287 | To the Board of Trade

    Boston July 2. 1764

    My Lords

    I have looked over the Acts passed last Session in the General Court of this Province & find onely one that requires my animadversion. This is to enable Abigail Little the Widow of Isaac Thomas to recover certain sums due from the heirs of the said Isaac Thomas for her right of dower in his real Estate.1

    I have before acquainted your Lordships that the Want of a Court of Chancery in this province was in some cases supplied by the general Court, most usually by orders of the Court only, but sometimes by bills Acts.2 Of the latter the present Act affords a complete example: that your Lordships may judge of the whole proceeding I send with the bill copies of the whole proceedings; from which your Lordships will observe that they contain a formal complaint, a notification thereof to the Defendants,3 a Commission to examine Witnesses, a return made by the Commissioners, and an Adjudication by the general Court by an Act; which refers the Execution of it to the ordinary Judges: that is, to the Common Law Courts for the recovery of the Money due for the years past; & to the Judge of probates to assign actual dower for the time to come, in case the Heirs shall not agree to pay the sum agreed ^upon^ for the future. These Acts tho’ not frequent, are far from being uncommon: and the Equity of the Case upon which this was founded was strong & notorious: The Guardians of the 5 children of the Deceast to prevent the Estate being cut to pieces agree with the Widow to take an annual Sum of money in lieu of her Dower. Three of the Children afterwards coming of age take their shares of the whole Estate without any assignment of Dower, & yet refuse to pay their share of the annual Sum assigned as a compensation for the Dower: and taking advantage of their not being under a personal contract themselves, are for allowing the Widow neither actual Dower nor a compensation for it: Upon which the General Court by their Act gives the Widow a right of Action for the Money due for the years past, & obliges these 3 children (the other two having accorded to the agreement) to make their Option whether they will stand to the agreement by paying the Widow their proportion of the annual sum, or will assign the Widow real Dower out of their sevral Estates. A Decree highly just & equitable. I have been the more particular on this subject as it affords an instance of the general Court making a decree in Equity more formal & less exceptionable than most others are.

    I am, with great respect, My Lords, Your Lordships most obedient & most humble Servant.

    Fra Bernard

    The Right Honble the Lords Commissioners for Trade &c

    ALS, RC CO 5/892, ff 19-20.