Dateline: Philadelphia, 1 Nov 1689: The Council debates how William and Mary became King and Queen. Let’s listen in on a near-verbatim transcription of their discussion on that day.
William and Mary succeeded on 12 February 1689 and were crowned 23 April 1689. He was a Dutchman with some Stuart blood, being a grandson of Charles I (r. 1625-49). Mary was his first cousin and the Protestant daughter of the deposed James II (r. 1685-89). She was popular, but when she died young at 32 years from smallpox on 28 Dec 1694, he had to contend with increasingly hostile English subjects. They nicknamed him Dutch Billy.
They were ungrateful, for he fought to preserve their liberties and their Protestant religion and to prevent the powerful Louis XIV (14th) of France from dominating Europe.
William died 8 March 1702.
With that background, let’s go back to 1 Nov 1689 and listen in on how the Philadelphia Council debated the legitimacy of the message that the couple were the rightful King and Queen.
Members of the Council: John Blackwell was the Governor, and he was a Puritan. Quakers and Puritans did not get along very well, but William Penn saw that he had wide experience in governance and finances and appointed him to be governor.
Other members: Samuel Carpenter, Griffith Jones, John D’Hayes, John Hill, Peter Alrichs, Luke Watson, John Simcock, John Bristow, Bartholomew Coppock, Wm. Markham, Secretary
The problem is that they got a letter from Whitehall in London which said their majesties would protect their American colonies from the hostile French.
Was this letter sufficient to proclaim William and Mary?
The Council had to decide whether to proclaim them because a member of the Council, John D’Hayes, would not act as a magistrate in New Castle until he knew who was king.
DEBATING THE AUTHORITY OF WILLIAM AND MARY’S ACCESSION
The Governor told him he believed that King William and Queen Mary, the prince and princess of Orange, were king and queen etc. But he had not seen the Proclamation and so knew not how to proclaim them etc.
Mr. D’Hayes’ opinion (that it was not safe to act without proclaiming the King) occasioned several others to declare their minds about it and that the people were earnestly set upon doing it themselves in some of the counties, etc.
The Governor declared he was ready and desirous to do it as anybody, if he had the Proclamation and orders for doing it. But having [it] not, [he] proposed for their satisfaction who were impatient about it that a middle way might be considered of, which he thought might be done by a Declaration of the Governor and Council, owning their authority, and declaring their readiness solemnly to proclaim them as soon as we should receive orders or an authentic copy of the Proclamation, which he expected by the next vessel that should come out of England.
Mr. Simcock said: If a form of Declaration had been sent to us to have proclaimed them, I think we must have observed it. But inasmuch as there is no command sent us by the King of England (whosoever he be) nor from the Secretary to proclaim any King here, I think we have no reason to do it. But I would submit myself to better understanding. The case is doubtful. We are not to believe but to be certain in such matters, etc.
The Governor told them they had proclaimed King James [II] without order.
John Simcock replied: King James was by an Act of Parliament voted the heir to his brother [Charles II] and so he came in; now whoever comes in to put him out, pray let us consider how he comes in; we have an Act of Parliament for the one [James II], but not for the other [William]. It may be dangerous for us to do it without an Order.
Mr. Markham said: How the King came in, we are not to dispute; there is nobody here to question how King William came to the Crown. No man doubts but that he has it [the Crown]. The Governor himself does not question it. If so why may it not be safe for us to yield all due obedience to him. We believe King William and Queen Mary are the King and Queen of England, and so of these dominions; and since we believe it, where is the prejudice in obliging of those who would have them declared to be so, as the Governor has propounded. We suppose this Letter is come from the Secretary of State to King William.
John Simcock replied: How do we know that?
Wm Markham: The letter says their Majesties, and it can be meant of no other. I believe it’s meant of them.
John Simcock replied: We are not to act by faith in this matter, but with certainty.
Mr. Markham replied: Since we believe it, where is the prejudice? The Governor proposed a methodical way for our declaring our obedience to King William and Mary and that we are waiting for the form and manner of proclaiming them. To do this will give satisfaction to all.
Griffith Jones: I know not why we should be more forward than out neighbors. There are two provinces that have not [probably Maryland and Delaware]. It is sufficient for us to proclaim him when we have orders for the doing it. But if we should do it before, certainly we may run ourselves into danger; and for my part I think that if anything be done about declaring it, it is no less to me than proclaiming him. It is our part, and enough, for us to obey the King’s authority when we have it.
John Simcock: It is a trivial thing for us to declare the King till we are commanded.
The Governor said: I think for peace’s sake with our neighbors and amongst ourselves we should do it. And [he] moved a committee might be appointed for drawing a declaration in the name of the Governor and Council, and as their joint agreement that all processes, warrants, and orders that usually passed in the King’s names be hereafter issued in the name of their Majesties, King William and Queen Mary. And all commissions of officers to continue till further orders; and [he] named Wm Markham, John Simcock and John D’Hayes a committee for drawing such a Declaration and presenting it to the Council tomorrow morning, allowing any other members of the Council to be present at the drawing it that they should think fit. And thereupon adjourned till tomorrow morning at seven of the clock.
The council members were legalists.
2 Nov 1689
The committee appointed last night brought in a draft of the declaration. The declaration was unanimously approved after a small debate over some details.
Modernized transcription begins:
Upon sundry and credible information from England and many other places, more especially upon perusal of a printed paper signed John Brown, clerk of the Parliament, instituted the Declaration of the lords, spiritual and temporal, and Commons, assembled at Westminster, bearing date the 12th of February, 1688-89, wherein is the clause following, viz.
The said Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, assembled at Westminster, do resolve:
That William and Mary, Prince and Princess of Orange, be and be declared King and Queen of England, France, and Ireland and the dominions thereunto belonging, to hold the Crown and Royal dignity of the said Kingdoms and dominions to them, the said Prince and Princess, during their lives and the life of the survivors of them.
And that the sole and full exercise of the royal power be only in and executed by the said Prince of Orange, in the names of the said Prince and Princess, during their joint lives; and after their decease, the said Crown and Royal dignity of the said kingdoms and dominions to be [and] to the heirs of the body of the said Princess and for default of such issue, to the Princess Anne [daughter of James II and married George, king of Denmark] of Denmark and the heirs of her body;
And for default of such issue to the heirs of the body of the said Prince of Orange.
The said Lords spiritual and temporal and commons do pray [humbly ask] the said Prince and Princess of Orange to accept the same accordingly.
Now comes the proclamation from the Philadelphia Council.
Modernized transcription begins:
And whereas, we have understood that the said Prince and Princess of Orange have been proclaimed, crowned and do now reign accordingly;
But having not hitherto [up to now] received the Proclamation to be [n]ow published,
We have therefore thought fit by this public instrument [document] to make manifest to the world our loyalty and true affections.
To the said Prince and Princess of Orange, by acknowledging them to ber our King and Queen accordingly;
And do therefore strictly charge and command all the people and inhabitants within this government to yield all due and lawful obedience unto William and Mary, King and Queen of England, etc.
And it is hereby farther commanded that all justices of the peace, sheriffs, clerks, coroners and all other officers whatsoever, now in commission under the government or by authority thereof, do from hence forward act and do all things relating to their offices in their names.
And that all process [trial] be issued out in their names.
And it is hereby further declared that all officers commissioned or empowered by the government do stand, abide, and remain in the same stations, offices and continue until further order.
Roman Catholics excepted.
And that all process issued out before publication hereof do remain and continue in full force and virtue.
Dated at Philadelphia, the second day of the ninth month, 1689 [2 Nov 1689].
John Balckwell, Governor
William Markham, John Bristow, John Simcock, Peter Alrichs, Samuel Carpenter, J. D’Hasyes, John Hill, Griffith Jones, Luke Watson, Bartholomew Coppock.
Ordered that copes of the said Declaration be transcribed and sent to the several sheriffs of the respective counties with orders to cause the same to be forthwith published, and at the farthest by the next respective Court.
RENEWAL OF PROCLAMATION
Sir. William Penn is founder William Penn’s father who died in 1670.
31 Mar 1690
Modernized transcription begins:
We do hereby freely acknowledge allegiance to the King and Queen and declare and promise fidelity and lawful obedience to William Penn, son and heir of Sir William Penn, deceased, and his heirs and assigns, as rightful Proprietary and Governor of the same, according to the King’s letter patents and deeds of grant and feoffment from James, Duke of York ad Albany, etc.
And that we will never act or doe by word or deed, directly or indirectly, say anything nor consent to nor conceal any person or thing whatsoever to the breach of this solemn engagement [commitment].
In witness of which, we have hereunto set our hands, dated in Council at Philadelphia, the thirty-first day of the first month, 1690 [31 Mar 1690]
Thomas Lloyd, President
John Simcock, Johannes D’Hayes, Samuel Richardson, John Blunston, John Curtis, William Clark, Griffith Jones, Arthur Cooke, Griffith Owen, Thomas Duckett, John Brinkloe, Bartholomew Coppock, William Yardley, Thomas Clifton, William Stockdale, John Cann, Luke Watson, William Markham.
Finally! After all the debate, the proclaim them king and queen. It seems that the debate was needless, in the first place. No wonder John Blackwell resigned. It seems the Quakers argued over nothing.
The clause “Roman Catholics excepted” implies that maybe some Catholics entered government on some level, though the odds are that they did not. In any case, the American colonists were nervous about raids from the French and Spanish, and they did not want infiltration from within.
In any case, they finally proclaimed their commitment to King William and Queen Mary.
Minutes of the Provincial Council, vol. 1, 1683-1700, (Jo. Severns and Co. 1852), pp. 302-05.