Law and Slavery in Quaker-run 18th Century Pennsylvania and the State of Delaware

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William Penn abandoned English Civil Law when it applied to enslaved Africans. Pennsylvania laws regarding slaves placed an emphasis on maternal (i.e. Black female slave), and not paternal (i.e. potential White colonist) provenance for slave offspring. Thus, Quaker law-makers attempted to establish slavery in perpetuity in the colony. In Pennsylvania this principle was allowed and defended as being the custom over time and also because it was the law in other countries.

In 1786 the State’s Supreme Court reinforced the status quo when it declared that, the principles of maternal provenance for Black and Mulatto children was and always had been the law.

It should also be noted that many of the slaves in Delaware were bought in Maryland or Philadelphia and the political and legal patterns in Pennsylvania exerted influence on Delaware even after that colony had ceased to be subject to Pennsylvanian laws in 1704.

Prior to 1700 slaves on the West Bank shared some of the legal rights as Whites; e.g. ‘Peter’ was a slave indicted by Kent County Grand Jury on suspicion of murdering a White woman and was found not guilty in 1699). Prior to the 18th Century Blacks were not singled out for particularly harsh treatment nor, if the Black person was free, was there a ban on inter-race marriages; e.g. a free Black, John Johnson of Kent County married Elizabeth, who was White.

But, in early C18th Pennsylvanian passed laws (also passed in Delaware) to codify the position of Black slaves:

In 1700, because White owners did not want to prosecute their slaves – and lose their labour, a series of Acts, supported by William Penn, were passed by the Pennsylvania legislature establishing separate ‘negro courts’(1) for ‘serious crimes’ (the term ‘negro’ was often a synonym for ‘slave’). This was a response to the growing Black population in the colony. In 1704, Delaware was granted its own legislation and actually scrapped these courts – only to re-introduce them in 1726.

1700

Blacks faced different punishments:

  • For murder, buggery, burglary or rape of a White woman the punishment was death
  • For attempted rape the punishment was castration
  • For robbery and stealing the punishment was whipping and the slave’s master had to make good the theft

1705-06

The above law was repeated, except the punishment for attempted rape was whipping, branding, imprisonment and transportation and these same penalties were imposed for thefts of over £5. Theft valued under £5 meant whipping up to 39 lashes.

A further Law in 1705-06 forbid the mixture of races and inter-race marriage. For violations a White person could be fined £30, or sold as a servant for a period not exceeding 7 years.

A clergyman carrying out the marriage ceremony could be fined £100.

In Delaware ‘serious crimes’ included murder, manslaughter, buggery, robbery, rape and attempted rape. After 1726, slave masters were compensated two-thirds of the value of the slave put to death– this was a copy of the Pennsylvania Law of 1706. This compensation was paid by a court of two Justices of the Peace and six substantial freeholders. The compensation monies actually came from funds derived from a tax on imported slaves ~ what a vicious circle!

Traditionally the movement of slaves rested with their Pennsylvania owners. Because of complaints about Black people’s “tumultuous assemblies” a law was passed in 1705-06 stopping assembly of Blacks. No slave was allowed to go further than 10 miles without a leave of his master. The penalty was 10 lashes on the bare back. There was the same punishment for a slave who left his master’s home after 9pm or was found in a tippling house.

Also, Whites were forbidden to employ such slaves, or harbour, or shelter them (except in unseasonable weather). If they broke this law they faced a fine of 30 shillings for every 24 hours the slave was harboured. Blacks were also not allowed to gather in companies of more than 4 people.

Notes:

 (1) Such special courts for slaves were common in English American colonies including New York.

Sources:

  • PETER H WOOD http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_H._Wood, Black Majority, Negroes in Colonial South Carolina from 1670 through the Stono Rebellion, WW Norton & Co Inc., 1974.
  • WILLIAM H WILLIAMS, Slavery and Freedom in Delaware, 1639-1865, Scholarly Resources Inc., 1997.
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1765 newspaper advertisement: NY – Philidelphia Stagecoach

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This ad is from the August 29, 1765, Pennsylvania Gazette, and describes a New York-to-Philadelphia stagecoach transportation service.

The image comes from the excellent blog on Early American newpapers: Rag Linen. It’s well worth a visit!

Interests in the Proprietorship of Pennsylvania (1712 – 1777)

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William Penn (1644-1718) was married twice.

First marriage, 1672: Gulielma Springett (1644-164)

Children: William 1680-1720; Letitia (1678-1745)

 Second marriage, 1696: Hannah Callowhill

Children: 4 died in childhood; John (The American) 1700-1746; Thomas, 1702-1775; Richard Snr, 1705-1771

1.   When William Penn became ill in 1712, his wife, Hannah Penn acted as proprietor.

When William Penn died in 1718, Hannah took charge of the colony and arranged for the proprietorship to be proportioned to her sons in the following ways:

–          John (The American): Chief Proprietor, ½ interest

–          Thomas Penn: ¼ interest

–          Richard Penn Snr: ¼ interest

2.   When John (The American) died in 1746:

–          Thomas Penn: Chief Proprietor, had a ¾  interest

–          Richard Penn Snr: had a ¼ interest

3.   When Richard Snr died in 1771:

–          Thomas Penn: Chief Proprietor, had a ¾  interest

–          John (of Stoke) Penn (son of Thomas): had a ¼ interest

4.    When Thomas Penn died in 1775:

–          John (of Stoke) Penn (son of Thomas): had a ¾  interest

–          John Penn (son of Richard Snr): had a ¼ interest

 

Admiral Sir William Penn – videos of the battles for Hispaniola and Jamaica, 1655!!

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Click here to view a Spanish language trailer for a film on  the Siege of Santo Domingo of 1655. It was a major battle fought between April 23 to April 30, 1655 at the Spanish Colony of Santo Domingo (Hispaniola). A force of 2400 Spanish troops led by Governor Don Bernardino Meneses and Bracamonte, Count of Peñalba, defeated a force of 13,120 troops and 34 ships of the English Commonwealth Navy led by Admiral Sir William Penn [1].

So, the question is … does anyone know the title of the film in question?

[1] Admiral Penn was the Sea General who, with English land forces, went on to capture the island of Jamaica from the Spanish, thus establishing that island as the centre of English slave trading and sugar production.

Captain William Crispin ~ uncle of the Quaker, William Penn

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In 1643 Margaret Van der Schure (Jasper) married (Admiral Sir) William Penn (1621-1670). Seven years later, c1650, Margaret Penn’s sister, Anne, married Captain William Crispin.
Like the Penn family, William Crispin (c1610-1681/2) was a merchant; captaining his own ship as he plied international trade, including importing wool from Holland.
During the period of the English Revolution (1640-49) he was a ship’s purser on a number of vessels. He is also reported as being a soldier under Cromwell and rose to be Captain of the Guard. In 1652, during the Commonwealth period, he was appointed command of the Hope.
Under Admiral Penn he became a naval captain and later sailed under the Admiral’s command in attacks on, firstly,  the Dutch (1643-44) when he commanded the Assistance (180 men, 40 guns) and then, commanding the “Laurel” ( 160 seamen, 30 soldiers and 40 guns), on the Spanish in the Caribbean as part of Cromwell’s ‘Western Design’
Like Admiral Penn, Captain Crispin was in favour of the return of the Monarchy and conspired against the Cromwellian republican government.
At the time of the Restoration he was living in the important, English-occupied, Irish port of Kinsale ~ probable to be near and work in association with Admiral Penn. He later lived in Kilrush, County Clare, in close association with Admiral Penn, for some 20 years. He may well have been an administrator of English ‘justice’ in the county ~ certainly he will have been awarded for his previous Royalist sympathies and activities. There is no mention that he became a Quaker while in Ireland – though it is an outside possibility.
Captain Crispin died in Barbados en route to be a Commissioner in Pennsylvania (one of three originally appointed) which was the property of the Admiral’s son, the Quaker, William Penn. He was to work with William Penn’s cousin, William Markham, who was the Deputy-Govenor of the colony. Specifically the Commissioners were to negotiate with Native Americans for land to build the city of Philadelphia.
Penn also intended Crispin to act as a Chief Justice in the province:
“London, 18th 8th mo. 1681.
Cosen Markham :
“… I have sent my Cosen, William Crispin, to be thy Assistant, as by Commission will appear. His Skill, Experience, Industry & Integrity are well known to me, & perticulerly in court-keeping &c ; so that it is my will & pleasure that he be as Chief Justice, to keep the Seal, the Courts & Sessions ; & he shall be accountable to me for it. The proffits redounding are to his proper behoof. He will show thee my Instructions, which will guide you all in the business. The rest is left to your discretion ; that is, to thee, thy two Assistants & the Counsel. . . . Pray be very respectfull to my Cosen Crispin. He is a man my father had great confidence in and value for. . . .
William Penn.”
The Captain was one of the first purchasers of land in Pennsylvania – buying some 5,000 acres. When Crispin died Penn gifted these lands and the rights to city lots in Philadelphia to Crispin’s nine children.
Following the death of her husband, Anne stayed in Ireland with her younger children for seven years.
As relations, by marriage, to William Penn, the Crispins became involved in the establishment of the Pennsylvania colony  ~ as landowners and administrators.
For further information on the Cripin family read: Captain William Crispin, Proprietary’s Commissioner for Settling the Colony in Pennsylvania by Oliver Hough

Margaret Penn: wife of Admiral Sir William Penn and mother of the Quaker, William Penn

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In 1643, aged 22, (Admiral Sir) William Penn (1621-1670) was appointed as a Captain in the Royal Navy. In the same year he married Margaret Van der Schure (Jasper). At the end of this blog entry there is a short pdf slideshow relating to the life of Margaret Penn.

Margaret van der Schure has been described as a ‘gay widow’. Her father might well have been John Baptist Jasper, a merchant of the Strand, London who became a “prolific purchaser of confiscated royal goods“. He “may have been a leading London Merchant “ (so his affairs could have been complimentary to the Penn family’s own mercantile interests – see previous blog entry on Giles Penn). Perhaps the two families had on-going business/trading connections?

In 1642, (Admiral Sir) William Penn was on leave in London so it may have been then that he met Margaret. They married in 1643 at St Martin-within-Ludgate, 40 Ludgate Hill, London and close to Margaret’s family home in the Strand.. The church of St. Martin-within-Ludgate was destroyed by the Great Fire of London of 1666 and was rebuilt by Christopher Wren. There is reported to be a display by the door which commemorates Admiral Sir William Penn.

Their marriage is recorded thus: “1643. June 6th. Williame Penne and Margaret van der Schuren, by Dr Dyke, Lecturer…witness Mr Roach, churchwarden then”

The marriage is also record in the City of London Guildhall; perhaps this second certificate was needed for Penn to claim the compensation for Margaret’s loss of Irish estates: “1643. June 6. William Penne and Margaret van der Schuren by Mr Dyke, Lecturer.”

The use of Mr Dyke, a Lecturer (a holder of a stipend for preaching) to officiate the marriage shows the couple’s Puritan dissatisfaction with beneficed clergy.

After their marriage they lived in “Tower Gardens and the navy quarters where they were only able to afford two rooms”. When (Admiral Sir) William Penn was promoted in 1644, he and Margaret moved to a house that belonged to Charles II:

“…built with brick linings backward and adjoining to the east side of a former tenement, consisting of one hall, a parlour and a kitchen…with divided cellar underneath same and, above stairs, in first storey two fair chambers and on second storey two more and two garrets over the same with a yard before the same, now in possession of William Penn.”

It was in this house that the Quaker, William Penn (1644 -1718), was born on 14th October, 1644. With his father frequently absent at sea for long periods of time, It was Margaret who was to have the greater influence on the emotional and religious development of her son.

Margaret and her husband were, no doubt, a plain, Purtian couple, and, when they were married, lived in moderate circumstances in lodgings near the Tower of London. The diarist, Samuel Pepys, who had a close association with the family over a number of years, wrote of their beginnings with information he obtained from a Mrs Turner:

“She [Mrs Turner] says that he was a pityfull [fellow] when she first knew them; his lady was one of the sourest, dirty women, that ever she saw; that they took two chambers, one over the othr, for themselves and child in Tower Hill; that for many years together they eat more meals at her house than at their own that she brought my lady who was then a dirty slattern with her stockings hanging about her heels so that afterwards the people of the whole Hill did say that Mrs Turner made Mrs Pen a gentlewoman.”

Although plainly dressed the Penn newly weds still had a capacity for high spirits. (Admiral) Penn is described by Pepys as one whose pranks included “drinking the susceptible into a stupor, singing bawdt songs and supping at midnight off bread-and-butter on the roof” Pepys found Penn “a very merry fellow” with a wife with a similar approach to life. Pepys also described Margaret’s pranks as including “flinging Pepys on a bed at a party and heaping female guests upon him”.

Pepys describes his first meeting with Margaret Penn in August, 1664:

“At noon dined at home and after dinner my wife and I to Sir W Pen’s to see his lady, the first time, wo was well looked, fat short old Dutch woman, but one that hath been heretofore pretty handsome, and is now very discreet and I beleive hath more wit than her husband. Here we stayed talking a good while and very well please I was with the old woman at first visit.” At a later date Pepys says that Margaret is “mighty homely and looks old.”

10 years after their marriage (Admiral Sir) William Penn petitioned for restitution of wife’s estates in ‘County Clare, Rneanna and Jasper’s Bridge’. He appealed to Oliver Cromwell, who acted and passed an order in Council on 1st September, 1654:

“On consideration of the petition of General William Penn one of the admirals at se; Ordered, by his Highness and the council, that as a mark of favour to him and in consideration of his sufferings in an estate of his wife’s in Ireland, lands in Ireland yet undisposed of be set forth to him and his heirs of three hundred pounds per annum value, as the same worth in the year 1640; and that, for empowering the Lord-Deputy and council to set forth the same accordingly, an ordinance be brought in.”

Cromwell himself also addressed a letter to the Lord-Deputy and council in Ireland on 4th December:

“Gentlemen, Ourselves and council having thought fit, in consideration of the great losses sustained by General Penn and his wife by the rebellion in Ireland, and as remuneration of his good and faithful services performed to the Commonwealth to order that lands to the value of £300 per year, in Ireland as they were let in the year 1640, to be settled on General Penn and his heirs; and for such as he is now engaged in further service for the commonwealth in the present expedition by sea, and cannot himself look after the settling of the said estate, it is our will and pleasure, that lands of the said value be speedily surveyed and set forth in such place where there is a castle or convenient house for habitation upon them and near to some town or garrison, for the security and encouragement of such as he shall engage to plant and manure the same, and if it be, such lands as are already planted … We do earnestly and specially recommend the premises to your care, and remain, your loving friend, [Signed] Oliver Cromwell”

 The castle that was awarded was Macroom, near the town of Cork. Margaret Penn often went to Ireland and lived there for long periods of time on one or other of the family’s estates. Post the 1661 Act of Settlement in Ireland it was Margaret Penn, in her husband’s absence, who dealt with the legal transference of Macroom Castle to the Earl of Clancarty and the Penn appropriation of the estates of Shanagarry in East Cork & Konakilty in West Cork and the appointment of the Admiral as governor and captain of the castle and fort of Kinsale.

When the Great Plague hit London in 1665 the Admiral was working for the British Naval Board, Margaret and the family remained in London until September in which month they moved to safer lodgings in Woolwich.

On the 11th January, 1666 Pepys wrote:

“All of us by invitation to Sir W Penn’s and much company, among others the Lieutenant of the Tower and Dr Whistler and his [prospective] son-in-law Lower, servant to Mrs Margaret Penn”. Anthony Lowther later married William & Margaret’s daughter, also named Margaret and referred to in the family as ‘Peg’. (This couple will be the subject of a future blog posting)

The Penns acquired a country house at Walthamstow (now in London, E17) as did their close family friend and Bristolian, Sir William Batten (d. 1667), a surveyor of the Navy. They both often entertained Samuel Pepys there, probably in Marsh Street (now High Street) where Margaret Penn was rated as living. Another theory suggests that they lived in Clay Street (now Forest Road).

When the Admiral resigned from the Navy Board in 1669 he gave up his house in Navy Gardens. London. The family went to live in the countryside at Wanstead (now part of North East London) and it was there that Margaret’s husband died on 16th September, 1670. His will stated:

“And first I doe will and devise unto my deare Wife Dame Margaret Penn to be paid unto her immediately after my decease the Summe of three hundred pounds sterling together with all my jewels other than what I shall hereinafter devise … the use during her life of one full moiety of all my plate … and all Coaches and Coach-horses or Coach-mares.”

Margaret accompanied the Admiral’s cortege from Wanstead to Bristol for his burial in St Mary Redcliffe Church, Bristol.

Margaret’s son, Richard , who had been left one hundred and twenty pounds a year until he was twenty-one, and then four thousand pounds, by the Admiral, survived his father by only three years. He died on 9th April, 1673, and buried at Walthamstow.

Margaret Penn died, twelve years after her husband’s death, in 1682.

Sources:
1. An Uncommon Sailor – a portrait of Admiral Sir William Penn, Lucie Street, The Kensal Press, 1986.
2. www.hallvworthington.com/Penn/FamilyHistory.html

Click on the following title to download a pdf slide show on Margaret Penn – Wife of Admiral Sir William Penn

William Penn statue in Bristol, UK

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In the open public space Millennium Square, Bristol, UK there is a statue to the Quaker, William Penn. It is yet another uncritical public portrayal of William Penn – no word here, in the old slaving port of Bristol, of Penn being a slave owner, nor is there any mention of the displacement of Native Americans or the despoilation of a wilderness. Rather there is a poorly crafted scroll with the words: “Death is but crossing the World as Friends do the seas, they live in one another still.

Penn’s statue stands with those of three other men with Bristol-ish connections: Cary Grant (actor), William Tyndale (15th century translator of the bible into English) and Thomas Chatterton (poet). All the pieces are by the US-born artist Lawrence Holofcener and, to my mind, the Penn piece is particularly awful!

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Admiral Sir William Penn’s memorial in St Mary Redcliffe Church, Bristol

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Admiral Sir William Penn  (1621 – 1670) died a very wealthy man, aged just 49, at Wanstead, Essex. The following month he was buried at St. Mary Redcliffe Church, Bristol, England.

Admiral Sir William Penn’s armour, replacement flags and memorial tablet

Admiral Penn’s armour, coat of arms and crest are on prominent display in St Mary Redcliffe Church, Bristol. Until very recently there also hung the original flags from captured Dutch vessels as well as one of the red flags denoting him as one of Cromwell’s generals. The church has now replaced these flags with reproductions. Below the armour there is a marble memorial tablet to Admiral Sir William Penn with text written by his son, the Quaker William Penn. It avoids any mention of his father’s role as Cromwell’s Sea-General, the ill-fated attempt to seize Haiti or his imprisonment in the Tower of London. It reads:

 “To Ye Just Memory of Sr. William Penn, Kt & Sometimes Generall; borne at Bristol In 1621 son of Captain Giles. Penn severall years consul for ye English in ye Mediterranean of the Penns of Penn Lodge in the County of Wilts & those Penns of Penn in ye County of Bucks & by his Mother from ye Gilberts in ye County of Somerset, Originally of Yorkshire. Addicted from his youth to maritime affairs he was made Captain at ye years of 21. Rear-Admirall of Ireland at 23, Vice Admirall of Ireland at 24. Admirall to ye. Straightes at 29. Vice Admirall of England at 31 a Generall in ye First Dutch Warres at 32 whence retiring in Ano.1665. He was chosen a Parliament man for ye Towne of Weymouth 1660 made Commissioner of ye Admiralty & Navy Govoner of ye Towns and Ports of King Sail Vice Admirall of Munster & a member of that Provinciall Councell and in Ano. 1664, Was Chozen Great Captain Commander Under his Royall Highness: In ye signall & most Evidently Successful fight against the Dutch Fleet. Thus he took his Leave of the Sea his old element, But Continued still His other Employs till 1669: at which Time: Through Bodily Infirmitys. (Contracted by ye Care & Fatigue of Public Affairs) He Withdrew Prepared & Made for his end, & with a Gentle & Even Gale in much peace arrived & anchored in his Last and Best Port, at Wanstead In ye County of Essex ye 16 Sept 1670 being then but 49 & 4 months old To whose Name and Merit his surviving Lady Hath Erected this Remembrance”

Admiral Sir William Penn and the taking of Jamaica in 1654

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Admiral Sir William Penn

Admiral Sir William Penn was the father of the Quaker William Penn. As noted earlier the Admiral is buried in St Mary Redcliffe church, Bristol, England. What many people in Bristol, including many of Jamaican decent, do not know is that he was the Sea General responsible for the attack on the Spanish slave colony of Jamaica and annexing it as an English colony in 1654.

At the end of this post there is a pdf download of slides I used during my recent series of talks in New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore. Feel free to use them as an educational resource if you wish.
 

During 1654 (when England was a Republic under the leadership of Oliver Cromwell) Admiral Penn offered his services and his fleet to the exiled King Charles II. Charles asked him to wait for a more opportune time before changing political sides. But then, in October the same year, Penn had no scruples about being appointed as Cromwell’s Admiral to take the Caribbean island of Hispaniola (now the Dominican Republic and Haiti). This was part of Cromwell’s colonial Western Design. Later that year a Sea-Armament of 30 – 60 ships and 4,000 soldiers set sail from England bound for Hispaniola. Sea General Penn and the land-army General, Venables, had numerous disagreements, (Penn, as we’ve seen, was equivocal in his support for the Cromwellian regime and Venables was an ardent Parliamentarian, this, coupled with their equal yet divided commands, lead to much mutual hostility).

The fleet was reinforced by about 5,000, reluctant recruits from Barbados and the Leeward Islands who were taken on at St. Kitts. The English reinforcements were nominated by colonial Regimental Commanders who took the opportunity of sending people they considered to be undesirable and their number included an indentured labourer and soon-to-be-famous privateer, Henry Morgan.

While in Barbados the resident colonists were unwilling to get involved in the Cromwellian escapade and were reluctant to release their slaves and indentured servants to fight against the Spanish. In fact the Barbadian planters and colonists had been doing a prosperous trade with New England colonies and with the Netherlands, in direct conflict with English foreign policy. They were not about to see themselves as subject to rule from a remote Republican England especially as its population of some 30,000 people included a sizable number of Royalists who had fled there after being so recently defeated. It is also worth noting that just four years earlier, in 1650, Barbados had come out in support of King Charles II and their rebellion had been put down by the use of two men-of-war and 1,000 troops.

On April 14th, 1655, the force landed on Hispaniola and set off on a sixty-mile march during which they were ambushed and later repulsed by the Spanish before being thoroughly defeated and fleeing in panic on April 25th. English soldiers then started dying at an alarming rate; in total 1,000 of the English troops died, either in battle or from disease. After re-assembling, licking their wounds and burying their dead, the English force set off for the Spanish possession of Jamaica, an island that they knew to be poorly defended and seen as a much less important prize. Thirty-eight ships sailed into Port Royal (Kingston) which was quickly captured. Spanish Town was then plundered by English troops. Many of the Spanish on Jamaica escaped, but not before releasing their slaves – who were to become known as the Maroons.  Penn and Venables left Jamaica leaving Vice Admiral Goodison and Major General Fortesque in charge of a very dispirited force. Over the next few years troops died of starvation and disease, they refused to grow crops believing they would be sent home if there was no food. The English were attacked by the freed Spanish slaves.The Governors; Fortesque, Sedgwick and Brayne, died, one after the other. English colonists encouraged to go to Jamaica from other islands fared little better than the troops.

When Penn returned to London he was dismissed from his post and punished by spending time in the Tower of London. Cromwell wrote to Admiral Blake:

‘It is too sad a truth, the Expedition to the West Indies has failed! Sea-General Penn and Land-General Venables have themselves come home, one after the other, with the disgraceful news; and are lodged in the Tower [of London], a fortnight ago, for quitting their posts without orders.’

When Penn had returned from the West Indies he brought back a slave named, Sampson. The Admiral had acquired ownership of him in Barbados by trading him for his original, personal servant slave, Anthony. Penn is also known to have owned at least one further slave named, Jack.

When Penn retired to the castle and estates of Macroom he wrote a code of naval tactics which was later incorporated by the Duke of York into his ‘Sailing and Fighting Instructions’; which became the standard text for British naval expansionist tactics for some centuries.

Sir Admiral William Penn and the taking of Jamaica, 1664

Tomb and commemoration of Admiral Sir William Penn at St Mary Redcliffe Church, Bristol

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Admiral Sir William Penn (1621-1670) is buried, commemorated and celebrated in St Mary Redcliffe Church in Bristol, England. In 1600 his parents Giles Penn and Jeanne Gilbert were married in the same church and Jeanne was later buried in the family tomb.

Below the following slideshow of images is a short history of the Redcliffe district of Bristol.

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A short history of the area of Redcliffe, Bristol

Redcliffe was independent of Bristol until c.1255 when it was part of the Manor of Bedminster. The church of St. Mary Redcliffe rises 292 feet above the “red cliff” after which both the church and the district derive their name. During the later mediaeval period Redcliffe was divided in two by the creation of the Portwall. The wall was described as being eight feet thick and had two main entry points; one at Temple Gate and the other, Redcliffe Gate. During the 14th and 15th Centuries the Canynges family were one of a number of Bristol merchant families who lived in Redcliffe. They were responsible for the development of St Mary Redcliffe Church which, despite its large size, operated as a chapel-of-ease and was subordinate to St John’s of Bedminster. Bedminster was then in the diocese of Bath & Wells and in the gift of the prebend of Bedminster and Redcliffe at Salisbury. But in practice Redcliffe was treated as a City of Bristol parish. Bedminster was finally transferred from Bath & Wells to Bristol (then Gloucester & Bristol) by an act of 1837 which became operative in 1845

During the 17th and 18th centuries the Redcliffe area became a centre for industry. Its merchant families began moving north to suburbs or to rural retreats while still retaining their commercial interests in the district and by 1784 there were 600 families registered as living in Redcliffe. Thus: “The traditional home of glass making in Bristol was in the parish of St. Mary Redcliffe which was at the centre of shipping and industry. The narrow, crowded streets of Redcliffe were generally dirty, black and perilous to the passenger crowded by colliers, sandmen, sledges, sailors, carts and horses, as Redcliff Street was an important thoroughfare leading from Bristol Bridge up past the great Church of St. Mary Redcliffe, on to the village of Bedminster and then southward.”

St Mary Redcliffe church today is “High Anglican” – that is to say it is on the Catholic end of the Church of England spectrum  – and it is maintained to a large extent by ‘the great and good’ of Bristol through the “Canynges Society“. It is the church’s traditional dependence on right-wing financial support that prevents it from telling the full story of Admiral Sir William Penn including a full account of his political duplicity, involvement in the bloody colonisation of Ireland and Jamaica, and his ownership of slaves.

Note: Thanks to Jonathan Antony Sturges Harlow for the information on Bedminster’s incorporation into Bristol.