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Outline of the " Frame."-In order to attract to his colony emigrants from the various countries, Penn caused the “Frame of Government” to be published. According to the provisions of the “Frame," the government was vested in the Governor and the freemen of the province. The freemen were to elect from their number the Provincial Council and the General Assembly. The Council was to consist of seventy-two members. The General Assembly was to consist of all the freemen during the first year, of two hundred the next year, and that number to be increased with the people up to five hundred. The Governor, or his deputy, was the presiding officer of the Council, and his vote had triple power.
Powers of the Council.—The powers of the Provincial Council under the direction of the Governor were executive, legislative, and judicial. Thus it was authorized: to originate bills; to execute the laws diligently; to provide for public peace and safety; to locate all cities, ports, and market towns, design all public buildings, and locate streets and highways; to inspect the public treasury, and punish misuse of the funds; to erect and order all public schools; to encourage and reward authors and inventors; and to erect the various courts of justice.
The General Assembly Had Small Power.-Although the purpose of the election of the General Assembly was to give the more full concurrence of the freemen to all laws prepared by the Governor and the higher representative body, the powers actually exercised by the General Assembly were small. The charter granted by Charles II. had clothed Penn with full powers of government, subject to the condition that the advice and consent of the freemen were necessary except in cases of emergency. The General Assembly, in the Frame
of Government proposed by Penn, was not able of itself to legislate, and no direct debate upon the bills was allowed. During the preparation of such bills by the Provincial Council, the members of the General Assembly might suggest to a committee of the Provincial Council any alteration or amendment; but when the bill was presented to the Assembly, all that the members of that body could show of power lay in the plain yea or nay of their votes. The Assembly could nominate a double number of persons to serve as sheriffs, justices of the peace, and coroners; and from these the Governor selected and commissioned those whom he would appoint.
Perfect Religious Freedom.-Foremost in the line of liberties granted by the Frame of Government must stand the provision made for perfect religious freedom. “All persons living in this province, who confess and acknowledge the one Almighty and Eternal God to be the Creator, Upholder, and Ruler of the world, and that hold themselves obliged, in conscience, to live peaceably and justly in civil society, shall in no ways be molested or prejudiced for their religious persuasion, or practice, in matters of faith and worship."
The “Great Law.”_-The Frame of Government as published by Penn was composed of twenty-four articles and forty laws. When Penn called together the General Assembly at the Swedish town of Upland, some amendments were made to the frame of Government, and some additions made to the accompanying laws. In three days these early legislators, having completed the amendments, adopted the “Great Law” and adjourned.
Features of the “ Great Law.”—The amended “Frame” set forth the following features: (1) Every man was free to
worship God in whatever manner his conscience demanded; (2) any man who was a member of a Christian church could hold office, and was eligible to the General Assembly; (3) all resident taxpayers had the right to vote; (4) the death penalty was inflicted for two crimes only, -murder and treason; (5) every colonist could demand trial by jury; (6) every prison was to be made a workshop and place of reformation. This last feature was an entirely new idea in prison management.
No child should be brought up in idleness, but all should learn some useful trade. The laws of the colony were to be taught to all children.
The Seed of a Nation.—The country around Philadelphia was very fertile, and the reports which the colonists sent back to England were very favorable. Colonists came to the new colony in great numbers, attracted by the reputation of Penn and by the promise of religious liberty. The new colony prospered in a very remarkable degree, and the emigrants were, as Penn had declared, "the seed of a nation.” When Penn returned to England in 1684, fifty townships had been settled, and a flourishing capital city established.
The “ Charter of Privileges.”—After Penn's return to England, grave disputes arose between the colonists and the Deputy Governor. The Council soon ceased to be representative in any large degree: since the members were appointed by the Proprietary, instead of being elected by the people as was originally intended. The General Assembly demanded greater powers, and refused to act under the old form of government. The colonists did not fulfill their pecuniary obligations to the Proprietor. When William and Mary came to the throne of England, Penn was sus
pected of disloyalty; and in 1692 the control of the province was taken from him, Governor Fletcher of New York being appointed in his stead. Two years afterward Penn was restored to power, and to allay the discontent of the colonists, various plans of government were tried and rejected. Penn returned to the colony in 1699, and in 1701 granted the “Charter of Privileges,” which remained the fundamental law of the land until the adoption of the first State Constitution in 1776.
Provisions of the Frame of 1701.—The "Charter of Privileges” was in reality a written constitution in which the powers of the freemen, already granted under the preceding "Frames,” were greatly increased. It provided (1) that no person believing in one God should be molested on account of religion; but (2) only Christians could take part in the government; (3) property relations could be disturbed by legal process alone; (4) a General Assembly consisting of a single house should annually be elected by the freemen,-meaning the taxpayers; (5) this Assembly should have the rights of freeborn subjects of England, in so far as was conformable with their position as colonists; (6) the Proprietary should be represented by a Governor and Council possessing the right of veto; (7) freedom of conscience was not denied to Roman Catholics; (8) the constitution could be amended, except as to religious freedom, by the concurrence of the Governor and six sevenths of the members of the General Assembly,
Death of Penn: Controversies. Penn returned to England in 1701. Misfortunes soon came to him and he became involved in debt. In 1712, while seeking to dispose of his control of Pennsylvania to the Crown, he was stricken with apoplexy and became incapable of business. He died in
1718, and left all of his affairs in a very unsettled condition. His sons succeeded to his interests, but cared little for the safety and peace of the colony. It would seem that their object was to get all they could out of it, and spend nothing upon it. The vast tracts of land owned by the Penns were untaxed; yet the colonists were obliged to defend at their own expense the entire colony, including these untaxed estates. Controversies arose. The Assembly refused to submit to such injustice, and contended that the rents were originally intended to meet the expenses of government. Franklin was sent to England to protest; and, after much labor, succeeded in so far at least that the Proprietors were no longer able to boast that their untaxed lands were nevertheless protected at the public cost. But the attempt to make Pennsylvania a royal colony failed. The Proprietorship stood until it was swept away by the Revolutionary War. In 1779 the entire claims of the Penn family were purchased by the State of Pennsylvania for $650,000; the Legislature having voted this remuneration to the heirs of Penn in settlement of all claims, the money to be paid three years after peace was made with England. The sum eventually paid was $570,000. In 1790, the British government voted a pension of £4,000 to the eldest male descendant of Penn's second wife in payment for the surrender of the lands. As late as 1884, this pension was commuted for the sum of £67,000.
What was the general plan of Penn's “Frame of Government” drawn up for the new colony?
What twofold foundation for government did the Frame set forth?
What were some of the provisions of the first Frame of Government?