Chapter X

The Sale to Baring

DESPITE the fact that Major Jackson returned to Philadelphia without having effected a sale of the Maine lands to European capitalists, he had laid the groundwork for a purchase by the houses of Baring and Hope which was to do much to extricate Bingham from his financial difficulties. It will be remembered that just before his departure from England, Major Jackson had made a tentative offer to Sir Francis Baring of one half interest in the Maine property at two shillings sterling per acre. Since Jackson had been unable to quote such a low price on his own responsibility, the matter was to await Bingham’s approval.979 Shortly after the Major’s return to this country, Bingham wrote Sir Francis Baring, reiterating the offer and pointing out to the English banker what a tremendous bargain the Maine lands would be at that price.980 After waiting anxiously throughout the summer and fall of 1795, Bingham’s patience was finally rewarded when he received a letter from Sir Francis indicating that, for the first time, he was definitely interested in the Maine property.

Sir Francis Baring to Bingham, London, 31 August 1795 [BP]

London 31 August 1795.

Dear Sir:

I received last week by the ship Asia, your letter of the 27 June, the 1st., 14 and 16 July, addressed to myself, and to my house, to which I must request your indulgence, in answering more concisely than I could wish to have done, owing to a slight bilious complaint which renders writing rather irksome to me at the present moment.

The material circumstance to which you require an answer, is, the offer which you now make of your lands in the Eastern states, and which in fact is the first time those lands are offered to us under circumstances to merit our serious attention: for which Major Jackson proposed prices which were too high for acceptance, under any enquiry or conditions; or, that he doubted about his power to conclude a sale at the price you now mention; I did not think it an object to withdraw my attention from my other concerns, to devote myself to that serious investigation of the subject, which the investment of so large a capital, in such an undertaking, required.

The cursory consideration however which has been given to the subject, from time to time, was fully sufficient to enable me to state in a most correct, unequivocal manner, my desire to make a considerable investment in American lands upon reasonable terms, and undoubted security of our property; and Major Jackson will have confirmed to you, that the disposition was accompanied with an equal desire to form that investment in conjunction with yourself, and your friends. But notwithstanding this progress in aid of our determination, I must confess that I am not thoroughly prepared to return an immediate answer, yea, or nay, to your proposition: some further explanation will be necessary from yourself, and some information from others, which although I entertain no doubt whatsoever will be answered in a favorable manner, yet it becomes necessary to ascertain correctly, before we can finally conclude. These points would occasion no delay if the buyer and seller were on the same spot, or that the tenure of lands in America was the same as in England; but they will occasion considerable delay if they are to be explained and settled by correspondence. To remove this difficulty, and to meet your wishes in the most effectual manner with regard to a speedy determination, I have determined to put all the papers into the hands of my son, who will embark in a few days for America, with instructions for his proceedings: and as I have a perfect confidence in his prudence, discretion, and judgment, he will also be authorised to conclude with you for the purchase, on such terms as he may think proper; and any engagements he may enter into for the purpose, or directions that he may give for your reimbursement, will be punctually complied with on my part. By this means the conclusion will be more speedily ascertained, than by immediate answer to your proposition; which would require much more time for me to decide upon the conditions under which I could accede to your proposal; or the reverse. It is true that Messrs. Hope have had the goodness to spare my son at my request, for other purposes, which will occupy some part of his time, and attention, immediately after his arrival, but wherever he may land, or however he may be otherwise employed, he will be able to pay his respects to you in Philadelphia in the winter, and in all probability thoroughly prepared on the subject under discussion, as the progress of his other avocations, will afford him the means of obtaining that information, which I conceive to be necessary for his final determination. You will thus perceive that I have formed an arrangement with a view to dispatch, and not to delay; indeed the best which could have been adopted under all circumstances, as the subject is of a description which will not permit a concise answer to be returned, without further detail. There remains however a circumstance very material to yourself. I mean your personal convenience; and in order to provide for that, and to embrace the whole of the subject in the most effectual manner, you are welcome to draw on my House for a sum from five, to eight thousand pounds sterling, to be reimbursed from the sale proposed if it shall take place; in default of which, from the surplus of your stocks in Holland if the same shall be liquidated in time; or if neither shall be accomplished, then to be reimbursed by remittances from America in 6 months from the date of your draft, in the mean while the surplus of your stocks in Holland to be pledged to us as a security. I shall be glad to find that you have actually transferred the lands into my name, as the date of the ratification will render the transfer effectual; and in case we shall not conclude the purchase, the deed may be destroyed or I will retransfer them as you may think proper. The circumstance of Europeans, being obliged to hold lands in trust, is in truth, the great, and almost unsurmountable obstacle.

I can say nothing more about your Dutch loans at present, as the securities under Dutch names cannot be negotiated or sold here;981 but as permission will be granted for public purposes, I wait to see the effect it will produce; and I do not despair of doing something when I know your opinion about prices. In the mean while I will procure the information you desire if possible, being very truly

Dear sir

Your most faithful humble


F. Baring

William Bingham, Esquire

Once this letter had been received, Bingham dropped all other objects connected with the Maine lands to concentrate on bringing off this vitally important sale. He had kept General Knox fully informed of his hopes for a European sale; it now remained to enlist the aid of General Jackson and General Cobb in bringing every possible agency to bear to create on the young Englishman a favorable impression of the Maine property. His explanation of the whole project to General Jackson shows to what pains Bingham was willing to go to achieve his purpose.

Bingham to H. Jackson, Philadelphia, 27 October 1795 [KP]982

Philadelphia October 27 1795

Dear Sir:

A considerable time has elapsed since I have received any of your favors. I have an affair to recommend to your attention, which requires much delicacy and discretion in the management thereof.

Being exceedingly pressed for want of funds to pay the installments and support the expence of improvements of the Maine lands, I have made overtures to a House in London, to take a concern therein, at such a price, as I deem reasonable. I find a strong desire exists on their part, to enter into the negotiation, but previous to the conclusion thereof, they have sent out a person to treat with me, who in the course of transacting other business that is committed to him in some other parts of the Union, will make such enquiries and take such information, as will enable him finally to close the bargain, as he has full powers committed to him.

This person was to take his departure about the beginning of September and as I believe no other essential business, but the purchase of a portion of these lands, engages his attention, I am disposed to think that he will take his departure for Boston, whose inhabitants altho ignorant in a great measure of the intrinsic value and growing importance of that country, must be supposed to be able to give better information thereof, than can be acquired in any other part of the United States.

A connection with this House, by their taking a concern therein, would be of the highest importance, by impressing a great additional value on the remaining part, which inclines me strongly to desire it.

It is the House of John and Francis Baring and Co. and the person expected is Mr. Alexander Baring, son of Sir Francis Baring, which circumstance I do not wish to be known to a single individual, except General Knox and General Cobb.

I am therefore anxious that you should prepare the way for the arrival of this young gentleman, by making such impressions on the minds of your friends, relative to the value and importance of these lands, as they really merit, as well as with regard to the prospect of an immense rise in price by the progress of settlement. The opinion concerning them has essentially changed and they are viewed now as an object of immense consequence. General Cobb writes to me, that he has no doubt that there will (by as great an exertion) be as great an emigration and rage for them, as ever took place, with respect to Kentucky or Genesee.

The Duke de Liancourt informed General Knox, that after travelling from Lake Erie to the Penobscot, he gave a decided preference to the Maine lands.983

General Knox, in relinquishing in a great measure his bargain with Meade, at a dollar per acre, is a convincing proof of the value being far beyond what it was usually estimated at.

The friends and correspondents of Messrs. Barings House, at Boston, are Messrs. Codman.984 If therefore, thru any indirect channel, you could make any communication with them, relative to the real state of that country, its increasing value and other points that may have an influence thereon, it will have a very proper and advantageous effect. In case you should hear of this gentleman’s arrival you will be so obliging as to inform me thereof, and when General Knox returns to Boston, please to communicate this letter to him. I wish to know when he is expected, as he means to pay this city a visit, the latter part of November.

Messrs. Baring are solicitous to know the nature of the tenure by which lands are held. By trusteeship, they may be held as safely, as by fee simple in their own right.

I have heard that the Committee are not authorized to dispose of any more lands, and that the last they sold were at half a dollar per acre. If this is true, it will have an excellent tendency; for it would be injurious to our views, that it should be known that the Committee would dispose of lands on lower terms than those which I contemplate, notwithstanding, that mine are so preferable, from local situation and other advantages.

I commit this business to your secrecy and prudence, not doubting that you will operate to the best effect, in the progress of your interference in this business.

I have no doubt, that the Duke de Liancourt will be very impressive, in his conversation on this subject, on his return to Boston. His testimony is invaluable, not only as it regards his judgment, but his character, as an honest man.

I am with sincere regard, dear sir

Your obedient humble servant

Wm. Bingham

General Jackson

At the same time that General Jackson was being alerted in Boston, General Cobb was being summoned from Maine to testify from first-hand experience to the value of the lands. After having appointed agents to guard the Bingham property and having left his son Thomas in charge at Gouldsborough, Cobb set out for Boston on 17 November. He proceeded first to Blue Hill, where he was obliged to wait five days for a vessel bound for Boston; he made good use of his time, however, discussing his plan of operation with the surveyor, John Peters, who hospitably took in the General for Thanksgiving dinner. On the twenty-second a schooner which had been loading at Union River finally put in, and after a tedious seven-day passage, made uncomfortable by gales of snow and rain, Cobb reached Boston on the twenty-ninth. In his eagerness to see his wife at Taunton, he failed to call on Mrs. Knox and thus missed receiving letters from Bingham and Knox urging him to remain in Boston in hopes of meeting Baring, should he arrive there.985 When he finally did pick up his mail, he found that his friend Knox feared Bingham was going too far with his “delicate touches”; as the following letter indicates, the bluff General much preferred to lay his cards on the table.

Knox to Cobb, Boston, 19 November 1795 [CP]

Boston 19 November 1795

My dear Cobb:

I regret that I am obliged to leave this town for Philadelphia before your arrival. But so it is. Circumstances imperious compel me to go.

You will receive here a letter from Mr. Bingham, containing his ideas of elevating our lands. I also enclose you a letter from him to me respecting Mr. Baring.986 I commit the business entrusted to me to you. I leave it in good hands, in leaving it in yours. You will perceive the delicate touches Mr. Bingham wishes to give this affair. My conduct would be different. I would produce the facts. The rise of land in consequence of settlements from Portland, Kennebec, Wiscasset, St. Georges, Penobscot Bay, etc. It may be asserted with great truth all round Penobscot Bay, that the land is worth from 6 to ten dollars per acre. The wood whether hard or soft will give it that value and 50 per cent more, and afterwards the land is highly valuable for cultivation. The mill seats, the lumber, the fisheries, the climate the everything renders it infinitely more value than any other part. These facts ought and must be asserted and proved. But settlements and good roads must be the basis of every hope.

But certainly I need not develope these things to you. It is however altogether important that you endever to make a favorable impression, closing every thing with come and see. The duke will have been of great service to us, and also Mr. Beametz. Let then all come. Invite every body to see, compare, calculate, and draw a just result.

I think you must not leave Boston until you know where Mr. Baring arrives. I shall write you from Philadelphia. Mr. Bingham will also write you. It is probable Baring may have arrived at New York. Look out for him and most sacredly adhere to facts and the truth. I would not for a world be concerned in selling any land under a deception. I wish every body to see for themselves.

Yours affectionately

H. Knox

General Cobb

Bingham to Knox, Philadelphia, 29 October 1795 [CP]

Philadelphia October 29th 1795

My dear General:

My letters follow in such quick succession, that I should deem it necessary to make an apology for them, if you were not so deeply interested in the result of my communications.

Since I last wrote to you, I have received a letter from Sir Francis Baring, in reply to that which I wrote to him, making an offer of a third or a half of the two millions of acres.

He seems very desirous of taking this interest; but as his character is that of a person of consummate prudence, he has thought proper to send out his son, in whom he has implicit confidence, and who has possession of full powers. This young man is a partner in the House of Hope.

His object is to make enquiries, relative to various circumstances, connected with the purchase, respecting which, he wishes to be satisfied.

His objections appear to be principally derived from the tenure, which imposes the necessity of holding the lands by trusteeship and from a want of knowledge of a variety of other points that have a relation thereto. He has not informed me what part of the United States is his immediate destination, but on considering that Massachusetts will be deemed the source of information, I have no doubt that Boston is his object, where I suppose he must have arrived, before this time, as he was to have embarked, in the beginning of September.

In his intercourse with society at Boston, he will endeavor to procure adequate data, to fix his opinions.

I do not know at present, what are the prevailing sentiments on the subject of the Maine lands, or whether those prejudices have ceased to exist, which were so prevalent on the subject, when I was there. I cherish the hope, that the reports that have been made by persons who have visited these lands, and are competent to form a proper estimate of their value, have induced the most favorable results. The particular correspondents of Messrs. John and F. Baring and Company at Boston are Messrs. Codman. You will therefore know exactly where and in what manner the proper impression is most effectually and with the most delicacy to be made.

I view a connection with Messrs. Barings in this business (as I am convinced their views embrace other Houses of the first character and capital) to be of essential consequence, as it relates to the remaining portion of the lands, that is retained.

It appears evident that all that is necessary to render these lands of the highest importance, is to make them better known. They will fortunately bear the test of the most scrupulous investigation, and therefore must absolutely get into high repute, by an attention to their improvement. I have no doubt that some important operations to give a value to these lands may be made under the sanction of such respectable Houses.

I therefore hope this letter will meet you in Boston, and that if Mr. Barings son should arrive there, some measures will be taken thro’ the intervention of third persons, to give him a just idea of the real value and rising importance of the Maine lands.

The price at which these lands have been offered are certainly far below their value; but necessity compels the sale and policy dictates the propriety of making a sacrifice to persons, who can so essentially remunerate it, by their future services.

My principal concern arises from the delay that will be necessarily occasioned by the time that Mr. Baring will employ in procuring what he may deem satisfactory information, for I do not wish to lose too much time, nor leave too much at the mercy of fortuitous events; for in the intermediate period, I might more successfully have operated by having again recourse to an European market. Mr. Baring mentions that his son will pay his respects to me in Philadelphia in the course of the winter. This may occasion a long, perhaps a fatal delay. I hope he will not be so long in determining, after proper impressions have been made in Boston, which I suppose will be the head quarters of information.

I shall be well pleased that General Cobb should be on the spot, and if the Duke de Liancourt was there, it would add a respectable concurring testimony, in favor of the value and real importance of this country.

These lands are, at the price I offered them, considerably cheaper than those to be purchased of the State at 21 cents, which, with settling duty and interest of money, will amount to upwards of 30 cents. I wish that the Duke de Liancourt’s opinion on the subject of the soil, local situation and resources of the Maine lands, could be extracted from him, in the form of a written document.

I wish exceedingly to know whether the State of Massachusetts has prohibited the further sales of lands in the District of Maine. It is intelligence very essential to my operations, about which I have not been as yet able to procure information. I rather suppose General Jackson’s occupations will not permit his attention to this object. I wish it would suit your convenience to supply his place, in this particular, and to cooperate with me by your reflections and opinions, freely communicated to me on the subject.

Do you suppose that a loan could be negotiated at Boston, on giving a very high interest for money, and pledging the most undoubted security? From the returns of the Department of the Bank, I find that there is much less pressure amongst the merchants, than exists here. Perhaps you will think it proper, that General Cobb should delay his visit here, for a short time, untill it is known whether Mr. Baring will arrive at Boston. His report, on the subject of the appearance of rapid settlement, will be very essential.

The greatest secrecy must be observed, with regard to Mr. Baring’s views. If they were known, many attempts would be made to render them fruitless.

With respectfull compliments to the ladies, I am affectionately yours

Wm. Bingham

General Knox

Sir Francis Baring’s letter had spoken of his son’s leaving early in September; yet November passed with no word of his arrival. Bingham was on tenterhooks during this whole period, and as December lengthened, he redoubled his efforts to have all in readiness when Baring arrived. The three following letters addressed to General Cobb show how carefully he was preparing the way and how anxious he was to have Baring receive none but the best reports on the Bingham holdings down east.

Bingham to Cobb, Philadelphia, 9 December 1795 [CP]

Philadelphia December 9th 1795

Dear Sir:

I received your letter of the 29 November in which you notify your intention of setting off from Boston on the next day for Taunton and from thence for Philadelphia. General Knox, who is now here, supposes that when you wrote that letter, you had not received one that he had addressed to you, previous to his departure, and which he left with Mrs. Knox to be delivered to you, on your arrival at Boston, in which he recommended strongly your remaining at Boston, from an expectation that Mr. Baring would arrive there. I hope this recommendation has had its effect, as I have been informed that Mr. Baring has absolutely arrived at Boston, and it would be peculiarly unfortunate that General Knox, General Jackson and yourself should be absent at this critical time, for his object is to make every essential enquiry, before he concludes the purchase of a portion of these lands, and I ardently wish such an impression to be made on his mind, as the state of the country and its future prospects will justify and support.

By a sale of a part of these lands, funds will be obtained, to make the settlement as respectable and rapid, as our interests may require.

I know it will be somewhat surprizing to Mr. Baring that so great a profit should be obtained on the sale of these lands, but at the price asked him, it is more apparent than real. He will know that the purchase made of the State was at the rate of ten cents per acre, but in addition thereto, there is the settlement duty amounting to seventy five thousand dollars, the sum paid to Duer for his half profits on the contract, seventy four thousand six hundred dollars; the other half is consequently worth the same and therefore in an estimate of the cost must be added thereto; four years and a half interest on the debt due the State, besides the expenses already disbursed on improvements, etc.

To enumerate the above it will stand thus:

2,000,000 Acres at ten cents


Settlement Duty 2,500 Settlers at $30


Paid Duer for one half Profit


Other half of equal Value


Five Years Interest on $200,000


Contingent Expenses of Various Kinds




which is above 25 cents per acre, on a rough calculation. Now the difference betwixt this price and two shillings sterling, the price asked Mr. Baring, is less than the average rise of property during that space of time, in any part of the United States, and therefore it may be said, that the land is sold for less than first cost, arising from the difference in the value of money, owing to the immense increase in the circulating medium and the consequent augmentation of the value of real estate.

It will be unnecessary to impress on you the propriety of acting in this business so as not to evince the least appearance of any importunity on my part, to close the bargain.

In a great hurry and with much regard I am

Dear sir

Your obedient humble servant

Wm. Bingham

General Cobb

Bingham to Cobb, Philadelphia, 15 December 1795 [CP]

Philadelphia December 15th 1795

Dear General:

I herewith enclose a letter for Mr. Baring987 which you will peruse with attention, and seal before you deliver it.

You will soon discover what society he has frequented and whether there is any reason to suppose he has had his mind poisoned or perverted. In case you think he has been favorably impressed on the subject of these lands, it will be discretionary with you to deliver him the inclosed letter, or to retain it, for I do not want him to think that I have great solicitude on the subject, but am rather desirous that your interviews with him should appear to be the result of accident, rather than design. You cannot want opportunities of meeting him often, as he will probably move in your circle of intimate acquaintance.

It will naturally occur to you that an indirect impression of the most forcible nature may be made on his mind, thro the medium of conversations held with persons, that he is intimate with, who will naturally retail the same to him. General Jackson will have been your pioneer, and have cleared the way for your operations.

Should he have taken his departure for New York, I think it will be expedient for you to return there, where you will probably meet General Knox. But you will previously make enquiries, what society he most frequented, and whether it is supposeable he left Boston with favorable or unfavorable impressions on the subject.

You will recollect, that there is a letter for you at Mrs. Knox’s.

In great hurry I am with regard and esteem

Dear General

Your obedient humble servant

Wm. Bingham

P.S. On second consideration, I believe it will be expedient to deliver the enclosed letter.

Bingham to Cobb, Philadelphia, 19 December 1795 [CP]

Philadelphia December 19. 1795

My dear General:

I wrote to you the day after your departure,988 and enclosed to you a letter for Mr. Baring.

It was directed to the post office at New York, as General Knox informed me that you would make an enquiry for it there; but I am now apprehensive of its not having arrived in time to meet you, as by the post of this day I have no acknowledgment of your having received it.

I hope you will find Mr. Baring at Boston, and that the impressions that have been made on his mind are favorable.

I shall be impatient to hear from you after your arrival and to be acquainted (as far as your enquiries will inform you) of the objects that have seemingly occupied the attention of this gentleman, since his arrival.

I have no doubt that an investigation of the titles to these lands, the number of settlers to be quieted at the rates fixed in the contract, and other objects of this nature, will be principal objects.

As it is supposed that Mr. Baring will leave Boston in the course of the succeeding week for New York, it is the intention of General Knox to arrive there some days before, in order to be able to make some necessary arrangements.

It is probable that much stress will be laid on the difference of price which I now ask, and that which I apparently obtained these lands at: whereas it will be found on accurate investigation that the difference is far less than has obtained on the natural rise of real estate throughout the Union, from the amazing increase of circulating capital, for all kinds of property have doubled.

These lands cash at the following rate for one half of the same:

To the State at 10 cents, for half



Five years Interest



Dues for relinquishing his half



Half of the forfeiture if terms of


Settlement are not complied with



Half expenses of surveying, cutting


Roads, etc. etc.,





which is more than 25 cents per acre. The price I have asked is only 44 cents, which is a less advance than any lands in the United States have obtained, that were purchased in 1791.


I am with esteem

Wm. Bingham

General Cobb

P.S. At any rate, whether Mr. Baring purchases or not, it will be necessary to enter into arrangements to carry into effect, a very active scene of settlement, in the course of the succeeding year.

This will render it expedient that you return to New York, to meet General Knox there, and afterwards accompany him to Philadelphia, where I hope every matter connected therewith will be speedily arranged.


W. B.

On General Cobb’s return to Boston, he discovered, to the great relief of all concerned, that Baring had definitely arrived—indeed that he had been in the city since 29 November. Cobb also discovered that the young Englishman had obtained through the Codmans entree into Boston society and that he was on comfortable terms with most of the city’s leading families. If the General had expected to be dealing with a callow youth, he was soon disabused of the notion, for Alexander Baring was possessed of the judgment and maturity of a man many years his senior.

Though the future Lord Ashburton had just passed his twenty-first birthday, he had already had several years of business experience with the firm of Hope and Company in Amsterdam, where he had become a favorite of Henry Hope, the senior partner and one of the great merchants of Europe.989 When the French had invaded Holland in 1794, the Hopes had fled to London, bringing with them as much of their property as they could,990 and now, in concert with the House of Baring, they had determined to invest in American lands. It was decided that Alexander, who had the confidence of both houses, should be sent to America to examine the possibilities of investment. Accordingly, he was given letters of introduction to the Codmans in Boston, LeRoy and Bayard in New York, and Willing and Francis in Philadelphia, all three of which firms were correspondents of the Barings in this country. Alexander was also given a letter of credit for £100,000, with authorization to spend another £25,000 if occasion should warrant; in case an investment were definitely decided upon, Hope and Company agreed to take three fourths of it, the Barings the remaining fourth.991 Young Baring’s departure had been delayed by an accident, but at last he was in America, ready to proceed with his business. His first impressions of the United States were written to John Williams Hope,992 a partner in Hope and Company, in the following letter:

Alexander Baring, later First Lord Ashburton

Purchaser of a share in the Maine Lands for the Houses of Baring and Hope. Portrait by Sir Thomas Lawrence.

Baring to John Williams Hope, Boston, 8 December 1795 [BaP]

Boston 8th. December 1705

My dear Sir,

I have sent forward a line by different conveyances to my father993 to give intelligence of my arrival but have reserved my letter to you for Captain Scott, a regular trader who leaves this tomorrow. As it is possible this may reach England first, I report that we had a very rough passage of sixty seven days and arrived the 29th ultimo, but as all the fall ships have had as bad if not worse passages, I have no reason to complain and the less so as we escaped a very severe gale the day after our arrival which had done very material injury in the harbour and on the coast. Before I proceed further I have to answer your kind letter to me from Brighton of the 14th August which my accident prevented my doing before my departure. I shall say nothing of my feelings upon this second unparalelled proof of confidence reposed in me and indeed should be much embarassed to express them. Your first act in this respect, as the exercise of the power delegated to me was mostly under your eye and management, presumed only on my integrity and I was on that score confident of my merit. You now are pleased to pay a compliment to my judgement and I can only in return say that it shall be exercised with that caution and care which my own diffidence in it will prompt me to.

I shall report for form’s sake that I make note of your confirmation in the name of your house of the letter of credit given me by J. and F. Baring and Co. for one hundred thousand pounds sterling for the purpose of answering any purchases I may make in this country, conformable to the principles so often discussed between us, that you would by preference confine your stake for this purpose to said sum but that you leave me the latitude of extending it to one hundred and twenty five thousand pounds if any desirable end may thereby be attainable. Your judicious reflections on the object we have in view, as indeed every thing that has passed on paper and in conversation, will have due weight and be recurred to on all occasions, particularly what you mention about the advantages to be drawn from ready money, which I believe from what I have seen here to be very great. But I do not find it necessary to reply pointedly to any other part of your letter excepting to thank you for your generous offer to defray my expenses in this excursion, which, circumstances considered, I beg leave to decline. My father approved my ideas on this subject before I left England and we will therefore, if you please, leave my private finances on the old footing, which is abundantly liberal.

During my tedious passage I had full time to read and consider every thing on the subject of my mission, which is ranged in perfect order in my head as far as my information goes. I make daily acquisitions to it but shall not enter into any detail to you at present, tho’ I have much to say on the subject which I shall be able to say better from New York or Philadelphia.

This place has never been the scene of action of the land jobbers, who have been entirely confined to the southern states. I was indeed rather surprised to find people here think rather less of them than I should have supposed any Americans did and it weighed strongly against doing any thing, but I find they have not at all entered into the spirit of the thing and that they do not understand it. Very few people knew any thing about lands and nobody so much as I do myself. Merchants of character here are very steady regular people and much the reverse of what I imagined them. They seem particularly desirous of avoiding the appearance of levity and great enterprize which we impute to them, and they in consequence rather condemn the bold speculations of their neighbours at New York and Philadelphia and the more so from the jealousy which exists between these great seats of trade. I have seen and conversed with many respectable characters here and this appears to me to have been the abstract of public opinion concerning land speculation in general a short time ago, but some events for the last fortnight past have made considerable alterations and land speculations are now the rage of conversation every where, tho’ it appears a subject as perfectly new to most people as it is in England and perhaps more so.

James Greenleaf, the former American consul at Amsterdam, arrived a few days before me to effect this revolution. General Gunn994 purchased the back lands of the state of Georgia as far as the Missisipi of the legislature of that state for about three cents an acre, payable part at short and part at long periods but not being able to make the first payments has been obliged to cede the whole bargain to Greenleaf and some friends, who contrived to raise the first payments in New York and is now come here to dispose of the whole to make good the other payments. The whole tract is nearly twenty million of acres, which he has by means of a person of influence here to whom he pays a commission of 25,000 dollars, contrived to sell to substantial people who are to form a society at thirteen cents per acre. It is by many doubted whether the sale is not in a great part fictitious but certain it is that it is not all so, for I know several real purchasers. It is said he is himself to remain holder of one third but the whole plan of association is in embryo and only whispered about by the proprietors of this gold mine. Greenleaf has made a merit of giving this bargain to his townsmen from pure partiality to them and as he bears a fair private character here (his native place) it was believed by many, and it is certain that the whole is a capital piece of generalship which establishes fully his reputation with his competitors at Philadelphia. A person is to be sent to England by the society to make sales of part of this tract to Europeans. He is to be limited in his first sales to half a dollar or 2/3 sterling; he is afterwards to raise his price to one dollar and it is said limited to a very few acres at any price so as not at all events to dispose of more than will pay for prime cost.995

You will easily conceive that all this is a puff of which some are the dupes and others in the secret of. No sales can ever succeed in Europe because the concerned are totally ignorant of the mode of proceeding for the purpose and they fail in what Europeans chiefly look to—the Indian title. The holders do not pretend to possess these titles and avow that the lands must be purchased of the Indians. They have only purchased of the state the right of pre-emption as it is called,—that is, the right of the state as far as the state has any, and sole right to purchase or agree with the Indians, which must be done amicably. I shall in my first regular letter explain more fully the situation of the Indian tribes in the states and only at present add that the most powerful tribes are in these very lands, say the Chicasaws, Choctaws, Creeks and many others. The former have allways been friendly to the United States and in alliance with them and it is material to the safety of the frontier that they should not be offended. It is therefore presumed Congress may interfere in this bargain and the more so as some pretend the Union has a claim to them, all the back lands of the other states having been ceded like the North Western territory as a security for the payment of the public debt.

A Mr. Craigie, a respectable man who is one of the concerned in this business, sends a young man to England, a Mr. Forster, probably to make sales or some proposals relative to them.996 He asked Mr. Codman for a letter of introduction, which, at my desire, has been given for J. and F. B. and Co. He will probably open his budget and I should like to be correctly informed of what he proposes. They seem yet to have no setled plan but there are clever men among them who are probably interested in the first cost, for as all opinions agree that the price of the last sale is exorbitant, I can not suppose they could have been so much the dupes of Greenleaf for supposing the first purchase to be of

     20 million at 3 cents



     The resale at 13 cents



There would result the enormous proffit of



from which Greenleaf can well afford to pay the puffers liberally. I find Williamson997 has some hand in this speculation but the whole is known to the public imperfectly and I do not like to be to inquisitive. Before I get to New York I shall know every detail which interests us, merely as an object of curiosity to know from comparing sales what any tract may be worth, for there can be no question of its being anyway a desirable object for risking real capital, tho’ perhaps to those who have none it may turn up a great prize.

The noise this speculation has made occasioned the inclosed paragraph in the days paper.998 It describes the opinion of many on the subject, tho’ on this as on most cases the wise men differ or pretend to differ. There has been no survey of the lands and they are only sold from the mass, calculating the supposed courses of the rivers. Nobody but the Indians has ever been through them and it is unknown whether a great part may not be rocky or barren, tho’ the contrary is presumable from the nature of the adjoining lands. The calculation of the number of acres may not be within several millions and indeed the uncertainty and hazard attending every one circumstance which relates to them renders this one of the wildest speculations ever heard of here. Our idea in Europe, or at least mine, was that all Americans thought well of land speculations and this proceeds chiefly from all those who go to Europe having their interest in promoting it. The coolness and sometimes doubt with which the respectable people consider the subject here rather surprized me at first, for we thought they all of them only wanted capitals to go to any depths in them. I have conversed with them merely as on an object of curiosity and find in general that though all have a very high opinion of the growing prosperity of the country and in consequence of the increase in value of lands, they are, as we are, staggered at the immense adventures of speculators afloat, and more or less uncertain whether this bubble has not given a fictitious value to the property. I state in this letter what I hear and remark unconnected as it occurs, reserving to give you more regularly my ideas on the subject from New York or Philadelphia.

As I consider people to be more cool and impartial on the subject here and find many very interesting and well informed characters, I shall prolong my stay and probably remain eight days or a fortnight longer, and I am the less eager to get forward as I shall be put rather peremtorily [sic] to a yes or no, which I should wish to be well prepared for. John Codman, the chief of the house of J. and R. Codman, is a very able respectable man and is very much esteemed here. His first wife was a sister of Thomas Russell and his present a sister of Mr. Amory, who you saw with Richard Codman in Holland. I have the highest opinion of him in every respect and think him perfectly suited for a confidential man, if we need one. He has very considerable property, which is calculated at about £50/M sterling and is himself very prudent. He permits his brother Richard to try some light speculations in France, but he is perfectly master of the principles on which they rest and of the extent to which he is willing to go in them.999 I have been introduced by him to most of the respectable characters in town, much to my satisfaction and information, particularly to a Mr. Gore, Attorney General of the United States in this state and a very inteligent man, and many others.1000 For the hospitality is such here that one introduction to a known person is a passport every where. I am constantly out in some company and as I lodge in a private house with a dozen young merchants of the town, am always collecting information of different kind, though I do not find any body in the least suspicious of the motives of my arrival. I have opened myself more in inquisitiveness to Codman than to any and should not scruple, if I thought it necessary, to go further with him. I think even that I should be able with him to form a respectable junto here to associate with, who would be able to make advances, if it should hereafter be eligible, for I feel at present rather disposed to join with steady people to hold lands with, than with high flyers whose property and circumstances are subject to so many precarious events. But this is all premature and merely a corps de reserve if my opinion should hereafter strengthen. I shall leave an opening here without coming forward, and I may perhaps be mistaken in my opinion of this inclination of the people here, tho’ I am pretty certain a good sum could be raised, if not the full amount.

General Knox is at Philadelphia, but I have been introduced to his wife at her desire by Mr. Codman, so that they are waiting for me. I find the Maine Lands well thought of, collectively considered, but have found yet nobody informed of particulars. I am to dine tomorrow with Mr. Vaughan1001 and may probably learn something. I confess I am particularly partial to them above any others in point of situation, for reasons which my next will more amply detail and as far as my opinion is formed, this will be the object if any. The Penobscot Indian lands are not yet sold, nor is any arrangements with the Indians made as yet. It is uncertain whether they hereafter will and at all events the state sells quite by retail and no mass could be purchased.1002 Haskell is not known, Lloyd was a clerk at Russell’s, a young man of no influence or consequence.1003 He bears a fair character however and I shall call on him, for I understand he has lately been busy in the land way and he may furnish me with information, though he probably could not otherwise be usefull to us. I have not yet been able to meet him, but may before this letter departs. Williamson’s Connecticut lands have been sold to a society chiefly in Connecticut for 1200/M dollars at long periods, which makes the price near 40 cents the acre or 1/10 sterling. The purchasers can not make good their first payments and are willing to sell a sufficiency for that purpose at 10 per cent advance, but the people here do not like these lands. They are thought too remote and indeed are so for many years to come.1004 I know no tracts more likely to suit speculators here than those in Maine or to which emigrations are more likely to be drawn.

Greenleaf I understand has got very safely out of his federal city speculations and made a large proffit. He ceded part to Morris and a large portion to a Mr. Law, an Englishman with an Indian fortune setled at Philadelphia or New York.1005 The shares have since fallen considerably and G. prides himself much on his able retreat. The bills on Bourne it is here said have been reimbursed with 20 per cent damages.1006 The object was to raise money and the concerned would always be willing to pay this interest, which the advantages to be drawn from it can afford.

I learn since that Phelps1007 is the purchaser of the Connecticut lands, I mean the ostensible one. The term is five years interest to commence after two, and the whole has since been retailed to people in the state of Connecticut chiefly, at 40 per cent proffit, which is to be paid down, say the 40 per cent, and the present holders to stand in the place of the original purchasers. They can not pay these 40 per cent and are ready to let others with ready money share in their purchase at par. Phelps is here himself. Gorham,1008 his former associate, lives here so that I am quite in the vortex of the speculators who are trying their schemes in New England, where as before said the whole is a new thing. I consider the Connecticut lands after those in Maine to be the most eligible mass at market, but at the present price and in their actual state nothing can be done, for whatever we do the least complicacy in management and direction must be avoided, and the associations here are compleat chaos! Perhaps if we had been earlier our 600,000 dollars cash would have weighed down the doubt on long terms. Foreigners are to be enabled to hold lands both in the Connecticut and Georgia tracts and the latter are to pay no taxes before they are represented in Congress, that is before the population is 50 or 60/M, which is a very liberal dispensation. I find the Georgia speculators low spirited today. The inclosed paragraphs of today’s paper threatens a repeal of the act of sale. The fact is, and Greenleaf boasts of it as a proof of a good bargain, part of the Georgia legislature were bribed, many had townships granted them, which is notorious, and the whole transaction is reprobated by every thing that is respectable in the state. It is not only considered as a bad bargain, but the sale of such a mass is thought impolitic and worthy notice of the federal government. The speculators are alarmed and would willingly pay forfeit to get off, but if the bill was legal, I conceive the contract, whether good or bad, must be respected and so it is considered here. But if the purchasers and state disagree, they may give the former considerable trouble.

I have conversed with the Attorney General concerning the effect of the treaty on Englishmen holding lands and also of the nature of tenure in trust. The difficulties in the latter are not very material if we have trusty agents, but the treaty gives no right to those who had none before and consequently Bingham’s idea of a transfer will be of no avail. The Treaty says expressly they shall hold “according to the nature and tenure of their respective states and tides therein,” that is, the tenure shall remain the same, those who hold shall continue to hold on the same footing but no new rights shall be granted them and the article has reference chiefly to people who after the war were dispossessed from political considerations. I conceive also this to be the equitable interpretation, but many think otherwise.

I understand Major Jackson is married to Miss Bingham, I mean Miss Willing.1009 The Major in general did not please here. I hope this is not an anticipation of his proffits, for I believe that is his chief dependence. It is whispered in the court of scandal that family circumstances rendered the event necessary, I mean merely an unconquerable attachment.

I intended this for a short letter but it has insensibly run on to a very long one and I fear rather confused. It will give you no idea of the state of my opinion, for in fact it is not formed. I can only say that my good opinion of investment of property in this country is considerably strengthened, that I have the highest expectations of its future increasing prosperity, and that the state of what I have seen far exceeds what I, and I believe you, had any conception of. To risk a speculation on this continuance of prosperity, I should not hesitate a moment, but whether that is done by purchasing lands and whether the situation of the people concerned in them does not prevent this from proving a fair barometer is the great object of doubt and investigation. The minutiae and details of the bargains of these speculators will become necessary when I come to act, but at present, tho’ I collect and attend to them, it is the general principle which I am chiefly desirous of investigating. A person need not be bold to buy millions of acres payable at distant periods when the worst that can happen to him is to lose his bargain if he does not succeed, but to lay out real property is a very serious business and particularly when you act for others. My reflections upon lands I represent however in their darkest light and confess that I strongly incline towards them, if I succeed in a bargain and settlement to my liking. The daily bargains and wild adventures for millions are what render me most timid and cautious in my objections to myself, that I may not leave in the lurch in this country two very valuable objects, your property and my reputation. It is proper to prepare you for one probability and that is that if any [of] the Maine lands are likely to be the object, I mean of those already known to me, Bingham’s Pennsylvania lands are the only that at present stand in competition with them as a parcell, but you will remark that as I before said I shall get no real information untill I get to New York.

I shall say nothing at present about politics in this quarter. We have a late ship in from London but she brings neither news papers nor the King’s speech, as she might have done. The Captain’s verbal inteligence is confused. Here the treaty absorbs the attention of every body and parties run high upon it. I shall explain hereafter what these parties are, only adding that they do not in the least, in my opinion, endanger the security and peace of the country. We are waiting for what will be said to the rejection of the 12th article, which was completely absurd as well as disadvantageous.1010 The general opinion of people appears to be that tho’ there are good things in the treaty, the whole is rather an awkward performance and in this I concur. It is supported by most of its advocates upon the principle of the necessity of supporting administration, which is very prevalent here. There is a violent pen war between the secretaries in which Randolph, Hamilton, Jefferson and others are concerned. Of this I shall write you when I know more of it. It is chiefly confined to newspapers and the people seem very dispassionate and unconcerned about this and indeed most political questions. They are disposed to attend much to their private concerns, which in every family is prospering and only to public ones as they are conducive thereto by the maintenance of good order and of their individual rights, of both which no people have a higher estimation.

The trade carried on is very considerable and upon the whole respectable. There are two or three capitals in it of £80 to 100/M sterling and many from £20 to 50, as also several of both descriptions out of trade. The adventures of the regular merchants go generally to the full extent of their capital. Credits are great facilities to them, but they should seldom require advances. There are a number of young houses of small capital, as is the case in all rising places, which makes prudence in connections very requisite, but with that, very desirable bussiness can be transacted and with people as strictly jealous of their commercial characters as in any parts of Europe. Most of the good houses have particular connections in London. In Amsterdam they have not and [are] chiefly dissatisfied with their correspondents. I have laid the corner stones of future bussiness for the house at Amsterdam, if it ever returns, on the most respectable footing, and we may build upon them to our fancy as much as you please with perfect security.

As Captain Scott’s bag closes, I must close this letter but may perhaps write you again if he unexpectedly delays his departure. I address it to you, as I owed a reply to your letter from Brighton, but as I know it is indifferent, I do not write seperately to Mr. H. Hope, confining myself to the assurance of my respects, as also to Mrs. Williams Hope and every branch of the family. I hope you will all have returned benefited by your summer excursion. Pray believe me ever with respectful affection and attachment,

My dear sir, Your most obedient and devoted humble servant

Alexr. Baring

I hope this will reach you safe, for I can not make duplicates without taking up too much of my time.

Boston, 10th December

John Williams Hope, Esquire

General Cobb was in a complete state of readiness for putting into execution Bingham’s carefully prepared plans. He soon made contact with the young Englishman, delivered him the letter from Bingham, and was gratified to find that Baring turned to him for assistance in getting acquainted with American ways.1011 Cobb’s candid account of the first meeting reveals the General as an astute agent, playing to perfection his role in Bingham’s drama.

Cobb to Bingham, Boston, 28 December 1795 [BP]1012

Boston Monday Morning December 28th. 1795

My dear Sir:

I arrived here on Thursday evening last, and by the Saturdays mail I receiv’d your letter of the 19th instant. At New York your letter of the 15th with its inclosures was receiv’d, and I am greatly disappointed at my friend Smith’s1013 omitting to put my answer to it into the office the day I left that city.

The day after my arrival here I had an oppertunity of dining with Mr. B. at Mr. Jeffries.1014 I gave him your letter, and thro’ a very social Christmas dinner and evening, I occasionally convers’d with him on a variety of little subjects, with an intention to find him out and to make myself as agreeable to him as possible, always observing to keep the ultimate point in view. He inform’d me that Mr. Codman and himself had engaged the mail stage for Thursday next to go on to New York, and he wish’d very much to afford me a seat in the same stage. I told him that nothing would give me greater pleasure, and if the business I came here to transact was adjusted, which I had promis’d should be by Tuesday next, I certainly would do myself that honor. Since this interview we have only visited by cards, but I have been constantly employ’d in tracing his back track since he came to this city, in all which I cannot discover that he has in any instance made known his particular arrant to this country. If he has to anybody it must be Codman, with whom he is very intimate, and nothing more has come from him, than a general intimation, that among other objects it is not improbable but that Mr. B. may purchase some of the wild lands in America.

I shall sett off from here with Codman and B. in next Thursday’s mail stage for New York, where we shall arrive on Wednesday following. My time here before my departure (as I find I must forego Mrs. Cobb at Taunton) will be taken up in the company of Mr. B—., as I have made dining and tea parties for him thro’ the town. He is a little too much of a Dutchman.

You cannot conceive the rage that the Connecticut, Worcester County and Hampshire County lads have after my lands. I was chas’d like a common fellow thro’ those parts of the country as I came on. They have spoke for six townships, only to have the preemptive right to purchase. I can do with these lands as I please, and as you wish, if I have elbow room.


D. Cobb

The same day that Cobb wrote Bingham his impressions of Baring, the latter wrote his first formal letter to Philadelphia, apologizing for his delay and postponing discussion of landed property till a personal interview could be arranged.

Baring to Bingham, Boston, 28 December 1795 [BP]

Boston 28th December 1795


General Cobb delivered to me the 25th instant the letter you honor me with of the 15th and I am much obliged to you for the opportunity you have afforded me of deriving from this gentleman’s personal experience some usefull and authentic information concerning lands in the District of Maine of which I shall certainly avail myself.

My departure from England was unfortunately but inevitably delayed by an accident longer than I wished; my passage was a very tedious one, and I have been detained here by some business foreign to the chief object of my visit to this country much longer than I was at first aware of.

My departure for New York is however finally settled for next mail say Thursday the 31st and as my stay there will be short I shall certainly be at Philadelphia towards the end of next month and perhaps earlier. General Cobb has joined a party I had made to proceed to New York and I shall have the advantage of his information both here and there.

I should have informed you, Sir, of my arrival had I not at first intended to proceed forward immediately and in consequence been desirous of reserving every thing for our personal interview as I indeed now shall. The suspense you have been kept in has been a subject of much regret to me tho’ unavoidable from the circumstances of the case. The account you give of the appreciation of the property in question, and indeed the visible and rapid progress that way every thing in this country is making precludes the possibility of any real prejudice to you on that score if our mutual wish to be concerned together in the business should prove fruitless. The short time I have been in this country confirms strongly to my mind your very just remark that a personal visit is requisite to be well informed about it, and at the same time that our ideas in Europe are very erroneous and inadequate, I mean on general principles on which I am more desirous of information than of particulars of the object in question. I collect daily materials to form my opinion and hope to meet you at Philadelphia with that knowledge of all circumstances without which I could never with any satisfaction to myself proceed in an object of such magnitude. I shall refrain at present from entering into any detail. An hours conversation will be more efficient than a volume of correspondence, and your candid advice and opinion on which I rely will be ultimately necessary for my decision. I shall confine myself to the assurance that I am with sincere esteem and respect

Sir   Your most obedient servant

Alexr Baring

William Bingham, Esquire


On Thursday, 31 December 1795, a party composed of Baring, Cobb, and John Codman, Boston correspondent for the House of Baring, set out for New York in the stage. Despite upsetting in the mud outside Rye at three o’clock one morning, the party arrived in New York after a week’s tedious travel.1015 This enforced close association gave Cobb plenty of opportunity to sound out the Englishman even further. Once the party had arrived in New York, Knox put in appearance and did what he could to further the cause. Meanwhile Bingham sat anxiously in Philadelphia urging them to hurry Baring to that city before someone should contaminate him with false reports about Maine. Fortunately, a complete set of letters between Bingham and Cobb and Bingham and Knox exist to give a detailed picture of how the team worked on Baring during his stay in New York.

Knox to Bingham, New York, 30 December 1795 [BP]

New York 30th December 1795

My dear Sir:

Yesterday I received yours of the 28th with its enclosures.

The notes lodged in the bank of Pennsylvania, are the property of the bank of New York, received by it, in exchange for notes of Duers endorsed by Walker and Walter Livingston, the exchange being made before the attachment of Fish. This will be proved satisfactorily by Mr. Wilkes. The affair here will not probably be talked of, but it has been mentioned to me by Duer, Walker, and Fish. In any case your conduct will be manifestly correct.1016

I have seen Walker upon the security for the advances. He considers himself as pledged for them already. The interview was in the presence of his wife and Mr. La Roche, the former partner of Mrs. DelaVal, and therefore I did not press him far upon that point. He is extremely restive under his engagements for the Van Berckels. He shewed me a letter that he has written to Mr. V. B., in which he demands a repayment of the 5,000 dollars, which he has advanced to Mrs. V. B. or, a conveyance of the half of Trenton (or rather of a quarter, La Roche having the other quarter) and he threatens that unless they immediately exonerate him from the bonds he has given to you that he will exchange the deed now in the bank of the United States, for his bond, and he tells me that he has before written to them the same thing, and I presume he will actually do it shortly. He thinks were you to relinquish the advances, that Van Berckel ought to consent to his relinquishing the deed. In this case Walker would be free from his responsibility, in all respects. He now has only 7,000 acres of Trenton, for his own advances of 5,000 dollars, and his responsibility to you of 8,000 dollars. La Roches quarter is also mortgaged to him for 1,800 dollars.

A propos, La Roche will sell his 7,000 acres of Trenton. Leonard Jarvis has offered him one dollar per acre payable in 6 years with interest until paid, and to satisfy him by a mortgage on his Cambridge estate. But La Roche wants some money and would take your obligations at 6 years with interest for 6,000 dollars and one thousand dollars in cash. Walker would consent to this and release his mortgage. I presume this, as the proposal was made in his presence and he seemingly assented. I advise strongly to this purchase as it is covered with wood and adjoins the other part of Trenton and lyes on Jordan River. I presume Walker might be induced to the same terms for Van Berckels quarter. Consider and let me know. La Roche cannot stay here long.1017

Yesterday a Mr. Robinson spoke to me respecting 50,000 acres, or one half of your obligation to Flint which was mortgaged to him and Cruger by Melancton Smith. The other half I do not yet learn where it is. This cursed obligation has been floating about to the injury of other property. People do not make a distinction between the residuary proffits and the actual acres. I propose to you that we buy up this affair even at the expence of 15,000 dollars payable in 5 or 6 years.1018 I have seen LeRoy and Bayard,1019 and they affect to know nothing of Mr. Baring, and that they have no information of, or letters for him. This may be so. Enquire whether any letters were sent from Willing and Francis.1020

I expect to hear by the post of today whether he has left Boston. Certain it is that he is not here. I shall stay until he comes, however painful it is to be from my family, as I consider this of immense importance. I have not yet opened my lips to any one even of his name excepting Le Roy and Bayard, and this in Mrs. Le Roys lying-in chamber. I shall communicate to you the first I shall hear of him, and you will please to do the same.

Every day I have been here I have dined in large companies where the Province of Maine lands have naturally enough been a considerable topic of conversation and I have the pleasure to inform you that the impression in their favor is very general and decisive. Mr. Daniel Ludlow1021 made this declaration, for it seems he has been there, “That the land is capable of producing wheat and all other valuable production in as great if not greater quantities than any other new lands, and that the situation is beyond all comparison better and promises greater advantages.” This declaration applied equally to New Brunswick. I yesterday dined at the Mayors in company with thirty gentlemen and the conversation took the same turn. I consider my time usefully employed, in giving just and favorable ideas of our country, and this without any offer of sale. I am persuaded that in the course of this and the next week I shall dine [?] in company with every person that Mr. Baring will see during his stay here. Enough for the present. Health and immortality to Mrs. Bingham and her sattelites.

Yours sincerely

H. Knox

Mr. Bingham

Cobb to Bingham, New York, 7 January 1796 [BP]

New York January 7th. 1796 [BP]

My dear Sir:

By my short note of yesterday you will be inform’d of my arrival here. I have inform’d you in my letter from Boston of my proceedings there, on the subject of my mission, and altho’ I have been frequently with the gentleman in different companies at Boston, and in the most familiar conversations on our route to this place, yet, I am confident, he does not consider me as having any concern in influencing his opinions in favor of the Eastern Lands; and I am further convinced that he has not intimated, even to his greatest confidents, his intentions of coming to this country. As a convincing circumstance of this fact, the morning of our departure from Boston, I call’d upon him. He then, for the first time, began a conversation on the Maine lands, and particularly requested of me that on our journey in the stage, I would not mention a word by which Mr. Codman (who is his most intimate friend) should suspect his intentions as to that country, telling me at the same time that he had not made known his business to any body, and hoped that it would not be known. This with other circumstances that came to my knowledge at Boston, and still more convincing ones that occur’d on the road, I am persuaded, that if he ever had any bad impressions of our country they are eradicated, that he thinks very favorably of it, and appears to be anxious for a concern [in] it—at least, as much so as a Dutchman can be.

He is perfectly acquainted with all the circumstances of the lands of this country, as much so as almost any one here. Indeed it appears that he has paid particular attention to this subject. He not only knows the particular local situation of lands, their connections and communications, but the prices likewise at which they have been bo’t and sold. As to your lands, he knows all about them. He has got the report of our Committee for Eastern Lands, which states all their proceedings, the prices at which the lands have been sold, to whom, and the terms of payment and settlement. Those circumstances, being known to you, will necessarily point out some general modes of conduct on your part.

I shall remain in this city ‘till I have your directions. I appear at present to my friend, that I am transacting business here, which I expect to accomplish in three or four days, after which I am destin’d for Philadelphia. He is very anxious to accompany me, and will do it, if he can possible [sic] arrange his business here for departure. (He has some commercial business to transact for the House of Hope.) He says he will leave it for the present rather than not go on with me.

I have seen Knox this morning. At 12 o’clock he will see Baring.


D. Cobb

Since writing the above, Mr. Baring requests me to inform you that he intends coming to Philadelphia sooner than he wrote you he should, and would have given you a letter, but for the circumstance of my writing at this time.

Knox to Bingham, New York, 7 January 1796 [BP]

Thursday 7 January 1796.

My dear Sir:

Since I wrote you this morning I called upon Mr. Baring and found him with General Cobb only, who introduced us to each other. I soon after presented your letter, which he read, and pocketed. The conversation took another turn, and Mr. Codman and others came in. He, however, took an opportunity to tell me that he would call upon me and talk over the subject to which the letter I had delivered alluded, that his business was not known to any person, that he had received such information from collateral inquiries as to enable him to make up his mind and that therefore he thought it but right to repair as soon as convenient to Philadelphia in order to come to a conclusion, that he should defer a more intimate knowledge of New York until his return after he had settled this business in Philadelphia. The impression, and the only one left on my mind, was that he had determined to embrace the offer upon some terms, but whether the precise terms you proposed I could not then discover. I have the idea he will object to the price—perhaps I may be wrong. In appearance he seems the brother and a strong but large likeness of the young Baring now in Philadelphia1022—less polish, a countenance rather buttoned up, but without the least particle of disengenousness or want of candor. Indeed I think the terms he used to me were synonymous to those used in his fathers letter. He is intelligent, charmed with the climate and appearance of New England, says that no part of Europe in which he has been is more populous than the country through which he has come and that every thing exceeds his expectations, that the people in Europe have no adequate idea of our happy situation.

I did not speak much to him. I told him you had communicated his fathers letter to me, that you were highly pleased that he had pursued the methods he had to satisfy himself of the value of the object. That from the time the offer had been made, all other propositions had ceased and that you had not entertained any doubts but the offer if well examined would be embraced. That the low terms you had proposed, arose from a desire to interest so respectable a connection in such a manner, as that mutual satisfaction and confidence should arise and encrease in the pursuit of a great mutual object. That he was no doubt well aware that the monied capital of this country was inferior to the demands for various profitable objects, that although you were here exceedingly rich yet your estate, very widely disbursed [?], did not permit you without too great a sacrifice of bestowing such capital upon eastern country as it really required in order to give that estimation and price that it merited. That your character and station in society forbad your taking those steps, which others had done to inflate the reputation of your lands, that you desired them to be regularly settled knowing well that your profits although not instant would be certain and abundant.

Among other things he said he did not expect and should therefore not attempt any further information at this place. I shall hold myself ready to meet him for further conversations and it will probably be this day. If it be your desire, that I should accompany him to Philadelphia I will do it, however disagreeable for me to be absent from my family. He may set out on Wednesday next, perhaps. He is engaged to dine with me at the governors on Monday, and I shall take care otherwise to see that he is well introduced here.

I am summoned by a Mr. John N. Remsen, a lawyer, as an endorser upon your note for 900 dollars, one 20/23 December, in the possession of William Hill the present holder, to make arrangements for payment, you having refused so to do. This is part of the 15,000 dollars due last month. The remainder belongs in the bank of New York fairly [?]. This perhaps was not so soon alienated. I have put the notice into Colonel Hamiltons hands and will abide his judgement.1023 It is however probable they will commence a suit which truly I would willingly avoid. Always respectfully remember me to Mrs. Bingham, and the young immortals.


H. Knox

This letter I commenced yesterday, and finished this morning, being Friday, the 8 January.

Bingham to Cobb, Philadelphia, 7 January 1796 [CP]

Philadelphia January 7th 1796

My dear General:

I have received your letter of the 28 ultimo and am happy to find that you arrived at Boston previous to Mr. Baring’s departure.

He confesses in a letter that he wrote to me that the influential object in his visit to Boston was information concerning these lands, but I cannot conceive the reasons for his long delay. I am curious to know what appears to have been the nature of his enquiries, and to whom he addressed himself to make them.

Your longer residence will perhaps have enabled you to throw light upon this subject.

I wish you to inform me what you suppose to have been the impression on his mind, and whether you had any conversation that leads you to suppose that Mr. B. has an idea of more extensive purchases in Massachusetts, or any desire of being connected with the back tract, which is a business I wish for the present to keep out of sight.

I am certainly placed in a disagreable situation, by being kept so long in suspence, as I cannot take advantage of the most favorable circumstances that offer, nor form any systematic plan of improvement and settlement, which requires the cooperation of other capitals, and other persons, to carry into effect. It is now six months since I made the offer, which was at a price extravagantly low—lower than the average rise of property deemed the most stationary in the country would justify, taking into consideration its value in 1792 and its increase since that period, from the immense augmentation of circulating capital alone, whereas these lands have other more influential causes of increase, arising from population.

Altho I am very desirous of engaging an association so respectable, yet I am very averse to the delay in giving me an explicit answer, considering that no such object, on such terms, exists in the United States. Lands are most rapidly increasing in value, every where, and I am convinced I could form a company that would give me much higher terms, than I shall procure by the offer to Mr. Baring, but this would occasion delay, and payments would not be so regular.

The considerable demand for these lands for settlement, must operate conviction on every person, relative to their value, and I am happy to find that you were so chaced thro Connecticut and Massachusetts.

I put this letter under cover to General Knox, as I expect it will meet you at New York.

Yours sincerely,

Wm. Bingham

P. S. I think if Baring could be alarmed at an apparent indifference or indisposition to the bargain on my part, it would have a good effect.

General Cobb

Cobb to Bingham, New York, 9 January 1796 [BP]

New York January 9th. 1795 [6]

My dear Sir:

In my letter of the day before yesterday, I forgot to mention, that when I was in Boston, I drew a bill on you for one thousand dollars at ten days sight; this, tho’ painfull, I was obliged to do, as I knew you wish’d to avoid demands on this kind for the present; but my carpenters and others call’d upon me for payment for their services at Gouldsboro’, and having already receiv’d of my friends Jackson and Hays1024 more than they had been repaid, I could not ask them to advance any further. I was therefor necessitated to this measure, which I hope you will see the propriety of and honor it accordingly. The bill will probably be on by this post, as I had requested its delay at Boston ’till last Monday.

Mr. Baring is visiting the different gentlemen of this city for whom he bro’t letters. He has not yet determin’d when he will proceed for your city, but I shall endeavour to get him off by Thursday next, if possible. His land negotiation with you he endeavours to keep profoundly secret, and I cannot discover that he has in any instance, by way of obtaining information of the lands, ever unmask’d himself. In one instance at Boston he requested of Mr. Vaughan answers to some questions relatively to lands in the District of Maine; which he answer’d happily for your purposes. Codman, Baring’s particular friend, has an high estimation of the country; indeed, I am persuaded that he (Baring) has a higher idea of our country now, than he had when he left Europe, and nothing can be in the way of your contract with him but the price of the purchase. I only, however, conjecture this, from his having been so particular in obtaining the report of the Committee for Eastern Lands, in which he sees the price you gave and the terms of payment, as he has never convers’d with me a word on this subject. Under this view of the business you will undoubtedly see the propriety of acting in the most open and honorable terms with this gentleman, not however to relax half a cent from the price you have already fix’d, but openly to shew him that this price is but a moderate premium for your advances, engagements, and trouble in this purchase.

General Knox, I suppose, has wrote you, the conversation he had with Baring. It was but short, but he intends today to be more particular with him.

Baring is a young fellow, who has more of the manner of a counting house than a court—no art or cunning about him, a good heart, but I believe a Dutchman in negotiation. But with proper attention he may be what you wish.


D. Cobb

Knox to Bingham, New York, 9 January 1796 [BP]

New York Saturday 9th January 1796

My dear Sir:

Yesterday Mr. B. was busy in delivering his letters and although I was as industrious in endevoring to fall in with him accidentally as possible, I did not effect it. And as a further conversation was to be by his appointment I conceived I ought not to make any forced appearances to bring it about. Cobb is with him, but does not converse with him directly upon the business. I shall see him in the course of today and tomorrow, and by Monday post I will transmit all he will communicate. I believe he has no doubts and is determined to conclude, and I presume he will be in Philadelphia about Saturday next. He is cautious, reserved, but when he does speak I am much deceived if he be not entirely candid. Some commercial operations are on foot between Mr. Codman, and his brother, who resides here and Mr. Baring. I conceive it must be the supply of the British army in the West Indies. But I have not heard this suggested. The ground of my belief is that Great Britain would act wisely in making collateral arrangements here in aid of her direct supplies from Europe.

I have written and will again write to General Jackson respecting the back tract. One million, or at most one million five hundred thousand ought to be the limit. But the whole ought to be taken rather than lose the contract altogether provided always that Mr. B. will furnish the payments as they become due. A propos on this point, would it not serve to rivet conviction on his mind of your moderation by suffering him to take a moiety of the back tract, upon a very moderate advance indeed, perhaps only the interest upon the advances already made? As to Jackson favoring Swan, it is impossible, but he is to have a moiety of my proportion. If other motives were wanting, which they are not, this would secure him. Participating in the anxiety of your suspence, I regret most sincerely that I cannot by this post afford you such precise intelligence as to remove all doubt from your mind. I believe firmly that the affair is in excellent train, that means may be had by this connection to give that one illustration to the District of Maine which it merits, that therefore no small difference of terms ought to break off the treaty.

Flint and Smith have made no specific offer, and perhaps at this moment it is best they should not. They are desirous as they say to set off a tract of 100,000 acres and pay you what it has cost, but this I told them was utterly inadmissible for a moment.

Walker says that he is already pledged to you for the advances, that he is desirous of throwing up the whole, and therefore he conceives it unnecessary to give further bonds. Could you not make an arrangement (provided Baring takes up the bargain), to give the advances and even 5,000 dollars, on their entire relinquishment? They clog us. Cobb is impressed with the importance of their tract, and I think we ought to do every thing to get rid of them. This offer need not come from you. They might make it. You could bring this about.

Yours affectionately

H. Knox

Bingham to Cobb, Philadelphia, 9 January 1796 [CP]

Philadelphia January 9th 1796

Dear General:

Your letter of the 7th instant did not arrive here untill after the departure of the post which prevented me from replying thereto yesterday.

I observe the very circumspect and prudent conduct of Mr. Baring, in concealing his views from the world, which I much commend, as it will prevent the impertinent curiosity and interference of strangers.

I am happy to find that his prepossessions appear to be strong with respect to the Maine Lands, which I think must have been fully confirmed by the tenor of your conversation, on the journey. I suppose that you did not forget to mention the applications made to you, as you passed thro Connecticut, Hampshire, and Worcester Counties, nor to mention the dislike to the Genesee country on account of its unhealthiness, which has turned the attention of the eastern states to the Maine Lands.

You think Codman ignorant of his views, but in a former letter you mention that Codman had made known that he would probably purchase some of the wild lands of this country.

Somebody must be possessed of his intentions, as he must have been assisted in procuring such accurate intelligence of the lands of that country, and the various documents concerning them of a public nature.

I am happy to find that Mr. Baring has expressed a wish of accompanying you to Philadelphia as it indicates the idea of his mind being arranged to meet the subject. I wish much that you may come on together, as you will have a further opportunity of extracting sentiments, which may be usefull to know in the progress of our negotiations, as well as making stronger impressions on his mind. I am therefore happy to find that he is determined to take his departure with you, altho at the expence of neglecting his business. Can you find out what is the nature of the business he has to transact for Messrs. Hope and Company?

I hope you will sett off as early as Monday or Tuesday. You will find the roads exceedingly bad.

Yours sincerely

Wm. Bingham

General Cobb

Knox to Bingham, New York, 11 January 1796 [BP]

New York Monday 11th January 1795. [6]

My dear Sir:

I shall now give you the result of a conversation with Mr. Baring on Saturday last: that he has come to America principally upon the object of the Maine lands. All other business is to color this. He has a strong desire for the lands, is well satisfied with situation and prospects respecting them, excepting the Kennebec tract, against which he has conceived insurmountable prejudices, and most probably founded upon Morris’s report in the first instance which he confesses to have seen.1025

He seems to think well of the back tract, and after a bargain should be made for a portion of the lower million, he seems inclined to think a good operation might be made of the back tract. His prejudices against the Kennebec tract are such that I think he is decided against having any concern in it.

The price of the lower Million is a subject on which you will not at first perfectly agree, even if you consent to a seperation of the Kennebec tract. He is perfectly informed of the first cost and indeed every circumstance relative to all the lands, as the report of the Eastern Committee, which has been recently printed, is in his possession.

He ventured this idea to me: that he was not anxious to make the purchase even of the lower Million, but as expectations had been excited, he was willing to take up a portion of that and pay the money down for it, if a proper price could be agreed upon, adding that paying down a large mass of money was a different thing from fixing a much larger nominal price, and at distant and small payments.

I said every thing of the Kennebec tract I ought to have said: that it was a valuable tract even for cultivation, invaluable for its timber; the situation such as, by purchasing the falls below, every stick of timber could be sawed for the benefit of the proprietors; that I could not undertake to say whether you would seperate it from the lower Million or not, that it would now command a respectable profit in townships and no doubt it would. But all I said to him of the excellence of this tract had little or no effect upon him. He said he had made upon [sic] his mind upon the point.

An idea has suggested itself to me, that you should first make a conclusive bargain with him for a portion of the Million east of Penobscot, and then a conditional bargain for the Kennebec tract; that, if he did not approve it upon a full investigation of it by his own agents, the money should be returned in 3 or 4 years with interest. But I think the idea of a conditional sale should not be brought into view until the absolute sale was made.

I presume that were he to pay the installments on the back tract, he would expect to be let in upon a small advance of price.

I mentioned to him that should you consent to a seperation of the two tracts, that he could not suppose that you would do it upon the same price for the lower Million as you required for both.

As far as I can perceive at present, it appears:

  • 1st. That he will give you the 2/ sterling for a portion of the lower Million—say half or two-thirds;
  • 2d. That he would like a concern in the back tract, to any amount that should be thought proper;
  • 3d. That he would also wish to be concerned in all the purchases upon the sea coast. I mean the six townships, Trenton, etc.
  • 4th. That he would also like to be concerned in purchasing the preemption right of the State of Massachusetts of the Indian lands on Penobscot.

Although the idea has been suggested of Sir Francis Baring being the purchaser, yet to me he let fall the idea of Hopes House being concerned.

He will set out from this on Wednesday. He is anxious to get on and conclude something. Cobb will accompany him, and he is also desirous that I should go with him, but this will depend upon you, and therefore I told him that I could not determine until Tuesday when I expect to receive your opinion on my coming or not. I should think on the whole I might be of more service at Boston respecting the back tract, and the preemption right of the Indians. If Mr. B strikes [?] with you, this right ought to be obtained without delay at any price even at two dollars per acre, because it is so peculiarly situated with respect to our other lands and is so well timbered that even at this price, we could soon sell it for four dollars. I have written to General Jackson upon this score, and also to [illegible] the back tract. You will also write him about the Penobscot tract; that is, to purchase the pre-emption right at any price. Perhaps the State will undertake to extinguish the title, and sell the lands under that idea, which would be better than to purchase the pre-emption right and for us to extinguish. Mr. Baring is also apparently desirous of this purchase. He says that Judge Sullivan and other companies are forming for this purpose. But no persons can give so much as we, because they are not so valuable to any other class. Be explicit upon this subject. If I go to Philadelphia, it will take me about ten days more time. Jackson may commence the business through a confidential agent. Indeed it would not do for either of him or me to appear as the ostensible purchase[r] of the Penobscot tract. We appear already to hold too much, in the opinion of many.

Upon reviewing the whole subject respecting Mr. Baring’s connection, I take it for granted you will think it wise to form some agreement with him the best you can, but that you will not suffer him to fly off. Engage their capital once and for the remainder of the lands you will command almost if not quite the price your most sanguine wishes could desire. He says if they engage, they will go any lengths in the improvement you shall think proper.

That the situation of the lands and the respectability of the connection are their inducements, that if they fail here, they shall make no other speculation whatever in lands.

I will see La Roche and conclude with him for his portion of Trenton. I have hitherto received no specific proposals from Flint and Smith.

Permit me to urge you at this moment, to offer to Van Berckel, by some channel 5,000 dollars for his relinquishment. I mean more than the advances. Walker has alarmed them and he has had no answer. Part of the advances could be reimbursed by Walkers conveyance of Trenton, provided they permit, as they might be induced to do. This negotiation with V B ought to be done before Mr. B. arrives. No person knows his business here.1026

Your sincere and affectionate friend

H. Knox

Mr. Bingham

Cobb to Bingham, New York, 11 January 1796 [BP]

New York Monday, January 11th. 1796

My dear Sir:

At last my charge has determin’d to depart this city on Wednesday morning. He would have gone on Tuesday, if General Knox could have been determin’d to go to Philadelphia, at that time, and he now rests his determination, in some measure, on the answer he shall receive from you by tomorrow’s mail.

Knox and Baring have had a long confab about the lands. The particulars you will receive from the General this day.

Your letters by different posts, within the last fortnight, I have receiv’d. Baring’s business to this country is chiefly for the purchase of the land; he has however merchantile concerns, of no great consequence, both here and at Boston. The Maine Lands are his great object, and you have nothing to fear from any other land projects, as he has frequently observ’d that he or his friends would not accept, as a present, of any other lands in the United States. The Georgia speculation is his abhorrence, as well as the Connecticut bubble. It will be impracticable for me to come on before Baring. Knox is of this opinion. I have made myself so necessary to him that the poor fellow would be exceedingly distress’d at my sepe ration; indeed I have operated upon this principle in getting him away from this city so soon. On our arrival in Philadelphia I shall have an oppertunity of seeing you before you will meet him.

I have almost persuaded Knox without your letter of Tuesday, to go on with us; his anxieties for seeing Madam must be done away with, and he should attend to this business, at this time, above all other concerns. I will bring him on if I have to bind him for the purpose. By Fryday or Saturday we shall be with you. The roads are damnable.

Your obedient servant

D. Cobb

Bingham to Cobb, Philadelphia, 11 January 1796 [CP]

Philadelphia January 11th 1796

My dear General:

I wrote to you by Saturday’s post in reply to yours of the 7th instant, which I did not receive untill the day after it should have arrived, and I am very apprehensive of a delay in forwarding that letter, as by a mistake in my watch, I sent it too late for the mail.

I sincerely wish you may prevail upon Mr. Baring to leave New York immediately, as it is essentially necessary that this business, so long kept in suspence, should be finally settled.

Besides, it is said that the treaty is arrived, with due form of ratification. In this case it is possible that some political collisions may take place in the House of Representatives, which may have a tendency to work on the opinions of strangers, in an unfavorable manner. I shall expect you to leave New York on Wednesday, and shall defer any further communications, untill I have the pleasure of seeing you.

Yours, etc.

Wm. Bingham

General Cobb

Knox to Bingham, New York, 12 January 1796 [BP]

New York 12 January 1795 [6]

My dear Sir:

By the post of this morning I have received yours of the 9th and nth. I wrote you fully yesterday respecting Mr. Baring. Tomorrow he and General Cobb will set off for Philadelphia. On Monday next I shall go to Boston where most certainly I shall be more usefully employed than at Philadelphia. I shall expect your ideas either here or at Boston, but here if possible, about the Indian lands on Penobscot River, if Mr. B. and you agree we ought to have them. They will illustrate, and enhance the other lands beyond all belief.

I have agreed with La Roche upon his own terms, to wit, take his 7,000 acres of land at one dollar per acre payable in your bonds at 6 years, with interest payable half yearly, and in addition one thousand dollars in cash, the title to be examined, first, at Boston and all made clear. After this was arranged, Colonel Walker agreed that for the other half of Trenton he would make a conveyance to you, La Roche having made an absolute deed to him (Walker) for Mrs. Van B.’s half on condition of your paying at the periods to be agreed upon five thousand dollars or thereabouts according to the minute herein delivered. The whole 14,000 acres in Trenton and No. 8 would stand thus:

La Roche

6,000 dollars

Walker (nearly two thousand dollars of the 8,000 to be given to La Roche is to be deducted from Walkers 5,000 dollars due from Madame Van Berckel)




Thus the whole 14,000 acres may be obtained for eleven thousand dollars. Walker only wants the time to write once more to Van Berckel and inform him that he will convey away Trenton unless they reimburse him the 5,000 dollars, for the security of which he has conveyed to him by La Roche (to whom General Jackson conveyed the whole of Trenton) Mrs. V Berckels half, and a mortgage upon La Roches half. La Roche and Walker are enjoined and will observe silence.

Melancton Smith will soon be in Philadelphia and perhaps make you some propositions concerning Flints residuary profits of 100,000 acres. I can get no specific proposal from them.

I consider that you and Mr. Baring will make some agreement, by which you may possess yourself of a large sum of money. In this case permit me to urge you to obtain a larger sum than your own wants may require. I have been sounding here to see whether I could sell any of the Waldo Patent to raise money. It is out of the question. All people here are extended upon the rack of speculation. Notes upon notes, but no money. I could from some of the parties we consulted last spring have made some bargain respecting my contract with you, but this I have utterly rejected, as it might have influenced the question with Mr. Baring. The sum which would place me completely at my ease would be 50,000 dollars and which might be included in the sum he may pay or which he may advance you. If it should not be included in a sale which would be the best, perhaps it might be included in the shape of a loan, but at any rate permit me to rely upon your friendship to obtain this sum. I rest this request with you in perfect confidence assuming myself that it will be complied with if it be possible.

Your affectionate friend and humble servant

H. Knox

Let it be understood by you, that notwithstanding I shall not go with Mr. Baring, yet if at any time before next Monday you should judge it expedient for me to come on to Philadelphia, I shall do it however reluctantly as it respects my family.

H. Knox

Knox to Bingham, New York, 12 January 1796 [BP]

New York 3 o’clock 12 January 1796.

My dear Sir:

Having had a final conversation with Mr. Baring upon the subject of his proposed purchase I shall now state to you the result.

He seems inflexibly prejudiced against the Kennebec tract and decided against being concerned in it at any rate. But he seems earnestly desirous for the tract east of the Penobscot at a proper price. The price I presume will be the only difficulty. He says he should be unwilling to give such a price for a moiety of that tract as would pay for the whole two millions. I repeated what I before have written to you upon that point: that if you consented to seperate the two tracts, that a certain degree of odium would be cast upon the tract rejected; that I was not authorized to say any thing upon the price but that it appeared reasonable that if the whole was worth 2/, and one part was better than another, that the part chosen ought to be higher than the part rejected; that I was persuaded you could discuss the point as men of business, and that the result would be satisfactory to both parties; that he was desirous of purchasing and you of selling, and the interest of both parties being to form a connection, it would be formed, of course.

In allusion to the back tract and the Penobscot pre-emption right to the Indian lands, he intimated that, the affair of the actual purchase being once made, he should expect to be let into future purchases upon equal terms. His object is large and local confined to the District of Maine. He made this declaration more than once “that the respectability of the connection was a leading motive with their house”; and that he had both in Europe and since his arrival here attended minutely to all other land speculations going forward in the U.S.; that his mind rejected them altogether, and that if he did not purchase in the District of Maine he should renounce the idea altogether.

He is anxiously desirous of secrecy and is of opinion in which I join him, that his business is unknown both here and at Boston. I told him however that by some information from Europe, or other means, it was otherwise in Philadelphia. He appeared to attribute this information to Hubbard of Amsterdam1027 who was a meddling man, and who forced letters upon him to people here. He says they may surmise what they please but that nobody but me knows his real business. I cautioned him against secret attempts being made in Philadelphia, through unsuspected channels, to prejudice him against our country. He replied his information was superior to most upon that head, and that he should be invulnerable. He was desirous of my going to Philadelphia but I informed him my affairs rendered it impracticable. I still adhere to my original opinion of him, that he is cautious and reserved; but once obtain his confidence, and he is all candor and openness. He is in love with Cobb. I am strongly impressed that the purchase he wishes to make is on the account of the House of Hopes, perhaps in conjunction with his father. My reason is, that he constantly speaks of “our house” in relation to this object.

I shall hope to hear from you before I leave this Monday next upon the subject of money for myself upon which I wrote you yesterday. You will, I flatter myself, consider me fully when you come to arrange your money affairs with Mr. B. I do not wish you to cramp yourself, but to extend the advances he may make so as to embrace me.

Permit me also to request your kindness in the following instance. I make the request with reluctance, but the confidence I have in your friendship induces me to hope you may comply without injury.

Mr. Hodgdon has come under acceptance to pay 5,000 dollars for me (part of Meades business) on the 10th of March next. My request is that you would permit me to draw upon you in his favor payable in 60 or 90 days after the 20th of February or the 1st of March. This will afford him time to obtain the money, and your acceptance will give him confidence in the arrangement. If nothing arises from Mr. Baring, you may depend upon my punctual compliance so as to enable you to pay when these acceptances may become due.

I am my dear Sir

Your affectionate and sincere friend and humble servant

H. Knox

13 January

Mr. Baring, General Cobb, and young Mr. Lincoln (a son of the Generals)1028 set off at 10 o’clock this morning for Philadelphia in a private stage. They will be with you on Friday at furthest.

Mr. Bingham

Bingham to Knox, Philadelphia, 14 January 1796 [KP]1029

Philadelphia January 14th 1796

My dear General:

I received yours of the 12th by yesterdays post, but not in time to reply thereto.

I am glad to find that Cobb and Baring are on their route, as I am very desirous of terminating this affair. But my expectations of a favorable result are somewhat diminished, since you informed me of the indifference with which he appeared to view the acquisition and his apparently total rejection of the Kennebeck tract.

With regard to the Penobscot lands, it will be certainly prudent to effect the purchase on reasonable terms, if Baring forms the connection, and a more pointed attention in that case must be paid to the back tract. But on the eventual arrangements with him, much will depend. I think it does not augur ill, that he should express so strong a desire of General Cobb accompanying him. I do not think his sentiments have been perverted on the subject of these lands, further than the bias they may have received from Morris’s lying report, of which they were in possession a long time since. For my part, I supposed that, if on enquiry, the lands should answer the description I gave, the bargain, from the tenor of Sir F. Baring’s letter, would of course be concluded. But within the interval since I communicated to him my proposals, these lands have had much brighter prospects open upon them.

I should not be so desirous of disposing of such a great portion of these lands, if it was not to extricate us from difficulties and unite so respectable a connection in their support. Half of the lower tract will produce by the sale but slender means, as the settling duty must be paid before a title can be given, and the other deeds ought to be taken up, by the means of anticipated payments. I shall certainly make every effort to procure large monied payments, and hope to be able to accommodate your wants, in some of the modes you have alluded to. I think if a loan is resorted to, it may be effected.

With respect to the purchase made from La Roche, it should be kept an entire secret, as it relates to the price. Otherwise the Van Berkels will make many difficulties and rise extremely in their demands. I suppose La Roche’s portion is set apart by a regular survey and has its exact boundaries determined, for I do not wish to come into contact with the Van Berkels. With respect to the other half, I think you have not made a clear calculation. You mention that a deed will be made for it on the payment of 5,000 dollars, and in the addition of this sum to that to be contracted for with La Roche, you make the whole amount to 11,000 dollars, whereas it appears that it should be 13,000 dollars.

But why is Van Berckels portion estimated at 5,000 dollars? Is it not more valuable than the other inasmuch as it has the improvements that have cost so much?

I am inclined to believe that the Van Berckels will be much agitated with this offer of Walkers. I would rather purchase and make some sacrifice, if they could be brought willingly to renounce their pretensions. In case of a purchase, it would be proper that the conveyance should be made to a third person, as there would be no end to the persecutions of the woman, in case of our making the bargain personally.

I do not suppose that it will be necessary for you to repair to Philadelphia, as I think that Baring is sufficiently well instructed on the subject.

I shall again write you to morrow. In the mean while I am

Yours affectionately

Wm. Bingham

P.S. Quaere. Is the claim that Walker alludes to, in his note, distinct from the advances that were made, and for which he became security?

General Knox

Bingham to Knox, Philadelphia, 15 January 1796 [KP]1030

Philadelphia January 15 1796

My dear General:

I have received yours of the 12th instant after the departure of Cobb and Baring. I began to be alarmed about the arrangements to be made with Baring. If he thinks to take advantage of our difficulties and to screw us down to such a low price, I am very fearfull that we shall essentially differ, and perhaps not eventually agree, especially as he seems determined to have his choice of the lands and to reject the Kennebeck tract.

I am convinced that he means to gain his points by an appeal to our necessities, which will lead me to affect a great indifference on the subject of cash payments, whatever may be my inclination on the subject. Indeed I know that it is more convenient to Hope’s House to pay money than to take credit and pay interest.

I am convinced that Morris’s report is the cause of his rejecting the Kennebeck tract, as in a conference with Sir F. Baring and Hubbard, the latter expressed to Major Jackson that he had conceived a very indifferent opinion of these lands from the abovementioned document.

It would be extremely disagreable to me to seperate the tracts, as I should have as much trouble with the one, as with both together.

If they want to undertake an European operation, I am persuaded that under the prejudices which exist, it would be improper to incorporate this tract, and his backwardness to agree seems to imply such an intention.

The advantages of a connection with the parties in Europe must be strikingly manifest, before such essential sacrifices as he calls for, should be made, and on this point I mean to be satisfactorily persuaded, before I make them. I am convinced that if his object is to employ considerable funds in this country on account of his Houses in Europe, that he will attempt other speculations.

I will with pleasure accommodate you with an acceptance of your drafts for 5,000 dollars, in favor of Mr. Hodgden at the time you mention, presuming that in case it should not be convenient to me to advance the amount, that you will make provision therefor.

I enclose you herewith your notes paid at the Bank of the United States.

Please to request General Jackson to forward to me the last deed for the lower tract, as in case of Mr. Baring purchasing, it is the only evidence of my having made my payments regularly.

Yours sincerely and with friendly regard

Wm. Bingham

General Knox

After Baring and Cobb arrived in Philadelphia, Bingham might well have thought that his troubles were over. But such was not to be the case. News of Baring’s purpose leaked out, to Bingham’s great discomfiture; Bingham’s own financial difficulties, he feared, would give Baring the upper hand; and finally, despite frequent meetings, Bingham could not get his visitor to come to the point. Cobb in particular chafed at the delay, whiling away the time visiting his old friends from congressional days, supping on oysters, and drinking “damn much wine.”1031 He reported to Knox his disgust with the whole dilatory process.

Cobb to Knox, Philadelphia, 23 January 1796 [KP]1032

Philadelphia January 23d. 1796

My dear Friend:

We arrived here on Fryday evening after we left New York. On the morning following Mr. Bearing had a conversation with Bingham on the subject of the lands, and has had frequent interviews since on the same subject, but no propositions are yet made for the adjustment of the business. Baring has not made any proposals either as to price or quantity. This delay on his part gave some anxiety to Bingham, in consequence of which I undertook to push him, two days since, to a decision, by informing him that I was detain’d here, very contrary to my wishes, by his not concluding his affairs with Mr. Bingham, as his fathers proposals had, for the present, put a stop to my proceedings in Maine. They could not be resum’d ‘till this business was determined one way or the other, and that I must, however painfull, wate this event. His answer was that in two days at furthest he would have the business settled. Yesterday was the last of the two days, and at 3 o’clock he had made no proposals to Bingham. What has been done since I know not, as I have not seen either party. I am persuaded the young gentleman has no other thoughts but of purchasing the land, and I am satisfied the delay only arises from his wish to make such enquiries of his friends here as he thinks necessary prior to the completion of the contract. But Bingham’s anxieties will not let him rest, when in fact I am the only poor devil that essentially suffers by this cursed delay.

Whether he will take any of the Kennebeck Million is uncertain—he has, however, a much better opinion of it than he had when he left you—or how much he will take of any of it is still unknown, but it is certainly of the first importance that no anxiety or haiste on our part should be discovered. Let the lad take his own time and he will regularly come in.

Altho’ I wish to have nothing to do with politicks, yet I cannot but mention the important vote of the House 45 to 36 on the Appropriation Bill, on the Mint Article. It was contested that this institution was useless and therefore an appropriation unnecessary. On the other side it was observ’d that where an existing law required an annual appropriation it follow’d of course. If the Law was bad, repeal it, but as long as it continued, the appropriation must be made. This was an entering wedge to the Treaty appropriations, but they have fail’d; and I am happy to see that there is some principle yet left among these unprincipled dogs.1033

Adieu and remember me to all friends

D. Cobb

General Cobb’s disgust at Baring’s dilatory tactics was nothing when compared with Bingham’s anxiety lest the sale should slip through his fingers. It was with real anguish that he reported his unhappy situation to Knox.

Bingham to Knox, Philadelphia, 30 January 1796 [KP]1034

Philadelphia January 30th 1796

My dear General:

I was prevented writing to you by the last post on account of a severe attack of an inflammatory rheumatism, which confined me to my bed for several days.

I have as yet had but one conversation with Mr. Baring on the subject of the Maine lands, which was the day after his arrival. I have made every effort (without appearing too importunate) to induce him to come forward, and enter into a formal agreement.1035 He has promised his ideas and proposals in writing, but has disappointed me, notwithstanding he had fixed a specific time, within which he would deliver them.

His conduct is hitherto utterly inexplicable. It is possible he may suppose that by assuming an air of indifference relative to the acquisition, he may occasion me to relax essentially from the terms I have offered; or, it is possible, he may not have finally determined in his own mind, the price he will be disposed to give, altho he informed me that he should not make any enquiries here, as he did not expect any further information, and he mentioned to General Cobb that his opinions were fully fixed, and that he should soon communicate them to me.

Perhaps he may suppose that an immediate arrangement would have the appearance of precipitancy, and therefore is inclined to a postponement of the business.

It is conjectured that the object of his mission to this country is to make some valuable acquisitions of real estate, from whence you will naturally infer, that, during the existing scarcity of money, he will be assailed with a variety of offers from all quarters, which may keep him in a puzzle, for some time. Amongst them, Van Berckel has been very assiduous and importunate and I am afraid has exceedingly injured the business, by his damned misrepresentations.1036

At any rate, I feel myself in a very disagreable situation with respect to this gentleman. After having retained the property for seven months, at a low price, in the offer of Sir Francis Baring, who indicated his disposition to accept the terms, if the enquiries made by his son corresponded with my account of these lands, and after, by the son’s confession, it appears that the information he has received is more flattering than the description I gave, it will appear very exceptionable (if not bordering on ill usage) if he should decline to accept the proposals I have made.

However, it cannot be long, on the score of decency, before he makes his ultimate propositions, and the cause of the delay that has taken place, as he mentioned to me that he should arrive here fully prepared for the business.

In the mean while, I shall show a perfect indifference on the subject, and perhaps may alarm him, by creating some apprehensions that this property is growing too valuable to be kept at his disposal for an indefinite period. If no bargain should take place betwixt us, I am convinced that, as far as relates to European prospects, it will be highly injurious to the sale, for the idea will prevail that after mature examination, this property has been rejected, altho offered on such low terms.

General Cobb is beginning to be very impatient and I shall have no objection to his immediate return, as his exertions may be very usefull in preparing the minds of a considerable number of persons, for a removal to the District in the ensuing spring. The object of his remaining here was to impart information, relative to the intended settlement, and to concert with Mr. Baring on the most effective manner of organizing a system, which should have in view an European operation, if he thought such a plan practicable and expedient. But so far from making enquiries on this subject, Mr. Baring has hitherto appeared to shun them, and in the course of two weeks since his arrival, he has never asked a question on the subject, except those that naturally arose out of our first conversation. I lament more than ever my necessities which oblige me to submit to the whims and caprices of others.

I expect to hear from you on Monday.

In [letter breaks off abruptly here]

Fortunately for the record, Alexander Baring was a conscientious correspondent. His account of his negotiations with Bingham, though written several months later, covers every phase of the business in great detail and reveals him as an extremely shrewd bargainer. If his account is accepted at its face value, Bingham’s elaborate plans for winning over the young Englishman must be adjudged a waste of time for all concerned. While allowance must certainly be made for Baring’s natural desire to justify his actions to his principals in England and to present these same actions in the most favorable light possible, it is clear from his account that he was not taken in by Cobb and Knox and that he was in control of the situation from the very beginning. And finally, he succeeded in driving a close bargain with Bingham and in obtaining a very low price for what were then considered superior lands. To be sure, his European principals were eager to find a safe place for the investment of their funds, now that the future of the old world seemed so uncertain; even so, it is difficult to see how young Baring could have done better than he did, with the information available at that time. His achievement is the more remarkable when it is remembered that he was a youth of twenty-one pitted against one of the most successful and experienced business men in the United States.

Baring to Hope and Company, Philadelphia, 26 May 1796 [BaP]1037

Philadelphia 26 May 1796


My last letter was dated the 26th February1038 and went original by the Manchester for Liverpool, duplicate by the Favorite for London. I thereby communicated to you that I had concluded a bargain with Mr. Bingham and referred for further particulars to my dispatches by the William Penn, the conveyance of the present. I did not expect the spring ships would have been so long delayed or should have written by bye occasion, but as you are informed of the outlines of the bussiness, security is in this instance preferable to dispatch. I received here the 24th of last month the letters Mr. H.H. and Mr. J.W.H. favored me with of the 6th and 23rd February and was happy to find you were pleased with my communications from Boston.1039 Since then I have been gradually accumulating information and forming my ideas, having now had time to digest what I could at that time give you but a confused and partial description of.

The further I go and the more I see of this country the more the speculation pleases me. My object at present is therefore to attempt to impart my information to you in as concise and clear a manner as possible that you may be able to form your own opinion both as to the nature and value of the object and of my conduct in the bussiness.

I will begin with a narration of my proceedings and manner of bringing about the bargain, then give you a detail of the bargain and of the lands themselves, and conclude with general remarks on the whole, relative equally to this particular object and to land speculations in general.

Mr. Henry Hope is perfectly right in wishing me to make an early arrival here. This place is the focus of all speculation and it is understood on its true principles no where else excepting at New York. I do not however in the least regret my stay at Boston, as the reserve of the people there was a very good antidote to the sanguine eagerness of every body here and certainly sharpened my caution. I travelled from Boston to New York with John Codman and General Cobb, both very interesting men, staid but a few days at that place and came on here with Cobb, with whom I had constant conversations and made the requisite enquiries for the purpose of comparing reports from different quarters. Cobb knew nothing of my intentions and Bingham, who is always mysterious, had merely sent him to Boston and New York to spy my actions, who I consulted, etc., without any other communication.1040 I found a long stay at New York unnecessary. The people knew nothing about the Maine lands and as for general information it was much more accessible here. I had obtained all the information it was possible to have respecting the Maine lands, had seen every body at Boston who knew anything about them, knew all the bargains that had been made and calculated relative value and advantages of each part of the District so that my mind on that subject was perfectly made up and I wanted nothing more to act but to have formed my opinion on general topics, such as the stability of government, disposition of the people etc. and also to have considered projects of speculation in other quarters comparatively with this, and the value of ready money, particularly as applicable to the circumstances of the persons I was to treat with. This could only be acquired gradually by constant intercourse with people of information and as I met every where with uncommon hospitality, found no difficulty to have access to the first characters and all very communicative, I found myself strong enough much earlier than I expected.

I had constant conversations with Bingham from the time of my arrival. He is a very talkative man and I found no difficulty in learning his character and ideas.1041 Our conversations for some time were not to the point. He began to press me, expressed a wish to conclude that he might decide on another offer which I know was made him, and appeared impatient. I then drew up the memorial of the 2nd February which will go inclosed,1042 as also his answer1043 and any other part of the correspondence I can spare which can interest you. I had perceived in Bingham’s conversations that he considered me as come merely to give a yes or no to Jackson’s proposal and that he presumed a good deal upon the idea that I could have formed no judgement and that you were all so sanguine that I had no option but was only desirous of bargaining down the price. This my remarks were pointed at counteracting, and particularly to shew him I had paid some attention to the bussiness and that my inclination was rather backward. I therefore mustered up all the arguments I could recollect against the speculation and in this light you must consider this paper, but not as my real ideas. Most of the objections are exagerated, many unfounded; yet, as it presents every thing I can suggest for the dark side of the picture, it may be of service to you. In the course of this letter I shall probably have occasion to refute or explain many parts.

The memorial had completely the effect I expected. A short time after, I received the answer, which you will see is a very lame one, and found always afterward a material difference in his tone. He appeared to think the objections whether right or wrong strongly impressed in my mind and his anxiety that I should escape him increased visibly and was answered by additional indifference. We met constantly; I made no offer beyond that in my memorial;1044 he insisted on not seperating the Kennebec and Penobscot tracts or that if he did, considerably more than two shillings should be given. I persisted in not even giving that price for the remainder and certainly not to take the Kennebec Million. At last we drew the upper Penobscot tract1045 on the carpet and after much pourparler I made an offer of eighteen pense for the whole. This offer was shifted and turned in many different shapes. Bingham had bought adjoining the lower million some valuable tracts and particularly the township and town of Gouldsboro’, which had cost him dear, and it was finally setled that I should give 1/6 sterling for the upper million, 2/ for the lower provided we were to have all the additional purchases including every thing without exception he was possessed of at that price, and so the bargain was closed.

Bingham showed me an account for £5,000 New England currency for purchases in the town of Gouldsboro,’ particularly some mills and houses which he could not bring himself to sell by the acre.1046 His temper is very warm and as he is strongly attached to property, he made the bargain with a good deal of agitation and difficulty. He is evidently better pleased with it since, from the disposition and activity I have shewn to enhance the value of the lands and the very good understanding now existing between us, which promises harmony in future arrangements. Much stress was laid on the depreciation of the exchange since the offer of Major Jackson and to get rid of it, I engaged to pay at par in dollars. It was then about 5 per cent under and still is, but by giving some credit and some other maneuvres I shall be able to save you from any loss, perhaps even to make a small proffit. I have as yet drawn nothing under par, as I shall explain in the state of our account.

My letter of the 15 th February to B.1047 contains an exact statement of the contract excepting that Bingham did not consent to take 60 days notes in payment. We have since arranged that matter and agreed to suit in that respect each others mutual convenience. The tract at 44 4/9 cents includes all additional purchases and all the buildings in Gouldsboro’ etc. without exception. I enclose one of the small maps with the additional drawing of the upper tract from the actual survey of the state.1048 Only the principal waters are inserted, the surveyors not having taken down more minute details. I have shaded the tracts differently to facilitate your comprehending the following explanation of each.

The original million I believe you know the history of. It was bought of the State of Massachusets by General Jackson and Royal Flint and ceded afterwards to Duer and General Knox at ten cents the acre. General Knox, Hot having money to make his payments, agreed to join with Bingham in the speculation and to buy out Duer with a proffit of five cents on condition of B’s advancing the money. This arrangement included the Kennebec tract. Knox is to have no share in the management of this bussiness, but merely in the eventual proffits when ascertained. Major Jackson, for his trouble in Europe, and General Jackson and Royal Flint, for their agency in the original purchase, are also to have each the eventual proffit on 100/Macres, that is on the two million. This arrangement insures us the exertions and good will of all these people of the first influence at the same time that we have the advantage of having but one person to deal with and one will to consult, which in bussiness of this kind is an important consideration. On Bingham’s becoming the purchaser the deeds were made direct to him and as they pass from him to me, there can be no doubt on this score. It is impossible for any lands in America to have a title more clear and inteligible. The townships of this tract have all been accurately surveyed and marked out and 1,250 acres in each allotted by the state for the benefit of the church and schools. This attention of government is found in the lands of no other but the New England states.

Several years ago the state of Massachusets for the purpose of selling the Maine lands made a lottery and all the townships you see numbered on the map (including ours) were prizes which were divided into much smaller, and for this reason they are all called lottery townships. A number of the tickets remained unsold and reverted to the state and as the state wanted to sell the lands again, they agreed with the holders of most of the prizes, which are checkered over the whole tract, that instead of them they should take the townships nearer the sea shewn uncoloured on the map, so as to make their lands more compact. Many however refused and have claims on small parcells in different townships amounting to near 100/M acres, for which a reduction is made in the sale, that is, about 1,100/M acres, adding also what is allotted for the church and schools, is paid only as a million. These different claims are very clearly ascertained and the holders of prizes can not take possession before we lot it out to them. We have a correct map or plan of each different township, where this is all correctly recorded. Some have been bought up by Bingham, but I think the circumstance rather an advantage than otherwise. The people are not in our way and must assist us by their exertions if they wish to make any thing of their lands.1049

The only lands about the title of which there is the least possibility of doubt are the townships No. 14 and 15 in the million tract and No. 8 and 9 in the additional purchases shaded in the map. This is the difficulty Hubbard1050 wrote about. It has very little weight with me or any body else here and at all events, let what will happen, we shall allways be secure by the regulations I shall make. The case is this. Madame Laval, who was a mistress of Calonne’s and many others in France came over to this country and was connected with Duer, with whom she travelled to the District of Maine, and as a price for her favors these four townships were picked out by her at a certain price and on certain conditions.1051 On the cession of the lands to Knox and Bingham, she failed in performing her part of the contract and it was of course void. But as she was very importunate with Knox and her circumstances were very poor, they at last made her a present of 8,000 acres in the township of Trenton (being one half of the uncoloured part of that township on the map) and resold her the four townships at about 69 cents the acre on exactly the same terms Mr. Bingham purchased of the state. The payments were to be made in annual instalments of 9,000 dollars on the 1st of May beginning in 1795 and ending in 1800, and the deed was deposited in trust to be delivered on performance of the contract. The term for payment last and this year have passed without any tender and we consequently maintain that the contract is void and that the lands revert to us. We have taken the opinion of the ablest lawyers, which all agree in our favor, and it is in fact a principle universally admitted and practised here and every where, that when in a contract one party fails, the other is not held to the performance of his part. Madam Laval married Mr. Van Berckel, the former Dutch Minister and nephew of the noted character of that name at Amsterdam.1052 We have therefore to do with him. He is a poor ignorant fellow and being burthened with debts has no hopes but in this chicane to make something for himself and satisfy the cry of his creditors. He offers the claim about to every body and began with me before he knew I had treated with Bingham. I believe Cazenove is now assisting and stirring him up underhand, but as yet he has not been able to persuade any body that he had any right, or to buy a lawsuit. When he opened the bussiness to me, he confessed his lawyers told him he had no chance at common law but pretended to have authority for supposing that he would in a court of chancery, which is absurd. I have examined and reflected very much on this bussiness and confess it has very little weight as an objection with me. At the same time you will be guarded against any risk, for even if he obtains the lands, it must be by the payment of his bonds, which would be at a higher price than you give, and in the meantime as he does not possess the deeds, he can not stand in the way of our improvements. Van Berkels situation is so miserable that I proposed to make him a consideration on the score of charity which he never could pretend to on that of right and we were both willing to do it. His conduct since has removed much of our inclination, but we may perhaps yet give something to get rid of him and I wish to do it, more to relieve your mind on a subject which you can not completely comprehend, than from any apprehension myself. Cazenove is his confidant and I believe with all his sanctity and hypocrisy makes all the mischief at the same time that he is constantly visiting and fawning about Bingham and myself. I dare say he will cry down as much as he can the Maine lands and my bargain, though he himself made an offer for them for the Dutch some time ago when Bingham would not seperate the two tracts. He has shewn constantly the greatest anxiety about my proceedings in every shape and is, I believe, fearful that I should speak in Holland unfavorably of his purchases and management or draw comparisons. His efforts are fortunately as impotent as they are illiberal.1053

The upper tract, which is shaded dark on the map, contains altogether 1,200/M acres, but we are yet in doubt whether we shall take the whole or only one million. We have the option. I believe we shall take the whole, being one complete survey. This land was bought by Bingham of the state or rather by Jackson and Flint for him in the year ’931054 at 21 cents the acre, to be delivered and paid for when the state made the survey, in annual instalments the same as the lower tract. This survey was presented last year to Bingham and the legislature now about to sit is to make the final grant of the lands. In the contract it was presumed the whole tract from his lower million up to the British lines would only be one million. Bingham therefore took the whole with the option of rejecting any thing beyond that quantity, and we could now confine or extend the object as we please. You will see the whole tract on the map containing 2,943,133 acres; the part uncoloured is what we purpose rejecting. Bingham was rather desirous of taking the whole in, but I have many reasons for not going further than we have done. It is enough in one spot. General Knox thinks it could be resold very soon to great advantage and I believe him, but would rather see it return to the state, who will afterwards dispose of it in retail and create a number of different interests in the advancement of that part of the country. The state has resolved never to sell in future more than two townships to the same person and as the United States have declared two dollars to be the minimum price of their lands, this example will no doubt be followed by the different states who have to sell. You will observe I have provided in the bargain against any delay of the state to make out titles to the upper tract, which there is no probability of.

Every other deed of both the upper and lower tract was to remain as security for the purchasers placing a certain number of inhabitants on them, or be raised on depositing United States stock for the same purpose. I have insisted on the deeds being raised for Bingham’s account,1055 but shall probably give him the facility of leaving one half of the back tract untill we want it, on his transferring the whole of the remainder and most valuable part as security. This will make his circumstances easy and be of no prejudice to us. You will see how I have arranged the proportion we are to bear of the forfeiture in case a certain number of settlers are not within a given time on the lands, which I think equitable. I can not give you yet a correct calculation of this object. It will probably cost us something, but this will depend on the progress the lands hereafter make. We shall take care in our sales to exact much higher setling duties than we are subject to.

The additional purchases are those shaded at the botom of the map, excepting No. 14 and 15, and consist in the lower range of townships Nos. 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, and 7, bought directly of the state by Mr. Bingham, and of which the two first—say 8 and 9—excepting the small square shaded in No. 8 are implicated in Van Berckel’s claim. The remaining additional purchases were made of sundry individuals and consist of part of the township and the town of Gouldsboro’, part of Trenton, one half of Mount Desert, and several small islands which are very valuable. The other half of Mount Desert belongs to the house of Lane and Frazer.1056 We wanted to buy it, but they ask a dollar the acre, which is too much. On some of our lower townships setlers had fixed themselves a long time ago without any authority. The State in the contract have provided for these people and we are obliged to confirm to them their farms at a low price. The whole is of no great extent and their industry is a great advantage to the surrounding country.

I shall not attempt any geographical account of these lands untill I have been on them myself and am able to speak from my own observations. From all the information I am able to collect from people who have been on them, the average must be considerably superior to that of the New England lands in general. It is fit for the cultivation of wheat, which is very rare in that country. If this is true, it will become the granary of New England, which otherwise draws its supplies from the southward, but I rather suspect the lands more adapted to grazing than tillage. Nature has dispensed her advantages here as every where with equality. The sea shore townships, most eligible in point of situation, are less so with respect to soil. They are chiefly like the coasts of Massachusets, Connecticut and New Hampshire, rough and rocky, but I understand not so much so as in those states, and the advantages of situation will overballance those of soil, as has been the case in every part of this country. As you go further back into the lands, they get gradually better and the surveyors assure us that those on the Schoodic Lakes are particularly fine and equal to most tracts on this continent. The back tract also bears this description. The timber on it was so fine (and this is a sure sign of strong lands) that the commissioners from Massachusets thought it their duty to reserve certain tracts for government uses, but they were afterwards given up.1057 This favorable description of the back lands is confirmed by an anecdote that occurred last autumn. When General Cobb was at Gouldsboro’, a Connecticut farmer applied to him for a township in these lands on which he wished to carry a number of his neighbours and family. Cobb asked him 3/4ths of a dollar with a very strong obligation to settle. The man objected to the price. He was advised to look at the country. He went over it, returned and offered the price for as many townships as we would give him, particularly on the Schoodic Lakes and above all, Nos. 11 and 38. We would not then give them him and since, there have poured in applications and offers from every part of Connecticut, where the farmers are more industrious and inteligent than in any other part of this country.1058 Talleyrand and the Due de Liancourt have been up Union River and describe the lands as very fine.1059 These are Van Berkel’s claim and T. wanted very much to purchase them, but was deterred by the want of title. The harbour of Gouldsboro’, the exact point of which I have marked with a x is represented as being after Newport the best in the United States. In fact all the harbours in Maine are fine and the coast bold. I think they will attract the fishery from the Massachusets Bay harbours. They are certainly superior as harbours and nearer the fishing banks. Capital is the only thing wanted and I am even creditably informed that the fishery is now carried on from Gouldsboro’ by capitals in Salem and Boston. I shall send or bring with me correct charts of the harbour as well as of all the coast and our lands in every part.

When we go on the lands we shall perhaps make many additional purchases of small tracts that may be usefull to us. We were offered the uncoloured townships on the coast, Nos. 4, 5, 6,1060 but I found the most valuable situations were picked out and setled, and for the remainder not less than a dollar cash would be taken. Besides, the title was not perfectly correct. In Bingham’s additional purchases there are some small objects where the title is questionable. It is therefore agreed that we shall not enter into this detail but receive a warrantee deed of the whole.

The Penobscot is one of the finest rivers in America and its banks will become the center of population in Maine. It is navigable for ships of any burthen to within a few miles of Indian Town and for boats almost to its source. You will observe our lands range all along within six miles of it and from its branches will have the benefit of its navigation. Six miles on each side the river were the lands the Bostonians wrote about and very valuable they are. When the District of Maine began to settle fast and the State of Massachusets sold the lands in it, it became necessary to make some arrangement with a tribe of Indians that molested them called the Penobscot Indians and it was finally agreed that this strip of valuable land should not be encroached upon but remain their hunting ground. The tribe resided at Indian Town, about 200 families, became Roman Catholics, lived quietly and crept insensibly into a state of civilization from the vicinity of European settlements. This is sure ruin to the Indians. They fell off, decreased in numbers and at last presented a petition to the State of Massachusets that they would give them some compensation for their lands and permit them to retire into Canada. The state has consequently appointed commissioners to treat with them, the result of which is not yet known, but they will certainly agree. The lands will afterwards be sold by the state in townships and we shall pick out some that will be of very great service to our lands behind them. The attention of all New England speculators is fixed on these lands and they will sell very high. We can afford to give more than any body and the remainder selling high must give additional value to our lands. I reckon our back tract worth twice as much when the Indians are removed than before, for it would have been difficult to settle it with a wilderness of six miles between it and the finest river, in addition to the real advantages that must result from our holding some choice spots. The truth of this will appear evident from the map.

Congress will break up in a few days and in about a fortnight we set off for Maine. The party will be Mr. and Mrs. Bingham, their two daughters, Miss Willing, the Viscount de Noailles (a French nobleman intimate with the Binghams) Richards and myself.1061 The projected excursion makes a deal of noise here and will do all over the country where we pass. People wonder how such a new country can accomodate such fine ladies in travelling and every lady’s curiosity is raised to the highest. The ladies’ company and presence on the lands will be of infinite benefit and have the effect of Williamson’s races.1062 Small causes beget often great effects. General Cobb is ill but recovering. Knox’s house, which I have marked on the map, on his own lands on this side Penobscot will be our headquarters. It is a magnificent building and we shall proceed from thence where we can, remaining some time with Cobb, who has a handsome house at Gouldsboro’. When we are all met we shall concert our proceedings to bring the lands forward. Our plan will be nearly that of Williamson, with the alterations the difference of situation may necessitate. The operation is a simple one and requires nothing but industry and good management. When Cobb was here, he put some queries to Bingham and me which we could not then make up our minds about nor have we yet, but as some required immediate decision I made up my opinion to which he added his and we sent it forward, the applications for lands being very pressing and we desirous not to turn any body away. I enclose for your curiosity copies of these papers.1063 You will consider the plan and directions merely for the moment and untill we had considered every thing more maturely. I am of opinion that our first sales should be at one dollar and that we should sell as little as possible before our improvements are more forward and particularly our three intended great roads, which are marked on the map, are opened. It is astonishing how the value of this kind of property is increased by these improvements and as we are to have the expence of them we should equally reap the benefit. If people can be got to go fifty miles through a wilderness by their compass on lands, how easy must it be to get them when there is a good road from the port where they land and small inns for their accomodation. We shall probably establish a store at Gouldsboro’ for the interior of the country, that the farmers may want nothing, and facilitate the communication with the New England states by a regular packet between Gouldsboro’ and Boston. These objects will in a short time pay themselves but the beginning can only be made with our capitals. A packet communication with Boston will be of very great service. By that means you can convey setlers from the most populous part of New England in two days on their own lands at less expence and with less trouble than it can be done on any new tracts on the continent.

The N.E. states are the source of population or nursery of the whole country. They are setled as thick as they can and there is an annual emigration of full 50/M who go to look for new lands. They all come with some money and many will go with their families 5 or 600 miles to Kentucky and the Tenisee. With proper care we can certainly fix a number of these valuable setlers with us and as Cobb and Knox are known all over the country, their characters will be an additional attraction. It would be impossible to get two other men so respected and in every instance suited to our purpose. Knox distinguished himself during last war, became at the peace Secretary of War, but the pay of public officers being so small, he was obliged to resign to look after his property in Maine, which is very considerable. I hope he will fix himself there but fear he is too much the man of the world for so retired a life. When Maine is made a seperate state, they will certainly elect him Governor, and that may perhaps seduce him. Cobb was aide de camp of Washington during the war and distinguished himself much. At the peace he was long Speaker of the lower house of Massachusets and afterwards deputed to Congress, where he would now be Speaker if he had not resigned for the purpose of managing Bingham’s property. Cobb is one of those men who with a vast fund of good sense and more of humour has never been able to get forward in the world, and as he has a family now thinks of providing for them in this manner. His character has much of that of Porter’s.1064 Bingham made a hard bargain with him. He is to have the eventual proffits on 20,000 acres, 1,500 dollars a year for his expences, a good house at Gouldsboro’ and 1,000 acres for his farm and this for, I believe, eight years service. His services are in fact invaluable and no wonder he remains poor if he does not know how to rate them better. Cobb’s most valuable qualities to us are his character, which is so universally respected among the people we want to attract, and a suavity and pleasantry of manner exactly suited to manage them, for they will not be driven. The only thing I fear of his character is that accustomed to gay life he will get tired of his farm, for in this respect I fear it is equally like our friends. This is however a reflection of my own and may be ill founded, but to prepare against it I wish to bring forward Richards, in whom I have the completest confidence. If Cobb remains, there will be room for both in 2½ million acres and their company will make each other’s life mutually agreable. Richards is a perfect gentleman and I know but one objection to him, which is that he can not take the oath to become an American citizen, which I much wish he would, but it is so repugnant to every man of honor that I can not expect it. I do not believe this inconvenience will be serious. Character is the chief thing we have to look to and in that we are completely suited, for he will chiefly leave Cobb to act and stand as a check over him. He will invest his own fortune in the bussiness and would conceive being let in at our price, a compensation for his residence with the addition of his own expenses. I shall make the agreement rather more liberal. It will be nothing lost and insure his attachment by his obligations to us. I think it indispensably necessary that the European share should be represented on the spot. We shall be kept informed and be always independant of others which even with the best people is desirable. We shall besides then be able to give full powers to act on both sides provided our agents agree, which would not otherwise be prudent. Bingham does not altogether like the idea of our having so active a person, but it was too reasonable to object to. There is no knowing what may happen and I should not think ourselves secure without this precaution. Richards has not finally decided, but will when we are on the spot and then proceed to England to setle his bussiness, see you and return here next spring.

I have not yet made up my mind completely either on the precise mode of tenure or on the conditions of association which I shall adopt. They must be suited to laws and customs in New England and I shall probably finish them at Boston. These subjects both demand great caution and deliberate consideration and you may rely on their having all the attention I am susceptible of giving them. It is my wish to make them as strong and at the same time as little intricate as possible. I believe I mentioned to you several leading points in the regulations which I still adhere to. They were communicated to Bingham on our closing the bargain and approved by him. He is willing in this respect to do any thing I want and I have no doubts of our agreing perfectly. Our respective agents will I believe be defrayed seperately at each other’s expense. I also still am in favor of the plan mentioned of the mode of tenure, that is that no particular name should be given but that the deeds should be made over in trust to a certain number of trustees who should hold them under the articles of agreement as belonging to the holders of certain actions or shares which we must give the name of the New England Land Company to or any other. This method would obviate many inconveniences; it would never be known who were the holders of these shares; jealousy of foreigners would thereby be prevented and if there ever should be an intention of confiscating the property of foreigners, which I really do not contemplate as a serious danger, it will be very difficult to discover it. When the deeds were deposited in this form, I would make out a certain number of shares, for instance 400, of which the European concern would have 200 and the American 200. Both original proprietors should then be bound to hold 100 of the 200, having liberty to dispose of the remainder and even of the whole with the permission of the other party. Managers of the concern to be appointed by votes according to the number of shares, the whole to continue for five, eight or ten years as we may hereafter settle, and the property then to be sold at auction to liquidate, unless the parties consent to prolong the period. It is necessary to stipulate a sale at auction if not otherwise agreed on, as pretexts might be made that no buyer could be found, that the property were sacrificed etc., but if sold at auction each party would be at liberty to buy in what they pleased. You will observe that these are all ideas and not conclusions. I shall consult other regulations and my different friends, tho’ I confess I find nothing in the form I wish. The laws will certainly be open for any remarks of yours and you will be able to form an opinion from what you know. Your ideas will perhaps have been sent me in consequence of my last letter. I shall be glad to receive them and give them their due weight, adapting them as far as local circumstances will permit.

In the preceding sheets, gentlemen, I hope I shall have succeeded in giving you a tolerably correct idea of this speculation. Nothing essential occurs to me to be omitted. I have been as concise as possible, for it is impossible to give the detail which a conversation would afford. I shall now proceed to some remarks on the whole and on this country in general.

The further I proceed in this bussiness the more I become aware of the serious confidence reposed in me, and when buried in the depths of projects and speculations which are every day pouring on me, I sometimes am inclined to think my undertaking was too presumptuous and that it would have been more modest to have resigned it to an older head and more ripened judgement; but, engaged as I am in it, I am desirous of exposing my motives for acting as I have done, that I may not be indebted for your approbation, if I meet with it, to your indulgence alone. I should wish to explain in my justification these three chief points:

Why I resolved to make any purchase in American lands.

Why, having so resolved, I preferred the Maine lands to all other offers.

Lastly, that the price I have paid for them is not an improper one.

You will find I have discussed these points amply in my memorial to Mr. Bingham, but as that was drawn up for a particular purpose, it represents many things in a false light. In the several discussions we had on the subject in Europe I collected your ideas of the circumstances under which you wished an investment to be made and have constantly had my father’s written ideas before me. On the question of the propriety of an investment generally considered, the government of this country has been the most important consideration and then the disadvantages a foreigner labours under. I shall in some future letter write you fully my opinion of the government and political situation of this country, which would at present take me too long from my subject, confining myself now to the general remark that I think well of it. When opinions on forms of government are given in Europe, they are never impartial; every body suits his own to local connections and circumstances. A republican government would be reprobated in England and an advocate of it would be suspected of the wish to subvert his own. From the present general alarm against innovations, we get into the habit in repelling attacks on our own principles, of defending what we do not really approve. Thus in Holland we saw people advocate the old wretched government for fear of a worse, and in England you will meet others who will maintain that the corruption of Parliament is not a defect but an ornament in the British constitution. Our judgement on this head is generally poisoned by our passions and fears, and hence arrises in a great degree the prejudices against this country. We are apt to think no security or good order can exist in any but what Mr. Pitt would call a regular government. Let opinions on this subject be what they may, there can be no doubt of any body who has been in this country that the republican government is the only suited to it and that it is morally impossible that any other should supercede it. The ideas of people are formed to it and though they would be at a loss to immagine what a king or a nobleman is, yet they have a perfect sense of the necessity of having some rulers and of obeying them. Clashing powers, interests, opinions and prejudices are what create convulsions and anarchy in all countries and these are inevitable on the breaking up of an old government. No wonder, therefore, that republican principles are feared; but in a country where there never existed any other state of things this diversity of views can not exist; there is little or nothing to envy or to excite ambition. I do not mean to applaud the American constitution as desirable for European countries; on the contrary I am persuaded none are fit for it. I equally do not wish to represent it as devoid of defects, as relative to this country, far from it; but merely to prove that the people from long and gradual habits are riper for a greater degree of liberty or rather for a freer constitution than any other and that the dangers you might apprehend from the principles of this government on making comparison with the countries known to you would probably be exagerated when applied to this.

There is little and indeed no doubt that the President will resign next autumn, if not very much pressed to continue, and I think the apprehensions on that score in Europe will then be fairly contradicted; at least the state of parties bids fair for it. Adams, Jay and Jefferson will be the rivals. Jay will not stand forward this time, the treaty having hurt his popularity, though it is getting up again. Jefferson heads the Antifederal faction and the Federalists, who are strong, will not have him, so that between the two Adams will slip in, who is a harmless good man, that few care or hear about and that will excite little opposition. This is the likely turn of the bussiness and a desirable one, but even if Jefferson got in, I should be under no apprehension. His politics are decidedly French; I mean he would incline to that alliance in preference, but his principles are quite the reverse. His succession would quiet all parties, for the Virginians would of course stand by him and the object of the northern people being good government, their principle is to respect the powers that be. Jay, though I believe the most proper man, is the only who might excite mischief; but there is no chance of his getting in or of his friends offering him.1065 Washington, whose character it is in vain to praise, has shewn us that the powers given him are great and that the executive of this country is susceptible of vigorous exertions. He some time past called out 12,000 men to quell the western insurrection without any authority from or communication with Congress and lately you will have seen that he refused an application on the part of the House of Representatives for papers which he thought they had no right to claim. Both these were actions a King of England would not dare to have done, yet here it was considered the mere execution of a constitutional duty, caused no murmurs and was generally applauded.

I have attended the debates both of the Senate and lower house whenever any thing important has come forward and on the treaty question have heard all that ever speak. You would be surprized to hear the eloquence of some of their numbers and tho’ none are equal to our great speakers, there are more who can and do deliver their sentiments with propriety, and as a body aggregately considered I believe there is more good sense heard tho’ less flowers of rhetoric. As a specimen of their strength in the latter I inclose a very able speech of Ames, which is well worth reading, though the delivery pleased me more. It was made nearly at the end of a debate that lasted five weeks, in which considerable talents were displayed.1066 If the whole is printed as I believe it will be, you shall receive a copy. Order and decorum is much better observed in Congress than in the House of Commons. You hear no personalities, no abuse, and during the whole course of the most interesting discussion on a subject on which all national prejudices and passions were excited to the highest, there was not a single sound from the galleries, which are very extensive and very crowded. I confess I had no idea of the possibility of so popular a government being so well organized. There are certainly weak parts in it, but from the general information of every class of society, I have a full confidence that the defects when felt will be remedied, every individual having so decided an interest in the maintenance of government and none in overturning it. This is particularly the case in New England, which is less subject to changes than any other part of the country. The fate of the southern and western states is more problematical, as I shall explain hereafter. I have said more on the government than I intended, but wish to touch on such parts as I know you have most apprehension about. There is no security in this respect that is perfect; it is all comparative and I firmly believe that this country—I mean the good parts of it—afford more than any European countries. Since my absence from the latter, my apprehensions at a distant prospect have been increased and especially for the fate of my own. The state of its finances and consequently necessary oppressions on the people must soon or late work the dismal catastrophe, and those who govern appear to me to be anxious that the period should be too remote. I believe you have always thought my fears on this head exagerated. I hope they will prove so, but impressed as they are in me, I confess I had great satisfaction in investing part of your property in what I deem a safe object, and in case of misfortune, which we must never lose sight of the possibility of, an object which can not fail to be the root of a larger fortune than any other that can be saved from so tremendous a wreck.

My apprehensions of the risk an alien holder of lands runs in this country are most exagerated in my memorial to Mr. Bingham. The necessity of committing the management to others is one of the most serious objections, and this I shall obviate as much as is possible by our regulations. There is but one voice on the subject of confiscation of enemy’s property. It is universally reprobated. The former supporters of it are ashamed of themselves and it can hardly be ever brought forward again. We are besides in a part of the country where there is much more morality and scruples on this head than in any other. Circumstances of the persons we had to treat with obliged me to close the bargain perhaps before my opinion on these important subjects was perfectly made up; but I am happy to say my first impressions have been in every respect thoroughly confirmed and strengthened.

Having decided on the propriety of making an investment in this country, I had no difficulty to decide that it should be in lands. It is in fact the only object foreigners at a distance can make it in, that promise great advantages. Here every branch of capital does, and if I was to settle in America, I have no doubt—I have no doubt—that I could make more by commerce than by lands, but this is not within the reach of a foreigner. It is a mistaken idea in Europe that this country depends on European emigrations for its population and capital. On the contrary the number of inhabitants can not be short of six million, which is increasing in a much greater proportion from itself than I believe was ever witnessed in any part of the world. Every farm house in New England is crowded with children. The eldest, when he grows up, gets the paternal estate and the others are sent out with equal portions according to the abilities of the family to buy lands in the back woods. In this manner the annual emigrations, like the swarms of a beehive, are immense and children are as Cooper says really a source of wealth to their parents. Countries that some years ago were impenetrable for 2 or 300 miles are now thickly setled, and lands selling in them for five guineas an acre which at that time did not cost a shilling. People who went down the Ohio to settle Kentucky were thought mad; now that country is become a state and another is forming on the south side of the river called the Tenisee state, which is to be admitted into the union next year.

The extraordinary example of this extension of population would surprize you and can not be described. Every town or village you come to, houses are building in every corner and in every part of the country you pass through, the woods are clearing from the grounds. It has really the appearance of a major creation of a new world. The same wonderfull increase in value of property strikes you every where. People who bought lands for nothing and hardly considered them as of any value have been agreably surprized. The examples of this are endless and I will only cite you one in this city. A printer had a claim against this state during the war for work done and as there was nothing in the treasury, they gave him a large city lot on the skirts of the town which was taken for £1,200 this money, and last year he was offered a perpetual annuity on ground rent of £5,000.

Owing to the means of employing capital lucratively in commerce and every branch of industry, lands do not sell as high as they comparatively should, but when peace in Europe checks the trade of this country, there can be no doubt that the idle capital must be represented by land as in every other country. American capitals are thought small because they are so when compared to the means of employing them, but when the latter cease they will prove to be very considerable and respectable. An European would hardly believe that there are farmers in Lancaster County in this state worth £50 and 60/M sterling, who drive their own teams to market, and a vast number worth from £10 to 30/M sterling. Fortunately all possess something and nearly all their own lands, which is a security for their support of government and for their independance. There are no gentlemen farmers; every body works his own, excepting round the great cities, where it is a losing bussiness.

These were shortly the considerations which led me to think an investment of your property in lands both safe and profitable; those that induced me to give a preference to the Maine lands were more impressive and prominent in my judgement than any decision I ever had to make. You will find in my memorial to Mr. Bingham many reasons for a preference to the Maine lands which I throughout plainly told him would probably be my object if any for the purpose of throwing my chief objections on speculations in general. In whatever point of view I consider them, they have the preference, and I had a number of considerations to unite. We have the first characters in the country both as to property, influence and management; indeed I know no other I should have dared to make a junto with. We should have been obliged to pick among those whose notes sell from five to fifteen shillings in the pound. The titles are perfect and so clear that they can be made inteligible to the confined understanding. This is an advantage very few tracts have. In all the proposals I have examined there has been some difficulties and though mostly not essential, yet there has been a complicacy of explanation which I do not like. The situation of these lands are superior to any large tract I have seen and the susceptibility of improvements greater. I do not like to elate your expectations too much by a description of what others have done and we may do, but I can assure you if my informations are correct, we have the fairest chance of any. Williamson tells a very good story of his lands and I now inclose a series of letters on the settlement and another to Cazenove which will instruct you. They were given me by Morris and will probably be published in Europe.1067 I hear his subjects have sent him as their representative to the legislature of New York and he will probably soon come to Congress.1068 His lands are certainly superior in point of soil, but they are very unhealthy. Ours quite the reverse and his are full 300 miles from a port, while ours are surrounded by the finest harbours and rivers. We will see if we can not create as great a rage for ours as he did for his and I believe we shall find that situation is preferable to soil.

My greatest motive for preference was their being in the New England states, which are in every respect preferable to all the others and at what will happen else where I have no fear of them; with the worst soil in the country theirs is thickest setled and they are far beyond their neighbours in general information and industry. It is the only part of this continent where any religion exists; in every town the same abatments have been made for churches and schools as on our lands and you see none without them in the greatest order. It is a singular circumstance that the state in the union whose government is most free and where there are no slaves (as indeed there are very few in any parts of New England) the people are the greatest supporters of strong government; I mean Connecticut, where equality of fortune is realized to a greater extent than I could have imagined it possible. Every farmer can drive his one horse chair and on the contrary, in Virginia, where two thirds of the population are negroes and slaves and every body who does not labor as a slave goes with four horses, the state is violently democratic and their representatives always wanting to embarass government. The reason for this is easily discovered and proves more than any thing the good effects of morality and information in the minds of the multitude. The political disposition of the states and their support of government can not be better explained than by their votes on the motion to carry into effect the treaty with Great Britain. They were:

New Hampshire

Yeas 3







Rhode Island



New England








New York




New Jersey









Did not vote














North Carolina




South Carolina








Yeas 51

Nays 48


Majority 3

You will perceive they become gradually worse in the neighbourhood of Virginia and if the New England states had had to decide, it would have been carried 23 to 4, and even of the 4, two of the voters seats in Congress were contested. This discordance of politics will in the opinion of many produce a seperation. I do not think it improbable some time hence and we shall be on the safe side and not even near the enemy if the seperation should not be a peaceable one. You can not be sufficiently impressed with the importance of this last advantage. I should have preferred the New England states on that account, even under other material disadvantages, and you will observe that this is the only large tract of land in them to be had excepting B’s Kennebec tract, which though I believe valuable, I was affraid to touch. The State of Massachusetts have not much more to sell in Maine and they have resolved not to sell more than two townships to the same individual. I have had very various proposals from all quarters and find there are very few large tracts in any part of this country excepting in the north western territory. It is a very great advantage to have your lands in a mass, as you are then able to improve and manage them easier and no expence is lost. In addition to all these reasons I find these lands infinitely cheaper than any thing offered to me elsewhere and in fact in my opinion more valuable from the above considerations than many for which twice the amount is asked. This leads me naturally to my last consideration—that of price.

In my memorial to Mr. Bingham you will find the subject of price amply treated of, and none was more partially treated throughout, though in many instances the calculations are plausible. Those of prime cost to the proprietors is totally erroneous, as I shall explain, General Knox and Bingham being on an equal footing in the bargain. To justify the propriety of the price, it will be necessary to shew that in the public estimation it was low and that the lands according to market prices were worth it; and that it was not possible to make a nearer bargain with Bingham.

The first has been completely confirmed to me by the guesses of the public, for though the sale is known, the conditions are not. The general idea is a dollar, though perhaps in this some allowance is made for the expectation of my being the dupe of Bingham’s cunning. Comparing this with other bargains it is really in my opinion the cheapest ever made here. I don’t mean the lowest but circumstances considered the most reasonable. A sale has been made at Hamburg of the Azylum lands, 300/M acres at 3 dollars the acre,1069 which with the inclosed offer of Judge Wilson,1070 one of the great land jobbers, will give you some idea of their value in Pensylvania. I can only account for the inferior estimation of the New England lands from their distance from the speculators who are concentered here. There are no lands any where to be sold at the price you give excepting in Virginia and Georgia, where they are nearly worth nothing and Congress, who have opened a land office for the sale of their immense back territory, have fixed two dollars as the minimum price to their commissioners. This circumstance has an important effect on the price of lands all over the continent. The state of Massachusetts will probably follow the same example with the remainder of their Maine lands and last year they closed their office in consequence of the numerous applications for inferior situations at half a dollar. Two years ago, when Jackson was in England, a junto of the best merchants here with Cramond at their head, made B an offer of 50 cents for these lands payable 50,000 dollars every six months, which was rejected under an idea that something better would be done in Europe and this partly creates the suspicion that I have paid high, for the offer was made by them at a time this country was in a very dangerous situation and war with England generally expected.1071

That the closest possible bargain has been made with Bingham I can pretty confidently assert from clear proof and from his manner during and since the transaction. From the inclosed paper you will get a correct estimate of the proffit he makes taken from real accounts. You will find that the tract he sells me at 44 4/9 cents he makes 17 ⅓ cents proffit on and only 7 ⅔ on the upper tract, which he sells for 33⅓ cents.1072 From the former must be deducted the difference between the Kennebec and Penobscot tracts, which in the public opinion is very great; also that he is obliged to make a deposit of stock to answer the setling duties and you will find the remaining proffit is but small. Interest is only reckoned at 6 per cent; his disburse has been very considerable and as capital will always fetch 20 per cent this constitutes a considerable diminution. If in addition to all this you take into consideration that he has had this property since 1792 and run all the risk of it, I am sure you will think his proffit very reasonable. It is in fact impossible for him to have touched any species of speculation in this country which would not have rendered more. Most objects would have doubled themselves several times and I confess I shall be very much disappointed if you do not make much more of them in the same space of time.

Bingham’s character is rather indolent; he has never set about working these lands actively but always been attempting to sell them in their rough state, which is a very wrong principle. I conclude his being tempted to make the sale arrises chiefly from a wish to reimburse himself for part of his advances which fell all on him, and at the same time that the junto in England would be of great service to him. When he heard that I conversed with Morris, Wilson etc., he began to fear he should lose me and I believe determined to make sure of me at my offer under the idea that I should not raise it, in which he was mistaken, for I had made up my intention of coming to two shillings for the whole and might perhaps have made some allowance for the additional purchases. Bingham was pressed for money but not obliged to sell his lands, for he had the option either of doing that or of withdrawing his concern from Gilmor’s house at Baltimore, which would have given him £120/M currency. Bingham’s large property and variety of resources gave him allways many options of the modes of raising money so that no sacrifice could have been expected from him. Your ready money certainly had its effect and a very considerable one, but I am firmly assured that it has not been profusely thrown away and would have commanded no more. The public opinion of this bussiness settles every doubt I could have in my mind on this subject. No guesses are low enough for the reality, and if I am not very much mistaken, I should be able in the course of a twelvemonth to sell out as much as I wished to people here for 50 per cent proffit by giving short credits.

In turning over a number of papers I got from Bingham about the lands, for I have found him extremely candid and communicative, there were, I believe unintentionally, Jackson’s private letters from London and Amsterdam explaining how he hoped to realize a treasure in Europe, and I discovered that he really had not permission to close for the two tracts together without the seperate purchases at two shillings, and in the letter informing B that he had made the conditional offer, I find he doubts of B’s accession and enters into a detail of arguments to induce him and persuade him that the value of the connection is worth a sacrifice.1073 The connection certainly is valuable to him; the very name enhances already the value of the lands and I really believe everything considered that B as well as ourselves has made a wise bargain.

In my last letter I desired you to suspend any division of this property in England untill you heard from me. Now you have all the information I can expect to give you, and you will decide on this subject according as you feel confidence. I can not however refrain from intruding my opinion. The great consideration with me would be whether the disburse of such an amount for some time is inconvenient. On the score of ultimate security I do not hesitate to assure you on my honour that I conceive no shilling of your property more safe, and as you have honored me with the permission or rather the duty to be anxious for the preservation of it, I will add that I should conceive the investment of this amount in this manner a very prudent measure, particularly when I consider the various quarters in which your fortune is scattered, which are nearly all dependent on European governments. This is totally of a different nature; its safety depends on different contingences. Real independance consists in being guarded against all, and you are among the few happy enough to have it in your power to be so. But these considerations you can yourselves best judge the weight of. I think you have made too good a bargain to share it with others without a material advance, and do really anticipate very considerable proffits from it shortly. Knox assures us that any quantity can be now disposed of to setlers at a dollar and these people add a material additional value to the remainder. It is our maxim not to sell to any speculators who do not; even here they can be of little advantage to us and in Europe they can be of none. Your sharing with others can be of no advantage to the concerned; we want no puffers. The land must rise from intrinsic merit and the real value settlements will give it. At all events supposing you are not inclined to hold so much, I would not make any resale for the present. The value our this and next year’s improvements will give the lands must be great and you will then probably either in England or here be able to pay the whole by the sale of a half. This is the operation constantly practised by speculators and I think it would be a proffit you are fairly entitled to.

Exclusive of the enhancement our improvements will occasion, there are other reasons to expect a rise in lands—peace, which will throw a large mass of capital into them. Of this there can be no doubt. Capital is at present too valuable; 20 to 30 per cent per annum may be made with ease, but when it returns to 6 per cent, as it was before the present war, it can not be better employed. Also the Act of Congress limiting two dollars as the minimum price for their endless tracts—this must give a ton [sic] to prices all over the continent and a man must be mad to emigrate 500 miles for a settlement when he can get cheaper and better situated lands within two days easy sail. This act of Congress is very recent, but when generally known, you may depend will have its effect. Besides the emigration from Europe continues and the inclination there to invest property here increases and is likely still to augment. Every speculation takes a mass out of the market, renders the article scarcer, and I really do not know another valuable speculative object, certainly not one that approaches this, in the country. The Pensylvania tracts are the only worth consideration and nothing within 200 miles of this place can be had under a dollar. The Congress lands are out of question from their absurd high price, and the Virginia and Georgia lands from the nature of the southern states. Where are the new comers to go? I see nothing they can do but buy up of the old speculators at higher prices.

The result of all these considerations in my mind is that the idea I have of the security of the object and of its susceptibility of very great proffit makes me desirous that you should keep it altogether, but that if it was resolved to share it, you should wait a short time to do it, to much greater advantages. You will however of course, gentlemen, weigh them in your better judgement and act according to it. I am not in the least tenacious of my opinion but think it my duty to give it.

I have been financing with some attention to make a tolerable exchange for our drafts. It has been and continues to be depressed much by the quantities of bills that pour in from the West Indies. I mentioned in my last that I had drawn £27,500 at par;1074 I have since placed £10,000 payable the 1st of July at par and £10,000 payable the 14 August at same exchange, all for undoubted notes. I had made a particular bargain about the first sum of £10,000 which I believe I mentioned to you. It has since been fixed at par without interest. On the departure of the William Penn the exchange got up a little by the pressure of the importers and I have now placed £1,000 at par for cash. It fell again and I can not now make it. I am very well pleased with the conduct of Willing and Francis in this bussiness. They have been of great service. Their commission will only be ½ per cent, but their advantage will arrise from having occasionally sums of my money in their hands. If I make my payments at par, it is all I want or ever expected, and I have no doubt of doing it.

The last letters from London are of the 8th April, but I have none so late. The distress in London is represented as very serious and I am not inclined to draw much more untill I hear further. By what I can collect from the papers there appears to have been a scandalous mismanagement on the part both of ministers and the Bank and as I see none but desperate remidies, my apprehensions are very serious.

Congress closed one of the most interesting sessions ever known the 1st of June and every thing has ended as could be wished. The treaty has been the great bone of contention and with difficulty got through. It certainly would not have passed at last, if the opinion of the people had not in all quarters been so strongly pronounced in its favor. We are to have a new House of Representatives next session and it is generally expected a much more Federal one. Having already told so long a story, I will not take up any more of your time at present on these topics but conclude with the assurance of my invariable respect and attachment, gentlemen,

Your most obedient servant

Alexr. Baring

Messrs. Hope and Co.

P.S. The William Penn has been detained till the 3rd of June. I hope she will reach you safe as I keep no copy of this letter. You will observe that the bargain is now known by every body as it probably will be with you. You can therefore speak of it. But the price must always remain a secret, that people may not make comparisons when we sell. Your name is not known here but strongly conjectured. I wait your orders to announce it. We set off for the northward this day sevennight and you will hear from me from some part of the route. My letters to Willing and Francis or to Codman will always find me. If you permit your name to be mentioned, I shall take the liberty of honouring some of our towns with applicable names, for we have a number to give. The ladies of our party are exercising their inventing geniuses and if you have any predilections or prejudices pray mention them. We shall of course have a Hopetown, a Binghamville, etc. etc. etc.1075


Bingham’s own account of the sale to Baring, unfortunately much less detailed, shows that he was by no means sure that he had made a good bargain.

Bingham to Knox, Philadelphia, 6 February 1796 [KP]1076

Philadelphia February 6th 1796

My dear General:

Inclosed is a letter which I had wrote in time to have been forwarded by the last post, but by the negligence of one of my servants, was delayed untill it was too late.

You must have been somewhat uneasy on the subject of my negotiations with Baring, which have been very tedious and attended with a variety of difficulties. I believe that he is impressed with an idea of my necessitous situation, and means to avail himself of it, as far as is possible.

After several very long and animated conversations, and some very prolix communications in writing, we have at length brought the affair to a crisis. He rejects altogether a concern in the Kennebec tract, but not I believe on account of its inferior quality, but because it is less conveniently situated than the upper Million which is contracted for with the State. He agrees to take one half of the lower tract, including the six townships and the private purchases at 2/ sterling per acre, and one half of the Million (to be purchased on the terms of the contract of the State) at 1/6 sterling per acre. Notwithstanding the greater cost and far higher value of the sea side townships, he objects to an additional price for them, because they were included in the survey and always supposed to be part of the Million, originally bought of the State. At the same time he agrees to furnish his proportion of the settling duties for both tracts, which as this offer relates to the upper tract, is a point of consequence, as it is not probable that there will be placed on these lands, nearly the stipulated number of settlers, the settlers to be accounted for by him on the lower tract, to be confined to those due after July 1796, which will reduce the number on his part, nearly 160.

Several serious objections occur to these terms. It is a total sacrifice of the property on the lower tract, which is far more valuable than the price he offers, in favor of the upper tract, which considering its present situation, may be said to be well disposed of, on the terms contemplated. But it will, in its consequences, deprive me of the consideration for which alone it would be justifiable to sell a portion of the sea side lands so low—I mean available funds—for, admitting he should pay cash for his purchases, a great portion of the proceeds of the lower tract must be taken to make payment for our half of the upper tract, as, in order to make him a satisfactory title, it will be necessary to be possessed of the conveyances from the State, which hitherto they have not chosen to deliver, without an anticipated payment. The amount thereof, with the settling duties, would form an immense sum. It would scarcely leave a sufficiency for my most urgent occasions.

Perhaps the Committee might agree on receiving one half of the amount in cash, to take security for the remaining part and deliver up the deeds. I believe they did it in the case of Morris, when Wadsworth became his security.1077 Of this point, you can fully inform yourself. Perhaps better terms might still be procured with respect to security and less payment of money. I think therefore it will be necessary to commence immediately your negotiations with the Committee. Perhaps you may be able to secure the remaining part beyond the million of acres, at my option, for a certain number of years, which will admit of taking the chance of benefiting by a rise in the value of this kind of property. I shall wish to be regularly informed of all your operations, as it will be highly essential to Mr. Baring to know the progress they make, in case I should accept his proposals, of which I shall this day determine, and make known to him. You will be so good, as to have the Committee sounded about the Penobscot Indian lands, and let me know the result.

I enclose you the power to receive the deed and a letter to Mr. Russell for the bond, all of which must be forewarded as soon as convenient.

My affectionate compliments to your family, and believe me devotedly and sincerely

Your etc.

Wm. Bingham

General Knox

Baring’s own understanding of the agreement, couched in precise, formal language, admirably sums up the final settlement.

Baring to Bingham, Philadelphia, 15 February 1796 [BP]

Philadelphia 15th February 1796


As it may be still some time before our ultimate arrangements are made respecting the business we have concluded on together, I much approve of your idea in your favor now before me of the nth instant of exchanging in the form of a letter a mutual acknowledgement of the terms we have agreed on relative to price, that the same may be binding on both parties as I hereby declare it to be.

I believe we are perfectly agreed on every part of the business, but as your statement appears to me not quite clear I will recapitulate the chief points and if you approve them you will please to favor me with a second letter declaratory thereof.

You agree to sell to me one undivided half of all the lands you possess in the District of Maine between the rivers Schoodic and Penobscot, namely those purchased of the State of Massachusetts for which the contract is completed for one million of acres, and the several purchases made from individuals with every thing on or appertaining thereto, including without any exception every object contracted for whether the contract is or is not completely put into effect, and particularly the purchases of Shaw enumerated in the paper you hold thereof, and on which we have had so much discussion, all at forty four and four ninths cents per acre of land.

One equal undivided half of one million of acres of land in the rear of and adjoining to the last mentioned tract, for which your contract with the State is to be carried into effect, at thirty three and one third cents per acre. It has been particularly my wish to simplify as much as possible the price, which is hereby completely effected. We have further agreed on the following additional conditions to our bargain:

1st. You are to give a compleat warrantee deed of all the land not purchased immediately of the State, and of such so purchased a warrant against all collateral claims whatsoever.

2d. Such parts as can be immediately conveyed are to be paid for before or during the month of April, and the remainder when the conveyances are made. The payment may either be made in cash or in notes that have not longer than sixty days to run.

3d. You are to liberate and take up all the deeds of every part of this land, and if any circumstance should protract the setlement with the State of Massachusetts for the upper tract of one million of acres beyond the term of one year from the date hereof, I shall then have the option of taking or rejecting my proportion of said tract at the abovementioned price of thirty three and one third cents per acre.

4th. The setling duties that may become forfeited on these lands are to be supported by the whole concern excepting any thing that may fall due during the present year for which you are to be liable.

No other preliminary conditions respecting the price appear to me to be at present requisite, and it is understood that we shall both hasten as much as is prudently possible the final and regular adjustment of the whole of this bussiness. Our ideas on the chief points of future regulations are so consonant that I have no apprehension of our stumbling at trifles, and I am perfectly confident that the same conciliatory harmony which has till now existed will continue to prevail without interruption.

I state the setling duties of the whole of this year to be for your account in preference to naming the month of July. There are no other due in the course of it, but I conceive my statement to coincide more precisely with our mutual intention.

As we are agreed that the exchange should be regulated at par we have nothing more to do with sterling money, two shillings sterling is at par 44 4/9ths cents and not 44 cents as you state it. I find the remittances from hence are chiefly in the month of May and I shall therefore have some difficulty to draw at par in April. By giving 60 days credit I may perhaps effect it, and I have therefore taken the liberty of inserting the condition of payment in notes, though if the cause ceases to exist I shall not avail of it. It is absolutely necessary to fix a period when your treaty with Massachusetts for the upper Million must be concluded, for I must be safe and guarded from any contingent impediments in the bussiness of which I am not aware.

I have the honor to remain, Sir, sincerely,

Your most obedient humble servant

Alexr. Baring

William Bingham, Esquire

Once Senator Bingham and the future Lord Ashburton had reached their preliminary agreement, they were faced with several important problems which had to be settled before the transaction could be considered completed. First in importance was the matter of giving Baring a clear title to his property. By this time Bingham had finished paying for the Penobscot tract, as well as for the six townships and most of the purchases from individuals.1078 However, by the terms of the original contract, one-half of the deeds for the lands purchased from the State were to be held in escrow until the setding duties had been performed. The contract called for the placing on the two million acres of twenty-five hundred settlers within twelve years; it provided, furthermore, that should the purchaser wish to receive his deeds ahead of time, he could do so by depositing thirty dollars a head, in United States six per cent stock, for every deficient settler and forfeit a proportionate part of this deposit, should the total number of settlers not have been reached at the expiration of the specified periods.1079 Though Bingham wrote frequently of his intention to make such a deposit,1080 and thus gain possession of the deeds necessary to give Baring a title, he never actually did so, and the presumption is that Baring relented on this point before the agreement was put in its final form. This whole process occasioned a long delay: the original deeds, especially those of the purchases from individuals, were scattered; some were with General Cobb in Maine being recorded; others were with General Henry Jackson in Boston; and despite constant proddings from Bingham, his confederates were annoyingly slow in forwarding these vital documents.1081 Though a temporary contract was drawn up in May, 1796, Bingham and Baring were still working on this problem when they were in Boston during the summer of that same year; and it was not until June, 1797, that the final papers were signed.1082

The question of tenure was another stumbling block. Since by Massachusetts law no foreigner could hold land, despite repeated efforts on the part of Knox and Jackson to have the law changed,1083 it became necessary to appoint trustees to hold the land for Baring. This was successfully arranged a little over a year later, when William Cramond and Thomas Mayne Willing, both of Philadelphia, agreed to have Baring’s share of the Maine property vested in their names.1084 In this manner the English partners could control the property and, it was hoped, profit from it without running afoul of either American law or local prejudices against foreigners.

It remained for Alexander Baring to pay Bingham for the lands, and here again the young Englishman proved himself an astute man of business. Since he recognized Bingham’s pressing need for ready money, he arranged for a temporary accommodation by drawing on Willing and Francis, the Barings’ correspondents in Philadelphia, for some $100,000, making these drafts over to Bingham, and taking notes from him in return as security until a contract could be drawn up.1085 In the course of the year Baring paid Bingham $263,901.33 for 593,778 acres of land, in notes drawn on the House of Baring in London.1086 Through sagacious use of his house’s credit, he was able to draw all these notes at par, which represented a substantial saving, since the normal exchange was well under par during most of this period. On the other hand, he had promised Bingham interest after 1 May 1796, the date of the temporary contract, assuming that he could make the payments promptly. He soon discovered that fall was the best season for drawing on Europe, and as a result was obliged to pay Bingham $4,898.16 in interest. Willing and Francis charged a commission of $1,292.98 for handling the business, but Baring was able to get back almost double that amount in interest he received on funds deposited with them.1087 Thus by the end of 1796 Baring could report that the lands had been paid for, and paid for, too, with almost no extra expense in commissions or exchange charges.

Though it had taken over a year to arrange all the legal and financial details of the transaction, by 1 June 1797, the date on which Bingham signed a contract with Baring’s trustees, all was in order, and the sale to one of the greatest commercial houses of Europe an accomplished fact. With the backing of the financial resources of the Barings, Bingham might well hope that he had at last turned the corner, and that from now on his Maine speculation might develop into an asset rather than a liability.