Papers of John Adams, volume 2

49 II. Draft of An Examination of the Claim of New Hampshire, March – May 1774 JA II. Draft of An Examination of the Claim of New Hampshire, March – May 1774 Adams, John
II. Draft of An Examination of the Claim of New Hampshire
March–May 1774
The Claim of New Hampshire is founded thus.

The Council of Plymouth, on the 19 day of March 1621, granted to John Mason, their Secretary, a Tract of Land from Neumkeag Naumkeag to Merrimack River. In the Year 1629, they granted him a Tract of Land between Merrimack and Piscataqua River Sixty Miles up each River, to be bounded on the West by a Line across from River to River. Both these Grants were united, and confirmed to Mr. Mason, by a new Grant from the Council of Plymouth, dated the 22d. Day of April 1635, under the following Description “A Portion of Main Land in New England, from the Middle of Merrimack1 River to proceed East ward along the sea Coast to Cape Anne; and round about the same to Piscataqua Harbour, and so forward up within the River Newichawanock, and to the farthest Head thereof; and thence North West ward till Sixty Miles be finished from the first Entrance of Piscataqua Harbour; and also from Neumkeag through the River thereof, up into the Land, West, Sixty Miles; from which Period to cross over Land to the Sixty Miles End, accounted from Piscataqua thro the Wewichawanack Newichawannock River, to the Land Northwest ward. And also all the South Half of the Isles of Shoals, together with all other Islands and Islets, as well imbayed as adjoining, laying, abutting upon or near the Premisses, within five Leagues Distance, and not otherwise granted by Special Name before the 18 day of April 1635 the said Tract or Portion of Land to be called and distinguished by the Name of New Hampshire.”

King Charles, by his Letters Patents dated 19. day of August 1635 confirmed this Tract called New Hampshire, to Mr. Mason with Powers of Government and Jurisdiction as in the Palatinate or Bishoprick of Durham.2

Such was the Establishment of this little Colony, comprehending no more than about Twenty Miles upon the Sea Coast, and Sixty Miles Inland or in Length.

In 1635 Mason died, and devised New Hampshire by his Will To John Tufton (to be called Mason). John dying before he became of full Age it descended to his Brother Robert Tufton Mason, who was not of Age, till 1650: in 1641 during his Minority, the Massachusetts, took the Colony , Supposing to be within their Patent, into their Protection, upon the Petition of the Inhabitants.


In 1675, upon Masons Petition to King Charles the second, a Report was made by the Crown Officers in favour of his Title, and the King sent a Mandatory Letter on the Subject, to the Massachusetts Governor.

Mr. Stoughton and Mr. Buckly were sent as Agents to England, to answer Masons Complaint, who, disclaimed all Right to New Hampshire; which being reported was confirmed by the King and Council 10 July 1677.

Dft (M/JA/6, Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 185); two folded sheets endorsed: “Extract from De Laet“; actually the endorsement is on the verso of the sheet dealing with New Hampshire. The other sheet has the extract from Joannes de Laet, Novus Orbis seu Descriptionis Indiae occidentalis . . . , Leyden, 1633, as well as an extract from William Smith, The History of the Province of New-York, from the First Discovery to the Year 1732 . . . , London, 1757.


An error in copying; this should, of course, be “Naumkeag,” at the site of modern Salem, Mass.


The description of the bounds of Mason's grant from the Council of Plymouth in 1635 and the assertion that this grant was confirmed by royal letters patent, as well as the biographical information for John and Robert Tufton Mason which follows, indicate that JA's source for this section of New Hampshire's “Claim” was A Short Narrative of the Claim, Title and Right of the Heirs of the Honourable Samuel Allen, Esq, to the Province of New-Hampshire, Boston, 1728 (Evans, No. 3106).

Samuel Allen (1636–1705) had purchased whatever title the Mason heirs held to New Hampshire lands in 1691 (Charles Wesley Tuttle and John Ward Dean, Capt. John Mason, the Founder of New Hampshire . . . , Prince Society, Pubns., 17 [1887]: 124). For the last fourteen years of his life, Allen fought to have his claims recognized, and in 1705, settlers on those tracts agreed to honor his title to waste lands (Elwin L. Page, “The Case of Samuell Allen of London Esqr. Governor of Newhampshire,” Historical New Hampshire, 25:53 [Winter 1970]). A Short Narrative, a thirteen-page pamphlet supposedly published to support the claims of Allen's heirs after New Hampshire residents had “invaded their Rights” and “possessed the Wasts“ on the heirs' lands, was part of Thomas Prince's Library consulted by JA at the Old South Church (Thomas Prince, MS catalogue of “New-English Books and Tracts,” MHi).

The standard authority on the Mason grants states that the Allen pamphlet contains “the first statement which I have met with that a charter from the King was obtained by Capt. John Mason.” That authority also says that it is the only source as well for the statement that Robert Tufton Mason was not of age till 1650 (Tuttle and Dean, Capt. John Mason, p. 355, 38–39).

JA also had recourse to William Douglass' history. This work, a part of his library, refers to a royal “patent” in 1635, although Douglass' description of the patent's bounds differs from those in the Allen pamphlet and in JA's draft (A Summary, Historical and Political, of the First Planting, Progressive Improvements and Present State of the British Settlements in North America, 2 vols., London, 1760, 1:418).

In JA's time, little credit was given the notion that Mason's grant had been confirmed by a royal charter (Hutchinson, Massachusetts Bay, ed. Mayo, 1:268–269 and notes). But JA's use of the Allen pamphlet should not be interpreted as an indication that he planned to argue for the validity of any charter granted to Mason, for the draft here printed represents only the claim of New Hampshire, which he was to rebut on behalf of Massachusetts. Rather, JA's use of the Allen heirs' narrative shows 51his determination to raise and explore every possible ground on which the neighbors of Massachusetts might challenge its territorial rights. And, because the New Hampshire government had never attempted to come to terms with Allen's heirs, but instead had engaged in long and ultimately fruitless negotiations with Mason's descendants in an attempt to rationalize land titles in the colony (Tuttle and Dean, Capt. John Mason, p. 126–129), JA may have planned to use this fact in his arguments for Massachusetts.