Letter of William Penn

William Penn arrived in 1682 to establish a colony based on Quaker principles of freedom and toleration in what would become known as Pennsylvania. In settling the land, he felt strongly that a treaty should be established with its indigenous inhabitants. He sent this letter to the Indians of the new land in 1681.


My Friends,

There is a great God and power that hath made the world, and all things therein, to whom you and I, and all people owe their being and wellbeing, and to whom you and I must one day give an account for all that we do in the world. This great God hath written his law in our hearts, by which we are taught and commanded to love, and help, and do good to one another. Now this great God hath been pleased to make me concerned in your part of the world, and the king of the country, where I live, hath given me a great province therein; but I desire to enjoy it with your love and consent, that we may always live together as neighbours and friends; else what would the great God do to us, who hath made us, not to devour and destroy one another, but to live soberly and kindly together in the world? Now, I would have you well observe, that I am very sensible of the unkindness and injustice that have been too much exercised towards you by the people of these parts of the world, who have sought themselves, and to make great advantages by you, rather than to be examples of goodness and patience unto you, which I hear hath been a matter of trouble to you, and caused great grudgings and animosities, sometimes to the shedding of blood, which hath made the great God angry. But I am not such a man, as is well known in my own country. I have great love and regard towards you, and desire to win and gain your love and friendship by a kind, just, and peaceable life; and the people I send are of the same mind, and shall, in all things, behave themselves accordingly and, if in anything any shall offend you or your people, you shall have a full and speedy satisfaction for the same, by an equal number of just men on both sides; that, by no means you may have just occasion of being offended against them.

I shall shortly come to you myself, at which time we may more largely and freely confer and discourse of these matters, in the mean time I have sent my commissioners to treat with you about land, and a firm league of peace. Let me desire you to be kind to them, and the people, and receive these presents and tokens, which I have sent you, as a testimony of my good will to you, and my resolution to live justly, peaceably, and friendly with you.

I am, your loving Friend,
WILLIAM PENN.

[From Willam Penn, Some Account of the Conduct of the Religious Society of Friends towards the Indian Tribes… (London: Edward Marsh, 1844), 29-30.]