Back to Professor Brophy's Home Page


The Intellectual World of a Seventeenth-Century Jurist:

Francis Daniel Pastorius and the Reconstruction of Pietist Thought

 

Delivered September 19, 1998 at the Longfellow Institute's

Conference on German-American History and Literature in a

Multilingual Context, Harvard University


I'd like to introduce Francis Daniel Pastorius-and tell you about some of the important works that he left us, particularly his commonplace book, which he affectionately called his Bee Hive. Along the way, I want to suggest a few reasons why this man-who was antislavery activist, teacher, jurist, scribe, and Pietist -is important.

I'll begin with the basics of his life. He was born in Sommerhausen, Germany, in 1651 into the family of an affluent lawyer and government official. He emigrated to Pennsylvania in 1683, where he made important contributions to the governance of the colony; his extensive writings cover religious, medical, horticultural, and legal subjects. But before he came to Pennsylvania he had extensive training in law. He attended in succession the Universitiy of Altdorf in 1668, then the Universities of Straßburg and Jena. Although it is difficult to trace Pastorius' beliefs when he was a student, he located himself in places where innovative religious and legal ideas were commonplace. He completed his legal studies at the University of Nürnberg in 1676 and began practing in Sommerhausen.

Pastorius' dissatisfaction with the world grew as he practiced law. Later in life, reflecting on the two and one-half years he spent in practice in Sommerhausen, he wrote that he spent his time "marching from one Nobleman's house in the Province unto the other . . . and in short making nothing but work for Repentance." He was increasingly attracted to Pietists, who emphasized simple religious feelings and the search for an inner godliness over religious doctrine. That affinity made him susceptible to the suggestion of a professor at the University of Straßburg, to relocate to Frankfurt, a hotbed of religious reform. In Frankfurt, where he arrived in 1679, Pastorius continued to practice law while he strengthened his friendship with some of the leading Pietists of his generation. They planned to reform society by creating a godly community distinct from corrupt European society.

Soon after Charles II granted William Penn a colony in America in 1681, the Pietists saw their chance to act on their desire to create a separate community. The Frankfurt Pietists formed a Company in 1682 to purchase land in Pennsylvania. Pastorius then felt "a desire in my soul to continue in their Society, and with them to lead a quiet, godly and honest life in a howling Wilderness." In April 1683, fortified with dozens of books on religious themes, Pastorius departed Frankfurt for Pennsylvania, by way of London. Upon departure he wrote of his desire "to escape disaster in time and eternity" by leaving "the worldly impudence and sin of Europe."

Pastorius arrived in Pennsylvania in August 1683 and began his government service-- as a justice of the Philadelphia County Court, as a member of the General Assembly, and as court clerk, among other positions; he served as a scribe throughout his time in Pennsylvania and taught school in Philadelphia and Germantown from the late 1690s until shortly before his death in December 1719.

- - -

Such are the bare details of his life. But it's the content of Pastorius' writing that interests us most. He had several publications during his life. Best known are his letters to his father. They detail life in Pennsylvania, ranging over topics from horticulture to native Americans, and urged others to join his mission. Other publications include a brief tract over a religious dispute and a short Primer to teach his students writing.(1)

He also left unpublished manuscripts-one is (I think) first practical treatise on law written in British North America-another is a herbal medicine treatise.

There was also a protest against slavery-directed to the Germantown Monthly Meeting of Quakers--that he co-authored in 1688. Its simple premise was that it is inappropriate to hold humans in bondage. Although never acted on, in the 1840s (as abolitionism gained popularity in the United States) the Protest was rediscovered. It inspired the Quaker poet John Greenleaf Whittier to begin the apotheosis of Pastorius in the poem The Pennsylvania Pilgrim, which glorified Pastorius' commitment to humanity, abolitionism, and peaceful coexistence with the natives.(2)

- - -

So much for Pastorius' other work-I'd like to turn to his most important work and his largest manuscript-his Bee Hive. It is a commonplace book. What distinguishes it from many other common place books is its size, the number of works consulted, and the care with which Pastorius assembled it. He began keeping the Bee Hive to provide guidance for his sons by "collect[ing] . . . Proverbs, witty Sentences, wise and godly sayings, . . . out of many authors of many minds and different opinions."(3) He expanded on those plans greatly, producing finally a manuscript of more than 500 pages.

 

Contents: The largest sections are several hundred stanzas of poetry and several thousand "honey combs"-nectar of his thought-which are arranged as paragraphs on single subjects. He has 2000 numbered entries, which are then re-spun to form about 400 alphabetical entries, into a sort of encyclopedia. The honey combs record his thoughts on key words, ranging across such diverse topics as atheism, grace; piety, justice, equality, nobility, rebellion, and polygamy.

There is also a vast bibliography of the nearly 1000 books he drew upon;(4) hundreds of aphorisms, short stories-a wonderful collection of Pastorius' thoughts, too numerous to decipher and transcribe.

In keeping with his religious beliefs, much of Pastorius' writing draws sustenance from his interpretation of the Bible. He is particularly concerned with humane treatment of others, with love, and with peaceful existence with nature. His observations of the natural world, from the sun and stars, through small creatures and plants, testify to the number of places where he found inspiration.

ƒ ƒ ƒ


I think that the Bee Hive will be valuable to several groups of scholars.

First, to historians of the book, who ask what uses are made of books-how are ideas transmitted, Pastorius' detailed recording of the ideas that resonated with him provides the opportunity to reconstruct the uses that one reader made of books and how they facilitated preservation (and transmission) of culture.

And he will be useful to literature scholars who search for changes that America wrought on the mind of its immigrants [Bercovitch; Heimert] and to historians [such as Bernard Bailyn and Gregg Roeber] who explore the vibrancy of ideas in early America.

I'd now like to sketch a small part of Pastorius' cosmography and suggest how one might create a refined picture of his mind-to illustrate the utility of the Bee Hive to those projects.

- - -

Let me do that by giving two examples. The first-a general one-about his religious ideas; the second, a very specific one about his ideas on government.

First,

I. Pastorius on the Essence of Christianity

The poems reproduced in your packet suggest some of the common pietist themes of:

meekness [354, 256], for example,

reverence for God and the good in every person [447, 448, 418], and millennialism [471].

He applied those general themes in concrete cases, such as his as opposition to usury and slavery [471, 474, 480]. I'll discuss the poems in passing. Perhaps more useful to the reconstruction of his mind are the alphabetical honey combs.

You can see themes that resonated with Pietists-such as love and the individual's relationship with God-in Pastorius' definition of Christianity:

It Consisteth chiefly in the renewing of the heart, by virtue of the operation of God's light & grace. . . . Christianity is not an outward profession, but the very power of God; Rom 1:16, whereby he remakes, and . . . creates again his own image & likeness of man (who by his own fault is fallen from it) setting it again in the former rightness & perfection. To be like Xst is to be a Xstian.(5)


From that platform, we can construct more of his ideas--

(1) Universal redemption. One of the elements that separated Quakers from many other Protestants was the belief in it-but it was humans' responsibility to accept. One entry observes that Grace of God, in man, if not refused, works for Conversion. God hath sown his good and powerful seed in the hearts of all men, in the bad ground as well as in the good.

The imagery of the seed is important. Last line of Poem 447, for instance, combines the heart and seed. Quaker historian William Frost reminds us that to early "Quakers, the growth analogy was as far-reaching as the idea of a covenant in Puritan theology." And that growth began with a seed planted by God.

(2) The seed planted by God was also called, the conscience, which was written by God on the heart. The ENTRY for Conscience tells us:

God alone can inform and enlighten it. It is the throne of God & free from the power of all men.(6)

A corollary to the God-inspired conscience was that reason was an inadequate basis for understanding religion.(7)

But for Pastorius, reason was still very important: hence we have his extraordinary poem (422) on John Locke's Essay on Human Understanding. Remember, Pastorius is writing in the far reaches of European settlement-in a colony with a population of several thousand. And he's writing about Locke and reading hundreds of other European books.

(3) As you might expect, Pastorius brought intellectual as well as physical baggage when he emigrated. Included in that baggage are central pietist phrases, such as love. We seem them in the alphabetical honey combs-There are entries for love; love of christ; love of God; love of Neighbor; love of the brethren; love of enemies; and then more ominous, love of the world. And in the poems-256, 228, for example, for evidence of the emphasis on humility, and 402 for the need to help others.

(4) But Love was balanced with millennial themes: the last two poems in your packet warn about the judgment that accompanies slavery and usury.

Here we have the key words-the potent ideas-that circulated around Pastorius, which occupied his thought.

The Bee Hive responds to the stimuli around Pastorius, as well as reflecting his ideas. One important stimuli is magic. Remember, Pastorius lives in a world where magic occupies an important part in daily lives of many.

court records in Pa contemporaneous with P contain prosecutions for magic [Jon Butler reminds us](8)

almanacs published at the time [Pa Hist] assist with astrological knowledge.

The Bee Hive has bibliography entries for several books on magic, with the commentary that they are "better to be burnt than sold." It also has an entry for William Perkins' refutation of witchcraft.

Link those thoughts together, now, with the thunder entry, (which cites among others Cotton Mather). It shows reverence for the un-interpretable in nature. There are frequent references to thunder, such as the observation that the laws given to Moses were confirmed by thundering to convince the people of their solemnity. We have in the manuscript a juxtaposition of references to Locke and Bacon with very real fear of supernatural & magic.

And when there was not magic, there was mysticism.

The entry on the Cabal tells us:

The Jews say Moses received of God a literal law, written by the finger of God to be imported unto all & another mystical, to be communicated only to seventy men which by tradition they should pass to their posterity.

Remember that some of Pastorius' neighbors lived in caves and followed a man who sought the truths of the universe in mystical numbers....But that's a story for another time.(9)

II. Pastorius' Ideas about government & relation of the individual to the state

I'd like to turn to a second, more micro-level reconstruction. My most comprehensive example of the Bee Hive's utility draws upon the area of Pastorius' thought I'm most familiar with-his ideas about justice, lawyers, and judges-as well as government.

Pietism focused on the individual and on conversion-but that is not the same (as Gregg Roeber reminds us) as entire separation from the state.

Let's look to the Bee Hive entries to see how people should be treated by the state:

Justice is justly represented Blind because she sees no difference in the Parties concerned. She has but one scale and weight for the rich and poor, great and small. Her sentence is not guided by the person, but the cause.

Crucial to the role of establishment of justice were magistrates-again the focus on the individual. Pastorius told judges how to behave:

"you that sit at the stern," he told them, "whether of little barges or greater ships, whether counties or countries, you should not injure Justice and pervert equity for the love of money."

And from Seneca-through William Penn, who was a frequent source of classical allusions-:

The Publick magistrate begins with persuasion and his Business is, to beget a Detestation for vice, and a Veneration for Virtue: From Thence, if need be, he advances, to Admonition, and Reproach, and then to Punishment; but Moderate and Revocable, unless the Wickedness be incurable, and then the Punishment must be so.

But of that impartiality, he tells judges (taking a page from Lord Bacon) that they are to decide the law, not make it.

And then there is the example of how to act:

"Pericles, mounting the tribunal, prayed to God, not a word might fall from him, that should scandalize the people, wrong the public affairs, or hurt his own."

Penn explained the context of Pericles' statement (and I'm sorry I can't pass this up-so my apologies, if you've over-dosed on Bill Clinton):

Sophocles being his companion, upon sight of a Beautiful woman, said to Pericles, Ah! What a lovely creature is that! To which Pericles reply'd, It becometh a Magistrate not only to have his hands clean, but his Tongue and Eyes also.(10)

In short, judges were to:

rule in the fear of God, . . . judge righteously, respect not person, but judge the small as well as the great, . . . [and] execute wrath upon evil Doers, that good men may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all goodness and honesty.

Now that execution of a wrath upon evil doers . . .

deals with the thorny problem of Quakers' relationship to the legal system

The "Justice" entry refers to Henry Clark's 1660 tract, Here is True Magistracy Described. Clark thought that if magistrates order people to do something contrary to the command of God, the people should "underg[o] the Penalties of their unjust laws." And that Quakers should not prosecute cases in court. Pastorius disagreed with those sentiments. He carefully noted that "it was never against our [meaning Quaker] principles to be concerned with outward government" and that "Quakers never destroy the relationship between prince and people;" therefore, Quakers could use both the civil and criminal courts.

Moreover, he supported capital punishment-as long as it was used to punish murder, not crimes against property.

So, while Pastorius focuses on the individual's relationship to God, there is also some concern for the state, as Professor Roeber's book on the shifting meanings of Liberty and Property in the thought of Pietists reminds us. Those joint concerns appear, for example, in the invocation of "liberty." Pastorius has both legal and non-legal visions of liberty. Thus, liberty is described not as freedom from government, but as: a deliverance from sin. Elsewhere, however, there is concern for freedom from government, as in the entry for liberty of conscience: A true Xstian will not put forth his hand against the person, life, liberty, or estate of others because of their conscientious errors & religious practices, but in the universal love of God finds it his duty [to love] in his heart.

Likewise, he defines property as the characteristics of an object-not as a form of wealth.

Then, if we become ambitious-we can see ways that Pastorius tried to combine his religious and political beliefs-this is the place where his grand ideas about justice-the ubiquitous invocations of the Golden Rule-meet with his knowledge of the need for the government to operate. That intersection appears in his Young Country Clerk's Collection-his very practical treatise on law, which was designed for lay people to do everything from sell their farms to write a will to contract for the joint ownership of a mill. It was based on several English treatises, but Pastorius re-spun them, dropping out complicated forms for property transfers that didn't fit with simple Pennsylvania law; omitting forms for civil suits; and adding forms for prosecution of crimes and for arbitration of disputes.

- - -

The picture that emerges is one of a well-regulated, godly community-it places a premium on virtuous magistrates who set an example and then expect others to follow it. A stable community that respects peoples' private choices regarding religion (so long as it is Christ-centered); which treats others humanely (following the Golden Rule). An idyllic picture, to be sure-but one that fits with Pastorius' hope to create as he said a godly community "in the howling wilderness."

When one often looks for a writer from the middle Atlantic colonies to hold up to prolific and important seventeenth-century New England writers; Pastorius is an important (and lonesome) figure.

Selections from Francis Daniel Pastorius' Bee Hive

Poem 228

Whereas Ecclesiastes The Fear of God a fruitful Garden calls

My muse is paraphrasing thus, a Multitude of slants are in its walls Isa. 5:2

And first of all the choicest Vine by God's own hand is freed in the midst, John 15:1

Which yields us ye New Kingdom's wine, whereof to buy O Lord, thou all men bidst Math 26:29, Isa 55:1

A Next True Love this Vine Surrounds, In Charity to all, which nothing bars 2 Thes. 1:2, 1 Cor. 13

Then Wisdom Divine Wisdom springs culminating man's dark heart & soul James 3:17, Prov. 8

Whereby it his affection brings, To Chuse the Clean & to alter the Foul 3 John 10:11

Lo, afterwards how Righteousness Most sweetly here in every Corner grows Jer. 33:15, Isa. 32:17

Which Peace does as her Sister kiss, whence wealth & sustenance flows Psal 85:10, Prov. 3:15

Now Meekness and Humility in that low place, as in a Valley stands 1 Tim 6:11,

Conscience keeps close thereby and duly executes what God commands 2 Cor. 10:5,6 1 Sam 15:22

Faith of a diverse growth & size in Beds & Paths is ramping up and down, Rom 1:19, 4:12, Luke 14:5, 2 Thes. 1:3

Some tall, some small, some blunt, some nice, and as it seems, each Country has its own, Math. 6:30, Rom. 1:8

Behold yon on ye Tope good Hope, Joy like supported by a Post 1 Pet. 1:3, Hebr. 6:19

Till lastly it obtains its scope: By Trusting in the Lord never ought is lest. Rom 9:9 Jer 19:7

Then rises Courage near the same, which with the Truth will live or for it die, Prov. 28:1, Acts 21:13

And matters neither shame nor Flame. Its aim is War, Triumph, and Victory. Acts 5:41, Phil. 3:14

Moreover Patience lurks behind This prickly Rose tree here opprest with Cares Rev. 14:12, Math. 13:22

And without any Change of Mind, All Changes of the World bears & forbears 1 Thes. 3:3, James 1:4

Hence Temperance stands not so far off whereby we're made good husbands, sober, chaste Gal 5:23, John 6:12

Modesty lets no man scoff, so circumspection stops us to make haste. Prov. 29:8, Isa 28:16, Eccl. 5:2, 7:9

There at the backdoor I espy that Virtue without which ye rest is vain. Rom 6:2

To wit unwearied Constancy, taken all is done, then this the Crown does gain. Eph. 6:18, James 1:12

Now if I would in this poor Rime Relate what more that garden does produce

I should want paper, words & Time. Its plants are too many and too spruce.

No Tongue is able to express the endless joys the Tree of Life does give, 1 Cor. 2:9, Rev. 2:7

With Grace & perfect Holiness, To those, who of that feed, and in this live. Acts 15:11, 1 Tim. 2:15.

 

Poem 256

God the chief Lord of all Fees,

Is offended when he sees,

That we yearly Quit Rents pay

To Proprietors and stay

Ere behind him to give

Any thing whereof we live, Math 25:42

And from him alone possess

He abhors unthankfulness

 

331

To do to Others as We would be done by them

This was Christ's doctrine and, if fully understood

Is the Eternal Band of Peace, the noblest Good

With this runs parallel what holy Prophets taught,

To shun the Sin as hell: Be Virtuous, and not nought.

 

354

(To James Logan)

Do not say that your social rank demands that you do what Christ has forbidden

Woe to you eternally, if you seek honors and riches opposed to the meekness of Christ.

 

402

Never fear men's cruel hands, nor sins of wickedness; Math. 10:28

Rather hear what God commands, who helps thee in Distress Ps. 58:8, 145:19

He does bear himself thy Bonds, And at the end will bless Math. 25:40, 45

His children's Faithfulness. Rev. 2:10

 

422

On John Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding

John Locke has had good luck when he did get

The Golden (long lock'd) key to Plato's Cabinet,

Where that Philosopher Lock'd his ideas fast, that for men's benefit by Locke unlock'd at last

These Inward mental Forms, if Formed as they ought,

Inform our Reason, and Inforce Work, Word & Thought

With Truthful arguments; But, being out of shape, men, falsehood, errors, Lies by means can escape,

And so mistaking take Boke-berries, for a Grape.

 

447

Oh! That from henceforth to the End, What rests of Time, I so may spend

That God be glorify'd thereby, Inhabiting Eternity Isa 57:15

That He my sense order so, To shun all running to and fro

And give, that I may nothing see, Or look upon, but Jesus is there! Isa. 45:223

Grant that my Ears themselves may rear, None but the Shepards Voice to hear! John 10:3

And that what things I take to waste, may yield a Soul delighting Taste.

Give, that whatever I do smell, All hurtful Atoms do repell Judg 16:9

That I may handle naught O Lord, But thee, of Life the only Word 1 John 1:1

My senses being thus restrain'd, In manner shortly here explain'd

Grant, that my Tongue may nothing speak, Whereby good men should offense take Math 18:7

My hands and Feet do always move, In thine and in my Neighbors Love Mark 12:30, 31

Yea, that my HEART forever be Christ Jesus's holy Bishop Seed Ephesians 3:17

 

448

To God alone the only Donour

Of all our good and perfect Gifts,

Be Glory, Thanks Renown & Honour

That He my mind ay upwards lifts;

For tho' stern Death does cut asunder

The Body, Spirit and the Soul,

Yet keeps he not the latter under:

To him belongs nought but the Foul

i.e., Corruptible, Earthly, and mortal.

 

471

If in Christian Doctrine we abide, then God is surely on our side;

But if we Christ's Precepts transgress, Negroes by Slavery oppress,

And white ones grieve by usury (Two evils, which to Heaven cry),

We've neither God, not Christ his son, But straightways travel

Hellwards on.

. . .

Among Christ's followers Are no Extortioners,

No biting Usuers, not Negro (worryers) butchers

All these are Satan's tools, Abominable Fools,

Not worthy of Christ's Name, to which they bring but Shame.

 

474

It is a great Mistake at best, To call that Monster Interest,

Which God and good men, as we see, Have ever stiled Usury;

But now our Saints this name refuse, And to their Brethren lend on use:

On Usury, says Christ our Lord, Though they abbreviate the word;

Yet surely, 'tis not His Intent, T'abbreviate their Punishment.


1. See Pastorius, Beschreibung; Pastorius, Four Boasting Disputers of this World Briefly Rebuked (New York, 1698); Pastorius, A New Primer or Methodical directions to attain the true spelling, reading & writings of English (New York, 1698).

2. John Greenleaf Whittier, "The Pennsylvania Pilgrim," in The Complete Poetical Works of John Greenleaf Whittier 104-11 (Boston, 1894).

3. "Bee Hive," 55.

4. See Alfred L. Brophy, The Quaker Bibliographic World of Francis Daniel Pastorius' Bee Hive, 122 Penn. Mag. Hist. & Bio. 241-91 (1998).

5. Christianity Entry, Bee Hive.

6. "Logic, words, reason, natural experience, and conscience could in no sense give man any right understanding of anything to do with religion." Frost @ 13.

7. All Adam's posterity (or mankind) . . . is fallen, degenerated, and dead, deprived of the sensation or feeling of this testimony or seed of God . . . . Man, therefore, as he is in this state can know nothing aright; yea, his thoughts and conceptions concerning God and things spiritual . . . are unprofitable both to himself and others. Barclay at xi (proposition 4).

8. See Jon Butler, Awash in a Sea of Faith: Christianizing the American People 76-83 (1990).

9. See generally Bernard Bailyn, The Peopling of British North America 125-27 (1986).

10. 10 Penn, No Cross No Crown, supra note 97, at 383-84.