Redemption of Councilman Luke Watson in Philadelphia

Dateline: Philadelphia, 1686-1688: What happened when Luke Watson had an affair with his brother-in-law’s unnamed servant girl?

When he got kicked off the Council, the highest governing body in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, could he find his way back?

We can learn a lot from the earliest Founders of our nation–not just the leaders in the eighteenth century–but the ones living daily life in the seventeenth century too.

In this first entry, he’s sitting in the Council, but he’s about to get a rough awakening.

Modernized transcription begins:

At a meeting of the Council, the tenth of the third month, 1686 [May 10, 1686] in the council room at Philadelphia

Thomas Lloyd, president

Jno. Barnes, Robt. Turner, Tho. Janney, Arth. Cook, Fran. Harrison, Nich. Newlin, Jno. Simcock, Wm. Southersby, Wm. Frampton, Luke Watson, Jno. Roades, Wm. Clark, Wm. Markham, secretary

Credible information being to this board that Luke Watson, one of the members thereof, lay under suspicion of being carnally concerned with a woman servant to his brother-in-law, and likewise that he stood at this present bound to the peace for his misdemeanors, the board ordered him to withdraw that they might consult about the information;

After a deliberate consultation, the board ordered Luke Watson to be called and told him that he was accused of having carnal knowledge of this brother-in-law’s woman servant and further that he then stood bound to the peace for misdemeanors and therefore until he appeared in law innocent of those great offenses he was accused of, they could not admit him to sit amongst them, upon which he went forth.

Transcription ends.

He must have been terribly embarrassed. One can only sympathize with him at that moment (but not with his behavior).

Now begins his journey back from scandal to restoration.

12th day of the 3rd month, 1686 (May 12, 1686)

Modernized transcription begins:

Luke Watson desired the board they would let him know his accuser, to which they making no answer, he requested that Henry Bowman might be called to declare before the board what he knew of his not being bound to peace, who was called and declared as follows, vizt.: that Luke Watson’s brother-in-law (one Smith) told him that the difference [conflict] between him and Luke Watson was ended and that they were now friends and that there would be nothing more done in that business.

Transcription ends.

Next, he strolls into the Council and sits down, claiming he won the elections back in his county. But he forgot something.

31st day of the 1st month, 1688 (March 31, 1688)

Modernized transcription begins:

Luke Watson appeared and presented himself as a member the last election, for the county of Sussex, but no return being made could not be admitted.

Transcription ends.

Two year later, things are about to even out.

Modernized transcription begins:

At a meeting of the Council in the council room in Philadelphia, the 10th, 3d, 1688 [May 10, 1688]


Luke Watson, who was last election chosen and returned a member of this board, but lying under a great scandal and infamous reputation, was not admitted to sit at this board until he had cleared himself thereof, this day brought certificate thereof, which was by the board sufficient, and thereupon was attested and took his place.

Transcription ends.

So it took exactly two years, but he got his redemption from his “great scandal” and “infamous reputation.”

Further records show he served on the Council for a long time.

Anyone can experience redemption. It just takes prayer and determination and repentance; most of all it takes God’s grace.

Update, Sept. 21, 2015:

I need to add that the draconian law of kicking someone out of government for sexual misconduct with a consenting adult wouldn’t work today.  But people had strict standards back then and saw themselves as shepherds of baby America.

Minutes of the Provincial Council, vol. 1, 1683-1700, (Jo. Severns and Co. 1852), pp.176, 180, 213, 222.

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