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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 1

Docno: ADMS-06-01-02-0055

Author: Adams, John
Author: Niles, Samuel
Author: Bass, Jonathan
Author: Braintree, town of
Recipient: Braintree, town of
Date: 1765-09-30

Report of the Braintree Committee for the Sale of the North Common

The Committee appointed by the Town for the Sale of the North Commons1 offered their Report to the Town and therewith exhibited a number of Bonds payable to the Treasurer of said Town being the produce of the Sale of said Commons together with the account of their Expences.2 The Report as follows (viz.). We the subscribers the Committee appointed to make Sale of the North Commons beg leave to report that We have attended that Service and Sold the whole of said Commons except as is hereafter excepted according to our Commission and taken Bonds of the Purchasers for the Considerations of their Deeds. A List of which Bonds as also an account of our Services and Expences in taking the Plans of said Commons and in Selling the same, giving the Deeds and taking the Bonds is herewith exhibited and likewise a list of the Promisory Notes still remaining in our hands which were given as Earnest by those Persons who bid off Lotts in said Commons but have refused to take Deeds. We ask leave further to report that we have given Notice to the Late Leasees of said North Commons to meet us in order to an accommodation of the Controversies between the Town and the said Lessees respecting the Fences and the Stones but We have not been able to accomplish such a settlement. One exception we are oblidged to make in the List of Deeds and Bonds (viz.), that to Luke Lambert which we have not been able to ac• { 144 } complish neither Bond nor Deed being executed according to expectation.
[signed] John Adams
[signed] Samll. Niles
[signed] Jonathan Bass
The above Report was voted accepted and the account, Bonds and Promisory Notes was Lodged with the Treasurer of said Town. The amount of the whole of said Bonds was [blank in MS].3
Then voted the aforesaid Committee be directed and impowered to Call on the late Lessees of said Commons to settle their obligations Respecting the fences also to give an account of and Secure the Town for stones carried off said Lands during the three last years of their Lease and those that neglect or refuse to settle with said Committee within six weeks next ensuing said Committee to Prosecute and Sue for the same in the Name and Behalf of the Town.4
MS (Braintree Town Records, 1731–1783, p. 237); in hand of Elisha Niles, town clerk.
1. For JA's appointment to this committee and an account of its duties, see Report of 1 April, above.
2. This and other accompanying documents mentioned herein have not been found.
3. JA described the committee's energetic efforts to sell the North Common: “We handled the Mallett ourselves as Vendue Masters and finished all the Sales in one Night.” JA himself bought two lots of the North Common land and admitted that he would have purchased more “if the awfull Prospect of publick affairs had not discouraged me” (Diary and Autobiography, 3:280). Deeds for the lots sold to JA and for a single lot sold to his brother Peter Boylston Adams are in Adams Papers, Adams Office Files, Pattee lists other purchasers (Old Braintree and Quincy, p. 38–40).
4. On the following 21 Oct. JA's committee and the North Common lessees agreed on five arbiters of the dispute. This panel submitted its recommendations on 25 Nov., and the original committee's report urging adoption of this settlement and submitting the lessees' final accounts for stones from the Common was accepted by the town meeting on 27 Aug. 1766 (Braintree Town Records, p. 412). Pattee's comment is worth quoting: “Thus ended the strifes, contentions, litigations and ill-feelings that [the disposition of Braintree's common lands] had engendered in the town between neighbors, friends and citizens for a century and a quarter; it also removed a great element that was yearly manipulated and used in the interest of politicians at the election of town officers in jobbing out the town common to the friends of the successful candidates” (Old Braintree and Quincy, p. 40).

Docno: ADMS-06-01-02-0056

Author: Sewall, Jonathan
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1765-10-05

From Jonathan Sewall

[salute] Dear Bror: Adams

The Bearers John Oliver and Michael Nagail are indicted of the ignominious narrow-Soul'd Crime of Sheep-stealing (at Taunton Superior Court). They depended on my going down to defend them { 145 } but my Business at Boston Court prevents me. I have therefore advised them to you; they intend also to engage Colo: White1 with you.
Their Defence principally rests on these two points which they expect to prove, namely, that they bonâ fide, bought and paid for as many Sheep as were ever seen in their Drove, and that some of them were mark'd with the same Marks as Colo. Northrop's, whose they are charged with stealing. The proof against them is this, Colo. Northrop will swear that at, or near, the Time when they passed by his Farm he lost the Number of Sheep mentioned in the Indictment, which, as I remember is 50. or upwards. One Ezekiel Gardner swears that about the same Time he lost 15. out of his pasture, and hearing that Oliver and Nagail were seen in his pasture, he pursued them and found his 15. Sheep and they delivered them up to him; and at the same Time he saw a Number of Sheep in their Drove with Colo. Northrop's mark. This is the material Evidence against which you are sensible is clearly avoided, if they can prove they bought Sheep with the same Mark, and bought the full Number which they brot: home with them (unless the Kings Attorney can prove that they disposed of 50. before they reach'd home; which he cannot do.) Observe, I dont find that any one will swear he saw in their Drove to the Number of Fifty, with Colo. Northrops Mark, or near that Number, but only that they saw some, and this (if they bonâ fide bought of another person, some with the same Mark) proves nothing.
But let me just add, that even if our Clients Should fail in their proof; yet if it be considered with Attention how difficult it is, when passing thro' the Country with a Drove, to prevent other sheep from mixing with them; when the Drove are frequently jumping over into pastures, and the Sheep in Inclosures jumping into the Road when they hear the bleating of a large Drove, how easily others mark'd precisely, or nearly, in the same Manner, may get among them unobserved by the Drovers; and if it be considered that the Intention constitutes the Crime. These Things being attended to, I say, the Jury ought to have clear proof of an Intention to steal, before they can declare them guilty, even tho' they should be satisfyed that some of Northrops Sheep were in their Drove. The Evidence which would prove Conversion, in Case he had brought Trover for the Sheep, will by no Means prove a Theft.
I hint these Things to you not because I think my Head is better than your's, but because two Heads are better than one; on the Credit of which proverb you know the Boy advised his Father to take the Dog with him.
{ 146 }
As I really believe them innocent I am concerned for them, and beg you would exert your Talents in their Defence, for which I hope they will give you a hansome Fee.
I am with great Affection, Your hearty Friend and Bror. (in Law),
[signed] Jon. Sewall
RC (MHi: Robert Treat Paine Papers, 11:26); endorsed.
1. Samuel White (1710–1769), attorney in Bristol co. and speaker of the House of Representatives, 1759, 1764–1766 (Sibley-Shipton, Harvard Graduates, 9:110–112). Apparently JA failed to join White in defending Oliver and Nagail, since there is no mention of these defendants in JA's legal records nor any indication of a connection between them in the Superior Court of Judicature Records.
Cite web page as: Founding Families: Digital Editions of the Papers of the Winthrops and the Adamses, ed.C. James Taylor. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2018.