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Mr. Penn' s examination by the House


Friday, November 10, 1775.

The Duke of Richmond, before he began to examine Mr˙ Penn, begged leave to remove an apprehension which seemed to prevail with several of their Lordships the last day, lest that gentleman, from the delicacy of his situation, should be obliged to answer any question that might embarrass him in relation to persons or opinions, on which he would wish to be silent. Aware of this, he had drawn up the material questions he meant to put to the witness, and delivered him a copy, desiring to point out such, if any, as he wished to decline answering; but Mr˙ Penn, after having perused the paper, returned it to him, with an assurance that none of the questions came within the description his Grace seemed so solicitous to avoid.

The Earl of Sandwich animadverted obliquely on this procedure: said it looked as if the questions and answers had been previously consulted and agreed on between the noble Duke and the witness.

The Duke of Richmond observed, that was a most extraordinary interpretation the noble Earl put on his conduct: he imagined that the candour he had used on this occasion would have met with a different construction; and reprehended the noble Earl very severely on the impropriety of his conduct.

The Earl of Sandwich replied, that he was within the judgment of their Lordships, whether he deserved the reproof now given him; and explained his words by saying he did not mean any previous consultation as originating from his Grace, but merely a general consultation relative to the subject of examination.

The Order of the Day being read, for taking into further consideration the Paper laid before this House by the Earl of Dartmouth, on Monday last, by his Majesty' s command, intituled "Copy of the Petition of the Congress to the King," delivered to the Earl of Dartmouth by Messrs˙ Penn and Lee, on the 1st of September, 1775; and for the Lords to be summoned; and for the attendance of Richard Penn, Esq˙:

The said Mr˙ Richard Penn was called in; and, being sworn, was examined at the bar as follows:

Q. How long have you resided in America?

A. I have resided there four years.

Q. How long were you in the Government in Pennsylvania?

A. Just two years.

Q. Do you know or have you heard of any violence or unfair proceedings in the election of the members of the Continental Congress?

A. I have not heard of any.

Q. Do you think the members are men well informed of


the temper, disposition, and strength of their respective Provinces, and capable of conveying the sense of America?

A. I think they are men of character, and capable of conveying the sense of America.

Q. Do you think that their several proceedings do, in reality, convey the genuine sense of those Provinces you are acquainted with?

A. They do undoubtedly convey the sense of the Provinces they represent.

Q. Have you any reason to doubt they do convey the true sense of the other Provinces?

A. They certainly do convey the sense of the other Provinces also.

Q. Do you think the Provinces will be governed by their decisions?

A. I firmly believe the Provinces will be governed by their decisions?

Q. Do you not think that the present war, on the part of America, is levied and carried on by the directions of the Congress, and supported by the inclination and zeal of the Colonists, in defence of their liberty?

A. This war is levied and carried on by a sense of the defence of their liberties, as they think.

Q. Can you think that it is levied or carried on by any other means or persons?

A. I do not think it is carried on by any other means or account.

Q. Are you personally acquainted with many of the members of the Congress?

A. I am acquainted with almost all the members of the Congress?

Q. Do you think they levy and carry on this war for the purpose of establishing an Independent Empire?

A. I think they do not carry on the war for Independency. I never heard them breathe sentiments of that nature.

Q. For what purpose do you believe they have taken up arms?

A. In defence of their liberties.

Q. Were you in America at the time the Stamp Act was laid?

A. I was.

Q. What effects did it produce?

A. It caused great discontent, uneasiness, and distress.

Q. Were you there when it was repealed?

A. I was.

Q. What effects did the repeal produce?

A. The repeal gave great joy, and the anniversary was kept as a day of mirth and festivity.

Q. Were the Americans satisfied with their condition, notwithstanding the Declaratory Act accompanied the repeal of the Stamp Act?

A. They were satisfied with their condition, notwithstanding the Declaratory Act.

Q. If Great Britain had left things in the state they then were, do you think America would have remained content?

A. I think they would have remained content.

Q. Is it the general opinion in America that they are able to resist the arms of Great Britain, employed to enforce taxation, and the late acts complained of in America?

A. It is the opinion of all I have ever conversed with.

Q. Is the spirit of resistance to these acts general, as far as your knowledge goes?

A. Quite general.

Q. What force has the Province of Pennsylvania raised?

A. When I left Pennsylvania, they had twenty thousand men in arms, imbodied but not in pay; and four thousand five hundred men since raised.

Q. What were these twenty thousand? Militia, or what?

A. They were volunteers throughout the Province.

Q. What were the four thousand five hundred?

A. They were Minute-men, when upon service in pay.

Q. Are they included in the twenty thousand men, or exclusive of them?

A. Exclusive.

Q. Doth the Province contribute money besides to the Continental Army?

A. They do.

Q. How many men, fit to bear arms, is it supposed there are in Pennsylvania?


A. Sixty thousand.

Q. What proportion of these sixty thousand do you believe would willingly come forth, if necessary, in the present contest?

A. All, I believe.

Q. Doth Pennsylvania grow a sufficient quantity of com to supply its inhabitants?

A. Much more than is necessary; for they export considerable every year.

Q. Do they make gunpowder in Pennsylvania?

A. They have lately.

Q. Have they taken any methods to procure saltpetre?

A. They have established several works for that purpose.

Q. Do they cast brass cannon?

A. They do in the city of Philadelphia.

Q. Have they the materials and means of casting iron cannon?

A. They have, in great plenty.

Q. Do they make small-arms?

A. They do, in great numbers, and very complete.

Q. Is it not reckoned that there are, in Pennsylvania and New-York, many strong posts, and considerable rivers?

A. There are.

Q. Are there bridges over the principal rivers?

A. Bridges are not common; in general, there are ferries; the rivers are too rapid for bridges.

Q. Do they build ships in Pennsylvania?

A. They do.

Q. Do they build them expeditiously?

A. Very expeditiously.

Q. Of what burden?

A. Three hundred or four hundred tons.

Q. Did the Congress and the people in general seem dissatisfied with the reception their Petitions had met with here?

A. The Colonies were dissatisfied with the reception of their Petitions; they had conceived great hopes from that I brought over, which was styled the olive-branch; and I was complimented by my friends upon being the bearer thereof.

Q. If conciliatory measures are not speedily pursued, is it not to be feared that the Congress will form some connection with foreign Powers?

A. It is greatly to be feared, if conciliatory measures are not speedily pursued.

Q. If any connection with foreign Powers should be formed, do you not think that it will be very difficult to persuade America to renounce engagements she has once entered into?

A. I do.

Q. When you delivered this petition, did the Secretary of State ask you any questions relative to that country?

A. None at all.

Q. Did he, or any other Minister, at any other time since your arrival, ask you any questions as to the state or temper of America?

A. I have not been asked any questions by persons in authority.

Q. Did most thinking men in Philadelphia understand the refusal of the Petition would be a bar to all reconcilement?

A. They did.

Examined by the Earl of SANDWICH.

Q. Have you ever read the Declaratory Act?

A. I have not read it.

Q. Have you not heard of it?

A. Yes, I have heard of it, but not much discussed.

Q. Do you think that the Colonies assent to the following words: "That the Colonies and Plantations in America have been, are, and of right ought to be, subordinate unto, and dependant upon the imperial Crown and Parliament of Great Britain? "

A. The Colonies, I believe, are inclined to acknowledge the imperial authority of Great Britain, but not in taxation.

Q. Do you think they acquiesce in every other sense of the Declaratory Act except taxation?

The Duke of Richmond objected to the question. He insisted it was neither fair nor Parliamentary to lead the witness into discussions of such an intricate nature, for the purpose of involving him in confusion and consequent contradiction.


It was a subject of a very abstruse and intricate nature; men of the first-rate abilities and experience entertained different opinions concerning it, and it was of course out of the view entirely of examinations at their Lordships' bar.

The Earl of Sandwich replied, he was strictly within order; that the witness' s own sentiments were not desired; but seeming to be so well acquainted with the persons of the members who composed the Congress, it was probable they might have communicated their opinions to him on the present subject of inquiry.

The witness at the commencement of this conversation, having been desired to withdraw, was again called in, and replied:

A. Believes the Colonies acquiesce in the words of the Declaratory Law.

Q. Was there no violence used in the election of the members of the Congress?

A. I know, of my own knowledge, only respecting Pennsylvania, where they were elected by the House of Assembly.

Q. Do you know all the members of the Congress?

A. I am acquainted with almost all of them.

Q. Do you know Mr˙ Harrison?

A. I do; he is a Delegate from Virginia.

Q. Is he a man of good character?

A. I believe him to be so, I never heard to the contrary.

Q. Is he able to convey the sense of the Province he represents?

A. I imagine so, or they would not have elected him.

Q. Are you acquainted with the sentiments of America in general?

A. I am particularly acquainted only with the sentiments of Pennsylvania.

Q. Have you heard of the Resolutions of Suffolk in Massachusetts-Bay?

A. I have,

Q. Have the Congress declared their approbation of them?

A. I believe they have; it was in the publick papers.

Q. Have you not heard of violences committed on persons for speaking their opinions?

A. Not in Pennsylvania.

Q. Are the sentiments of the Northern and Southern Provinces similar?

A. I believe they are.

Q. Are the people of the different Provinces in a state of freedom?

A. They think themselves so.

Q. Would not persons, who were to advance sentiments different from the Congress, be in danger?

A. I believe they would.

Q. Do not you know of people having been persecuted for their opinions?

A. I do not know of any such thing in Pennsylvania, during my residence there.

Q. Have you not heard of such things in other Colonies?

A. I have heard so.

Q. What notice did the Congress take of the Resolutions of the House of Commons last year?

A. I do not know, they always keep their deliberations to themselves.

Q. Was the plan proposed by Lord Chatham last year taken notice of by the Congress?

A. Not that I know of.

Q. Do you know whether the Congress published anything as to the Resolutions of last year?

A. Not that I recollect.

Q. Was the conciliatory plan of last year considered in the Provinces?

A. It was considered in Pennsylvania, and rejected by the House of Assembly, because they would not forsake their sister Colonies, nor do anything without consulting them.

Q. What sort of men were the twenty thousand men who offered to enroll themselves?

A. They were men of the first character and fortune.

Q. Were they not all persons of property, or possessing land?

A. There might be some others among them, but in general they were so.


Q. Unless the Congress had the confidence of the Americans, could they have any other means of enforcing obedience to their orders?

A. They could not.

Q, Doth the Congress meet with the general approbation of America?

A. When the Congress was first proposed no one opposed it; it seemed to be the general wish of the people.

Q. Could a sufficient number of people be found to support any one in speaking or writing against the Congress?

A. No.

Examined by the Earl of DENBIGH.

Q. Are you master of the charter of Pennsylvania?

A. I believe I am; I have read it often.

Q. Are the inhabitants well satisfied with their charter?

A. I believe they are perfectly so.

Q. Do you know the clause that subjects them to taxation?

A. I do know that clause.

Q. Do you think they are satisfied with it?

A. Yes.

Q. Is it not the object of the Congress to throw off the regulations of their trade?

A. No.

Q. Have not the Congress persecuted the people?

A. Not to my knowledge.

Q. Would not the most opulent inhabitants prefer freedom under this country, to what they now enjoy?

A. They would prefer it to any other state of freedom.

Q. Do you think they wish to support the measures of the Congress at present?

A. It is firmly my opinion that they do, but wish, at the same time, for a reconciliation with this country.

Q. When you said that Pennsylvania was satisfied with the clause in their charter concerning taxation, did you mean to say, that they were willing to be taxed by Parliament?

A. I do not believe Pennsylvania would be satisfied to be taxed by this country, and by their own Government too.

He was directed to withdraw.