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

The Meeting of Penn and the Indians

The forenoon was more than half spent before William Penn, followed by nearly all the men of the town, came in sight, walking slowly as if bent on business of great importance.

I had looked to see our governor blossom out in gorgeous garments, for surely it seemed fitting he should appear in his bravest attire when the savages were decked in all the feathers and beads that could be come at; but, to my disappointment, he wore the same sad-colored coat and breeches as when he first came ashore.

He had, however, girt around his waist, a blue silk sash of fine network, the ends of which hung below his knees, displaying no little of fringe. It would have given me great satisfaction if he could have buckled on a sword; but that I did not expect, for Friends do not wear warlike weapons, and our governor was too strict a Quaker to offend for the sake of showing himself in finery.

When he arrived with the other men, the savages never lifted so much as an eyelash, and I wondered greatly why some of our people did not tell them to show at least so much of respect to the governor, as to stand on their feet when he came toward them.

William Penn and the others of our men gathered in a little group near the big boxes, and when they were come to a halt, looking as if ready to go on with the business, I saw one of the oldest Indians, who was seated in the very front row, whisper to a younger savage, whereupon this last got on his feet, beginning to talk in his own language.


I could gather a word here and there, enough to give me a smattering of what he was saying, and knew the savages were bidding our governor welcome to the country.

Nearby William Penn stood an Indian who could talk in English right well; he told the governor what the other fellow was saying, and when the speech was come to an end, our William made "great talk" to the brown people.

He told them we had come to live in their world, if so be they were willing, and would pay for all the land we used. I didn't quite like it because of his failing to say that the king had already given him the whole country, and that therefore he could do as he pleased without asking leave of anybody; but perhaps it was best to make the brown men understand that we believed they had better right to the place than had we.

The governor also told them that all Christians should love each other, striving always to do good instead of wrong, and every time the governor stopped to breathe, they would speak out as if to say it was all right. When he wound up saying he would now show what he had brought to pay for the land, there was considerable noise and excitement, some of the younger men getting on their feet, but only to sit down again right soon, as if ashamed of having shown so much interest.

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