Richard Penn (governor)

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Richard Penn
Acting Governor of Pennsylvania
In office
Late 1771 – 1773
Preceded byJohn Penn (remained in office during Richard Penn's tenure)
Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania
In office
President of the Board at the University of Pennsylvania
In office
Member of the British Parliament
In office
In office
Personal details
BornCirca 1735
Died27 May 1811
Richmond, England

Richard Penn Jr. (1735 – 27 May 1811, Richmond, Surrey, England) served as the lieutenant governor of the Province of Pennsylvania from 1771 to 1773, and was later a member of the British Parliament.


Penn, of Laleham in Middlesex, was the second son of Richard Penn Sr. (1706–1771) and his wife Hannah Lardner, daughter of Richard Lardner M.D.; and the grandson of William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania.[1] He was educated at Eton College and St John's College, Cambridge before joining the Inner Temple.[2]

In 1763, he and his brother John visited Pennsylvania, of which his family were still sole proprietors. He was qualified as a councilor on 12 January 1764. In 1768, he was elected as a member of the American Philosophical Society.[3]

In 1771, he returned to Pennsylvania and was appointed lieutenant governor. He soon became acting governor when his brother returned to England to attend to the colony's legal interests. He proved popular with the provincials, taking much care over their commercial interests, but less so with his uncle, the proprietor. After two years, he was supplanted by the re-appointment of his brother as governor.

President's House, Philadelphia. Penn's city house later served as the presidential mansion of George Washington and John Adams, 1790–1800.

On 21 May 1772, at Christ Church, Philadelphia, he married Mary "Polly" Masters, daughter of the late William Masters of Philadelphia. The bride's mother gave them a splendid city house as a wedding present. Penn entertained members of the Continental Congress at his Philadelphia city house, a Virginia delegate, Colonel George Washington, being among his guests.

Richard Penn was elected a trustee of the College and Academy of Philadelphia (now the University of Pennsylvania) in 1772, serving as president of the board in 1773 and 1774. With the coming of the Revolution, he retired and returned to England in the summer of 1775, when the Continental Congress entrusted him with the Olive Branch Petition to the King. George III refused to accept the petition, but Penn gave evidence to the House of Lords on the colonies' attitudes toward independence.

After the conclusion of the American Revolution, he was allowed compensation by the US government for the loss of his proprietary rights in Pennsylvania, and visited Philadelphia again in 1808. James Boswell (who was a friend of Penn's) records that in 1789 the influential Earl of Lonsdale urged the government to appoint Penn as Britain's first Ambassador to the United States, although nothing came of the idea.

Penn entered Parliament in 1784 as member for Appleby, elected on the Lonsdale interest, and subsequently also represented two other Lonsdale-dominated boroughs, Haslemere and Lancaster. He was a reliable supporter of Pitt's government (breaking with the other Lonsdale-backed members to support Pitt over the Regency crisis in 1788–89), but rarely if ever spoke in the House of Commons. He resigned his seat in 1791, but returned to Parliament at the next general election, in 1796.

Richard and Mary Penn had two sons, William Penn (1776–1845) and Richard Penn, FRS (1784–1863), and two daughters, Hannah, who died without issue and Mary who married Samuel Paynter (she also died without issue).[4] He died at Richmond-on-Thames in 1811.

President's House[edit]

Penn sold his Philadelphia city house to Robert Morris in 1785. From 1790 to 1800, while Philadelphia was the temporary capital of the United States, it served as the executive mansion for Presidents George Washington and John Adams until the national capital moved to Washington, D.C., in November 1800.


  1. ^ "Penn, Richard (?1734-1811), of Queen Anne Street, Marylebone, Mdx., History of Parliament Online".
  2. ^ "Penn, Richard (PN752R)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  3. ^ Bell, Whitfield J., and Charles Greifenstein, Jr. Patriot-Improvers: Biographical Sketches of Members of the American Philosophical Society. 3 vols. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1997, 3:226–233.
  4. ^ Jordan, John Woolf (2004). Colonial And Revolutionary Families Of Pennsylvania. Genealogical Publishing Com. p. 9. ISBN 978-0-8063-5239-8.


public domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainWilson, J. G.; Fiske, J., eds. (1891). Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton. {{cite encyclopedia}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)

External links[edit]

Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Appleby
With: Hon. John Leveson Gower
Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Haslemere
With: William Gerard Hamilton
Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Lancaster
With: John Dent
Succeeded by
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Parliament of Great Britain
Member of Parliament for Lancaster
With: John Dent
Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Haslemere
With: George Wood
Succeeded by