John Penn (governor)
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John Penn (14 July 1729 – 9 February 1795) was the last governor of colonial Pennsylvania, serving in that office from 1763 to 1771 and from 1773 to 1776. Educated in Britain and Switzerland, he was also one of the Penn family proprietors of the
Province of Pennsylvania The Province of Pennsylvania, also known as the Pennsylvania Colony, was a British North American colony founded by William Penn William Penn (14 October 1644 – 30 July 1718) was an English writer and religious thinker belonging to the ...
from 1771 until 1776, holding a one-fourth share, when the creation of the independent
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Pennsylvania ( , elsewhere ; pdc, Pennsilfaani), officially the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, is a landlocked A landlocked country is a country that does not have territory connected to an ocean or whose coastlines lie on endorheic basi ...

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
during the
American Revolution The American Revolution was an ideological and political revolution which occurred in colonial North America between 1765 and 1783. The Americans in the Thirteen Colonies The Thirteen Colonies, also known as the Thirteen British Colo ...
removed the Penn family from power. Held in exile in
New Jersey New Jersey is a U.S. state, state in the Mid-Atlantic States, Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern United States, Northeastern regions of the United States. It is bordered on the north and east by the state of New York (state), New York; on the ea ...
after the British occupation of
Philadelphia Philadelphia (colloquially known simply as Philly) is the largest city in the Commonwealth A commonwealth is a traditional English term for a political community founded for the common good In philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is ...

Philadelphia
, Penn and his wife returned to the city in July 1778, following the British evacuation. After the war, the unsold lands of the proprietorship were confiscated by the new state government, but it provided Penn and his cousin, John Penn "of Stoke", who held three-fourths of the proprietorship, with compensation. They both appealed as well to Parliament, which granted them more compensation.


Early life and education

John Penn was born in
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London
, the eldest son of Richard Penn and Hannah Lardner. His father Richard had inherited a one-fourth interest in the Pennsylvania proprietorship from his father, the Pennsylvania founder
William Penn William Penn (14 October 1644 – 30 July 1718) was an English writer A writer is a person who uses written words in different styles and techniques to communicate ideas. Writers produce different forms of literary art and creative wri ...

William Penn
. It provided the family a fairly comfortable living. Richard's older brother
Thomas Penn Thomas Penn (March 20, 1702 – March 21, 1775) was a hereditary proprietor of the Province of Pennsylvania The Province of Pennsylvania, also known as the Pennsylvania Colony, was a British North American colony founded by William Penn ...
controlled the other three-fourths of the proprietorship. As Thomas did not have any sons while John Penn was in his youth, the younger man was in line to inherit the entire proprietorship (one-fourth from his father and three-fourths from his paternal uncle). John Penn's upbringing and conduct was of concern to the entire family.


First marriage

In 1747, when John Penn was eighteen years old and still in school, he secretly married Grace Cox, a daughter of Dr. James Cox of London. The Penn family disapproved of the marriage, believing that Cox had married Penn to share in the family fortune. For a while, John's father refused to speak to him because of the marriage. Thomas Penn sponsored a trip for the younger Penn to
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Geneva
to study and to get him away from his wife. Apparently regretting his marriage, Penn made no effort to contact Grace during this period. The Cox family sued Penn for support of Grace Penn in 1755, but after that time, no further reference to her appears in the Penn family records. How the marriage was dissolved is unknown; they had no children.


Immigration to Pennsylvania

John Penn first traveled to Pennsylvania in 1752, sent by his uncle Thomas to the province as a political apprentice to Governor James Hamilton. Penn served on the
governor's council The governments of the Thirteen Colonies The Thirteen Colonies, also known as the Thirteen British Colonies or the Thirteen American Colonies, were a group of Kingdom of Great Britain, British colonies on the Atlantic coast of North America. F ...
, associating with important Penn family appointees such as Richard Peters and William Allen. In 1754, Penn attended the
Albany Congress The Albany Congress (June 19 – July 11, 1754), also known as the Albany Convention of 1754, was a meeting of representatives sent by the legislatures of seven of the Thirteen Colonies, thirteen British colonies in British America: Connecticut C ...
alongside other Pennsylvania delegates, including Peters,
Benjamin Franklin Benjamin Franklin ( April 17, 1790) was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States The Founding Fathers of the United States, or simply the Founding Fathers or Founders, were a group of American revolutionary Patriots (also ...

Benjamin Franklin
, and Isaac Norris, but the younger man was there primarily as an observer. The meeting was held by representatives of seven colonies to plan common defense against the French and Indians before the
French and Indian War The French and Indian War (1754–1763) was a theater of the Seven Years' War The Seven Years' War (1756–1763) is widely considered to be the first global conflict in history, and was a struggle for world supremacy between Great Britain ...

French and Indian War
, the North American front of the
Seven Years' War The Seven Years' War (1756–1763) is widely considered to be the first global conflict in history, and was a struggle for world supremacy between Kingdom of Great Britain, Great Britain and Kingdom of France, France. In Europe, the conflict ar ...
between Britain and France. From his home in England, the chief proprietor Thomas Penn soon became alarmed at John's extravagant expenses. Peters reported John's close association with an Italian musician, whose rent Penn paid and at whose home Penn stayed until two or three in the morning. The "debauched" musician was, in turn, "constantly tagging after him." Thomas Penn summoned his nephew, John, back to England in late 1755.Hubertis Cummings, ''Richard Peters, Provincial Secretary and Cleric, 1704–1776'' (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1944), pp. 169, 209–10.


Governorship

In 1763, Thomas Penn sent his nephew John Penn back to Pennsylvania to take over the governorship from Hamilton. The Penns were not displeased with Hamilton but believed that John was prepared to assume leadership in the province for the family. He took the oath of office as governor, officially "lieutenant governor," on 31 October 1763 and served until 1771 in his first tenure. The new governor faced many challenges:
Pontiac's Rebellion Pontiac's War (also known as Pontiac's Conspiracy or Pontiac's Rebellion) was launched in 1763 by a loose confederation of Native Americans Native Americans may refer to: Ethnic groups * Indigenous peoples of the Americas, the pre-Columbian p ...
; the
Paxton Boys The Paxton Boys were frontiersman from along the Susquehanna River in central Pennsylvania who formed a vigilante group in 1763 to terrorize local Native Americans in the United States, American Indians in the aftermath of the French and Indian Wa ...
; border disputes with other colonies; controversy over the taxation of Penn family lands; and the efforts of the
Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly The Province of Pennsylvania, also known as the Pennsylvania Colony, was a British North American colony founded by William Penn William Penn (14 October 1644 – 30 July 1718) was an English writer and religious thinker belonging to the ...
, led by
Benjamin Franklin Benjamin Franklin ( April 17, 1790) was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States The Founding Fathers of the United States, or simply the Founding Fathers or Founders, were a group of American revolutionary Patriots (also ...

Benjamin Franklin
, to have the Penn proprietary government replaced with a royal government. Meanwhile, he was elected in 1768 to the
American Philosophical Society The American Philosophical Society (APS), founded in 1743 in Philadelphia Philadelphia (colloquially known simply as Philly) is the largest city in the Commonwealth A commonwealth is a traditional English term for a political community ...
, which Franklin had founded.


Second marriage and family

In 1766, Penn married Anne Allen, the daughter of William Allen and his wife, who were later Loyalists in Philadelphia. Penn reluctantly returned with his family to England in 1771 after his father's death, where he took over his father's position and affairs as one of the proprietors of Pennsylvania. His uncle Thomas Penn still held three fourths of the proprietorship but had a son, who was born in 1760. John's brother, Richard Penn Jr., was appointed governor of the province in his place.


Second appointment as governor

As Thomas Penn was displeased with Richard Jr's performance, he arranged in 1773 for the reappointment of John Penn as governor. Returning to the province with his family, Penn served until 1776. That year, the revolutionary government took control during the
American Revolution The American Revolution was an ideological and political revolution which occurred in colonial North America between 1765 and 1783. The Americans in the Thirteen Colonies The Thirteen Colonies, also known as the Thirteen British Colo ...
. Thomas Penn had died in 1775, and his son John Penn "of Stoke" inherited the chief proprietorship (and three quarters of the total property). John Penn "of Stoke," born in 1760, was 15 when his father died. He was assigned a guardian for the proprietorship until he came of age, but the Revolution disrupted his control of the holdings.


American Revolution

The Penns were slow to perceive that the growing unrest, which became the
American Revolution The American Revolution was an ideological and political revolution which occurred in colonial North America between 1765 and 1783. The Americans in the Thirteen Colonies The Thirteen Colonies, also known as the Thirteen British Colo ...
, would threaten their proprietary interests. In 1774 Penn refused to summon the Assembly so it could select delegates to the First Continental Congress. Patriots responded by taking control in 1775, leaving Penn powerless. Henry J. Cadbury states, "The end of proprietary government in Pennsylvania may be dated Sept. 26, 1776, with the last adjournment of the provincial assembly. The governor's acts and meetings of the council closed nearly a year earlier." After the
American Revolutionary War The American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), also known as the Revolutionary War and the American War of Independence, was initiated by delegates from Thirteen Colonies, thirteen American colonies of British America in Continental Congress ...
began at the
Battles of Lexington and Concord The battles of Lexington and Concord were the first military engagements of the American Revolutionary War The American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), also known as the Revolutionary War and the American War of Independence, was init ...
, Penn watched with apprehension as Pennsylvania colonists formed
militia A militia () is generally an army An army (from Latin ''arma'' "arms, weapons" via Old French ''armée'', "armed" eminine, ground force or land force is a fighting force that fights primarily on land. In the broadest sense, it is the land-b ...
companies and prepared for war. Soon after the adoption of the
American Declaration of Independence The United States Declaration of Independence is the pronouncement adopted by the Second Continental Congress The Second Continental Congress was a meeting of delegates from the Thirteen Colonies The Thirteen Colonies, also known a ...
, "Patriots" (or "Whigs") in Pennsylvania created the
Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776 The Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776 (ratified September 28, 1776) was the state's first constitution following their Pennsylvania Provincial Conference, declaration of independence and has been described as the most democratic in America; althou ...
, which replaced Penn's government with a Supreme Executive Council and no royal officials. With no power at his command, Penn remained aloof and carefully neutral in the hope that the radicals would be defeated or at least reconciled with the king. The war soon began to go badly for the Patriots. In August 1777, as General William Howe began his
Philadelphia Campaign The Philadelphia campaign (1777–1778) was a British British may refer to: Peoples, culture, and language * British people, nationals or natives of the United Kingdom, British Overseas Territories, and Crown Dependencies. ** Britishness ...
, Patriot soldiers arrived at Penn's Lansdowne estate near Philadelphia. They demanded him to sign a parole that stated that he would do nothing to harm the revolutionary cause. Penn refused and was taken to Philadelphia, where he was kept under house arrest. As Howe's army drew close, the Patriots threatened Penn with exile to another colony, and he then signed the parole. With Howe near Philadelphia, Patriot leaders decided to exile Penn to an Allen family estate in
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called "the Union," also known as Solitude House, about from Philadelphia in present High Bridge. Anne Penn initially stayed in Philadelphia to look after family affairs while British forces occupied the city but later joined her husband in New Jersey. After the British evacuated Philadelphia in 1778, the Penns returned to the city in July of that year. The new government of Pennsylvania required all residents to take a
loyalty oath A loyalty oath is a pledge of allegiance to an organization An organization, or organisation (Commonwealth English The use of the English language English is a of the , originally spoken by the inhabitants of . It is name ...
to the Commonwealth or to face confiscation of their property. With the consent of his family, he took the oath. While that protected Penn's private lands and manors, the
Pennsylvania Assembly The Pennsylvania General Assembly is the legislature of the U.S. commonwealth (U.S. state), commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The legislature convenes in the Pennsylvania State Capitol, State Capitol building in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Harrisburg ...
passed the Divestment Act of 1779, which confiscated about of unsold lands held by the proprietorship and abolished the practice of paying
quitrent Quit rent, quit-rent, or quitrent is a tax A tax is a compulsory financial charge or some other type of levy imposed on a taxpayer (an individual or legal entity In law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interact ...
s for new purchases. As compensation, John Penn and his cousin were paid £130,000. That was a fraction of what the lands were worth but was a surprisingly large sum, as in some areas, Loyalist properties were taken without any compensation. Penn retired to Lansdowne and waited out the final years of the war, which ended in 1781.


Later life

For several years after the war, Penn and his cousin, John Penn "of Stoke", who had inherited three fourths of the proprietorship and received that portion of the settlement, lobbied the Pennsylvania government for greater compensation for their confiscated property. John Penn "of Stoke" lived in Pennsylvania from 1783 to 1788. Failing there, they traveled to England in 1789 to seek compensation from Parliament, which awarded the Penn cousins a total of £4,000 per year in perpetuity.Treese, ''Storm Gathering'', 199. (Penn "of Stoke" stayed in England for the rest of his life, serving as a Member of Parliament in the early 1800s.) Returning to Pennsylvania, John Penn lived the rest of his life with his family quietly at Lansdowne. After his 1795 death, Penn was buried under the floor of
Christ Church, Philadelphia Christ Church is an Episcopal church in the Old CityOld City often refers to old town, the historic or original core of a city or town. Old City may refer to several places: Historical cities or regions of cities ''(by country)'' *Old City (Ba ...

Christ Church, Philadelphia
, the only proprietor to be buried in Pennsylvania. Some older accounts state that his remains were eventually taken back to England, but there are no records of that.Cadbury, "John Penn", p. 430.


See also

* John Penn ("the American") (1700–1746), Pennsylvania proprietor, the only son of
William Penn William Penn (14 October 1644 – 30 July 1718) was an English writer A writer is a person who uses written words in different styles and techniques to communicate ideas. Writers produce different forms of literary art and creative wri ...

William Penn
born in the province of Pennsylvania * List of colonial governors of Pennsylvania, has information about proprietors as well as governors


Notes


References

*Cadbury, Henry J. "John Penn". ''Dictionary of American Biography'' (1934), vol. 2, pt. 2, p. 430. *Treese, Lorett. ''The Storm Gathering: The Penn Family and the American Revolution''. University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1992. .


External links


Biography and portrait
University of Pennsylvania Archives, People of the 1700s
John Penn's House, Philadelphia
* {{DEFAULTSORT:Penn, John 1729 births 1795 deaths Colonial governors of Pennsylvania English Anglicans English people of Welsh descent Members of the Pennsylvania Provincial Council People from Union Township, Hunterdon County, New Jersey People of colonial Pennsylvania People of Pennsylvania in the American Revolution People of Pennsylvania of Pontiac's War British people of Pontiac's War Burials at Christ Church, Philadelphia Penn family, John