The Penn Family

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5th generation of Penns

John Penn (b.1729 - d.1795)

1729, July 14th, born in London, England he was a son of Richard Penn I and Hannah (Larder) Penn.

17?? married Miss Cox, daughter of James Cox of London. This was disapproved of by his family, especially his uncle, Thomas Penn who was the principle proprietor and chief spokesperson for the proprietors in Pennsylvania. He was forced to repudiate this marriage and was sent with a tutor to Geneva.

1747 - 51, he attended the University of Geneva.

Michael Schlatter's Description of Pennsylvania, written at Amsterdam in 1751 gives some idea of the Penn family's inheritance (as well as European attitudes towards Native Americans):

"Pennsylvania, lying in the northern part of America, is a country of no small compass. It lies in a healthy climate; it is not merely inhabitable, but very much inhabited, not only by the ancient dwellers in the land, but also by thousands who have emigrated thither from Europe and still arrive every year. It extends toward the north to the five largest inland seas known in the world, along the course of which it is not difficult to reach the celebrated Mississippi River, down which one can sail to the Gulf of Mexico.
"Since the time when the English have taken possession of Pennsylvania, and the country has been peopled from various European nations, it has been divided into nine cantons, these called counties. The most important towns, as they have been built successively, are:
1. Philadelphia, consisting at present of 2,300 houses, mostly of stone.
2. New Castle, consisting of 240 houses, mostly of stone, and lying from Philadelphia distant 40 miles.
3. Chester, consisting of 120 houses, lying 10 miles distant from New Castle.
4. Germantown, consisting of 250 houses, lying 6 miles from Philadelphia.
5. Lancaster, consisting of 500 houses, lying from Germantown 63 miles.
6. York, consisting of 190 houses, lying from Lancaster 23 miles.
7. Reading, lately built, consisting of 60 houses, lying 60 miles from York.
"In the whole of Pennsylvania, according to estimation, there are 190,000 souls, in which the pagan inhabitants are not included. Of these, it is estimated 90,000 are Germans;... These are scattered through all the cantons or counties; still they have more especially settled down in the counties of Philadelphia, Bucks, Lancaster, York, and Chester."

1752 - 55, John Penn was a member of the Pennsylvania Provincial Council.

1754, he was the Commissioner for Indian Rights at Albany, New York.

He spent some time in England.

1762/3, Returned to America commissioned by his father Richard Penn I and uncle Thomas Penn as Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania (except for the period of 1771-73 when his younger brother, Richard Penn II, held the office) he held this position until 1776. Benjamin Franklin also returned to America in this year after obtaining, in 1760, a compromise in Britain allowing for the Penn lands to be levied for taxation (the Penn's unsurveyed lands were still tax exempt). John Penn openly criticises Franklin and carries out a smear campaign on his character.

John Penn was in office when propriety rule is abolished. He had boundary/frontier disputes with Native Americans throughout his tenure. During his period of office he dealt with numerous on-going border and internal control matters including disaffected Native Americans and frontiersmen. An example of which was the "Paxton Boys". affair, an attack by Pennsylvania frontiersmen upon an Indian settlement that occurred in December 1763 during Pontiac's War. About 57 drunken rangers from Paxton, Pennsylvania slaughtered 20 innocent and defenceless Conestoga Native Americans near Lancaster. The intervention of the dispossessed Native Americans onto the political and military scene was to have important repercussions. John Penn vetoed two bills which had been passed by the Assembly. One bill was to raise a militia to fight against the Native American uprising and the other to raise the taxation to pay for the war. Penn said that he should appoint militia officers (they had been elected by the militia men themselves when Franklin was elected to command the Pennsylvania militia in 1756). Penn also insisted that the proposed tax increases should, when dealing with Penn lands, only be based on the lowest rate and should not take into account any increased value of building which had occurred on these lands.

1764, internal tensions in the province came to a head when the Assembly petitioned the King for a transfer of the colony from the Penns to the Crown. Animosity against propriety rule became directed against the Crown with the introduction of the Stamp Act.

1766, May 3rd, married Ann Allen, daughter of Chief Justice Allen of Philadelphia, a strong supporter of John Penn.

1767, the long running battle over the Pennsylvania/Maryland border was settled by the establishment of the Mason and Dixon Line. Tensions rose over taxation issues in the British colonies. The Massachusetts Assembly called on other colonies to oppose the collection on British imposed taxation. The Pennsylvania Assembly did not respond to this call however, events move rapidly over the next few months and New Jersey, Connecticut, Virginia, Delaware, North and South Carolina and Rhode Island lined up with Massachusetts. The mood in Pennsylvania began to change and John Penn wrote to his uncle Thomas that, "those persons who were the most moderate were now set in a flame and have joined the General Cry for Liberty."

1768, treaty was signed with Native Americans at Fort Stanwix.

1771, upon the death of his father he returned to England and inherited the life use of one quarter of the proprietary rights in Pennsylvania.

1773, he returned to Pennsylvania to take up his former position which he held until he was removed by the revolutionary movement and his authority removed by the Supreme Executive Council. Settlers were increasingly at odds with the Propriety Assembly and Council because of demands for quit rents by the proprietors and claims by the Assembly of their right to tax propriety land. The Anti-Propriety party was lead by Benjamin Franklin and had the support of most Quakers. The more 'establishment' figures appear to have supported Penn, including his future father in law, Justice Allen.

1776 - 77. It is important to note that the Quaker establishment and the Penns were set squarely against the American Revolution. During the time leading up to the American Revolution the whites of Pennsylvania, with their peculiar and complicated system of proprietary government and Quaker-dominated Assembly, were politically adrift from other mainstream white colonial developments. In the months prior to the signing of the Declaration of Independence Pennsylvania's white population was deeply divided over the extent of its resistance to British interference in its affairs and on the question of separation.

John Penn, the colony's Proprietary Governor, knew he and his family had nothing to gain from a break with Britain as it would have meant the loss of power, position and influence he held by the 1701 Pennsylvania Charter. Other wealthy colonists were also opposed to independence and Quaker and Anglican leaders were active in their opposition to a radical break to British rule. The Radicals who wanted to break with Britain gained control of the colony's extra constitutional committees. These Radicals were lead by people like Thomas Paine who were working towards more democratic politics than the existing establishment and they were prepared to fight and die for their beliefs. The moderates continued to tout for a compromise with Britain and feared the economic disruption and threat to their hierarchical system that revolution would bring. The radicals had the support of the leading proponents of independence in the Continental Congress which was meeting in Philadelphia. Pennsylvania's delegates in Congress were under directions from the Assembly not to vote for independence. In the spring of 1776 the division in the colony was plain: the moderates kept their majority in the Assembly elections; while the radicals had persuaded the Continental Congress to resolve that all governments (this, of course included John Penn's) deriving their authority from the Crown should be "totally suppressed." This resolution sounded the death knell of British rule in the United States and was in total opposition to the Penn Charter and the Pennsylvanian Assembly.

The Radicals in Pennsylvania called for a special constitutional convention to bring in a new independent state government. The Provincial Assembly, then meeting in Philadelphia, was denied any role in the formation of the new government. Finding itself outmanoeuvred and without authority the Assembly finally voted itself out of existence. The events of the Spring "had given the 'coup de Grace to the King's authority' in Pennsylvania."

On July 2, 1776 the Continental Congress, sitting in Philadelphia, declared independence. The Pennsylvania Evening Post published this statement: "This day the Continental Congress declared the United Colonies Free and Independent States."

1777, Penn was held prisoner on parole on charges of acts against the American cause.

1779, he received monies as compensation for his losses in the American Revolution under the Divestment Act. The entire Penn family received £130,000 and retention of their estates and proprietary manors.

He spent some time abroad.

1795, February 9th, died in, it is thought, Bucks County, Pennsylvania. He was a member of the Church of England and is buried in Christ Church, Philadelphia.

1830, July 4th, his second wife, Ann, died.

Richard Penn (Junior) (b.1735 - d.1811 )

1735, May 27th, born in England. He was the second son of Richard Penn (Senior) and Hannah Larder.

He was a student but not a graduate of St. Johns College, Cambridge.

1763, arrived in America with his brother John Penn (b.1729 - d.1795) who took the role of Governor of Pennsylvania.

1771, he returned to Pennsylvania to replace his brother who went to England following their father's death. He was appointed Lieutenant Governor by his brother and uncle, Thomas Penn , who were, by this time, the sole proprietors.

1772, May 21st, married Mary Masters (died August, 1829, aged 73 years), daughter of William and Mary Masters. They had 5 children, including William and Richard.

1773, he was abruptly replaced in his office by his brother John. The two brothers fell out (either over this matter or over the settlement of their father's will) and were not reconciled for some months.

1775, he returned to England entrusted by the Continental Congress to make one final conciliatory offer to George III. He delivered a petition from the Continental Congress to Lord Dartmouth's office on August 21st. Dartmouth, a moderate in the government whose ambition was to achieve conciliation between Britain and its American colonies had gone to his country home. Thus the more hawkish members of the Board of Trade ignored the petition saying that the Crown did not recognise the Continental Congress. The ministers issued a Proclamation of Rebellion and England became in an official state of war with its colonies on August 23rd. This state of war was not to end until September 3rd, 1783.

Apart from a brief return to Pennsylvania, Richard Penn remained in England until his death.

1784-90, he was elected MP for Appleby (once).

1787, after getting into financial difficulties because of the drying up of his income from Pennsylvania he received compensation of funds voted by the newly formed State of Pennsylvania. His income from this source trebles when his brother, John, died in 1795.

1790 and 1806, Richard Penn was elected MP for Halsemere (twice).

1796-1802, he was elected MP for Lancaster (once).

1811, May 27, died at Richmond, Surrey, England.

John Penn (1760 - 1834)

1760, born son of Thomas Penn and Lady Juliana Fermore, fourth daughter of Thomas, first Earl of Pomfret. This was also the year his parents purchased Stoke Poges.

l775, inherited the estate at Stoke Poges when his father died. He was responsible for most of what can be seen at Stoke Park today including the Mansion, the monuments to Sir Edward Coke (1800), Thomas Gray (1799) and the Repton Bridge (1798). He also owned a mansion at Spring Garden, London, UK.

l789, returned to Stoke Park having spent a considerable time away in Geneva and America, with £130,000 from the new Commonwealth in compensation for the family's twenty-one million acres in Pennsylvania (although he had claimed it was worth some £1,500,00). A pension of £4,000 a year was also granted by the British Parliament to compensate for the inadequacy of the initial payment. This means, if the agreement was honoured, that he would have received a further £176,000 in compensation)

He built a new house, in palatial style, on rising ground in the centre of the parkland, with views across the surrounding countryside including the royal residence of Windsor Castle. Alterations to the Mansion were carried out up to 1813.

1792, he commissioned Humphrey Repton to create a new landscape to replace the existing 'Capability' Brown layout. He created a "Committee of Taste" which included architects, painters, landscape gardeners.

1798, he was made High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire and a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army.

1802, he was MP for Helston, in Cornwall.

1834, died at Stoke Park and was succeeded by his brother, Granville Penn. Granville died at Stoke Park in l844. The Penn fortune, derived from invasion, enslavement, plunder and theft, died with him. His son Granville John Penn could not afford to live at Stoke Park and moved to Stoke Court and let the estate for four years before selling it to Henry Labouchere (later Lord Taunton) in 1848. An interesting fact (which, perhaps, brings our story to some kind of full circle) is that King Charles the First, after his defeat at the battle of Naseby and under custody of the Parliamentary forces, was held prisoner at the Manor of Stoke Poges from the 2nd to the 14th of January, 1647.


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