Слике страница
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

where either of these fail, government will be subject to convulsion; but where both are wanting, it must be totally subverted; then where both meet, the government is like to endure. Which I humbly pray and hope God will please to make the lot of Pennsylvania."

The Plan of the "Frame.”-In 1682, Penn had the “Frame of Government” published. It consisted of twenty-four articles and forty laws. The government was vested in the Governor and the Freemen of the Province. The Freemen were to elect a Provincial Council and a General Assembly; the former was to consist of seventy-two members ; and the latter, of all the Freemen the first year, and the next of two hundred of them, the number to be increased as the population increased. The Governor or his Deputy was to be the perpetual President of the Provincial Council and was to have a treble vote.

The Provincial Council.—The duty of this body was (a) to originate bills, (b) to see that the laws were executed, (c) to take care of the peace and safety of the Province, (d) to settle the location of the ports, cities, market towns, roads, and other public places, (e) to inspect the public treasury, (f) to erect courts of justice, (g) to institute schools, and (h) to reward the authors of useful discovery.

The General Assembly.—This body had no power to legislate and no privilege to debate. The bills originated and passed by the Provincial Council were presented to the General Assembly for approval or rejection ; and ali that the members had power to do was to say a plain Yes or No. They could name persons for sheriffs and justices of the peace for the Governor to select from, being obliged to name twice as many as were to be appointed.

Amendments to the “Frame.”—The “ Frame of Govern

ment” could not be amended without the consent of the Governor or his heirs or his assigns and six-sevenths of the Freemen in both the Provincial Council and the General Assembly.

The First Assembly.-The First General Assembly met at Chester, in 1682, shortly after Penn's arrival. They discussed, amended and accepted the “Frame of Government” and its accompanying laws. To the latter they added twenty-one others, so that there were then altogether sixty-one laws on the statute books of the Province of Pennsylvania. Though more than two hundred years have passed since, yet our great Commonwealth is still governed by the “Great Law" enacted at Chester, modified of course to some extent, but not greatly.

Under the Crown of England.-From 1693 to 1694, Pennsylvania was under the Crown of England. George Keith, a Scotch Quaker, caused a disturbance in Pennsylvania by asserting that the Friends' doctrine of nonresistance forbade its adherents from holding office. He was put out of church, and fined by the Quaker magistrates for insolence. He went to England, took orders in the Episcopal church, and charged the Quaker magistrates with disloyalty to the Church of England. Without good reason, Penn, too, was suspicioned of disloyalty ; and the Government of the Province was taken from him and given to Governor Fletcher, of New York. Penn's

Frame of Government” was disregarded and the Assembly was modeled after that of New York. In the course of a year Penn was restored to favor, and he again became Governor of Pennsylvania, administering its affairs through his friend, Deputy Markham.

Under Penn From 1694-1718.—The Assembly called by

Markham, immediately after Penn's restoration, refused to act under the “ Frame of Government,” which had been set aside by Fletcher. A second Assembly did likewise, and Markham was obliged to agree to the formation of a new frame of government; but the one then drawn up did not meet with Penn's favor.

When Penn returned to America, in 1699, after an absence of fifteen years, he found his colonists rather unfriendly to him. Ruling them at so great a distance for so long a time had caused misunderstandings. He soon learned that he must give them a new form of government. The old “Frame” was abandoned and the “Charter of Privileges " given in its place. He signed it in 1701. This new document provided for a General Assembly with much greater powers : it gave the people the power to elect some of the county officers, and it extended liberty of conscience to the Roman Catholics. The Charter of Privileges” indeed was the envy of neighboring colonies, so republican was it in its nature. Philadelphia, on the same day the “Charter" was signed, October 25, 1701, became an incorporated city, with the right to elect her officers ; before, they had been appointed by the Governor. Through the liberality of Penn, therefore, Philadelphia is the oldest incorporated city in the United States.

Under Penn's Heirs, 1718-1776.—Like the sons of a rich man, Penn's heirs did not manage his estate so well as he had done. They were more interested in the revenue of the Province than in its welfare. After his death, 1718, they went to law among themselves about their inheritance. They also fought with the colonists about the taxes and rents ; and the Governors were in almost endless quarrels with the General Assembly over legislation.

Concerning the veto power of these Governors, Dr. Franklin said:

“The negative of the Governor was constantly made use of to extort money. No law whatever could be passed without a private bargain with him. An increase of his salary or some donation was always made a condition; till at last it became a regular practice to have orders in his favor on the treasury presented along with the bills to be signed, so that he might actually receive the former before he should sign the latter. When the Indians were scalping the Western people, the concurrence of the Governor in the means of self-defense could not be got till it was agreed that his estate should be exempted from taxation; so that the people were to fight for the security of his property, whilst he was to bear no share of the burden."

Yet through all these years of strife, the people of Pennsylvania fared better than those of most of the other colonies, for their founder had given them a charter by which they could retain at least the form of their government intact. Unlike that of her sisters, Pennsylvania's history is not one of changes from one form of government to another. There are no chapters in it about a “ Charter Oak," a "Royal Province," the “Duke of York," and “His Majesty's Town of New York." It is but due say, however, that on one occasion, Franklin was sent to England to induce the King to take the Province of Pensylvania as his own, so put out had the colonists become with the proprietary governors. They preferred to be an “appenage of the Crown rather than a fief of the Penns."

Under Constitutional Government.—After the colonies of America had declared themselves independent, July

1776, it became necessary to organize State Governments. Accordingly, on the 28th of September, of that same year, the first State constitution was adopted; and it went into effect at once without a ratification by the

people. The old Assembly had met for the last time on the 23d of September, to make one more feeble protest against the new order of things, but it soon died without a struggle. Penn's heirs were paid $524,000 for their claims against the State. Then his words in the preface to the Frame of Government,"-"I will put the power with the people,”—became a complete reality and Pennsylvania became a government of the people, by the people, and for the people,” which, it is hoped, shall be said of our State to the end of time.

Provisions of the First Constitution. The General Assembly consisted of only one branch. Its members were elected yearly. Its acts were called the “Acts of Assembly"-a name still applied to our laws. The executive power was vested in a President, chosen annually by the Assembly and the Supreme Executive Council. The latter body was composed of twelve members elected for a term of three years and was advisory to the President. Another body was provided for,-the Council of Censors,—whose duty it was, at the end of every seven years, to see whether the constitution had not been violated. The forms of township and county government remained as Penn had instituted them in the "Frame of Government.” Indeed, few changes have been made in local government to this day-showing that William Penn is worthy of his great name in history.

Subsequent Constitutions.—The second constitution was adopted in 1790. This created an upper and lower house in the Legislature, and made the Governor elective directly by the people. In these respects it was framed more after the Constitution of the United States. A third and fourth constitution were adopted respectively in 1838

« ПретходнаНастави »