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

A Government by the People

There is below Philadelphia, on the river, a settlement which was called by the Swedes, Upland. It is neither as large nor as promising as our town; but nevertheless it was to that place William Penn called the people together, after he had been here three or four weeks, to give us a regular government, such as is the rule in other countries.

You can guess that neither Jethro nor I were allowed to go to Upland, although we would willingly have walked there had our fathers given permission. It would have pleased me wonderfully to see this first meeting of law-makers in our country of Pennsylvania; but father said the people were to meet there on gravest business, and not to make a show of themselves, therefore it was no place for idle, curious boys.

I do not mean that all the men of the different settlements had a hand in this law-making, for the number would have been too great; but the people in each village chose one or more from among them, to take part in what was called the General Assembly.

They made many laws, so I have been told, and one of them was that all these laws should be set forth in fair script of the quill, to be used as a reading book in our school, when we have one.

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