Background of the American Revolution
In 1762, William Penn and Algernon Sidney drew up a plan of self-government for the new Province of Pennsylvania. Modified and accepted the next year, this Frame of Government served as a model for the colonial constitutions, the state constitutions of the new United States, and for the later Federal Constitution.
Oh! the Lord is a strong God, and He can do whatsoever He pleases; and though men consider it not, it is the Lord that rules and overrules in the kingdoms of men, …
The FRAME of the GOVERNMENT.
Of the Province if Pennsylvania, in America: together with certain laws in England, by the Governor and divers freemen of the aforesaid Province. To be further explained and confirmed there by the first Provincial Council that shall be held, if they see meet..
TO ALL PERSONS, To whom these Presents may come;
WHEREAS King Charles the Second, by his Letters Patents, under the great Seal of England, bearing Date the fourth Day of March, in the thirty and third Year of the King, for divers Considerations therein mentioned, hath been graciously pleased to give and grant unto me William Penn, by the Name of William Penn, Esq., Son and Heir of Sir William Penn deceased, and to my Heirs and Assigns for ever, all that Tract of Land, or Province called Pensylvania, in America, with divers great Powers, Preheminences, Royalties, Jurisdictions, and Authorities, necessary for the Well-being and Government thereof:
AND WHEREAS the King’s dearest Brother, James Duke of York and Albany, &c. by his Deeds of Feoffment, under his Hand Seal, duly perfected, bearing Date the four and twentieth Day of August, One Thousand Six Hundred Eighty and Two, did grant unto me, my Heirs and Assigns, all that Tract of Land, lying and being from twelve Miles Northward of Newcastle upon Delaware River, in America, to Cape Henlopen, upon the said River and Bay of Delaware Southward, together with all Royalties, Franchises, Duties, Jurisdictions, Liberties and Privileges thereunto belonging:
NOW KNOW YE, That the Well-being and good Government of the said Province and Territories thereunto annexed, and for the Encouragement of all the Freemen and Planters, that may be therein concerned, in Pursuance of the Rights and Powers aforementioned, I the said William Penn have declared, granted and confirmed, and by these Presents, for me, my Heirs and Assigns, do declare, grant and confirm unto all the Freemen, Planters and Adventurers of, in and to the said Province and Territories thereof, these Liberties, Franchises and Properties, so far as in me lieth, to be held, enjoyed and kept by the Freemen, Planters and Adventurers of and in the said Province of Pensylvania and Territories thereunto annexed, for ever.
Number of Council and Assembly.
THAT the Government of this Province and Territories thereof shall, from Time to Time, according to the Powers of the Patent and Deeds of Feoffment aforesaid, consist of the Proprietary and Governor, and Freemen of the said Province and Territories thereof, in Form of provincial Council and Assembly, which provincial Council shall consist of eighteen Persons, being three out of each County, and which Assembly shall consist of thirty-six Persons, being six out of each County, Men of most Note for their Virtue, Wisdom and Ability, by whom all Laws shall be made, Officers chosen, and publick Affairs transacted, as is hereafter limited and declared.
THERE being three Persons already chosen for every respective County of this Province and Territories thereof, to serve in the provincial Council, one of them for three Years, one for two Years, and one for one Year; and one of them being to go off yearly in every County; that on the tenth Day of the first Month yearly, for ever after, the Freemen of the said Province and Territories thereof shall meet together in the most convenient Place in every County of this Province and Territories thereof, then and there to chuse one Person, qualified as aforesaid, in every County, being one third of the Number to serve in provincial Council, for three Years; it being intended, that one third of the whole provincial Council, consisting and to consist of eighteen Persons, falling off yearly, it shall be yearly supplied with such yearly Elections, as aforesaid; and that one Person shall not continue in longer than three Years; and in Case any Member shall decease before the last Election, during his Time, that then at the next Election ensuing his Decease, another shall be chosen to supply his Place for the remaining Time he was to have served, and no longer.
THAT after the first seven Years, every one of the said third Parts that goeth yearly off, shall be incapable of being chosen again for one whole Year following, that so all that are capable and qualified as aforesaid, may be fitted for Government, and have a Share of the Care and Burthen of it.
THAT the provincial Council in all Cases and Matters of Moment, as their arguing upon Bills to be passed into Laws, or Proceedings about erecting of Courts of Justice, sitting in Judgment upon Criminals impeached, and Choice of Officers in such Manner as is herein after expressed, not less than two thirds of the whole shall make a Quorum ; and that the Consent and Approbation of two thirds of that Quorum shall be had in all such Cases or Matters of Moment: And that in all Cases and Matters of lesser Moment, one third of the whole shall make a Quorum, the Majority of which shall and may always determine in such Cases and Causes of lesser Moment.
THAT the Governor and provincial Council, shall have the Power of preparing and proposing to the Assembly hereafter mentioned, all Bills which they shall see needful, and that shall at any Time be past into Laws within the said Province and Territories thereof, which Bills shall be published and affixed to the most noted Place in every County of this Province and Territories thereof, twenty Days before the Meeting of the Assembly, in order to passing them into Laws.
THAT the Governor and provincial Council shall take Care, that all Laws, Statutes, and Ordinances, which shall at any Time be made within the said Province and Territories, be duly and diligently executed.
THAT the Governor and provincial Council shall, at all Times, have the Care of the Peace and Safety of this Province and Territories thereof; and that nothing be by any Person attempted to the Subversion of this Frame of Government.
THAT the Governor and provincial Council shall, at all Times, settle and order the Situation of all Cities and Market-towns in every County, modelling therein all publick Buildings, Streets, and Market-places; and shall appoint all necessary Roads and Highways in this Province and Territories thereof.
THAT the Governor and provincial Council shall, at all Times, have Power to inspect the Management of the publick Treasury, and punish those who shall convert any Part thereof to any other Use, than what hath been agreed upon by the Governor, provincial Council, and Assembly.
THAT the Governor and provincial Council, shall erect and order all publick Schools, and encourage and reward the Authors of useful Sciences and laudable Inventions, in the said Province and Territories thereof.
THAT one third of the provincial Council residing with the Governor, shall with the Governor, from Time to Time, have the Care of the Management of all publick Affairs, relating to the Peace, Justice, Treasury, and Improvement of the Province and Territories, and to the good Education of Youth, and Sobriety of the Manners of the Inhabitants therein, as aforesaid.
THAT the Governor or his Deputy, shall always preside in the provincial Council, and that he shall at no Time therein perform any publick Act of State whatsoever, that shall or may relate unto the Justice, Trade, Treasury, or Safety of the Province and Territories aforesaid, but by and with the Advice and Consent of the provincial Council thereof.
AND to the End that all Bills prepared and agreed by the Governor and provincial Council, as aforesaid, may yet have the more full Concurrence of the Freemen of the Province and Territories thereof, it is declared, granted and confirmed, that at the Time and Place in every County, for the Choice of one Person to serve in provincial Council, as aforesaid, the respective Members thereof, at their said Meeting, shall yearly chuse out of themselves six Persona of most Note, for Virtue, Wisdom and Ability, to serve in Assembly, as their Representatives, who shall yearly meet on the tenth Day of the third Month, in the capital Town or City of the said Province, unless the Governor and provincial Council shall think fit to appoint another Place to meet in, where, during eight Days, the several Members may confer freely with one another ; and if any of them see meet, with a Committee of the provincial Council, which shall be at that Time purposely appointed, to receive from any of them, Proposals for the Alterations or Amendment of any of the said proposed and promulgated Bills; and on the ninth Day from their so meeting, the said Assembly, after their reading over of the proposed Bills, by the Clerk of the provincial Council, and the Occasions and Motives for them being opened by the Governor or his Deputy, shall, upon the Question by hiTM pat, give their Affirmative or Negative, which to them seemeth best, in such Manner as is hereafter expressed: But not less than two thirds shall make a Quorum in the passing of all Bills into Laws, and Choice of such Officers as are by them to be chosen.
THAT the Laws so prepared and proposed as aforesaid, that are assented to by the Assembly, shall be enrolled as Laws of this Province and Territories thereof, with this Stile, By the Governor, with the Assent and Approbation of the Freemen in provincial Council and Assembly met, and from henceforth, the Meetings, Sessions, Acts, and Proceedings of the Governor, provincial Council and Assembly, shall be stiled and called, The Meeting, Sessions, and Proceedings, of the general Assembly of the Province of Pensylvania, and the Territories thereunto belonging.
AND that the Representatives of the People in provincial Council and Assembly, may in after Ages bear some Proportion with the Increase and multiplying of the People,. the Number of such Representatives of the People, may be from Time to Time increased and enlarged, so as at no Time the Number exceed seventy-two for the provincial Council, and two hundred for the Assembly; the Appointment and Proportion of which Number, as also the laying and methodizing of the Choice of such Representatives in future Time, most equally to the Division of the Country, or Number of the Inhabitants, is left to the Governor and provincial Council to propose, and the Assembly to resolve, so that the Order of Proportion be strictly observed, both in the Choice of the Council and the respective Committees thereof, viz. one third to go off and come in yearly.
THAT from and after the Death of this present Governor, the provincial Council shall, together with the succeeding Governor, erect from Time to Time, standing Courts of Justice, in such Places and Number, as they shall judge convenient for the good Government of the said Province and Territories thereof; and that the provincial Council shall, on the thirteenth Day of the second Month then next ensuing, elect and present to the Governor or his Deputy, a double Number of Persons, to serve for Judges, Treasurers, and Masters of the Rolls, within the said Province and Territories, to continue so long as they shall well behave themselves in those Capacities respectively; and the Freemen of the said Province, in an Assembly met on the thirteenth Day of the third Month, yearly, shall elect and then present to the Governor or his Deputy, a double Number of Persons to serve for Sheriffs, Justices of the Peace and Coroners, for the Year next ensuing; out of which respective Elections and Presentments, the Governor or his Deputy, shall nominate and commissionate the proper Number for each Office, the third Day after the said respective Presentments; or else the first named in such Presentment for each Office as aforesaid, stall stand and serve in that Office, the Time before respectively limited; and in Case of Death or Default, such Vacancy shall be supplied by the Governor and provincial Council in Manner aforesaid.
THAT the Assembly shall continue so long as may be needful, to impeach Criminals fit to be there impeached, to pass such Bills into Laws as are proposed to them, which they shall think fit to pass into Laws; and till such Time as the Governor and provincial Council shall declare, That they have nothing further to propose unto them for their Assent and Approbation; and that Declaration shall be a Dismiss to the Assembly for that Time; which Assembly shall be notwithstanding, capable of assembling together, upon the Summons of the Governor and provincial Council, at any Time during that Year, if the Governor and provincial Council shall see Occasion for their so assembling.
Ballot and Vote.
THAT all the Elections of Members or Representatives of the People to serve in provincial Council and Assembly, and all Questions to be determined by both or either of them, that relate to Choice of Officers, and all or any other personal Matters, shall be resolved or determined by the Ballot; and all Things relating to the preparing and passing of Bills into Laws, shall be openly declared and resolved by the Vote
THAT at all Times when the Proprietary and Governor shall happen to be an Infant, and under the Age of one and twenty Years, and no Guardians or Commissioners are appointed in Writing, by the Father of the said Infant, or that such Guardian shall be deceased, that during such Minority, the provincial Council shall, from Time to Time, as they shall see meet, constitute and appoint Guardians and Commissioners not exceeding three, one of which shall preside as Deputy and chief Guardian during such Minority, and shall have and execute, with the Consent of one of the other two, all the Power of a “Governor in all publick Affairs and Concerns of the said Province and Territories thereof, according to Charter; which said Guardian so appointed, shall also have the Care and Oversight of the Estate of the said Minor, and be yearly accountable and responsible for the same to the provincial Council, and the provincial Council to the Minor, when of Age, or to the next Heir, in case of the Minor’s Death, for the Trust before expressed.
THAT as often as any Days of the Month mentioned in any Article of this Charter, shall fall upon the first Day of the Week, commonly called the Lord’s-day, the Business appointed for that Day shall be deferred until the next Day, unless in Cases of Emergency.
AND for the Satisfaction and Encouragement of all Aliens, I do give and grant, that if any Alien, who is or shall be a Purchaser, or who doth or shall inhabit in this Province or Territories thereof, shall decease at any Time before he can well be naturalized, his Right and Interest therein, shall notwithstanding descend to his Wife and Children, or other his Rolations, be he Testate or Intestate, according to the Laws of this Province and Territories thereof in such Cases provided, in as free and ample Manner, to all Intents and Purposes, as if the said Alien had been naturalized.
AND that the Inhabitants of this Province and Territories thereof, may be accommodated with such Food and Sustenance, as God in his Providence hath freely afforded, I do also further grant to the Inhabitants of this Province and Territories thereof, Liberty to fowl and hunt upon the Lands they hold, and all other Lands therein not enclosed; and to fish in all Waters in the said Lands, and in all Rivers and Rivulets in and belonging to this Province and Territories thereof, with Liberty to draw his or their Fish on Shore on any Man’s Lands, so as it be not to the Detriment or Annoyance of the Owner thereof, except such Lands as do lie upon Inland Rivulets that are not Boatable, or which are or may be hereafter erected into Manors.
AND that all the Inhabitants of this Province and Territories thereof, whether Purchasers or others, may have the last worldly Pledge of my good and kind Intentions to them and theirs, I do give, grant, and confirm to all, and every one of them, full and quiet Possession of their respective Lands, to which they have any lawful or equitable Claim, saving only such Rents and Services for the same as are or customarily ought to be reserved to me, my Heirs or Assigns.
THAT no Act, Law or Ordinance whatsoever, shall at any Time hereafter be made or done by the Proprietary and Governor of this Province and Territories thereunto belonging, his Heirs or Assigns, or by the Freemen in provincial Council or Assembly, to alter, change, or diminish, the Form or Effect of this Charter, or any Part or Clause thereof, contrary to the true Intent and Meaning thereof, without the Consent of the Proprietary and Governor, his Heirs or Assigns, and six Parts of seven of the said Freemen in provincial Council and Assembly met.
AND LASTLY, I the said William Penn, Proprietary and Governor of the Province of Pensylvania and Territories thereunto belonging, for me, my Heirs and Assigns, have solemnly declared, granted and confirmed, and do hereby solemnly declare, grant and confirm, that neither I, nor my Heirs nor Assigns, shall procure or do any Thing or Things whereby the Liberties in this Charter contained and expressed, shall be infringed or broken: And if any Thing be procured by any Person or Persons, contrary to these Premises, it shall be held of no Force or Effect. IN WITNESS whereof, I the said William Penn, at Philadelphia in Pensylvania, have unto this present Charter of Liberties set my Hand and broad Seal, this second Day of the second Month, in the Year of our Lord one Thousand six Hundred Eighty and Three, being the five and thirtieth Year of the King, and the third Year of my Government.
THIS within CHARTER, which we have distinctly heard read and thankfully received, shall be by us inviolably kept; at Philadelphia, the second Day of the second Month, one Thousand six Hundred Eighty and Three.
|The Members of the provincial Council present.|
|William Markham,||Thomas Holme,|
|John Moll,||William Clark,|
|William Haige,||William Biles,|
|Christopher Taylor,||James Harrison,|
|John Simcock,||John Richardson,|
|William Clayton,||Philip-Thomas Lenman, Secr. Gov.|
|Francis Whittwel,||Richard Ingelo, Cl. Coun.|
|The Members of the Assembly present.|
|Casparus Harman,||Robert Wade,|
|John Darby,||Thomas Hassald,|
|Benjamin Williams,||John Hart,|
|William Guest,||Robert Hall,|
|Valentine Hollingsworth,||Robert Bedwell,|
|James Boyden,||William Simsmore,|
|Bennony Bishop,||Samuel Darke,|
|John Beazor,||Robert Lucas,|
|John Harding,||John Blunston,|
|Andrews Bringston,||John Songhurst,|
|Simon Irons,||John Hill,|
|John Wood,||Nicholas Wain,|
|John Curtis,||Thomas Fitzwater,|
|Daniel Brown,||John Clows,|
|William Futcher,||Luke Watson,|
|John Kipshaven,||Joseph Phipps,|
|Alexander Molestine,||Dennis Rotchford,|
|Bobert Bracy, sen.||John Brinklair,|
|Thomas Bracy,||Henry Bowman,|
|William Yardly,||Cornelius Verhoofe,|
|John Hastings,||John Southworth, Cl. of the Synod.|
|Some of the Inhabitants of Philadelphia present.|
|William Howel,||Henry Lewis,|
|Edmund Warner,||Samuel Miles.|
—( ☞ The Preface. )—