Problems of Speculation
WHILE General Cobb was attempting to organize an effective campaign to develop the Maine lands for sale at retail, Bingham was faced with many other problems. One thing that worried him was the question of the “back tract.” By the contract of 18 April 1792 Knox and Duer had acquired another million acres lying behind the Penobscot Million, but until the survey had been completed by the Commonwealth, there was nothing that the speculators need do but wait. General Jackson had made an initial down payment of $5,000, and the first installment was not due until after the State had completed its part of the bargain by presenting an accurate map of the territory to be sold.940 Early in 1795 this was done and the Massachusetts Land Committee began pressing Jackson to make payment. Bingham’s Boston agent then proceeded to petition the Massachusetts legislature for a revision of the contract, since the survey showed that the tract included some three million acres. It was to Bingham’s advantage to delay as long as possible any agreement on this score, for by so doing, he could keep the land in question off the market without having to assume financial responsibility for making the disbursements.941 The letters which follow show Jackson’s difficulties in connection with this purchase.
H. Jackson to Knox, Boston, 2 March 1795 [BP]
Boston March 2d. 1795
My dear Harry:
I have this day receiv’d from the Committee of Eastern Lands the survey of the back tract with their official letter on that subject. As I concluded it necessary that you have the best information, respecting this survey before you finally decide on the purchase, I have prevailed on Park Holland, Esquire, one of the gentlemen who survey’d the tract, under the direction of the Committee, to go on to Philadelphia. He is able to give you every satisfactory information you may want, and will take on the plan and letter and deliver them to you himself. Mr. Holland is an old Continental officer, and has for many years been a member of our legislature. He is a man of information and integrity, and very influential in the General Court. He is appointed one of the Committee to treat with and purchase from the Indians their claim on the Penobscot River. This tract our concern ought and must secure at some future day.
You and Mr. Bingham must be very civil to Mr. Holland, as he has it in his power to give you much information respecting the purchase in question, and of the Eastern Lands in general, also the present demand for them, with the ideas of the legislature on the subject. I know its the wish of the State and the Committee that we relinquish the contract, as Mr. Jarvis informs me they are offered thirty cents per acre for lands not so well situated as this tract. Mr. Holland will inform you of the two townships of masts that come within our survey which the Committee want us to give up, but it must not be granted them.942 As you have the contract with you, by a refference to it, you will observe what the concern are to perform on their part, and that sixty days are allowed to determine whether to take or refuse it. You will keep Mr. Holland with you as long as you may think it necessary, as I have agreed with him to pay all his expenses on to Philadelphia and back again, and allow him two dollars per day until his return. This I am sure will be money well spent.
I conclude Mr. Swan is now with you. He is desirous of coming into the purchase, and I am of opinion that no man on the continent can give us that strength and support he can, and I advise by all means to let him in, as you may place every dependence on his ability to perform his engagements. The watchmen are this moment calling past one oclock. I therefore must say good night, and seal my letter.
P.S. Let me know your determination—instantly.
General Henry Jackson of Boston
Executive Officer in the early stages of the Maine Land Speculation Portrait by Gilbert Stuart
H. Jackson to Bingham, Boston, 18 May 1795 [BP]943
Boston May 18th 1795
My dear Sir:
Before this reaches you, my objections to the survey of the back tract will have been received, since which, I have had a long conference with the Committee on the subject, and they reminded me of a conversation Mr. Flint and myself had with them, at the time of forming the contract, respecting the tract laying between the Schoodick and what they call the Passamaquadda, and I have a conviction on my mind, they did at that time decline to consider that tract in the contract with us. Inclosed is a copy of the Committee’s answer to my objections. In this you see a disposition to meet me on candid, liberal ground. The objection as to the western boundary they are ready at once to remove; that relative to the eastern they get rid of by producing a survey of Putnams in 1784 which calls the Schoodick from whence their western line commences, and denominates what we call the Schoodic as the eastern branch of the Passamaquadda River.
You recollect in my objections, nothing was hinted as to the northern boundary. I thought best to make use of that, if necessary, for a subsequent occasion. I am persuaded however, that line has been formed with great care and circumspection, on their part, and it is to be made use of by us, as an ostensible rather than a solid objection, for they will not hesitate to answer this objection, by saying that the state of territorial boundary was well known to both parties, that it is defined by treaty, that national considerations will prevent an alteration in that point, that they have from the best sources of information pursued the treaty, and that considering the state of things between Great Britain and the United States, at the time of contract, the parties could not contemplate waiting the event of negotiations between the nations. This they can say and, entre nous, with force and propriety. It follows that we prepare to put the contract into effect by stipulations etc. or abandon it under cover of the territorial objections. The General Court will meet the last of this month. The Committee will probably be active and urgent on their part, and will lay the situation of this contract before the legislature. It is therefore incumbent on us to take that stand which we intend ultimately to hold, in the operation of which I will follow such directions as you may point out, and it will be necessary to give them without loss of time. I think if you wanted an accommodation of time for the payments in this contract, the Committee would be induced to give an indulgence, by making it as a compromise for the surveys not being exactly conformable to the contract.
I am with regard very sincerely
William Bingham, Esquire
Meanwhile Bingham found his financial difficulties getting steadily more severe. If he were to meet his obligations to the Commonwealth and, at the same time, supply General Cobb with the necessary funds for the development of the Maine property, he must get help. He had known this all along, witness the agency of Major Jackson in Europe. Now, when it seemed clear that the Major would return empty-handed, Bingham began to devise numerous other schemes to ease his financial burdens. Throughout the summer of 1795, he and Knox corresponded at length on the possibilities of interesting American capitalists in the Maine lands, and when it became clear that the American money market was too tight to admit of help in the United States, Bingham turned again to Europe and began urging first Knox and then Cobb to consider a trip abroad to sell part of the down-east property to foreign monied men. It was not until the welcome news that the Barings were interested and likely to buy into the speculation that Bingham was able to relax his efforts to unload a major portion of his lands on some group of capitalists who could afford him the help he needed.
Bingham to Knox, Philadelphia, 5 May 1795 [KP]944
Philadelphia May 5th 1795
My dear General:
I yesterday had a conversation with Mr. Swan by appointment, on the subject of a sale of 1,000 shares, on the principles of the Plan of Association, for the disposal of the Province of Maine Lands. I offered them at the rate of 100 dollars per share, which was only 3/9 per acre.
But he has declined them, even on those low terms. It is absolutely necessary that some great and unceasing exertion should be made to impress the public mind more favorably with respect to these lands. Otherwise, a very considerable sacrifice must be made, whenever they are brought into the market.
I wish you would make enquiries at New York, in order to determine what reliance could be placed on disposing of a number of shares there, on advantageous terms.
The monied men of that place have considerable enterprize, and it is probable that such a scheme would accommodate their views.
I think the New Yorkers must be more strongly inclined to this country, from the facility with which they can support an intercourse with it, and from other local advantages it possesses.
I regret that I did not furnish you with some copies of the description of these lands, that you might have circulated them so as to have had a proper effect.
I mentioned to you some time since, that I had an anxious desire to dispose of about 16,000 acres of land, skirting the Susquehannah on both sides, for a considerable distance and including the mouth of the Chenango. The quality of these lands is exceedingly fine and they are well situated.945
Will you be so obliging as to make an enquiry and inform me what price I could probably obtain? They are surrounded by settlements and I think would readily sell for a high price. I have intimated them at four dollars per acre, on short payments.
I was informed some time since, that there was a small package of books for me at the custom house, which had been laying there for some time. The information came thro Mr. Stansbury at New York. If this should be the case, will you be so good as to withdraw them?
I am with sincere regard
dear General, your obedient humble servant
P.S. If you should see Colonel Walker, you will probably be enabled to determine what are his intentions and expectations relative to the purchase.
Knox to Bingham, New York, 3 June 1795 [BP]
New York 3 June 1795
My dear Sir:
We shall embark at 4 this afternoon, well accommodated, and with prospects of a fair wind.
I have not been able to conclude absolutely with the gentlemen here, although they all express a strong desire for an interest in the Maine.
The promising advantage of the object arrests their decision against the purchase; but they are so pecuniarily spread abroad that they apprehend difficulties in meeting the proposed payments. They are to have a meeting in a day or two, and they all say that if they conclude to accept, they will send one of their number authorised to enter into contracts with you.
I am very highly impressed with the benefits which would result to us from a connection with such characters. And if you could make it compatible with your engagements to arrange the periods of payments at six, twelve, eighteen, and twenty four months, I believe all further difficulties would vanish.
The persons with whom I have conversed fully upon the subject are Messrs. Low, Hammond, Livingston, Smith and John Lawrence, and all are equally desirous of embracing the offer. Mr. Hammond is also desirous of Mr. Harrison having a share. Mr. Duer wishes for a reservation for Mr. Greenleaf.946
Present me respectfully to Mrs. Bingham. Entreat her in name of the rosy god of health, in my name, and Mrs. K’s to visit us. I hope to be in Boston on Saturday. Write me respecting the back tract. Mr. Swan is your man to carry that through.
Your sincere and affectionate friend
William Bingham, Esquire
Bingham to Knox, Philadelphia, 4 June 1795 [KP]947
Philadelphia Tune 4th 1705
My dear General:
I received your letter of yesterday and am happy to find that you have determined on a water passage. May the gales be propitious.
I shall wait with anxiety for the determination of the gentlemen to whom proposals have been made, respecting an interest in our Maine Lands. I am convinced that their efforts will be productive of very good advantages to the general interests of that neglected country, which will induce every accommodation on my part, that could be deemed reasonable. If their predeliction for a concern in this object should extend so far as to send one of their number here, I will endeavor to make such arrangements as will be mutually satisfactory.
Considering the variety of arguments that may be pleaded in opposition to the immediate execution of the terms of this contract, I am surprized that the Committee should be so urgent for a speedy decision. I must refer you to my correspondence with General Jackson on this subject, for the reasoning in detail. At one period, they were advocates for delay, as they suffered a full twelvemonth to elapse, before they took any measures to commence the survey. If in this interval the purchasing parties could have benefited ever so much by getting possession of the lands and fulfilling their contract, they would have been disappointed, as the Committee adopted no measures untill the year 1793.
I have received a very satisfactory letter from General Cobb, relative to his expectations of success in the pursuit of the business, committed to his care. He has been unfortunately delayed at Boston, waiting for Mr. Shaw, which is more to be regretted, as it is essentially necessary that a very favorable impression should be made this year, on the character of this country, which cannot be effected without the arrival of settlers; and settlers cannot be provided for, untill the townships are selected for settlement and the surveys made.
I am very desirous of your corresponding together on the various subjects connected with the execution of this plan, as your advice may in various instances be highly advantageous.
At the same time, I have the most perfect confidence in General Cobb’s prudence, oeconomy, and integrity.
With my respectfull and affectionate compliments to Mrs. Knox and the ladies of the family, and a desire to hear from you very often, I am
my dear General
Bingham to Knox, Philadelphia, 15 June 1795 [KP]948
Philadelphia June 15th 1795
My dear General:
I am happy to find by your letter of the 10th instant949 that you had safely arrived as far as Boston on your intended route.
I observe that you have had a conversation with Mr. Dane concerning the Northern Tract and that you are apprehensive of the consequences of not immediately closing the contract, by a compliance with the terms thereof.
I must refer you to my letters wrote to General Jackson on this subject, wherein I have amply detailed my reasons in favor of a postponement, grounded on the impracticability of fulfilling the agreement, on the part of the Committee, from the defectiveness of the arrangement, and the necessity that resulted of new modifying the business so as to suit the convenience of both parties. I think you must, at the date of yours, have received a letter from me, relative to this subject, in answer to one you wrote to me, previous to your departure from New York and which letter, you do not acknowledge the receipt of. It is absolutely expedient to retain as long as possible, this claim, as well as to prevent an additional quantity of lands from being thrown into the market, as to benefit by their rising value.
I have endeavored to negotiate a sale with Mr. Swan, but my offers have been unavailing.
I have received a letter from Mr. Low in which he informs me that the gentlemen to whom the offer of a concern was made in these lands decline the terms proposed to them.
Major Jackson has arrived, after a fruitless visit to Europe. Previous to his embarking, some proposals were made by him to Sir Francis Baring’s House, which (in the answer thereto) seemed in some measure to create a disposition of being favorably listened to. The terms were low. However, I shall write to them on the subject immediately, and determine whether any expectation is to be encouraged in that quarter.950
I am happy that the public mind is changing in Massachusetts on the subject of these lands. Nothing will so essentially tend to promote their advantages, as this circumstance for whilst the people of the State were unfavorably impressed, it became very difficult to implant in the minds of strangers a different idea.
Major Jackson desires to be respectfully and affectionately remembered to you.
The Senate is in session, with but one member absent, who is expected to morrow.
No opinion can as yet be formed of the period of its rising.
Sincerely yours etc.
Knox to Bingham, Boston, 20 June 1795 [BP]
Boston June 20. 1795
My dear Sir:
I am here still, but shall sail to day with all my family. Circumstances of business, but more of seductive hospitality, have detained me. I hope to hear from you to day of the New York concerns being closed, and also that you have concluded with Mr. Swan about the back tract. Rely upon it that tract is too valuable to be relinquished, and therefore measures ought to be adopted to carry the agreement into execution. The Committee who do not stand well with the General Court, are angry at the postponement of the execution of the contract, and although I think the General Court will not take any violent measures this session, which will end next week, yet I am rather of opinion they will direct the Committee to take some conditional measures.
All that can with propriety be effected, is to obtain a postponement until your arrival when some conclusive arrangement will take place. Any further attempts to procrastinate will be prejudicial to our reputations in the mind of the General Court.
I hope you will come off instantly after the rising of the Senate. It is with the highest satisfaction that I assure you that the lands in the District of Maine are dayly appreciating in value in the minds of all New England. Emigrants are flocking there in great numbers. No great sacrifices ought to be made as the object will turn out [?] to great profit, some expenditures being made thereon.
Present us respectfully and affectionately to Mrs. Bingham. Entreat by all possible motives to visit us or at least to come as far as this.
Your sincere and affectionate friend and humble servant
Bingham to Knox, Philadelphia, 10 July 1795 [KP]951
Philadelphia July 10th 1795
My dear General:
I am happy to find the ladies so well pleased with their situation, that it will be with reluctance they’ll leave such an Arcadian spot.
As you would naturally be desirous of avoiding a disappointment, I would recommend your not flattering yourself too much on this point.
I am very anxious to take my departure, and nothing but an attention to very important business could have delayed me so long. I must provide for my discounted notes at bank, during my absence. The last payments I made to the Treasurer of the State were effected by anticipation, and the means are now to be procured for liquidating the credits so obtained. It is almost impossible to procure money on any terms. I have offered all kinds of property for sale, but hitherto without effect, which renders it very difficult to make my arrangements.
I was much disappointed by the refusal of the gentlemen at New York to take an interest in our lands, altho I discovered in the course of conversation with them, that they were not possessed of the means of making prompt payments.
Major Jackson has induced me to believe that an offer to Sir Francis Baring, of one million of acres, an undivided portion of the first purchase, will be accepted, at 2/ sterling per acre, which at the present exchange would be about half a dollar. I have therefore thought it expedient to make the proposal, as well to relieve my present necessities, as from a conviction that such a connection would most essentially benefit the future arrangements of this property. I am strongly impressed with the idea that such an offer will involve a very great sacrifice, especially as it appears from General Cobb’s last letter that there will be little doubt of as great a rage being created for this country, as has ever taken place for Kentucky or Genesee.
I hope he is actively engaged in the various pursuits connected with the settlement of this country. I shall make but a very short stay either at New York or Boston, but shall proceed immediately to your settlement at St. Georges. I wish Major Jackson to accompany me, but he has some attractions here, which after a long absence, he must feel too powerful to seperate from.
I am not certain whether I shall be able to obtain Mrs. Binghams consent to attend me on this excursion. I am afraid that she will be intimidated by the heat, if the weather continues so oppressively warm as it is at present.
I shall have the pleasure to write to you again, previous to my departure. I shall mention nothing on the subject of foreign or domestic news, as the public papers will furnish you with such intelligence.
Remember me with affectionate regards to the ladies of your family and believe me with truth and esteem
my dear General
Your friend and humble servant
Bingham to Knox, Philadelphia, 15 August 1795 [KP]952
Philadelphia August 15th 1795
My dear General:
You will be surprized at my not having as yet taken my departure for the eastward.
But I have been prevented from various causes, some of a public and others of a private nature. As to the former, relative to the ratification of the treaty, we have been in a critical situation, as that instrument has not as yet received its last impression, and the continuation of peace is essentially connected with the accomplishment of this business without any further delay or reserve. The President has recently arrived here, and I hope that the business will no longer be procrastinated.953
Such has been the effect of the town meeting opposition to the treaty, and the apparent hesitation of the President to ratify it, joined to some other less influential causes, that a considerable stagnation has insued with respect to every object that has any relation with monied operations, and it has been impossible for me to dispose of my real estate in order to avail myself of the means of paying my obligations at the bank, which have now become due, for the remittances made to pay the last installment to the State.
I find on conferring with Colonel Hodgdon954 that there may be some expectation of your making an excursion to Philadelphia, as the affairs of Mr. Meade are so embarassed, that you must feel (from holding so many of his engagements) a considerable apprehension of consequences, especially as I discover that it is Mr. Meades intention to exert himself by every possible means to invalidate his bargain with you. He will therefore continue to refuse payment of all his obligations given to you for the sale of lands. At the same time, it gives me pleasure to find from persons to whom he has communicated a state of his affairs, that he is very solvent, and that he will be worth upwards of 100,000 dollars, after all his debts are paid.955
But if his indisposition (as is probable) to pay his notes to you continues, under the difficulties that exist to raise money, you will probably be put to very great inconveniences.
I begin to despair of the proposals I made to Messrs. Hope and Baring being accepted, as there is no person on the spot who is impowered to liquidate the business. In this case I shall be in a most cruel and embarassed situation as it relates to Duer’s payments in December next, and those to the State in February.
Perhaps you may be enabled to make terms with some of the monied people in Boston, for a sale of one fourth of the two millions of acres, the amount to be paid in two, four, and six months. I wish at any rate that you would try what would be the highest price you can procure, in case there should be a necessity for selling.
I am convinced that in every principle of calculation it will be found prudent to dispose of a sufficient quantity of these lands to cover the first cost and leave a profit, in order to provide against all the accidents that may arrive. For if the war in Europe continues another compaign, this country will inevitably be involved in it, and then the worst property that can be possessed will be vacant lands, which will not only be unproductive, but by being exposed to taxation, will bear [?] very heavy on the proprietors.
I am convinced that if an effort was made at this time in Europe, by an intelligent character, very great advantage might be derived therefrom.
Would it be convenient and agreable to you, my dear General, to make an excursion of a few months, and leave your family under the protection of your friends? I think you might effect more than any other person could possibly accomplish. I merely give you the hint, that you may reflect seriously thereon. If I was less embarassed with engagements, I should not hesitate a moment, with respect to undertaking the voyage, as I should not calculate on an absence of more than four months. I am informed that money is very plenty in England at this time, which would be favorable to our prospects.
It is so scarce here that your notes with my indorsement have been selling at a shameful discount.
We have had a series of rain and very hot weather, which has generated disorders peculiarly fatal to children. Mrs. Bingham has arrived in town, being in momentary expectation of my commencing my eastern tour, for some time past. She therefore relinquished the Black Point residence,956 for this summer. She desires to be affectionately remembered to the ladies of your family, in which I sincerely join her.
With real regard and friendship, I am my dear General
Knox to Bingham, Boston, 21 August 1795 [BP]
Boston 21 August 1795
My dear Sir:
I have the regret to acknowledge the receipt of your favor of the 13th,957 I say regret, because I had anticipated the pleasure of meeting you here, and accompanying you to your eastern possessions. As it is I must acquiesce. Your inclination must have been good, and I am sorry for the causes of the detention.
I question much whether any advantageous operation could be made here at this time to any extent, so as to produce any considerable sums. Every body seems to have their hands full. I mean that they have such desires for accumulation as to cause great exertions to raise money by anticipation, and the miserable capitals of the banks, compelling the directors to call in their loans from time to time seems to cramp that disposition for speculation which would, were its power adequate, embrace every negociable object upon the face of the earth.
I believe truly, that England, Ireland and Scotland would be the best markets for our lands, so as to produce money. New England ought to be relied upon for settlers, and an abundance of them may be had, upon terms, all things considered, highly beneficial to the concern.
With respect to going to Europe, I know not well what to say. My inclinations are not against the measure, provided I could render it compatible with the feelings of Mrs. Knox, and my money managements. The failure of Meade must occasion disappointment, and loss—the latter not great I hope. As to his relinquishing his agreement with me, it would not be difficult on my part, on his making a proper consideration for the loss which will be occasioned by a replacement of the funds he had obliged himself to provide. I shall be able to provide here funds to supply temporarily and perhaps permanently one moiety of the sum which I endorsed of his paper. For the other, I must depend upon obtaining some discounts at the banks of Pennsylvania. To this point I must beg your assistance as a director of the Bank of the US. I shall expect from Mr. Hodgdon a statement of this affair by the post tomorrow and then determine on my ultimate measures. It would be extremely unpleasant to me to be compelled to go to Philadelphia at this season, which is of infinite importance in the arrangement of my estate at the eastward. I cannot easily express to you the importance of the object, or the necessity of my attention thereto. By the sacrifice of what some people may term society, I shall secure abundance. This sacrifice (if it be one) I am ready to make and so are my family.
But we must come to the westward this winter, either Boston, New York or Philadelphia. Had not this been the case we all should have rested with perfect content where we are. Not with [?] content, but high gratification.
The District of Maine is encreasing in numbers and wealth far beyond any opinions which even we, much less the rest of the continent have formed of it. Let peace continue and you will have from that quarter only the most valuable estate of any man in America. But roads must be instantly opened. The woods are so thick there is no penetrating the country. A bad road gives unfavorable impressions. Cobb was with me a week. He is an invaluable acquisition. He conciliates. He animates. And finally, he will produce all that you wish. But he must be enabled to open roads, and he must be enabled to quiet the settlers, called squatters. A road ought to be opened immediately, and perfected from Penobscot town to Machias, and from Gouldsborough to the rear line of the Million.
Ten townships ought to be settled in the spring each with 60 families. This is indispensible, each family to have 200 acres at 50, 60 or 67 cents per acre. This circumstance with the roads will operate like the sun to enliven our prospects. Every thing will then be at your pleasure, and you may fix your prices for lands to the settlers from one to three dollars per acre. But under any circumstance 100 or 150,000 acres ought to be reserved for settlers.
We understand the treaty is signed. The Presidents letter had the effect of oil to quiet a troubled ocean. Every good citizen will acquiesce; bad ones will be few. Not twenty thousand citizens will have expressed their opinions against it. More than 500,000 by their silence must be supposed to abide by the conduct of the President and Senate. The able writers, the federalist at this place, J. Curtius and Camillus in New York have had wonderful effects.958
Fear not, our country and government will be safe. The calm good sense of our citizens will prevent political suicide.
I have an earnest desire to see you and Mrs. Bingham at Montpelier, to be witnesses of the perfect satisfaction of Mrs. Knox in her retirement. This is, however, not the case, as to retirement, as there had not been when I left home but one day when sea vessels had not come in or gone out, and weekly six or eight at a time before the house. The post horn having arrived I must close without being able to copy this scrawl, but not without first conveying to Mrs. Bingham my perfect respects, and ardent prayers for all possible happiness to her, and all she loves.
The honorable Mr. Bingham
Bingham to Knox, Philadelphia, 27 August 1795 [KP]959
Philadelphia August 27th 1795
My dear General:
I received your favor of the 21st instant by which I find you are still undetermined whether you will be compelled to make a visit to this place on account of the derangement of Meade’s affairs.
I am convinced that it must be extremely inconvenient to you, as well as injurious to your eastern pursuits, which I am happy to hear are on so prosperous a train.
I would advise you by no means to annul the bargain made with Meade, except that you are convinced of being enabled to avail yourself of equal resources, by the disposal of this property in some other manner, nor would it be expedient to withdraw his notes from the bank, if it could be prevented, as by their laying there under protest, he will be deprived of all claims on the institution, untill they are paid.
He will therefore be compelled in self defence, to liquidate them.
I am the more inclined to recommend your compelling him to fulfill his engagements as you may, in these critical times, find yourself disappointed with respect to any other mode of supplying the sums which you will be deprived of by his failure. At any rate, he may be compounded with and voluntarily engaged to pay one half or two thirds immediately, on obtaining a credit for the remainder.
I am happy to find that you have been able to provide the means of taking up one half of the paper that you indorsed. I have no doubt that you will be able to procure at the banks of this place the facilities you have occasion for. On my exertions, you may place the safest reliance, but it is probably the very worst of all resources, except the accommodation is meant to be temporary, for such is the fluctuating state of our bank affairs, that no dependence can be placed on reloaning the sum borrowed, and if the discounts are curtailed, immense sacrifices must be made to obtain money at so critical a period. Without some very essential change takes place, this will be peculiarly the case, in the course of this winter. It would be too tedious and lengthy a detail of reasoning to trace the true causes of this momentary distress. But it is not, as you suppose, the miserable capitals of the banks to which they are to be attributed. It is rather to the misconduct of the banks in discounting too liberally, for by these means there is more paper thrown into circulation than can be absorbed by it.
The excess returns upon the bank, as it cannot be used for its destined purposes, and is exchanged for specie, which specie is sent abroad, and becomes an active capital. By depriving the bank of specie, they begin to be alarmed for the credit of their paper in circulation, which is all payable at sight, and therefore they are compelled to limit their discounts, in order to replenish their vaults, which is very often a fruitless effort, but the only resource of which they can avail themselves. In other countries, bullion can be purchased at pleasure and on credit, and immediately converted into specie. But such means are very confined here.
I am convinced that there is less specie in the country at present, than has been known for a long period, at the same season of the year.
Therefore I cannot but conjecture a very distressing winter for money negotiation, except an essential change should take place by the arrival of specie amongst us.
I must now reply to what regards our joint concerns. I am happy to find that you have no objection to making a visit to Europe.
The excursion would be pleasureable and I hope profitable. It is not necessary to be abroad longer than the winter months, when you could pay no attention to your eastern improvements.
Mrs. Knox has sufficient energy of mind to submit to a temporary absence with a view of procuring for her family so permanent an advantage. It would not be for a longer period than is usually absorbed by a session of Congress, for I think matters might previously be so arranged as to render the business easily negotiated, in a very short time.
Under these circumstances, I hope you will be able to obtain Mrs. Knox’s consent.
I think that the succeeding winter will be a very favorable and critical period to take advantage of, and that a plan may be formed that will tend immensely to aggrandize this property.
Funds are essentially wanting and it would be highly inexpedient to sacrifice this property by a sale made here, when money is so scarce and valuable. I am convinced that nothing is wanting but a proper impression being made on the minds of some of the capitalists of Europe, in order to interest them in our plans, which are bottomed on the plainest principles, and can so plainly be made to appear highly advantageous to those who will engage in it. Money is certainly very plenty in England. Nothing is wanting, but a proper degree of confidence to extract it.
There would be one advantage which you would peculiarly enjoy, that of having viewed these lands, which would permit you to impart your opinions, founded on ocular inspection.
This circumstance has been the principal cause of Bonnets960 success, who took the precaution of visiting the lands which he was employed to sell, previous to his going to Europe.
I have no reason to complain of Major Jackson’s efforts, which I believe were to the full extent of his powers and opportunities, but I am, notwithstanding his disappointment, fully convinced that something very effectual may be now accomplished.
If it should be eventually necessary that such an expedition should be made (which will be determined in a short time, as I soon expect to receive letters in answer to some I wrote in July) and you will give your consent thereto, I do not suppose that it would be expedient to take your departure before the month of November, and you would be enabled to return in one of the spring ships.
With respect to your money operations, I think you should at all events make an effective arrangement of them, before the winter, for the reasons I have before given. I think your going to Europe will rather facilitate than injure your views, as it will have the appearance and probably will be attended with the effect of procuring the command of funds.
I will manage all the business connected with this object, on this side the water, and will impart to you the result of all my reflections. I have never expended so much thought on any other subject and I hope I shall be recompensed for my exertions.
If a fortunate opportunity presents, some negotiations in Europe may be made with the back lands, and which I think will probably take place. I am extremely pleased with your account of the bright prospects of settlement on these lands. I should have been happy to have personally witnessed the progress that is making.
My presence has been attended with some advantages to the country, in a political point of view, which I will explain to you hereafter. The ratification of the treaty has secured to us a continuation of peace. There was a serious and deep game playing, to involve us in war. But the measures were detected and defeated.
My sincere and affectionate compliments to all who surround you
Yours with friendship and esteem
Bingham to Knox, Philadelphia, 31 August 1795 [KP]961
Philadelphia August 31 1795
My dear General:
I observe that you are still in expectation of my arrival. But I have been unfortunately prevented by various circumstances. My meadows are entirely ruined and if I do not pay an attention to having them put in order, I shall receive no rent from them the next year.
The purchase of the Connecticut Lands962 brings a great additional quantity into competition, and absorbs an immense capital which might [have] otherwise assisted in raising the value of our eastern territory. I am exceedingly sorry to find the Bostonians directing their attention to lands in such a quarter. They will be thereby induced to depreciate those to the eastward, in order to exalt the character of this new purchase. There is such an immense quantity of land still to be sold, that I am apprehensive of a considerable declension in price, as soon as it is brought into the market, as the capital of this country is not sufficiently large, to represent such a vast property. This is the prevailing reason, connected with the state of my finances, for wishing to dispose of (at least) one half of our property in the Maine Lands. No difficulties would then take place about the payments that are to be made, nor any uneasiness arise about the result of the operation. I am well aware that these lands would produce vastly more, to the concerned, in the progress of settlement, but the payments would be slow, precarious, and of little avail to the possessors. Their posterity might benefit by such an arrangement.
I am firmly persuaded that with an active and intelligent mind engaged in the business of disposing of our lands, an excellent opportunity now offers, and I am convinced, that much other important business, as relative to the improvement of fortune, might be connected therewith. I therefore hope that you will be able to render this voyage convenient to yourself and agreable to your family.
You will be able to return early in the spring, after having successfully compleated the business, of which result I have no doubt.
Some great effort in such cases must be made, and I think in the present case, the sooner it is attempted, the greater the prospect of success.
If a sale is made here, I am sure an immense sacrifice must be made, which I think ought to be avoided.
If Messrs. Hope and Baring could be induced to become interested in this object, their cooperation would be highly advantageous to the concerned, by combining their efforts to raise the value of the lands.
I shall wait with much impatience for the result of the arrangements you have meditated, in order to procure relief. But I have as little hope as you seem to entertain of a successful issue.
I find Mr. Meade still continues in his torpid state; I expect he will shortly be compelled to make some active efforts. It will be much more expedient, that proposals should come from him, than from you.
I am with truth and esteem my dear General
Your sincere friend etc.
Bingham to Knox, Philadelphia, 5 September 1795 [KP]963
Philadelphia September 5th 1795
My dear General:
I do not find (from your letter of the 31 ultimo) that there is any well founded reason to believe that the proposals made to Swan and Craigie will be accepted.964
The interference of low priced lands, such as they have a predeliction for, will be very injurious to our sales, especially as it regards the speculations of foreigners, as the relative quality and situation will not be duly known and considered, and the price can be afforded so much lower.
I concur most fully in opinion with you, that expenditures on this land would turn out to most excellent account and that a monied company who would engage therein would make immense fortunes. It is my sincere wish to form and engage such an association, which would be highly advantageous to the parties.
I am fully convinced that improvements are essentially necessary to success. But no individual in the United States is capable of paying for these lands and furnishing the means of improving them, and then waiting for the slow returns of his capital, from the various settlers that may be placed thereon, who at the first outset will be generally a poorer class of people, borne down and rendered incapable, by their first expences.
I therefore felt the more sensibly at Major Jackson’s disappointment. But at present the opportunity of disposing of these lands is vastly more favorable, and now that they are in a train of settlement, if the advantages that will attend their progressive improvement could be made known by a person, who from having viewed them, could with confidence report their situation and prospects, they would irresistibly meet an advantageous market.
I am the more strongly inclined to an immediate exertion, as I am convinced that there will be more American land daily thrown into the European market, and the minds of people who are disposed to speculate therein will be distracted by the difficulty of chusing. Besides there is certainly some risk of this country being thrown into convulsion and consequently into disrepute, which would entirely shut the door against any sales in Europe. The public mind is much agitated, and the spirit of party has taken deep root and will bring forward very virulent fruit in the course of the next winter. If the effort should succeed, it will set us at our ease, and lay the foundation of a lasting fortune, and thereby recompence us fully for our trouble and time.
I am convinced that a plan I have arranged will be highly captivating to Europeans, who may have a desire of being connected with American speculations.
I still continue to have the strongest desire of making you a visit, but I am so opposed in my intentions by untoward circumstances that I cannot tell what will be the result.
I have some views of building in the neighborhood of Philadelphia next year. At what price can I procure my lumber (say scantling and boards) at a landing on your river, and what will the freight cost me to this place? I wish you to send me some hogsheads of excellent potatoes. A cargo of them would sell well, as our crop has been much injured by the excessive rains and will be proportionably scanty.
With respects and best regards to your family I am
Sincerely and with affection
Bingham to Knox, Philadelphia, 12 September 1795 [KP]965
Philadelphia September 12th 1795
My dear General:
I have to acknowledge receipt of your favors of the 4th and 7th instant.966
I am sorry that you have not effectually succeeded in replacing the funds that you have been deprived of by Meade’s stoppage. If proper measures are adopted, I am convinced that he will be compelled to fulfill his engagements. I shall be happy to give my opinion and advice to Colonel Hodgdon whenever an opportunity offers.
I am truly sorry that your hopes have failed you relative to the proposals made to Swan and Craigie. However flattering and well founded our prospects may be with respect to eventual success in our operations, you observe that it is difficult to impress others with similar ideas, from which circumstance great inconveniencies, perhaps eventual sacrifices, may arise. The most discouraging point is the employment of capital in new speculations of lands, and the great additional quantities daily brought into the market.
We have recently authentic accounts of Wayne’s success, in making a peace with the western tribes of Indians, which will be followed by immense additional sales of land in the western territory.967
The American capital, however increased by commerce or by the sale of the public debt, is not sufficiently extensive to embrace all these vast objects, and apportion a moderate price to each of them. We must have recourse to European capitals and engage them in our concerns, or the price of our lands (by additional quantities being introduced into the market) must continue very low.
Viewing the distressed situation in which I am placed for want of funds, connected with the above mentioned reasons, I am persuaded of the propriety of again attempting the European market.
As for loans either here or in Europe, they are totally impracticable. There is no interest that could be required, which I would not agree to pay here, for a loan of a year, in order to extinguish my obligations at the bank. But not a farthing can be borrowed at any rate, so extensive are the objects of speculation, and so fully are the capitals employed in them. Holland formerly presented opportunities of borrowing money on loan, but they no longer exist. Temporary credits of a few months are usually given to our commercial men, in England, but no permanent loans are ever made there. I have offered real estate of various kinds for sale. But I cannot sell for reasonable prices or for ready money.
It is a questionable point how far Monsieur Liancourt would be a fit character to employ in our European negotiations. His intelligence, his activity and his private character are all favorable, and, what is an essential circumstance, he will have seen the lands in question. But whether his rank would not render him less accessible to the common class of purchasers is to be considered.
It would not be amiss, if he should be favorably impressed with the lands, their situation, resources and capabilities, to hint the necessity of engaging some European capitalists in this object, as the advances of money are too heavy for our American means. In the course of such a conversation, he might probably offer his services, and it would be optional, whether or not, to accept them.
But I still hope that you will be able to reconcile it with your inclination and your interest, and that you will obtain your family’s consent to make a short excursion to Europe.
At any rate, I think it would be prudent to interest Monsieur Liancourt in some manner, in the rising value of these lands.
Monsieur Noailles968 informed me that a friend of Monsieur Liancourt had authorized him to invest £30,000 sterling in any speculation that he might think advisable. If he is very much impresssed in favor of these lands, he may be able to induce this friend in conjunction with others, to enter deeply into the speculation. I am convinced that his opinions may influence very advantageously the value of this property.
I find that you are on the point of departure for St. Georges. On your arrival there, you will be able to inform me of your ultimatum, relative to the projected excursion to Europe. I sincerely hope that the result may be favorable to my wishes. One great effort at the present moment may place us in a permanently easy situation.
I know but little of Mr. Webb. He was recommended to me by Mr. Corbin of Virginia.969 He appears to be a fidgetting little gentleman, but I suppose will not be a bad puffer of our lands.
With affectionate compliments to your ladies I am my dear General
Your sincere friend and obedient servant
Bingham to Knox, Philadelphia, 19 September 1795 [KP]970
Philadelphia September 19th 1795
My dear General:
If he could be somewhat interested in this property, on certain reasonable terms, he might be induced to act with less reserve than if he was merely commissioned to make a sale for others.
At any rate, it will be expedient to impress him favorably with regard to the character of these lands, their situation for settlement, their resources for trade, etc. etc.
I think an exertion at the present moment will be attended with greater success than at any future period, for I am convinced that there is a crisis in our affairs about taking place, which will be detremental to the sale of American property in Europe, and which will, of course, abridge our domestic resources, and prevent the possibility of our selling on the spot.
I do not know what were the offers made to you at Boston, but from the tenor of your letters, not very satisfactory. I believe that not more than 25 cents could be obtained here, at short payments. As it would be too great a sacrifice to accept such a price, I am inclined once more to have recourse to the European market.
I am well persuaded that a person of credibility, who had visited these lands and who could make a favorable report of them, from what he had seen and personally knew, would make a vastly greater impression, than the best written description that the power of language could furnish.
If on reflection you should abandon the idea of making a short excursion to England, what is your opinion of General Cobb’s undertaking the voyage in company with Monsieur Liancourt?
I think he would be impressive and answer our purposes effectually. The great capitalists of Europe, who might be induced to enter into the plan, when an association for settlement was the object, could be informed by them of the practicability and certain success of the measure, and the lumber trade, the mast trade, provision trade, fisheries and all the other resources of these lands, would be by them exhibited to advantage.
No person in the United States need be informed of such a mission but ourselves, and I am convinced it might be turned to advantageous account.
But a few months need be consumed in the business. General Cobbs engagements would be an apology for his immediate return, and I am convinced that the business would be more effectually compleated on a short than a protracted visit. I do not think that the arrangements he is superintending could be essentially injured by a temporary absence of so short a period.
With sincere and affectionate compliments to your family, I am with great regard
My dear General
Your friend and humble servant
Bingham to Knox, Philadelphia, 26 September 1795 [KP]971
Philadelphia September 26 1795
My dear General:
I shall wait with great impatience for the result of your observations after your return from Gouldsborough, which I hope will be favorable, as relative to the progress and prospects of our settlements.
I wish you to make an excursion into the interior country, as I am informed that the lands increase in quality, in proportion as they are remote from the sea. At the confluence of the Union River in the Township No. 20 [?]972 I am informed that the lands are exceedingly fine, and I should be pleased that Monsieur Liancourt saw this part of the country, as I expect to avail myself of his report, in stamping a proper value on the quality of the soil etc.
It will be very interesting to our views, that he should be perfectly satisfied with the country.
The spirit of speculation in lands has astonishly [sic] increased, but it is confined very much to the western lands, which are to be purchased for a few cents per acre. The capital that can be spared for such purposes, is therefore almost entirely absorbed in such purchases.
Immense sums of money are forwarding to the southward to pay for the property, which operates as a continued drain upon our resources.
The great paper emissions from the banks have thrown into circulation a sum far beyond what prudence will justify. In case of a convulsion in the monied operations of the country, which would abridge the circulating medium, lands so remotely situated would not be current at any price in the market, not having any chance of being benefited by the progress of population and improvement.
This renders it prudent to make a great effort immediately to dispose of a large portion of our property in the Maine Lands, for the evil that is deprecated will rather increase than diminish, for the land office of the United States will be opened and additional funds be absorbed by new purchases.
After such a heavy advance of funds and so much time, attention and trouble expended on this object, it would be very provoking to sustain a loss by the eventual sales.
I think I can see a state of things in this country, which is within the verge of probable events, and which would assuredly produce a loss on this property.
Indeed, if a sale was made at present, either here or in any other of the states, I do not believe that 20 per cent profit could be made.
This evinces the necessity of having recourse to Europe, with all the aid that can be derived from a knowledge and inspection of the lands, and weight of personal character, to support the recommendation of them. Indeed, Europe will cease to become a market for them, if this country should be convulsed in its government, or thrown into any considerable difficulties.
I hope we shall have the pleasure of seeing you early in November. It is reported, but I hope without foundation, that Mrs. Knox means to spend her winter in Boston. Her friends will be exceedingly chagrined, if this should be the case.
You have heard of Randolph’s resignation. There was a very good cause for it. He has fallen like Lucifer, never to rise again.973
We have escaped a falling from a precipice, on the brink of which the interests of this country were unfortunately placed. We were saved, as by a miracle.
I wish you to prepare all necessary documents that you can collect, as relative to the Maine Lands, as I shall have occasion for them long before your return to this place.
I wish you to sound General Cobb, to know whether it would be agreable to him to pass the winter in London. I think his presence will be essentially necessary, in the arrangements to be made for disposing of part of this property on advantageous terms.
my dear General
Your obedient humble servant
P.S. Please to send me two or three casks of the best potatoes and five hundred weight of your best butter.
Knox to Bingham, Montpelier, 7 October 1795 [BP]
Montpelier—7 October 1795.
My dear Sir:
Since my return here incessant avocations have prevented my writing to you. My excursion to Boston has shortened my summer work greatly. Mr. Liancourt was too much in a hurry to visit Gouldsborough. He went no further east than Penobscot. He is truly charmed with the country and is possessed of many valuable details. I am more convinced of the solidity of his judgement, than of any other persons whether European or American who have visited our new countries. His knowledge is extensive from Lake Erie to the Penobscot, and his judgement decisive upon the fairest evidence in favor of the latter. He would be a valuable acquisition to our company and he appears desirous of the measure. His command of funds are considerable. If Mr. Van Berckel had relinquished the contract or rather Mr. Walker,974 Mr. Liancourt would, I am persuaded, be glad to take it up at an advanced rate. I do not know whether Mr. Liancourt would not go to Europe as an agent and proprietor. I believe he would. Depend upon it no man would be more industrious or impressive. He is really a man of business and perfectly calculated for this country. Unassuming and persevering, and at the same time he would be delighted with such a work of creation, as would be in his power.
I find my business here of such a nature, and my family so disposed upon the subject, that it will be impracticable for me to think of going to Europe this winter. I am creating a flood tide, and if I do not embrace it, I shall lose my all. I cannot express the necessity and importance of my incessant attention to this estate. The advantages thereof are and will be immense. My family one and all would be highly contented to continue here all winter, but my money arrangements, and business with the legislature will prevent. I have therefore decided upon Boston, as the winter residence of my family. I shall be on at Philadelphia about the 1st of December. But were they to go, it would in the spring cause us to be two months later in this country than we ought to be.
I shall soon see Cobb here. Everybody speaks of him as an invaluable acquisition. He has another offer for several townships from the distance of Connecticut River. I presume 67 cents may be obtained for twenty townships in one year from the present time, with time for payment, but upon interest, and upon terms of settlement highly advantageous. Rely upon it with confidence that in two years, this country will be highly popular as it respects New England, and its real productiveness illustrated by the most convincing testimony. But every thing depends upon settlement and roads. Mrs. Knox, Mrs. [?] Flucker and Lucy, all join me in presenting [?] our affectionate compliments to Mrs. Bingham and the young ladies. Mr. Meade offers to take 5,000 acres. I offer to acquit him if he takes ten thousand.
Knox to Bingham, Boston, 11 November 1795 [BP]
Boston 11th November 1795.
I acknowledge, my dear Sir, to have received several of your much valued letters before I left Montpelier, which was on the 5th instant, and also yours of the 29th ultimo975 by the post of this day. We came on the night of the 5th from our house nearly to Cape Ann, within forty miles of this town, when the wind coming ahead we chose rather than encounter a storm which was brewing by Mother Cary, to bear away for Portsmouth which was under our lee, although at as great a distance as Boston. We arrived at Portsmouth after having been on board of the vessel only 20 hours. We proceeded thence by land, our ladies and children rather prefering such transportation, than being detained. Our vessel arrived last night only, a course of southwest wind prevailing. Our baggage not having been yet disembarked, I have not your former letters at hand. But I hope that most parts of them are impressed upon my memory, so as that I may generally reply thereto. Mr. Liancourt will be with you ere this time. His candor, his information and his judgement may be depended upon. You may freely apply to him. He would, when with me, have rejoiced at the opportunity being presented to him, of making a purchase equally fortunate with Mr. Walkers, at a dollar, and were that identical object free, as well in a legal as in a delicate sense, I am persuaded he would not think twice upon the subject having already sufficiently convinced his judgement of the benefits of such a purchase. I say delicate sense, because you know his acquaintance with Mr. V. B.976 would ever prevent his taking a remote step which might be construed as an interference. A man of his character being an active member of a company would do much to elevate the reputation of the lands.
It is unnecessary for me to enter into details with you upon the subject. But you may rest assured that the most ordinary quality of the soil will produce in abundance all the variety of grasses which have been attempted, the middling and best qualities of soil will produce winter as well as spring wheat, winter rye, barley, Indian corn, and all the vegetables and fruits which New England produces. Apple orchards are introduced, and proceeding rapidly. Contracts may be formed, and the trees insured to bear in three years and all which die, or do not bear in that time to be replaced. Peach trees are cultivated and no doubt is entertained of the general success, as many peach trees have produced fruit this year at and in the vicinity of Kennebec.
Fire wood is already grown so dear in all the sea port towns in this neighborhood as of itself to be a mean (and a very great one) of enhancing the price of our lands. The current cash price of wood, on board of the vessels at the wharves is 22/ this currency or three dollars and 67/100 per cord. Next year it will be at least four dollars. The vessels have two thirds for freight. The price therefore at the landing in the eastern country is 7/4, or 1 dollar and 23/100. Contracts may be formed, so that the proprietors may have 2/6ths of 7/4 for the wood standing, and the contractors the other 4/6ths for cutting down, cutting into cord wood length, and carting or sledding the wood to the landing. There the expence ends as the coasters load the wood themselves. Hence it appears that the proprietors will have nett about 40 cents per cord. Each acre which is tolerably wooded may be averaged at fifty cords. This of itself would render the land worth 20 dollars per acre. I have made the calculations rather against the proprietors than in their favor. I am aware that two objections arise to this statement:
1st. That the above calculation can apply only to the wood called hard wood, to wit birch, beech and maple, and that the soft woods, spruce, hemlock and firs, are of no value for fire wood.
The first objection has been true, but it no longer exists in the same degree. The bakers, the brick makers, the potters, the lime burners, and many other trades, and many of the poorer class now use the soft woods in so great a degree, as that the price in Boston and its neighborhood is 18/ when the other is 22/, so that the difference to the proprietor would only be as 33/100 bears to 40/100. Besides on the lands, timbered chiefly with spruce, very fine spars suitable for small masts of 20 inches, top masts, bow sprits and booms, are in great abundance, so that you may estimate the timber to be of equal if not superior value, to the timber on the hard wood lands. I have upon one island in my possession (Brigadiers Island), about 500 acres in wood. I have not the shadow of a doubt that I shall make the wood, only, produce me 15,000 dollars in the course of three or four years. This would render the land worth 30 dollars per acre, even if it were supposed to be of no value after the wood should be taken off. But the land is excellent in its quality.
The second objection is generally true west of Penobscot Bay. For a mile along shore and upon the navigable rivers the wood is cut off. But at that distance the wood is there—I speak now of the rivers in the Waldo Patent—and the sledding of the wood a mile will not cost above 15 or 18 cents, which the purchaser must pay. Above navigation for sea vessels, on most of the rivers, not more wood has been destroyed than was necessary for the farms. Take the number of settlers in such situations, and allow them 50 acres for their cleared lands and an estimate may easily be formed of the quantity of wood which remains. It is a truth that the article of fire wood enriches, that is betters, the condition of all which touch it excepting the consumers.
A company being formed would penetrate the interior of the country with settlements, and commerce would instantly follow. Let navigation by means of locks be opened through the falls of the rivers and immediately the valuable woods of the forests will repay most amply all expences.
I have said nothing of the fisheries of the sea coast. These are however objects of immense importance to the proprietors. Nor have I mentioned the boards, planks, scantling and ton timber which command cash, or a contract for masts and spars, and form great profits to the proprietors. I have extensive plans for almost all these objects if I can find funds for their execution.
Mr. Baring has not arrived. I understand some vessels are daily expected from several parts of England. You will believe me when I say that I will to the utmost of my power endevor to carry conviction to his mind of the great advantages which will accrue to his concern, by being joint proprietors with us.977 Whether this will be best effected by indirect, or direct means, will be an object of consideration. Facts and plain statements, susceptible of demonstration may be told in any company. I have very little doubt that the prejudices against the District are vanishing and must entirely disappear before the sun of truth. This great principle will support this assertion that “no part of the United States affords such solid grounds of proffit to capitalists, as the District of Maine.”
With respect to obtaining a loan of cash here upon an high rate of interest, and real estate for security, I presume it may be done, as I have understood that Mr. Greenleaf has raised a considerable sum, at an high rate, although I do not know precisely what it is, and has given lots in the federal city, and Georgia lands as security.978 If stock issued in lieu of the French debt and bearing an interest of 5½ per cent after the 1st of January next would answer your purpose, our friend General Jackson who will soon be in Philadelphia might point out how you might be accommodated with a considerable sum, and perhaps for some time. The person who possesses this means to make the most of it and therefore whoever takes it up, must be prepared first to give real security, and secondly, a pretty round price for the stock. But it may be had, and for the particulars I will refer you to him. He intends to set out hence on the 16th and I did intend until I received your letter of this day to have gone in company with him, but at present I hesitate as it respects Mr. Baring. The moment I received your letters at Montpelier of the 17th October, I sent them by a safe opportunity to General Cobb, and I urged him to come off as soon as he possibly could arrange his affairs. I shall expect him here within ten days. Before that time I shall decide respecting my waiting for Mr. Baring. At any rate if I do not, Cobb will wait for him. I am anxiously disposed to stay until Mr. B. arrives, and I am also desirous of terminating my business with Mr. Meade. I have not sold an acre of my lands to Mr. S. or any other person for less than one dollar, excepting to the settlers more than seven years ago, and that in order to prevent a rebellion. Many of those who then refused to give me two thirds of a dollar, have now given, a sum equal to 70 per acre [?] for every year since that time. That objection therefore will not answer Mr. Meade. If I could otherwise raise the funds I want this winter, I should certainly let Mr. Meade off upon very easy terms. I had empowered Mr. Hodgdon to come to some conclusion with him, and he had expectations of finishing something, but hitherto without effect. I shall make the greatest exertions and sacrifices, if necessary, to extricate myself of all claims upon me this winter, in which I estimate the notes which you kindly endorsed for me. If I do not extinguish them altogether, I may be enabled by a continuance of our friendship to extend them for some time longer. Had it not been for this account, we should one and all most contentedly have continued at St. Georges through the winter.
The Committee for the sale of Eastern Lands, are possitively prohibited from selling an acre of land at any price whatever. It is not probable that the prohibition will be taken off the next session.
General Cobb informed me that he had written you by a vessel bound to Philadelphia and otherwise, circumstantially respecting his progress, which I hope you have received.
I have, agreably to your request, brought you up some butter and potatoes which will be sent by a vessel which will sail in a few days.
It would have been unwise for me to have removed my family to Philadelphia this winter, independent of the expence which would greatly exceed this place. I found the [illegible] I proposed would not comport with my interest here, and I have some things of importance to effect in a pecuniary point of view. Mrs. K. has yeilded her consent from a sense of the propriety of the measure. Both your and my interest will be served better by this position. But I shall certainly be in Philadelphia either this or the next month.
Mrs. K. presents her respectful compliments to Mrs. B., to which I pray mine to be added.
I am my dear sir with entire attachment
Your sincere friend
The honorable William Bingham
Thus the fall of 1795 found both Henry Knox and William Bingham in financial difficulties. For the former this was hardly a new experience; but his situation had deteriorated during the year. Unless he could realize something on either the Waldo Patent or his share of profits on the Bingham lands, the future must be black indeed. Bingham was fast beginning to understand that in embarking on his Maine speculation he might well have bitten off more than he could chew; faced with the prospect of a seemingly endless series of payments for the lands themselves and for their development, he was daily becoming more desperate. With American capitalists unenthusiastic about, if not actually hostile toward, lands in Maine, Bingham’s hopes for salvation came to rest more and more on Europe. If the Barings could only be brought to see the speculation in a favorable light, all would be well. Thus when the news came of the possibility that the Barings might buy into the concern, a very real crisis in the history of the Maine speculation was at hand. The whole future of the enterprise might well depend upon the success or failure of the coming negotiations.