William Penn assumed proprietary rights over the Province of Pennsylvania under the Charter granted him in 1681 by King Charles II of England. Basic charters or frames of government adopted in 1682, 1683, 1696 and 1701 largely determined the organization and administration of the colonial government. The last of these constitutions, the Charter of Privileges, remained in effect until the Revolution. The 1701 Charter provided for a unicameral assembly composed of four members from each county. A Provincial Council, which had exercised powers associated with all three branches of government, no longer functioned as a legislative body. Originally an elective body, the council later continued in existence as an appointed board in an advisory capacity to the Provincial Governor and exercised executive powers in the absence of the governor.


Executive Correspondence, 1682-1775. (22 boxes) This series has several items that relate to the African American experience in Pennsylvania. They are as follows:

• Proclamation for "Commission [to be] Formed to Try Negroes, etc., Lower Counties [originally part of Pennsylvania but now composing the state of Delaware], King George III to Government of the Counties of New Castle, Kent and Sussex, Delaware, February 1763." This proclamation called for a special body to prosecute and punish "Negroe and Mulatto Slaves."

• Record of conviction of Mulatto Daniel and Negro Harry Bedilow, signed by George Bryan and James Biddle, Philadelphia, September 18, 1773. This document is a court statement of the conviction of these two slaves for burglary. The slaves were to be transported to a place of execution and hanged. Their monetary value was also to be determined and their masters were to be compensated by the Province for their loss.

• Record of the murder conviction on September 22, 1773 of Negro George, a slave owned by James Sykes, Dover, Delaware. In this document there is a reference to the commission to try "black and mulatto slaves."

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