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The Tribes and the States

W. J. Sidis




        64. The Keystone Colony.  We have seen that the English colonies in North America were formed in three separate groups, with different origins and institutions, and could hardly be considered as in any way a single unit. In the South were colonies of definitely English origin and institution that arose out of its growth in the new country, the country of the slaveholding Maskoki peoples. At the other end of the English-American coast were the New England colonies, which represented breaking away from England rather than a transplanting of English institutions; here the tendency was rebellion against constituted authority as represented by English officials and agents. These colonies grew up under Penacook guidance, and thus, in spite of themselves, developed democratic forms and traditions which persisted and grew in spite of the inability of the people to absorb them properly.

         Between the two were the middle colonies of New York and New Jersey, proprietary in form like Maryland, under even more absolutism than the South, but geographically connected more with the North than the South, and with a degree of Iroquois and Lenape guidance which to some extent offset and mollified the despotism. New York had claims to territory beyond New England, but those were paper claims, as that territory was occupied by the Wabanake Federation and their allies the French; New York also owned another piece of non-contiguous territory, on the shore of Delaware Bay, the old Swedish colony. This bit of territory formed a geographical link between North and South, but one which somehow left what seemed to be a gap.

         The logical connection was a bit farther up the Delaware River, where there was a closer land connection between the respective back-countries of Maryland and New Jersey; a region claimed by Maryland, but where no white colonization had been attempted, and was completely occupied by the Lenape peoples. This location was considered as the next logical site for an English colony, to form a central link between the two main divisions of American colonies. As the coast has somewhat the shape of an arch, the position of such a colony would fittingly appear as the keystone of the arch, towards which both northern and southern colonies had been building in.

         It was the Quaker sect, the offspring of Cromwell's rebellion in England, and which under the monarchy suffered considerable persecution there, that offered to colonize this location. William Penn, a Quaker who had inherited from his father some claims against the king for debts contracted in financing the restoration of the king, offered to settle his claims in exchange for a grant of the keystone territory in America, where he proposed to found a colony open to all sects, based on peace, without an army, in accordance with Quaker principles. King Charles doubted the feasibility of such a peaceful colony; especially as the proposition was broached shortly after Metacom's War in New England. Penn was asked how he expected to deal with the red people, and replied that he intended to buy the land from them. This angered the king, who seemed to take that as a challenge to his own claims "by discovery" to American land; to which Penn replied by inquiring whether he would give up England to a canoeful of red men if they should happen to cross the ocean and discover England.

         But finally King Charles decided that Penn's project was a good way of getting rid of the Quakers and other heretics from England, and Penn received a charter to the keystone territory, which was to be called Penn's Woodland, the title being also given in an alternative Latinised form, Penn-Sylvania. The territory granted by this charter was defined, as usual with English grants of American land, in total disregard of previous grants and settlements, covering most of Maryland and conflicting in the north with the charters of Connecticut and Massachusetts, which granted a strip reaching west to the Pacific. This airy disregard of previous charter claims was probably due to the fact that such charters, even though they claimed to grant titles to land, and were so interpreted in America at a later period, were really rather permits to settle and take possession of the land specified.

         We may note that the attempt to interpret old English charters as actually granting land title to everything mentioned in the document, has resulted in numerous disputes between the colonies and their successors the States, some of the disputes (such as that of the "Connecticut Reserve") remaining unsettled to the present time.

         65. Starting the Quaker Colony.  The charter of Pennsylvania, as a proprietary colony along the same lines as Maryland, was granted to William Penn in 1680, and during the following year he set out with some Quakers for the new colony. Not desiring conflict with the Swedes or their lord proprietor the Duke of York, the Quaker group passed the main Swedish settlements on New York's Delaware shore, and landed a few miles above the old settlement of Christiana (now Wilmington). At their first landing, Penn gave the place the name of Chester, after his home town in England, and he left a few of his group there to start a settlement, while Penn with the bulk of his colonists continued up river in search of a better town-site. After fifteen miles further, he found a spot that suited him, and there he disembarked to commence the new city he had been planning.

         Like the Puritans, the Quakers showed a strong tendency to Biblical names, and Penn had long planned to name his new city for a city mentioned in the New Testament, with a name commonly supposed to mean "brotherly love." And so this location received the name of Philadelphia. And, though the ancient city in Asia Minor mentioned in the Bible was really named for an Egyptian king called "brother-lover" because he assassinated his brother, it is fair to say that the American city is really named for brotherly love, such being obviously the founder's intention.

         The landing here was made a short distance north of the Unami town of Waccaco, and Penn’s party was received by a deputation from that town. Negotiations were carried on, though under some difficulty, for permission to settle on Unami ground and to maintain the original settlement at Chester. This was amicably arranged for, and it was agreed that all of Unami ground should be open for Penn's people to settle on, reserving the council ground for the use of the Lenape tribes for councils and negotiations. Although those tribes are now extinct, this reserved council ground is still kept open, being now used as a city park.

        The city of Philadelphia was soon built, close to Waccaco, according to Quaker ideas of uniformity and regularity. The city was laid out into square blocks, because the Quakers objected to letting even a street become too conspicuous. The streets parallel to the river were given numbers, as the Quakers did to the week-days and the months of the year; but cross-streets were differentiated by planting different trees on them and giving each street the name of the tree planted on it (Chestnut Street, Spruce Street, Pine Street, Filbert Street, etc.) William Penn's plan of arranging a city has become the basis of the general American city plan, although the land of Penacook has preferred to stick to the short-cut and easy grade arrangement used by the red tribes.

        Penn gave his new colony a constitution of self-government along lines closely modelled on that of Rhode Island, granting full religious tolerance. Abolition of slavery was favored by the Quakers, but was blocked by the fact that English rule was recognized. But, curiously enough, Penn was willing to allow the Virginian system of shipping from England women to be auctioned off as wives for the colonists. This was done regularly for a while, a special village called Bridesburg being built a few miles upriver for the accommodation of the women awaiting auction. This location still retains its original name, though now merely a residential portion of Philadelphia.

        William Penn was also very much impressed with the federal system as used by the red tribes, and later wrote an article in England explaining a plan by which the nations of Europe could similarly federate and prevent wars. It was substantially this plan that was attempted in 1919 under the name of the League of Nations, but, as actually adopted in Europe, it was not a true federation, as the central organization was a mere debating society with no power to preserve peace or carry out any of the purposes of federation.

        For several years Penn kept up his plan of operating the colony without an army, though this feature did not last long. Many religious refugees from Europe, especially from England and Germany, came there, and the colony grew quickly, so that before long Philadelphia became the most populous city on the American continent north of the Spanish country.

        In spite of the proprietary charter, the democratic character of the colony's government, the disapproval of slavery and similar institutions, the fact of tolerance, made Pennsylvania northern rather than southern, and influenced the middle group of colonies in that direction.

        66. Massachusetts's Charter Disputes.  After Metacom's War, the New England colonies were able to expand a bit into territory that had been cleared of red tribesmen in the war. This was particularly the case with the ring around Boston, formerly occupied by Apostle Eliot's "Praying Indians," but which now made room for a ring of suburbs such as Brookline and Newton. Also the New England colonies had to take over completely the communication service formerly at least partly operated by the Penacook Federation, so that the postal service was actually a continuation of that organized by the red men.

        In spite of King Charles’ ordering Massachusetts to tolerate Quakers. The colonial authorities occasionally continued persecution, especially where some special demonstration gave them an excuse. As late as 1677, a few Quaker women broke up a Puritan service at the South Meeting-House with one of their usual nudist demonstrations, and finally withdrawing with the statement that they might be thrown out personally, but that the ideas of freedom and equality would not be thrown out of the building so easily. This had been preserved in verse form as follows:

"Thus saith the Lord, with equal feet
    All men my courts shall tread,
And priest and ruler shall no more eat
    His people up like bread.

"Repent! Repent! ere the Lord shall speak
    In thunder and breaking seals!
Let all souls worship in the way
    The light within reveals.

"And, so long as Boston shall Boston be,
    And its bay-tides rise and fall,
Shall freedom stand in the Old South Church
    And plead for the rights of all."

        Quaker demonstrations eased up after 1681, with a resultant cessation of persecution by Massachusetts authorities, after the settlement of Pennsylvania, as the Quakers now had a country of their own and were not so anxious to rail at things established. But a certain amount of truth seems to have stuck to the Quaker women’s prophecy about the Old South Church.

        When England entered into a policy of conquest under the Cromwell regime, regulations were adopted to give England a monopoly of colonial trade, and to keep the colonies from entering into competition with England. And, though the Cromwell regime left New England to its own devices, the restored monarch was anxious to punish the Puritans on any excuse, so that, after the reconquest of New York, special commissioners were sent to Boston to bring up this issue. Fleets sent to New York used to stop at Boston on their way over and back as a demonstration of royal power to scare Massachusetts; and royal orders dissolved the New England Confederation in 1677, though the Confederation continued to hood meetings under cover for several years after that. At the same time, the Plymouth Colony, whose government had never been recognized by England, was ordered annexed to Massachusetts, so that repressive measures could be taken against both at once. But Plymouth was allowed to retain its own government as an autonomous body within Massachusetts.

        But, when royal commissioners were sent to Massachusetts, to take up the question of the enforcement of the "Navigation Laws," the colony refused to recognize their authority, pointing to King Charles I’s charter as to their right of self-government, and appealing to the king directly.

        Had these navigation laws confined themselves to the regulation of transatlantic trade, very few except in the seaports would have been concerned; but the navigation laws also forbade all manufacture in the American colonies of England. The individual adaptability of the people of the Penacook nations in handling any available materials and fashioning them into articles of utility, was readily transmitted to their white neighbors, especially the inland traders who were constantly in contact with the red people, and who began to turn out miscellaneous novelties known as "Yankee notions" which they peddled to both reds and whites up and down the whole Atlantic coast. The inland towns of New England, settled mainly by farmers, were really not adapted to support a large agricultural population as were the more fertile regions of the South; so that manufacturing and trading in "notions" became an important means of livelihood in the interior as well as on the coast. Small establishments for making these "notions," and for turning out various little by-products of the "notion" trade, were to be found everywhere in New England, and the Navigation Laws were a threat to cut off all this activity. Enforcement was therefore not feasible, and would naturally meet with stubborn resistance, especially from a people as thoroughly trained in the tradition of liberty (though unable to understand or apply it) as the people of New England.

         These appeals from Massachusetts against English interference had started as far back as 1664, and in 1665 a set of royal commissioners, trying to set up their own court of judgment, found the court-house door locked, and were told: "I marvel what his majesty’s commissioners should seek in the house of Justice, since it is known that, when they go in by one door, she must needs go out by the other."

         After the reconquest of New York the screws were put on much tighter, there not being a nearby base from which to terrorize New England. In 1675, at the time of Metacom’s War, the Duke if York again attempted to assert the old Dutch claims in Connecticut, and sent in an expedition under the leadership of the governor, Sir Edmund Andros, the typical bullying, swaggering, obedience-demanding militarist, to enter the Quinnitucket and take possession. This expedition was turned back by the colonists at Saybrook, and Andros proved himself on this occasion a coward, like most bullies, and beat a hasty retreat to New York.

         In 1676 England sent over a customs collector, but he was unable to do anything in New England, especially Massachusetts, except to aggravate the quarrel. Massachusetts even offered to pass laws corresponding to the Navigation Laws—but to be enforced by Yankee agents only; and England took this as a new act of defiance, which, according to an English court opinion, forfeited Massachusetts’ right to its charter, and therefore its right to have a government of its own.

         Envoys were finally sent from Boston to London to negotiate, and they were sent back and told to get full power to settle matters in any way the king and the English courts might order. The question was then put to the General Court of Massachusetts in 1682. A proclamation was issued, standing boldly against submission: "Nor ought we to submit without the consent of the body of the people…… Therefore, the government may not do it. The civil liberties of New England are part of the inheritance of their fathers; and shall we give that inheritance away?" In 1683, official notice was sent to England [four or five words illegible] tion, and, in 1684, an English court decision declared the Massachusetts charter forfeited and its government void.

         67. Extension of the Keystone Territory.  To give his colony an outlet to the sea, Penn purchased from the Duke of York the lower Delaware shore, which thus became part of Pennsylvania. But the Swedes were not satisfied with Quaker rule, and preferred the Duke of York’s iron heel, which Penn refused to give them, thus giving them the feeling they were now in a lawless community. The same was true of the Marylanders who had migrated eastward to settle on the lower Delaware shore. Penn finally settled the matter by setting off the "lower Delaware counties" (or "the Delaware counties") as a self-governing part of Pennsylvania, with a deputy governor and a separate legislature, somewhat on the model Massachusetts had devised to allow home rule in spite of royal edicts to the contrary. This part of the colony was Southern rather than Northern in its attitude, so that a line of cleavage between north and south was splitting the colony of Pennsylvania. But the Delaware counties remained part of Pennsylvania until 1776, when Delaware acquired its independence of Pennsylvania as part of the general American independence. Many of the boundary posts are still marked as though they were making a county line instead of a state line, as though Delaware were still part of Pennsylvania.

         With this additional territory, Pennsylvania became more of a keystone than ever, as Delaware formed a key-piece wedged in between New Jersey and Maryland, locking North and South together. But settlement had not proceeded so far as to establish physical contact between North and South, and boundaries remained hazy and vague here for a long time.

         Penn also bought from Lord Cartaret a part interest in the western half of New Jersey, as the east shore of the Delaware was considered a region into which Penn’s colonists would naturally tend to spread. And, as Cartaret’s settlements were originally built to harass the Dutch, they were all grouped around New York, so that there was no objection to Penn’s using the other side of New Jersey, where there were no white settlements. Cartaret’s colony of New Jersey was thus split in two, the original settlements now being East Jersey, centering around Elizabeth and Communipaw, both close to New York, while the other half, West Jersey, was built up as a sort of overflow for Pennsylvania, and grew around Philadelphia as a center. This has remained true of the settlement of New Jersey to the present time, though the governmental separation of the Jerseys lasted only a few years (though those were the formative years). West Jersey has always, in spite of the quick reuniting of New Jersey, considered itself as somewhat a separate unit, and still speaks of "the Jerseys" to denote the state. Thus New Jersey commenced growing in two separate sections from opposite directions, and this has given rise to the statement that has occasionally been made, that New Jersey is divided into two parts, suburbs of New York and suburbs of Philadelphia.

         After the Duke of York disposed of one of his pieces of non-contiguous territory, he sold his claims to the Kennebec River tract to Massachusetts, which thus acquired a hazy claim to lands in Maine while New York became concentrated into one continuous stretch of territory.


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