536 | To the Earl of Shelburne

    Boston, Feb 28, 1767.

    No 7

    My Lord,

    I am honoured with your Lordships letters no 2 & 3.1 In regard to that part of the former relating to the people of Nobletown, there was a Committee of both Houses sitting upon that Subject when I received it. I therefore communicated that part of your Lordships letter to both Houses: as soon as they have concluded upon the Affair, I shall inform your Lordship thereof.2 I shall at all Events take care that a full State of the Business, so far as it can be explained from hence, shall be laid before your Lordship. The Claims of the People of Nobletown are so blended with those of the Indians, that they must be considered together. I have informed the latter of the orders I have received from your Lordship to give them any Assistance, & my readiness so to do. If they had attended me, when they came here to embark for England, & had acquainted me with the purpose of their Voyage, I should have furnished them with better Materials for the support of their Cause, than it seems they carried with them.3

    I never understood that the Government of New York gave the least countenance to the Violences committed on the East side of the line reported by the Lords of Trade: I believe they entirely arose from the Vehemence of self-intrested parties & the Subserviency of the Officers employed in that Service. Immediately after this Irruption, Sr Henry Moore used all due means to retrieve it & to prevent the like for the future. He wrote to me to propose a final settlement of the boundary Line: I told him “that there was nothing more wanting towards it than to get the report of the Lords of Trade confirmed. That the People of this Province had allways acquiesced in that report, altho’ it was short of their Expectations: & if He would get his Assembly to consent to this Confirmation, I dared say I could prevail upon ours to do it.”4

    I understand that all the Obstacles which have hitherto prevented the Confirmation of that Line have arose from the private intrest of the possessors of exorbitant grants of Lands, such as for 20, 24 miles in length. These Gentlemen not duly considering that the subduing & cultivating wild lands in America is generally a full valuable Consideration for the purchase of them, are for taking Advantage of the labour of the People who have sat down in the Wilderness under bonâ fide titles as far as they know, tho’ within the bounds of imaginary lines to them unknown. The Province of Massachusets claimed to within 12 miles of Hudsons River, & took the best kind of possession of it by erecting forts for the Defence of the Country, at Fort Dummer, Fort Massachusets, &c. under this protection arose Nobletown, & two other Towns settled under grants from the Indians, & with the Authority of the Government of Massachusets: And now these people have been for above 12 years clearing Lands & building up fine farms, Mr Van Ranslaer thinks that, under an old grant, He has a right to enter upon all this improved property, the Value Whereof (at least for 19 parts in 20) arises from the Labour of the people. It is like enough to provoke ignorant people, who are persuaded that they cannot combat the power & influence of their Antagonist at law, to resist.

    When the Lords of Trade reported the 20 mile line5 the Massachusets immediately desisted from their pretensions to the 12 mile line, & acquiesced in the former. And as New York would not join with them, they run a Line ex parte, & kept within it. On the East side of this Line have rose the Towns of Egremont, Great Barrington, Pittsfield, Stockbridge, &c; whereby the face of the Country has been changed in a very different Manner, from what it would have been if it had been swallowed up in the grants of Mr Van Ranslaer &c.6 There seems ^therefore^ nothing to be done there but to confirm this 20 miles line with a proviso to secure the property of those who have settled by a bonâ fidê contract whilst the Line was in dispute. I know of no objection to this but what arises from the extensive claims of the Old grantees under New York: & even that is not founded in Equity; since it is certain that the rest of the lands of these grantees are made more valuable by the settling of Nobletown &c, than ^the^ original value of the Lands of such Towns amount to.

    I am with great Respect, My Lord, Your Lordships most obedient & most humble Servant,

    Fra Bernard

    The Right honble, The Earl of Shelburne.

    ALS, RC      CO 5/756, ff 57-58.