Don’t Fire Guns from Ships! It Scares People!

Dateline: Philadelphia 7 Aug 1700. William Penn himself is back in Philadelphia. Women and children and Indians were scared of war if ships kept firing their guns to celebrate or announce the arrival or departure.

Let’s get right to the issue, since it is clear.

7 Aug 1700, Wednesday, at a council held in Philadelphia


William Penn, Proprietor and Governor

Edward Shippen, William Clark, Griffith Owen, Robert Turner, Samuel Carpenter, Thomas Story

Modernized transcription begins:

Complaint having been made to this board of the members of the Council that the late [recent] firing of guns from on board some vessels lying before Philadelphia has not only frightened some women and children, but has also occasioned [caused] some of the Seneca Indians that came hither [to here] to treat with this government to depart, as believing the firing of said guns to have been signs of hostility intended against them.

It was therefore ordered that no vessels lying before the town of Philadelphia shall fire any guns but at coming and going out as a sign of their arrival and departure; and that James Logan give notice to the masters of vessels of this order at their entry of their vessels in his office.

The Governor also, in open Council, informed the 3 Seneca Indians that stayed behind the rest that it was his custom of the English to fire guns as a sign of joy and kind entertainment of their friends coming on board and was in no manner of ways intended to frighten or disoblige them.

As also [he] informed them that they were and should be very welcome to this government and in token of amity and friendship with them, the Governor gave a belt of Wampum by them to be shown to the other Seneca Indians that went away upon firing the said guns, which they kindly accepted of.

The Governor also desired that members of the Council to go on board Capt. Sims’ vessel with the said 3 Indians and their interpreter that they might see the manner of the English on board their vessels, which was accordingly done to their great satisfaction.

Transcription ends.

“Guns” probably does not mean “cannons,” since it was expensive to fire. But it easily believed that the mariners did fire mini-cannons. Whatever the case, Governor Penn and the Council told them to stop and went the extra-mile to reassure the Natives that all was in order and peaceful.


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Minutes of the Provincial Council, vol. 1, 1683-1700, (Jo. Severns and Co. 1852), p. 586.

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