looked on the fact of good men buying and selling human beings,— owning men with immortal spirits,—men who in a few years, according to their own avowed belief, would become not only their own equals, but the glorious peers of angels and archangels, — as something monstrous. They appealed to the Friends;— but Friends declined to say if slavery were right or not. When Penn arrived a second time, he found that many had begun to doubt the lawfulness of owning slaves; and yet, on looking at the matter, he felt certain that between the two races there existed an intellectual inequality which no act of Assembly could remove, and which must of necessity preclude social equality, until by process of education and lapse of time the Negro had been greatly changed. With this conviction he began to work. He tried to get his own religious body to recognise the fact that a black man has a soul, by taking some care for it; whereupon a separate monthly meeting for Negroes was established. Next he looked at their moral condition,—and found them living in their homes like brutes. As they were liable to be sold and carried away to distant parts of the country, it was not convenient to then owners

that they should marry; yet, as every Negro child was an additional chattel, worth so many pounds in the slave-market, intercourse between the sexes was encouraged rather than rebuked. Penn was anxious to check this evil by a formal law; and as the breach of a law necessarily involved punishment, he resolved to introduce two bills into the Assembly; one providing for a better regulation of the morals and marriages of Negroes; the second providing for the mode of their trial and punishment in cases of offence. After a stormy debate, the Assembly rejected the first of these bills: —they would not have the morals of their slaves improved. In the will which he drew up before leaving the country, Penn gave their freedom to all his slaves.

311

CHAPTER XXXIII.

MAKING EMPIRE (1700-2).

The session being over, Penn returned to Pennsbury; where, besides his household cares, the Indians occupied ho little of his mind. Superior in calibre and character to the African race, he fancied these red men might be descended from the long-lost tribes of Israel. When he made the Treaty with them in 1682,— a treaty which they had faithfully kept through a long war under many temptations,— he had proposed to himself to call a council of the chiefs and warriors twice a-year, to renew the treaty of friendship, to adjust matters of trade, to hear and rectify wrongs, and to smoke the pipe of peace> While he remained in the colony this intention was strictly carried out.

The Delaware and Susquehannah tribes had now enjoyed his mild and equitable rule for nearly twenty years, and were anxious to bring other of their tribes within shelter of the same system of law, but more especially their brethren dwelling on the banks of the Potomac. They appealed to Onas; and early in April 1701, he met by appointment to

« AnteriorContinuar »