Description

    John and Richard Penn write from London to their brother Thomas in Pennsylvania about the Indians and the border dispute with Maryland

    John Penn and Richard Penn Autograph Letter Signed "John Penn" and "Richard Penn," three pages, 9.25" x 14.5", front and verso. London, January 30, 1737. Handwritten by Richard, to their brother, Thomas Penn. Sons of William Penn (1644-1718), the founder of Pennsylvania, John Penn (1699-1746), Richard Penn (1706-1771), and Thomas Penn (1702-1775) were jointly the proprietors of Pennsylvania. Original spelling. In part, "We are much pleas'd with the account of Conrad Weisers journey to the five Nations, and the particular friendship they express for us, We believe by their description of the Virginia Indians, they know them better than the Govern'r, who We think was very wrong to restrict them for coming into his Government some years agoe, which must have increas'd the enmity, between them and the Southern Indians. We are pleas'd by yours of the 20th Augst to find the Assembly so generally came into an allowance towards the Charges occation'd by the invasions from Maryland. Mr. Baillis is not yet gone from Scotland, but designs it in the Spring, and we hope by the time he arrives the Surveyers will have found out some considerable Tracts of good land clear of Indian claims, either up Susquehannah or Deleware in one of the purchases made by you on those Rivers, but we design to write more fully to you on this Head in our next. We are very glad to hear you have got the confirmation from the Deleware Indians of the former sale, and wish to see a coppy of it with a scetch of the plan of ground, and how far it goes North above the Mountane that are Seen from the Forkes of Deleware...We find by yours of the 27th Nov. you have recd from Maryland the order of Council, & that you think it should restrain them from Granting land behind the lower counties, this wee think also and that as we strongly claim the lands to the begining of the 40 Degree, it will not only keep them from Granting lands in those parts, but any place in Maryland North of the 39th Degree Compleat, which will wee think take in half the Land now called Maryland, but as we have at last got a day fixt (after many disappointments) for hearing all the disputes on the Border, so we hope either by this Ship or the next, we shall be able to send you an absolute order of the King in Council, to set aside the former, with regard to the Granting of land; or else explain it more fully to extend in the maner above mentioned, which we believe my Lord Baltimore will not like by any means, for it will be as prejudicial to him as to us...it would also be of consequence to have coppys of any Grant of Land from the Dutch; Duke of York; or our Father, - below Lewis Town, to prove possession. An old Friend W. Vigor has employ'd severall persons to serch the records at Stockholm, in order to find the grant or release of Deleware from King Charles the first to the Sweeds, but to no purpose as Wee can yet find..."

    German-born Conrad Weiser (1696-1760) came with his family to America in 1712 and settled on the New York frontier. Living near the Mohawks, he learned the language of the Iroquois and helped the German community in their dealings with the Indians. With knowledge of the language and customs of the Iroquois Confederacy (Six Nations, not "five"), Weiser and his wife and children moved to Pennsylvania and was hired by Pennsylvania to guide its Indian policy. The Penns write about the dispute regarding the Maryland-Pennsylvania border "as we strongly claim the lands to the begining of the 40 Degree, it will not only keep them from Granting lands in those parts, but any place in Maryland North of the 39th Degree." In 1732, five years earlier, an agreement signed by Richard Penn, Thomas Penn, and Lord Baltimore directed that commissioners ascertain the boundaries and that they should be appointed within three months. Despite the agreement, the dispute continued as is evidenced by this letter. An agreement was finally signed by the Penns and Lord Baltimore in 1760, 23 years after this letter was sent, and commissioners were appointed. Maryland's northern boundary line was determined by two surveyors, Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, at 39 degrees 44 minutes, between the 39 and 40 degrees mentioned in this letter by the Penns, and it has been known as the Mason-Dixon line ever since.

    The letter was expertly silked for strengthening and preservation with silking at pages two and three where the two conjoined sheets meet. A 1" x 1" portion in one upper corner of each sheet was missing, affecting about five words; it has been repaired. Fine condition. Ex. Henry E. Luhrs Collection.


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    Auction Dates
    February, 2008
    21st-22nd Thursday-Friday
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