The first white settlers within the present bounds of Delaware, as has already been shown in the preceding chapters, and the only white settlers previous to the coming of Penn who made any distinct and durable impress upon the country, were the Swedes. Their first, second and third colonies arrived in 1638 and 1640.
The Swedes on the Delaware have sometimes been reproached as a lazy people because they did not clear the forests at a rapid rate, nor build themselves fine houses. But this is not the character which Penn gives them, nor that to which their performances entitle them.
Penn says, “They are a plain, strong, industrious people, yet have made no great progress in the culture or propagation of fruit-trees as if they desired to have enough, not a superfluity.” He speaks also of their respect for authority, adding, “As they are a people proper and strong of body, so they have fine children, and almost every house full; rare to find one of them without three or four boys and as many girls; some six, seven and eight sons. And I must do them that right, I see few men more sober and industrious.”
In speaking of their lack of diversified husbandry, Penn forgot that their leading crop was tobacco, which, being without slaves almost entirely, they had to cultivate with their own hands. Their intelligence must have been at least equal to their loyalty, for they were more than fully represented, on the basis of comparative population, in all the early assemblies, councils and magistrates’ courts, under Lovelace and Penn, and they were the only interpreters Penn could get in his intercourse with the Indians. They were not devoid, moreover, of what would nowadays be esteemed remarkable industrial enterprise.