A STATED Meeting of the Society was held, at the invitation of Mr. Philip P. Chase, at the Signet Club, No. 46 Dunster Street, Cambridge, on Thursday, April 20, 1939, at half after eight o’clock in the evening, the President, Kenneth Ballard Murdock, in the chair.
The records of the last Stated Meeting were read and approved.
The Corresponding Secretary reported the death on March 20, 1939, of the Hon. Marcus Morton, a Resident Member.
The Reverend Palfrey Perkins of Boston, Mr. Morton Peabody Prince of Boston, Mr. Frederick Morton Smith of Hingham, and Mr. Robert Walcott, Jr., of Cambridge were elected Resident Members of the Society; Dr. Ernest Caulfield of Hartford, Connecticut, was elected a Corresponding Member; and the Reverend Arthur Joseph Riley of Brighton was elected an Associate Member.
The chair appointed the following committees in anticipation of the Annual Meeting:
To nominate candidates for the several offices,—the Hon. Robert Walcott and Messrs. Philip Putnam Chase and Allen French.
To examine the Treasurer’s accounts,—Messrs. Matt Bushnell Jones and Stephen Willard Phillips.
Mr. Robert E. Moody read a paper entitled:
THE problems which faced the English nation both at home and abroad after the Treaty of Utrecht were many. At home, unemployment resulting from the return of soldiers from the war and the presence of refugees, crime, the product of unemployment, poverty, and overcrowding of the industrial areas were outstanding evils. In America, the end of the war left still unsolved the problem of colonial defense. Most of the solutions offered involved colonization both as a remedy for unemployment and as a means of defending colonial lands.
Naturally, in all colonial projects available lands and the utilization of their resources by England were prime considerations. British possessions in the New World stretched in a great crescent from Newfoundland to the West Indies. In the North the French still held the St. Lawrence Valley and Cape Breton, and in the South the Spanish were still the masters of Florida. Along the borderlands of these two foreign possessions were two areas which were still destitute of population and which were also weak points in matters of defense. One was the region between the Carolinas and Florida, presently to be granted to Oglethorpe and his fellow trustees. The other was Nova Scotia and the lands as far west as the Kennebec River. After the fall of Port Royal in 1710, Nova Scotia became a military colony, but the remaining lands in this region were unsettled. Due to their location in the heart of the naval stores region it required no stretch of the imagination to fît them into mercantilist schemes for the exploitation of the New World to England’s advantage.
Profoundly interested in both the social and economic problems of the day was Thomas Coram, best known as the founder of the Foundling Hospital in London. But he had other concerns, and much of his lifetime was devoted to other projects. In his young manhood he had been a resident of Taunton, Massachusetts, building ships, and later in Boston he had acted as factor for a group of English merchants. During his years in America, 1693–1703, he had gained not merely considerable knowledge of natural resources, particularly naval stores, but also much practical insight into New England ways. This experience enabled him to speak with some authority on American affairs. As a merchant Coram had become pretty thoroughly imbued with mercantilist ideas and shared the general conviction that naval stores must be obtained in the colonies231 so as to render England less dependent upon the Baltic states, a vital question in time of war, and also to aid in creating a favorable balance of trade. He shared, too, the idea that any portion of the population at home which was not usefully employed might well be transported to a colony where they would produce things important to the nation’s economy and also be a potential market for English goods. Nor should it be forgotten that Coram was instinctively and energetically interested in the welfare of the unfortunate.
Many jobless were to be found among the soldiers returned from the wars and among the refugees, some in England already, and still others in the Palatinate, clamoring for a chance to emigrate. So great a need for man power in America! So great a waste in Europe! Coram’s humane sympathies were aroused, and with creditable zeal he set about making practical plans for colonization.
The plan developed jointly by Coram and a group of officers and disbanded soldiers began as a rather ambitious and optimistic project: ambitious because the territory asked for was so extensive (the bounds were the St. Croix and the Kennebec, the St. Lawrence and the Atlantic Ocean);232 optimistic because the petitioners actually proposed that the Crown should back them to the extent of nearly £15,000 in addition to a loan to be paid back in naval stores.233 When this possibility seemed remote, one of the ingenious officers suggested that he had “invented” a way in which a colony of five companies, to be called Nova-Anna, could be settled at no cost to the Crown. This should have appealed to a frugal English monarch. But Sir Isaac Newton, something of an inventor himself, then at the mint office, turned down the proposal, which was, in fact, a suggestion for a type of inflation: the coining of 1,500 tons of copper at an estimated profit of £97,000.234
The Board of Trade can hardly be blamed for having insisted that a practical plan be presented before giving its backing to any scheme. Its insistence that the plan involve no expense to the Crown may seem less wise, but in view of the government’s financial situation it was necessary. But here the Board faced a dilemma. It could not embark on an expensive program of colonization, yet it was reluctant to recommend any more proprietary or charter colonies, the latter of which, particularly, had long been recognized as a dangerous tendency in government. The problem of setting up a new model for the plantations and of altering those already in existence had for some time been a major one, but the Board had not come to any decision on the matter since the defeat by Parliament in 1706 of its bill “for the better Regulation of the Charter and Proprietary Governments in America and for the encouragement of the Trade of the Kingdome and of her Majesty’s Plantations.”235 The subject, however, was not dead, and the necessity of creating a type of government which would answer all requirements made this period a difficult time for petitioners for new governments to get the consent of the Crown for their proposals.
Coram,236 in spite of these obstacles, set himself to the task of evolving a colony with a government which would meet the objections to which the proprietary and charter colonies had been exposed. The expenses of his proposed colony would be met by voluntary contributions from “persons of character.” Such persons, of whom he submitted a list of fifty who had promised their support, would constitute a board of trustees with full power to settle the lands.237 The province itself, to be called Georgia in honor of the King, was to be a royal province, its governor to be the First Commissioner of the Admiralty, then the Earl of Berkeley, who had promised to be one of the trustees. Coram asserted that there were twelve hundred families ready to go in 1717. According to his plans, the trustees were to allot one hundred acres of land to each settler, who after the first seven years was to pay an annual quitrent of twenty-eight pounds of hemp fit for the use of the navy. The active government of the colony was to be in charge of a lieutenant governor appointed from among the trustees by the governor. The trustees were to be the upper house or council; the lower house was to be composed of freeholders chosen annually by the freeholders and other inhabitants. The fishery and mines were to be wholly free. The colony was to be open to foreign Protestants, who, on taking the oath, were to have the same liberties and immunities as other English subjects.238
In furtherance of their ideas the group printed a four-page document239 in the form of a legal brief entitled An Abstract of the Scheme of Government so far as it Relates to the Grantees in Trust for Settling the Land lying between Nova-Scotia and the Province of Maine in New-England, in America. This very rare document deals especially with the “scheme of Profit” in settling the land, though it unfortunately is not very clear in its designation of the beneficiaries of the profits. It seems less philanthropic than Coram’s first draft of the idea. The grantees—that is, the trustees—could strip the land of timber and minerals before granting it to settlers and before any quitrents to the Crown became due. After granting the lands the trustees could collect quitrents over and above those which were due to the Crown. They could also engage in shipbuilding and could erect sawmills for their own profit. In addition, a scheme was proposed for providing the inhabitants with livestock, half the increase going to the trustees, the principal to be made good before a division was made.
The fact that Coram was later a trustee of the southern Georgia brings up the question whether there was any connection between this earlier proposal and the later accomplishment. The general similarity of ideas must not be overstressed in this connection, while the fact that the name Georgia was used in both projects has no significance whatever. But there is evidence of a common origin of the two projects. Coram was a parishioner of Dr. Thomas Bray of St. Botolph’s, Aldgate, London, and often talked his scheme over with him. Bray had spent the year 1700 in Maryland and thought that a colony in the South had better prospects than one so far north in New England. He did not, however, lose interest in Coram’s scheme. Bray was similarly interested in colonizing indigent families and in 1730, shortly before his death, called together a group of men, including Coram and Oglethorpe, to discuss such a plan with them.240 Present-day writers have tended to minimize, if not ignore, Coram’s share in the colonization of Georgia, a position justified by the evidence in the Earl of Egmont’s diary and by Oglethorpe’s outstanding endeavor. But there is reason to credit Coram with a part in the evolution of the idea in its earlier stages.
Coram’s proposals to colonize between the St. Croix and the Kennebec did not go unnoticed. Probably no portion of America was more involved in claims and counterclaims to the title to the land. Signs of plans for its development from England constituted a signal for all the claimants to register their protests and prior claims. At this time the principal protests came from the heirs of Captain Thomas Lake and Major Thomas Clarke, who had piled up an impressive collection of Indian deeds to lands in this region. The heirs were Sir Bibye Lake, Anne, the wife of Increase Mather, Edward Hutchinson, and Josiah Walcott. A claimant under another title was the Reverend Christopher Toppan, who in 1708 had bought some Indian deeds for a song. His claim was prosecuted by Richard Partridge, whose father, William, had in 1716 been given a half interest apparently just for the purpose of getting his help in maintaining the title. Still other claimants were the Duke of Hamilton under a New England Council division and the heirs of Thomas Leverett under a New England Council patent.241
These claims were bitterly protested by Coram, especially those which were based on Indian deeds which, he said with more than a little truth, had been obtained from the Indians after they had been debauched with drink, this being the cause of hostility and war. “The Cobweb Pretensions,” he insisted, should be brushed aside, since settlement would “occasion the imploying & maintaining many of his Majestys Subjects, the supplying his Majesty with Naval Stores from his own Dominions & the Consumption of Great Quantities of the Manufactures of Great Britain.”242 He pointed out that Massachusetts herself had long before recognized the dangers of reliance on Indian deeds by outlawing them within her own bounds. But Massachusetts had never balked at the use of Indian deeds to bolster her own claims and those of her citizens to lands not included in her original charter limits.
The question whether jurisdiction lay with the Crown or with Massachusetts was even more important. In 1691 the Crown, for lack of a better solution, and at the suggestion of Increase Mather, had included Nova Scotia as well as the region between the St. Croix and the Kennebec in the second Massachusetts charter, with the important reservation that grants of land made by Massachusetts between the two rivers must be confirmed by the Crown. Nova Scotia was at that time in the hands of the French, and in 1696, with the fall of the fort at Pemaquid, the remaining territory was practically abandoned by both contending parties. The Board of Trade made frequent efforts to remedy this by instructing the royal governors of Massachusetts to get the General Court to appropriate money for the rebuilding of the leveled fort, but every effort resulted in failure. The cry of the lower house was that the country was waste and desolate and the fort of no importance in defense. The Crown showed no desire to reassume jurisdiction at any time during the wars, being more interested in getting Massachusetts to pay the costs than in taking the responsibility on itself. It is significant, however, that Nova Scotia was detached from Massachusetts in 1713 and made a separate government without protest from that province though the commissions to Massachusetts governors continued to list Nova Scotia as within their jurisdiction right down to the Revolution. As to Massachusetts’ charter claims to the “derelict” lands, Coram insisted that possession had reverted to the Crown because of Massachusetts’ failure to defend the territory during the wars. But as the law officers of the government pointed out later, only a writ of scire facias against the charter and court proceedings could make forfeiture complete in the legal sense.
The leisurely proceedings of the attorney general and the solicitor general, to whom the question of the Crown’s rights was referred, delayed matters for many months. In the end those officers left things up in the air by stating that although the Massachusetts charter gave that government jurisdiction, there was some doubt as to whether the grant to Massachusetts in 1691 was legal since at that time the question of English jurisdiction there had not been settled.243 This hesitant opinion should have encouraged Massachusetts, but apparently that colony did not view the possible confirmation of its right to the whole region between the St. Croix and the Kennebec as an unmixed blessing. The interests of her citizens were wholly west of the Penobscot. What if the English government should insist that Massachusetts undertake the defense of the whole region? Many times the General Court’s struggle against the Crown’s direct orders to rebuild the fort at Pemaquid put Massachusetts in the uneasy position of not being willing to let anyone else have the lands and yet being unwilling to use them herself. This dilemma impelled the offer of Jeremiah Dummer, the Massachusetts agent, to give up all claims east of the Penobscot if the Crown would give Massachusetts the right of granting lands between the Kennebec and the Penobscot without the necessity of seeking the confirmation of the Crown.244 Had this offer been accepted, the eastern boundary of the United States might today be the Penobscot River.
This chance to compromise did not much please the Board of Trade, which, still avoiding the issue as to jurisdiction in the disputed area, reported:
But how far it might be adviseable for your Majty. to enter into any contracts of this nature with the Massachusetts Company, or to do anything that may further confirm their claims, we shall not pretend to say, being daily more and more convinced that great inconveniences do arise from the erecting of Proprietary Governmts., who generally are not able to defend their own lands, and thô there be less to object upon this head to the Massachusetts Bay, then to some other Proprietary Governments, yet we cannot but observe that the people of New England do in many occasions interfere with the trade and benefit that should only accrue to the Mother Kingdom. But if the Petrs. could be induced to settle in any part of Nova Scotia not already granted to any other persons, they might be made very usefull to your Majesty.245
It was now five years since the soldiers had joined in their first petition. What had happened to them in the meantime is not clear. In any event, the complex situation which confronted them was not encouraging. Apparently they were not interested in going to Nova Scotia. Meanwhile, Dummer had been working on a scheme of his own, or, to use the words of Governor Hutchinson, had “raised a bubble from the eastern lands.” All that is known of it is to be found in a letter which Dummer wrote to the Massachusetts General Court in 1720, reporting that he had proposed a scheme to raise hemp and flax on the lands between the St. Croix and the Penobscot.246 The lands were to be granted by charter to a group of undertakers, who included Lord Barrington, Colonel Martin Bladen of the Board of Trade, and several other notable figures.
Being thus strong [he reports] I had no reason to take notice of Coram and friends or to have any apprehensions of what they were doing or capable of doing against me, yet, for quietness sake, I sent them word that, if they would withdraw their petition and give me no more trouble, they should find an account of profit from this undertaking beyond what they could ever expect if it were to be under their own conduct.
Coram acquiesced until he found that the country between the Kennebec and Penobscot was left out, and, angry at the trick, withdrew. The capital of the group was to be £100,000 sterling, £20,000 of which Dummer reserved for Massachusetts with the idea of having trustees manage it for the province. The managers decided to go slowly, however, since the great number of current speculative schemes was so offensive to the government that all had a bad reputation. And no wonder, for while some of them may have been useful and practical, others, such as raising wrecks off the Irish coast, making a wheel for perpetual motion, making salt water fresh, and obtaining oil from sunflower seeds, were not. One of the most amazing was for “an undertaking in due time to be revealed.” It is no wonder that Dummer’s proposed enterprise collapsed when the wreckage of the South Sea Company and John Law’s Mississippi Company stood revealed.
The original petitioners optimistically tried to bolster their position by getting Dr. Charles Pinfold of Doctors’ Commons to prepare a review of the case for them,247 and in this they had the backing of Viscount Townshend. But though Pinfold interpreted a decision of a committee of the Privy Council of December 20, 1720, as giving the Crown a clear-cut right to the lands in question, there was no further action, and the whole matter dropped out of sight in 1724.248
The matter of colonizing New England came up again in 1728. By this time the problem of the King’s woods and the navy’s mast supply had become more acute. The reports of John Bridger, surveyor general, had formed a constant stream of indignant accusations against the wanton waste and willful destruction of these great resources of New England. Aside from the inevitable difficulties inherent in the situation, it may be noted that Charles Burniston, Bridger’s successor as surveyor general, had not been in America during his entire incumbency249 and had no training for the task. The admiralty’s increasing awareness of the commercial and naval disadvantages of England’s dependence on the Baltic countries for masts and naval stores forced attention again upon the mast trees of New England and the lands on which they grew.
The successor to Burniston as surveyor general was David Dunbar, who was commissioned on December 12, 1727.250 He probably owed his appointment to George II himself since he had attracted the latter’s favorable attention. He enjoyed the title of colonel because of a long period of service in the army, during which he was finally commissioned lieutenant colonel. As a member of the Irish Parliament during the reign of Queen Anne he had been useful in defending her policies, and at the succession of the Hanoverians he had attached himself faithfully to their interests, serving them in the Leeward Islands and in Spain.251
While the Board of Trade was considering the subject of instructions for Dunbar, Thomas Coram revived his earlier proposals in a strong memorial dated June 18, 1728. He reviewed the circumstances under which the territory east of the Kennebec had been added to Massachusetts, basing his story upon information gained from Urian Oakes, one of the agents of Massachusetts in 1691, whom he had known personally in Boston. Some of his earlier group were still willing to emigrate, he asserted, and he added:
There are also many Others, able persons of both Sexes, who live in Continual Danger of being apprehended for Criminal practices which by the faults of their Parents or otherwise, They are Constantly repeating Which renders them a Nuisance and a Pest to the publick Especially In & about the Cittys of London and Westminster And they could Gladly be Rescued from their Necessity of Commiting those Crimes, and the Evil Consequences thereof, By volentary engaiging themselves to serve His Majesty a Term of Years in the said Tract of Country now laying wast & Derelict. . . .252
Ten days later Dunbar brought before the Board a proposal to settle in the waste lands of New England a colony devoted to the purpose of providing naval stores.253 Another proposal for settlement at this time came from Daniel Hintze, a Palatine who desired to collect and bring over a group of his fellows. Dunbar followed up his first suggestion with more concrete propositions dealing particularly with some six hundred Irish families who were, he said, destitute in Massachusetts. He also mentioned five hundred Palatine families who were eager for lands.254 These papers were duly considered by the Board of Trade in three reports, the discussion of which extended over the whole of the year 1729.255
During these deliberations the various suggestions were molded into a joint project sponsored by Coram and Dunbar in a memorial dated May 6, 1729. They emphasized that in order to hold the territory between the St. Croix and the Kennebec it was necessary to colonize it. A military colony was not enough. They proposed that a royal colony be erected with a civil government, “not a military charter nor proprietary Government.” The objective stressed was the raising of hemp, a commodity in which all quitrents were to be paid.256
The response of the Board of Trade was favorable, and on May 14, 1729, it recommended to the Privy Council that a new province by the name of Georgia should be created and that Dunbar should be its governor. Though Dunbar learned from Newcastle, Secretary of State for the Southern Department, that the King’s departure for Hanover on May 17 had deferred consideration of the proposed settlement,257 he seems never to have doubted the ultimate outcome of the matter and apparently left England for Boston in the summer of 1729 under the impression that the new province was assured and that he had been given sufficient authority to go ahead with its settlement. He arrived in Boston on September 23.258 His brother Jeremiah had preceded him as his deputy the year before and had sent out agents to investigate conditions in the woods of New Hampshire and Maine.259
When David Dunbar arrived in Massachusetts, all the documentary evidence of his authority which he possessed was his commission as surveyor general and the instructions that were to govern him in that office.260 But so confident was he that he was to be the governor of a province that he began to talk loudly and not too wisely. He became very active in promoting the settlement of his projected colony, and, taking advantage of the fact that there were Irishmen in Boston anxious for lands on the frontier, took about one hundred of them, a number later doubled, to Pemaquid to start work in clearing the lands and erecting houses. Through the good offices of Captain Gyles of Fort Richmond on the Kennebec he took care to cultivate friendly relations with the Penobscot chiefs, giving them presents and assuring them that it was not his intention at the time to extend settlements above the trading post at St. George’s.
During the year and a half, 1730–1731, that he was active in Maine he laid the foundations of what might have become, in different circumstances, a settlement of considerable size. At Pemaquid, which he made the center of his operations, he partially rebuilt the fort on its old foundations. He changed the name of the place first to Fredericksburg, in honor of the Prince of Wales, and later to Frederick’s Fort when the Board of Trade objected to the foreign character of the previous name. The fort itself as reërected consisted of a dry stone wall 4½ feet thick at the base, 9 feet high, and 132 feet square, with two bastions extending beyond. The whole was reinforced with strong palisades. Inside were built barracks which at one time housed two hundred persons. At the outset the fort had only ships’ guns, but Dunbar proposed to substitute for them heavier ones from the north and south batteries in Boston, which he said were lying in rubbish, and others from Annapolis whither the original guns of Fort Pemaquid were carried after its demolition.261
For the first lodging of his men Dunbar had the group build “Hurts of Spruce trees.” Later, frames for between thirty and forty houses were erected, two or three of which were roofed when a committee of the General Court took a view of the place in November, 1730.262 Lots thirty feet wide and one hundred feet deep were laid out adjacent to the fort, and convenient streets were made. A road was cleared across the peninsula to New Harbor. As a crowning achievement, Dunbar started to build and may have finished an L-shaped wharf 170 feet long and 40 feet broad, designed to have 15 feet of water at high tide. J. Henry Cartland, in his Twenty years at Pemaquid, describes the remains of an old wharf there and states that one of its foundations was a log frame twenty-two feet square filled with rocks, located eighty-five feet from the banks of the river. Eighty-five feet is just half the reported length of Dunbar’s wharf, so this foundation could very well have been a halfway support. Evidences of this wharf may still be seen. Cartland further states that the wharf which he described was in just the right position to connect with the paved street which was dug up at Pemaquid in 1855. All in all, the layout given in Thomas Wells’s manuscript maps of 1730263 conforms closely to the cellars and pavements at Pemaquid which have excited so much archaeological interest. While Dunbar may have built his houses upon the site of earlier habitations, as he did in the case of the fort, he does not mention any features of this sort, and it is probable that the Pemaquid cellars and pavements were constructed by Dunbar and his men in 1729 and 1730.264 Dunbar mentions the fact that his men burned lime from the shell heaps. He also mentions the availability of clay for bricks.
Thomas Wells’s Map of Pemaquid, 1730
Besides Pemaquid, Dunbar laid out six other towns in the year 1731 between the Sheepscot and St. George’s rivers, which he named for members of the English ministry. He reported results on June 4, 1731, as follows: in Harrington, seventy-six families on forty-acre lots, housed in poor wigwams or cottages; in Walpole, ninety-four families; in Townshend, twenty-five families and many men gone home for their wives and cattle; in Newcastle, nearly one hundred families; in Torrington, some beginnings made from Massachusetts; in Westmoreland, lots in the process of being laid out.265 It must be remembered, of course, that Dunbar had no legal right to give deeds. He gave, however, deeds which involved the payment of a quitrent of one peppercorn if demanded.266 In 1810 William Jones of Bristol, then eighty-six years old, testified that in 1730, when he was six years old, there were at least 150 settlers under Dunbar.267 Such evidence is only vaguely confirmatory, but that Dunbar prosecuted his design with energy there is no doubt.
Such an effort at settlement in this disputed part of New England was bound to excite opposition. Dunbar was faced with a doubly hard problem. In the first place, he was surveyor general of the King’s woods, than which no job in America was more hopeless or more unpopular. On this account alone he was faced with day-by-day opposition, not merely of the lumbermen, a class only exceeded in numbers in New England by the fishermen, but also of certain of the political leaders who, like Elisha Cooke, owned sawmills whose profits depended upon the illegal cutting of trees. But as prospective governor of a colony he was faced with the most bitter opposition of the politicians in general and of the land profiteers. “Any man that behaves anything different from the Crowd, Stinks of the prerogative, this expression is Common with them,” reported Dunbar. The landed interests of some of these men were affected, and, to cap the climax, Dunbar had from the beginning the enmity of Jonathan Belcher, Governor of Massachusetts and New Hampshire, who arrived in the summer of 1730—a man so jealous of his own position as to be quite unwilling to see his jurisdiction pared down by the erection of a new government east of the Kennebec.
This is not the place to detail Dunbar’s many perplexities and annoyances as surveyor general. But some attention must be given to the efforts of the Massachusetts speculators to maintain their land titles, and to Governor Belcher’s efforts to maintain the full extent of his power.
The claimants to land east of the Kennebec allowed their interests to be represented by a test case, one not based primarily on Indian deeds—the case of the holders of the Beauchamp and Leverett claim under a New England Council patent of March 12, 1629/30. In 1719 John Leverett, the heir to the claim, came to an agreement with Spencer Phips, who held Indian deeds inherited from his adoptive father, Sir William Phips, joining their conflicting interests. Two companies, the Ten Proprietors and the Twenty Associates, were formed, known collectively as the Muscongus Company. In the group were seven members of the Massachusetts General Court, including Elisha Cooke, Adam Winthrop, Oliver Noyes, Stephen Minot, Thomas Westbrook, and Joseph Appleton. The Indian wars had put an end to their plans, but news of Dunbar’s enterprise revived them. Agreeing with their most aggressive member, Samuel Waldo, to give him half their claim of almost 600,000 acres if he could obtain its confirmation from England, they confided their problem into his hands. He sailed for England early in January, 1730, and by April had started the machinery moving against Dunbar. Besides his personal work in influencing the judgment of the authorities, Waldo’s principal task was to prove that the claimants whom he represented had made reasonable efforts to settle the lands granted. His evidence of the reality of such efforts was finally accepted by the authorities.
Waldo’s first arguments were sufficient almost immediately to cause the Board of Trade to order Dunbar to confine his activities to the territory east of the Penobscot. These instructions of April 27, 1730,268 reached him on August 9 by the same ship which brought Governor Belcher. Luckily no letters from Waldo arrived by this conveyance, and Dunbar was accordingly given a breathing space in which to shift his plans. The final decision as to the rights to lands between the Kennebec and the St. Croix was, of course, still pending.
Dunbar and Belcher had some characteristics in common. They were both ambitious—with this difference: Belcher was a royal governor, while Dunbar wished to be one; both were jealous of their prerogatives; both had unusual ability at name-calling, though Belcher’s name for Dunbar—the “Bull-frog from the Hibernian fens”—gave the Governor a slight advantage. Of the two, Dunbar was less of an intriguer, though both studied the art of cultivating the favor of persons of power and influence. Both were overbearing and indiscreet. But in this, too, Belcher had the advantage in that every threat which he made against Dunbar tended to increase his popularity, while Dunbar’s remarks about the disloyalty of the people and what ought to be done about it made his path even more difficult.
The use or even creation of “incidents” as bases of action is familiar in history. An “incident” played into Belcher’s hands immediately on his arrival in Massachusetts. In August, 1730, one Josiah Grover and one John Brown, claiming lands under the famous (and probably forged) deed of 1625 to John Brown of Pemaquid, went down to Maine, ostensibly to build a house. Their story on their return was that they were “exceedingly Insulted & evilly entreated by a number of Irish Men,” and that finally they, with their little schooner and its crew, had been captured by “five or six Irish men Armed with Guns and Clubbs . . . in a hostile Violent Manner.” The “incident” was concluded by the escape of Grover and his company over the side of the vessel into a “canno” while the Irishmen were asleep in the schooner’s cabin.269
There is, however, another version of the story. Captain Woodside of the fort at Winter Harbor said that the whole affair was planned in order to get a pretense for quarreling. Grover’s and Brown’s schooner was ordered to bring away some staves and timber cut by the Irishmen at Frederick’s Fort. Then if anyone claiming the staves should go on board, the persons there were to quit the vessel. Thus it could be made to appear that an illegal seizure of a vessel had been made.270 In this way there would be ground for legal action in a court in which the Irishmen could hope for no aid or sympathy. The ease with which Grover and Brown escaped makes one suspect that the Irishmen were not so belligerent as Grover represented.271
Here was a chance for Governor Belcher to ingratiate himself with the people by defending a popular cause. Maintaining to the attorney general of the province that the incident was an act of piracy, he proposed to make a good thing out of the situation, calling it a “Notorious Assault and Riott.” On order from the Governor, the sheriff of York County, with a force of over thirty armed men, went to Frederick’s Fort, seized some of the inhabitants, apparently with no regard for their particular guilt, and carried them to York where they were jailed. The first trial resulted in a disagreement, but on January 5, 1730/1, four men were convicted and sentenced to fines of from £15 to £20 each and three months’ imprisonment, with costs amounting to £233 14s 6d.272
The manner of this seizure alarmed Dunbar to such an extent that when the General Court decided to send a committee to view the province fortifications, he took this action as a threat to dispossess him. In fact, he had heard reports from high sources, which he interpreted in the light of some remarks of a threatening nature which the Governor had made to him, that the Governor designed to take possession of the fort by force and imprison him if he should be there. There was no reason why the Governor should not make a survey of the fortifications. In fact, his instructions commanded him to do so. But when three of the six active members of the committee in charge of the investigation, Elisha Cooke, Samuel Thaxter, and Spencer Phips, were members of the Muscongus Company as well, is it any wonder that Dunbar expected the expedition to be a military move?273
When the committee arrived, the men in the fort were ready. They refused to allow the committee to land, and the latter had to be contented with a general view of the place from the harbor.274 Dunbar’s frantic appeal to England for help resulted in the immediate issuance of an order in council, November 12, 1730, addressed to Belcher, in which he was commanded not to make any attack on the fort.275
The final blow to Dunbar came in the celebrated opinion of Yorke and Talbot, the law officers of the Crown, August 11, 1731, supporting the Massachusetts claim and stating that upon reconquest in 1710 all ancient rights were restored and those in possession ought not to be disturbed.276 The Privy Council, in accordance with this opinion, on August 10, 1732, ordered Dunbar to quit the lands. The document containing this order, as well as the opinion upon which it was based, was recorded by the Massachusetts House of Representatives.277
When Dunbar finally withdrew, Massachusetts, in spite of Belcher’s pleadings, made no move to send troops to take possession of the fort. The House argued that the fort was a useless burden since the province was already in times of peace supporting three forts and two truckhouses in that country, “some eastward and some westward” of Pemaquid.278 The “some eastward” consisted only of the St. George’s truckhouse.
At last, in November, 1733, the House authorized the Governor, “if he sees cause,” to demolish Fort Mary at Winter Harbor and to move its garrison to Pemaquid.279 In his victory, at least, Belcher showed some magnanimity toward Dunbar’s settlers. “Let other people think as they please,” he wrote to Dunbar, “I shou’d be very sorry to have these inhabitants draw off, for I shou’d look upon it as weakening of the King’s government, a damage to this Province, & to the private proprietors. I am therefore for giving ’em all reasonable encouragement to stay, and I wish the Assembly & the proprietors were of my mind.”280
As to the settlers, some stayed on as squatters, some took out deeds from Waldo and other proprietors, and some moved away. A number of them fought at Louisbourg in 1745. In company with the German settlers brought later by Waldo, these English and Scotch-Irish settlers were the bulk of the inhabitants of Maine beyond the Kennebec before the close of the French and Indian War. As to the land titles, the same fundamental difficulties continued to plague Massachusetts all during the colonial period, and it was not until the nineteenth century that the land disputes around Pemaquid were finally settled.
The province of Georgia in the South was born shortly after the Board of Trade upset Dunbar’s plan, and New England’s Georgia vanished among the might-have-beens of history.
Memorial from Colonel Dunbar and Mr. Coram Relating to the Making Some Settlements in Nova Scotia
May it please your Lordships
Pursuant to your Commands, We have read several reports made by your Lordships upon proposels laid before you, for makeing Settlements upon Nova Scotia, as well as on other His Majestys lands laying vast and unpeopl’d to the Eastward of New England. And we haveing maturely and particularly considered with attention the several matters on which your Lordships required our opinion with respect to some proper Settlements necessary to be made in Nova Scotia, and on the large tract of Crowne lands between Nova Scotia, Ending westward at the River St. Croix, and the Massachusets government ending eastward at the river Sagadahock alias Kenebeck, for the better security, advantage and defence of those large territorys, we are humbly of opinion to your Lordships.
That whereas Nova Scotia still remaining under a Military Government, as it has don ever since the Conquest thereof anno 1710, no good or profitable Subjects can hardly ever be prevail’d on to settle themselves on any part thereof, before a Civil Government be erected there, Which we are the more confirm’d in, from the length of time in which the Crowne has been at great expence for maintaing a Regiment of Soldiers there, since the reduction of it; besides the considerable saleries for the Governors thereof, under whose government and Direction we have not heard any Settlements or Improvements have been made; Nor can we judge any will ever be made, until His Majesty shall be most graciously pleas’d to erect a Civil government there.
That as Nova Scotia and the other large tract of Crowne lands adjoyning to it, now laying vast and unpeopl’d between that and the Massachusets, are both together of such great Extent as 450 miles and more in length, We humbly conceive it absolutly necessary for the Service of the King, and the future Security and advantage of His Majestys Northern plantations, that the said tract of Crowne lands, the land and Islands in and between the river Sagadahock, alias Kenebeck, and the river St. Croix, be erected into a Royall Province under His Majestys civil Government (not Military Charter nor propriety Government) with all proper powers and Instructions, separate and distinct from that of Nova Scotia or New England; it being at too great distance from both for any protection or assistance from them or either of them, on any emergency.
That as to the frame of the propos’d Civil Government, and the necessary instructions thereupon, it is most humbly submited to your Lordships better Judgment.
That it will be greatly for the Service of the King, and the advantage of the propos’d Province to begin the settling therof with a good number of Inhabitants together, for their better assisting and comforting each other in their new under-takeing, and to give all possible favour and due Encouragment to all those whether Britains or Foreigners, who shall come to settle there under His Majestys Civil Government, and that a suitable and proper portion of the land be granted and laid out to each of them without fee or reward; They paying such quitrent as herein after proposed; And that no other person or persons whatsoever shall be suffered to inhabit there, nor to have, occupy or enjoy any part of the said land or Islands without paying the like quitrent. And as the Expence of sending a number of familys from England with necessary tools and utencils, armes &c, and subsisting them one year there, will be inconsiderable in proportion to the advantages the Crowne will reap by such Settlement, & would also save the occation of a much greater Expense for maintaining a Military force there for their security and defence, We hope your Lordships will duely consider the same.
We do not finde by any of the reports made by your Lordships upon the proposed laid before you for makeing settlements on any of the said land, That there was intended any greater reserve or advantage to the Crowne than 14-pound weight of water rotted Hemp per annum for every hundred acres, and that to commence at the end of the fourth year, to be doubled the twelveth year, and trebled the twentyeth year, and so to continue for ever at forty two pounds of water rotted Hemp, which at the highest cannot be computed at more than one penny sterling per annum, per acre.
Whatever your Lordships may judge sufficient and reasonable to be reserved to the Crowne as a quitrent, We are humbly of opinion should be received there in good Merchantable Hemp fitte for the use of His Majesty’s Navy; Particularly for to encourage the raising, well ordering, and cureing that Commodity there, after the best manner, for an ample Supply thereof in due time from thence for the use of His Majesty’s Navy and Kingdoms, all which is most humbly submited by
Your Lordships most obedient servants
Ye 6th May, 1729
To the Right Honourable, The Lords Commissioners
For Trade and Plantations281
May 6th 1729.
Mr. William G. Roelker read extracts from a group of letters in his possession written by Benjamin Franklin to Catherine Ray both before and after her marriage to William Greene.