Letters Patent from King William and Queen Mary

Our Documentary Heritage showcases holdings drawn from the vast collections of the Pennsylvania State Archives.

Letters Patent from King William and Queen Mary Restoring Wm. Penn … Proprietor of Penssilvania, to the Government of the Said Province, dated August 20, 1694, is just one of many documents of the Commonwealth safeguarded by the Pennsylvania State Archives in Harrisburg. Like other charters, constitutions, deeds, and treaties that define territorial boundaries, the authority of state government, and the civil and property rights of Pennsylvanians, it is crucial to understanding Pennsylvania history. It is part of a series of basic documents, beginning with the 1681 Charter of King Charles II to William Penn, that were transferred over time by Pennsylvania’s Department of State to the State Archives. This document is part of Record Group 26, Records of the Department of State.

This patent provides evidence of an important government transaction – in this a change in English policy towards the colony of Pennsylvania and its proprietor. William Penn’s right to govern, although not his proprietary ownership of Pennsylvania, was withdrawn in October 1692 partly because of the colony’s persistent reluctance to cooperate in defending the empire. Penn’s colony had twice refused to send help to New York, which was threatened by France and its Indian allies. In addition, Penn was known to be friendly toward the recently overthrown King James II, the enemy of the new sovereigns, William III and Mary II (James’s daughter). At the time of Penn’s removal, all the North American colonies from Maryland north­ward were combined for military purposes, and a soldier, Governor Benjamin Fletcher of New York, placed in charge. Fletcher’s appointment as Pennsylvanian’s governor was part of this rearrangement.

By 1694, King William was faring much better in his war against France in Europe and elsewhere. Hoping to capitalize on this turn of events, Penn campaigned vigorously to have his governorship restored. Promising to comply with future calls for military support, to accept the laws imposed by Fletcher’s government, and to place an acceptable deputy governor in Pennsylvania, Penn won approval of the Board of Trade and Plantations on July 27, 1694. In the absence of King William, who was commanding his army against French forces in Flanders, Queen Mary convened a royal council that resulted in the letters patent terminating Governor Fletcher’s authority and restoring William Penn as governor.