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House Speaker Biographies


Phineas Pemberton

Born: January 31, 1650, Wigan Parish, Lancashire, England.  Died: March 1, 1702.  Member of the Colonial Assembly: Bucks County, 1689-1690, 1694-1695, 1698-1699, 1700-1701.  Affiliation: Quaker, Pro-Proprietary.

Phineas Pemberton was born January 31, 1650, in Lancashire, England.  At the age of 15, Pemberton was an apprentice to a shopkeeper.  He faced religious persecution and was imprisoned twice in 1670.  He had his belongings seized by the royal government in 1679 and 1680.  He married the former Phoebe Harrison in 1677 and the couple had 9 children together: Ann (d. 1682), Ann (b. 1682), Abigail Jenkins, Joseph, Israel, Samuel, Phoebe, Priscilla, and Phineas Jenkins.  After the death of his first wife, Pemberton remarried to Alice Hodgson in 1699.

In September 1682, Pemberton, his family, his father, servants, and the family of James Harrison, left for the Colonies.  By the spring of 1683, he and his family were settled in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.  In 1683 Pemberton was appointed as clerk of the Bucks County Court, a post he held until 1693 (as well as from 1695-1701), and as Bucks County’s register of wills, a post he held until 1693.

Pemberton was first elected to the Provincial Council in 1685, where he served on 3 committees, 2 of which drafted economics legislation. The third committee was responsible for the consideration of amendments recommended by the Assembly. During that year’s legislative session, the Assembly advocated for the Continuation Bill, which included provisions allowing the Assembly to repeal legislation, and Pemberton was supportive of resolutions that criticized the Assembly’s initiative.  He was re-elected to the Council and served in 1695, 1697, 1699, and 1700-1701.

Pemberton was elected to the Pennsylvania Colonial Assembly in 1689, which he utilized as a vehicle of opposition against Governor John Blackwell.  Despite Pemberton’s previous criticism of the Assembly’s fight for autonomy, he helped the Assembly establish their rights.  In 1694 Pemberton was re-elected to the Assembly, and during this legislative session, he was at the forefront of establishing privileges for the Assembly.  By serving on 7 committees, Pemberton sought to pass laws allowing the House to adjourn at their own discretion, as well as curtail the powers of the justices on the Provincial Council. On May 10, 1698, Pemberton was unanimously elected the 13th Speaker of the Assembly.  During this year, the colony faced accusations regarding illegal trading and cooperating with pirates.  The Act for Preventing Frauds and Regulating Abuses in Trade was passed by the House and signed by the Governor to fight the charges.  Pemberton also sponsored and signed the address to King William III in regard to the charges and accusations.

During the Assembly of 1700, Pemberton played a large role in two significant issues at the time: property legislation and a new Constitution.  Due to a vacancy, Pemberton was appointed to the Provincial Council in October of 1700, where he supported the Charter of Privileges, which increased the powers of the Assembly.

Phineas Pemberton died on March 1, 1702, in Pennsylvania.  He is interred at Pennsbury Manor Cemetery in Morrisville, Bucks County, Pennsylvania.