1 minute read

Frame of Government

Frame Of Government

William Penn, 1682

In 1681 King Charles II of England granted William Penn a large tract of land on the west bank of the Delaware River, which Penn named Pennsylvania in honor of his father. Penn, a member and intellectual leader of the Quakers (Society of Friends), saw Pennsylvania as a refuge for Quakers and other persecuted peoples.

Penn believed in religious toleration on both pragmatic and moral grounds. He thought that a harmonious society, unhampered by intolerance, would be a prosperous society as well. In 1682, before he left England to become the first governor of Pennsylvania, Penn wrote the Frame of Government, which served as the colony's first constitution.

The Frame of Government was an expression of Penn's religious and political ideas. He sought to create a framework that would frustrate political mischief and prevent a ruler from assuming absolute power to the detriment of the community. To prevent absolutism, Penn employed the concept of balancing forces, a concept that the Framers of the U.S. Constitution later would use liberally. Freedom of worship was to be absolute, and all the traditional English rights were to be protected.

In practice, the government outlined in the Frame of Government proved in some respects to be unworkable. Penn, however, had included an amending clause, the first in any written constitution, so that the Frame of Government could be changed as circumstances required.,

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationHistorical Legal Documents and Landmark Speeches