A Stated Meeting of the Society was held, at the invitation of the President, at the house of the Club of Odd Volumes, No. 50 Mount Vernon Street, Boston, on Thursday, April 30, 1925, at eight o’clock in the evening, the President, Fred Norris Robinson, Ph.D., in the chair.
The Records of the last Stated Meeting were read and approved.
The Corresponding Secretary reported the death on the tenth and the fifteenth of April respectively, of Arthur Lord, a Resident Member, and John Singer Sargent, an Honorary Member.
The President appointed the following Committees in anticipation of the Annual Meeting:
To nominate candidates for the several offices, — Messrs. Francis Russell Hart, William Vail Kellen, and James Parker Parmenter.
To examine the Treasurer’s accounts, — Messrs. Frank Brewer Bemis and Harold Murdock.
The President announced the receipt of a gift of two thousand dollars from Mrs. Frederick Lewis Gay, in memory of her husband.
Mr. George L. Kittredge offered the following resolutions, which were unanimously adopted:
Resolved, That the members of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts desire to express their gratitude to Mrs. Frederick Lewis Gay for her generous gift of $2000 towards the cost of publishing the Records of Harvard College — a project in which their late associate, Frederick Lewis Gay, felt a lively interest and to which he made liberal contribution.
Resolved, That the Records, when issued, bear upon the title-page an appropriate inscription to the effect that they are published by the Society as a memorial to Mr. Gay.
Resolved, That these resolutions be spread upon the records of the Society and that a copy be sent to Mrs. Gay.
Mr. Albert Matthews read a paper written by Miss Viola F. Barnes, of Mount Holyoke College, on
Among colonial Englishmen of the seventeenth century there is no more striking figure than Richard Wharton, a non-freeman in Puritan Boston, a man whose vivid personality, varied interests, and forceful leadership entitle him to be rescued from the oblivion into which he has been allowed to sink. He was by nature masterful, vigorous, energetic, persevering, and ambitious. His enemies believed him unscrupulous, headstrong, and selfish. He was undoubtedly tactless and precipitous, and as a consequence always antagonized those who disagreed with him. These were many, because his numerous activities as merchant, attorney-at-law, promoter, landed proprietor, and political leader brought him into contact with a large number of people.
Wharton was not among those whom religious and political dissatisfaction drove out of England. He sought the new world because it appealed to his imagination as a place where a man could acquire riches through commerce and easy possession of the soil, and at the same time retain allegiance to his king. He did not think of himself as emigrating from England; he simply followed the “westward ho!” impulse, as many an American was to do in the next two centuries.
Why he chose to settle in Boston is difficult to tell, but it was probably because that town offered the best commercial advantages to be found at the time in any of the English continental colonies. In all the large coast towns were many merchants of distinction who were amassing fortunes from the trade built up during the Puritan Revolution. Wharton’s marriage in 1659 to Bethia Tyng,436 the daughter of William Tyng,437 a wealthy merchant, drew him at once into close association with this group. Bethia’s sister Elizabeth was the wife of another prominent merchant, Thomas Brattle, reputed to be the wealthiest man in New England.438 Among her many cousins were Jonathan Tyng, who married a daughter of another great merchant, Hezekiah Usher;439 Edward Tyng, who through his wife’s inheritance of an estate in Maine became interested in land speculation there in coöperation with Wharton;440 and Rebecca, who married Joseph Dudley, later president of the provisional government and member of Andros’s council.441 After the death of Bethia, Wharton married, in 1672, Sarah Higginson,442 daughter of a Puritan divine at Salem and sister of an East India merchant. She died in 1672 and Wharton then married Martha Winthrop,443 sister of Wait and Fitz-John Winthrop, grandsons of the first Governor Winthrop and sons of the governor of Connecticut. These marriages into prominent New England families added to Wharton’s social distinction — for he was well-connected in England444 — and gave him opportunities for success in business. He became a great merchant, and very soon extensive wharfs, which he was constantly enlarging, testified to the growth of his commercial interests.445
That Wharton was also an able attorney-at-law is indicated by his successful handling of some of the most conspicuous cases of his time. One affair which attracted attention because of the prominence of the people concerned was that of Samuel Bellingham, who after the death of his father, Governor Richard Bellingham, employed Wharton as his counsel in contesting the will. During this case, Wharton incurred the displeasure of the General Court and received as penalty, withdrawal of his licence to plead in the courts. Out of fairness to Bellingham, however, Wharton was allowed to finish this one case, and finally won for his client a favorable decision.446
Another case which Wharton successfully managed, stirred New England to great excitement and permanently affected his reputation. He was attorney for the famous Bernard Lamoyn,447 a French privateer whose ships, two rich prizes captured from the Dutch off the coast of Cuba, were stranded on Nantucket Island in 1678. The Englishmen in subordinate command of one of them, the Griffin, took advantage of the boats’ distress to dispose of “much gold, pearls, silver plate and other things to great valew contrary to his knowledg & their articles of agrement at their commission port.” Lamoyn sought justice of the government of Massachusetts, asking that his case be heard in an admiralty court. The Englishmen had sold the goods to prominent merchants in Rhode Island and in Boston, so that, as Fitz-John Winthrop wrote Governor Andros of New York, “severall interests are engaged in ye case on both sides, wch makes much discoarse of what may be ye issue.” The case was tried before the court of assistants, where Wharton apparently conducted his client’s cause with vigor, for Dudley wrote to Fitz-John Winthrop, “Mr. Wharton is hurrying the poor English privateers to jayle & Misery.” He won the case, the court deciding that the vessel must go to its commission port, Petit Guanare, and that the proceeds of any goods already sold from the vessel should be deposited with Lamoyn’s lawyers. It was this case which brought Wharton the reputation of being, as Randolph said of him, “a great undertaker for pirates.”448
All these commercial and legal activities would have kept most men busy enough, but Wharton apparently had a mind always teeming with new ideas which stimulated him to undertake all sorts of enterprises. One of his first great ventures was a scheme for making salt out of sea water. That product was a most important necessity in New England trade because in addition to ordinary domestic uses it was needed as a preservative in the fishing industry. A part of the salt came from Spain and the Straits, and a part came from the island of Tortuga,449 where it was produced by a well-known process. Salt beds were made by selecting a low spot on the shore where shallow pools were formed by high tides. In time the sun evaporated the water, leaving a deposit of the salt. This salt, although of low grade and not usable with “merchantable” fish, was indispensable, particularly for “refuse” fish, which found ready market in the West India trade. When storms destroyed the salt beds or pirates captured the salt-bearing vessels, the New Englanders suffered great inconvenience. Wharton believed, as many New Englanders had before him,450 that salt could be evaporated by the same process along New England shores, and with great profit if production were undertaken by a company. He succeeded in getting men to invest in such an enterprise, and applied to the General Court of Massachusetts for a charter granting monopolistic privileges of production. Not much is known about the later history of this enterprise. However, from the fact that Wharton asked for permission in 1687 to build a wooden salt-house, it seems probable that he, at least, continued permanently in the business. That he had confidence in its possibilities is shown by his later application for a royal monopoly grant.451
Wharton’s next undertaking was a company for the development of naval stores. England had tried to interest the colonies in their production, but had not succeeded with New Englanders, although the northern forests abounded in trees of mast size and in pines suitable for tar products. Therefore there was a good opening for such an enterprise if the promoters could obtain exclusive privileges of production. For this, Wharton applied to the colonies of the New England Confederation in 1670. His petition was granted by Massachusetts and Plymouth for ten years. There is no evidence to show how successful this enterprise was. Presumably little was done with the tar products and the raising of hemp, but there must have been great profit in the lumber and mast business, particularly since shipbuilding was progressing by leaps and bounds.452
The third and largest scheme which Wharton promoted was the organization of a company primarily for developing mines in New England. There had been many previous attempts to discover and mine ore, and in the case of iron, with a fair amount of success. There was a revival of interest in minerals in the eighties, at which time Wharton’s attention was attracted to the possibilities in that line. He began to plan an enterprise on a grand scale, one which included not only mines, but other industries in which he had been concerned for many years, the production of salt and of naval stores. After interesting a number of prominent New Englanders in the undertaking, he went to England, where he found many influential men eager to invest in stock. These he skilfully sifted, turning away the troublesome or doubtful, but encouraging those who had money and influence. Among the latter was Sir John Shorter, the Lord Mayor of London, whose coöperation gave great impetus to the undertaking. Although the company was to be directed from England, Wharton tried to obtain the presidency for his brother-in-law, Wait Winthrop. After the scheme was well launched, Wharton sought the aid and advice of a lord of the Privy Council who had the reputation of being influential with the king, and gave him “specimens of sundry ores and coppers” and of “our balsam, masticke, olibanum, and other my collections which were very pleasing to him.”453 Wharton presented his petition in February, 1688, for a most comprehensive grant of powers. The investors desired incorporation into a joint stock company with monopolistic privileges of mining copper, lead, saltpetre, and of producing salt, drugs, dyeing wares, and all materials for building ships. They asked, in case of discovery of mines, for a grant of land not exceeding seven miles square at a rent of sixpence per hundred acres, and for certain governmental powers, namely: that the company should have its own courts for trial of all civil pleas not exceeding ten pounds and not concerning titles of land, which might arise between their servants and other inhabitants of the colony; that the company should have its own coroner; that all deeds, fines, and forfeitures connected with servants of the company should accrue to the company; and that servants and officers of the company be exempt from jury service outside of the company courts and from military service except in case of invasion or rebellion.454
Wharton and his New England companion, Hutchinson, were well received by the king in council, who referred the petition to a committee. Unfortunately Wharton and Hutchinson quarrelled over the heads of the charter, and while estranged, Hutchinson talked too freely with another group who started a rival movement. This competition, as Wharton wrote, gave “great trouble and delay to our business and abates many advantages we might otherwise have had.” With his usual optimism, Wharton added that the “persons that hath given us the great trouble, will, when things come to a settlement, be managed as a good instrument to promote the prosperity of New England.”455
The Lords of Trade gave “Wharton and others concerned” a hearing, then referred the proposal to the Lords of the Treasury, who in turn consulted the customs commissioners. The latter reported that they saw nothing objectionable in the proposal, provided that the corporation be “restrained from altering the plantation trade as now settled.” The Lords of the Treasury thought it inadvisable to pass such a grant without first receiving the opinion of the governor of New England. The Lords of Trade then referred the petition to the attorney-general, asking for a comparison with the Duke of Albemarle’s grant and for an opinion as to whether the king could legally and with due regard to local constitutions grant them such extensive powers as they desired. The attorney-general reported that the “privileges asked for may legally be granted, and though certainly they would be too great to be granted here in England, yet, since the corporation will reside in England and will be always under the King’s eye, they may be proper enough for a country as yet so unpeopled especially if the corporation were bound to begin to work mines within a limited time.” Blathwayt then instructed him to prepare a draught patent with the exceptions mentioned in the report, and with an additional clause requiring the company to produce some profit to the king as was the case with the Albemarle patent. This draught was made, but had not passed the seals when the revolution against James broke out, and brought procedure temporarily to an end.456
Wharton was chiefly interested in business, but he aspired also to be a large landowner. This ambition was not easy to achieve, because of the method by which New England had been settled and land granted. The original allotments were small, and although a few citizens possessed extensive holdings, these usually comprised a great number of small scattered farms and were not a continuous whole. In fact, in the colonies of the seventeenth century large landowners were rare. In spite of the ease with which land could be obtained in the south, there were comparatively few country gentlemen of the type of William Byrd of Virginia. In New York the Dutch patroon system had left behind some large estates like that of Van Rensselaer, and later English grants there produced a few land princes like Livingston and Courtland. In New England, until the last quarter of the seventeenth century, there were no such examples, although the Atherton Company, formed somewhat earlier, ultimately succeeded in developing a few large estates in the Narragansett Country. Among the members of this company were Fitz-John and Wait Winthrop, Wharton’s brothers-in-law. Jurisdiction of the land held by this company, obtained mostly on a mortgage from the Indians, was claimed by both Connecticut and Rhode Island, so that the border feud between these two colonies, and the rival land claims, made extensive development of the property impossible for some time.457
In 1680 the company, desiring a settlement, appointed Lord Culpeper its agent in England and petitioned the king either to confirm Connecticut’s grant of the Narragansett Country or to add the territory to New Plymouth, or to establish it as a separate province. Wharton and Saffin, acting for the company, instructed Culpeper to ask the king to “commissionate judicious, righteous and uninterested persons to elect a Court of Claims in New England to determine all private claims and pretensions and to ascertain bounds between the colonies.” A special commission was appointed in 1683, headed by Edward Cranfield, governor of New Hampshire, which reported that the title to the soil was vested in the Atherton Company and the jurisdiction belonged to Connecticut. Apparently that decision was ineffectual, for the proprietors again petitioned the king in 1684 for confirmation and establishment under Connecticut “or otherwise.” The next year they declared themselves willing to pay the king two shillings sixpence per hundred acres as a quit-rent and to submit to such regulations as he saw fit. In expectation of the king’s assumption of government there, the proprietors renewed their effort to colonize and at considerable expense established some French Huguenots who came over to America after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. They made many grants of land, reserving a quit-rent on condition that the holder pay whatever acknowledgment the king should ask of the proprietors. The king took no immediate action and the Lords of Trade, to whom the matter was referred, decided to make no recommendation until they received a report from the new governor of New England on the company’s claims.458
Wharton received an Indian grant of land in 1682 in the Nipmuck Country, near the lands of the Atherton Company. After King Philip’s War, large numbers of Indian captives became the property of the United Colonies or of the individual members of the confederation, and were sold or allotted as compensation for war services. Wharton acquired several slaves by these methods, among them an Indian woman who “spake the Maqua tongue.” An Indian named Andrew Pitamy, “upon the great importunity of most of the considerable Christian Indians,” ransomed her, giving to Wharton five hundred acres of land in the Nipmuck Country in exchange. This land was located near the grant made by the General Court of Massachusetts in 1682 to Joseph Dudley and William Stoughton.459
In 1683 Wharton apparently determined to make a bold endeavor to acquire a large estate in Maine, where he could establish a lordship and found a family. His son William was just coming to maturity and Wharton wished to interest him in this project of developing a manor. The time was propitious for such a plan because Massachusetts, through the recent acquisition of the Gorges propriety, now possessed large vacant tracts of land in Maine which she desired to have colonized. Wharton petitioned the General Court for a grant of land on this new frontier as compensation for an unjust court sentence imposed in 1674.460 The court gave him an estate of one thousand acres, but before arrangements were made for laying it out, he asked for an extension. The magistrates voted to grant his petition, but the deputies, who did not like him, refused to do any more than make provision for laying out the one thousand acres already given him. At about the same time, he acquired other tracts by purchase, all in or near Casco Bay, one from Eleazer Way and the heirs of Thomas Purchas, whose title descended from a grant of the Council for New England, another from John Shapleigh, and in 1684 a large piece from six Indian sagamores. These tracts, called the Pejebscot Purchase, comprised an estate of about 500,000 acres.461
A part of the land thus acquired brought with it certain rights of lordship,462 but not the privilege of government which Wharton coveted. Therefore, after the annulment of the Massachusetts charter, he petitioned the king “to take into his Royall Protection and Government” all of his (Wharton’s) purchases and establish them as a manor, regranting them to him with a quit-rent reservation. He asked that all actions arising within the manor be tried there except those involving over one hundred pounds; that he might transport thither people of all nations who wished to come, promising them liberty of religion, English denization, and freedom for five years from arrest for debt if they began improving their estates within a year; and that he might have power to establish ports. He desired also to have exclusive rights of fishing, for with his usual vision he foresaw the possibilities of profit from the fisheries in that region. He apparently expected that the manor would be subject, except in local matters, to the authority of the royal governor soon to be appointed for New England.463
The Lords of Trade were evidently not in favor of granting such extensive privileges as Wharton wished. They were inclined to give him only as much land as he could improve in seven years, with liberty to fish, “so far as not to molest others.” However, they referred his petition to the attorney-general, who reported that Wharton’s draught contained nothing unfit for the king to grant. In spite of this report, the Lords of Trade were reluctant to make the grant without more first-hand information concerning the project, lest by sanctioning “engrossment” of the land, settlement of the region might be hampered. They therefore delayed the final decision until other matters concerning the government of New England should be determined.464
Wharton was also associated with another group in the Million Purchase, a scheme for land speculation on the Merrimac River. In 1685 he, with Joseph Dudley and Samuel Shrimpton, purchased from the chief Indian sachem on the Merrimac River a large estate, about six by ten miles square on each side of the river, including the river and all islands and other rivers issuing into the Merrimac, with sole right of salmon fishing, free fishing with angles and nets, free hunting, and all rights, privileges, royalties, etc. This land the three then sold to Charles Lidgett, John Blackwell, and Shrimpton in trust for a company of twenty stockholders, partly colonial and partly English. The investors put in twenty pounds apiece and were to share the land and profits equally. Before any of the land could be disposed of to other persons, twenty “parcels,” each consisting of five thousand acres of the best, were to be set apart for themselves. To give the undertaking greater security than could the registration of titles in the colony, the promoters decided to seek royal confirmation with quit-rent reservation. In order to “grease the wheels” for speedy patent procedure, Dudley and Shrimpton, two of the trustees, presented William Blathwayt, secretary to the Lords of Trade, with a share. He must have accepted it, else, if one could trust Dudley’s letter, the petition would not have been presented to the king. At any rate, his influence did not produce results, for no royal action was ever taken on the petition. As will be seen later, all these undertakings concerning land and mines were so bound up with the political events of the period following the annulment of the charter, that they must be considered with those events.465
Wharton’s interest in the commercial and land enterprises was dependent on more than the material success he hoped they would bring. He enjoyed “playing the game,” as his buoyant and enthusiastic letters testify. His imagination, power of organization, courage in taking risks, ability to inspire confidence in prospective investors, driving force, tireless energy, optimism, are all characteristics of the successful captain of industry. His interest in seeing the country developed, the mineral treasures discovered, the natural resources utilized, the commerce expanded, make this English promoter of the seventeenth century, in spite of his social distinction, seem very like the American frontier townsman of the nineteenth century, who would with little else than faith buy up large tracts of land for speculation, establish a real estate office, a bank, a store, and perhaps a newspaper, and at once step into a position of leadership which his vision had won for him.
Wharton was an economic imperialist, interested in business as a source of private wealth, of public prosperity, and of national expansion. This point of view often brought him into conflict with the Puritans, who were concerned primarily with their religious experiment and with maintaining their institutions in isolation and nominal independence of the mother country. One of the most conspicuous of these clashes came at the time of the Dutch capture of New York in 1673. Massachusetts at once assumed a position of neutrality, but Connecticut sent a letter to the Dutch officials at New York in the name of the United Colonies, threatening retaliatory measures if encroachments on New England territory were attempted. The United Commissioners endorsed the Connecticut letter, which Connecticut now sent to Massachusetts. The Massachusetts General Court was immediately called in special session, and instead of coöperation with the other colonies voted not to “engage in the concernes thereof, further then the making provision for our oune safety.”466 Massachusetts also ignored the king’s proclamation of war against the Dutch, which had ordered all English subjects to make hostile attacks on the enemy’s commerce. Wharton and other merchants who had suffered commercial losses at the hands of the Dutch and wished to indemnify themselves by privateering, appealed to the General Court for letters of reprisal. Their petition was denied. From these and other incidents, it was evident that Massachusetts intended to follow a policy of peace at any price.467
Wharton could not understand the General Court’s attitude, and interpreted it as a treasonable position. Believing that the colonies would do nothing toward the recapture of New York, he wrote to English friends at court urging that the mother country send over a force and order the colonies to coöperate in conquering the province in the interests of the trade and defence of the empire. In a most eloquent letter he reminded the king —
wt a fair foundation was here lately laid for the Royall ofspring of Great Brittain to build a most glorious empire upon, nor need I to you enumerate the many usefull & rich commodityes yt nature affords & yt Art & Industry may produce in these plantations: Onely this I confidently tell you & am ꝑsuaded that though these pts of the world are disesteemed by the Princes of Europe, yet if the most potent among them were seated with their subjects upon this continent it would be more difficult to psuade them to returne to their ancient Dominions then now it is to remove them thence.
He feared that the inhabitants of the northern and southern colonies were so “familiarized to the Dutch by trade, & converse, that all will not believe they are their enemyes. And having such a convenient place of shelter & resort for their shipping his Majesty’s subjects will be universally infested if not overrun & conquered in their Plantation & destroyed in their navigation.” When the Massachusetts government heard that Wharton had informed the king “what the Dutch did on the coast and how he conceived it might be remedied, [he] was taken as no friend to New England and his letters stopped.” They thought him disloyal to the colony because he might have involved it in war, and because he urged England to interfere in what they believed to be exclusively within the jurisdiction of the colony to decide.468
That he had considerable influence in England, they were well aware, which made him all the more to be feared. In this particular case, his suggestions, supported as they were by memorials from other colonists, would have been carried out but for the sudden ending of the war. The Lords of Trade were convinced of the danger that New England inhabitants, “being more intent upon ye advancement of their owne private trade then ye publique Interest of yor Maties crowne and Government may if ye Dutch continue a quiet possession there enter into commerce with them” and lay the foundation for later union with Holland. They therefore recommended the recapture of New York. Their fears were justified, for a few months later, the States General instructed the governor of New Netherland to try, in spite of the war, to negotiate a treaty of commerce with the English colonies.469
The Massachusetts government was even more displeased with Wharton because of his defiance of its refusal to grant him letters of reprisal. News reached Wharton that a small Dutch vessel had fallen by accident into the hands of the Nantucket authorities. After having brought it into the harbor for repairs, its Dutch officers had abandoned it, and Molines, one of the crew, had claimed a part of the goods on the ground that he was an English denizen. The court at Nantucket without condemning the vessel, decided against Molines’s claims. At this juncture, Wharton, “seeing such a fair & facil way for the purchasing & obtaining the sd ship & goods,” with three other merchants bought it of the Nantucket authorities. As a protection against the enemy in case of capture, the associates secured from a Captain Anderson a licence of reprisal granted him by Colonel Stapleton, lieutenant-governor of the Leeward Islands, and pretended that the vessel had been seized by virtue of its authority. As soon as they could repair the Expectation, they planned to send it to an admiralty court for condemnation according to the terms of the licence. While the vessel was at Plymouth for repairs, Molines again laid claim to a part of the goods. The Plymouth governor apparently did not care to become involved in the admiralty intricacies of the case, and since the possessors were having difficulty in getting the repairs made, it was mutually agreed that they be allowed to give bond to take the Expectation to Boston and from thence to send it with the claimants to some other port and court of admiralty.470
The associates then applied to the governor and council at Boston for permission to bring the vessel into the harbor, for security against molestation while there, and for a passport hence for the “common port.” The governor and council gave a noncommittal answer that the associates should have all the favor that justice and the law would allow. After the ship’s arrival at Boston, Molines again insisted upon his English denization and succeeded in getting restraints placed on a part of the goods.471
In the meantime the Dutch governor-general and the council of war at New York, upon hearing that the Expectation, commanded by Captain Vonck, was lying dismasted near Nantucket, had sent Captain Ewoutsen to rescue it with instructions not to attack any New England vessels unless the Expectation had been captured. If it had been, which they thought unlikely, then he was to “attack, capture, or endeavor to destroy all English boats and craft whencesoever they may be.” Ewoutsen of course found the vessel gone and so captured four New England ketches in retaliation. One of them, the Providence, on its way from Virginia, was, ironically enough, freighted with forty-seven tubs of tobacco for “Wharton and Company.” The Dutch governor and council, on examining the skippers of the captured ketches, October 29, 1673, learned with satisfaction that the seizure of the Expectation had been without the consent of the Boston authorities, under an English commission. They released the officers and crews and paid their expenses to Rhode Island, but later, to the chagrin of the Massachusetts authorities, declared the ketches forfeited.472
The Massachusetts government heard with surprise of the Dutch attacks on New England commerce and wrote a letter to the council at New York demanding a return of the vessels and men. When it learned of the existence of the Stapleton commission and the serious consequences of its use, the General Court, in order to protect the colony’s shipping, declared an embargo on all vessels and started an investigation concerning the commission. Wharton and associates found themselves in a most unhappy situation. Their wilfulness in seeking, against the authority of the General Court, compensation for losses sustained from the Dutch, had involved them in greater loss, and the colony in a state of commercial war with the Dutch. They had become the centre of governmental and popular wrath and were in danger not only of losing the Expectation by an adverse decision in court, but also of being severely punished for disobedience.473
The associates, much concerned at the turn of affairs, now made an effort to vindicate themselves by sending the governor and council a deposition explaining their actions. They claimed that the king’s declaration of war obligated the inhabitants of the colony to attack the commerce of the enemy, in spite of which the deputies had refused to grant them letters of reprisal, against the wishes of most of the magistrates. They explained how and why they got possession of the ship, and denied Molines’s claim of denization, asserting that he betrayed the vessel first to the Dutch and then to the English, for his own profit. They made a plea for protection “from the injury of such persons as being too amicably inclined to our enemies will be too easily prejudiced against us,” and requested that a court of admiralty be constituted for the trial of the ship, adding significantly, that they were most desirous “to render to the country in his majesty’s and admirals behalf, such dividends and parts of the sd ship and goods as belong to them.” If the request for trial were not granted, they asked for permission to take the vessel to their commission port.474
The General Court, though very angry with Wharton and associates, decided not to become involved in the case, possibly hoping that the Dutch would be able to distinguish between English and Massachusetts authority.475 In spite of the embargo, the court on December 10 gave the associates liberty to fit the ship for England and ordered that it be carried into one of his majesty’s courts of admiralty there for trial. At its January meeting, “for some weighty reasons,” it annulled the December order and introduced a radical change in the practice of handling admiralty matters. It is probable that the authorities desired to have the trial in the colony to prevent the associates from an almost certain award in an English court, but at the same time they took precautions to offer them no cause for challenging the authority of the court on the grounds of its not proceeding according to English admiralty law. Moreover, if commercial warfare with the Dutch continued, other cases would be coming to trial and the colony might be called to account by England for not acting in conformity with English maritime law and custom. Whatever the cause, the General Court passed a law providing that “henceforth all cases of admiralty shall be heard and determined by the Court of Assistants and to be Issued by the Bench without a Jury; unless the court shall see cause to the contrary.” Wharton and associates, denied a pass to go to their commission port, asked for judication in this court, but Molines and his crew, preferring a jury trial, petitioned successfully against it. Meanwhile the war ended, the embargo was lifted, and the colony returned to its former method of trying admiralty cases by jury. After a long delay, the court of assistants, in June, 1674, referred the associates to the observance of their bond with Plymouth, but the latter could not get away, because Molines and the other claimants still detained the goods. Finally an order came from the king to the authorities at Boston ordering them to send the vessel to England for trial.476
Early in the spring of 1674 a new case developed out of the old. In February, Wharton and associates published with the notary public a protest against the delays caused them by Molines and his crew. This protest incensed the authorities and for the time being sidetracked the real issue. The governor and council declared it reprehensible “as confronting the government and laws of this colony and in particular the infringement of the jurisdiction of the admiralty court here established.” The associates declared, also before a notary, that they had no intention of reflecting upon the authority of the government there or questioning the power of the local admiralty court, but that they aimed only to criticize those persons who had assisted the claimants in “their injurious and illegal attempts and proceedings.” The matter was now taken up in General Court, which moved to re-examine the declaration submitted in December and reported finding “many expressions therein that are deeply reflecting upon the authority of this court, & upon severall members of it.” The associates were brought to trial before the General Court, convicted and penalized, Wharton more severely than the rest because he was the leader. He was to be “solemnly admonished,” disabled from pleading any cause but his own and that of Samuel Bellingham, and to pay thirty pounds toward expenses. The others were to receive “solemn admonishment” and pay only five pounds expenses.477
The episode of the Expectation illustrates well the contrast between the men who thought as Wharton did and the Massachusetts government, as to the conceptions of the relationship of the colonies to the mother country. The latter wished to have entire control of all matters of government, believing that the sovereignty rested with the colony, while Wharton’s party thought of all the colonies as England’s frontier, believing that the sovereignty was with England, who had delegated to the colonies only the authority in local government, reserving control in such matters of imperial concern as trade and defence. In the particular case of the Dutch War, the Puritans who dominated the Massachusetts government preferred to preserve the peace, in spite of England’s orders, and believed the colony could thus determine its own action. Wharton and associates, seeing the war as an imperial affair, believed it not only their right but their patriotic duty to attack the commerce of the Dutch, and made the mistake of defying the local authorities by seizing the Expectation under an outside commission. They then stirred the factional fires in the General Court by using in self-defence the indiscreet remarks of some of the pro-English magistrates and by accusing the deputies who believed in Molines’s denization, of Dutch sympathies and disloyalty to the mother country. Finally they turned the government against them by making insinuations against the authority of the local admiralty court and insisting on English admiralty law.
The Dutch War and the problems it brought in its wake had barely passed when King Philip’s War broke out. Wharton, like many other pro-English colonials, found much to criticize in its management, which suffered from the usual defects of the system of defence in New England. The United Commissioners were able at times to bring about mutual coöperation of the four colonies in the confederation, but frequently Massachusetts determined her own course without regard for what such action might mean to her confederates. Late in 1675 the commissioners decided to attack the Narragansetts, whom they suspected of being in league with Philip. Connecticut’s representatives asked Wharton to send provisions from Boston for the supply of the garrison on Richard Smith’s estate, and a force of a thousand men was raised under the command of Winslow, the governor of Plymouth. This expedition was successful against the Narragansetts, but a second expedition sent early in 1676 to pursue them failed because of lack of provisions. After the withdrawal of the forces, a garrison of troops of the United Colonies was left at Richard Smith’s house to protect the region, but the “Councill of Boston (to the great Surprise of many People)” refused to maintain it. The troops after using up their supplies went home, and shortly afterward the Indians destroyed the house and other buildings. All through the war, the examples of selfishness, lack of coöperation, failure to organize the commissary, and poor leadership were many, as the records testify. Wharton was extremely dubious about the outcome because, though he had much respect for the fighting qualities of the soldiers, he had little confidence in the ability of the commanders to direct the forces and to organize the resources of the colonies effectively. His experiences in connection with the two wars made him fear that “except God give greater wisdom to their rulers or put it into the King’s heart to rule and relieve them, the colonies will soon be ruined and they reduced to the necessity of subjecting upon any terms to any that will protect them.” In the same letter he added, with his characteristic frankness and lack of tact, “Our Governor is crazy in body and many are so in their heads.”478
Wharton and others of the pro-English group, freemen and non-freemen, were much concerned over the selfish particularism which made Massachusetts reluctant to spend resources of men and money on the protection of a neighboring colony unless there was actual danger to Massachusetts territory. Also they were irritated by the government’s lack of interest in big business and land enterprises. For these reasons, they desired to get into power. The freemen among them preferred to do this by election to office without charter changes, while the non-free like Wharton advocated the establishment of a royal government which would adequately protect their interests, and in which they would be represented. They used every opportunity to express their opinions discreetly to royal officials in England and in the colonies, urging royalization and some provision for intercolonial action.479 The pressure from this discontented element exerted a great influence on the Lords of Trade, who gradually in the decade after 1675 came to the decision that economically and politically Massachusetts would never fit into England’s colonial system unless the charter were annulled. The colony’s gradual assumption of powers not granted by charter offered legal excuse for quo warranto procedure, which the lords instituted in 1683.
While the prominent non-freemen like Wharton were urging royalization, certain moderate Puritans, who after 1680 dominated in the council, were trying to prevent the leaders of the house of deputies from open defiance of the mother country. Upon the arrival of the king’s declaration of 1683, announcing the immediate regulation of the government and promising only slight changes if the colony would submit, those who favored a middle course urged surrendering the charter. The house of deputies, incensed at such treason, hired an agent to defend the charter at law.480 When the question arose in Boston town meeting, the champions of the charter won by strategy. Apparently they could not tell how many citizens desired compromise, and they feared the strength of the coalition of the pro-English freemen with the non-freemen, who could vote in town meeting except in the elections of deputies to the General Court. So the question was raised whether non-freemen should be allowed to vote on what was really a colony question, and was decided in the negative. Wharton, checkmated, withdrew in anger, accompanied by his followers among the non-freemen. After their departure, the vote on Mather’s question was taken, whereupon someone fervently exclaimed, “The Lord be praised! Not a man held up his hand for the delivering up of the charter.”481
The triumph of the advocates of the charter was short-lived. While they were setting fast days and defying England, the non-freemen were busy with suggestions for royalizing Massachusetts. Wharton’s active mind seized upon this opportunity to send to the Lords of Trade “proposals for regulation of New England” and for the establishment of a royal government. Its organs were to be a general governor, council, and assembly, the governor and council to be also a supreme judiciary with appellate powers from inferior courts, from which appeals could be taken to the Privy Council, as in the other royal colonies. Suffrage laws were to be the same as in England, which would transfer the control of government from the Congregationalists to the propertied classes. To make the change of government acceptable, Wharton advocated general pardon to all who should submit, religious indulgence, confirmation of property, continuation of Harvard College, and preservation of all laws not contrary to those of England. Wharton’s personal interest was responsible for one rather unusual suggestion. He proposed that the king appoint a registrar-general of lands in order to further the development of mineral resources, and incorporate a company for making pitch, tar, resin, and gums.482
Wharton’s plan of government for New England was strikingly like that which the Lords of Trade finally adopted, with, however, the very important difference that in the latter the representative assembly was omitted. Who was responsible for the idea of consolidation, it is difficult to tell. At any rate, the Lords of Trade decided upon a single royal province whose relationship to the mother country should be clearly defined in the governor’s commission and instructions. By this means important imperial interests such as trade and defence would be safeguarded and the right of England to regulate them recognized on both sides of the Atlantic. To pave the way for so great a change, the lords established a provisional government in May, 1686.
Wharton was the dominating personality of the small group of wealthy merchants and “grandees” to whom the reins of government were temporarily entrusted. He was related to six of them by marriage,483 he was associated with six of them in the Million Purchase,484 and with three of them in the Atherton Company,485 while at least five besides himself were well-known merchants.486 Fortunately for the success of the provisional government Wharton was not chosen president. Although exceedingly able and well-fitted to direct the economic policy of the new government, he lacked sufficient diplomacy to make the change of government acceptable to the supporters of the old régime. Since the provisional government was established primarily as a bridge between the old and the new order of things, it was wise to choose someone as nominal leader who was more popular than Wharton with the majority of the Congregationalists. Joseph Dudley, the son of one of the colony’s founders, but withal as pro-English as Wharton himself, was selected.
These men were able to control not only the central, but also to a great extent the local government. The council had very extensive powers, for it was the sole legislative, administrative, and judicial machinery. It acted as supreme court, besides which each councillor served as justice in the inferior court of his own district. Its members likewise monopolized all of the other principal offices in the province. By commissions from England, Randolph was made collector of the customs, surveyor of the woods, deputy postmaster, and, to Wharton’s chagrin, secretary and registrar, for Wharton, because of his land and mining interest, had hoped to receive that commission himself. Instead, he was appointed judge of the new admiralty court, a post which gave him great power over the enforcement of the navigation acts.487 By council appointment, Usher was made treasurer, Stoughton deputy president, Wait Winthrop major-general of the militia, and Bulkley provost marshal-general.488
Wharton’s ideal of a government directing and encouraging business was realized in the provisional government. It appointed a great and standing committee of trade which was really a league of town committees, among whose members were included some of the resident councillors.489 It sent an agent to petition for changes in the new sugar imposts, and for the privilege of coining money.490 Furthermore, it sanctioned the bank of credit scheme, hoping that by providing a medium of currency the bank would be a great benefit to commerce.491 It forbade private individuals to trade with the Indians for furs anywhere in the Dominion except in New Hampshire without a licence from the government. However, Wharton himself was able to get from the council monopolistic privileges for the fur trade in his new Pejebscot Purchase.492
Wharton likewise found the new government as favorably disposed towards land speculation as towards commerce. The Million Purchase Company of which he and six other councillors were members petitioned the government to confirm its purchases in New Hampshire and to grant an addition in Massachusetts, including the townships of Concord, Chelmsford, Groton, Lancaster, Stow, and Dunstable, all to be formed into a county by the name of Merrimac, reserving the privilege of challenge to those who claimed rights to the soil. The president and council granted this petition.493 Of still greater interest to Wharton was the new government’s championship of the Atherton Company. The king had erected the Narragansett Country into a county and had added it as a separate unit to the Dominion. The president and council, in making a governmental settlement there, appointed three justices, two of whom were John Fones and Richard Smith, prominent resident proprietors. The latter was also commissionated sergeant-major and commanderin-chief of the militia of the county. The president and council then established a special commission to go to the Narragansett Country to “assert the authority granted by his Majesty’s Commission & to prevent the Road Islanders further incursions.” Of the fifteen members of this commission, five were councillors and seven were proprietors of the Atherton Company, Wharton and his brother-in-law Fitz-John Winthrop being both councillors and proprietors. The commission met at the home of Richard Smith at Rochester494 and after settling governmental affairs, took up the matter of land titles. Provision was made that squatters on the lands of the Atherton Company should treat with the proprietors or their committee, from whose decision they could appeal to the president and council.495 This committee, consisting of Wharton, Hutchinson, and Saffin, met with much hostility and hatred from the poor squatters who could show no title to the soil and who were dispossessed. One of them was arrested for calling Major Smith “a great fat gutted Rouge a dogg,” and Wharton “another fatt gutted Rouge a doublebelled dogg, … as for that Saffin, he did not well know what to make of him, but took him to be a Cunning Cheating Curr, but as for that Huchenson he thought he was a pretty honnest fellow but he fearred none so much as that Rouge Wharton.”496
In spite of their policy of self-interest the councillors met with very little opposition in their brief enjoyment of power. The probable explanation is that they took care to interfere as little as possible with the existing religious and political customs and practices. They believed that it was a great mistake on England’s part to remove the representative assembly, and at the very beginning of their administration petitioned England for re-establishment of representative government. It was this understanding of, and sympathy with, governmental and religious privileges, which made the administration a successful bridge between the old charter government and the Andros administration which followed. Because of this success, the councillors stood high in the favor of the Lords of Trade, and in spite of Randolph’s complaints they were all included in Andros’s council.497
Wharton held as prominent a place in the Andros government as in the provisional, and apparently expected very little if any change in the new administration’s economic and political interest. He and his friends were soon disillusioned, for they found that Andros blocked all their schemes for commercial profit and land aggrandizement. Andros vigorously enforced the navigation acts, he practically eliminated piracy, in which the Massachusetts ring were accused of being involved,498 and he opposed all attempts to regulate the currency. Wharton, like other merchants, was anxious to have the new government make a satisfactory settlement of the troublesome money question. The closing of the mint after the annulment of the charter had made money very scarce, because it decreased the actual amount in circulation. Hence money was the crying need when the pro-English party came into power. To their disappointment, the Lords of Trade decided not to grant the petition of the president and council for the privilege of coining money.499
The one remaining hope of the merchants was to improve currency conditions by a judicious regulation of the value of foreign and domestic coins, so they tried to persuade Andros to take some action to prevent the little money that was left from being transported out of the colony. Wharton presented a paper to the council in which he had worked out an intricate scheme for raising the value of both domestic and foreign money in such a ratio that neither would have a disastrous effect on the other, but both would remain in the colony. The farmers opposed this proposal because they believed it would be the same as reducing the price of agricultural products. Andros, interpreting his instructions too strictly, refused to allow any such change. Thus the merchants were worse off as to the money question than they had been under the old government, because the Dominion government would not regulate foreign coinage and was forbidden to coin money.500
The adverse settlement of the matter had a serious effect on commerce at a time when the latter was having many other difficulties. The strict enforcement of the acts of trade greatly reduced the amount of illegal foreign trade, by which articles were obtained for the purchase of enumerated products in the southern and island colonies. Consequently there was a decrease in the amount of enumerated products purchased, which in turn affected the trade with the mother country, a trade in which the colonies paid usually in enumerated products or hard money. Very soon the little money that had remained in the province was drained off, so now the merchants had neither money nor sufficient enumerated products to use in exchange trade with England. The result was most disastrous. Merchant after merchant went bankrupt and shops were closing every day in Boston. Even Wharton with all his wealth was almost impoverished. The reason for the alienation of the merchant class against Andros is therefore apparent.501
Wharton was as concerned over Andros’s disapproval of land speculation as he was over his lack of understanding of business problems. Although the Lords of Trade had empowered Andros to grant the lands which had reverted to the king upon the charter cancellation, they reserved to themselves action on the petitions from Wharton and the land companies, probably because of the size of the coveted tracts. However, they decided to ask Andros to investigate the claims of the petitioners and to give his advice concerning the wisdom of making such extensive grants.502 Andros reported adversely. The titles to the Million Purchase he found were based mostly on Indian grants or purchases, and consequently worthless legally. Of the many claims to the Narragansett Country, he believed only those of Rhode Island valid, but since Wharton had made improvements on a part of it, Andros reported that he had granted to him about seventeen hundred acres, reserving to the king a quit-rent of ten shillings per annum. Andros urged the Lords of Trade to settle the claims of the proprietors as soon as possible, so that the land could be patented to others who were in possession and to those who would make settlements.503 Concerning Wharton’s Pejebscot Purchase, Andros reported that the titles were defective, and he expressed his disapproval of granting large tracts to individuals because it hindered settlement.504
Andros’s opposition to what he called the “engrossment of large tracts of land” affected the “grandees,” as his commercial and currency policy had the great merchants. Unwisely he had antagonized the two classes which had at the outset supported his administration. One more false step united the large and small landowners alike in opposition to him. By his instructions he was given discretionary power to reserve quit-rents in confirming old titles to land. He apparently thought it necessary to force a recognition of English land law, partly to correct defective titles and partly to curb the spirit of independence. Confirmation of title required payment of fees. Coming at a time when money was scarce, this fee naturally was a great hardship for the small landowner, and still worse for the large landowner, who was required to take out a separate title for every piece of land. For Wharton the policy was ruinous. Added to the financial burden of his recent extensive land purchases in Maine and to considerable money invested in the settlement of the Narragansett Country, he must now pay many fees for confirmation of his titles and quit-rents of two shillings sixpence for every hundred acres of land. And all this at a time when the decline in trade and the scarcity of money threatened to wreck the fortune which he had invested in commerce. The work of his whole life was threatened with destruction by this unfortunate combination of events. Wharton felt that nothing could be done with Andros, who plainly could not see the harm he was doing. Wharton therefore determined to go to England at once to see what could be achieved through his influence at court.505
Arrived in England, Wharton worked with his customary vigor and shrewdness for the land patents and the chartering of the mining company. He had to admit in a letter to Wait Winthrop in November, 1687, that he had “made noe ꝑgess in any business of concernmt,” but he reported optimistically that “some lords and persons of quality” who had seen Andros’s report thought “it may prove more to our advantage then was intended.”506 He had great confidence in Lord Culpeper, the official agent of the Atherton Company, who promised “to make ye best out.” Two months later, Lord Culpeper, apparently convinced that no royal patent to the company would be forthcoming, petitioned the king to instruct Andros to confirm to the proprietors as individuals the lands they had purchased, the whole not to exceed 60,000 acres and to be surveyed at their own cost. The petition was referred to the Lords of Trade, who recommended granting it on condition that the usual quit-rents be reserved and that all disputes which Andros could not decide be referred to Whitehall. Practically the same decision was made concerning the Million Purchase and the Pejebscot estate. No royal grants were made, but instead, it was left to Andros to confirm such titles as seemed to him advisable, having a regard for the other claimants and the squatters.507
As has been previously noted, Wharton’s efforts in behalf of the mining company brought results, but not without delay and modification of the original plan. Wharton, as usual, overreached himself in asking that the company be given such extensive privileges and powers. Had the charter draught been simpler at the outset it is probable that it would have passed the seals before it was overtaken by the revolution.
After many months of hard work, Wharton’s hope of settlement of the land projects slowly faded away. It became apparent that everything hinged on Andros, since the Lords of Trade would make no decision without his advice. Only one thing remained to be done, and that was to work for Andros’s removal, and for the appointment of someone who better understood New England conditions. Consequently Wharton began to coöperate with those who, under the leadership of Increase Mather, were in England petitioning the king for changes in the Dominion government. James promised certain religious and economic concessions, but would give no hope of extensive political reforms. Then came the signs of approaching revolution, and Wharton again became hopeful. “Great Revolutions seem to be hasting on,” he wrote his brother-in-law, “out of which New England may, I hope, find deliverance.”508 But after the revolution Mather petitioned for the restoration of the old charter with grant of additional powers, a thing that Wharton and his friends could not approve. Nor did the Lords of Trade, who were already considering a more extensive use of the Dominion principle in the colonies.509 They recommended in the spring of 1689 the removal of Andros and the appointment of a new governor of New England, New York, and the Jerseys. An order in council followed and the lords were directed to consider candidates for the position.510 Again there was hope of an administration sympathetic toward business interests and the land projects. Moreover, the mining enterprise would receive the favorable attention which investors could not give it when there was uncertainty and danger of return to the former colonial governments in New England. However, almost immediately the charter supporters began to fight this decision. At this critical time, when only careful generalship could save his own fortune and give any chance of permanent political success to the moderates, Wharton, worn out by the strain and worry of the last two years, became ill, and died on May 14, 1689. He left to his family an estate so heavily burdened with debt that two of his daughters, Sarah and Bethia, were later forced to support themselves by keeping a little shop in Boston.511
To make the tragedy of his death more complete, shortly afterward news arrived of the Boston revolution, an event which marked the ruin of the Dominion government which Wharton had helped to build. Mather now used this report to strengthen the charter cause. If Wharton had lived, those who thought with him would have had as able a leader at court as the charter supporters had in Mather,512 and the scales which balanced uncertainly when the king first heard of the revolt, might have settled on the side of the Wharton faction and the Dominion, against the revolutionists, as in New York. In New England there still remained a considerable number of people who preferred the Dominion government to the old charter régime, in spite of the efforts made by adherents of the latter to win their support by a great extension of the suffrage in the months following the revolution. Charter champions insisted that only about a seventh of the inhabitants favored the Dominion, but even if this were true the minority represented a group strong through wealth and social position. Lacking leaders, their efforts were scattered and without effect. They were unable to prevent the permanent disintegration of the Dominion and the return to charter government.513
The royal charter of 1691, because it did not restore the Congregationalists to their former political power, marks an epoch in the constitutional development of Massachusetts. The king reserved the right to choose the, governor and gave the suffrage to property-holders. Because of these provisions, the two parties were more evenly balanced in the eighteenth century than in the seventeenth. Never again was the suffrage denied to substantial propertied men like Wharton because of religious nonconformity, nor was it possible for a small aristocratic ring to control the government in the interests of its members. Both parties changed somewhat, — the one losing its decidedly pro-English attitude, the other modifying its separatistic religious and anti-English position. Moreover, new issues brought new alignments and new factions. However, the general character of the eighteenth-century parties was largely determined by the two rival groups of the seventeenth century, — the pro-English, and the supporters of the old charter government. Wharton was typical of the one group, Increase Mather of the other.514 The seventeenth-century Puritans have bequeathed to us a rich inheritance of ideals, but we owe much also to those other colonial Englishmen who saw New England, not as a place of refuge for a chosen people, but as the frontier of England, with the governmental principles of the mother country transplanted and modified to suit the conditions of the new world. From both of these strands the fabric of New England life and institutions was woven.
Mr. Lawrence Shaw Mayo presented the following communication on
JOHN LANGDON’S SPEECH
A NEW HAMPSHIRE TRADITION
God bless New Hampshire! — from her granite peaks
Once more the voice of Stark and Langdon speaks.
So exclaimed Whittier in the opening lines of an anti-slavery poem which he wrote about 1845. Few of us are likely to quarrel with the poet for giving New Hampshire his benediction, or for identifying General Stark with the voice of freedom. But what claim to fame has John Langdon of Portsmouth, that his name should be linked with that of Stark? He was, to be sure, a leader of the bold party that captured Fort William and Mary and removed the powder in broad daylight in December, 1774. But for that matter so was John Sullivan of Durham. Langdon was for a time a member of the Continental Congress, as were at least a half-dozen other New Hampshire worthies during the war. He was present at Burgoyne’s surrender in 1777;515 but it was Whipple who shared with Stark the command of the New Hampshire militia, and it was Whipple who was one of those appointed to sign the articles of capitulation when Burgoyne had made up his mind to yield.516
Whence, then, this preëminence of John Langdon which entitles him as a revolutionary hero to take his place beside Stark? The answer is: He is said to have financed with his own resources Stark’s expedition in the summer of 1777, the expedition that more than justified itself at Bennington. If Langdon did this, Whittier was right and the name of Langdon may well be ranked with that of John Stark whenever New Hampshire’s revolutionary history is brought to mind.
What happened was briefly this. When the unexpected news of the abandonment of Ticonderoga by the American army reached Exeter the leaders of the revolutionary party were greatly disturbed, and well they might be. With Ticonderoga gone there was no reason to suppose that Burgoyne would not invade the New Hampshire Grants and New Hampshire itself. Something must be done, and it must be done at once. The Committee of Safety called an immediate meeting of the Assembly. The Assembly including the Council met as a Committee of the Whole and discussed the critical situation. The scheme agreed upon was to divide the whole militia of the state into two brigades. Whipple was to command one and Stark the other. Then every fourth man in Stark’s brigade and in three of the regiments under Whipple’s command was to be drafted into immediate military service for two months for the defence of the frontier. Of this force Stark was to be the commander, and every drafted man was to receive one month’s pay in advance. All this was very practical, but it meant an immediate outlay of about seven thousand pounds at a time when there was almost no money in the treasury.517 John Langdon was a well-to-do merchant and shipbuilder of Portsmouth. He was also the speaker of the House of Representatives. Somehow Stark’s rustic army was raised, and a month later the fight at Bennington determined Burgoyne not to attempt another foray in the direction of New Hampshire.
These are the bare facts of the special session of July 17–19, 1777, and its direct consequences. But biographers and historians have not been content with the bare facts. The situation held dramatic possibilities and posterity has developed them to the utmost. The most interesting development is the speech which Langdon is said to have made when he offered to finance Stark’s expedition. You may read it in any one of a dozen books, but probably it appears at its best in Trevelyan’s American Revolution.518
Their Speaker, John Langdon of Portsmouth, [wrote Trevelyan] addressed them in words which it is well to quote in full as a specimen of the oratory employed during those sternly practical times, in the unsophisticated regions situated to the North of the Merrimac River. “I have,” he said, “three thousand dollars in hard money. I will pledge my plate for three thousand more. I have seventy hogsheads of Tobago rum, which shall be sold for the most it will bring. These are at the service of the State. If we succeed in defending our homes, I may be remunerated; if we do not, the property will be of no value to me. Our old friend Stark, who so nobly sustained the honour of our State at Bunker’s Hill, may be safely entrusted with the conduct of the enterprise, and we will check the progress of Burgoyne.”
It is worth noting that, in the many nineteenth-century works in which these patriotic phrases have been repeated, the accepted version of them seems to have been that established in 1834 by Edward Everett in his Life of John Stark in Jared Sparks’s American Biography.519
Where did Everett find the story and to a certain extent the rhetoric? This I found to be a difficult question. Belknap, writing in the 1780’s, when Langdon was at the height of his popularity, mentioned neither his speech nor his patriotic offer, — though Langdon was a subscriber to Belknap’s admirable History of New Hampshire. On the other hand the Marquis de Chastellux, who drank tea with Langdon at Portsmouth one November afternoon in 1782 — just five years and a few months after the incident in question — seems to have heard of a speech made by Langdon at some time during Burgoyne’s campaign. According to him Langdon addressed the Assembly in these words: “Gentlemen, you may talk as long as you please, but I know that the enemy is on our frontiers, and that I am going to take my pistols, and mount my horse, to combat with my fellow-citizens.”520
For forty years after the publication of Chastellux’s Travels I find no quotation of Langdon’s speech, even in the eulogies which followed his death in 1819. Suddenly in 1828 it bobs up again. On July 4 of that year Isaac Hill, delivering a pro-Jackson harangue before the Republicans of Portsmouth, played upon local pride whenever he could do so. Hill was a Jacksonian, a Concord man, a politician, and the editor of The New Hampshire Patriot. What is more, he was, in 1828, the Democratic candidate for the United States Senate. The most conspicuous Democrat Portsmouth had thus far produced was John Langdon, and Hill took care that no one in the audience should fail to see the political connection between Langdon and Jackson. Among other references to Langdon’s glorious record he related an incident which he said “the late Judge Walker of Concord,” who was “a member of the provincial assembly” in 1777, had often told. The following is Isaac Hill’s version of the story:
Intelligence was received that Burgoyne’s army was marching down upon our infant settlements, through the then wilds of Vermont, and that his was a war of extermination. Consternation palsied every bosom: the men shuddered and attempted to conceal their fears — women and children broke forth in shrieks of agony. The provincial legislature was in session at Exeter when the appalling news arrived: the members of that body were discouraged and disheartened. The public credit was gone — they had not the means to subsist a regiment, if they could raise one: the men of New-Hampshire had already gone to what they supposed the full length of their ability. Langdon was speaker of the assembly; and on the instant he makes this proposition: “I have (said he) three thousand dollars in hard money — I will pledge the plate in my house for three thousand more; and I have seventy hogsheads of Tobago rum which shall be disposed of for what it will bring. — These, and the avails of these, are at the service of the State; if we defend our homes and our fire sides, I may get my pay — if we do not defend them, property will be of no value to me.”521
Hill’s address was printed at Concord in 1828. The similarity of his version of Langdon’s speech to that given by Everett in his Life of Stark, published six years later, is so striking that one can hardly believe that Everett did more than to polish and amplify the somewhat raw material which he found in Hill’s harangue. Besides polishing it he put into Langdon’s mouth an additional glowing phrase or two about “our old friend Stark who so nobly sustained the honor of our State at Bunker’s Hill.” Where Everett found that additional sentence I have been unable to discover; but when one considers that he was writing a life of Stark, to which Langdon was only incidental, it is not difficult — though it may be unfair — to form a conjecture.
When all is said and done, there seem to be three fairly safe conclusions that may be drawn in regard to the tradition of John Langdon’s speech. The first is that he made a patriotic speech before the Assembly in the summer of 1777, which was still remembered in Portsmouth five years later when the Marquis de Chastellux visited the place. The second is that the phraseology of his speech, as recalled by Judge Walker of Concord, first found its way into print in 1828, when Isaac Hill’s Address to the Republicans of Portsmouth was published. And the third is that Edward Everett, treating Hill’s version with more or less freedom, gave to the speech the form and phraseology in which it has persisted for almost a century. What John Langdon actually said to the New Hampshire Assembly in July, 1777, is a question I leave with you.
Mr. Benjamin Loring Young spoke on the presentation to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts of a portrait of Sir Henry Vane. He said, in part:
My pleasant task this evening is to describe briefly the circumstances under which the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has received a portrait of Sir Henry Vane as a joint gift from Baron Barnard and the Society of Colonial Wars.522 This portrait is, perhaps, the most interesting historical gift which the Commonwealth has ever received.
Christopher William Vane, Baron Barnard, is the tenth holder of the title which was established in 1698, when Christopher Vane, of Barnard Castle in the County Palatine of Durham, son of our Massachusetts Governor, was elevated to the peerage by William III as Baron Barnard. The present baron was born in 1888, educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge, served in the war and, according to records available at the State House, has been Major of the Sixth Durham Light Infantry. He is seventh in direct line of descent from Sir Henry Vane.
He learned of the desire of the Commonwealth to acquire a portrait of his ancestor, Sir Henry Vane, through the activity of the English Speaking Union in London. The Union in turn had been asked to assist in this endeavor by Mr. Edward Francis Gray, Consul General of His Britannic Majesty in Boston. The Baron was the possessor of several portraits of Sir Henry Vane and, wishing to assist the Commonwealth, investigated the subject and found another available portrait which he had sent to his seat at Raby Castle and from there to our State House.
This portrait coming direct to us from Raby Castle brings to our minds the scenes and memories of many centuries of English history. We think of most of our early Puritan Governors as New Englanders who left the old world behind and came here to find a permanent home. Sir Henry Vane, however, ties together the old world and the new. He is remembered in history rather as an English statesman than a Colonial Governor of Massachusetts. His history and achievements are, of course, well known. John Fiske called him “one of the greatest Puritan statesmen of that heroic age,” and said that he was a “thorough republican and enthusiastic lover of liberty, … spiritually akin to Jefferson and Samuel Adams.”523
Within a few days Vane’s portrait will be received by his Excellency the Governor, on behalf of the Commonwealth, to remain forever the property of the people of Massachusetts. The portrait is by an unknown artist, but we have Lord Barnard’s statement that it is unquestionably a likeness of Sir Henry and in all probability an original contemporary work. The expense of its purchase is being shared equally by Lord Barnard and the Massachusetts Society of Colonial Wars. Lord Barnard has sent me a letter with a few lines of his own which he has suggested I read in his behalf when the formal presentation of the portrait takes place. These lines are as follows:
21st March, 1925,
I consider myself both fortunate and privileged in no small degree, in that I have been able, in conjunction with the Society of Colonial Wars, to be instrumental in assisting the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to acquire the portrait of one of its former Governors — Sir Henry Vane the Younger, of Raby Castle.
It is a privilege for a direct descendant of Sir Henry Vane, as I am, to be in the position in which I find myself to-day, and I am delighted to think that my small efforts have assisted the important and historic Commonwealth of Massachusetts in adding to the treasures of its State House, and to feel that my ancestor’s portrait will be received into the keeping of a people with so great a history.
Of the portrait itself, I fear I can say but little. It is very similar to others which I have seen, but at the same time is not exactly alike to any. It follows the style of the portrait of Sir Henry in the National Gallery, London (by Dobson) and might be by one of his pupils.
I have the honour to be,
Your obedient servant
I think we can assure the Baron that during the three centuries of the existence of Massachusetts as the home of a free people we have held none of our Governors in greater honor or deeper reverence than his distinguished forbear, Sir Henry Vane, and we can assure the Baron not merely of the deep gratitude which we feel toward him and the Society of Colonial Wars but also of a hearty welcome whenever he sees fit to follow the course of his distinguished ancestor and sets foot himself on the shores of Massachusetts Bay.
Mr. William C. Lane read a paper on “Harvard College Vacations,” which is to be printed elsewhere.524
Mr. Albert Matthews read some extracts from the Diary of Josiah Cotton, speaking as follows:
Little is known of student life at Harvard College in the early days, and though accounts are eagerly sought for, few are found. The one I am about to read, though not written until perhaps thirty years after graduation and so lacking the contemporaneous touch, yet contains something of interest.
In the Plymouth Church Records is an amusing account of the “offences committed by Mris Dorothy Clarke,” the wife of Nathaniel Clark, among them Mrs. Clark’s “violent carriage to a child of the pastors,” which consisted of her being “in a passion, when she pulled the lad out of the tree with her hand, & then threw him over the fence,” and of “putting a key into the childs mouth,” causing it to bleed; and it was asserted, seemingly not without reason, that Mrs. Clark “in divers words & carriages showed an evill frame of spirit.”525 The youth subjected to the indignities of the Plymothean Amazon was the writer of the Diary from which I quote — namely, Josiah Cotton (1680–1756), son of the Rev. John Cotton (1640–1699; H. C. 1657) of Plymouth and Joanna (Rosseter) Cotton, and grandson of the Rev. John Cotton (1585–1652) of Boston. In an earlier portion of his Diary, the incident is mentioned in a letter written by his mother January 19, 1692, in which she gives “a catalogue of the most remarkable” mercies accorded the boy: “Mercy 9. You remember how near you was to death by the hurt & ffall from a tree: There was but a hands breadth betwixt you and death. Then O the goodness & longsuffering of God!”
Josiah Cotton’s account of his school and college days is as follows:
My younger days were attended with the follies & vanities incident to youth; howsoever I quickly learnt to read, without going to any school that I remember — I began to learn Latin under ye Revd Mr Wisewall526 at Duxborough, with whom I continued some months; & he then being invited to a voyage for England in ye countrie’s service, I was sent to school at Barnstable where the Revd Mr. Jonathan Russell527 was my instructor, with whom I tarried about two years, and then about ye year 1692 removd to Mr. Joseph Dassett’s528 school at Boston, under whose tuition I was till God took him away by death: In whose school succeeded Mr. Peter Burr,529 to which (after I had been a small space again wth Mr Wisewall) I returned, & continued with Mastr Burr until my admission into ye Colledge. My school exercises were not attended with that difficulty that some meet with, by reason of a memory which God had favored me with — My school masters were capable & faithfull from whom I met with very good quarter.
I was admitted into ye Colledge Jun. 29. 1694. The Revd Mr Increase Mather being then President, Mr. Leverett530 & Mr Brattle531 Fellows of Harvard Colledge, who signed my admittatur. Mr Leverett was my Tutor & Mr Brattle my Patron, tho. brought up at my father’s charge — thro. ffavour, not merit I happened to be placed the second of the Class Mr Symes532 being the first. The winter of the first year I livd at Taunton under the Tuition of ye Revd Mr Adams533 now Minister at New Londn The other parts of that year I livd at ye College. The second winter I kept school for three months for ye Town of Plymouth in my fathers house & under his inspection — The third year I continued at Colledge; in the fall whereof, William Maxwell & John Eyre534 both belonging to ye Colledge stating on fresh pond Nov. 30, 1696 [were drowned] To the first of wch I was a bearer: those that had ye ordering of that affair, appointing ye two first of Senr Class to be his bearers — Those are the two scholars referred to in my Father’s & Mother’s letter;535 on occasion of whose sudden deaths, my Uncle Mather preacht at Cambridge, an awful sermon on Eccles. 9. 12. Man knoweth not his time; & inasmuch as ye case is certainly so, surely time ought carefully to be redeemed; & yet how apt is man, even to set his invention upon the stretch to find out methods to pass it away; & such methods too as have no vertue in them & can scarce be justified but by the numbers that pursue the same — This year I learnt (among other arts) to smoke it, but might have improved my time much better, for so much time is consumed in sleeping & eating & other necessary diversions of life, that we have no need to continue those that are altogether needless. This is a practice I should not have run readily into at home, for my Father & Mother never inclined to it, but example abroad brought me into it. Howsoever our Class did some penance about this time for their faults being obliged to recite at five o’clock in ye winter mornings yt Mr Leverett might seasonably attend ye General Court at Boston being Representative for ye town of Cambridge. In the winter of the fourth year I dwelt & studied at home, it being customary for many of the scholars to draw off in ye winter tho. perhaps in the general not advantageous. Sometime this year Mr. Leverett removed from Colledge, but tarried so long with us, that our class were put under no other tutor.
Mr. Brattle also left the Colledge about this time. These two had been Fellows & Tutors at ye Colledge many years & therein done very good service, being some years the Chief Rulers there, & the Moderators at the Commencements,536 when President Mather was in England — And if I may allow myself a small digression or excursion now & then, I would here insert a remark made on these two gentlemen in conjunction with Dr Oliver537 another of ye same class, namely, That they were born in the same Town viz Boston, Educated at the same school,538 admitted in ye College ye same year, took their degrees together, all settled in Cambridge & as it were in ye same street; one a Professor of ye Law, the other of Divinity, the third of Physick; and all eminent in their kind; which brings to mind ye antient controversy
“Law, Physick & Divinitie,
Were at a loss which of the three
Should have superioritie”
which I shall not take upon me here to determine tho I think my Cousin Cotton has done it in his Letter Pa. 8.539
July 6th 1698 I took my first Degree under the moderating of President Mather and disputed on that question an Cometos cunt meteora, which Mr Hubbard540 of our class held negatively — After ye Commencement I removd from Cambridge to Plymo. & took a journey to Bristoll, which being over I set out for Salisbury, Exeter, Marblehead &c. and in the fall waited upon my father at Boston till his sailing to Carolina, being the last of his children that saw him.