Pennsylvania Politics and the Growth of Democracy: 1740- 1776

By Theodore Thayer | Go to book overview

VIII
THE MOVEMENT FOR A ROYAL GOVERNMENT. 1764

T HAT Franklin had long desired to see Pennsylvania converted into a Royal province was a well known fact in political circles. Franklin saw clearly the mistake of having the governing powers of the province in the hands of the principal landowners. Because of this Pennsylvania had come to experience the evils of Proprietary instructions which not only protected the vested interests of the Penns, but also deprived the province of a voice in any number of questions which vitally concerned it. In Franklin's opinion Proprietary government had undermined and destroyed in Pennsylvania the essential rights of freeborn Englishmen.

In studying the reaction in England to a change in the Pennsylvania government, Franklin had found that opinion generally favored such a plan. The feeling that Proprietary governments were undesirable was of long standing. The Crown had, in fact, regretted the granting of the proprietorship to William Penn from the start. Efficiency, financial considerations, and defense all called for the creation of more uniform administrative districts in America.1

This being the case, it is to be wondered that Penn succeeded in regaining his colony after losing it to the Crown between 1692 and 1694. It was not long before William Penn became dissatisfied with the role of proprietor and with the continued heavy financial burdens which it entailed. Negotiations were finally entered upon for the sale of the province to the Crown, but Penn died before the transfer could be made.2

It was about this time that the Board of Trade recommended that the Crown acquire control of all the chartered colonies which it considered "an anomaly in the imperial system."3 Thereafter, the proprietary question was almost a perennial one. But the heads of the British government, who could seldom be brought to a decision on anything which could be postponed, did nothing about it.

When Franklin first became convinced that Pennsylvania had much to gain by a change from a Proprietary to a Royal colony is not known.

____________________
1
Root, 50, 267.
2
Arthur Pound, The Penns of England and Pennsylvania, 269; Bigelow, ed., The Works of Benjamin Franklin, III, 337-338.
3
Root, 144-145.

-89-

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