Papers of John Adams, volume 2

Editorial Note Editorial Note
Editorial Note

Perhaps none of John Adams' services to Massachusetts was so demanding and time-consuming as the report on the boundaries of the province that he prepared for the General Court in 1774—and perhaps none of his public papers has offered so many challenges to students of his career. In 1961, the editors of The Adams Papers had to describe this triumph of legal and historical scholarship as an “elaborate but apparently irrecoverable report” (JA, Diary and Autobiography , 3:304, note). Since then, the work of other scholars and a more exhaustive canvass of the Adams manuscripts have enabled the present editors to identify a fragmentary draft of one of the report's three sections (No. II, below) and a draft fragment and contemporary copy of a second portion of that document (Nos. III and VI, below). The manuscript report itself remains lost, and identification of surviving portions was made possible only by painstaking investigation, some of it by other than Adams editors, of the task facing Adams and James Bowdoin on 1 March 1774 when they were named to prepare a “State of the Provinces Title” to lands claimed by her neighbors, New Hampshire and New York.

Preparation of this “State,” which fell to Adams, required a mastery of the history of boundary lines on no fewer than four frontiers, with reference to Dutch and English explorations and analyses of grants from kings to princes and from chartered companies to individuals. The claims of Massachusetts rested on three grants of the early seventeenth century: James I's charter to the Plymouth Council in 1620; that Council's con-23veyance of lands from three miles south of the Charles River to three miles north of the Merrimack River to Sir Henry Rosewell and his associates in 1628; and the charter of 1629, which incorporated the Rosewell grant into the colony of Massachusetts Bay. (The charters of 1620 and 1629 are printed in Thorpe, Federal and State Constitutions , 3:1827–1860; terms of the Rosewell grant are on p. 1847–1848.) All three granted lands with explicit north-south bounds which were to extend from “sea to sea.” The 1629 charter, however, added the proviso that the grant became void if the granted lands were already possessed or settled by some other Christian prince (same, p. 1850).

The validity of these ancient grants was weakened by the revocation of the colony's charter in 1684. Under a new charter, issued in 1691, that made Massachusetts Bay a royal province, the description of its bounds was altered. The province retained jurisdiction over Maine and was enlarged to include the old Plymouth Colony, but the north-south boundaries of Massachusetts were to extend west only as far as those of Connecticut, Rhode Island, and the Narragansett Country, that is, “King's Province” in Rhode Island (same, p. 1876).

The creation of the colony of New York in 1664 jeopardized even these western bounds of New England provinces. By a grant to his brother the Duke of York Charles II established a vast proprietorship which included ungranted lands in Maine, the islands of Martha's Vineyard and Long Island, and the claims of the Dutch in New Netherland. This last tract, encompassing the lands between the Connecticut and Delaware rivers, cut squarely across the claims of New England colonies with sea-to-sea charters. With this fact in mind, Charles II's letters patent of 1664 contained the proviso that the grant to his brother was to be good despite grants made earlier by any former king to any person or corporation. The grant of 1664 was made in anticipation of the conquest of New Netherland by England. After the conquest and Dutch cession of their North American claims, the grant to James was confirmed in a second charter in identical terms in 1674 (same, p. 1640, 1641–1644).

In 1774 Adams would have to immerse himself in these charters and in the history of the attempts to reconcile their contradictory terms and inaccurate descriptions of New England geography. The Bay Colony's land disputes with New Hampshire had, supposedly, been ended by a decision of the King in Council, 5 March 1740. This decree, which settled New Hampshire's boundary both on the east with the province of Maine and, on the south, with Massachusetts proper, was considered unjust by Massachusetts partisans. In setting the Maine–New Hampshire boundary, the decree interpreted a line running “north-westward” to be one running north, two degrees west, instead of north, forty-five degrees west, as Massachusetts and most geographers would have defined the term.

The decree's settlement of New Hampshire's southern boundary seemed equally unfair to the Bay province. Seventeenth-century grants to both colonies had been made on the assumption that the Merrimack River fol-24lowed an east-west course. Thus the grant to Rosewell in 1628 had been for lands extending three miles north of the Merrimack “or to the northward of any and every parte thereof.” All Privy Council actions upon disputes arising between Massachusetts and New Hampshire grantees in the seventeenth century, and even the charter from William and Mary in 1691, had repeated this description of the northern boundary of Massachusetts. The Merrimack, however, follows an east-west course for only some thirty miles between Pawtucket Falls and the Atlantic coast. Going upstream beyond the falls, one travels almost due north; so a strict interpretation of the line would have confined New Hampshire to a narrow strip east of the Merrimack.

Refusing to accept this boundary definition, New Hampshire began formal appeals to the Crown in 1726. Massachusetts responded by accelerating the settlement of towns in the disputed area west of the Merrimack. Despite this tactic, Massachusetts lost its claim to lands beyond the river. The Privy Council decree of 1740 invalidated the Merrimack as the basis for most of the Massachusetts–New Hampshire line: the boundary was to parallel the river from the coast to Pawtucket Falls; there it was to continue west rather than turn northward. Under this generous decision, New Hampshire received seven hundred square miles of territory that it had never before claimed (Jonathan Smith, “The Massachusetts and New Hampshire Boundary Line Controversy, 1693–1740,” MHS, Procs. , 43 [1909–1910] 77–88; and Hutchinson, Massachusetts Bay, ed. Mayo, 2:290–297).

Whatever the inequities of these decisions, Massachusetts made no attempt to reopen the question until one section of the lands awarded New Hampshire in 1740 became part of an even more complicated dispute, that of New York and New Hampshire over the “Hampshire Grants.” New York's claim to lands as far east as the Connecticut River had early brought her into conflict with her three New England neighbors. As a matter of expediency, New York had agreed in 1683 to run a compromise line with Connecticut twenty miles east of the Hudson, but had conceded nothing to New Hampshire and Massachusetts. In 1764 the Privy Council upheld the rights of New York to the lands disputed with New Hampshire—the tract between the Connecticut River and Lake Champlain which comprises the modern state of Vermont. Nevertheless, confusion over land titles in the region, where governors of both provinces had made grants before the boundary settlement, kept dissension in the “Hampshire Grants” alive until the Revolution. (For an able summary of this controversy, see Matt B. Jones, Vermont in the Making, 1750–1777, Cambridge, 1939, chs. I–III.)

This confusion over titles in “the Grants” brought the boundary question before the General Court in 1774 and gave John Adams the chore of mastering the intricacies of provincial charters and territorial claims, an intellectual feat which served him well in his later career as a diplomat. (For Adams' discussion of the uses he made of his early research into these 25matters, see Works , 1:666–669.) The history of Adams' appointment to report on Massachusetts' boundaries began with a petition submitted to the province Council on 19 February 1774. The petition came from John Powell, Charles Phelps, and others with an interest in that section of the lands annexed from Massachusetts to New Hampshire under the 1740 boundary settlement and, in turn, awarded to New York under the 1764 decree fixing New Hampshire's western boundary. Powell's petition set forth the “ancient right” of Massachusetts to lands then under New York jurisdiction and called for their reannexation to Massachusetts (M-Ar: Legislative Council Records, 30 [1773–1774]: 183).

Although the petition itself, heard in the Council in February 1774, has not survived, it was doubtless a recital of the same demands presented by Powell and others in a petition dated 6 July 1772 heard in July 1772 (M-Ar: 118, p. 643–646; this petition and its effects are discussed at length in Jones, Vermont, p. 186–190). The earlier petition recounted the plight of settlers, like Powell, whose land titles were based on pre-1740 grants from Massachusetts in the southern portion of what is now Vermont. Upon transfer of jurisdiction to New Hampshire, these proprietors had been obliged to purchase new patents from that colony. Then, as New York asserted her claim, they faced the prospect of new fees for patents from New York as well as the payment of substantial quitrents required by that province.

In 1772 the General Court had ignored the petitioners' pleas that Massachusetts reassert her claims against the “ridiculous” pretensions of New York, but in 1774 the legislature moved quickly. On 1 March a joint committee of the two houses reported to the Council that “this Province has a just right to the Lands their Petition relates to” and recommended that “a full and clear State of the Provinces Title to those Lands and also to all the Lands bounded Southerly by the present Southern Jurisdiction Line of New Hampshire, and the Continuation of the said Line and Northerly by the proper and true Northern Line of the Old Colony of Massachusetts Bay and by the continuation thereof, should be made as soon as may be.” The report recommended that an appropriate person be appointed to prepare a report on the province title, to be ready “by the first Friday of the next May Session” (M-Ar:Legislative Council Records, 30 [1773–1774]: 215). The Council nominated Adams, and the House concurred and added James Bowdoin as his colleague. Then the Council and the House resolved to notify their agents in England of the action (same, p. 215, 221; Mass., House Jour. , 1773–1774, p. 175, 204, 209, 219).

The General Court's decision to reopen the thorny question of Massachusetts' boundaries with New Hampshire grew less out of sympathy for the proprietors of townships like Marlborough, Fulham, and Wilmington than out of the need for establishing territorial pretensions for use in still another controversy. In the eighteen months after John Powell and his neighbors submitted their first petition, Massachusetts had become embroiled in a new phase of her continuing boundary dispute with New York.


With Massachusetts, as with other New England neighbors, New York had claimed the Connecticut River as her eastern boundary. Controversies between settlers on the Hudson and members of the Bay Colony began when the Dutch held sway in New Netherland and continued unabated for a century and a half. Massachusetts partisans challenged the very validity of Dutch claims in North America. England's right to New York, they contended, rested on Sebastian Cabot's explorations, not on any cessions from the Dutch government. Thus, New Netherland was not lawfully possessed by a Christian state in 1629, when Massachusetts received her first charter, nor was it excluded from the earliest grants to the Plymouth Council or Rosewell. New Yorkers just as stoutly defended the force of the ancient Dutch claims which would have made the claims of Massachusetts beyond the Connecticut River completely void. Further, Massachusetts argued that its early seventeenth-century charters and grants could not be, and were not, affected by Charles II's extraordinary letters patent to the Duke of York. Nor, Massachusetts insisted, were the sea-to-sea terms of these ancient grants invalidated by its charter's abrogation in 1684 or the ambiguous description of its western boundary in the charter of 1691. New York's advocates asserted with equal vigor that any sea-to-sea boundary Massachusetts might have enjoyed had ended with the loss of the “old colony's” charter. (The most lucid summary of these points is found in The Law Practice of Alexander Hamilton, ed. Julius Goebel Jr., N.Y., 1964– , 1:545–558.)

In the 1750's and 1760's several attempts to resolve the question were fruitless. But, just as New York finally showed a willingness to accept some compromise line between the Hudson and Connecticut rivers, Massachusetts introduced a new, potentially disruptive claim: title to land beyond the Hudson. Although in theory such a title had always existed under the sea-to-sea charters, the claim remained quiescent until the Massachusetts General Court passed a series of resolutions in January 1768 (Mass., Province Laws , 18:279). Henceforth, the province coupled any action on the New York boundary with the stipulation that a settlement of that line not compromise the claims of Massachusetts in the west.

The latest attempt to resolve New York's eastern boundary with Massachusetts had followed lengthy correspondence between Governor Hutchinson and Governor Sir William Tryon of New York, which led to a proposal for a joint commission to agree on a line. In April 1772 the General Court accepted the proposal, but added the familiar proviso that such a line would be run, “the true and real extent or boundary of this province . . . being in any wise to the contrary notwithstanding,” a way for Massachusetts to call attention to its most extensive boundaries despite possible compromise on one (same, 5:176; for the history of this enabling legislation and of the commission it created, see Law Practice of Hamilton, ed. Goebel, 1:558–560). The New York Assembly enacted similar enabling legislation in March 1773, but, not to be outdone, it also adopted “A State of the Right of the Colony of New York, with respect to its eastern bound-27ary on Connecticut River so far as concerns the late encroachments under the Government of New Hampshire.” This “State” of New York's case, a report drafted by James Duane, attacked not only New Hampshire's claims to “the Grants,” but also the pretensions of Massachusetts to a sea-to-sea boundary (Journal of the Votes and Proceedings of the General Assembly of the Colony of New York from 1766–1776 Inclusive, Albany, 1820, Jan.–March 1773 sess., p. 90–108). A State of the Right of the Colony of New-York was also published separately as a pamphlet (Evans, No. 12888).

In the ensuing negotiations, Massachusetts agents continued to press the westernmost claims of the province. Their insistence that any agreement on New York's eastern boundary not “be construed to prejudice that claim” nearly ended the talks at Hartford in 1773 (Law Practice of Hamilton, ed. Goebel, 1:559–560). Agreement was finally reached in May 1773, with the line being run twenty miles east of the Hudson and without any explicit statement of the claims of Massachusetts beyond that river (Journal of the General Assembly of New York from 1766–1776, Jan.–March 1774 sess., p. 5–6).

Thus, the petition of John Powell and his fellows came at an opportune moment for advocates of the Massachusetts claims. A boundary settlement had been made with no express safeguard of those rights, and the New York Assembly had issued a detailed attack on the cherished sea-to-sea dominion of Massachusetts. To John Adams was entrusted the duty of restating and reaffirming the “true extent” of the “old Colony.”

Adams gave three accounts of his labors in this regard. The earliest and most accurate is found in a letter to Elbridge Gerry, 17 October 1779, written as Adams prepared to embark for Europe as American peace commissioner (LbC, Adams Papers). Two later accounts are less reliable, although their errors and exaggerations can easily be reconciled with the details offered Gerry only five years after the completion of the report (JA, Diary and Autobiography , 3:302–304; letter of 8 Aug. 1811 to the Boston Patriot, 23 Oct., 6, 9 Nov. 1811 in JA, Works , 1:665–669). In his letter to Gerry, Adams recalled that he bore the brunt of the committee's labor, for “Mr. Bowdoin left it to me, and I Spent most of the Winter winter and spring in rummaging the Books and Papers in the Balcony of Dr. Sewels Meeting House, in the New England Library of Mr. Prince, in the Library of Dr. Mather which came down to him . . . and in Johnny Moffats Collection of Papers and Records.”

Besides his reliance on these library sources Adams also acknowledged, in ambiguous terms, his debt to two contemporary students of the boundary dispute. He mentioned casually to Gerry that “Governor Hutchinson, drew a state of the Claim of Mass, much shorter however than mine.” Adams' marginal notes on this “state,” printed as an appendix to Mass., House Jour. , 1763–1764, reveal that he had studied Hutchinson's arguments with care. (Adams' copy of the Jour . is in his library at MQA; in the modern MHS edn. of the Jour., Hutchinson's report on boundaries appears at 28p. [277]–[306].) And, in one paragraph of a surviving section of his 1774 report, Adams borrowed Hutchinson's wording almost verbatim (see No. VI, note 15, below).

But Adams only hinted at an equally important source when he suggested to Gerry that the Massachusetts legislature seek aid from “a Mr. Phelps, an Inhabitant of the Grants, who furnished me with some Minutes, which he would perhaps produce now.” These “minutes” were in the form of a legal brief, the first half reciting the facts in the case by citations from patents, charters, and history, and the second developing the arguments with accompanying legal citations. Adams laboriously copied the brief onto twelve quarto pages (No. I, below). The “State of the Right in Fee” of Massachusetts to the southern portion of “the Grants” and Adams' close attention to it were a tribute to Charles Phelps (1717–1789), a stone-mason and self-educated lawyer of Marlborough, Vermont. His research provided John Adams in 1774 with a well-thought-out, if crude, outline of the history of these claims. (See James L. Huntington, “The Honorable Charles Phelps,” Col. Soc. Mass., Pubns. , 32:441–453 [Feb. 1937].)

Armed with Phelps' and Hutchinson's studies, and eagerly patronizing the Moffatt, Mather, and Prince libraries, Adams labored over the “state” of the boundaries. When finished, it had three parts: “a very lengthy, I cannot say a very accurate State of the Massachusetts Claim to those Lands, a particular Examination, and an Attempt at a Refutation of the Claim of New York, and a similar Discussion of that of New Hampshire” (Adams to Gerry, 17 Oct. 1779). Of the “State of the Massachusetts Claim,” only a chronological outline of pertinent events that simply hints at the line to be taken survives (Nos. IV and V, below). Of the “Claim of New Hampshire,” merely a draft of the opening paragraphs remains (No. II, below). Only “An Examination of the Claim of New York” still exists in anything like its original form (No. VI, below).

The six documents chosen here for printing, all except the last in Adams' hand, either suggest or develop the line of argument he would pursue regarding the titles of the several colonies to the disputed lands and the superior claims of Massachusetts. Besides the documents printed, the Huntington Library contains several others, some of them in Adams' hand, that are generally in the nature of raw materials for the argument—lists of documents needed, copies of committee reports, and the like.

The fragmentary nature of surviving portions of the report can be easily explained by the history of the document after its completion. All accounts agree that the report was ready for submission when the General Court met in May 1774. In his earliest recollection of the matter, Adams wrote that “Mr. Bowdoin revised it and reported it, a few days before Gen. Gage removed the General Court to Salem” (to Gerry, 17 Oct. 1779). In later versions, he modified this statement. In his Autobiography, for instance, he stated that Bowdoin “approved it, and thought it wanted no Addition or correction”; and in his Boston Patriot letter he again insisted that Bowdoin had made no contribution in style or substance ( Diary and Auto-29biography , 3:303; JA, Works , 1:667). But if Adams became more sure that Bowdoin deserved no credit for their joint report, he became less certain about that report's fate. The statement in the Autobiography, written in 1804 or 1805, mentions that Bowdoin had given the report “to the Senate where it was read and sent down to the House, where it was read again” ( Diary and Autobiography , 3:303). But in 1811 Adams admitted: “Whether the report was ever read to the House or not, I know not. It was not printed in the Journal, as all other reports of that nature ever had been” (JA, Works , 1:667).

Adams' confusion over the report's submission can be explained by the contemporary account of another interested observer. In the first week of June 1774, Charles Phelps wrote his son about the events bearing on the boundary report the week that the General Court met in Boston. On Monday, 23 May, Phelps had arrived in the city. “Waiting upon Councillor Bowdoin, and Mr. Adams, the General Courts Committee,” he found the report “was in manner finished, Mr. Adams Red it to me for my Consideration thereof to have it Prepared and Finished against fryday that week, ready to Present it to the General Court for their Perusal.” On Friday, 27 May, Phelps continued: “I presented it but it was not signed they said then I carried it Back to the Committee for Signing: they had no Commission from the Province attested by the Secretary in form as they ought to have of the appointment wherefore could not attest it regularly before the Commission was made out by the Secretary.” This legal technicality proved fatal to Phelps' hopes for a statement from the legislature, for it “caused a delay 2 Days then the Governor . . . adjourned the General Court over to Salem” (Phelps to Charles Phelps Jr., 5[i.e., 2] June 1774, Col. Soc. Mass., Pubns. , 25:51–52 [April 1922]).

Although Phelps corroborates Adams' recollection that the report was submitted before the General Court left Boston for Salem on 28 May, there is no evidence that Bowdoin, urged on by Phelps, resubmitted the petition with proper documentation to House or Council after sessions were resumed on 7 June. Adams claimed in 1779 that, “At Salem, it was read in both Houses, but they soon chose Delegates to Congress and were dissolved. The Report was left with the Clerk of the House, I have enquired of him and he cannot find it” (JA to Gerry, 17 Oct. 1779). But the proceedings of the General Court contain no record of action on the report except its tabling when it came down from the Council Board on 9 June before General Gage dissolved the legislature on 17 June 1774 (Mass., House Jour. , May–June 1774; M-Ar:Legislative Council Records, 30 [1773–1774]: 302).

For several years the report's whereabouts were a mystery. Adams' own copy was lost in 1775. As he told Gerry, “the first rough blotted Draught, was left in my Table drawer in my office in Boston, when the Regulars shut up the Town. The Table Papers and all were carried off, when they left the Town.” In 1783 a committee of the General Court which was to set forth the claims of Massachusetts to land west of the Hudson River 30located a copy of the study prepared nine years earlier (Mass., Acts and Laws , May 1783, ch. 109). In its report this new committee admitted that it had relied almost entirely on the work of Adams and Bowdoin. It had “found it necessary only to add a few Observations which apply more directly to the present State of the Dispute between this Government and that of New York” (see No. VI, note 15, below). Since James Bowdoin, Adams' colleague in 1774, served also on the 1783 committee, it is possible that the second group obtained a copy of the 1774 study from him rather than from some obscure corner of the Commonwealth's archives.

We have no way of knowing now how much of the material from Adams' report was incorporated into the 1783 document, “The Examination of the Claim of New York,” but if one judges by extant materials used in preparation by Adams, the writers of the 1783 report omitted a good deal. And the survival of even this small portion of Adams' work is accidental. The ill-fortune which dogged the 1774 report did not end with its rediscovery in 1783, for the report of 1783 was itself lost from the Massachusetts archives. The version printed below is taken from a contemporary copy donated in 1795 to the Massachusetts Historical Society by the heirs of Gov. Jonathan Trumbull. The interest of Connecticut people in the Massachusetts report no doubt stemmed from the colony's own effort to justify its sea-to-sea claims through use of many of the same early charters and grants on which its neighbor had relied. Connecticut had suffered defeat in asserting its claims in 1782 before a special court constituted by the Continental Congress, but its leaders had not yet accepted that decision as final in every respect (Julian P. Boyd and Robert J. Taylor, eds., The Susquehannah Company Papers, 11 vols., Ithaca, N.Y., 1930–1971, 7:144–247, 258–260, 292–294, 314–315; 8:123–126, 138–139).

Adams' report was known to exist as late as 1786 when Massachusetts and New York commissioners met at Hartford to resolve their dispute over lands in western New York. The report, Adams learned, “was found, and delivered to the Agents for Massachusetts, who attended the Settlement of the dispute with New York. Mr. Rufus King has repeatedly told me, that without that Statement, none of them would have understood any Thing of the Subject, and the Claim would have been lost” ( Diary and Autobiography , 3:303). In his later recollections, Adams added “Governor Sullivan, Chief Justice Parsons, Mr. Dalton” to the list of commissioners who informed him that they had “had” the report “in my handwriting” ( Works , 1:667; John Lowell, not Tristram Dalton, was the fourth Massachusetts commissioner in 1786). Yet although the report of May 1774 somehow survived the hazards of clerical misfiling and British occupation for at least a dozen years, there is no record of its whereabouts after 1786.

Those portions of the report still extant only hint at the nature of the complete manuscript. “An Examination of the Claim of New York” (No. VI, below) doubtless followed the organizational method which Adams used in presenting the New Hampshire claim (No. II, below): a presentation of the rival claimant's position, followed by rejoinders on behalf of 31Massachusetts, a procedure commonly used in courts of law. In dealing with New York, Adams was able to use recent, official statements of that colony's case. For New Hampshire, having no such convenient outline of opposing claims, he was forced to prepare arguments to attack. It is a tribute to his conscientious research that the surviving fragment of his “An Examination of the Claim of New Hampshire” includes a reference to that province's spurious royal charter, whose terms were all but unknown in his own day. It is clear, too, that Adams did not intend to confine himself to a discussion of Massachusetts' rights in “the Grants,” for his extensive notes as well as his outline of the Massachusetts title show that he planned to investigate Massachusetts' pretensions on the Maine frontier as well.

But the heart of Adams' report, the “State of the Massachusetts Title,” remains lost. It must have furnished the most useful material for the commissioners who traveled to Hartford in 1786, “to obtain from New York the cession of the Genesee country” (JA, Works , 1:667), for it is obvious that Adams supplied more than a recital of dates and summaries of charters to prove his province's case. Marginal notations on Charles Phelps' “State of the Right in Fee,” which may have been Adams' own, outline a disquisition on the law of patents and the alienation of property. And it was on this area of law that Massachusetts rested the argument that, whatever the changes in government or political structure in the Bay colony, its territorial claims remained as broad and sacred as on the day James I granted a charter to the Plymouth Company.

The complete report, which gave John Adams his introduction to the intricacies of North American boundaries, would be an invaluable addition to his papers. Its apparent loss is the more to be lamented because Adams himself felt his labors on behalf of his province and state had amounted to little. In commenting on the settlement agreed to by Massachusetts in 1786, he remarked wryly: “The Decision was much less favourable to Massachusetts than it ought to have been, and the State have very unoeconomically alienated all the Land since that time for a very inadequate sum of Money. I wish they had first given me a Township of the Land. It would have been much more prudently disposed of than any of the rest of it was, and more justly. I never had any thing for my half Years service, not even Credit nor Thanks” ( Diary and Autobiography , 3:303–304).

I. Charles Phelps’ State of His Case, March – May 1774 JA I. Charles Phelps’ State of His Case, March – May 1774 Adams, John
I. Charles Phelps' State of His Case
March–May 1774

A State of the Right in Fee, the Inhabitants of the Province of the Massachusetts Bay have to all the Lands, by them not granted, lying West of Connecticut River and adjoining thereon, and East of the East Boundary Line of the Province of New York, running 32North of the Point or Station in the late run Jurisdiction Line between the Bay Province and New Hampshire which constitutes the supposed Northwest Corner of that Part of the Massachusetts Province lying South of New Hampshire, South Boundary Line as it was called when run West as far as the East Borders of New York Government and extending North as far as a Line drawn East of Fort William Henry, running East to the Western Banks of Connecticutt River, at Windsor in the County of Cumberland all which lyeth in the Jurisdiction of New York Government by an order of the King in Council 20th July A.D. 1764.

For the Discussion whereof it may not be amiss to premiss the following Facts.

Cabot. H. 7 1st. The Continent of N. America was discovered by one Sebastian Cabot1 in Behalf of the English Crown in the Reign of H. 7. under Commission from him from the 40th to 67th deg. N. Lat. within which Limits, the Land under Consideration and the whole Government of Mass. Bay lieth. The Truth whereof it is supposed None will contradict.

1606. J. 1st. 2. In 1606. K. James the first, of England, granted all the Continent from 34 to 45 Deg. of Northerly Lat. which he divided into two Colonies, the Southern Virginia to certain Merchants of London, the Northern, N. England to Merchants of Plymouth in the County of Devon in England.

1607 3. In 1607. Some of the Patentees of the Northern Colony, began a Settlement at Sagadahoc, George Popham President. He died soon. Seven other eminent officers came over with him and about 100 People more, to settle the Country. The Winter being hard and 1608 severe, what survived returned to England in 1608 and so the design of settling the Country by them was at an End, and it seems none did much in reviving the design of settling for 9 or 10 years after. But

1620 4. In 1620 Novr. 3d. King James made a new Patent incorporating the Adventurers to the Northern Colony, by the Name of the Council of Plymouth for the settling, or Planting, Ruling, ordering and governing New England in America, and to their Successors and 33Assigns all that Part of America lying and being in Breadth from 40 deg. of Northerly Lat. from the Equinoctial Line to the 48 deg. of N. Lat. inclusively and in Length of and within all the Breadth aforesaid throughout, all the main Land from Sea to Sea, together with all the firm Lands &c. which includes the whole of the above first described Lands, and all other the Lands, within the Limits of the Bay Province in its first utmost Dimensions, equally.

1628 5. The Council of Plymouth, A.D. 1628 made a Grant of the same Lands above at first described with all the other Lands, in the last mentioned Province (i.e.) the Bay Province), of which them Lands are Part, Roswell & Young unto Sir Henry Roswell and Sir John Young Knights and four others, named in the Grant, and to their Heirs and Assigns and to their Associate forever by their Deed indented of Bargain and Sale for valuable Consideration under their common Seal as a Corporate Body Politick, who undertook to see to the Settlement of New England in America, the Patentees having engaged to accomplish it, as the meritorious Consideration of the Deed, at the Expence of the Adventurers without any Cost and Charge of the English Crown to enlarge the British Empire, populate so great a Territory in such a distant and remote Part of the Kings Dominions, the Atlantic 1000 Leagues lying between, a vast Number of Savage Barbarous Indians to encounter and Subdue all at their own Expence, to do and perform all which seems to have been the great Object in View both by the Royal Granter of the Premisses to said Council and the said Council's in their Grant by their said Indenture to said Roswell and his associates above mentioned being six Grantees in the whole.

1629. March 4. Car. 1. 6. Who having joined 20 more Associates with the Six Grantees mentioned in the Deed indented as aforesaid, the Year following viz. 4 March 1629, they obtained a confirmatory Corporation Grant of the same Land, to themselves and their Heirs and assigns, included in the said Deed indented, the Northern Boundary whereof is expressed, “Three Miles northward of Merrimack River, or to the Northward of any and every 34Part thereof, and East and West bounded from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, within which Limits the Lands first mentioned are all included.

1684. Q. whether this Decree affected Roswells Indenture.2 7. That Patent of King Charles the first was vacated in 1684.

8. The Inhabitants of the Massachusetts Bay Province was Re-incorporated by a Charter of King William and Queen Mary A.D. 1691. with new Plymouth and other Colonies, by which all the Lands at first described, were granted and confirmed to the said Inhabitants and their Successors, and infranchised with the Powers of Government and impowered to make Grants of the Lands, within the Same, not before by them granted, in Consequence whereof.

9. The Inhabitants of the Province of Mass. Bay, have purchased a considerable Part of those Lands, at first described, of the Indian Natives, West of the Western Banks of Connecticutt River, the greatest Part of the Space from Northfield up Northward towards Windsor, West of, and granted upon the River.

10. And granted some Part of the same lying in Hindsdale in said Tract, more than one Hundred Years since.

Q.3 11. And Also made Grants of Six other Townships, a long time since, sundry of which more than Sixty Years since.

12. The Grantees whereof taken Possession of these Lands upon the faith of their Grants under the Bay Government, and the Authority derived from their Charter so made them to Grant the same, and the Purchasers under them have a long Time since, entered upon those very Lands and occupied them at a vast Expence and vast Numbers of People are now cultivating the same all upon the Faith of the Government of the Massachusetts Bay.

13. The Inhabitants whereof have done much to defend their Possession and Improvements, through the long Series of long protracted bloody French and Indian Wars at the Expence of much of their Blood and Treasure, Houses and Barns by them being burnt, their Cattle killed, many of them captivated, others slain by 35the sword all in defence of their said Possessions and Improvements.

Fort Dummer & No. 4. 14. In Addition to the Defence the Inhabitants so made in Time of War, it all being too weak, by no means answering their Hopes, the Massachusetts Province erected two Forts, the one call'd Fort Dummer, the other No. 4.4 in Defence of the Lands contained in their Charters aforesaid as well as in said Roswells Deed, the former upon the very Lands at first described, the other so near them, that only Connecticutt River is between it and said Lands and maintained them Forts at the Expence of two hundred and seventy odd Thousand Pounds Currency.

Q. 15. Upon Remonstrance and Petition of the Massachusetts Bay Province to the King and Council of their Grievance in having the Jurisdiction of those Lands given to New Hampshire, had an order of the King and Council, to have them reannexed to the Province again or that New Hampshire should reimburse that Sum to the Bay Province, but neither of which hath been performed.5

In 1677 Mass. disputes before the Lords of the Privy Council with John Mason Propr. 1639 of N. Hampshire & Ferdinando Gorge respecting their Boundary of their Patent from C. 1. in which dispute they viz. the Mass, before & on the 16 July 1677 before the Lords of the privy Council claimed all those Lands 3 Miles N. & S. of the two Rivers Charles and Merrimack 16. Some Disputes having arisen, between the prov. Mass. Bay and Captn. John Mason as Proprietor of New Hampshire and Ferdinando Gorge who had a grant from King Charles the first in 1639 of a Tract of Land then called the Province of Main, which adjoined to N. Hampshire on the North East, beginning at Piscataqua Harbour and running from thence N. East along the Sea Coast to Sagadahock and extending inland 120 Miles, and a Question arising as to Extent and Limits of their several Boundaries specified in their respective Grants, the said Mason and Gorge petitioned his Majesty in Council to have these disputes determined; and it having been referred to a Committee of Council they with the Assistance of two Lords Chief Justices, Rainsford and North entered into Consideration thereof, and heard all Parties, and the said Province of the Massachusetts Bay having claimed before them to be intituled to all the Lands within two Parrallell Lines to be drawn from the Atlantic Sea on the East Part to the South Sea on the West Part, three Miles South of every Part of 36Charles River and three Miles North of every Part of Merrimack River, the said two Parrallel Lines to be the South and North Boundaries of the said Province of Massachusetts Bay. whereupon,

1677. 16. July. order of K. & Council upon the Report of the Comtee. of Privy Council. 17. By order of the King and Council, reciting a Report made by the Committee of the Privy Council, and the said Lords Chief Justices, taking among other Things that having examined the several Claims of the Parties &c. and after stating the two Grants from the Crown to the Massachusetts and the Province of Main, and that it was insisted that the Grant of Government to the Massachusetts could extend no further than the ownership of the soil—their Lordships reported “That See the printed State of the Case between Benja. Rolfe Esqr and the Town of Bow. page 2d. by De Grey & Wedderburn. 17626 it seemed very clear to them that the Grant of the Government by the Massachusetts Charter extended no further than the Boundaries expressed in their Patent and that those Boundaries could not be construed to extend further North along the River Merrimack, than three English Miles; for the North and South Boundaries of the Lands granted, so far as the Rivers extend are to follow the Course of the Rivers, which makes the Breadth of the Grant. And that the Words in the Charter describing the Length to comprehend “all the Lands from the Atlantic Ocean to the South Sea in all the Breadth aforesaid” did not warrant the overreaching those Bounds by imaginary Lines, as the same would be against the Intent of the Grant; the Words “of and in all the Breadth aforesaid” showing that the Breadth was not intended an imaginary Line laid upon the broadest Part; But the Breadth respected the Continuance of the Boundaries by the Rivers as far as they go; but when the known Boundary of Breadth determined it must be carried on by imaginary Lines to the South Sea. And were of Opinion as to the Powers of Government, that the Massachusetts by the said Letters Patent had such Right of Government as is granted them by their Patent within the Boundaries of their Land expressed therein, according to such description as their Lordships had thereof made as aforesaid; and give the like opinion as to Gorge's Right of Government over the Province of Main, which Report was approved and con-37firmed by his Majesty in Council and all Parties ordered to acquiesce therein.

1729, Dunbar 18. In 1729 David Dunbar Esquire, came over from England and took Possession of the Fort at Pemaquid Vid. Appendix to the Votes of the House 1762. A brief State of the Title of the Prov. to the Country bet. Kennebeck & St. Croix. p. 10. 11.7 and claimed Jurisdiction over the Country at St. Croix, by Virtue of Authority from, and in Behalf of the Crown. The Proprietors allarmed at this Invasion of their Property, employed and impowered Samuel Waldo Esqr. to Petition the King that the said Dunbar might be removed, and that they might be quieted in their lawfull Possessions. Sir Bybye Lake a Proprietor in the Eastern Country, joined with Mr. Waldo in the Solicitation, and the Petition being referred to the Board of Trade, they called the Province Agent before them, and a State of the Case was ordered to be drawn up, setting forth the Provinces Claim, how little Expence the Province had been at in defending and improving this. The Conquest made in 1696 by the French, and the Reconquest in 1710, and the Lords of Trade, referred the State with the two following Queries subjoined to the Consideration of the Attorney and Solicitor General vizt. 1st. Whether the Inhabitants of the Massachusetts Bay if they ever had any Right to the Government, of the Tract of Land lying between St. Croix and Kennebec River, have not by their Neglect and even Refusal to defend and take Care of and improve the same, forfeited their said Right to the Government and what Right they had under the Charter and now have to the said Lands. 2. Whether the said Tracts being conquered by the French and afterwards Reconquered by General Nicholson in the late Queens Time, and yeilded up by France to G. Britain by the Treaty of Utrecht, that Part of the Charter relating thereto became vacated, and whether the Government of that Tract, and the Lands thereof are not absolutely revested in the Crown, and whether the Crown has not thereby, sufficient Power to appoint Governors and assign Lands to such Families as shall be desirous to settle there.

The Attorney and Solicitor General heard Council on Behalf of the Crown and on Behalf of the Province and Proprietors, and on 11. August 1731 made Report. vizt.


Report of Atty. & Solr. Genl. 19. That upon considering the said Case and Queries and the Evidence laid before them, and what was alledged on all Sides it appeared to them that the Tract of Land lying between the Rivers Kennebeck and St. Croix was (among other Things) granted by the said Charter to the Inhabitants of the Massachusetts Bay &c. also that the Right of Government granted to the said Province extended over this Tract of Land.

That it did not appear to them that the Inhabitants of the said Province had been guilty of any such Neglect or Refusal to defend this Part of the Country as could create a forfeiture of their Subordinate Right of Government over the same, or of the Property in the soil that was granted to them by the said Charter, it being Sworn by several Affidavits that a Fort was erected there and for some considerable Time defended at the Charge of the Province &c.

And as to the Question stated in the Case upon the Effect of the Conquest of that Tract of the Country by the French and the Reconquest thereof by Genl. Nicholson they conceive that the said Tract not having been yielded by the Crown of England to France by the Treaty, the Conquest thereof by the French, created according to the Law of Nations only a Suspension of the Property of the former owners and not an Extinguishment, and that upon the Reconquest of it, by General Nicholson all the ancient Rights both of the Province and private Persons, Subjects of the Crown of Great Britain, did revive and were restored, Jure Postliminii.8 For which Reasons they were of opinion that the said Charter still remained in Force, and that the Crown hath no Power to appoint a particular Governor over this Part of the Province or to assign Land to Persons desirous to settle there &c.

1718 20. About the Year 1718 Captn. Coram formed a Scheme for obtaining a Grant from the Crown of the Appendix to the Votes of the House 1762 Page 9. Lands bet. Nova Scotia and the Province of Main and a Petition was signed by Wm. Armstrong and divers others praying such Grant might be made to them. The Petition being referred to the then Solicitor General, part of his Report thereon was as follows “The King 39cannot make a Grant of these Lands, the Crown having already devested itself of its Rights.”

21. When Dr. Increase Mather was at England Agent for the Province, to obtain the last Charter of Wm. and Mary, he and two other Agents having signed a Petition to the King for a new Charter, the Rt. honble. Earl of Monmouth delivered it to the King with his own Hand, whereupon Mr. Mather obtained the Interposition of a great Personage, who prevailed with the King to refer the Affair unto the Consideration of the two Lords Chief Justices with his Majestys Attorney and Solicitor General, all of whom (from the Reasonableness of the Petition and the Equity of having it granted as will appear in the Sequel) had been brought into the New English Interest in the Premisses. So engaged were they, for a new Charter, as to meet 3 or 4 Times, in Consultation upon it. They all judged there was nothing unreasonable or prejudicial to the Kings Interest, in what was proposed. Whereupon the Ld. C. J. Holt presented it to the King, and the King ordered him to present it to the Council, who did accordingly, and from thence transferred to the Lords of the Committee for Trade and Plantation Affairs. Moreover Dr. Tillotson Archbishop of Canterbury and Dr. Burnett See the Book intituled Remarkables of Dr. Increase Mather page 124. 125. 6. 7. printed at Boston 17249 Bishop of Salisbury, both judging it to be most reasonable and just that they should have a new Charter, the latter, who besides many Real and weighty Expressions of his Kindness for this Country, told Mr. Mather that he would on the first Opportunity declare openly in the House of Lords “that there was a greater Sacredness in the Charter of New England, than in those of the Corporations in England, because those were only Acts of Grace whereas the Charter of New England was a Contract between the King and the first Patentees: they promised the King on their Part to enlarge his Dominions on their own Charges, provided they And their Posterity might enjoy such Priviledges: They had performed their Part. Now for the King to deprive their Posterity, of the Priviledges therein granted them, would carry a Face of Injustice with it.

1736. Feby. 9. Order of his Majesty in Council on the Pet. of N. Hampshire for a Commission to issue to ascertain their Boundaries. Vid. the printed State of the Case Benja. Rolfe Esq and others vs. the Proprietors of Bow Township in N. Hamshire. p. 3. 22. Upon a Petition of New Hampshire to his Maj-40esty, praying that the Boundaries of that Province might be ascertained his Majesty was pleased by order in Council to direct a Commission to issue to mark out the dividing Line between the said Province of New hampshire and the Massachusetts Bay; but with an express Declaration in that order contained “to take Care that private Property Should not be affected thereby.”

23. A Commission having been accordingly issued the Commissioners proceeded to examine into the Boundaries of the said Provinces: And a Distinction having been taken before them between the old and New Charters of the Massachusetts Bay for that the old Charter, not only declared the North Boundary of that Province to be 3 Miles Northward of the said River Merrimack but also to the Northward of any and every Part thereof; and under which old Charter the said Adjudication in 1677 had been made (Vid 17. before) which declared the North Boundary of that Province to be 3 Miles to the North along the River merrimack, and so far as that River extends to follow the Course thereof; but that in the latter or New Charter of the Massachusetts Bay, these Words (to the Northward of The Words of the Charter of W. & Mary are Proviso “that it shd be lawfull for the Govr & General Assembly to make and pass any Grant of Land lying within the Bounds of the Colonies of the Mass Bay, Plymouth and Province of Main as they might heretofore have done by Virtue of any former Charter or Letters Patent which Grants of Lands within the Bounds aforesaid (i.e. south of 3 Miles to the North of any and every Part of the River Merrimack the Words of the former Charter and Roswells Deed of Indenture from the Council of Plymouth) their Majestys did Will and ordain to be and continue forever of full force and Effect without our further Approbation or Consent. This Line cutts off from the Bay Province more than 253,440 Acres of Land, more than it would, had it run West 3 miles. North of the North Side of the Northernmost part a little west of the Mouth of the River Merrimack which is worth, in the State of Nature, as the New Yorkers sell their Lands of that Value in that Neighbourhood a dollar Per Acre, which amounts to more than seventy six Thousand Pounds lawfull Money, their being about 12 Townships so cutt off, which Adds to the Interest and Power of New York. That if taxed in the Bay at but 50£ per Annum per Township, adds to the Yearly Revenue of the Province 2400£ lawfull Money. And what is cutt off North in that District up to the Line of 3 Miles North of Merrimack River Crotch, according to the Report of the Commissioners in 1737 in favour of the Bay, if Wm. and Marys Charter gave all the Lands that were granted in the first Charter is 4 times that Quantity of Land and in a few Years will be worth at a Dollar per Acre 1,013,760 Dollars. 48 Townships at 50£ Tax per Annum Adds to the Yearly Revenue of this Province, when the Lands are brought into it and taxed that Sum per Town 9,600, lawfull Money per Annum.10 any and every Part thereof) are omitted. And a Doubt arising in Point of Law with the said Commissioners as to that Boundary, they determined specially, as follows (viz) “that if the said last Charter of King William and Queen Mary, granted to the Massachusetts all the Lands that were granted to them by the said former Charter of K. Car. 1. lying to the Northward of said Merrimack River, then the Commissioners determined that a Line should be run Parrallell with the said River Merrimack at the Distance of three English Miles North from the Mouth, beginning at the southerly side of the black Rocks, at Low Water Mark and thence to run to the said Parting of the said River, where the Rivers Pemigewassett and Winipissiake meet; and from thence due North 3 Miles, and from thence West towards the South Sea untill it meets with his Majestys other Governments; which shall be the Bound-41ary or dividing Line, between the said two Provinces of Mass. Bay and N. Hampshire on that side: But if otherwise then adjudged that a Line on the southerly side of N. Hampshire beginning at 3 english Miles North from the southerly side of the Black Rocks aforesaid and from thence Running due West up into the Main Land towards the South Sea, untill it meets with his Majestys other Governments should be the Boundary Line between the said Provinces on the Side aforesaid, i.e. the south side of N. Hampshire, which Point in Doubt they submitted to his Majestys Consideration.

24. His Majesty by order in Council made upon the said Report, and Hearing the Provinces by their Council was pleased, to adjudge that the Northern Boundarys of the said Province of Massachusetts Bay, are, and be, a Similar Curve Line pursuing the Course of the River Merrimack at 3 miles distance on the North Side thereof beginning at the Atlantic Ocean and ending at a Point due North of a Place called Pantuckett Falls, and a Strait Line drawn from thence due West across the said River till it meets with his Majestys other Governments.

Thus having recited the most important Facts that occur to my Mind at Present by which a General Idea of the Right of the Inhabitants of Mass.-Bay to the ownership of the Soil of those Lands, in the district above at first described containing about 48 Townships, except what was then granted, as well as the Right they have to claim the same and Petition the King and Council for the Jurisdiction of these Lands in full, according to their first Charter as well as from the Deed to Roswell &c. indented under the Common Seal of the Council of Plymouth 146 years since.

But more particularly to investigate their Right to this District and clearly show it by incontestible Argu-42ments from Law and Equity, I beg Leave to make some Observations upon the several Grants thereof, under the said Indenture to Roswell as well as those from the Crown. 2. Observe upon the several Reports, Constructions, and Adjudications of Commissioners, the most eminent Lawyers, Lords Chief Justices, Committees of the Lords of Trade and Plantation and Plantation Affairs and of those of the House of Lords in Parliament and also the orders of Kings and the Right honourable the Lords of their respective privy Councils, which have been made and exemplified at large and openly published to the World thereupon, and lastly shall attempt to show the Insufficiency of the Claim of New york, to the same Lands and endeavour to refute the Arguments they adduce in support of their pretended Right thereto.

1620 Grant of K. James to the Council of Plym. The Grant of K. James 1st. by his Letters Patents to the Council established at Plymouth in the County of Devon of all the Land &c. from the 40th to the 48th degree of Northerly Latitude, from sea to sea, including If the Consideration pd. or given, by the Grantee is a Burden & Expence to the Grantee, and yields a Profit & Advantage to the Grantor it is good in Law. So if the Consideration be expressed to be valuable it is good & the Estate shall poss. a Penny or a Pepper Corn, is a meritorious Consideration to raise a Use. &c. Shep. grand Abr. Tit Bargain & sale. Hawk Abr. Co. Lit. 5. Noys Maxims 87. Hob. 230.11 When the Contract is by deed it shall not for Want of a Consideration be call'd in Question. Plowd. Com. 309.12 a fortiori in a deed of Indenture, the Law forcloses each Party Hawk Abr 77. A deed of Indenture is the best deed the Law knows, for this works by Way of estoppell. i.e. it shall bar Either Party to say any Thing by Way of Exception against any Thing contained in the Indenture. If a Lease be by Indenture both Parties are concluded13 to say the Lessor had Nothing in the Lands at the Time the Lease was made. See Shephards Abr. 540. Tit. deed. Plowd. Com. 134. this District of Land, for the greatest and most important End, and End of the highest Concequence to the English Nation, in its first Formation, that ever was yet project and the Effect and the Operation thereof to the English Monarchy has incontestably demonstrated the Truth hereof, when duly considered with Respect to the design thereof expressly set forth in the Front of the Patent, for the planting &c. of New England in America from which so many flourishing Colonies that have spread themselves so far and wide on this large Continent, from the Example and Prudent Conduct of this Province, has induced so many Thousands to settle in America. When was there ever a Scheme set on foot by any King of England, that has proved so beneficial to the Nation as this Scheme of Planting New England—What an Additional Extent of English Territory—What Numbers of good and Loyal subjects—What Numbers of Thousands and Millions st. in Trade and Commerce—What vast Additions of Strength, in Arms Power and Glory, in the View of all Europe, and to the Dread Fear and Terror, of all her 43Kings and Monarchs. The whole Weight of all this super structure is laid upon and securely rests on this ancient and important Projection of Planting New England. This Charter was the laying the solid Basis, and great Foundation of all those glorious Achievements. Therefore the Adventurers and first Settlers of this Country to whence this Council of Plymouth by their Deed indented under their common seal, by Bargain and sale, did give grant &c. this district with other Territory included within the Limits of their Grant, in settling this Continent before any others, did do it as a most rich and valuable Consideration paid the Crown. Never was so valuable a sum paid in Consideration for any Grant, by English subjects to their Sovereign as this was. Never did a Prince reap so great a Profit by a Purchase Consideration paid for Lands and Tenements as has accrued to the English Monarchy hereby. Therefore the Consideration of the Grant by the Indenture aforesaid is highly meritorious of the whole Lands included in the descriptive Limits of their Grant by said Indenture to Roswell.

Consider next the Words of the Grant, The said These words make a Fee simple, to the Grantees. Hawk Abr. 13. Plow. Com. p. 28. bottom. Council in their Corporate Capacity, did by their deed indented under their common seal &c. “give, grant, bargain, sell, enfeof, alien and confirm, to Sir Henry Roswell &c. their Heirs and Assigns, and their Associates forever.” Words the most proper, full and copious of any known in the Law.

a Confirmation is not good, when made by him who has nothing Com. Dig. Tit Confirmation D. 4. p. 366.14 a Confirmation by him who has nothing at the time, is worth nothing 1. Roll. 482. 1. 8. as if T. in Tail and issue in T. join in a grant of the next avoidance; and T. in Tail dies: This is not a Confirmation by the issue in Tail for he had nothing at the Time. R. Roll Abr. 482. 1. 10. Consider next the Northerly Limit and Boundary of the Estate, Domain, or Property so granted, by clear, precise, certain and most obvious Boundary, least subject to Mutation, being durable and permanent, bounded within the Space of 3 English Miles to the Northward of the great River call'd Monomack alias Merrimack to the Northward of any and every Part thereof, &c.

N.B. mention is made only of the Northern Boundary of the Grant, because from thence ariseth all the Contest about the Premisses, now the subject of Litigation with New York. Now compare this Boundary so precisely and certainly established with the Report of 44Rainsford and North, 2 Lds. C. Justices in 1677—see No. 17. which Report was approved and confirmed, by his Majesty in Council and all Parties ordered to acquiesce therein. See how inconsistent thereto the order of the King and Council was in 1740—see No. 24.15 and how hard the order of the King and Council against the Interest and Rights of Mass. Bay, of 20 July 1764—see Page 1st. of this state.

Said Lands also, shall by said Deed indented be holden of said Roswell and the other Grantees, in free and common socage, and not in Capite, nor by Knights service. Now by stat. 12 of Car. 2d. Chap. 24. All Tenures, are turned into free and common socage. that to this Tenure in socage there is incident Fealty, Ayd, and Relief—Co. Lit. ss. 107. 108 Shep. Abr. 388. Tit. Lord and Tennant—Fealty, Ayd and Relief, yielded to the Sovereign, who is Lord Paramount of the soil, is all that is now due to him by Common socage. Enough has been said to show the Validity of the Bargain and Sale, by the Indenture to Roswell &c.—our N. York opponents dont seem to encounter the Validity of it, from its Fabrication, but they say the Vacation of the Charter, vacated the Mass. Right to the soil, which We deny, but of this hereafter.

This Deed executed 19 March in the 3d. Year of Car. 1, the next Year on the 4 March the same King by Letters Patent under the great seal, granted and confirmed the same Territory to said Roswell and his Associates he and they being 26 in Number, by the same Limits and Boundaries as by the Indenture, he and they had the same granted and confirmed to them and their Heirs and assigns forever by which Words of Grant &c. as in the said Indenture, the legal Operation whereof is a vesting of them &c. of an Estate of Inheritance See, on the Petition of Wm. Armstrong, and the Report of the Solicitor General thereupon that the King cannot make a Grant of the Land he petitioned for the Crown having divested itself of its Right thereto already, See No. 20. in Fee simple, and it must have opperated so to the Grantees &c. had it not there have been out of the Crown to convey, the Council having then 8 Years before granted the same Lands to the Council of Plymouth, who the Year before this Charter of 4. Car. had by their Indenture aforesaid bargained and sold the Premisses to Roswell and his Associates &c. There-45fore this Charter respecting the Domain or Property of the soil cant opperate to the Grantees thereof only by a Confirmation of the Crown, of the same Estate it had a little before granted, altho the same Charter as to Franchisement and Powers of Government did opperate necessarily as a Grant thereof to the Grantees, (No Powers of Government to them having before been granted,) as a Body Politic, incorporating of them as such which was the principal End of the Crown by said Letters Patent, the Grantees having the Property of the Soil granted them by said Deed of Bargain and Sale before by those to wit Council of Plym. who had a Crown Grant thereof.

Hence it seems clear and incontestible, that the Vacation of that Charter in 1684–36th. of Car. 2d. could not affect the Title of the Land, confirmed as aforesaid; because the Grantees by the said Deed were seized in Fee of the Land immediately of those who had a Grant thereof immediately of the Crown, antecedent to this Charter. For the Crown cant grant, what it hath not. Therefore this Charter as to the Soil or Fee of the Land, cant enure, only by Way of Confirmation of the Crown to the Grantees therein, and of the said Indenture.

And Q. by common Law, after the Crown has divested itself of its Right to the soil, by the Grant thereof to the said Council of Plymouth, whether it can by any Subsequent Deed, so much as confirm the same, during the Validity of its prior Grant, by Charter or Letters patent of Jas. 1. to the Council of Plym. for the Consideration therein mentioned vizt. for the planting, or settling &c. of New England in America. See Marginal Note foregoing Page.16

The Consideration, in the old Charter, is expressed by the following Words, tho not recited in Wm. and Marys Charter “have for diverse good Causes and Considerations us moving (these Words are left out of the new Charter and the Words for the Considerations therein mentioned put in) granted and confirmed, and by these Presents, of our especial Grace, certain Knowledge and mere Motion, do grant, &c. unto said Sir H. Roswell and five more Grantees and their associates 4620 more all by name, their Heirs and Assigns forever &c. The Consideration expressed, is the Grantees undertaking, to see to the settling or planting of N. England, all at their own Cost, without any Disbursement from the Crown—as appears by a Letter—Collection of Papers &c. page 3217 account of the ships, Persons, Expence &c. “The Company of N. England consisted of many worthy Gentlemen (meaning Roswells associates and first Adventurers) in the City of London, Dorchester and other Places, aiming at the Glory of God, the Propagation of the Gospell of Christ, the Conversion of the Indians, and the Enlargement of the Kings Majestys Dominions in America. And being authorized by his Royal Letters Patents for that End At their very great Costs and Charges furnished 5 Ships to go to N. England for the further settling of the English Plantation that they have already begun there. The Names of the 5 Ships were as followeth, the first is call'd the Talbot &c. 300 Tons. 2 the George 300 tons. 3d the Lions Whelp, a neat nimble ship 120 tons, the fourth called the four &c. of about 300 tons 5. the Mayflower &c.”

This Consideration was so great, that Dr. Burnet in 1691 said, that he would on the first Opportunity declare, in the House of Lords that there was a greater Sacredness in the Charter of New England, than in those of the Corporations in England &c. see No. 21.

But if there had been no Consideration paid, or given, or expressed, the Words (of our especial Grace, certain Knowledge and mere Motion) in common Charter or Crown Grants, where no valuable Consideration is advanced by the Grantee for the Benefit of the Crown, shall lead the Construction of the whole Charter, to be in favour of the Grantees most strongly, according to the legal Construction of the Grants of subjects—for their Grants shall always be construed most strongly against the Grantor and in favour of the Grantee. And in this Charter much more so, on Account of the Consideration by the Grantees advanced. Crown Grants, with the Words “Special Grace &c., shall be construed most favourably for the Grantees. Plowd. 47Com. 330. Besides this see an express Clause at the Close of the old Charter “shall be construed, reputed and adjudged in all Cases most favourably on the Behalf and for the Benefit and Behoof of the said Governor and Company and their Successors.”

See Plowdens Comment. 330. 331. a Comment, or Paraphrase upon the Words Sp. Grace &c.

In the Claim of N. York to those Lands against the Right of the Mass. Bay, they will construe the Charter to opperate most in favour of the Crown. But see Com. Dig. 458 Tit. Grant, if the Kings Grant be ex certa scientia &c. and Mero Motu it shall be taken more strongly against the King, and beneficial for the subject; as if the K. Pardon a sheriff all Contempts, he shall be excused of a false Return. 36. H. 6. 24. b. 37. H. 6. 21. b. Co. Ent.18 384. so if he pardons A.B. all Debts, Ex certa &c., Debts as sheriff are discharged as well as all others. R. 2. Roll 37. a. 1. Hales Hist. Pleas of the Crown 7. 13. a.19 agrees 1. Coke 49. a. So a Grant ex certa &c. dispenses with Uncertainties per Manwood forest Law 3. Edn.20 See also the very Words of the Charter that the Construction shall be most favourable for the Grantees.

Tr in JA's hand (CSmH); endorsed: “Charles Phelps's State of his Case.” Although it was not unusual for a lawyer in preparing an argument to include marginal notes, some of the marginal comments, as indicated in notes below, may be the contribution of JA. It is unlikely that he would have copied twelve pages, closely written, without adding something to an involved argument.


A common error based on Sebastian's claim of having done his father's deeds (Samuel Eliot Morison, The European Discovery of America: The Northern Voyages, N.Y., 1971, ch. 6).


This marginal note may have been Adams' own, for it is unlikely that Phelps would have raised a question about his own exposition without answering it at once. An answer is given below, however.


This and the similar “Q” below suggest that they are Adams' comments, revealing uncertainty about the information or about where authentication could be found.

Massachusetts granted many townships in New Hampshire and Vermont in the period 1735–1736, some of them so-called Canada towns given as compensation for military service in the expedition against Canada in 1690 (Mass., Province Laws , 12:passim).


Massachusetts built Fort Dummer in 1724 near what is now Brattleboro, Vt., as a defense against Indians. The fort at Number 4, built in 1743 at modern Charlestown, N.H., was actually built by Massachusetts men who had settled there (Howard H. Peckham, The Colonial Wars, 1689–1762, Chicago, 1964, p. 85; Francis Parkman, A Half-Century of Conflict, 2 vols., Boston, 1897, 2:217–221).


No record of this successful appeal has been found.


Rolfe vs. Bow: Appellants Case. A copy of this seven-page imprint and one 48of Rolfe vs. Bow: Respondents Case and of Rolfe vs. Bow: Appendix to Respondents Case are in NhHi. A full account of the dispute between the proprietors of Rumford, originally granted by Massachusetts, and the town of Bow, laid out by New Hampshire officials, can be found in Nathaniel Bouton, The History of Concord . . . , Concord, N.H., 1855, p. 205–226. Lord Mansfield's opinion in the case is extensively described by a contemporary (same, p. 220–221).


Sections 18 and 19 are taken almost verbatim from “Appendix to the Votes of the House of Representatives for the Year 1762,” Mass., House Jour. , 1762–1763, p. [298]–[299].


Law of the restoration of rights.


Remarkable Providences Illustrative of the Earlier Days of American Colonisation.


This note, which begins in the margin and then interrupts the text, may have been Adams' own. It breaks into the text at a convenient point, for the recital of facts has been completed, and the text then goes on to examine the right of Massachusetts to the disputed lands according to “Law and Equity.” Moreover, a later document known to be JA's (No. IV, below) has calculations on its verso, suggesting that he was interested in this aspect of the question.


William Sheppard, A Grand Abridgement of the Common and Statute Law of England, London, 1675; William Hawkins, An Abridgement of the First Part of . . . , Coke's Institutes [i.e., Cokeon Littleton], with Some Additions . . . , London, 1711; William Noy, A Treatise of the Principall Grounds and Maximes of the Lawes of this Kingdom, [London], 1641; Henry Hobart, The Reports of That Learned Sir Henry Hobart, Knight, London, 1641. The citation of elementary abridgments suggests a self-taught lawyer like Charles Phelps. It is further suggestive that these works by Sheppard, Hawkins, and Noy are not listed in the Catalogue of JA's Library , although a later edition of Hobart is.


Edmund Plowden, The Commentaries or Reports of Edmund Plowden . . . , London, 1761, is listed in the Catalogue of JA's Library . Here and elsewhere, Plowden is not quoted directly but his interpretations are put to work, suggesting the thorough knowledge and grasp of the well-trained and mature lawyer that JA was.


From this point on the marginal note intrudes to interrupt the text, and again JA may be adding his own contribution, particularly in the citations from Plowden.


Sir John Comyns, A Digest of the Laws of England, 5 vols., London, 1762–1767, is not listed in the Catalogue of JA's Library . The passage as well as the accompanying citations is taken verbatim from Comyns, except that the “1” in the second reference to Henry Rolle, Abridgement of the Common Law, 2 vols., London, 1668, has been inadvertently omitted. Rolle is not listed in the Catalogue of JA's Library .


The number “24” was inadvertently omitted above and has been supplied at the proper place in brackets.


That is, the note beginning, “a Confirmation is not good.”


[Thomas Hutchinson, comp.], A Collection of Original Papers Relative to the History of the Colony of Massachusets-Bay, Boston, 1769. The fourth ship was called the Four Sisters.


This passage and the citations are taken verbatim from Comyn's Digest. The first two citations refer to laws passed in the 36th and 37th years of the reign of Henry VI. The last is to Sir Edward Coke, A Book of Entries, London, 1671, which is listed in the Catalogue of JA's Library .


Sir Matthew Hale, The History of the Pleas of the Crown, 2 vols., London, 1736, is listed in the Catalogue of JA's Library .


John Manwood, Treatise and Discourse of the Lawes of the Forrest, 3d edn., London, 1665.