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

Why We Went to London

I was just turned twelve, in the year of grace 1681, when my father took me to London. It may be that I cannot set it down exactly as my father would, why we made the long, wearisome journey; but yet I shall be able to put forth all the facts, even though they are not given in due order.

First, it was known in Bristol that William Penn had been given a large tract of land in America by King Charles II, in settlement of a debt owed by the king to his father, the admiral, with the agreement that two beaver skins should be paid each year for the same, which, of course, was a most ridiculous price; but, as I understood it, this served simply to show that the king claimed, even after using it with which to pay a debt, the right to rule over the country.

All this would have concerned my father but little had it not been for the fact that William Penn had become a Friend, or Quaker, and my father was also of the same faith.

It had been made known by Penn that those Englishmen who wanted to make homes for themselves in America, where no man should be able to wrong them because of being Friends, could have land at the rate of forty shillings for an hundred acres, or five thousand acres for the sum of one hundred pounds.


There were many of our neighbors in Bristol who counted to journey overseas to where a man might believe or preach whatsoever seemed to him right in the sight of God, and many parcels of land had already been taken up by them in the new town, wheresoever it might be located.

My father was a cautious man, however, unwilling to embark in any enterprise, however trifling, until he had first a clear idea of what would be expected, and to that end he went up to London that he might have speech with William Penn.

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