Gateway to the Classics: Stephen of Philadelphia by James Otis
Stephen of Philadelphia by  James Otis

William Penn Goes Back to London

Lord Baltimore had kept his word, to the extent of lodging complaint before the King of England regarding our William Penn, claiming that he had taken possession of lands belonging to the colony of Maryland, and it was necessary that the governor go without delay to London, else might we find ourselves deprived of all the fruits of our labor.

I could not, if I would, describe our feelings so that you might fully realize how sad we were, and how fearful regarding the future, when it was settled that our William Penn should set sail on the fourth day, in the sixth month of 1684, in the ketch Endeavor.

To many it seemed as if the building of our city had come to an end at the very time when it was most full of promise, and even those who believed the work would go on as well in his absence, had bitter fears regarding what might come to us Friends, who were so despised and persecuted in other colonies of America, when he was gone from among us.


To enter into our sorrows at this time, one must have been driven from town to town, imprisoned, whipped, or been punished by having his tongue pierced with a hot iron, all because of his faith, for such was the portion of us Quakers in this new world where so many had come in order to worship God after their own manner, but who would not allow others to do the same.

We of Philadelphia had not been loud-voiced regarding our religion. We did not claim to be heard because of much speaking. We had made for ourselves a city, and tried to hold possession of a country where we might go our way, molesting no man even when he injured us, doing unto others as we would be done by, and living such lives as we believed would be pleasing in the sight of God.

In striving to keep ourselves clean from sin we had as a model and friend, our William Penn, he who had suffered persecution for the faith; and when one was grown weary with battling against wrongful inclination, it was only needed we should go to our governor, whose ears were ever open and whose heart was as warm toward us as his advice was kindly and wise. His was the worldly arm on which all our people of Philadelphia leaned.

And now our leader was gone from us,—the last words on his lips as he stepped from the shore, where we were gathered with tearful eyes, to the boat that was to carry him from our sight, being:

"Thou Philadelphia, the settlement named before it was born, what love, what care, what service, and what labor hath there been to bring thee forth, and preserve thee from such as would abuse and defile thee!"

He left us with the promise to come again, and yet during twelve long, weary years have I waited in vain for the fulfillment of that promise. He cometh not, and we who were left in charge in his city are still faithful to the trust he reposed in us, watching eagerly for one more glimpse of that placid face we had learned to love so well.

All this time of watching and longing will seem as but a single day, however, if it shall be allowed that the first to greet him when he comes to his own, be the weaver of Mulberry Street, whose business God has permitted to increase beyond his wildest dreams,— Stephen of Philadelphia.


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