James Logan, a Scotch-Irish colonial American statesman, administrator, and scholar who serves as the fourteenth mayor of Philadelphia and holds a number of other public offices, is born in Lurgan, County Armagh, in what is now Northern Ireland, on October 20, 1674. He serves as colonial secretary to William Penn and is a founding trustee of the College of Philadelphia, the predecessor of the University of Pennsylvania.
Logan is born to Ulster Scots Quaker parents Patrick Logan (1640–1700) and Isabella, Lady Hume (1647–1722), who marry in early 1671 in Midlothian, Scotland. His father has a Master of Arts degree from the University of Edinburgh, and originally is an Anglican clergyman before converting to Quakerism, or the Society of Friends. Although apprenticed to a Dublin linen-draper, he receives a good classical and mathematical education, and acquires a knowledge of modern languages not common at the period. The Williamite War in Ireland (1688–1691) obliges him to follow his parents, first to Edinburgh, and then to London and Bristol, England where, in 1693, he replaces his father as schoolmaster. In 1699, he comes to the colony of Pennsylvania aboard the Canterbury as William Penn’s secretary.
Later, Logan supports proprietary rights in Pennsylvania and becomes a major landowner in the growing colony. After advancing through several political offices, including commissioner of property (1701), receiver general (1703), clerk (1701), and member (1703) of the provincial council, he is elected mayor of Philadelphia in 1722. During his tenure as mayor, he allows Irish Catholic immigrants to participate in the city’s first public Mass. He later serves as the colony’s chief justice from 1731 to 1739, and in the absence of a governor of Pennsylvania, becomes acting governor from 1736 to 1738.
As acting governor, Logan opposes Quaker pacifism and war tax resistance, and encourages pacifist Quakers to give up their seats in the Pennsylvania General Assembly so that it can make war requisitions. On October 9, 1736 he responds to requests from Native American leaders to control the sale of alcohol, which is creating serious social problems, by prohibiting the sale of rum in indigenous communities, but as the penalty 1s only a fine of ten pounds and the law is poorly enforced, it does not have a significant effect.
During his tenure as acting governor, Logan plays an active role in the territorial expansion of the colony. Whereas William Penn and his immediate successors had pursued a policy of friendly relations with the Leni Lenape (Delaware) peoples, Logan and other colony proprietors (notably the indebted brothers John, Richard and Thomas Penn) pursue a policy of land acquisition. Such efforts to expand are spurred by increased immigration to the colony and fears that the New York Colony is infringing on Pennsylvania’s northern borders in the Upper Delaware river valley. In addition, many proprietors (including Logan and the Penn brothers) had engaged in extensive land speculation, selling off lands occupied by the Lenape to new colonists before concluding an official treaty with the tribe.
As part of his efforts to expand Pennsylvania, Logan signs the Walking Treaty of 1737, commonly referred to as the Walker Purchase, with the Lenape, forcing the tribe to vacate lands in the Upper Delaware and Lehigh valleys under the auspices of the tribe having sold the lands to William Penn in 1686, a treaty whose ratifying document is considered by some sources to have been a fabrication. Under the terms of the treaty, the Lenape agree to cede as much territory as a man could walk in one and one-half days to the Pennsylvania colony. However, Logan uses the treaty’s vague wording, the Lenape’s unclear diplomatic status, and a heavily-influenced “walk” to claim a much larger territory than is originally expected by the Lenape. In addition, he negotiates with the powerful Iroquois Confederacy to allow for the treaty to take place. As a result, the Iroquois (nominally the diplomatic overlords and protectors of the Lenape people) rebuff Lenape attempts to have the Iroquois intervene on their behalf. The net result of the Walker Treaty increases the colony’s borders by over 1,200,000 acres, but leads to the diplomatic isolation of the Lenape people and a breakdown in relations between the Pennsylvania colony and the tribe.
Meanwhile, Logan engages in various mercantile pursuits, especially fur trading, with such success that he becomes one of the wealthiest men in the colonies. He writes numerous scholarly papers published by the American Philosophical Society and European journals. He is also a natural scientist whose primary contribution to the emerging field of botany is a treatise that describes experiments on the impregnation of plant seeds, especially corn. He tutors John Bartram, the American botanist, in Latin and introduces him to Carl Linnaeus.
Logan’s mother comes to live with him in Philadelphia in 1717. She dies on January 17, 1722, at Stenton, Logan’s country home. His daughter, Sarah, marries merchant and statesman Isaac Norris. Logan dies at the age of 77 on October 31, 1751 at Stenton, near Germantown, at the age of 77, and is buried at the site of Arch Street Friends Meeting House (built in 1804).