Pennsylvania Politics and the Growth of Democracy: 1740- 1776

By Theodore Thayer | Go to book overview

IV
GOVERNOR MORRIS vs. FRANKLIN. 1755

A T THE TIME of his appointment, Robert Hunter Morris was in England where he had gone in the interest of New Jersey Proprietors. Previous to this he had held the office of Chief Justice of New Jersey under his father, Governor Lewis Morris. Robert Hunter Morris was fifty-four years of age when he became Lieutenant-Governor of Pennsylvania. Having gained the reputation in New Jersey for thinking in terms of prerogative first, and the interest of the colonists last, he was about as ill-qualified for the Pennsylvania post as anyone could be. It is no wonder that his governorship was as stormy as it was brief.

For some years before Robert Hunter Morris became Governor of Pennsylvania, the question of the desirability of limiting German immigration had been under serious consideration. The Germans, more frugal than the Irish who "lived high and fell into debt," had been preferred to the latter.1 Of late, however, such great swarms of Germans had flocked to the colony that grave fear had arisen that they might Germanize the country by the very weight of numbers.

Benjamin Franklin, who was as concerned as anyone over the rapid increase of the Germans, proposed in 1752 that all non-English speaking people should be barred from holding civil or military office. In addition, he held that a prohibition should be placed on the importation of German books, and that all German publications should be obliged to carry an English translation on each page, while deeds, bonds, and other legal documents should be in English only. Intermarriage, he thought, should be encouraged to break down the clannishness of the Germans, and a limitation or quota should be placed on German immigration. Futhermore, he recommended that English schools be established among the Germans to Anglicize the younger generation.2

The Reverend William Smith, who shared Franklin's views, warned the English in 1755 that the Germans "give out that they are a Majority, and strong [enough] to make the Country their own, and indeed, as they are poured in upon us in such Numbers (upwards to 5000 being imported this year), I know nothing that will hinder them, either from soon being able to give us Law and Language, or else by joining with the French, to eject all the English Inhabitants."3Smith reckoned that

____________________
1
Penn MSS., Off. Corresp., V, 217.
2
Franklin Papers, LXIX, 65. APS.
3
William Smith, Brief State of the Province of Pennsylvania, etc. ( 1756 ed.), 30-31.

-35-

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