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William Penn to James Logan, Future President of Council of Pennsylvania, Mayor of Philadelphia, Chief Justice of PA Supreme Court, and Founder of the Library Company
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Penn, writing from England, asks his trusted secretary in Philadelphia to assist Thomas Haywood regarding his lands and debts. Penn was in the midst of his own ongoing dispute about ownership of all of Pennsylvania, which had originated with the crowning of William and Mary in 1688, and trumped-up charges of treason due to Penn’s championing of religious freedom, which led to an opportunity for Penn’s manager to, in effect, embezzle the entire colony from him. (See below for more details). A month after Penn wrote this letter, Logan advises Penn to avoid ruin by selling the government “for a valuable consideration” as the only “probable method of clearing thy debts.” 

Penn did not heed Logan’s advice, and the court placed Penn in debtor’s prison from January 1707 to August 1708. Penn eventually settled the Ford claim with a payment of £7,600, and then began negotiations to sell the colony to the Crown. Unfortunately, a series of strokes from 1711 to 1713 interrupted his negotiations, and he died in poverty. His family (after its own dispute between step-sons) retained ownership of the colony of Pennsylvania until the American Revolution.

WILLIAM PENN. Autograph Letter Signed to James Logan. n.p. [London?], June 27, 1706. 1 p., 6¼ x 7½ in. bifolium with integral address leaf with panel in Penn’s hand.

Inventory #23806       Price: $14,000

Complete Transcript


[James] Logan /

with my love, desireing thy utmost care for my Concerns, & thy comfort into the bargain,shew the bearer Thomas Haywood, wt Just Kindness thou canst, be it abt Land, or debts due to him in ye country. I have hinted to Thee wt I mean, in my little letter aforesd. Expect an other by this opertunity to Thine of ye 12·10th[2] & 29 of ye 11m[3] more distinctly. So with my love to all our Frds, farewell.

                                                                        Thy assured Frd.

                                                                        Wm. Penn

<2> [Address leaf panel, also in Penn’s hand:]

For James Logan, Secrety of Pennsylvania, &c. / Philadelphia / per T. Haywood

[Endorsement:] William Penns Letter to his Seretary in Pennsylvania to assist Tho Hayward about Land and debts he having both ? in England

Historical Background

Penn had founded his colony in 1681 on principles of democracy and religious freedom, and made his first visit to America in 1682, and returned to England in 1685 to aid his oppressed fellow Quakers there. He convinced King James II to allow Quakers to practice their religion in England as well as in America, but the King was soon exiled and William and Mary ascended to the throne in 1688. With Penn continuing to speak out against religious persecution, in 1690, Penn was imprisoned in the Tower of London for two weeks. In 1692 Penn was charged with treason, and Pennsylvania was taken away from him. Before going into hiding, Penn attempted to protect the colony and his interest in it by signing a deed (today it would be a considered a power of attorney - consistent with the practice of the time it was written as a sale deed, with the unwritten understanding that it was only meant to go into effect in the event of the death or disability of the transferor) to his friend and fellow-Quaker Philip Ford for the “entire province and territories” of Pennsylvania.[4] The Quakers petitioned King William for a fair trial, and eventually Penn was cleared of all charges, with his ownership restored by the king in 1694.

During William Penn’s second visit to the colony of Pennsylvania from 1699 to 1701, he brought James Logan with him to serve as the secretary of the colony. But Penn apparently did not re-claim his deed from Philip Ford, who died in 1702.  Ford’s widow soon began a lawsuit against Penn, arguing that her husband had bought Pennsylvania from Penn, and that Penn’s three-year lease had expired without Penn having paid rent; she was determined to take the colony. 

In October 1705, Logan informed Penn of the legal troubles, and noted that the colony’s Assembly resolved “to do all in their power for thine and the country’s good, and will endeavour to put things in the best condition for a surrender, if thou must be obliged to it, tho’ they desire the contrary.”[5]  On May 28, 1706, Logan had written Penn more pessimistically that “thy Interest is very Little regarded there are Few that think it any sin to have what they can from thee, yet there are still some truly Honest but none look upon it as thir business… While the world stands thy Interest is like to be Unworthily served here, every man is for himself.”[6]

William Penn (1644-1718) was an English Quaker and the founder of Pennsylvania. In 1681, King Charles II granted Penn a royal charter for a large quantity of his American land holdings for debts the king owed to Penn’s father. Penn arrived in 1682, and established the colony of Pennsylvania. He sailed up the Delaware River and founded Philadelphia to be the capital. He returned to England in 1684, but he again came to Pennsylvania in 1699 and stayed for two years. Later, settlers on the lower Delaware split away in 1704 to form what became Delaware.  Penn was an early supporter of colonial unification and an advocate of democratic government. The embezzlement of his financial manager led Penn to debtors’ prison in 1707 at age 62. Sympathetic Quakers got Penn’s sentence reduced to house arrest and eventually obtained his release. He died penniless in Ruscombe west of London.

James Logan (1674-1751) was born in Ireland to an Irish father and Scottish mother, who were Quakers.  He came to America in 1699 as William Penn’s personal secretary.  He became Penn’s most trusted advisor and, after Penn’s death, the counselor of Penn’s sons. Logan served as secretary of Pennsylvania (from 1701), member of the governing Council (1702-1747), President of the Council and chief executive (1736-1738), Mayor of Philadelphia (1722-1723), chief justice of the colonial supreme court (1731-1739), and acting governor (1736-1738). He collected a personal library of nearly 4,000 volumes, helped found the Library Company of Philadelphia, and donated his library to it after his death.

Thomas Haywood. In 1681, Penn conveyed 250 acres of land in Pennsylvania to Haywood for £5. At the time, Haywood was a sergemaker in Charlecott, Wiltshire, England.


Small loss at top of both pages renewed without loss of text, other small repairs, address leaf silked.


Ex- Charles E. Sigety Collection

[1] “27·4·1706” was the 27th day of the fourth month of 1706. However, Penn followed the Quaker convention that designated March as the first month and February as the twelfth, so this date is June 27, 1706.

[2] James Logan to William Penn, December 12, 1705, informing Penn of letters written by Philip Ford, son of his former business manager of the same name, and that Ford’s widow, Bridget Ford, had now sent a power of attorney to allow agents in Pennsylvania to press her claims.  Edward Armstrong, ed., Correspondence between William Penn and James Logan, 2 vols. (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co., 1870-1872), 2:93-94.

[3] James Logan to William Penn, January 29, 1706, informing Penn of the actions of the colonial assembly, the friendliest Penn can ever expect, and seeks his approval of specific laws.  He also requests Penn to send a response to “Ford’s business.” Ibid., 2:97-100.

[4] Marion Balderston, ed., “William Penn’s Letter of Attorney to Philip Ford, 1682,” Quaker History 54 (Autumn 1965): 108-10.

[5] James Logan to William Penn, October 24, 1705, Correspondence between William Penn and James Logan, 2:80.

[6] Craig W. Horle et al., eds., Papers of William Penn, 5 vols. (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1981-1987), 4:538.

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