41 Dunster’s Petition to the General Court

    [May 1655]

    To the worshipful John Endicot Esq. Governour with the rest of the honoured Magistrates and Deputies in the Generall Court at Boston assembled.

    The petition and motion of Henry Dunster humbly representeth to your prudent consideration.

    That wheras the Justice and equity of this honoured Court (to prevent the great injuries that otherwise Creditors might suffer by their debitors) hath made not only chatties, but also inheritances of posterity liable (in this country) to pay not only the debts duly contracted, but also the voluntary legacies in wils and testaments bequeathed by parents and progenitors to the Legatees. Wherby as this honoured Court well consulteth for the indemnity of Creditors, So there is no doubt but when emergent cases shal show forth any great iniquity, extorsion oppression and utter devouring of men and their inheritances, by sudden and secret seizing on them undervaluing them selling them off and alienating of them from the due heirs irrecoverably, whence it may come to pass that the fruit of the diligence of ages may bee swept away as in a day to the perpetual unsetling of families with such other grievances as the wisdom of this honoured Court may conceive with the prudent of other nations or haply have read. I say there is no doubt but that the wisdom equity and mercy of this honoured Court will ever bee ready to rescue and stave off such crying sins from the country, such undoing acts from the helpless; Either by way of prevention putting forth such bars and [cautious?] limitations, concerning the seising on inheritances especially of orphans, persons out of the country or otherwise put under incapacity to speak or act for themselves. That in all such like cases before the alienating of perpetuities from their proprietors there may be at the least for a season som respite of time allowed, or som expedient devised, whereby due notice to the proprietors, their trustees, friends or guardians being given they may prevent all unreasonable damages by compounding with the creditors, or provide for the best improvement of Lands, houses, and such perpetuities that they may bee sould off for a just and full price as otherwise they would commonly passe at. Or liberty (as in Israel) for the friends guardians or next heirs to redeem, by giving just and equall satisfaction to the creditors. Wherby this honoured Court will well provide for the helpless, stablish their posterity extirpate exactions, extorsions, and oppressions of the highest nature and greatest concernment. And bring a public blessing upon yourselves and posterity; which is and ever (God assisting) shalbee the endevours and prayers of

    your humble Servant wherin hee can

    Henry Dunster.

    The request of som hath put me upon it; to draw up an expedient tending to the prevention of the abovesaid evils, which at their desire I presume heer to present to the wisdom of the honoured Court to perfect the same when it is deficient, and rectify it, where it is amiss.

    Wheras any mans estate of any kinde in this country is liable to satisfy debts rather than that Creditors should bee defrauded of their right. Whenever unavoidably it may fall out that the inheritances Lands houses and perpetuities, belonging to persons out of the Country, children in their minority, persons naturally under inability of minde &c, which neither can prevent their estates from being seized, nor personally answer for themselves to satisfy their creditors, but by parting with and loosing their inheritances, which seldom can, all on the suddain, bee sould off at their just value (specially in great summs) but are hazzarded irrecoverably to bee alienated at under values to the undoing of the proprietors &c.

    It is therfore ordered by this court &c.

    That the Apprizers or valuers of all Lands houses and perpetuities, seized on for debts and for which a judgment is given, after they are legally chosen by the parties their friends or guardians that are interested in the case, shal then before a magistrate be sworn to apprize and value what to them is presented, at that just and equal rate that such Lands, houses, or inheritances in that place at that season usually are bought and sould at or for. And that the sayd estates, specially of persons out of the country, children in minority, or otherwise disenabled to act for themselves, shalbee published to bee saleable, by bills of publication, to them that will give most for them for the space of 20 (or 40) dayes (as the wisdom of the honoured Court shal determin). In which interim it shalbee Lawfull for the Guardians or friends of the proprietors to redeem for them the sayd estates satisfying the Creditors their due debts in good and merchantable pay such as in this country is procureable.

    The Comitee thinke it convenient to refer the Answer of this pettition to the next Generall Court of [Electors?]

    The deputyes approve of the returne of the committee in answer to this petition and desire the Consent of our [honoured?] magistrates thereto.

    Consented to by the magistrates.

    William Torrey Cleri[cus]

    Edw. Rawson Secretary

    Humphrey Atharton

    Francis Norton

    Jer. Houchin

    Edmo. Batter

    [Endorsed:] Mr. Dunster’s petition 25 October 55.

    Henry Dunster Papers. It appears that the petition was drawn up in May, but was not recorded until October. This document is signed in Dunster’s. own hand. About this time he moved to Scituate, Plymouth Colony, where he was employed in the ministry.