By Theresa Finn

History shows that there were many influential people in Philadelphia at the beginning of the eighteenth century. James Logan was one of them. According to Frederick B. Tolles, he was "one of the three or four most considerable men in colonial America."(1) During his years in Philadelphia, James Logan distinguished himself as a businessman, politician, administrator, and scholar who had high religious beliefs. In this paper, I will use research to support my belief that James Logan played a significant role during the formation of Philadelphia and "dominated the political and cultural life of the colony and the city for almost half of a century."(2)

James Logan was born on October 20, 1674, in County Armagh, near Belfast, to Patrick and Isabel Logan. Life here was hard for an Irish Quaker family, and became even tougher in 1685 when James II, a Catholic, came to the throne.(3) Being a Quaker, James Logan grew up with feelings of alienation, so he decided to use his education as a means of escape from his insecurities. Before he was thirteen years old, he knew Latin and Greek and was beginning to learn Hebrew. At the age of thirteen, he went to Dublin to serve for six months as an apprentice to a Quaker merchant. In 1688, Logan was summoned home before his family fled to Scotland.

In 1691, his family moved to Bristol, where the Quaker community was prospering from the booming seaport.(4) Logan’s father taught there for three years before deciding to return to Lurgan. Now James Logan was in charge. He taught the children of Bristol, while furthering his own education in the areas of math, astronomy, and other languages. It was here, where Logan began to love learning and the idea of wealth.(5) As a businessman, he was attracted to the profits in trade, and in 1697 decided to close the school and move to Jamaica as an agent for a Bristol merchant. His pursuit for wealth carried him to Ireland, prompted him to sell his collection of 700 books, and brought him back to Bristol where he continued to struggle. In 1699, William Penn sent for him, and little did he know that his life was about to change radically.

James Logan knew that Penn was the founder of Pennsylvania and had often seen him in Bristol during the two years that he had lived there.(6) Penn had occasionally visited James Logan’s classroom, and he wanted him to be Secretary. Logan agreed, and set off from Portsmouth in September, with William Penn, his wife, and his daughter for the three-month stormy ride on the Canterbury ship. Penn and Logan differed in faith, but they were both respectful and loyal to each other, which would be strong enough to survive the differences that would grow in the future years.

On December 3, 1699, the Canterbury, after traveling up the Delaware River, landed at the Philadelphia waterfront and James Logan was barely noticed by the mass greeting. Logan determined the city of Philadelphia to be "a little Bristol" filled with energy and excellent commerce.(7)  During the 1690’s, Philadelphia rapidly grew to become an important port on the Delaware River.(8) The many exports included lumber, Indian corn, wheat, flour, beef, furs, and tobacco. While the imports were sugar, molasses, rum, and wines. Along with the commercial affluence, Penn was also faced with a petition of grievance and land disputes. The city’s Quaker influence was being replaced with other religions, but the Quaker merchants, such as Edward Shippen and Samuel Carpenter, still remained the most important.(9) James Logan met these men, and began residing in the Carpenter’s mansion.

In 1701, James Logan became the administrator when William Penn made him the Clerk of the Council, the Secretary of the Province, the Commissioner of Property, and the person responsible for the Indian’s well being. Now James Logan was "William Penn’s chief American representative in business affairs," serving as an administrator over Philadelphia.(10) Logan’s self-confidence remained with him until 1702, when the rumors of war between France and Britain hurt trade and Philadelphia fell into depression.(11) Despite the hard times, Logan continued to collect tax money as a result of his strong sense of loyalty towards Penn, which made him not too popular among the citizens of Philadelphia.

James Logan’s chief responsibility, acting as a politician and administrator, was to be a land agent for Penn by collecting the tracts already taken and not yet paid for, selling more lands, and obtaining quitrents from the citizens.(12) Logan felt pressure from Penn’s urgent need for money and stress from the previous chaotic accounting system. He attempted to resolve the problem by fixing the accounts and the inaccurate surveys, but remained discouraged until Penn calmed him by having the Assembly pass a law that would provide more security and stability.(13)

James Logan was also a man of religious beliefs, although he had a difficult time accepting Quaker pacifism. Being mindful of William Penn and his "holy experiment," he tried to remain consistent to Quaker beliefs.(14)  In 1703, political upset was aroused as a result of the new governor, John Evans. In 1706, Evans proved to be the mastermind behind a fraudulent rumor that the French were attacking the Philadelphia ports. This rumor caused much panic and confusion among the citizens, which turned into malice after Evans’ evil motives were revealed. This event further tarnished the relationship and mutual confidence between Evans and James Logan. Logan wrote a letter to Penn informing him of the Governor’s erratic behavior, and eventually Philadelphia received a new mayor, Captain Charles Gookin.

Logan was not only disappointed with Philadelphia’s monetary problems and political scandals, but also with William Penn’s Charter of Privileges. Logan did not believe that humans should have the right to govern themselves because "we are…too full of ourselves and empty of sense to manage affairs of importance, and therefore require the greatest authority to bend us."(15) Logan’s ideal mixed government resembled that of the British constitution and included a balance of monarchical, aristocratic, and democratic governments.(16) Being an active politician, in the summer of 1705, with much help from the Assembly, he drew up bills, drafted laws, and improved relations with the Indians. A year later, his satisfaction went sour because he could not pass anything in the Assembly. He experienced great bitterness when the Assembly drafted a new legislation in 1706, including a resolve "to remove the said James Logan from his [Logan’s] Council and presence."(17)

May 12, 1707 marks the beginning of James Logan’s trial, stemming from his debate with David Lloyd over the Judiciary Act of 1706.(18)  Lloyd accused Logan for instigating Governor John Evans’ veto of the court’s bill, which had requested that certain rights be taken away from the Proprietary and Governor.(19)   The trial was held in Clarke Hall with the Governor presiding and using his committee’s Articles of Impeachment. The thirteen articles were read and Logan responded with a little speech, saying he had "‘great reason to believe the design was not so much leveled against him as it was intended to wound another through his sides.’"(20) Logan believed that the charges were unjustly accusing him, and were merely brought about as a result of citizen’s unhappiness with William Penn at the time. The trial broke in confusion and was never completed, but the Assembly’s bitterness towards Logan never disappeared. On November 23, 1709, the House ruled that Logan was unfit to hold public office, and two weeks later, Logan, the politician, was escorted to New Castle where the Hope Gallery was ready to sail to England.

Right before Logan’s dismissal from office, a war came to the shores of Delaware in 1709, and James Logan was stuck between the pacifist position and the decision to fight. "After ten years of living with a divided mind, James Logan now became clear on one point: strict Quakerism and government were simply incompatible."(21) Having concluded this, Logan advised William Penn to sell his governmental authority of Pennsylvania to the Queen before it was too late. Although this decision would dissolve the "holy experiment," Penn would be automatically rid of any possible financial or political embarrassment.

By the end of 1709, Philadelphia had experienced the influence of James Logan as a businessman, politician, and administrator with religious beliefs. In the ten years that James Logan had been there, his "ingenuity, his imperviousness to criticism,…and steadfast loyalty to William Penn had made him, in the teeth of the contradictions and difficulties of his position, a remarkable successful proprietary agent."(22)  Philadelphia still had yet to see Logan as a scholar.

After leaving Philadelphia and reaching London in 1710, James Logan spent much time with books and interacting with other scholars. It was in London where he secured his intellect. He had "mastered Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French, and Italian, and taught himself mathematics."(23) In 1708 he had received a copy of Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica and had become perhaps the only person in America in his time who could read and understand this book. He also mastered the system of calculus with the help of Charles Haye’s Treatise of Fluxions.(24)

James Logan’s scholarly ability matched his desire to become wealthy, which prompted his decision to return to Pennsylvania in search of success. He reached Pennsylvania in 1712, when it had grown larger in population and economically prosperous. Logan used his business skills to become profitable in the fur trade. He established a trading post and experienced much success in business. When William Penn was aging and his wife in need of help, Logan took a break from his business activities and helped the Penn’s to pay off their debts.

Getting tired of the politics and busy life in the city, Logan decided to retire to his countryside estate in 1730. Moving to Stenton, "he hoped to devote the remainder of his life to study and thought." Logan became a compulsive writer, believing that it was his religious duty to write because otherwise "‘the mind is entrusted to the weakness of memory.’" 24(b) Through his studies, Logan developed his belief that wealth is not essential to personal happiness, but that it was necessary to the welfare of the community. During these years, Logan formed many other social ideas that later passed into the mainstream of early American thought and also influenced Benjamin Franklin. James Logan was truly a fine scholar up until the year 1751, when he died and became remembered as one of the men who helped Philadelphia to become "the intellectual capital of provincial America."(25)

In his seventy-seven years, James Logan grew to be a prominent societal figure in Philadelphia. He was a successful businessman, active politician, devoted administrator, scholar, and a man with faithful Quaker beliefs. Now let’s see how his influence is found in Philadelphia!


#1) The Historical Society of Pennsylvania

In 1716, Gustavus Hesselius painted a portrait of James Logan and today it is found at the Historical Society of Philadelphia (HSP). A tall man who was well proportioned, Logan had a graceful yet grave demeanor. He was a fine looking man with a good complexion and brown hair that barely turned gray with age.(26) He wore a powdered wig, which was fashionable for that time, and did not wear eyeglasses. His dignified manner caused him to be "strictly just in all minor duties of acquaintance and society."(27)

The HSP, founded in 1824 and located at 1300 Locust Street in Philadelphia, is among one of the oldest historical societies in the United States. Inside it, there are more than 500,000 books, 300,000 graphic works, and 15 million manuscript items.(28) Its collection on local and regional history is used by historians, genealogists, costume designers, script and fiction writers, and others who are searching for evidence from the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries.

The HSP collection includes a few of James Logan’s many letters, one of which was written on September 22, 1741.(29) It is a copy of Logan’s letter to the Society of Friends giving his opinion on their "opposition in the legislature to all measures for the defense of the colony." The collection also includes extracts from Logan’s letters on related subjects, petitions, and grand jury charges.

#2 Stenton

After James Logan’s accidental fall on ice, he was mandated to retire. Deciding in 1727 that he needed a break from the politics and busy life in the city, Logan had the idea of building a large home and retiring there to fulfill his dream of being a gentleman and a scholar.(30) Logan picked the lot for the home, formerly used as tobacco fields, as a place for retirement from the cares and concerns of public life.31 His home, Stenton, was completed in November of 1730, near Germantown Road, and named after his father’s birthplace.

The home proved to be the first Queen Anne-style building in the Delaware Valley, using simple symmetry and decorative use of brick.32 According to Tolles, the house is described as having Quaker plainness and elegant taste.33 It stood three-stories high with a low-pitched, flat-topped roof that had two tall chimneys standing on top of it. Inside, the home had many rooms, including: a parlor, a state dining room, a spacious entrance hall, a family room, and multiple bedrooms. Logan’s collection of books was shown in his library, which was located on the entire front of the second floor. Also included on the second floor were the three bedchambers and nursery. The kitchen, wash house, and cellars were found in the rear of the house, while the four servant rooms were located in the garret. According to estate inventories, Logan furnished the house with Philadelphia pieces as well as the English furniture of the William and Mary and Queen Anne periods.34 The beautiful view looked over the Wingohocking Creek in Germantown.

Now, the spacious area has been downsized to a six-acre park surrounded by the Eighteenth and Courtland Streets. Visitors can enjoy a Guided Tour that reveals Logan’s lifestyles. The Old Kitchen Wing has been restored, the barn displays early farm tools and equipment, and there is a small period garden and a greenhouse. It is maintained by the National Society of Colonial Dames of America, and all visitors are welcomed.

#3 The Loganian Library

At the time of James Logan’s death in 1751, his collection of books almost numbered three thousand works, one of the most substantial libraries in the colonies.35 Tolles said that Logan’s library was "beyond question the largest and finest collection of classical writings in Colonial America."36 He had originally intended to hold on to it and pass it down to his grandchildren, but he expressed his change in mind in a letter to Josiah Martin. Logan wrote, "‘I have now fully changed that purpose and resolve to bestow all my Latin, Greek, Oriental, and Matheml Books on ye City of Philadia to be plac’d in a Room in their fine State house which I suppose may vie with any in America.’"37 The idea for public Loganian Library was born.

An announcement in the Pennsylvania Gazette on October 30, 1760 read:

NOTICE is hereby given, That the LOGANIAN LIBRARY, founded by the late JAMES LOGAN, Esq; deceased, for the Use of the Public, situate in Sixth-Street, between Chestnut and Walnut- Streets, behind the Statehouse Square, will be opened on Saturday the 8th of November next, where Attendance will be given every Saturday, from the third Hour in the Afternoon until the seventh Hour following, in the Summer time, and so long as one may see to read in Winter,

The Loganian Library was kept in a dreary looking building on Sixth Street. It was a one-story brick building surrounded with a rail fence and an area of grass behind the house.38 On June 23, 1777, General Gates ordered the books to be replaced with army ammunition for storage.39

On May 31, 1792, Logan’s son procured an act of legislature carrying out Logan’s intent of establishing the Loganian Library as a public trust. This act vested in the Library Company all the books and assets of the Loganian Library. The building on Sixth Street was revitalized and expanded and opened to readers on May 1, 1794. A fire in the building, in 1831, burned 1,403 of the 3,953 volumes and impaired the library’s success. In 1878, the collection was moved to the Ridgway Library on Broad and Christian Streets.

From 1878 to the 1950’s, Logan’s books were kept on the shelves in the Ridgway Library and seldom used. Around the time of James Logan’s bicentennial, a program of rediscovery prompted the Ridgway Library to create a rare book room to preserve Logan’s valuable collection of books. In 1966, the collection was moved to Locust Street, next door to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, where the preservation of Logan’s books is assured. Now there are 2,184 books recorded in James Logan’s collection, the only major Colonial American library which has survived virtually intact.40

#4 Clarke Hall

In 1704, the son of William Penn, also named William, and James Logan sought housing and decided to rent Clarke Hall. Here, they set up bachelors’ quarters with a steward and a maid to keep up the house for them.40 They were soon joined by Governor Evans, Roger Mompesson, and other men of the same age who were all bored with the dullness of life in Quaker Philadelphia. These men were greeted with the opportunity to relax and enjoy the taste of good talk and good living. Trying to emulate the coffeehouse society of Augustan London, they created a sense of lighthearted sophistication in the midst of Quaker Philadelphia.41 Despite their efforts, the dream did not last long because in 1706 William Penn, Jr. moved to England, Roger Mompesson left for New York to become the Chief Justice of that province, and Governor Evans moved out in a huff when Logan politely suggested that Evans share the household expenses.42

Clarke Hall had originally been constructed for William Clark during an earlier period of the city. Occupying the area from Chestnut Street to Walnut Street along Third Street, Clarke Hall was the grandest of its time. It was made of two stories of brick, had a double front, and was surrounded with large beautiful gardens. James Logan and the others rented it in 1704 and Logan remained there until 1707. On May 12, 1707, the trial of James Logan was held in Clarke Hall because it had the largest room in town.43 In 1718, it began being occupied by Governors such as Andrew Hamilton and John Pemberton. Finally, in 1800, Clarke Hall was sold and taken down so that the lot could be cut into smaller lots for modern buildings.44

#5 Penn’s Landing

In 1699, James Logan and the William Penn family embarked on the three-month voyage to the United State on the Canterbury ship, finally landing at the Philadelphia waterside on December 3, 1699. In the 1720’s, this area served as the trading hub with the British ships that brought wool, linen, nails, and metals into the busy Philadelphia waterfront. The area was also used to export lumber, livestock, crops, and tobacco.

Now this area is better known as Penn’s Landing. It extends for ten blocks along the Delaware River, from Vine Street to South Street. In addition to the commercial traffic, a fleet of ferries once crossed the Delaware River to various points in New Jersey. Ferry travel lightened in 1926 when the Ben Franklin Bridge was built. The architect, Paul Philippe Cret, designed this bridge and, at the time, it was the largest suspension bridge in the world.

Penn’s Landing also includes the 177-foot-long Portuguese fishing boat, the Gazela, built in 1883. The boat was used up until the 1960’s and was acquired by The Philadelphia Ship Preservation Guild in 1969. The Gazela sets sail each year to visit ports around the world and it took part in the Statue of Liberty’s 100th birthday celebration in New York Harbor in 1986.

Nearby is the Great Plaza, where there is an ice-skating rink and an amphitheater. Concerts, musicals, dance troops, and ethnic programs are featured here throughout the summer. Also located at Penn’s Landing, is The Independence Seaport Museum, which opened in 1995 and features Philadelphia’s maritime history. The U.S.S. Olympia, built in 1892 and used during World War I, and the U.S.S. Becuna, a submarine, sit along the waterfront and remind visitors of the importance of Penn’s Landing as a commercial port.47

#6 Friends Meeting House

After his death in 1751, James Logan was buried in an unmarked grave at the burial grounds around the Arch Street Friends Meeting House. William Penn declared that this ground be used for burial purposes in 1701. Many of those that died during the yellow fever epidemic in 1793 are buried here, in addition to Quaker Samuel Nicolas, who was the founder of the Marine Corps. Burials continued here up until 1803, in preparation for the construction of the Meeting House the following year.

This building, the oldest Friends Meeting House still in use in Philadelphia and the largest in the world, was erected in 1804 and enlarged in 1811. It has three distinct sections: the West Wing for the women’s Monthly Meeting, the Middle section for the regular Monthly Meetings and special events, and the East Wing where there are dioramas that portray the main events in the life of William Penn. It is located at 320 Arch Street, between Third and Fourth Street.48

#7 James Logan in Contemporary Philadelphia

James Logan’s significance is also located elsewhere, in addition to the above six sites. His importance is recognized in contemporary Philadelphia in many places. There are many things named after him, for example: a section of the city, a Post Office, a school, and Logan Circle on Philadelphia’s Parkway. There is also a SEPTA Railroad Station near his countryside estate in Stenton. Logan’s historical presence is located all around the "city of brotherly love."



1. Frederick Barnes Tolles, James Logan and the Culture of Provincial America (Boston: Little Brown, 1957), 6.

2. Edwin B. Bronner, "Village in to Town, 1701-1742," in Russell F. Weigley, ed., Philadelphia: A 300-Year History (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1982), 40.

3. Tolles, 7-8.

4. Ibid., 9.

5. Ibid., 10.

6. Ibid., 12.

7. Ibid., 16.

8. Mary Maples Dunn and Richard S. Dunn, "The Founding, 1681-1701," in Russell F. Weigley, ed., Philadelphia: A 300-Year History (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1982), 18.

9. Tolles., 17.

10. Ibid., 23.

11. Ibid., 24.

12. Ibid., 20.

13. Ibid., 21-22.

14. Ibid., 35-36.

15. Ibid., 58.

16. Ibid., 55.

17. Ibid., 64.

18. Peter C. Hoffer and N.E.H. Hull, "Power and Precedent in the Creation of an American Impeachment Tradition:

19. The 18th Century Colonial Record," The William and Mary Quarterly 36, no. 2 (1979): 55.

20. Ibid., 55.

21. Tolles, 68.

22. Ibid., 49.

23. Ibid., 30.

24. Bronner, 41.

24a. Tolles, 78.

24(b) ) Roy N. Lokken, "The Social Thought of James Logan," The William and Mary Quarterly 27, no. 1 (1970): 68-69.

25. Tolles., 214.

26. Annals of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: Leary, Stuart Co., 1927), 1:525.

27. Ibid., 525.

28. "The Historical Society of Pennsylvania: Research Library Collection Summary," 3 May 1998, <http://www.libertynet.org/pahist/summary.html> (28 October 1999).

29. Guide to the Manuscript Collections of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1991), #381.

30. Tolles, 186.

31 Annals of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: Leary, Stuart Co., 1927), 2:480.

32 Bronner, 41.

33 Tolles, 187.

34 Patrick Tadeushuk, "Stenton," Are We There Yet?, 1999, < http://www.fieldtrip.com/pa/53297312.htm> (14 November 1999).

35 Dennis Barone, "James Logan and Gilbert Tennent: Enlightened Classicist versus Awakened Evangelist," Early American Literature 21, no. 2 (1986): 105.

36 Edwin Wolf, "The Romance of James Logan’s Books," Institute of Early American History and Culture 13, no. 3 (1956): 342.

37 Edwin Wolf 2nd, The Library of James Logan of Philadelphia 1674-1751 (Philadelphia: Library Company of Philadelphia, 1974), xxxv.

38 Ibid., xlix.

39Annals of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: Leary, Stuart Co., 1927), 2:550.

40 Edwin Wolf 2nd, lvii..

41 Annals of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: Leary, Stuart Co., 1927), 3:336.

42Tolles, 42.

43Ibid., 43.

44Ibid., 43.

45 Ibid., 67-68.

46Annals of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: Leary, Stuart Co., 1927), 1:374.

47 "Penn’s Landing," <http://www.ushistory.org/tour/_landing.html> (16 November 1999).

48 "Arch Street Friends Meeting House," <http://www.ushistory.org/tour/_meet.html> (16 November 1999)




Books and Articles

Barone, Dennis. "James Logan and Gilbert Tennent: Enlightened Classicist versus Awakened Evangelist." Early American Literature 21, no. 2 (1986): 103-117.

Guide to the Manuscript Collections of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.   Philadelphia:Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1991.

Hoffer, Peter C., and N.E.H. Hull. "Power and Precedent in the Creation of an Impeachment Tradition: The Eighteenth-Century Colonial Record." The William and Mary Quarterly 36, no. 1 (1979): 51-77.


Lokken, Roy N. "The Social Thought of James Logan." The William and Mary Quarterly 27, no. 1 (1970): 69-89.

Tolles, Frederick Barnes. James Logan and the Culture of Provincial America. Boston: Little Brown, 1957.

Watson, John F. Annals of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania. Philadelphia: Leary, Stuart Co., 1927.

Weigley, Russell F., ed. Philadelphia: A 300-Year History. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1982.

Wolf, Edwin. "The Romance of James Logan’s Books." The William and Mary Quarterly 13, no. 3 (1956): 342-353.

Wolf, Edwin 2nd . The Library of James Logan of Philadelphia, 1674-1751. Philadelphia: Library Company of Philadelphia, 1974.

Web Sites

"Arch Street Friends Meeting House." n.d. <http://www.ushistory.org/tour/_meet.html> (16 November 1999)

"The Historical Society of Pennsylvania: Research Library Collection Summary." 3 May 1998, <http://www.libertynet.org/pahist/summary.html> (28 October 1999).

"Penn’s Landing." n.d. <http://www.ushistory.org/tour/_landing.html> (16 November 1999).

Tadeushuk, Patrick. "Stenton," Are We There Yet? 1999, <http://www.fieldtrip.com/pa/53297312.htm> (14 November 1999).


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