The Life of James Logan

Source: James Logan and the Culture of Provincial Pennsylvania by Frederick B. Tolles (1957)

Before 1674

Patrick Logan, James's father , the chaplain for the Lady at Stenton, is convinced to become a Quaker. Because of this Patrick Logan had to immigrate from Scotland to Ulster. Here Patrick found work as a schoolmaster at Lurgan, county Armagh. Patrick married Isabel Hume, also a Quaker. She had nine children but only James and his brother William survived childhood.

20 October 1674

James Logan is born. He is given a good education by his father.


Apprenticed to Edward Webb, Dublin, Ireland, linen merchant at age 13.


The Logans flee Ireland during the war between James II and William and Mary, returning to Scotland. In 1689, the family moves to Bristol where Friends have secured Patrick a job as schoolmaster.


James is left in charge of the school at Bristol when his father returns to Lurgan. By 1699 he is trying to break into the linen merchant business in Bristol, when William Penn calls him into his service. Penn had married Hannah Callowhill, the daughter of a Bristol linen merchant and had been on the oversight committee for Logan's school.


James Logan arrives in Philadelphia as secretary in the service of William Penn. He acts as the go-between for Penn and his wife with things both great and small, such as dealing with the builders of Pennsbury and acting as land agent for the sale of lands in Pennsylvania.


Penn returns to England. He makes Logan Clerk of the Council of Pennsylvania and Secretary of the Province. He, along with Edward Shippen, Dr. Griffith Owen, and Thomas Story are responsible for all land purchases in Pennsylvania (which is mostly virgin forest owned by Penn). He and Isaac Norris are in charge of making remittances to England. And finally he was given the unpopular post of Receiver General of Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Jersey — tax collector in chief! Logan is also placed in charge of Indian affairs, and he is William Penn's American representative in business affairs.


due to war between France and Britain over the Spanish succession, the Province of Pennsylvania experiences a recession because of loss of trade and piracy. Logan has to make ingenious trade deals to pay the Proprietor's bills. The fur trade is found to be especially lucrative. Logan is paid very little for his services by the Penns (100 pounds per year).


In the conflict between the Proprietor Penn's feudal rights and the Liberal Governor Penn's belief in representative government, Logan in this period is seen as the advocate for the Proprietor's rights which make him initially unpopular in Pennsylvania. This is the time that William Penn is sent to Debtor's prison in his conflict with the title to Pennsylvania with the Ford family of Bristol. Logan and Governor Andrew Hamilton, also act as an intermediary between the freedom loving people of Pennsylvania (led by David Lloyd and Joseph Wilcox) and the Royal authorities in disputes over Royal customs duties on imported goods. However, as the Royal authority's (Robert Quary, John Moore) true purpose was to take Pennsylvania from Penn and the Quakers it was difficult for Logan and Hamilton to deal with them. Hamilton, who lives in Perth Amboy, East Jersey, shifts the ministerial duties of government in Pennsylvania onto Logan. Hamilton dies in April, 1703. 2 Feb 1703/4 — the new governor, John Evans arrives with William Penn's son William. He, Evans and William live together on a house on Chestnut St., Philadelphia. Evans governorship starts well-enough, but by 1707 his term ends disastrously and a new governor, Charles Gookin arrives in 1708.

During this period Logan becomes convinced that ruling a government with strict pacifist principles is not practical. Logan is caught in the middle between the Royal authorities and the Quaker populace, between the threat of war and the inability to raise a militia and is very frustrated and unpopular with all sides, although his job was made easier in 1705 with the election of friends of William Penn's to the Assembly (and ruined in 1706 by Gov. Evans). The Assembly elected in 1707 asks to have James Logan removed from all public offices and impeaches him for "high crimes, misdemeanors and offences". Logan becomes the leader for the party in favor of strong executive powers over democracy. The Assembly orders Logan jailed but Governor Gookin thwarts them (Nov 1709).

While in Philadelphia he unsuccessfully courts Anne Shippen and teaches himself Calculus from Newton's Principia Mathematica and Charles Hayes' Treatis of Fluxions.

Dec 1709

He sails from New Castle, Delaware to England by way of Portugal, reaching London in March 1710. In London he becomes a firm Whig. [The Tories were attempting to make dissention from the State religion difficult again, and Logan is a Quaker.] He attempts to straighten out Penn's financial affairs. He spends as much time as possible in the company of scholars. He proposes marriage to Judith Crowley, but is turned down. He has little money or property at this time, and this had raised objections from her family. He resolves to return to America and make his fortune. Penn's friends retake the Pennsylvania Assembly in 1710. Before leaving England he buys up the rights to land in Amercia from Quakers in England at bargain prices.

Feb 1711-12

He arrives in Pennsylvania and sets himself up in the fur trade. Amongst the fur traders he deals with are Peter Bezallion, John Harris, James Paterson and John and Edmund Cartlidge. By 1715 he is doing 1000 pounds per year in the trade, and by 1717, Isaac Norris says he has nearly cornered the Pennsylvania fur trade. They say he gave the Conestoga wagon its name, as this is what he used to carry the furs.


William Penn has a stroke. Logan at this time again starts to subjugate his self-interest for that of the Penn family, giving them a share of his fur business and taking up duties as their agent in Pennsylvania.


he courts Sarah Read and on 9 December 1714 they are married. His daughter Sarah is born December 1715, and son William in December 1716. He accumulates a large library and order scientific instruments sent to Pennsylvania. Especially he studies the Greek and Roman classics (in their original tongue).

He becomes the presiding Judge at the Court of Quarter Sessions in Pennsylvania. About this time Logan says to a jury about being an American, "The lateness of this our settlement will scarcely allow many to account it their country, because they can remember that they were born and bred in another. But, while our estates and families are here, while our children are born and must subsist here, it becomes truly ours and our children's country; and it is our duty to love it, to study and promote its advantages."


Governor William Keith replaces Gookin. Logan is called upon to help prevent an Indian war. One of his main allies in Indian affairs is Governor Spottswood of Virginia. Spottswood was a soldier whose method of negotiation was to intimidate the Indians. Logan used William Penn's methods of treating the Indians with respect, patience and friendship. In February 1717/18 Logan orders the Conestoga Indian lands fenced for their own protection against Squatters. Near his Conestoga trading post he lays out a town called Donegal as a Scotch-Irish garrison against Indian troubles. Many of the settlers are veterans of the civil war in northern Ireland. Logan believes that the best way to counter the French (who encourage the Indians to oppose the American colonists) is with fair trade, especially since British goods were cheaper and of better quality than French goods. His suggestions are well-received by the Royal colonial authorities. Logan works hard to keep the Pennsylvania Indians from warring on other Indians too.

July 20, 1718

William Penn dies.


Logan's daughter Hannah is born.


The Treaty of Albany with the Iroquois brings to success Logan's Indian policy. The elections of this year turn out Logan's party ( Isaac Norris, Richard Hill and Jonathan Dickinson losing the election) and are a victory for the more democratic party led by Joshua Carpenter and Francis Rawle. In 1723 Governor Keith removes Logan from all public office except Judge and the Council.


He returns to London. There he works on the Penn's financial affairs and the boundary dispute between Pennsylvania and Maryland. His stay was brief. He set sail for America in May, 1724, armed with instructions from Hannah Penn to Gov. Keith to reinstate him and the Council.

The Governor declares the Penn's instructions illegal and with the support of the Pennsylvania Assembly refuses to reinstate Logan. A battle of words ensues between Keith, Lloyd and Logan. The Penns replace Keith with Patrick Gordon who arrives on June 22, 1726. Logan is then restored to office, although the duties of Provincial Secretary are turned over to Robert Charles.


Hannah Penn dies and the Penn children, John , Thomas and Richard Penn become Proprietors of Pennsylvania. Logan slips on ice and is crippled for life in his left leg. The Penns continue to insist that Logan work for him with little payment, though now Logan asks to be relieved of his duties.


He invests a quarter share and supplies some technological know-how for the Durham furnace in Bucks county. He does scientific experiments on reproduction of maize 1728-1735 (published in Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society of London). He tutors the American botanist John Bartram in Latin, whom he also introduces to Linnaeus, the famous Swedish botanist. Logan publishes a full account of his botanical experiments in 1739 in Latin — Experimenta et meletemata de plantarum generatione. Another protege of Logan's (later) is Benjamin Franklin who is often a guest at Stenton (the Logan's home). Logan and Franklin discussed science and philosophy and Logan backed Franklin's early ventures to improve life in Philadelphia.


His allies in government now are Governor Gordon, Andrew Hamilton who has returned and Jeremiah Langhorne of Bucks County.

Nov. 1730

His home, Stenton is completed. Then a country house 5 miles from town, it is now in the city of Philadelphia. It was (and is) a large brick home with 10 black and white servants. (Now a museum)


At David Lloyd's death, he become Chief Justice of Pennsylvania. He serves for five years. The pay is 100 pounds per year.

August 1736

As President of Council, Logan becomes the acting administrator of Pennsylvania after the death of Governor Gordon. Andrew Hamilton is elected Speaker of the Assembly. On October 14 the Assembly meets in the new State House which is now Independence Hall. Logan serves as administrator of Pennsylvania for about 2 years. The new Governor, George Thomas, arrives in June, 1738.

1739, 1741

His mathematical papers on optics (spherical aberration) are published in Leyden, Holland.

Feb. 1739/40

He suffers a stroke, which leaves his right side partially paralyzed (he already was on crutches for his left leg).


Logan resigns from the Pennsylvania Council and is replaced by his son William.


He is a trustee on the newly formed University of Pennsylvania (as it was later renamed).


Logan is afflicted with palsy, paralyzing his right side and making him incapable of speech.


He hears the news that the boundary dispute between Maryland and Pennsylvania is settled along lines he proposed. The Mason-Dixon line will not be drawn until 1763-7.

October 31, 1751

James Logan dies as "the region's most influential statesman, its most distinguished scholar and its most respected — though not its most beloved — citizen." His estate includes (1749 will) 8500 pounds in cash and bonds and 18,000 acres of Pennsylvania and New Jersey land.

Logan and the Frontier after the Albany Conference of 1722


White settlers from the Palatine and Ireland arrive in great numbers and fill up the part of Pennsylvania purchased from the Indians. Some Squatters begin to invade Indian land. Complaints from the Indians are heard.


Logan shows a map to Council in which the French claim everything west of the Susquehannah River. The French begin to cultivate the Shawnee with gifts and bring the Chiefs to Montreal. He writes a memorial to Robert Walpole in London, pointing out the danger of the French threat to the colonies. He urges the crown to have a unified Indian and military policy in America.


He convinces Thomas Penn to come to America to negotiate with the Iroquois, who supposedly hold the Pennsylvania tribes as vassals. The Seneca chief Hetaquantagechty led the Iroquois delegation and Logan and Weiser assisted Penn. The meet in the Great MeetingHouse (Arch St., Philadelphia). Later, they also negotiated with the Delaware chief, Saaoonan for the lands on the upper Schuylkill, east and west of Tulpehocken.


His near monopoly in the fur trade is eroded during this and the next several years as English firms with cheaper trade goods (giving the traders and Indians better bargains) compete successfully against him.


While Logan is President of Council, Cresap's war between settlers from Pennsylvania and Maryland breaks out along the Susquehannah. It ends about a year after Sheriff Samuel Smith captures Thomas Cresap and sends him to Philadelphia. This is the same Cresap who later is a partner of George Washington's in the Ohio Company.


Logan's negotiations with the Delaware Indians living at the forks of the Delaware River are less successful. Nutimus, Lapppawinzoe, Tishecunk and the other chiefs would not agree that Penn had purchased this land in 1686. He then, with Conrad Weiser accomplishes the Walking Purchase strategem. In the deed of 1686 the Delaware had agreed to give up land that a man could walk in a day and a half. Not all of this land had been walked off. Logan had a path cleared through the woods, than ran a relay race for the day left on the purchase, thus securing a claim to the land beyond the Delaware Water Gap (the Indians had really only agreed up to the Tohickon Creek, Bucks county). The runners had covered 60 miles in a day. Logan revised this slightly in the Indian's favor back to the Kittaniny mountain (Delaware Water Gap). A reservation of 10 square miles was set aside in the purchase as hunting grounds for the Delaware. The Indians refused to leave, justifiably claiming trickery, and Logan did not move to evict them.


Conrad Weiser, the Indian agent, with Logan's support writes a pamphlet urging Quakers to step down from Government, seeing a looming French and Indian war likely. In 1747, Benjamin Franklin and others formed militias without authority from the Quaker legislature called Associators. Logan, who is no pacifist approves. In 1756, during the French and Indian War, the Quaker legislators do resign or not stand for re-election because their pacifism made them unable to help defend the colony.

June 1742

Another conference with the Iroquois, this time led by Canasatego. At this conference old treaties are reaffirmed and the Iroquois tell the Delaware to leave the forks of the Delaware in favor of the Walking Purchase. After this conference, Gov. Thomas, Conrad Weiser and Richard Peters take over most of the responsibilities for Indian Affairs, as Logan is retired. Soon George Croghan's voice is added too.


Indian conference at Lancaster. After this conference, William Johnson is the most important man in America concerning Indian affairs, replacing Logan

October 31, 1751

James Logan dies in Philadelphia. He is buried near today's Arch Street Meeting House, probably under its parking lot. He was a member of the Religious Society of Friends throughout his life, although he was often eldered about his stances on political issues and war (he was not a pacifist like most Quakers)

May 16, 1754

Sarah Read Logan dies. Note: Sarah's sister Rachel married Israel Pemberton and Rachel's son, Israel Pemberton, was a prominent pacifist Quaker leader of the Pennsylvania Assembly at the outbreak of the French and Indian war that broke out after James Logan's death.

Information on this page provided by James Quinn. Visit Gwynedd (Pennsylvania) Friends Meeting.