William Penn Laughs at Latin

Beatrice Pastorius Turner, William Penn and Pastorius:

“When Pastorius arrived at Philadelphia the ‘renowned city consisted of three or four small houses in all.’ None the less Philadelphia had a fair-sized population. For while many of the first arrivals had removed to land assigned them in outlying districts, yet many were domiciled in caves by the Delaware river side. The first residence in Philadelphia occupied by Francis Daniel Pastorius was purchased ‘from Thomas Miller for 5£., (or twenty dollars silver,) in the midst of Front Street at Philadelphia, whenas,’ Pastorius wrote, ‘the Servants I had with me, could have made a far better one in two days, had they but known how to handle the spade.’ ‘None the less,’ Pastorius continues, ‘therein they dwelt more con tentedly than many nowadays in their painted and wainscoted palaces.’

This was, of course, a very charmingly philosophic reflection, but I have often thought that it was as well for his content with the ‘Catacombs of Philadelphia’, for so he termed these caves, that no feminine relatives had accompanied him to the wilds to disillusion him with their estimate of these catacombs. It was not long after his arrival however, that Pastorius erected upon one of the city lots which Penn had finally assigned him from the portion of his (Penn’s) youngest son, ‘a little house 30 feet long, 15 feet wide.’ This house was built by the five men servants Pastorius brought with him to America. ‘Because of the scarcity of glass,’ Pastorius wrote, ‘the windows were of oiled paper. Over the house door I had written: Parva Domus, sed amica Bonis, procul este profani.’ (A little house, but a friend to the good, keep at a distance ye profane.) ‘Whereat our Governor,’ Pastorius wrote, ‘when he visited me, burst into laughter, and encouraged me to keep on building.’ This is, I understand, the only recorded instance of the laughter of William Penn. The only recorded instance perhaps, yet assuredly far from an unique instance, for Pastorius and Penn were much together, and the whimsical, the irrepressible wit of Pastorius lightened and brightened his dullest.”

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