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"Excess of Vanity Upon People
in Power” (1705)
By GOVERNOR WILLIAM PENN
As governor, Penn came into difficulties with his people, who wanted a more liberal system than he thought wise.
I WENT thither to lay the foundation of a free colony for all mankind, that should go thither, more especially those of my own profession; not that I would lessen the civil liberties of others because of their persuasion, but screen and defend our own from any infringement on that account.
The charter I granted was intended to shelter them against a violent or arbitrary governor imposed upon us; but that they should turn it against me, that intended their security thereby, has something very unworthy and provoking in it, especially when I alone have been at all the charge, as well as danger and disappointment, in coming so abruptly back and defending ourselves against our enemies here, and obtaining the Queen's gracious approbation of a governor of my nominating and commissioning, the thing they seemed so much to desire. But as a father does not use to knock his children on the head when they do amiss, so I had much rather they were corrected and better instructed than treated to the rigor of their deservings. I therefore earnestly desire thee to consider of what methods law and reason will justify, by which they may be made sensible of their incroachments and presumption, that they may see themselves in a true light, in their just proportions and dimensions, according to the old saying, "Metiri se quemque suo modulo ac pede verum est.” No doubt but their follies have been frequent and big enough in the city to vacate their charter, but that should be the last thing, if anything else would be. I would hope that in the abuse of power, punishing the immediate offenders should instruct them to use it well. But doubtless the choice of David Lloyd, both for speaker and recorder, after the affront he gave in open court to the authority of the Crown in the late reign, which he owned but never repented of, and for which the lords justices of England commanded me to have him tried and punished, and to send them word what punishment I inflicted, as also the choice of for that confessed himself to defraud the king of his customs, for which he is punishable at this day, since "nullum tempus occurrit regi,” are only ugly flaws on their charter.
There is an excess of vanity that is apt to creep in upon the people in power in America, who, having got out of the crowd in which they were lost here, upon every little eminency there, think
nothing taller than themselves but the trees, and as if there were no after superior judgment to which they should be accountable; so that I have sometimes thought that if there was a law to oblige the people in power, in their respective colonies, to take arms in coming over for England, that they might lose themselves again amongst the crowds of so much more considerable people at the custom-house, exchange, and Westminster Hall, they would exceedingly amend in their conduct at their return, and be much more discreet and tractable, and fit for government. In the mean time, pray help to prevent them not to destroy themselves. Accept of my commission of chief justice of Pennsylvania and the territories. Take them all to task for their contempts, presumption, and riots. Let them know and feel the just order and decency of government, and that they are not to command but to be commanded according to law and constitution of English gove ernment.
William Penn and James Logan, Correspondence (Philadelphia, 1870), I. 373-375.
5. "Englishmen Hate an Arbitrary
Minister at Ipswich, Mass., and a noted writer. ENGLISHMEN hate an arbitrary power (politically considered as they hate the devil.
For that they have through immemorial ages been the owners of very fair infranchizements and liberties, that the sense, favor or high esteem of them are (as it were) extraduce, transmitted with the elemental materials of their essence from generation to generation, and so ingenate and mixed with their frame, that no artifice, craft or forte used can root it out. Naturam expellas furca licet usque recurrit. And though many of their incautelous princes have endeavored to null all their charter rights and immunities and agrandize themselves in the servile state of the subjects, by setting up their own seperate will, for the great standard of government over the nations, yet they have all along paid dear for their attempts, both in the ruin of the nation, and in interrupting the increase of their own grandeur, and their foreign settlements and conquests.
Had the late reigns, before the accession of the great William and Mary, to the throne of England, but taken the measures of them, and her present majesty, in depressing vice, and advancing the union and wealth, and encouraging the prowice and bravery of the nation, they might by this time have been capable to have given laws to any monarch on earth; but spending their time in the pursuit of an absolute monarchy (contrary to the temper of the nation, and the ancient constitution of the government) through all the meanders of state craft: it has apparently kept back the glory, and dampt all the most noble affairs of the nation. And when under the midwifry of Machiavilan art, and cunning of a daring prince, this MONSTER, tyranny, and arbitrary government, was at last just born, upon the holding up of a finger! or upon the least signal given, ON the whole nation goes upon this HYDRA.
The very name of an arbitrary government is ready to put an Englishmans blood into a fermentation; but when it really comes, and shakes its whip over their ears, and tells them it is their master, it makes them stark mad; and being of a memical genius, and inclined to follow the court mode, they turn arbitrary too.
That some writers, who have observed the gove ernments and humors of nations, thus distinguish the English:
The emperor (say they) is the king of kings, the king of Spain is the king of men, the king of France the king of asses, and the king of England the king of devils; for that the English na
A.P.S. Vol. I