WITH the successful negotiation of the sale to Alexander Baring, the basic structure of William Bingham’s speculation in Maine Lands was complete. To be sure, many minor problems awaited solution, and the program for the improvement and sale of the property was still to be decided upon. After the spring of 1796, however, the story of the speculation falls naturally into a chronological, rather than a topical, pattern, and the focus of attention shifts from Philadelphia to the District of Maine. It remained to be seen whether the enterprise, backed by the financial resources of Bingham and Baring and conducted on the spot by General David Cobb, could be made to prosper as its backers hoped it might.
The year 1796 was spent primarily in organization, in laying the foundations for future exploitation. First of all, the problem of the “back tract” must be met. Baring had agreed to take half of this property if satisfactory terms could be worked out with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Secondly, it was important that Bingham and Baring see for themselves what they had purchased; and thus it was that they spent the summer of 1796 touring their property down east. Thirdly, General Cobb must be given specific instructions on the handling of a host of problems which were confronting him as agent.
On February twelfth, having given what assistance he could to Bingham in the negotiations with Baring, Cobb left Philadelphia for New England and the coming season’s campaign down east.1 His grateful employer had given him one hundred guineas as reward for his help in bringing off the sale to Baring,2 and the future of the concern looked very promising. The letters which follow illuminate the progress of Bingham’s speculation during 1796, both as regards the work of the high command in Philadelphia and the accomplishments of the agent in the field.
Stephen Jones’s Log-Cutting Agreement, Machias, 2 January 1796 [CP]3
For and in consideration of permission being given me to cut pine logs upon the lands purchased from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts by William Bingham Esquire and Company, I hereby promise to pay him or his order, three thousand, three hundred, and thirty three feet of merchantable pine boards, to be delivered at a convenient salt-water landing in Machias, for every hundred pine logs I shall cut or cause to be cut on said lands, and in like proportion for a greater or lesser quantity. And, I further promise I will not cut any tree that is fit to make a mast, nor make any unnecessary waste in cutting said logs; and that I will render a true accompt, on oath if required, of the logs so cut on said lands. In testimony hereof, I sign my name—
January 2nd, 1796
Charles Renuff to Cobb, Littlesborough, 12 January 1796 [CP]4
Honourd Sir: I am about to inform your onour of my curcomstances. I have ben in this willderness a number of years agrubbing as it ware half dead a great parte of the time. In the first place I was deprived of my health by maintaining my countrys freedom to which your onour is an eye witness, and from that witness I begg sum releaf to my sustenance. It is not long sence I have ben warned by Mr. S. Wilde that we should have one hundred acres of land, by paying forty dollars. I receive the news very kindly. But I pray it may pleas your onour to lett me have mine as those that was on the lands befour eighty four.5 And ef your onour sees fitt to consider me ibeg you would right to whoom shall conduct those affairs with us.
These from your most obedient humble servant
Littels Borough January 12 1796
[Endorsed by Cobb] “February 12 96”
Bingham to Knox, Philadelphia, 10 February 1796 [KP]6
Philadelphia February 10th 1796
My dear General:
I am favored with yours of the 1st February and observe the result of the conversation you have had with the Committee on the subject of the contract for the additional million.7 It is idle in them to make any objection to confining the quantity, as the map they first sent only comprehended a million and was in their estimation at the time a compliance with the contract. Nothing has happened since to change the nature of the case, and for the intermediate period of delay, no injury can be sustained, as interest will accrue, as a consideration for the suspension of payment.
Besides, the Committee cannot assert that they ever contemplated a sale of such a large quantity, as the tenor and spirit of the contract are entirely opposed to such an idea.
As I observe that, in your conversation with the Committee, you have confined your objections to a few points, it may not be amiss to enter more fully into the merits of the question, as I may thereby furnish you with some hints that might not otherwise have occurred to you.
In the first place this business must be new modified, with consent of the parties, as the terms of the contract cannot literally, nor in the extent of its spirit, be complied with, arising from the mistakes of the Committee, who sold the land and were ignorant concerning its geography.
I think I will make it clearly appear that the charge of cavilling and quibbling relates more pointedly to their conduct, in wishing to force such a large quantity on us, than to ours in resisting the attempt.
It will be necessary to begin with the boundaries of their survey, and contrast them with those specified in, and called for, by the contract.
The eastern boundary is to be the river Schoodyck and a line extending from the source thereof until it meets the highlands, whereas the eastern line of the present tract is at a great distance, west of the river Schoodyck, and is not bounded thereon in any one point, which is a total departure from the terms of our agreement.
This line is therefore altogether arbitrary; but what is a more flagrant violation of the contract, on the part of the Committee, is that three townships, to the east of my eastern line, adjoining it, and betwixt it and the river Schoodyck, and consequently included within the territory contracted for, have been sold (March 2 1795) to Goodman, Maynard and Holland,8 which of course preclude the Committee from the power of fulfilling their terms with me. But what is well worthy of remark is, that the price of those townships, from the Committee’s report, which you sent me, does not appear to be more than 25 cents per acre, for you will observe, that 21,760 acres amount to but £2,222.12.9, which includes the interest for the time for which credit is given, as you will observe is done in the extension of the obligations I gave the Committee, for the first cost was but 200,000 dollars or £60,000, but including interest it amounts to £73,135.10. Now, our lands will cost, if the Committee charge interest, at least this price, independent of the settling duties, which will be five cents additional. I wonder where, then, is the favor? to give us lands in a retired remote situation, at the same price with townships selected for their goodness, in the neighbourhood of the Schoodyck Lakes, with a passage to the sea. There does not appear any marks of favor or affection in this business.
But they will be less exposed to contend the point when it [is] considered that the other lines are equally faulty and imperfect. The first article specifies that the westerly line is to be bounded at the distance of six miles from the great Eastern Branch of the Penobscot River. Now by viewing the map, this line will appear to extend far beyond the river, thereby abandoning all the advantages (contracted for) of a vicinity to the river thro’ the whole course of the line, and consequently the benefit of water conveyance for produce. At the same time it evinces the want of knowledge on the part of the Committee, of the geography of this country.
Besides this line, when it had accompanied the Penobscot as far as it would go, and had thus far terminated its course, should have continued on a perpendicular, drawn from the extremity thereof.
Whereas, it suddenly changes to the westward, and takes a perpendicular direction from what is supposed to be the source of the Penobscot, but which is absolutely not so, as will appear from the evidence of the map, copy of which I enclose you.
With respect to the north line, which is to be the highlands, that seperates Canada from the United States, it is only to be ascertained by a conventional arrangement, as no exparte survey can form a boundary that will decidedly be acquiesced in, by both parties. Now, how can an unsettled line be taken as a boundary for the conveyance of lands, which depends on the opinion of two parties, one of which has not been consulted?
On the contrary, provision should be made for the immediate settlement of this point, thro the intervention of the commissioners who are to determine the river St. Croix. Therefore this line, which apparently is the only boundary to which the Committee might suppose there was no objection, is as exceptionable as the others, for, untill it is decided, there can be no absolute right to convey lands, any more than in the spot intervening betwixt the two waters, which by the different parties, are supposed to be the river St. Croix.
The south line should extend to the Schoodyck and be continued along my northern boundary, whereas it is arbitrarily stopped at the bounds of the Lottery Townships.
But what is still more striking, as relative to the idea of the views of the Committee, as connected with the quantity, which was never supposed to be more than 1,000,000 acres, is that by the 3d Article, the payment including interest is stipulated to be no more than thirty thousand dollars annually, untill the whole principal and interest shall be discharged. On these terms, there can be no objection to receive all the lands of the Committee’s survey, but they will be placed in a serious predicament—3,000,000 acres at 24 cents (which with interest it will cost) will amount to 720,000 dollars, the interest on which will alone be 43,000 dollars, so that by paying but 30,000 dollars annually, not three fourths of the interest would even be paid, and no part of the capital be ever extinguished. No more positive and convincing argument could be required, that the Committee was under a palpable mistake, relative to the quantity contracted for, or they have made the most absurd and losing stipulations, with respect to payments. But further, suppose all the lands within the boundaries specified in the first Article had been surveyed, including of course, those betwixt the present arbitrary eastern line and the river Schoodyck, and from the source of the Schoodyck to the highlands, it would have comprehended in the return, upwards of two additional millions of acres. What then would have been the state of the case and the situation of the Committee? A payment of 30,000 dollars annually for upwards of five millions of acres at 21 cents.
They must have good nerves, if they could support the cavils that would arise out of the reflections on this case. On the contrary, I think that such is the hold we have of them, from the existing circumstances, that so far from supposing any difficulty on their part, I should think they would readily agree to renounce the interest for the intervening period, from the 18th April 1793, and then to close the contract for a million of acres.
We stand on very high ground with these gentlemen, for there is not a single line run agreable to contract: the southern line, from not being sufficiently extended; the eastern line from not having the Schoodyck for its boundary; the western line, from being carried beyond the river Penobscot; and the northern line from its being at points not altogether determined.
If the Committee had not been embarassed, they would not have so long suspended the survey of the lands, which by the 12th Article they agreed should be effected within one year from the 18 April 1792, whereas the first survey was not returned untill the spring of 1795.
I enclose you copy of a return of the first survey sent to me in the year 1793, which includes nearly the million contemplated, and carried the west line to the source of the Penobscot.9 Why the Committee should so essentially have added to the quantity, I cannot conceive.
However, on a view of all considerations that affect the subject, I have no doubt that you will induce them readily to accede to your ideas, relative to the quantity of 1,000,000 acres, and perhaps procure an abandonment of the interest that intervenes. These lands were purchased at too exorbitant a price in the first instance, of which the Committee must be well persuaded.
The payments that will be due on the contract will amount to ninety thousand dollars, which is a pretty large sum. But the most essential point, and which will require much of your skill in negotiation, is to get possession of the deeds, without paying the full amount of the money, which would absorb so very large a portion of what will be received for the lower tract, from Baring. Perhaps, if I would agree to anticipate the payments of the Kennebeck lands, and give them as security with my bonds as a collateral caution, they might renounce the deeds on the upper tract, as by these means they would be perfectly secure.
In your arrangements, it will be proper to attend to the Article respecting settlements and endeavor to modify it, so as to procure the number to be diminished and at the same time have the stipulated number to be dispersed over the whole tract, instead of forty settlers to each township of six miles square.
I wish that deferred debt could be taken instead of six per cent stock, which will equally well answer the purpose, as the interest is to be paid back to the proprietors, who lodge the same in the Treasury.
It may not be amiss, if it can be attended with any good effect, to mention that this property is about being placed in an active train of settlement, and that great inconvenience will result from placing any difficulties in the way.
I hope you will be able to procure the facility respecting the delivery of the deeds, on giving security. Otherwise it will employ upwards of 120,000 dollars (besides Barings payments), arising out of the monies received for the lower tract, in order to fulfill the engagement for this upper purchase, comprehending first cost, interest of three years and settling duties to be deposited. This would be highly inconvenient, as it would deprive me of the very resources for which the sale was made.
I observe that the Committee have had tracts located for masts, altho by the first Article, they are restricted from this privilege, except within two years from the 18 April 1792, the date of the contract.
If we should eventually agree on the purchase of the upper tract, it will perhaps become expedient to make a division of the concern in the same proportion as the lower tract, in order to simplify the connection, and place it on a similar footing with the remaining part, for the two tracts will be embodied together, and the monies expended on the improvement of either will have a relationship to the other, and to both conjointly, which renders it necessary to have an uniform system of management and the same proportion of property and profits.
Not that I shall have any objection to your taking any share of the profits made by the sale to Mr. Baring of the upper tract, in the proportions we have hitherto held. My idea only relates to the remaining object, in order to introduce an uniformity of arrangement.
If I should eventually be under the necessity of advancing the money for this tract, it will be highly inconvenient, and would be equally as agreable to decline as to take. Without the previous sale to Baring, it would certainly have been adviseable to reject this tract, for it would with settlement duties, interest etc. have amounted to nearly one third of a dollar per acre.
Having discussed the subject of the upper tract, as relative to the best mode of acquiring and possessing it, there remain some essential arrangements to be carried into immediate effect, with respect to the lower lands purchased of the State and of individuals. You will naturally feel the importance of these papers being forwarded with great despatch, as no title can be given to Mr. Baring untill I am in possession of them:
- 1st. The deed from Gregoire, comprehending the quantity surveyed in Trenton and Mount Desert, with a copy of the deed conveying part of Trenton to Madam Leval, in order to ascertain the quantity to be deducted.
- 2d. Shaw’s deed for the first purchase of Gouldsborough, for which he received on account £200 lawfull money.
- 3. John Lucas’s deed for an eighth part of Chandlers township, amounting to about six thousand acres.
- 4. John Cabot’s deed for eight thousand three hundred and thirty three acres of land laying in No. 7.
- 5. As the deeds for the lower Million and the six townships are now paid for, it will be necessary to become possessed of them, which cannot be done, as relative to one half of them, without depositing the amount of the settling duties, which for the two tracts will amount to 47,500 dollars, part in six per cent stock and part in specie.10
General Cobb thinks that the 100 to be placed on the six townships in May 1795 are already there, but as he has no authenticated certificate thereof, I must I suppose, deposit the amount, except you can procure some substitute for these deposits, by giving security which will be equally available to the State, as it [is] very inconvenient to suffer such large sums of money to lay idle and unemployed.
6. Herewith you will find a power of attorney to General Jackson, to receive the deed for the six townships (Number 1), which you will please to have forwarded immediately. The last of the three bonds was paid the first of this month by General Jackson. That due the first February 1795 was likewise paid by him, both of which he is possessed of. That due the 1st February was paid by Mr. Russell, and transmitted to me. I now enclose it, as it will be necessary the three bonds, duly cancelled, in order to get possession of the deed, should be duly exhibited. You will observe that the receipt on the back of the last bond is dated the 8 February, whereas it should have been the 1st. This mistake I think was owing to a neglect of a post day, but it was corrected by Mr. Russell’s settling with the Treasurer for the difference of interest, for the eight days that had elapsed.
Perhaps it will be most expedient to forward these papers, as they can be made ready, by some private hand, altho I do not think that much risk attends them by post. But it will naturally strike you as an object of the first consequence that no delay should intervene, as a very considerable sum of money must depend, with regard to payment, on the receipt of these essential papers.
When Mr. Baring and myself enter upon the subject of our monied arrangements, I shall not be unmindfull of your wishes,11 which I hope there will be means of accomplishing.
He appears to be extremely well disposed and very ingenuous in his manner. It is impossible to have a more agreable and I believe profitable connection.
I hope that you will be able with convenience to attend to all these points, as I find our friend the General is so much occupied with more important concerns that it is with great reluctance that I shall address myself to him again.
Herewith you will find Flints conveyance to me for the second purchase, which must be signed by General Jackson.12 You will likewise find my power of attorney to you, to act for me in this business with the Committee. Your progress therein I wish you regularly to inform me of.
I likewise enclose you the copy of the second survey of the Committee. Perhaps it may be possible to procure the million, extending from the river Penobscot to the Schoodyck, which would include better lands, and more eligibly situated than those extending so far northwardly. I would have no objection to suffer the three townships sold by the Committee to remain as they are.
I forgot to mention to you that what evinces the views and ideas of the Committee, as relative to the quantity of a million, is that the payments of the second contract are made precisely the same, as those in the first contract, viz., 30,000 dollars per annum. Now 2,000,000 of acres at 10 cents amount to about the same sum, as 1,000,000 acres at 21 cents, and hence this uniformity in the terms.
General Cobb will leave this place on Thursday or Friday, and will be in Boston in the course of next week. I do not send you a copy of the contract, as I suppose you can procure it from General Jackson.
Believe me with affectionate esteem and regard
my dear General
Bingham to Knox, Philadelphia, 13 February 1796 [KP]13
Philadelphia February 13th 1796
My dear General:
I wrote you very fully by the last post and inclosed you a number of documents, which may be essential in negotiating the arrangements with the Committee.
I think it will be expedient to terminate this business as soon as possible, as well for the sake of giving satisfaction to Mr. Baring, as to prevent any additional difficulties occurring.
There is a report of a Committee of the House of Representatives on the subject of the disposal of the western lands, which fixes the lowest price for them at two dollars per acre.14
It is supposed that this report will be confirmed. This circumstance must soon be known at Boston, but I cannot decide how it will operate, as it will have two aspects, as relative to our purchase.
It will naturally impress the Committee with the idea that lands have procured a great additional value in the public estimation, and that the million of acres are low at the stipulated price of the contract. But at the same time, they must think, from the operation of the same reasons, that it will be highly expedient as it regards the Commonwealth, to diminish the quantity and confine it to one, instead of three millions of acres. Such an arrangement certainly must be pleasing to the legislature, and cannot but be equally so to the Committee, except as it may relate to the loaves and fishes, their commissions on the sale of a greater quantity. Perhaps Leonard Jarvis may have still more selfish motives operating on his mind, for as he may suppose that but a certain number of settlers will emigrate to the District of Maine, the smaller the quantity of land in an active state of improvement, the greater will be his chances of attracting them, on his settlements.15
In my last letter, I entered fully into a detail of reasoning on the subject of our claims on the Committee, since which I have found a letter addressed to them by General Jackson, and their answer thereto, relative to these points in contest, copies of which I herewith inclose you.
You will therein observe, that they advocate the Western Branch, as being the river Schoodick, whose source was never ascertained by actual survey. Now it is well known that all the maps of that day displayed with great precision that branch of the river and the lakes that were the source of it. They were known, at the time the Lottery Townships were surveyed. It is therefor folly to contend that this branch could be the river contemplated in the contract, when it is said that the eastern line shall be bounded by it, whereas no eastern line can touch it, except at the point of intersection. But on viewing the other as the projected river, the eastern line will be bounded by it, as the western line is by the Penobscot, or within six miles of it. This interpretation will alone reconcile the southern boundary to the terms of the contract, for then the southern line will naturally be bounded by my purchase below, to the full extent of that line. The Committee therefore must feel themselves embarassed with this reasoning, and I think must therefore be disposed to make ample concessions. Perhaps, some hints thrown out, of the rising value of lands, and rather an inclination to embrace as large a quantity as possible, with the aid of European capitalists, may not be amiss.
In viewing the contract I do not find any engagement that authorizes the Committee to lodge the deeds in escrow, so as to forfeit the right to them, in case the amount is not punctually paid.
It is essentially necessary that the seventh Article should be materially changed.16 If the stipulated number of settlers cannot be lessened, at any rate it must be covenanted that they may be placed on any part of the land and not forty inhabitants on each township.
There may be some townships, so abounding in water, that it would be impracticable to procure the stipulated settlers, and if there is a deficiency in any one township, all the advantages, resulting from the exertions to fulfill the contract in every other respect, would be entirely lost. It is an Egyptian punishment, compelling us to make bricks without straw. However the tenth Article modifies the seventh and appears to give a different interpretation to it, and will probably become the basis of the agreement, when carried into effect.17
The eleventh Article stipulates that the deeds shall be deposited in the hands of three persons whom the parties shall agree on, which are to be delivered by them, on the payment of the money.
But it does not require, that if the money is not paid at the very day the respective bonds are due, that the persons who hold the deeds shall refuse to deliver them, altho it is offered at a subsequent date. This arrangement was introduced into my final agreement, at the time it was terminating, when I was exhausted with opposition, and nolens volens.
At any rate, the Committee having received five thousand dollars on account of this contract, are bound to fulfill it, if we require them so to do. When they insisted on the payment, they supposed the terms too exorbitant to be complied with on our part, and that a forfeiture would ensue.
I do not think it will be proper to let it be known that Baring is concerned in any eastern purchases, untill the business is entirely compleated.
With affectionate compliments to your family, in which Mrs. B. and the children join, I am with sincerity and regard
my dear General
Knox to Bingham, Boston, 15 February 1796 [BP]
Boston 15th February 1796
My dear Sir:
I have received your two favors of the 3d and 6th18 of February, enclosing your power to General Jackson to receive the deed to have been taken up last June, and your order on Mr. Russel for your bond, both of which I delivered and hope to have the papers required to transmit by this post. But if not, certainly by the next post.
I am indeed well satisfied to receive the information contained in yours of the 6th, that Mr. Baring had made you the offers therein contained. I persuade myself firmly, that you will accept them although below your expectations, as the connection formed by this sale will be the great and certain mean of elevating the remainder.
An attention is now excited to these lands throughout all New England, and an emigration, of moral, industrious and wealthy citizens may by attention upon our parts be turned into the District, and upon our lands, which will surpass all other emigrations for value and multitude.
The number of settlers required by the contracts, nay more, say 5,000, settlers may be placed on the respective tracts, within the next three years, the present included. This is a primary object, and all others must give way to it, because it will beyond all other means:
- 1st. Increase the value of the other lands.
- 2. Enable the proprietors to avail themselves of money.
- 3. Render the proprietors popular with the Committee, the legislature, and the people at large.
Next to peopling the country is the cutting and making good roads. A road ought to be cut from north to south throughout the two millions east of Penobscot, and two or three main roads from Penobscot to Scoodiac and the Bay. After these great leading measures are adopted towns, mills, meeting houses, schools, etc. ought to be encouraged liberally. They will all amply remunerate the proprietors for all their expences. These measures being taken, your projects or plan of shares or actions [?] would in a short time raise the lands to 2, 3 or 4 dollars per acre.
I have no doubt, respecting the Kennebec tract, if you will go into the measure of erecting mills, and purchasing the falls below that tract, that you may raise and [sic] astonishing revenue, not short of 50,000 dollars per annum from the lumber only. The roads and settlement may go hand in hand with the mills. But it will require an energetic and faithful agent to be on the spot. Such can be found, for a proper price.
On the whole I regard the lands, in which you are so deeply interested, in the maine as susceptible of profit as any object whatever upon the surface of this globe, and with as great certainty. But it requires in the first instance, men, roads and money to illustrate.
I have communicated individually (but collectively) with four out of five of the Committee, being all but Mr. Phillips. Mr. Wells, Mr. Cony and Mr. Read are favorable to the idea of taking a million, or rather the first survey which I beleive was 12 or 1300,000 acres. But as they have been animadverted upon, and regarded by some members of the legislature with jealousy, they seem to think seperately that as they have before submitted the contract for the back tract to the legislature, so they must submit any proposed modification of it, although they are empowered to execute it as it stood. If we do not adhere to the old contract, and endevor to get too many new terms or conditions, we shall loose it altogether, for a great and insurmountable objection will be raised in future to any large sale. Indeed they have not large quantities for sale—the part of the 2,900,000 acres out of the question.
Many townships have been sold to individuals who have not complied with the condition of settlers. Some measures are taking to ascertain this defect. It does not relate to us, although it is but candid in me to say that the payment of 30 dollars for each deficient settler will not in the public estimation be considered as any sort of equivalent. My constant theme is that you will take efficient measures to place the requisite number of settlers on the land and a great many more than the contract specifies.
I have been more particular on this point as I have conceived it possible that you and Mr. Baring may have thought that incurring and paying the forfeiture for non settlers would be satisfactory. But rely upon it, although this would be legal, yet [?] it would excite alarm and unfriendly sentiments to the proprietors, besides being directly opposed to their pecuniary interest. But perhaps by settling duties is meant the deposit of stock, so as to take up all the deeds. This is the construction I have put upon the terms used by you of the “settling duties.”
I shall endevor with the Committee to obtain the deeds upon other security than the land, but I do not flatter myself with success. Perhaps we may obtain an explanatory clause that if the settlers are put upon any part of the back tract, they shall be estimated as if put upon the seperate townships, provided they are in the ratio of forty settlers to each township according to the contract. I shall however attempt everything, but I doubt of accomplishing anything which shall be brought before the legislature which may look like more favorable terms to the proprietors.
You will understand explicitly, as I before wrote you, that the legislature is averse to selling any more land at present even a single township. They have now by a solemn vote refused to confirm the conditional sale to actual settlers from New Hampshire although they had agreed with the Committee for the price and terms of payment provided they approved of the land upon actual inspection. The committee of settlers were rather tardy in making this inspection, and therefore the legislature refused to confirm the sale. The little land left will, the legislature say, fetch a high and proper price in a few years, and the government do not at present want money.
This dislike and opposition to the sale of more lands is a circumstance of high importance to us. We shall therefore have almost exclusively the lands of easy access for sale. I do not beleive that, independent of what we may leave of the 2,900,000 acres that there are one million of lands in the District for sale by the State, which will attract the notice of settlers until all ours are sold. But if they lock up that million, we shall be the only sellers.
The only circumstance which mars in any degree the sale to Mr. Baring (for I take it for granted you have made it) is that it does not furnish you with the funds you require, and of course prevents or rather does not afford me also that releif which I hoped, and which my necessities forcibly require. Unless you can in some shape or other obtain from Mr. Baring the sum of 50,000 dollars which I mentioned to you I shall indeed be in great distress. If it could be had in no other manner than a loan (for 2 or more years) (upon his own terms of proffit), perhaps it can be effected in that manner, hypothecating to him, the profits of 200,000 acres of my contract with you. You have this contract and could show it to him. I have an excellent estate in the Waldo Patent, which has almost obtained that degree of illustration as to be highly profitable, but not quite, and of course any forced sale of it would be an unjustifiable sacrifice on my part. I have made an arrangement of erecting mills, and other operations in the course of the present year, provided I can obtain the necessary funds for that and my other engagements which will probably afford me ample revenue. You have been so good as to be pledged for me payable
the 1st of May next
Besides what my good friend Mr. Anthony is bound with me for money taken up 18 months ago for (payable in April)
Mr. Hodgdon ditto
And I also owe in New York, payable in the same month
And I have been informed by Mr. Meade, notwithstanding his engagement to me when in Philadelphia, that he cannot pay the 2,300 dollars in April which he engaged to do to the Bank of Pennsylvania and about which you pledged yourself to Mr. Ingersoll,19 making in all about forty two thousand dollars. The remaining eight thousand I should want for other purposes.
I have, my dear sir, made you this detail in the strictest confidence, and in order to ask your aid, in obtaining from Mr. Baring in some form or another 50 or even 60,000 dollars. It would be most acceptable for me to sell him part of my contract with you, but if this cannot be done, then perhaps a loan could be effected. But at any rate, and in any shape, permit me to rely upon your zealous and friendly exertions, which will be acknowledged with perpetual gratitude. You will have the goodness to see that my affairs are exigent and that the sooner you ascertain what can be done for me, the sooner I shall be releived from a painful anxiety.
Had Mr. Meades contract been executed, it would have provided for all, or nearly all, the sums now requested, which are in fact the arrears accumulated in public service, but of that nothing. I wish you not to mention the contents of this letter to Mr. Anthony or any other person whatever. I mention these things in confidence to you, because I am persuaded of your disposition to serve me, and because I hope an opportunity presents for that purpose, with Mr. Baring whose command of funds are very great. In serving me in this instance (with due sincerity and profit to himself and concern) he will enable me to serve him most essentially, for we are (I presume) all embarked on board of the same vessel, and if I contribute to give reputation to the eastern country, I shall benefit, in some degree or other, every other proprietor in that country.
The Georgia land speculation took deep root here and in the vicinity. The tempation [sic] of possessing great tracts of land upon the easy terms, of giving notes payable at very distant periods, was too mighty to be resisted. Accordinly [sic], multitudes rushed into the measure, and it is said that from 20 to 25 millions out of 30 rest this way. The purchasers are alarmed finding all other holders from New York and elsewhere crowding here to sell out. If this be a bubble, the people this way will feel it most severely.20 I hope some events may occur by which they may be saved from injury. This circumstance will prevent my getting any funds here. New York is also extended as upon a rack of speculation. My main hopes therefore are confined to your influence with Mr. Baring.
General Jackson has just informed me that he cannot get the deed to go by this post. You will have them by the next.
I am my dear sir
with sincere respect and affection
Yours H. Knox
The Honorable William Bingham
Bingham to Knox, Philadelphia, 20 February 1796 [KP]21
Philadelphia February 20 1796
My dear General:
I have received no letters from you since the last post. I cannot as yet determine whether any European exertions will be made concerning our Maine Lands. From the various conversations I have had with Mr. Baring, it seems his principal expectations are derived from the progress of settlements, promoted by the system we shall form for the purpose.
I wish you to keep me regularly advised of your associations with the Committee.
I think they will be well disposed to contracting the quantity at present and confining it to 1,000,000 of acres, as they will not wish to forego the handsome commissions arising out of such a sale: besides, the sum of money, that I suppose will not be dispensed with, will be a tempting bait for the Treasury. The contract specifies three payments that will be due in April, each of 30,000 dollars, and it is probable that I shall be under the necessity of paying a still larger sum.
With respect to the remaining part of this tract, I think it will be prudent to retain the preemptive right over it, which may be converted to profitable account, at a future day. Perhaps motives of personal interest may weigh with some of the Committee to accede to the arrangement, for, it appears, if we are divested of it, there will exist no right in them, to dispose of it to any other individuals or companies.
Altho Mr. Baring has thought proper to reject the Kennebeck tract, I have no doubt that a better price will be obtained for it, than what he was asked, for I think his preference and purchase of these lands will have a most excellent effect, in impressing a value on them, as well here as in Europe.
I shall expect the papers I requested of you as soon as conveniently they can be forwarded, as our ultimate arrangement, which I wish to compleat, waits for their arrival.
With sincerest regard
I am yours etc.
Knox to Bingham, Boston, 22 February 1796 [BP]
Boston 22 February 1796
My dear Sir:
I have received your favor of the 13th instant, and note its contents. Since my last to you on the 18th,22 I have had much conversation with the Committee individually and collectively excepting, in the latter capacity, Mr. Phillips, whose sickness and loss of his son, and other causes induce him to decline acting further with the Committee.
The result of all my conversations are, that the Committee have decided that they have no power to make the modification requested. They are not opposed, but rather favor the idea of confining ourselves to a million. But they say if a reduction of the quantity be made, the legislature alone are competent to the measure. A memorial signed by General Jackson will accordingly this day be presented for the purpose, and in the Senate I have no doubt it will be accomplished. The principal ideas [which] will be held up are: “That the quantity far exceeds the intentions or expectations of the parties at the time of the contract, as all the stipulations of payments were grounded upon a million of acres only. That the northern part of the tract lies in a region not ascertained to whom belonging, whether to the British government or the United States, nor can it be ascertained fully but by an actual line run by the consent of both parties.
That the company for whom the contract was made are willing to take a million of acres at the price then agreed upon with the boundaries modified according to the spirit of the contract, and therefore to request that the Eastern Committee may be empowered to make the modification accordingly. That at present they appear to conceive they are not authorised to make the modification proposed.”
To the legislature it would be unnecessary to hold up any thing but general principles. It must be a committee to draw up the agreement in detail. The tract ought to extend to the Eastern Branch of the Schoodic, but I am apprehensive the Committee will be inflexible on this point, as they say a certain map in their room was the identical map referred to at the time of making the contract, and to which Jackson and Flint assented. This assertion of theirs appears to be confirmed by General Jackson. I will endevor to obtain an alteration, but without expecting to obtain it.
The number of settlers will not be diminished and I am apprehensive we shall not be able to obtain a clause that settlers upon any part in the ratio of forty to a township shall answer for any part. In cases for tracts of water, to be sure, it may answer. I shall however push this point strongly being aware of the consequences.
The deferred debt will I beleive be received as a deposit in lieu of the six per cent stock. The Committee seem to think this reasonable, but they decide against taking personal security either for the land or settlers. I did not mention your name—but undoubted security. I mentioned the Kennebec tract supposing it paid for, as a security for the back tract. They said they could not be justified in receiving what they have sold at 10 cents for that which they have sold at 21. Probably they would receive it in proportion.
It is a fact that the Committee are sore by the suspicions attempted to be thrown upon them by some members of the legislature. They are unconscious of having merited such treatment. But at the same time they are unwilling to give any possible pretext for further animadversions, and therefore they will not make any modifications of the back tract. Besides, they are indifferent whether the contract be or be not carried into execution, as the value of lands have risen so much. It is on this ground that they are not opposed, supposing they had the power, to relinquish all but a million or thereabouts—perhaps the first survey.
What shall be our conduct if the legislature decline making the proposed modification? I suppose a conditional contract with Mr. Baring ought to be entered into, to be carried into full execution when all the existing difficulties are adjusted.
General Jackson has no sort of objection of making the assignment proposed. But he conceives that he first ought to have the stipulated reward and which has been paid Flint, and also that he ought to be indemnified against the note of 5,000 dollars given to Tudor. It will therefore be proper that you transmit him your obligations to that effect. No time will be lost. The business before the legislature must be prosecuted in his name. It will have a better effect than if yours or mine were used directly. If the modification is effected, I will endevor to get him to make the assignment which Flint has already signed.
With respect to holding the back tract in the same proportions as the first two millions, the idea is a new one. My disposition is to conform to your wishes in every reasonable proposition, and to make the whole speculation harmonious and profitable. If therefore you persist in this idea upon further reflection, and General Jackson will consent, I shall not feel disposed to mar this new arrangement. Knowing General Jacksons opinion that his intended compensation was by no means proportioned to his services compared with Flint, I have all along even from the commencement of the business assured him of his holding an equal part with me of the back tract, and of this I informed you in writing from New York.
General Jackson, in addition to his other affairs, is upon the grand jury and therefore he has not been able to get up the deeds. Indeed there is a material obstacle in the way. The bond paid by Mr. Russel, he says he transmitted to you. I mean the one paid last June.
The deeds of Gregoire’s purchase and the one to La Roche of part of Trenton (not Madame la Val) are, according to his recollection, either transmitted to you or sent to be recorded. He thinks Lucas’s, Shaws, and Cabots deeds are also with you or at the recorders.
I am mortified that he has not been able to furnish me with them, provided you have them not. I have and shall continue to urge him with respect to those of the six townships which are attainable. The 8th of February, instead of the 1st, may be obviated by the Treasurers testimony. Send the bond paid by Mr. Russel in June last.
Some little uneasiness has arisen in the Waldo Patent, about 20 miles distant from my house. It was excited by one Samuel Ely, a man who was concerned in an insurrection of shutting up the courts of justice in the year 1782, and then put under heavy bonds never to return into the Commonwealth again. He has been a sort of clergyman, the most factious scoundrel on the face of the earth. He was supposed about three months ago to be concerned in raising an armed mob, about 25 miles west of me, but not upon my lands. A warrant is issued to bring him here, when it is presumed order will be again restored. My people have no cause and shall never have any from me to complain of hardship or injustice. Of course, I do not feel concerned but what the present uneasiness will subside. If it should not, I am well assured that government will afford every requisite support. I mention this circumstance lest Mr. Baring may be alarmed if he should hear of this circumstance.23
Were it compatible with the negotiations with the General Court both as to the back tract, and a point in dispute about the north line of the Waldo Patent, I should probably repair to Thomaston in order to tranquilize every thing. But unless the thing grows more serious I shall not do it. I am also anxious to hear from you upon the subject of money concerning which I explicitly wrote you on the 15th instant, and to which I hope for a candid and friendly answer, as soon as possible. In your letter of the 10th of February you are so good as to say that when Mr. Baring and you enter upon your money arrangements you shall not be unmindful of my wishes which you “hope there will be some means of accomplishing.” The sum I want will be nothing comparatively to him or his concern, and it will be every thing to me. But I cannot say more than in my letter of the 15th. I rest myself therefore entirely upon your kind exertions in my favor. I give you a carte blanche as to terms, only get me the money. If 60,000 dollars it would be complete.
God bless you and yours
The Honorable William Bingham
Bingham to Knox, Philadelphia, 24 February 1796 [KP]24
Philadelphia February 24th 1796
My dear General:
I have received your favor of the 6th instant, and am pleased at the prospect of the papers which I wrote for, being forwarded by the next post, as they are much wanted in the final liquidation of our business.
I forgot to mention that it would be necessary to inform me of the exact quantity of land purchased from the holders of the lottery prizes,25 on which account General Jackson drew for 400 dollars, as I have engaged to convey one half of all that I possess, without the least reserve. If some more of these prizes could be purchased on low terms, they might be added to the quantity.
It gives me pleasure to find that you are satisfied with the arrangements I have made with Mr. Baring. You will observe, that the price of two shillings has not been obtained for one half of the lower Million, as I was compelled to place the lower townships and the private purchases, even Shaws city lots, on the same footing, which would, comparatively considered, form a considerable deduction from the price of the Million, when taken singly and abstractedly. However, I have no doubt that the eventual advantages of this sale will be very great and it is a further consolation to find that however pressing our wants, I know no other purchaser that would give as much; indeed, no one that has an inclination to be concerned on any terms.
I hope the attention that has been excited to these lands, will continue and that the emigrations will be considerable in the course of the present year, to which object, all our efforts should be directed, as well for the reasons you mention, as for raising the value of the lands, as preparatory to any sales in Europe, if such should be thought expedient.
With respect to the proper measures to be pursued to raise the value of the Kennebec tract, they may be deferred, untill our excursion to the eastward in which Mr. Baring accompanies me. In the mean while, an arrangement should be formed which will prevent the depredations that may be committed on this property.
I observe that some difficulty exists on the subject of obtaining the quantity of a million of acres from the last survey. I think the Committee to be unwise, in submitting this business to the legislature, for as connected with 3,000,000 of acres, the contract is an absurd one and will do them great demerit, for the annual payments clearly designated about a million of acres which would amount (being double the price) to about the same sum as the first purchase, and therefore the annual installments are the same.
As the legislature is about breaking up, I am apprehensive that the business, if thought necessary to refer to them, will not have been finally arranged, which will be a great disappointment. As the temper of the members is known to be unfavorable to extensive sales, I am surprized that the Committee should hesitate in curtailing the quantity, especially as lands must, in the estimation of public bodies, be considerably enhanced by Congress being about to affix the price of two dollars to their western territory.
It would be better to close the contract for the million, on the terms specified in the agreement, than be under the necessity of submitting the points to the General Court, in order to obtain a deviation.
I think that I have so fully explained my ideas on this subject, that it will be unnecessary to add any thing thereto, as your prudence will regulate the business, by consulting our best interests.
What I mean by the settling duties, is the advance to be paid to the Treasurer on this account in order to obtain the deeds, which is to be refunded with interest, when the settlers are placed thereon, but it must nevertheless be an advance of capital. With respect to obtaining the necessary numbers of settlers, Mr. Baring is (if possible) more solicitous than I am.
I think you perfectly right in your determination not to push those points that cannot easily be obtained, either from the Committee or the General Court, for it would be unfortunate in creating an indisposition in either body to comply with the terms of the contract, or to withdraw their support from us, in the progress of the business.
As yet, I have had scarcely any conversation with Mr. Baring on the subject of funds, as I thought its introduction would be premature, being desirous of possessing the means of first giving him a title. The powers of those he is connected with are immense, and I hope he will have a proper command over them. His dispositions are good and I have cultivated them and hope to be able to turn them to good account, so as to serve your views and interests.
Untill the whole arrangement is compleated, it is impossible to tell what amount of funds will remain after possessing the necessary conveyances in order to give him a full and ample title, about which he is very particular—more so, than if he had been a longer time resident in the country.
The communication you have made to me, relative to your private engagements, shall be guarded, as an entire secret, and you may depend upon my making every friendly exertion, you can desire in order to obtain for you, the wished for accommodation. My wants are likewise very pressing. It is necessary that I should extinguish a loan I made in Holland, or else suffer the stock I deposited as a security to be sacrificed at the present low price. I have a considerable sum due at the bank and have Duers notes and an installment for the Kennebec tract to pay this year, both together amounting to 70,000 dollars, as the notes due in December last, are not yet paid.
If Mr. Baring had not absolutely rejected the Kennebeck tract, our wants might have been more fully supplied, but on this point, he was immovable. During his residence at Boston, he had many offers made to him of lands in Maine, on much lower terms than he has now purchased.
As the security that will be given him will be undoubtedly good, indeed unexceptionable, I think it very probable that I shall be able to negotiate the loan you wish. His house has an immense command of funds, which are laying unemployed untill the affairs of Holland are settled and will admit of their removal there.
I shall soon enter upon the discussion and shall in the meanwhile prepare his mind for the reception of the proposals I shall make him.
On this account, I am very desirous of having every point settled immediately, and the deeds made out and delivered to him, that I may know what will be my eventual situation, as relative to money matters.
The Spanish Treaty26 is arrived and I believe will have a very good effect, in weakening the opposition to the British Treaty. The reason you will readily surmise.
I am with the sincerest
regard My dear General
Your obedient humble servant
Jackson’s Memorial, February, 1796 [KP]27
To the Honorable the Senate and the Honorable the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
The Memorial of Henry Jackson a Citizen of the said Commonwealth in behalf of himself and his Associates respectfully states—
That your memorialist in conjunction with Royal Flint, did on the eighteenth day of April one thousand seven hundred and ninety two, enter into a contract with the Committee for the sale of the unappropriated lands in the eastern parts of this Commonwealth, for a certain tract of land lying between the rivers Schoodic and Penobscot, the particular description of which will more fully appear by reference being had to the contract in the possession of the said Committee.
That it appears by the surveys which have been taken of certain lands supposed to be comprehended in the contract, that the quantity contained therein far exceeds the quantity contemplated as well by the Committee as your memorialist and his associates, for it will appear by the periodical installments contained in the said contract, that the boundaries mentioned were supposed would contain about one million of acres, whereas the surveys as executed contain nearly three millions of acres.
Your memorialist and his associates are desirous of executing the contract for one million of acres, at the price stipulated. But he and they hesitate to execute a contract for so much greater a quantity than was originally contemplated, more especially as the northern boundary extends into a region the jurisdiction of which is not ascertained between the British government and the United States. Nor is it presumed it can finally be adjusted until the lines shall be run and determined by the mutual consent of the two governments.
The Committee of the Eastern Lands, to whom application has been made for reduction of the quantity to one million of acres, appear to conceive that they have not a competent authority to comply with the request. Your memorialist therefore prays the honorable legislature to authorize the Eastern Committee to conclude an agreement with your memorialist, so as to reduce the above quantity to one million of acres or to thereabouts with a power to modify the boundaries and terms according to the true intent and meaning of the contract.
Knox to Bingham, Boston, 25 February 1796 [BP]
Boston 25th February 1796.
My dear Sir:
I have received yours of the 16th instant. I wrote you on the 22 that the Committee considered themselves as divested of all power to modify the contract in any of its essential parts, and that therefore application must be made to the legislature praying that the Committee may be authorized to that end. The Memorial signed by General Jackson has been presented, and committed to a joint committee of the two houses, who will probably report favourably this day, and if so, the high probability is that it will be accepted by the two houses. This business, so far as reducing the quantity to one million, will be soon terminated as it is probable the legislature will rise by the 1st of the next month. Your last idea of attempting to return the whole contract for a limited period, and executing now a million will be suggested either to the committee of the legislature or the Eastern Committee, as shall be most favourable. But it is very questionable whether it will be attempted. The lands in question (that is the back tract) are in very high reputation from the report of the surveyors. I have no doubt if we relinquish, that companies might be formed who would purchase upon the same extended credit of the government from 30 to 40 cents the acre, but the government will not sell at present. If roads are cut and 20 townships sold to men of capital in Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and this State, the remainder may be pushed up very high. And I have very little doubt but that a dollar per acre may be obtained in the first instance upon a pretty extensive credit of five or six years. This (the credit) will be the inducement to men of capital or rather of respectable agricultural credit, to exert themselves to form associations of settlers, to whom they will sell at an advanced price. The whole sale price of the land will thus soon be raised to the retail price and no time is to be lost as to the plan of settlements.
If the legislature should decline, it would be wise according to present appearances still to hold on the contract and, as in the case of Mr. Baring, to extinguish the debt for a million of acres. If hereafter the boundaries should approach the British line, a petition to the legislature will, without doubt, suspend or annul the contract for the doubtful region.
As to the Indian lands28 no opinion can be had of the Committee or other persons in the legislature as to price. It is however probable they will be sold in single townships at pretty high prices. Some plan may be formed at the time of sale to purchase as many as we think proper, and we ought to purchase many of them, at any rate at which they will be sold.
11 oclock a.m. I have this moment come from the joint committee of the two houses. I presume there will be no insuperable difficulty to agree to the proposition on their parts. The only difficulty that ought to exist, should be upon ours. This however is not very consistent with my former opinions, nor is it a very decided sentiment. I think you will have the opportunity presented of retaining the whole, or of taking the million—but you will not be permitted to take one million now, and the residue to be optional with you hereafter.
General Jackson is eight or ten hours dayly upon the grand jury, which in addition to his other business overwhelms him. He has not therefore been able to make out the subordinate deeds. He is of opinion that you [have]
Shaws first purchase
Lucas’s is at the eastward to be recorded. Cabot’s is here and the deeds of the whole will be made out to you and transmitted, if possible, by the next post, and the transfer to you of the rest as soon as possible, that is as soon as he receives them. The deed to La Roche was about 14,000 acres, half for himself and half for Madame Van Berckel.
I am apprehensive that we shall not be able to affect the transmission of the deeds and bonds cancelled this post. We have surmounted the difficulty of the bond paid by Mr. Russel the 1st of June. But the difficulty of getting the escrow people together is great, from sickness, their own business, and no particular interest arising from the transaction. I shall however keep this letter open until the last moment of the post. The utmost limits have arrived, and no deeds and bonds. But as this is only a part of a whole, I hope no inconveniences will arise from this disappointment.
Bingham to Knox, Philadelphia, 27 February 1796 [KP]29
Philadelphia February 27 1796
My dear General:
I have received yours of the 18th instant and much regret the omission in not enclosing to you the bond for 7,000 dollars, which was paid by Mr. Russell, it having escaped my recollection that he had forwarded it to me. You will find it herewith. This neglect will occasion considerable delay in making the final arrangements with Mr. Baring, as our discussions on the subject of the lands have entirely ceased for some time past, and will not be resumed untill the period of the execution of the deeds. I shall then warmly urge the various points concerning our monied arrangements, with a hope of being able to meet your wishes on the subject.
I am sincerely concerned at the Committee not having it in their power so to modify the contract, as to confine the purchase to 1,000,000 of acres.
They have already had two opinions on the subject of the quantity included in this agreement.
At first, they presented a survey containing 1,250,000 acres. The second survey was nearly three millions. I shall have no objection to taking the first survey and I cannot conceive any well founded difficulty can exist on their part, as it is probable they were as right in the first, as the second arrangement.
I cannot possibly reconcile the opposition of the legislature to selling in large tracts with the conduct of the Committee, or with the apprehensions you express as relative to the difficulty of obtaining from the legislature a modification that will admit of contracting the quantity. If either of the parties acted in consonance to their prepossessions of this nature, they would be desirous of annulling the whole or any part of the bargain.
If they could not effect the business to the full extent, they would eagerly grasp at the opportunity of doing it partially. Therefore I must confess that I am surprized at the Committee (under such a persuasion) not being anxious to close with our offer of curtailing the quantity. If submitted to the legislature, it would be acting a very inconsistent part if they refused.
But, I am persuaded that by the provisions of the contract, we stand upon very high ground, and in making use of our advantages, we shall alarm the Committee, as well as the legislature. The former asserts that they are ready to carry into effect the contract on the footing it stands. Will they then agree to receive our obligations in such a form as to induce the payment of but 30,000 dollars per annum, which the contract expresslly [sic] stipulates, and which part of the arrangement indubitably shows that there was never contemplated by the parties more than about a million of acres? This point would seriously alarm the Committee, if it was told them that arrangements had been taken to carry that Article into effect on the terms of the contract, when it was known that, contemplating the whole quantity, it would not amount to two thirds of the interest of the purchase money.
With respect to the legislature, it might be insinuated that if the real boundaries were adhered to, as expressed in the contract, the tract would include several additional millions of acres, and that a company could be formed with the greatest ease, that would embrace the whole quantity. In case they refuse a compromise, I do not suppose they would be averse to submitting our differences to some disinterested individuals to determine.
I wish you to inform me the contents of the Committee’s letter to General Jackson, when they sent him the first survey of 1,250,000 acres, as I think this will throw some light on their opinions at that period.
Perhaps your situation may be somewhat delicate, as it relates to your interference in this business with the Committee. Should this be the case, it would be proper to employ an active intelligent person as an agent to transact the business with the Committee and to push matters as far as they could be carried. A law character would be the most eligible on this occasion.
I would not be so urgent on this point, if I did not observe a peculiar attachment on the part of Mr. Baring to be concerned in the upper tract as connected with the lower. He would most sensibly feel the disappointment, as I suppose him to have notified his friends in England, of the purchase. Besides, my indifference has very much diminished, since I have hopes of making an arrangement with Mr. Baring, by which there will be no necessity of an advance of money on my part, for I think I shall be able to pursuade him to accept a conveyance for one half of the million, as a security for his undivided half whenever the whole tract is paid for, he giving me an obligation that he will deliver the just mentioned conveyance, on receiving the second. In this case, I should make payment to the Committee, to the extent of one half of my obligations immediately by the right I have to anticipate, the means of doing which would be obtained from Mr. Baring. The other obligations might be reserved, untill they were, by the terms of our agreement, payable.
Perhaps a stipulation with the Committee that one half of the quantity we propose to take should be paid for in cash immediately would have a very good effect. This at least must, at any rate, be done. Perhaps it will be necessary to make a cash payment of the whole sum, but I am inclined to think the first arrangement will be preferred.
It certainly becomes expedient to make use of this circumstance as an inducement to operate on the minds of the Committee.
Would it not be proper to submit the business in its present state to Judge Sullivan, and by a generous douceur for his opinion, prepossess him favorably to our views?
If Mr. Baring would take the Kennebeck tract in the stead of the upper tract, I should prefer it, but I have no hopes, after the declarations he has made to me, of inducing him thereto. I do not think his powers extend so far as to admit of his embracing the whole of the upper tract, according to the quantity comprehended in the last survey.
I think it would be possible to form a company at New York or this place that would, in case the Committee persevere in their opposition, agree to take the excess, beyond one million, on the terms of our original contract.
This is certainly far preferable to purchasing Georgia lands at the immense price, that has been given for them, and which purchases, by recent accounts, will probably turn out a bubble.
At any rate, this business must be kept in a train of negotiation, untill we can avail ourselves of the opportunities that may offer of turning it to proper account.
I do not recollect any other observations that are at present necessary to make. I shall wait with anxious expectation for the result of this business, as it is, under the present state of it, connected in a very important manner with the management for the lower lands.
I am with much sincerity and affection
Bingham to Knox, Philadelphia, 2 March 1796 [KP]30
Philadelphia March 2 1796
My dear General:
I have to acknowledge receipt of yours of the 22d ultimo, and observe the result of your various conversations with the Committee. I am concerned at the apparent difficulties which attend a reference of the terms of the contract to the legislature, especially if that body should terminate their session, without coming to a decision on the subject. I am fully persuaded that the stipulation of the agreement by which it is determined that but 30,000 dollars shall be paid annually, as well on account of principal and interest, will seriously alarm them, as there is an entire incompatibility in the arrangement, by which the State must essentially suffer, if literally carried into effect. Indeed, there can be no doubt of my inclination to close the bargain upon such terms. Other objectionable points, as relative to the interests of the Commonwealth, may be likewise adduced, and what must operate on the minds of the Committee to whom the business will be referred and who will report accordingly. Indeed, it will be very surprizing that any demur should arise on the subject, if the General Court is averse to the sales of large tracts, or is sincere in its declaration of raising the price of the Maine Lands. I shall wait with much anxiety for the event of this application. If they should refuse it, there will be still a claim existing, which the State will find it difficult to exonerate itself from, and which must become the source of contention and protracted litigation.
I do not observe that you have any prospects of obtaining a reasonable modification on the subject of the intended number of settlers, altho you are inclined to believe that deferred debt will be taken instead of six per cent stock. I wish you to bring this point to a decision.
I wish the Committee were altogether well founded in their conjectures concerning the rise of the Maine Lands, for then there would be no difficulty in procuring a company which would agree to take the residue of the back tract, beyond the Million, and allow a profit thereon, whereas, I am much inclined to believe that more than first costs could hardly be obtained for it. If the legislature absolutely refuse their consent to the proposed modification, we must wait for a more favorable impression to be made on the minds of the next legislative body.
With respect to General Jackson’s recompence, I supposed it would arise from your offering to let him participate in the share you hold of the speculation, he making no advances, nor coming under any security. Indeed, the sale to Baring of one half secures a very handsome profit, at the first outset, vastly more than any recompence to be given after the manner that Flint was settled with.
With respect to the note given to Tudor,31 I believe a conditional obligation must be given, to be paid in case that Tudor recovers of him. Perhaps it would be most expedient to settle with him, if he would agree to take a small consideration. It does not merit a large one, for even at this day, four years after the contract was formed, it would be difficult to find a company that would agree to fulfill the obligations that are stipulated, notwithstanding the great rise of lands in other parts of the United States.
You will please to write to me more particularly on this subject.
When I forwarded the conveyance that Flint had signed, in order to procure the signature of General Jackson, it was intended to have the title invested in me, in order to be enabled to grant you a power of attorney, to act on my behalf. If it had not been for the agreement made with Baring, I should have been very indifferent concerning the acquisition. My only views have been turned towards preventing others from possessing this property, so as to injure our first purchase by the competition.
I therefore was the more willing to run the risk of the 5,000 dollars which I first paid the Committee on account of this tract, in the month of January 1793.
Baring’s wish is to make the two million acres a common concern, to be operated upon, by commencing settlements on the sea side and extending them northwardly. This was the principal reason, independent of my personal responsibility, that induced the idea of continuing the same interest in similar proportion, as it would otherwise occasion your share of the general expences to vary, being a third, as it relates to the lower tract, and one half of the upper, which would be eight twentieths and a fraction of the whole amount of the disbursments and other expences for the settlement and improvement. However, on this point, I am extremely indifferent.
I have none of the original deeds for any of the private purchases, and am extremely sorry that you have not been able to forward them. I have suspended all further arrangements with Mr. Baring untill I am prepared to give him a compleat title, which I have engaged shall be shortly effected, as it relates to the purchases in the lower district, and which he is very importunate to receive, as he wishes to announce the circumstance to his friends in England. Having so confidently engaged it to him, I should exceedingly regret any disappointments that might throw a difficulty in the way. But there is a still stronger reason in favor of expedition, which is the interest on the money, whilst a delay in payment takes place, amounting in so large a sum to a serious object of consideration, and which I hope will urge General Jackson to make every effort. Should any of the deeds be at the recorders, it would be expedient to send an express for them. The deed for the six townships cannot admit of the least doubt, as it will be delivered on presenting the bonds. One of them will be retained, untill the deposits are made for the settlers.
I am most ardently desirous of having this business terminated. Not that I have the most remote suspicion of the integrity of Mr. Baring’s views. But accidents may happen, and there is nothing to bind us, but sentiments expressed in letters that have passed betwixt us, as it was not thought necessary to have recourse to the formality of a legal contract, when it was expected the proper deeds might so soon be prepared and delivered. A great deal of low intrigue and management is making use of, in order to disgust him with these lands, that he may turn his attention to others differently situated. But, hitherto, I believe the attempts have been entirely unavailing.
I have forwarded to you by the last post, the bond for 7,000 dollars, which was paid by Mr. Russell, so that no impediment will now exist to prevent obtaining the deed for the last portion of the lower tract.
Baring had been informed of the agitation which existed in your neighbourhood, and the opposition which had taken place to the survey of some of the lands. I did not observe that he was very much alarmed on the subject. It should be quelled by making an example of the leaders of the insurgents.
It will become more essentially necessary that the most unremitting efforts should be made, in order to attract settlers from the different New England states, as Congress, by exposing the western lands for sale, connected with the free navigation of the Mississippi, recently obtained from the Spanish Court, as well as an entrepot at New Orleans, will occasion an immense emigration to the westward, which can only be counteracted by very assiduous exertions. I think it would be proper to disseminate a knowledge of the quality, situation and resources of these lands, thro’ the different New England states, for I begin to be very much alarmed at the dispositions which will be created in favor of the lands on the waters of the Mississippi.
This country was never in so tranquil and prosperous a situation. All its causes of dissension with foreign powers are extinguished. The delivery of the posts, cessation of Indian hostilities, free navigation of the Mississippi, and port at New Orleans, compensation for the spoliations of its merchants, etc. etc., are most fortunate events and will tend greatly to increase the attachment to the federal government and to render it respectable in the eyes of foreign powers. I have therefore strong hopes of such impressions being the cause of a considerable transfer of property to this country, and in such a case, I think the preference given by Mr. Baring to the Maine Lands, will turn to good account. I hope to hear by the next post what will be the decision of the General Court on the application of General Jackson. If a fortunate result cannot be confided in, it would perhaps have been better, not to have made the application.
But I suppose, by sounding the opinions of the most influential characters, a pretty correct opinion may be obtained, of what was to be expected.
Your affectionate friend
Bingham to Knox, Philadelphia, 5 March 1796 [KP]32
Philadelphia March 5th 1796
My dear General:
It gives me pleasure to find by your letter of the 25 February, that there is a prospect of succeeding in the application to the legislature, to curtail the back tract and reduce it to 1,000,000 of acres, and that we shall probably have the option of taking this quantity or the whole amount of the last survey. I have proposed to Mr. Baring to make over to his concern in Europe, one half of the quantity of the surplus, on condition they would fulfill the engagements for the whole, paying them six per cent interest, whilst they lay out of their funds. But I believe, he has no power to make such a bargain, without a previous consultation with his constituents, to whom he means to write on the subject. But I am rather disposed to think that the delay that must necessarily intervene before he can procure an answer will be longer than the Committee will assent to.
It would perhaps be difficult to procure companies who would agree to purchase these lands at 30 to 40 cents, even upon so long a credit, considering that interest is accumulating during the whole period. I cannot conjecture what effect the sale of the western lands will have on those of the eastern territory. The price which Congress has fixed is two dollars per acre at least, and as much more as can be obtained, at public sale. It is expected that these sales, connected with the free navigation of the Mississippi, will cause a very great emigration to the westward. It will be our interest to make the most unremitting exertions to counteract this disposition, and to create as extensive an influence as possible to favor and support our measures. We shall lose no time in digesting other arrangements to produce a rapid and thick settlement. Mr. Baring has the matter under consideration, and we shall soon write to General Cobb on the subject. I have not heard from him since his departure from hence.
I shall have no objection to the Indian lands being sold at high prices, as the consequence will inevitably be, to raise the value of the adjacent property. It ought to be most forcibly impressed on the Committee and the General Court, that it is absolutely necessary to dispose of the lands in the neighbourhood of the Penobscot, as the surrounding country can never flourish, untill these townships, which are the key to the District, on both sides of the river, are settled. If they sell at high prices, so much the better and I shall have no objection to making some considerable purchases of them.
I detailed in my last letter the various reasons that urge the immediate forwarding of the papers which are requisite, to exhibit to Mr. Baring a title to the property he has purchased.
It is not only the loss of interest on the amount, but the unpleasant situation of protracting for such a length of time so important a business. I forgot in my last, to inclose you the Treasurer’s receipt for 5,000 dollars, which was the first payment for the six townships, and which is necessary to exhibit at the time of receiving the deed for this purchase. You will please to return me, this and the other papers and documents transmitted to you.
General Jackson has, I find, been too much employed for some time past, to attend to this affair, which I regret very much. He is mistaken in the supposition that I have the deeds for Shaws first purchase, or Gregoire’s. These deeds must have been made to him, and from him transferred to me. You will essentially oblige me in attending to the business, as General Jackson is probably too much occupied, to give any attention thereto.
What will Shaw agree to take for the last purchase made of him, on paying cash, instead of having a long credit? Perhaps a deduction of thirty per cent may be obtained, if he has occasion for the money. You can negotiate the business on the best terms, and inform me of the result. I imagine some little finesse must be used in the business.
The Spanish and Algerine33 treaties have given very general satisfaction, and I believe will be the cause of bringing the British Treaty into vogue, especially amongst the western people.
The Georgia business has occasioned a great deal of clamor. The law has been absolutely repealed,34 and the claims of the Bostonian speculators must be greatly depreciated in value.
With sincere regard and friendship
Yours etc. etc.
Knox to Bingham, Boston, 7 March 1796 [BP]
Boston 7th March 1706.
My dear Sir:
I have received your favor of the 27th ultimo, and the bond of 7,000 dollars paid by Mr. Russel last June, which is not wanted, as the deeds were taken up by virtue of a certificate from the Treasurer, and forwarded to you by the post of the 29th ultimo. I therefore now return it you.
Every exertion was used on my part with the Committee to induce them to give, or to agree to give, deeds for a million now, and refer the other part for further discussion and decision. But all my arguments were in vain. The legislature had revoked their powers, and no argument, not even the value of the whole tract, would have induced them to act otherwise than they did. As I before wrote you they were convinced, that the interests of the State required that the sale should be limited to a million of acres, and they uniformly and strongly persisted in declarations to this effect. Upon bringing the matter before them at first, they seemed to be of opinion that the whole affair had dropped and that we should relinquish the whole. Had the House of Representatives understood the state of the case as well as the Eastern Committee and the Senate, our request would have been complied with, and I think to our cost. The Committee did indeed offer General Jackson the first survey of 1,250,000 acres in a letter which he never answered in writing, but told the Committee verbally that the party concerned demanded the whole quantity according to contract.
As to extending further east, we have no right by contract. The western branch of the Schoodic on which our survey is bounded retains the name. The eastern branch is called the Passamaquuddi. From a report which I have seen of a committee of the legislature in 1762 signed “Thomas Hutchinson,” afterwards the governor, I am apprehensive the western branch will be considered the line between Great Britain and the United States.
If Mr. Baring has a certain blue covered manuscript book which I lent you, and which Major Jackson took to Europe, you will find the above report. I wish to have that book returned, as there are therein some important documents respecting my estate.
I have no doubt but that a company would be formed in Philadelphia, New York or this place who would take up the remainder beyond a million on the terms of the contract, availing themselves of the benefit of your payments. If you choose, I will as soon as I receive your definitive orders upon this head attempt something. But at this moment the Georgia business (which is and must in its present course ever prove a bubble) has rendered people here timid, but that deception will soon render the people here more susceptible of riches nearer home. The idea gains ground daily, that they have been fools to suffer such a treasure to pass out of their hands, and that now every exertion ought to be made by the capitalists to possess as much of what remains as possible.
I have found no restraint in negotiating with the Eastern Committee, or the joint committees of the two houses, although it was conceived proper that the ostensible applicant should be General Jackson.
My judgment is still that if Mr. Baring would be concerned, that it will be best to carry into effect the whole contract for the back tract, making certain stipulations cautionary against approaching the British lines on the north. The whole, with the reservations deducted, will not amount to more than two millions and an half of acres. Perhaps it will be possible so to arrange the business as not to give bonds for more than one million and an half until the line shall be run, and settlers in proportion.
General Jackson did not buy more than one or two thousand acres of the lottery prizes. They cannot now be bought low. Mr. Barrell35 has ten thousand acres of these prizes, located he says in two tracts or townships, the numbers of which he did not recollect. He asks a dollar an acre for them, but has offered them in England. I mentioned half a dollar. He may perhaps listen if they should not be sold in England. But suppose he should be willing to sell, would it be for our interest to purchase him out? Perhaps he might be induced to improve and thereby enhance the other lands. I will further investigate the number of prizes and the quantity of acres and let you know.
I hope in God the procrastination of the contract for the upper tract will have no effect upon the lower million. The contract is secure in some shape or other. If Mr. Baring and you think proper upon further reflection to decline to take the whole, and no company should offer to take it, the legislature will certainly at their next session, complete the relinquishment of all but the million—and they would glady embrace that too.
I am very anxious that you and Mr. Baring should decide as early as possible upon the train or course you intend to pursue to enhance the value of these lands. No time is to be lost. You may now by vigorous and wise measures render your lands of any value you please by settlements and roads. They ought not to be suffered to languish longer. All New England may be attracted there. I mean the surplus inhabitants who will emigrate somewhere. But there must be a system for this business pursued steadily, and every good effect will follow.
I have written you so fully respecting my pressing demands for money, that it is unnecessary for me to say a word more on that subject. I hope you will speak to my friend Anthony and give him some assurance. I will write him next post.
Your obliged and affectionate friend
The Honorable William Bingham
Bingham to Knox, Philadelphia, 8 March 1796 [KP]36
Philadelphia March 8th 1796
My dear General:
I have received your favor of the 29 March [February]. I observe that the joint committee have reported favorably on the subject of the application to the legislature for a modification of the contract, with respect to quantity, and that the Senate had sanctioned the report, but that the House had postponed the consideration thereof, untill the next meeting of the legislature. Under these circumstances, I find you are inclined to form a company, to fulfill the terms for the surplusage beyond a million of acres, but you are not decided on the possibility of effecting the same. With the present appearances, I think it will be most adviseable to suffer the business to remain in statu quo. An objection lays to a company who would be admitted on the same terms, as they would be competitors in attracting settlers and thereby injure us. Whereas, if the land should revert to the State, it will probably be withheld from the market for a considerable period, and when sold, would command a much higher price, which appears to be the present disposition of the legislature to require.
I have made an offer to Mr. Baring, that if he would fulfill all the stipulations of this contract, for the excess, beyond a million, that he should have one half thereof, at the first cost. I am convinced that he would not hesitate a moment in accepting the offer, if he was fully empowered. He has wrote to Europe on the subject, but it is questionable whether he can possibly receive an answer in time to avail himself of the opportunity. But I am by no means pledged to wait for such a decision. Such an arrangement would be highly advantageous, as it would tend to our mutual interests, and be far preferable to the other mode of disposing of this property.
Mr. Dane is certainly correct in his opinion of the contract and its obligations. No more than 30,000 dollars can ever be paid in any one year.
But on viewing the eleventh Article, as connected with the third, it will be found, that on the payment of the 30,000 dollars, no deed for any specific quantity of land can be delivered, for the 11th Article has a reference to the extinction of the whole debt, by the payment of these installments, which cannot be ever accomplished, for the interest will accumulate the debt, more than the annual installments will reduce it, so that there will be a continual augmentation, and consequently no possibility of determining what proportion of the tract contracted to be sold, is to be conveyed, which is to answer to the payment of the fifteen thousand dollars mentioned in this Article, for the amount of all the bonds with interest can never be ascertained, as they will be increasing ad infinitum.
Therefore this plan must absolutely be abandoned (if the 3,000,000 acres are taken) as being impracticable, which clearly evinces that the quantity far exceeds what the parties originally had in contemplation. However, as this business will not be arranged untill June, we shall have time to consider and determine, as our best interests may require.
Even if the payments, each year, of 60,000 instead of 30,000 dollars are substituted in order to accommodate the additional quantity, then the whole amount according to the operation of the 11th Article will not be extinguished until the year 1808, and the payment of each installment of 60,000 dollars will only entitle us to a deed of 193,548 acres, admitting the whole quantity to be 3,000,000 acres, except the deeds were taken up by anticipation of payment, which would make the difference of the interest. A rough calculation which I enclose will show you the operation.
I can scarcely think it prudent to give bonds for nearly a million of dollars, and at all events to pay 60,000 dollars per annum, or run the risk of the lands which the payments represent.
Besides, it would be difficult to find a person whom the Committee would approve, to become security, by entering into joint bonds, for one fourth of so large a sum.
If it had not fortunately happened that Baring and Hope were favorably impressed with these lands and agreed to speculate in them, I do not know where we could have found any monied resources by the sale of them, and I now know that the great inducement was the preference which they supposed due to the connection which they were about forming. Mr. Baring was much staggered, for a considerable time after his arrival at Boston, which is not wonderfull, considering the general opinion entertained of the eastern lands in that city. The truth is, but few persons are interested in puffing these lands, and many find it to their advantage, to undervalue them. What effect, the sale of so much western territory will have is a question which experience must decide.
Independent of the profits that may arise, I am convinced that the purchase made by Mr. Baring must have a very favorable effect by bringing into notice, and raising the value of the Maine Lands.
I have made a conditional bargain with Mr. Baring for 500,000 acres of the upper tract, but he will be impatient to get possession of the deeds. However, I hope that I shall be able to reconcile him to the delay.
I have received the two deeds from General Jackson. I am fearfull that I shall be compelled to the purchase of six per cent stock, in order to make the necessary deposit, for the purpose of liberating the reserved deeds.
A sufficient number of inhabitants are on the six townships to satisfy the stipulations of the State for the year 1796. But unfortunately this business has been neglected. No arrangements have been made with the Treasurer, relative to the nature of the proof he will require, of these settlements being made, nor has any calculation been made of their number, altho by a return of Mr. Peters’s, made many years ago, there was at that period nearly one hundred.
This business ought to be negotiated with the Treasurer, on a liberal footing. But I am inclined to believe that, from General Cobb’s not having any authenticated return, I shall be under the necessity of depositing the certificates for a number of settlers that it is well known are now resident on the spot, which is not very agreable.
I wish you would ascertain decidedly whether the Treasurer will receive deferred stock, as I must shortly begin the purchase of the necessary quantity, in order to make the deposit and free the deeds.
It would be very agreable to me, if the Treasurer would explicitly agree to this proposal, which is consonant to the terms of the contract, as it would require less expenditure of money in the first instance, and no trouble in the quarterly receipt of interest.
General Jackson mentions that if Shaws deed of the first purchase, the deed for part of Chandlers River township and the deed for De Gregoire’s purchase are not with me, they must have been forwarded to the eastward, in order to be recorded. The latter then must have been the case, for they have never been sent to me. I wish some steps to be taken in order to procure them immediately, as Mr. Baring is very particular on these subjects.
The lottery prizes that were purchased I wish likewise forwarded, as I want to compleat the whole business at once.
I have wrote to General Jackson about Shaw’s purchase, to know whether any considerable deduction will be made for the payment of cash. His terms, I think extravaganytly high.
I am well pleased with your subscription to a bridge37 over Kennebeck, which I think will be advantageous to our property and will probably produce an interest for the amount.
Mr. Baring has taken the matter under consideration. You will oblige me in taking the trouble of having the titles to the private purchases examined, and a brief of them forwarded to me, with a sound legal opinion of their legality, in case of any apparent difficulty existing on the subject.
I herewith inclose you an account, taken in a hurry, of the payment made on your drafts. If there is any mistake, please to correct it.
I am with sincere regard and affection
my dear General
Your obedient servant
Bingham to Knox, Philadelphia, 11 March 1796 [KP]38
Philadelphia March 11th 1796
My dear General:
I have received your favor of the 3d instant. With respect to the benefit we may derive from the lands attached to the lottery prizes remaining in the hands of the present possessors, I do not count much upon it, as they cannot get possession untill the surveys are made, and therefore cannot attend to the improvement of them.
I fully concur with you in opinion, relative to the necessity of making the most unremitting exertions, with respect to improvements of all kinds, in order to obtain settlers. I believe Mr. Baring possesses the inclination as strongly as I do.
I am not of opinion that you would find it so easy to form a company to take up the back tract, detached from the million to satisfy our contract. It would be composed of two millions of acres, and it would require annual payments of forty thousand dollars, in order to sink the principal and interest within any reasonable time. Three payments are now due by the contract, which would make one hundred twenty thousand dollars to be paid immediately before signing the conveyances, which in the present scarcity of money you will find few people able and willing to advance. By the calculation I sent you, it appeared that annual installments of sixty thousand dollars would be required to extinguish the principal and interest of the whole three millions of acres, untill the year 1808. Near two hundred thousand dollars must now be paid if that contract for the last survey was carried into effect. If the million acres were seperated, they would cost us 25 cents with interest that has accrued and without the settlement forfeitures.
Mr. Baring would not pay more than 33 1/3 cents per acre for what he purchased. Is it reasonable to suppose that lands so much more remotely situated, could be sold at nearly this price, when persons who possess such enormous capital could not be induced to exceed it?
Indeed we were without much prospect at one period of selling these lands on any terms to Mr. Baring. From his first impressions, after many enquiries made at Boston, he has informed me that he wrote to his friends that he should absolutely decline any concern in them, such were the unfavorable accounts he received from the people of Boston.
If he had not engaged in the purchase, I am convinced that we should have found it difficult, if not impracticable, to have obtained any monied resources from these lands, whatever may be their intrinsic value. Lands to the southward and westward are daily getting into more repute, and the quantity at market will be immense, all which will tend forcibly to attract that portion of the capital which can be spared from more pressing purposes. Even the Bostonians, who had been always averse to land speculation in the District of Maine, seized eagerly upon the opportunity of purchasing southern lands, when they offered, which I suppose they exultingly contrasted with the Maine Lands.
From these, and various other reasons, I am inclined to think that it would not be so easy to form the company you allude to. It is certain that no lands have increased so little in value as the Maine Lands, nor are there any which it would be so difficult to command money for, owing to their being a less current article in the market. I therefore believe that the proposals I made to Mr. Baring, to convey to him one half of these lands on condition of his fulfilling the contract for the whole, is the best arrangement that can be made, for I think all others would be illusive.
On reflection, you will observe your mistake relative to having no more payments to make, in less than three or four years. You do not consider that three payments are already due and that they must, from the nature of the case, be so large as to nearly absorb the amount of the first million. And I think you are wrong with respect to their doubling in value in such a period. Their price must depend on the quantity at market, and the amount of capital to represent them. The former is immense, the latter has such active objects to employ it that fewer people are inclined to speculate in lands.
If the boundary of the State should be determined to be the river, east of the Schoodick, it will bring an immensity of more lands into the possession of the State.
I observe the period when your engagements will fall due. I have not as yet mentioned the loan to Mr. Baring, as I think he will be much better prepared for the purpose, when the conveyances are ready to be delivered to him. All that has been determined is the payment at the par of exchange, which I insisted on, but obtained with much difficulty, as it was then at 60 per cent and below it. In order to effect this, I agreed to give credit to Mr. Baring untill the latter end of April or the beginning of May, in order to give him time to make his arrangements.
I will candidly exhibit to you my present situation, as relative to the command of funds and claims I have upon me.
The settlement forfeitures on the two purchases in thelower tract will be
I owe the bank and others which must be paid previous to my excursion to the eastward
Duers notes due in December last and not paid, and three which will fall due in the course of the present year amount to
Installment due on the Kennebeck tract to be remitted in May, as it is payable the 1st June
Loan made in Holland, which must be paid immediately or the stock which I deposited as security will be sacrificed
To carry forward the purchase of the back Million, in order to take up the deeds and give Mr. Baring a perfect title in case no other arrangement can be made with him, will require, with settlement forfeitures, exactly
I shall receive from Mr. Baring for the lower tract (deducting Van Berckels claim) and subordinate purchases about £53,000 sterling, which is about from the upper tract about £37,500 sterling, is
You will observe by this calculation the deficiency that will arise, and that so far from having funds at my command, I shall be very much behind hand in the means of fulfilling my engagements. I shall be more able to determine with precision the full extent of my situation with respect to the command of funds as soon as Mr. Baring and myself make our ultimate and final arrangements.
Previous to this period of making the bargain with Mr. Baring, such was the situation in which I was placed, that I had made overtures to Mr. Gilmor of Baltimore,39 to dissolve a connection which was exceedingly profitable, in order to have the command of the funds which I had invested in his establishment. On our agreeing to terms, I notified to Mr. Gilmor that the commercial connection might continue untill the expiration of the time originally allotted, and that he might make his arrangements accordingly.
So that this resource can no longer be counted on. You may be assured that I will make every possible effort to aid you in the payment of your obligations, and I hope to be able to obtain the loan from Mr. Baring, to the extent of what you require, as I shall not decline my credit to facilitate the object. I have not at my command to the amount of 2,000 dollars of funds or bank stock except what is pledged in Holland for the loan. All my resources must come from the sale of lands, and I am now making every effort to dispose of part of those which I have in Pennsylvania. If I succeed, I will most readily furnish you with the assistance you may at present require.
I think Baring’s purchase will tend to give a great additional value to the Kennebeck tract, and as soon as the titles are compleated I shall seriously attend to the sale of this property, or a considerable portion thereof. Your wants and my own both essentially require it.
I have had a conversation with Captain Anthony on the subject of the debt in which he is engaged with you. I find it is a bond due to McMurtrie.40 It is not common to exact such rigid and punctual payment of a bond as of a note, but in this case, no dependence can be placed on the forbearance of the creditor. I shall be happy to join with him or Mr. Hodgdon, in making the necessary arrangements, and shall make every exertion in my power. I lament that I have no command of active funds, but I am as destitute of them, as any person in the Union and from the view of the statement I have made above, you will find that Mr. Baring’s purchase will not furnish me with any great resources. I procured a discount for near 3,000 dollars at the bank yesterday, in order to aid Colonel Hodgdon, in taking up some of your paper. He wrote me that he should be under the necessity of discounting my acceptances due in June, at the exorbitant premium now demanded for paper that has some time to run.
I hope in a few days to be able to bring Mr. Baring to a settlement for the lands contained in the Penobscot tract, except that the want of the reserved deeds should be an obstacle. However, on giving my obligations to furnish them within a limited period, I hope to overcome this obstacle.
I am determined to make every sacrifice to free myself from the embarassments I have lately been placed in, as it is extreme folly on any consideration of profit, to continue in such a situation.
I am with sincerity
Yours with affection
Knox to Bingham, Boston, 17 March 1796 [BP]
Boston March 17th 1796.
My dear Sir:
I have received your favor of the 8th instant. I am well satisfied that you decide to suffer the back tract to remain as it is, and not to permit any other company to interfere therein. If in any event, the surplus of a million should be returned the State, they will not I am persuaded sell again in such large quantities. There would have been no difficulty with the Committee had they had the powers. Nor will there be any with the next legislature. Mr. Wells assured me the quantity would not exceed 2,500,000, as the contract stood. I am inclined to believe the Committee might, were they so empowered, close the contract at two millions, if you choose, or at one as you should think advisable. But they are [so] disgusted at the treatment they have received from the legislature that they will do nothing without the most perfect authority.
If Congress adhere to the price of two dollars for their western lands, at such a distance from New England, there can be no doubt, if you sell twenty townships first, conditioned upon their placing a number of settlers thereon, which our contract requires, giving credit for several years, say six, and the two first without interest, that you would interest the greatest part of New England to push up the price of the lands equal to your most sanguine expectations. Then there might be a little speculation mixed, or rather raised upon a solid foundation. At present there is no encouragement. The State have no lands but those very remote, and these they have locked up. Ours ought to be for sale to the extent mentioned, and moving or travelling agents appointed for the purpose within New England. Pray send a number of the maps. Let us begin aright—encourage settlers in the manner I mention, at a dollar per acre. This may be as well obtained as a less price. Cut roads, build a few houses in Gouldsborough, at the head of the tide on Penobscot River, which might be purchased for that end, and at the head of the tide on Schoodick, all within the compass of 25,000 dollars, and up go your lands to a price which you do not now contemplate. This operation will also make the speculation popular. As to the Kennebec tract, the falls below the Million ought to be ours at any price. Mills ought to be erected there systematically, and you may annually derive a revenue exceeding the cost of the fixed capital. This department ought to be put under an energetic agent resident upon the spot. We shall never find another Cobb, but we may find a man who will give you great satisfaction.
I will see the Treasurer upon the idea of receiving deferred debt in lieu of the six per cents, but you must not for a moment indulge the expectation. He is a responsible servant and cannot depart a particle from the contract.
Shaw at present seems disinclined to any reasonable commutation of the terms of the contract. He mentions absurdly 5 per cent deduction. Unless he makes thirty, he ought not to be listened to.
General Cobb, who is here, says he has Gregoires deed at Gouldsborough and that no person can get at it but himself. The others are written for.
The titles of the private purchases shall be examined as you require, and a brief forwarded to you.
You will not be able to purchase any lottery prizes under one dollar. Will they not serve to raise the price of the other lands? A man at Springfield has 3,000 acres but I do not believe he would take 2 dollars per acre.41 I find Barrells 10,000 acres are not in our purchase. I will speak and urge General Jackson to send on any prizes he may have. I have written so repeatedly and urgently, upon my personal concerns, as would be justified only by the most perfect confidence in your friendship.
Bingham to Cobb, Philadelphia, 23 March 1796 [CP]
Philadelphia March 23 1796
I have not had the pleasure of hearing from you since your departure, altho General Knox informed me of your safe arrival.
The season is now approaching for the commencement of active operations, which I hope will be attended with brilliant success.
From the conversations that we held on the subject of improvements, roads, etc., you will be at no loss to know in what manner to act, untill Mr. Baring and myself have reduced our ideas to system. We shall certainly have the pleasure of seeing you in the summer very early.
In the mean time, should any difficulties occur relative to the settlement, you will consult General Knox, in case you wish another opinion, in aid of your own judgment. These lands are rising much in the public estimation and I am convinced that no difficulty of a serious nature will exist, to prevent their most rapid improvement. Some few townships being sold, the demand for others will rapidly increase. The price at which Congress are about fixing their western lands will have an immense influence on the value of all property in the vicinity of the thick settled states, which I hope will facilitate our views in procuring handsome prices for the townships to be sold in the course of the present year.
I herewith inclose you a power of attorney42 for the general superintendance of this property. A more ample authority, embracing all the objects that will be necessary, must be given by Mr. Baring and myself conjointly. This will be done, as soon as we have established our plan on principles and system.
I wish you to furnish me an account of the various disbursements that have been made on account of these lands, from the commencement of your operations, untill you left Philadelphia the last time, which was the period when Mr. Baring will be debited with his proportion. Your expences on your return will be charged to a new account. You stand charged with the various drafts passed by General Jackson and yourself, and in order to give you credit, these disbursements must appear in your favor.
I must now pay a particular attention to the regularity of our accounts, as Mr. Baring is very desirous of preserving the greatest order in the business, which you might suppose from the habits of his commercial life.
Should I have occasion for a quantity of lumber (boards and scantling), at what rate do you suppose it could be delivered at, and at what price could you charter a vessel of about seventy tons to make a voyage to this place? She would probably procure articles here that would pay a back freight.
I am with great regard
Your obedient etc.
Boston 24 March 1796.
My dear Sir:
I have not received any letter from you by the last post.
I wrote you that the Treasurer could not make any alterations so as to receive the deferred debt in lieu of the six per cent stock. It is highly probable Shaw would make a deduction of 25 per cent from the capital sum for prompt payment. This indication has been made by him to General Jackson. If you should authorize this measure, it may be tried.
You will perceive by the public papers the news, brought by the recent arrivals, of the tendency of measures in Europe to a peace. The state of affairs in England, and the total want of funds in France to prosecute the war to any effect, will bring about the event so desirable to this country. Will not the probability of peace, induce in a greater degree an accommodation to the treaty? Our eastern country will feel its happy effects. We shall have our full proportion of the benefits attending the restoring the West Indian islands to a state of productiveness. I pray you to consider the importance of possessing the falls below the Kennebec tract and erecting mills thereon. You would by this measure establish a great annual revenue, and prevent that depredation of the lumber which will otherwise be made. Besides, a handsome establishment there would light up that part of the country so as to attract attention. Beleive me, you will find the southern part of that tract better land than can elsewhere be found, and the northern part ten times more valuable on account of its lumber. This article now is highly valuable, and its value encreases more than 10 per cent per annum, but an efficient arrangement should be made to prevent its being plundered.
I observe with concern the lawless disposition of your people to the westward.43 It is unfortunate your legislature is not in session to take prompt measures to check that disposition, for I am apprehensive the governor will only write letters about it. Our disturbances to the eastward, especially on the Waldo Patent, will I flatter myself be terminated well. Our government is determined in its measures, as you will perceive by the resolves I have transmitted you. The Governor44 however is not quite so vigorous. He is indeed to old and debilitated for his office, but it is questionable whether the gratitude of the people will permit his removal. But he cannot last long. If he is now chosen, it is probable he would resign before another election.
Cobb to Bingham, Boston, 28 March 1796 [BP]45
Boston March 28th. 1796
My dear Sir:
Since my return from Philadelphia, I have been, ’till lately, with my family at Taunton, making such arrangements as are necessary for theirs and my departure for Maine. For the last week I have been in this town, procuring such papers from the Secretary’s office and other documents as are requir’d by the Attorney General for prosecuting the original grantees of Trenton so as to revest the Commonwealth in that township.46 A resolution for this purpose passed the legislature, with some difficulty, at the close of their late session, in which the Attorney General is directed to do this business at the expense of the present proprietors. This subject I have already mentioned to you, and you may be assured that the property you own in that township, and which is very valuable, is a nullity to you untill the closure of this prosecution. I have likewise been conversing with Shaw about his reservations in your purchase of Gouldsboro’. It seems most of these were disputed titles at the time of Jackson’s contract. Some of them are now recover’d by Shaw, and ought to be purchas’d, especially a good new saw mill well situated at Musqueto Harbour47 and a mill seat with the landing at the head of the western bay of Gouldsboro’. For the mill, I am ask’d one thousand dollars, but I shall not purchase it at that price, altho’ the annual rent would be 20 per cent at least, as I am acquainted with some circumstances that I think will put it in my possession for a less sum if it is agreeable to you to have the purchase made. The mill seat and landing may be purchas’d at the same rate as you have given for like property there.
Shaw will deduct for prompt payment of your instalments 19 per cent, that is the annual interest up to the dates of those instalments. Jackson has offer’d to pay him if he will deduct 25 per cent, but Shaw has refus’d. Perhaps he may come a little lower.
I have convers’d with the Treasurer about receiving the State debt for any anticipations you may make. He informs that he has no concern in this business, but it rests with the commissioners of the sinking fund of whom he would enquire and give me their answer this week. As they shall determine, he will receive.
Those persons who have requested the purchase of townships in the northern division I have not seen since my return. They were in this town during my absence at Philadelphia, and left letters for me in which they express their disappointment at my absence, and their intentions of closing their proposals in the course of the next month. A Mr. Swan of New London (Connecticut) has likewise been at my house. He left a letter proposing the purchase of three or four townships. This gentleman I saw the last year in Maine, and from what he then said, his intentions are to operate on the lands up the Machias Rivers. I have wrote him that he may have one, or two townships at most at a dollar per acre payable in six years, the two first without interest, with a proper proportion of settlers.48
Colonel Jones, who is here from Gouldsboro’, informs me that the system for regulating the lumber business has gone into compleat operation with very little opposition. The Machias people at first talk’d big, but my agent, meeting with the unanimous support of the good people there, soon adjusted all differences. In the proceeds of this operation I anticipate the reimbursement of the expence of the last year. If it should do this, it would be a pleasing thing thus far.
In examining the papers I have with me, I find I cannot make out my accounts of the last years expences ’till my return to Gouldsboro’. The amount of this expence, however, appears to me to be not less than three thousand dollars, two thousand of which you have already advanc’d. The other I must draw for by the next post. I have already receiv’d of you one thousand dollars on my own account, and on the first of May next five hundred dollars more will be due to compleat my annual salary. This sum, together with one thousand dollars in advance for the next years salary, I must request your permission to draw for in the course of the ensuing month, and if the arrangement of your affairs can possibly admit of it, I must further request your assistance in the business I mentioned to you just at my departure from Philadelphia. I have so conducted my concerns as not to require more than three thousand five hundred dollars, which, if you could advance, or request our friend General Jackson to do on a six months credit, will not only lay me under the greatest obligation, but liberate me from all my embarrassments in such manner that my departure for Maine would be a subject of pleasure, and my exertions and residence there uncheck’d and unclouded. The future reimbursement of this advance shall be in any manner you may direct whenever I shall have the pleasure of seeing you in Maine or elsewhere.
After mature reflection and conversing with General Knox on the subject, I am persuaded that it will be necessary to take with me two house wrights for finishing your houses at Gouldsboro’. I shall obtain these on the best terms I can. I shall likewise endeavour to take down two brick makers—these I hope will be no expence to you.
The settlers going on to No. 1749 are now preparing for their departure. I have wrote Peters to run that township into lots. Out of these people I hope to git some that will go upon the roads; but I shall find it difficult, if not impossible, to obtain any here to contract for this business, and labour being so scarce there that possibly at last, in the prosecution of this important object, I shall be obliged to resort to the very expensive mode of hiring for this purpose. This, however, shall be the last resort after every other expedient has fail’d.
I must particularly request you not to omit the powers of agency, for the sale of land, and for giving deeds to the settlers. Indeed, I cannot go into that country without them.
What has become of my questions and your answers? Please to remember me respectfully as well as very affectionately to Mr. Baring and believe me ever your friend
and obedient servant
Cobb to Cyrus Swan, Boston, 30 March 1796 [CP]50
Boston March 30th. 1796
My dear Sir:
On my return from Philadelphia I found your letter of January 29th ultimo at my house. I am very sorry I had not the pleasure of seeing you then.
Since I saw you at Machias the lands of that country have greatly risen in value, and large operations are commencing, with capitals equal to the object, to enhance this value to a much greater height. I have it not therefor in my power to give you lands at the price I could the last year, but they are still at a price, if you will permit the seller to advise the buyer, that must be an object in the purchase, and a great one, if you do not permit delay to arrest your intentions.
The best terms I can give you for one or two townships—more I cannot spare—are, one dollar per acre payable in six years in four annual instalments, that is, the two first years without interest, the four last with interest and a quarter part of the principle annually—the land to remain a security for the payments, and sixty settlers on a township, twenty of which to be placed on the land in the course of the two first years, the rest, so as to meet our engagements with the Commonwealth in the course of four or five years after. This settling duty must be secured by personal bonds with forfeiture of 60 dollars for each deficient settler. By these terms you will observe that you pay nothing for three years. Please to let me hear from you in all next month, directed to this place.
I am, dear sir, your friend and obedient servant
Bingham to Knox, Philadelphia, 2 April 1796 [KP]51
Philadelphia April 2d 1796
My dear General:
I have received yours of the 24 ultimo. Please to inform me at what price six per cent stock can be purchased with you, and what commission your brokers charge for purchasing stock.52
I shall probably accept of Shaws offer, and pay him in cash at the discount of 25 per cent. I hope the deeds are ready to be delivered and the title unexceptionable. I have heard he effected some purchases of lots on my account, the last summer, which I should much regret, as I think the price extravagant. These must not be incorporated in the deeds, as they are excluded from the bargain made with Mr. Baring. I hope soon to receive the deeds of the private purchases, as I am uneasy untill the business is finally arranged.
I wish you to make an enquiry concerning the number of settlers on the lower purchase, and at what time it is supposed the certificate thereof can be forwarded to the Treasurer, for it is certainly disagreable to give security for placing them there, when they are already on the spot.53
I think your conjectures about peace will be erroneous. The last accounts strongly indicate a continuation of the war. I do not find that the expectation of this event, when there was foundation for it, had any effect on the minds of the members, by inducing in them an inclination toward the treaty.
You will have seen the Presidents reply to the resolutions of the House. It is firm, sensible and dignified, and has made a great impression, being almost universally well received.54 They will, on Wednesday next, enter upon a discussion relative to this communication and record the opinions of the majority, concerning their construction of the treaty-making power, on the journals. They will then pass appropriations to carry it into effect. Fortunately the Spanish Treaty is referred to the House for a provision to carry it into effect, at the same time, and they will therefore become inseperably connected, at least in one branch of the legislature.
The western people, whose interests are to be so essentially promoted by the operation of these treaties, are taking the most active measures to influence the House to throw no obstacles in the way. Petitions on the subject are daily arriving.
I can readily foresee the advantages to be derived from an immediate attention to the Kennebeck tract, if a proper person could be engaged to superintend the same. With respect to the falls, I requested you in a former letter to enquire at what rate they could be purchased. An agent should be immediately appointed to prevent the depredations that are continually committing on the lumber. A person resident in the neighbourhood could, I suppose, be easily procured. You can operate in this business more effectually than I can who am at such a distance from the scene of action.
The disturbances to the westward of this State have arisen from the interpretations given to a law which stipulated that the purchasers of lands to the westward of the Alleghany should in two years make settlements on every tract.
Talon has made an immense sale of Pennsylvania lands for Nicholson—several hundred thousand acres at upwards of three dollars per acre.55 I congratulate you sincerely on your appointment as a commissioner to fix the eastern boundary.56 I do not suppose this business will be effected this summer, as we shall be concerned to forego your society.
With sincere regard
I am Yours affectionately
Bingham to Knox, Philadelphia, 8 April 1796 [KP]57
Philadelphia April 8th 1796
My dear General:
I have received your favor of the 31st ultimo.58
General Cobb has our permission to dispose of a number of townships situated in the most convenient quarter of the tract for settlement, which I have no doubt he will effect to considerable advantage. I must request your advice and counsel in the arrangements he is about making.
I agree with you in opinion that a very great impression may be made on the value of this land in the course of the present year, if proper attention is paid to its improvement, and which I have no doubt will take place.
If Shaw will take 25 per cent less than the original price for prompt payment, you may make the agreement. He has already received nearly 5,000 dollars on account and I have no title, which is now absolutely necessary. It has been a very great disappointment to me, to have the settlement with Mr. Baring postponed for so long a period, for want of the titles. It was wrong in the first instance not to have been possessed of them. If an express had been sent to Gouldsborough, I should have been well pleased, and would not have regretted the expense. I very early observed, that Mr. Baring was a person of so much precision and regularity in all his arrangements, that it would be necessary to pay the most pointed attention to these points. I have no doubt that he is surprized that I am unable to exhibit the conveyances for the private purchases that I have already paid for. He is delicate in his enquiries on the subject, but often asks me when the titles may be expected. Considering the character that land jobbers in this country have usually obtained in Europe, there is a caution that necessarily results on the part of Europeans, whenever they treat with them. It was my pride and pleasure to promise him in this instance the most clear and indisputable titles, and I did expect to have shown them in the first instance. He has employed Mr. Wilcocks59 as his lawyer, who is a very scrutinizing character, and who will be solicitous to see all the papers.
I am really ashamed at again mentioning the subject, but our interest is essentially connected therewith, as a delay of payment will occasion an immense comparative loss, if that should take place in consequence thereof.
I have again seen Captain Anthony on the subject of your payments. I shall give him every aid in my power to extinguish these claims, if they should be demanded at the expiration of the period. The only mode I can resort to will be by discount, but I rather suppose the parties will be satisfied with discountable paper, as the obligation is a bond.
This place never was in such a situation with respect to money matters. Since I have been at the board of directors, I have never seen such distress, which arises from the immense speculations going forward to India and China, which exhaust the banks of their specie and there is no mode of replenishing them.
I have made very great sacrifices to fulfill my own engagements, which have been very heavy in this month. My acceptances to you will fall due the first of next month. It will be impossible for me to extinguish them (except I enter into the market with notes) without Baring should by that time make me some specie payments, which I flatter myself he will do. I had a credit on London, but it was abandoned as soon as the bargain was made with Mr. Baring as it was with his father and was conditional as relative to the purchase.60 I wish to know the price of six per cents at your place, as I must make that purchase in order to effect the deposit.
Bingham to Cobb, Philadelphia, 19 April 1796 [CP]
Philadelphia April 19th 1796
My dear General:
I should sooner have replied to your letter of the 28th ultimo, had I not wished to receive and transmit Mr. Baring’s remarks on the subject of the projected settlements and improvements, which I herewith inclose you and to which I must solicit your attention, as conveying a variety of observations of a most interesting nature.
With respect to the questions you addressed to me, I think it will be unnecessary to enter into more detailed answers than those which you will find inclosed.
You must be sensibly impressed with the scope and object of our views, which are to effect settlements in the most expeditious manner and upon the most oeconomical terms, the tendency of which is to enhance the value of our lands by extending population and creating a demand for them.
In all your arrangements, these points must never be lost sight of, by a judicious attention to which, we are persuaded, our speculation must inevitably succeed, so as to answer our most sanguine expectations.
A variety of ideas will naturally occur to you, whilst imployed in the active pursuits of this business, which cannot have the chance of seizing the reflections of persons not practically engaged.
You will of course turn them to account, as they may be calculated to promote the best interests of the company.
We have so much confidence in your judgment, that we give you a discretionary power to act in all usual occurrencies. In cases of difficulty and peculiar importance, we shall expect your communications and that you will wait the result of our opinions.
As it is Mr. Baring’s and my intention to make an early visit to the District, we shall be enabled more maturely to form our opinions on some essential points, as relative to the management of this property, which will have the aid of our personal observations, which is the only sure guide to a proper decision.
I observe that you have paid attention to the removal of the difficulties concerning the title to the township of Trenton, and it gives me pleasure to find that your efforts will be attended with success.
I had authorized General Knox, whilst at New York, to purchase La Roche’s part of the same at 7/6 per acre. It is fortunate that he did not succeed, as the land was not worth such a price, with this incumbrance attached to it.
I hope you will be enabled to procure the assent of the Treasurer to receive State debt for any anticipations I may make. Inform me, if you please, whether the law makes it receivable in all payments due to the State, as well as at what rate it can be purchased.
You must not let those persons escape, who have made the overtures to purchase several townships in different divisions of this property. It is absolutely necessary that a rapid progress should be made this year, in order to lay the foundation of our future expectations.
The submission of the Machias people is as favorable a circumstance, as it was unexpected.
It evinces that the love of order and of the laws is prevalent in that country.
You have made a great mistake as relative to the sum advanced on account of improvements for the last year. It is within a trifle of five thousand dollars. General Jackson passed a draft for 1,000 dollars, which was paid August 25 1795. He passed his draft, whilst in this place in December for 1,000 dollars in favor of Captain Anthony, and he drew January 11 for 957.64 dollars, on the same account. You besides passed your draft 30 December 1795 for 1,000 dollars on the same account, all which sums you stand personally charged with, and which will be ballanced whenever the various expenditures which you have made, appear to your credit.61
As this business will now be carried on by a person whose department it will be to keep all the accounts of this settlement, it will become expedient to transmit them monthly, and to class all the expenditures under proper heads, so that they may be designated, according to their nature and importance. In forwarding to me the accounts of the various expences of last year, I wish you to subdivide them as much as possible, so that all the prominent features of expence may be distinctly viewed. By these means the application of all monies may be easily and seperately known, and a reform made in any species of expenditure that may be thought necessary.
In such an undertaking it is essential, that the greatest precision and correctness should take place, as copies of all the documents attending the arrangements of the business, will be regularly forwarded to Europe. A diary should be kept of the principal events, which should likewise be transmitted.
Besides the abovementioned sums, you are charged with 1,000 dollars on account of your annual salary, which was drawn for in May 1795. That account, as well as all others must be made out untill the day when you took your departure from Philadelphia. At that period, a new account opens for our joint concern with Mr. Baring’s connections.
Your draft to anticipate another portion of your annual compensation shall be duly honoured. And you may be assured that I will cheerfully do every thing in my power to aid your views relative to the loan which your necessities may require. At present I cannot make any determination on the subject. The difficulty of procuring the deeds for the private purchases has considerably retarded my settlement with Mr. Baring, insomuch that I cannot make any calculation with respect to the funds, which I shall have the power of commanding. I shall be able to communicate more fully with you, on this subject, in a short time.
There are some additional queries, which I have just discovered, to which I will reply by the next post.
I have prepared the power of attorney, which I should have sent by this opportunity, but it is necessary that it should be first seen by Mr. Baring.62
sincerely yours etc.
Baring’s Observations on the Maine Lands, Philadelphia, 19 April 1796 [CP]
I have been constantly desirous of delaying our instructions to General Cobb as long as possible and indeed of giving nothing but more temporary ones untill we can convert and settle on the spot the permanent mode of proceeding to be adopted to bring our lands forward, and this I hope we shall be ready to do in the month of June next. It appears, however, from General Cobbs letters that something must immediately be done that the train of advancement our lands are in and the prevalent rage to settle them may not be checked. Our want of local knowledge must make every system and plan we could form here very hazarded and I should therefore propose confining our present instructions to those subjects alone which cannot suffer delay without prejudice. In doing this I should propose leaving a perfect discretionary power to our worthy and intelligent manager after furnishing him with an outline of our sentiments on the principle subjects, that his proceedings may not clash with our future plans whatever they may be. Instructions are wanted chiefly for three general purposes: 1st, for making sales; 2d, for making purchases; 3d, for making improvements. According to my ideas of settlement, some of the first improvements should precede all sale, particularly those which tend to render a settlers lands acceptable, such as roads etc. This has been confirmed by Williamsons opinion and by his practice.63 It is true that improvements are more easily made when lands are to a certain extent settled, but the difference of expence would be small in comparison to the difference in the price which the lands would sell for when improved. A few thousand pounds judiciously expended in improvements would double the capital value of the lands and this operation should in my opinion take place previous to any sales of consequence.
It is however proper to begin drawing gradually inhabitants on the lands that an additional number of persons may be interested in the general improvements, and it is particularly essential that after the lands have once attracted the public attention, every applicant should be accommodated if not to the full extent of his demands at least with part. The time is certainly not yet come to sell to speculators and we should attend to no purchasers who by their purchase do not add additional value to the lands. Those who make offers from Connecticut I presume intend immediate settlements and are consequently valuable. I should therefore think it advisable to satisfy them all, giving each as small a portion as possible and imposing high and prompt settling duties. I would begin by selling at one dollar the acre which is cheaper than any lands that are under no local disadvantages could be procured for settling on the continent. It would be of no real advantage to the settler to purchase cheaper. The character of lands is often computed by the price, and considering the facilities to be given in payments I think this very moderate. At this rate I should have no objection to sell any quantity not exceeding ten townships which is sufficient to begin with, we must then wait untill these settlements produce an additional value to the country in general and open our next sales something higher and so advance progressively. It would be well to inform the present purchasers that it is our intention not to sell more under a certain price. This will raise theirs in their own estimation and raise the general expectation of the progressive advance of the country in general. As to the selection of lands, I would let every body follow his own whim. There is no advantage in selling the bad and reserving the good. On the contrary the good tracts should and must be first settled, but I would sell as little as possible townships which join each other otherwise than by their angles that a general population may be diffused over the country.
Sooner than lose a good bargain, I would reluctantly consent to two townships going together in this manner but never more. The wish of new settlers to remain near each other is very natural and will only be removed in part by rendering the communication through the country easy by means of roads which is a most essential and pressing operation. The facilities to be given for the payments is a great temptation to purchasers and must always insure good prices. I think there should in this respect be a difference between the Connecticut speculator who takes one or more townships and the real farmer who takes a few hundred acres. The former have generally the means of earlier payments and should not be let to speculate so long at our risk. The latter is, on the contrary, the most valuable to us, the effects his industry produce are more immediate and he is generally obliged to wait for the proceeds of that industry to make his payments. For the farmer I should think the following terms proper: a triffle in ready money if possible (if not, I should not insist on it); one half the remainder in four years, the remainder in six years, interest to commence after the second year at 6 per cent and to be paid regularly every year. The speculator should pay 10 per cent ready money, forty per cent in two years, fifty per cent in four years, the interest as above. My motives for stipulating some ready money is to make the purchaser have something at stake and not to suffer him to abandon his bargain. With the speculator, I would make this condition a sine qua non, but with the farmer I do not know in how far it is practicable. Perhaps more indulgence is adviseable. This must be determined on according to circumstances. Desireable characters should be encouraged and indulged at almost any sacrifice as in so new a country we cannot expect that many emigrants will bring more than their industry and labor. I would preserve, in as far as it is practicable, a sameness and regular form of proceeding with every body. This will prevent jealousies and render our arrangements and accounts less complicated. Whether the deeds for the land should be retained untill the last payments are made, or whether the deeds should be delivered and the lands mortgaged I cannot now decide on, but we should certainly be secured by the lands in some shape. When we all meet at Gouldsboro’ we shall form some plan for attracting still more the public attention to these lands. In proportion as it increases, we can raise our demands and I have no doubt that with consistent and conciliatory management we can from our superior local situation at least equal the operations in the Genisee. By making large sales at the present moment we should labor under two pointed disadvantages: first, we should not reap the benefits of the additional value our improvements will give; and secondly, we are selling what we never saw, and can be thus taken by surprise by those who have viewed particular tracts and situations. We cannot therefore be too eager to understand our property, and to push forward these improvements which will throw some light on the real situation of the country. At present we are acting in the dark and may be selling from the map the most valuable tracts. As far as I can judge (and it is only from the map), I do not think that any one part of the country should be particularly preferred in sales. In general they should be dispersed and as much as possible to the center. I would sell one or at most two townships on the line of water from the Penobscot to the Schoodic Lakes, and I would not sell above two townships on the western line of the Middle and Northern Division. I mean the townships the nearest the Penobscot, for they will become ultimately more valuable. Strong settling duties will cover the fine we shall probably have to pay the State, but this is a triffling consideration comparative with the advantage that will otherwise accrue from them. I do not know to what extent they are practicable, but I would carry them to the utmost. It would be well to stipulate for a small proportion very early, for it is the first few that it will be difficult to bring on. When they are there, the others will follow of themselves. As to our town of Gouldsboro’, I believe the best plan will be to let on lease and not to sell, but this we must discuss hereafter. I would sell none of our islands and no seashore townships in toto, but only some particular spots if they should be necessary for the settlers elsewhere but not otherwise. And in general I would observe as a maxim that every sale we make for the present is merely to draw inhabitants and to better the remaining part. Every sale must tend to this end. We do not now sell for the purpose of realizing our speculation. On the contrary, we wish to retain as great a share as possible in the persuation that a few years exertion and care will change totally the complexion of this valuable country. Nothing further occurs to me at present on the subject of sales and I believe what I have said includes every thing General Cobb wants instruction about. I conceive our speculation altogether to be of sufficient magnitude and we do not wish to extend it by additional purchases, excepting in as far as the objects we may purchase may add additional value to what we already possess, or may be requisite to facilitate our operations thereon. It is utterly impossible to judge of the expediency of such purchases without local knowledge and we can therefore only state our views and intentions and leave General Cobb to exercise his judgment under them. Our arrival in Maine may enhanse the pretensions of the present holders and it is therefore prudent to lay our hands immediately on any objects which we shall certainly want. I would buy up any thing that was a tolerable bargain in and near Gouldsboro’, particularly land not built on. In doing this, I would confine the purchases to what is held on speculation and not by actual settlers, our object being to attract and preserve usefull inhabitants and not to frighten them away by a system of monopoly. I see no use in buying up mills. It is not our interest to operate, if we can avoid it, in detail, but on the contrary to encourage others in these pursuits. If any however were ill managed or held by absent speculators, I would purchase them and let them on a lease that we may command all the local advantages of the country. That we may be able to lay out the town of Goldsboro’ [sic] according to our own fancy I would buy what could be reasonably obtained, attending always to the above mentioned principles of not distressing the inhabitants.
Our operations in the country in general must always be calculated to attach the people to us. We must always be ready to help and never inclined to oppress them. The disposition of the people will depend solely on our treatment of them. This must always be kept in view, for the success of the speculation is dependent on it. Purchasing or building houses does not at present strike me as being of any utility, excepting such as we may want ourselves for our establishments. At all events it can be left ’till our arrival. Any tracts in the neighbouring townships that may serve to make our territory more compact will be acceptable. I should have no objection to buying any of the sea shore townships at moderate prices, and of course not to the township No. 4, which General Cobb calls Steuben, if it is the No. 4 on the map between No. 7 and No. 5. I know nothing of this township, but from its position on the map, it must be valuable to us and I would propose its being purchased immediately. I would also purchase all the lottery claims that could be had with which our lower Million is intersperced. The prices to be given must vary according to their situation. It would be very agreeable to get rid of this intricasy. Making occasional purchases in this manner would have the double advantage of collecting what may be usefull to us and of supporting the price of lands in the country which, as we are the chief holders, is essential. I would on this principle prevent any thing from being hawked about and be always ready to buy any thing that may be selling under its value. When we make our sales hereafter we must pursue the same principle and buy back of any body who dislikes his bargain, establishing a general office for this purpose. This is a maxim of Williamsons. It operates on the price of lands as a sinking fund does on the price of stocks. It gives currency, encourages enterprize and is attended with no risk. For the arrangement and discussion of this there will be time hereafter. I should prefer paying ready money for the purchases we make if an adequate reduction of price can be obtained, which can meet no doubt no difficulty. I should wish General Cobb to consider these explanations as an authority to purchase on the principles laid down or even to extend them in any instance his superior local information and judgment should deem proper, for as before said our instructions are all hazarded. We have no information to ground them on. We are precisely in the same situation with respect to the third general object for which instructions were required—improvements. We have so much to do on this score that it will be easy to delay the questionable part of them untill our arrival. In the mean time I would have the rough operations immediately begun, particularly cutting roads in the directions proposed. It would certainly be desirable to have this and indeed every work done by contract, but as this may not be possible and it is of the greatest importance that the work should not be delayed, I would hire workmen immediately. I am strongly impressed with the necessity of this operation. It should precede every thing, for before it is compleated we cannot understand what we are about. In this as in every improvement oeconomy is necessary, but the necessary expence whatever it may be, must be incurred. General Cobb should hereby be authorized to use his discretion in this business and to take with him the necessary surveyors etc. I know of nothing else that can be immediately begun but a number of small objects will naturally occur to General Cobb about which he need not wait for further instructions. The plan for improvement and settlement of the country will require much deliberation and discussion when we are all collected at Gouldsboro’. I shall not enter upon the subject at present, but merely state that in my opinion the provision for this purpose should be liberal, as we shall be ultimately amply repaid. In the mean time, it will be well to puff the intended exertions in public so as to draw attention that way, and we will afterwards take care that the reality shall answer it. General Cobbs quiries need not, I believe, be more particularly replied to for the present, and I see nothing else that will not bear delay. They most of them involve many important considerations which must depend on the plan we shall adopt after a personal discussion with him.
Mr. Bingham will of course desire General Cobb to press as much as in his power the settlement of the last years accounts and likewise the settlement of the pending suits respecting the titles to any of the tracts, which is very desirable. Mr. Bingham will also send a temporary power for the purposes required, as mentioned in General Cobbs letter, which it appears is absolutely necessary.
Copy from the original
Bingham’s Answers to Questions, Philadelphia, 19 April 1796 [CP]65
1st. How much of the land, if any, may be sold in townships—if thus sold, at what price, on what conditions, and how are the payments to be secured, and are they to be selected alternately?
1st. In our conference we determined on the sale of six or eight townships with which to commence our operations, the price one dollar per acre, terms of credit four to six years, part thereof not exceeding two years without interest, a condition to be annexed thereto, that a large number of settlers should be placed thereon within a stipulated period. Since Congress have fixed the price of their western lands at two dollars per acre, a great additional value has been impressed on all lands, ripe for settlement.
2d. Are any proper situations on the different rivers to be selected for inland towns, and are they to be laid out as such, and any further operations pursued in the progress of them?
2d. A more explicit and satisfactory answer can be given to this question when we have personally viewed the country and examined the advantages resulting from such a measure. In the mean time, any situations that are particularly favoured, may be reserved.
3d. Is the measure for cutting of roads, as heretofore contemplated, viz., from Gouldsboro’ northward to the end of the first million purchase, from the narrows of Penobscot River to Machias, and from the head of the tide on the same river to Passamaquody still to be pursued? Is this road cutting business to be done by contract or by hiring the labourers?
3d. Cutting roads thro’ the tract and opening thereby a communication in various directions is so essentially connected with the prosperity of the settlement that it must be pursued with spirit and intelligence. The direction we have already determined. As for the mode of effecting it, contract will be the most eligible, with a view to oeconomy, which in all enterprizes so extensive and complicated, should be essentially attended to. I do not mean a parsimony that would starve the operation of settlement by withholding the necessary expence, but a discreet frugality in the disposal of the funds.
4th. Are any of the townships to be run out into settlers lotts for the accomodation of settlers, and who is to be the surveyor for this purpose?
4th. It is already agreed that one township shall be immediately surveyed into small farms for settlers. It is left to your discretion to employ such surveyor as you may deem most competent. Peters is perhaps too old to be alert—and when men in such a service are employed by the day the quantum of their work depends on their personal activity. I have recently paid in the State of New York one dollar and a quarter per day to a very skillfull surveyor, who gave me great satisfaction, not only with regard to the precision of his work, but the expedition with which he performed it.
5. Are any of the saw mills near the sea shore, which are situated on the rivers that come out of the interior country, to be purchased, and is any extraordinary price to be given for them?
5. I am not persuaded of the propriety of immediately purchasing saw mills near the sea shore, except a handsome revenue could be procured therefrom, or they would controul and circumvent the log cutting business in the District. In this latter view of the subject, it might be advantageous to the concern to possess them. It would therefore be expedient to make conditional contracts with those who are disposed to sell them, which we might ratify on our arrival, if we approved the purchase. As soon as a general peace takes place, the demand for lumber will be immence, which is an additional consideration in favor of such purchases.
6. Are any of the mill seats now in possession and near the sea shore to be built upon, or any of the old mills now standing to be repaired?
6. I would rather suspend a decision on these points, untill we could personally examine the advantages that might result from the measure proposed.
7. A grist mill would be very desireable to a young settlement and would be a strong inducement to attract settlers. If it could be built on oeconomical terms, I think it would be expedient to incur the expence. I wish to form an estimate and make known the amount thereof.
8. Are any settlers to be induced by hire to sett themselves down on certain places on rivers where the lands of others adjoin yours, as a mean of preventing the depridation of lumber within your purchase?
8. If it should be deemed necessary to plant settlers in particular spots, who by their care and vigilence should prevent depridations on the lumber, I think it would be most adviseable to recompence such characters by the grant of lands, rather than by an annual stipend. I can discover but one objection to this mode, which is that, should they prove unworthy of confidence, they could not be easily removed, after possessing land in their own right. This arrangement must be left to your discretion, to act as you think proper.
9. What is to be done with the iron ores? If found in quantity and the quality good, may furnaces be erected for castings?
9. The expence of erecting furnaces is very considerable and the consumption of castings will not be great untill the population of the country has increased. Besides labour forms a very prominent part of the expence in all such undertakings, and in young settlements, it usually commands an exorbitant price. Nothing could therefore justify the undertaking, but the excellent quality of the ore, the abundance and cheapness of fuel, and the prospect of deriving great advantages from expectation. If all these circumstances combined, the enterprize might be undertaken advantageously, but it must be an object of a seperate nature, unconnected with the business of settlement, which should not be interrupted by any casual or contingent objections.
10. May permission, in future, be given for the cutting of lumber off your lands, you receiving therefor the customary proportion in such cases, or better terms, if they can be procured?
10. Where lumber can be effectually prevented from spoiliation, it will be most adviseable to preserve it, as it is an article that is rising immencely in value. But when it is so exposed that the most circumspect attention cannot protect it from depredation, it will be necessary to derive as much advantage from the evil as possible. Therefore the best terms must be made, which the nature of the case will admit.
11. As our intentions are to settle townships in various positions in the District, the country will be fully explored from the intercourse and communication that will naturally result in the progress of the business. It would be more oeconomical to offer a reward for the discovery of any valuable ores and fossells, than to employ persons whose attention should be directed to that sole object.
12. What is to be done with the township of Gouldsboro’—is the point to be laid out in city lots? Are wharfs and stores to be built, and such numbers of houses as will accommodate merchants, traders and others on their first arrival? May the other lands of this township be sold to settlers, and may the cleared farms of the same be sold at the purchased price?
12. It is naturally to be inferred, from the local advantages which the township of Gouldsborough possesses, that it will become a sea port of considerable consequence. It must depend essentially on the settlement of the surrounding country and the extent of capital of the traders who may reside there, for its importance. Some plan of regular proceeding for its improvement should be previously formed, in order to preserve uniformity, as well as to accommodate settlers. To every building lot there should be a pasture lot, in order to suit the convenience of the settlers. The fee simple might be disposed of, or they might be lett upon ground rent. With respect to the proposed idea of building wharfs and stores for merchants, traders and others on their first arrival, it would be proper to reflect seriously on the advantages to be derived from the adoption of such a plan, as the expence, to be incurred, would be very considerable. We shall be enabled during the course of our visit, to form a proper decision on this point, as well as with respect to all others connected with the improvement of this town. We wish you to digest a plan that you suppose will be most suitable for the purpose, which we will take into consideration and form a result thereon after our arrival.
Bingham to Knox, Philadelphia, 23 April 1796 [KP]66
Philadelphia April 23 1796
My dear General:
I have to acknowledge receipt of your two favors of the 14 and 18 instant.67 It gives me pleasure to find that you have a prospect of obtaining and forwarding the papers relative to the subordinate purchases. They are absolutely essential to our settlement, or I should not be so importunate.
The sentiments you express in your last and in some of your preceding letters, relative to your engagements and your wish that I should operate in relieving you from the pressure of them, call for an exposure of my situation as open and candid as that which you have made to me, in order to convince you that I am disposed to do every thing which your claims on my friendship could possibly require, if I possessed the means.
I must first premise that I have not eight thousand dollars in stock of any kind or capital in trade, independent of what is tied up by articles of copartnership with Mr. Gilmor, or what is deposited as security for a loan made in Holland, over neither of which I have not the least controul, untill the partnership is expired, or the loan extinguished.
When the sale was made to Mr. Baring I immediately devoted 100,000 dollars of the proceeds, to the redemption of my stock, by the extinction of this loan.
If this measure had not been adopted, the alternative would have been a sale of my stock and the last advices from England quote six per cents at 85 per cent or 16/6 in the pound. This would have been an immense sacrifice, and from the recent convulsions in our politics, they will probably fall much lower. This deduction being made, left me the command of about 135,000 dollars, as the residue of Mr. Baring’s sale, from estimation.
I will now inform you what demands there are upon this fund as connected immediately with the fulfillment of the engagements made for our lands, and which must indispensably be complied with:
Duers notes due in December last and which were attached in my hands but which will be payable within a few days by the decrees of the court
Money borrowed to pay the installment due the State in February
An installment due to the State the 1st June, to be provided for about the 20 May
A purchase of six per cent stock as a deposit for the settling duties, in order to become possessed of the deeds for the lower tract, amounting to 48,500 six per cents, which will cost
Purchase made of Shaw, not exactly ascertained, say about
To which add my agreement expressed in my last letter to advance for you the 1 May and 1 June two several sums of
This forms a considerable sum beyond the amount of the ballance remaining from the sale. None of my own engagements can be liquidated. They amount to about 45,000 dollars due at banks, which have been procured from time to time, in order to enable me to fulfill my obligations. Such claims are renewable every sixty days and so oppressive to my feelings and require such agitation and maneuvering at different periods, when the banks are pushed, that I would rather pay 20 per cent per annum, than be subjected to them. No money is to be procured on interest, but by borrowing at the extortionate monthly premium of 2 per cent, in the way of discounting notes by Jew brokers or merchants.
As for resources in European connections, I have none. I never asked but one credit which was of Messrs. Barings, which became of no avail after the sale was made to his son. I have had no commercial correspondence with Europe, except such as relates to the sale of the Maine Lands, concerning which I have wrote a folio volume.
Besides money borrowed at the bank I have a loan from the Pennsylvania Insurance Company, of 20,000 dollars, the process of procuring payment of which is very summary, as they have a bond and judgment and a mortgage of at least double the amount. I have scattering debts, to the extent of 10,000 dollars.
Independent of the sums above enumerated there will remain three payments on the Kennebeck tract, amounting to 90,000 dollars and 37,500 dollars for settling duties. My anxiety to fulfill all my obligations with punctuality cannot be exceeded, as no person can suffer more under an existing state of difficulties relative to monied engagements. It is impossible to sell any real estate at any price so as to command funds, which leads me almost to despair of paying off the debts that I have due at the bank, without the necessity of renewing them again.
If I had not continued the partnership with Mr. Gilmor, I might have had the command of a large sum of money, as soon as the affairs of that connection could have been liquidated. But from a false calculation, I supposed that I should not have occasion for it. I now regret, tho too late, my determination.
Thus situated, I must have recourse to such expedients as opportunities may enable me to embrace. I have to pay 12,000 dollars on account of the lands more than I receive, deducting the sum to be remitted to extinguish my loan, which is the only relief I procure, by preventing my stock to be sacrificed.
Some of my most particular friends, at this moment of general distress, presuming from the accounts that are propagated, that I was to receive 100,000 guineas from Mr. Baring, have applied to me for temporary loans. I have been forced to lend some smaller sums, where I could not enter into a detailed explanation, but I have been under the disagreeable necessity of refusing many.
Under all these difficulties I have still a very sanguine hope, arising from Mr. Baring’s having taken a concern in this property. It now seems to occupy his attention as his favorite object, and he is fully intent on visiting these lands and cooperating in a provision for the settlement of them, in the most prompt and effectual manner. Having planted the tree, they will water it, and I have the most flattering expectations of the whole District being benefited by their speculation.
I have again spoke to him on the subject of purchasing a share of your eventual profits, but he is very averse to diminishing your interest in the property. It does not seem that he has the power, according to the system he is about pursuing, to lend money on interest. But I shall again press him on this point. I have promised him a detailed account of the first cost, in order that he may judge the value of the residuary profits. I believe that there is no one who he would sooner oblige than you. You conciliated him, in a wonderfull way, during his short residence at New York, and you are now his constant toast at table.
His situation is somewhat delicate. He is a young partner in a greater commercial house in Europe, and he seems to govern his conduct by the most guarded circumspection. But it would be less proper to urge him on such subjects at present, as I have already had many conversations recently thereon, but particularly, as he hears in the debates in Congress, from the most respectable characters, the most envenomed reflections against his country, and as it is supposed that a majority in the House of Representatives will endeavor to defeat the treaty by refusing to vote appropriations to carry it into effect. However, on this point I am easy, as I am convinced that after some struggles, the event will be favorable. But in the mean time, the feelings of Englishmen are wounded, and their confidence in the country shaken.
This is more to be lamented, as our only dependence for the sale of vacant lands must be on them, who are the only great capitalists in Europe.
It must be recollected that Mr. Baring has purchased but a little more than a quarter of our two tracts. It therefore behoves us, to resort to every effort to procure his favorable report, in order to give an additional value to the remainder.
If he had not opportunely appeared and entered into this contract, I should almost have despaired, for altho the settlements would eventually have rendered the lands very valuable, yet the returns would have been very slow, that would have been derived from such payments.
I therefore ardently wish that advantage, such as we have already derived, may be increased, and therefore urge the necessity of making this country a personal visit, convinced that [sic] of its making the most favorable impression upon his mind. When he has seen it, examined it, and can speak confidently of it from personal observation, he will be enabled to benefit us most essentially on his return to Europe, either in a sale of the portion (we may wish to part with) of the remaining quantity of our lands, or by forming into a systematic plan of dividing and selling by shares, the lands in which he is to be concerned.
These ideas strike me so forcibly, that I am determined, however inconvenient, to make every sacrifice, rather than not accompany him and I mean to make the party as respectable as possible.
If the plan should not succeed, I shall have the gratification of reflecting that I have made use of the most adviseable efforts to recommend it.
There are several persons, deeply concerned in landed property, who are endeavoring, by unwearied attentions and the most seducing offers, to engage him in purchases, but they have hitherto been unavailing in their views.
I shall continue my best exertions to render you every service in my power. You will observe by the statement of my situation, that so far from being placed in a happy and unembarassed position, that I will not be enabled to pay off any part of my debt to the bank nor my several engagements to individuals. Your situation I acknowledge to be very disagreable, but I hope with exertion, we shall be both extricated and [at] some sacrifice, which I shall have no hesitation in making.
I before informed you that I had endorsed a note for Colonel Hodgdon to take up that which was due. I offered to do the same for Captain Anthony, supposing that he would have recourse to the bank discounts to raise the necessary sum to extinguish your obligations and that they might continue to be renewed untill it was convenient to you to pay them. But he wishes to make me become payer, which I cannot think he is authorized by the tenor of your letters to request of me.
My dear General
Cobb to Bingham, Taunton, 30 April 1796 [BP]68
Taunton April 30th. 1796
My dear Sir:
Soon after the date of my last letter (28th ultimo) I returned to this place, having previously compleated the business with the Attorney General, and gave him a fee of fifty dollars. Your letter of the 23d ultimo, with the inclos’d power, follow’d me a few days after.
I have been attending to the adjustment of my old concerns, and particularly to the settlement of the remaining part of my father’s estate, to whose will I was joint executor; and intended to have departed from this place with my family on the 20th instant, and after visiting Northampton, where Mrs. Cobb has a sister and where I should have had an oppertunity of seeing some of those persons who have requested the purchase of townships (of whom I have heard nothing since my last), I should have embark’d for Gouldsboro’ by the 10th of May from Boston. But unfortunately on the 15th, I was attack’d with a fever which has confin’d me ever since to my chamber. I am now a little better, but when I shall be able to commence my journey, God only knows. All my plans are deranged, and I cannot yet determine when or how I shall proceed. My intention is however, if possible, to visit those people at Northampton before I depart for Maine, if they do not visit me.
The settlers from this neighbourhood have engaged a vessel out of this river, and they intend sailing with their families and effects for Gouldsboro’ on the 15th instant.
I have had no answer from Swan of New London. I suspect my terms were a little too high.
By my late letters from Gouldsboro’ I find the business of taking lumber has not been so amicably adjusted as Colonel Jones had represented. Those people who have been accustom’d to lumbering on Van Burkell’s townships have refus’d complying with my terms, and actions have been bro’t against them. I am very sorry to hear this, as I am convinced that party prejudices and personal resentments between the agent and the trespassers have given rise to such proceedings. I shall endeavour, with my suavater to git out of this scrape as soon as possible, but it may be necessary in effecting it to have Van Burkell’s power of agency, as you have not been in possession of this property. However, you may have compleated your contract for it. Can a power be obtain’d from Doctor Ruston, or from the person to whom he has transferr’d No. 4? Do inquire and obtain it if you can. This township has been about strip’d of its timber this winter.
I feel very anxious to have your answer to my last letter—whether you can, without great inconveniency, make any pecuniary arrangements for me? and whether I may draw on you for fifteen hundred dollars, as I mentioned, before my departure for Gouldsboro’?
If you should want any quantity of boards, either clear or merchantable, scantling, or any other lumber, let me know it soon and they shall be procured. What the price is this year I do not know. Last year boards and scantling were six and seven dollars per thousand; clear boards, from nine to eleven dollars. I should imagine this years prices will not differ much from this. A vessel of 100 tons may be charter’d for Philadelphia and back for 400 dollars. Such vessels carry 80 thousand of boards—a less siz’d vessel would not be so œconomical.
I shall endeavour that my accounts in future shall be perfectly regular, as far as the nature of the business will admit, but a number of little incidental expences will naturally arise, for which vouchers cannot be obtain’d, and for which you must trust solely to the honor of your agent; and while I am that agent, I hope, in this respect, you will never have reason to say that your confidence has been misplaced.
The inhabitants in the different towns in this Commonwealth are very unanimously subscribing memorials to the House of Representatives, requesting and requiring to carry into effect the treaty with Great Britain. There is so much spirit here about this business that a single request would turn out 30 regiments of Yankees to enable the President to execute the laws of the Union, let the obstruction to this execution arise from mobs within doors or without.
You shall hear from me again the moment I git under way.
Adieu and believe me ever, very respectfully,
Your friend and obedient servant
Honorable William Bingham
Bingham to Knox, Philadelphia, 12 May 1796 [KP]69
Philadelphia May 12th 1796
My dear General:
I have to acknowledge receipt of several of your letters. It has given me very great pleasure to find that your other child, which had been seized with the afflicting disorder, had escaped.70
I have shown Mr. Baring the estimate of the first cost of the lands, extracted from my books, on which he may form an opinion of the residuary profits, which he ought to propose in a purchase of a portion of your share. This amount with interest untill the 1st May is $232,115, in which is not included the ballance on Shaw’s purchase, nor any part of the settling duties, his share of which in our contract he agrees eventually to pay. These charges embrace the lower tract, including the private purchases, which with Shaws demands, will extend to about $240,000 which if there should be 1,200,000 acres included therein, would be exactly 20 cents per acre, or 1/6. The price he has given is 3/4.
The ballance that is due to Duer, including the payments of 1795 and 1796, will be near the proportion of what should be charged to the Kennebec tract, which with 120,000 dollars to be paid on that account to the State, and 37,500 dollars, which will probably be forfeited for settling duties, will constitute the cost of that portion of our purchase, which will be nearly 200,000 dollars, or 20 cents per acre. In this estimate no part of the various disbursements that have occurred, are charged to the Kennebec tract. There is to be deducted the residuary profits of a certain quantity stipulated to be given for services that several persons have rendered to the concern.
Under all these circumstances you can form an opinion of what Mr. Baring ought to give in reason, if he should agree to purchase. I suppose the price he has paid, will in some respect, be his guide, but he will probably deem a proportion of your share to be less valuable than an equal quantity of his purchase, as it is incumbered with a certain extent of residuary profits to others.
You may rest assured of my making every exertion in order to compleat your views, both with respect to Mr. Baring and in every other manner that can tend to promote their success.
I could not propose to him the engagement of this concern producing him 20 per cent per annum for a certain number of years. He is too delicate and high minded to accept such terms. I will shortly write to you the result.
I wish Mr. Baring may be favorably impressed with the Eastern Country, in order that he may induce his friends to embark largely in its improvement. He means to visit almost every part of the United States and I feel interested in his not having his attention diverted to any other object.
It is really fortunate that he entered into this speculation, for I began almost to despair of being enabled to induce any men of property to engage in a concern therein, which indisposition on the part of those who had been applied to, would in a short time, have induced the necessity of making large sacrifices to obtain funds, for I am fully in sentiment with you, that no compensation can be an equivalent for a continuation in scenes of difficulty and distress, which I will take care never to experience in the same manner, and to the same extent, that I have lately been exposed to.
Previous to making an offer of the Kennebeck lands I wish to raise the reputation of the country.
I think an attention to the improvement of the Kennebeck lands will be a sufficient occupation of time, especially if the upper tract should be placed in a train of settlement, at the same time with the lower. What price do you suppose it would be proper to ask for the Kennebeck lands? At the rate of profit which lands have usually brought, purchased at such a time, a much higher price might be expected than what we shall probably procure.
In making a calculation on Shaws offer, I find the deduction about 20 per cent, which I do not think sufficient, but which I believe I must comply with. Are the conveyances ready to be made, and have they been examined by counsel, and does it appear that the title is unquestionably good, and that there is no mortgage or judgment against the property? These titles will undergo a rigid examination by counsel employed here, by Mr. Baring. However, on all these points relative to the private purchases, you are acquainted with the necessary documents to be forwarded, in order to make a conveyance.
The note of Hill is one that is attached by the creditors of Duer. I cannot pay that without paying those belonging to the Bank of New York.71
I expect in a few days the business to be terminated—the money is ready and has been for some time.
I shall trouble you to receive the deed from the persons who hold it in escrow, for the payment due in June, the amount of which I will remit you by the next post to pay the Treasurer.
If General Cobb will confer with the Treasurer, perhaps they may agree on some person who they will qualify to take the census. I am fearfull the sheriff or any public officer would not be sufficiently attentive to the enumeration. Oeconomy should at the same time be consulted.
I am with affectionate esteem
Bingham to Cobb, Philadelphia, 16 May 1796 [CP]
Philadelphia May 16th 1796
My dear General:
I have received your letter of the 30th April. It has been peculiarly unfortunate that you should have been seized with so serious an indisposition, which has lingered about you so long, General Knox writing me by this days post that you have not recovered therefrom. I hope this misfortune will no longer impede your views, as your presence would be very requisite in the first arrangement of this business, as it regards the distribution of the lands to the settlers etc.
I am sorry that Swan of New London has not returned you a favorable answer and accepted your offers. If some few persons of influence, and who were generally known, could once experience any considerable advantages from speculating in these lands, it would produce a most charming effect. It would not be a useless sacrifice to induce some of them to engage at much lower than the usual prices. I am sorry that your measures to arrest the progress of lumbering have not proved so successfull as you had reason to suppose. There is no necessity of having Van Berckel’s power of agency in order to act in this business, as the townships sold to him, on condition of making certain specified payments, have reverted to the original owners, from an absolute failure on his part in the fulfillment of the terms. This is the decided opinion of our best lawyers. No title was ever given. The deeds were lodged in escrow, to take effect on exhibiting receipts from me for certain installments being paid, which have never been paid.
A power of attorney was given by me to Madame Leval, which was revokable at pleasure. If it should have been recorded, and you should think it necessary, I will formally revoke it, for I view these townships to be as much within the bounds of my property, and under your management, as any part of the District.
General Knox will further explain to you the state of the case.
I had solicitated Dr. Ruston for a power to you to prevent depridations on the lumber of No. 4 and the rest of his property. He left this power at my house, inclosed to you, after which he took it back, and I have heard nothing further from him since. I will renew my application to him. He has offered his lands for sale to Mr. Baring. What are they worth in your estimation and what incumbrances are they incumbered with?
When I have made my final arrangements with Mr. Baring, I can inform you how far I can accommodate you with the advance you wish. I will certainly make every possible effort to oblige you. I have accepted your bill for 1,000 dollars, in part of the 1,500, to be drawn before your departure for Gouldsborough.
I am obliged to you for your kind offer of supplying me with any quantity of boards I may stand in need of. I do not think I shall want any the present season.
When I mentioned to you in a former letter the mode in which the accounts were to be kept, it was meant to preserve regularity, in the keeping them. You are debited with all the monies drawn by yourself or remitted to you. In order to be freed from this charge it will naturally occur to you that you must forward an account of your expenditures, in order to be credited therefor, which will ballance your account. You will naturally place these charges under different heads of expenditure, according to their nature. All expences previous to your last journey here, are to be charged to the old concern, those subsequent to that period, to the new association. You will please to keep this idea in view, as it will be necessary to conform thereto in keeping my accounts.
I shall take my departure for the District about the beginning of June, accompanied by Mrs. B. and my children, and a few friends, I imagine two to three.
Mr. Baring is more and more pleased with his purchase, and I have no doubt will be fully gratified when he has more intimately become acquainted with it.
The same dispositions that appear so universally to have influenced the New Englanders, relative to the treaty, have pervaded the other states, and the party in opposition to it have in a great respect lost the confidence of the people, by the very means which they had adopted to secure it.
I sincerely wish the speedy recovery of your health and am with regard and esteem
Your friend and obedient humble servant
Knox to Bingham, Boston, 25 May 1796 [BP]72
Boston 25 May 1796
My dear Sir:
I have to acknowledge the receipt of your favors of the 16th and 19th73 instant, the latter covering a draft of the Bank of the United States on the branch bank of this place for 30,000 dollars. Instantly upon receiving the draft I endorsed and paid it to the Treasurer of this Commonwealth, and took up your sole bond payable the 1st of June ensuing for 22,000 dollars and your and the late Thomas Russells joint bond for 8,000 dollars payable at the same period. As this business was performed out of the usual office hours, and we had no opportunity of having recourse to the contract, and as he was then about leaving the town for a day or two, he did not make the deduction for the anticipated payment of seven days but he promised that if upon examination it was right, it should be done. I would have transmitted you the bonds with the receipt thereof but they must be exhibited to the persons holding the deeds in escrow in order to receive the same upon the arrival of your power for that purpose.
Mr. Shaws deeds were drawn by Mr. Hall74 who was General Jacksons lawyer and therefore they are right. Shaw has written for a certificate from the registrar of there being no existing incumbrance. He expects in pursuance of my promise his money about the 1st of June. He is not bound after that time.
Our legislature meets this day. The business of the million of the back tract will therefore I hope be adjusted in ten days—at least it shall not want urging by me.
It is expected the members from the lower counties will bring the subordinate deeds to General Jackson. Your mortification is not greater than mine upon the procrastinations of this affair.
General Cobb has recovered in a great degree and is here a convalescent. He is going to Connecticut River for the triple purpose of his health, his wifes desire to see relations and his having some business to arrange with several people respecting the sale of townships. He will probably set out with his family for Gouldsborough by the 10th or 12th of next month. Already he has sent his goods and chattels. He will arrange with the Treasurer or the Committee the evidence requisite respecting settlers.
I shall anxiously expect on Saturday next a definite answer to my requests from Mr. Baring. If favorable, all will be well. If otherwise, I shall be embarrassed exceedingly and detained here, or be obliged to go to New York to seek the necessary accommodation to extricate my friends. But I flatter myself that you and Mr. Baring will be so good as to devise some means, either temporary or permanent, to comply with the engagements on my account by Messrs. Anthony and Hodgdon.
With respect to Mrs. B., the young ladies, and the gentlemen of your party visiting us at St. Georges, I can only say that it is ardently desired by Mrs. K. and myself. We even think you will be pretty well accommodated. We shall be highly gratified with the visit and not a little mortified if it does not take place, as we shall regard it as an indication of a want of disposition. Feeling as we do to your family, this would wound deeply, but precludes our saying a word more. If the water should be an objection, it would be a beautiful run from Portland, of not more than 8 hours, fair wind—not more than 24 hours from this town. That time insured for any turn [?]
Knox to Bingham, Boston, 30 May 1796 [BP]
Boston 30 May 1706
My dear Sir:
I before acknowledged, to wit on the 25th and 27th,75 that I had received and paid the 30,000 dollars to the Treasurer of this Commonwealth on the 24th instant. He is to make an allowance for the anticipated payments of seven days. But I have not been able to take up the deed for want of your power, which I have not received.
It is inexpressibly painful to me, that I have been constrained to trouble you to endevor to obtain for me the accommodation I so much need. I rest upon your exertions and success, and I sincerely hope from your last, that the next post will releive me from that anxiety under which I have been laboring for some time past.
A permanently grateful sense of your kindness will be entertained by me.
General Cobb is almost recovered. He will return to Taunton tomorrow in order to clear out definitely, and return here in a few days and embark for Gouldsborough with his family.
Apros Shaws money, I promised it to him by the 1st of June.
The legislature have as yet done no business, having been organizing themselves for that purpose. Tomorrow the Governor will make his speech. I am in the mean time taking the necessary steps to obtain the reduction of the contract of the back tract to a million or thereabouts, and of which I see no cause to doubt success.
The legislature will probably continue in session until the beginning of July. During that time it will be difficult to procure suitable accommodations for Mrs. Bingham and the young ladies in a lodging house. The gentlemen of the party must probably be accommodated in another house. Lodging houses here, are not of the first class. General Jackson and myself will endevor to make the best arrangement the town can afford, only let him or me, while I stay, [know] one week before hand.
When you return, and make some considerable stay here, a furnished house would be the best arrangement.
A question arises whether you will embark here or proceed by land? Any wind from the south round westerly to N.W., would carry a vessel from this to St Georges in 24 hours. One night upon the water is all that would probably be required. From Portland with a fair wind it is about 8 or 10 hours run.
A good vessel will be an essential requisite to the comfort of the gentlemen on the visit to the lands eastward of St. Georges. The vessel must be their principal home in their excursions up the rivers and on the sea coasts.
A vessel, a sloop, perfect in my opinion, offers at this moment for this purpose, having a master of pleasant temper and manners, a Captain Weeks, the vessel which carried my family the last year to St Georges. She then was a Portland packet, to which place she belongs, since which she has been to Europe. She has an excellent spacious and high cabin exclusively of four seperate state rooms, about 93 tons burthen. The price for such a vessel is pretty high—£100 or 333 33/100 dollars per month, all expences, pilotage etc., included. The question is shall I engage her? Write me or General Jackson definitely upon the subject. She sails for Portland in a day or two, and I have promised the Captain an answer as soon as possible. Indeed, I am very much tempted to engage her, well knowing how much she will be wanted. She and she only must be had. She is equal, if not superior, to the best of the Rhode Island packets.
The Honorable Mr. Bingham
Bingham to Knox, Philadelphia, 1 June 1796 [KP]76
Philadelphia June 1st 1796
My dear General:
I have received your two letters of the 25 and 27 ultimo. I wrote you some days ago and mentioned that Mr. Baring had been under the necessity of declining the proposals I made in your behalf relative to the loan or concern in your share of eventual profit.77
I informed you of the reasons which I supposed must have activated him on this occasion—the immense scarcity of money in England and the nature of the concern, including so long a period before it can be terminated. Besides he does not seem to have a strong desire of being connected with the Kennebec tract. I have tried every means in my power to procure you the facility you have occasion for, but have not been able to accomplish it, such is the great demand for money at present.
I do not think it prudent to push Mr. Baring further on the subject, as it may have an unfavorable tendency, as relative to a future application, which under a change of some existing circumstances, will be probably successfull to the extent of your wishes.
In the mean while I will engage to procure for you on a credit of six months, to be then punctually repaid, the sum of eight thousand dollars, as it will then be wanted by the party. I will pay the same to Mr. Anthony or Mr. Hodgdon, as you may think proper. As for the remaining part of your engagements to these gentlemen, perhaps they may find some method of extending the period untill you can procure additional resources, or perhaps you may be enabled to arrange the business at Boston.
To enable us to free ourselves from our embarassments, I think it would be proper to adopt some certain mode of selling the whole, or atleast one half of the Kennebeck tract. It is to be recollected that when the purchase of the back tract is compleated, there will be due to the State £50,000 more than will be received from Mr. Baring, to which is to be added £35,000 being a ballance due on the Kennebeck tract.
In order to prevent this property being sold at a very reduced price, in order to furnish the means of payment, it is absolutely necessary that preparatory measures should be taken to secure a favorable sale.
There are such vast quantities of land at market, and some of the great speculators are so deeply involved, that they will be compelled to make sales, altho they may sacrifice their property for one half of what it cost.
Besides, a great disposition exists in Congress to tax landed property, which must tend essentially to undervalue it.
Besides, by the purchase of the additional million in the back tract, an immense body of land, to be placed in a progressive state of improvement, is connected together, and upon that object, we ought to devote an unceasing and undivided attention. If another settlement of the same kind was to be undertaken at Kennebeck, it would require an equal portion of trouble and time in the superintendance, which would be more than any possible consideration of profit could induce me to give to any object whatsoever.
Under all these circumstances I think it would be prudent to take the most prompt and active measures for the disposal of these lands. It will be first proper to raise their reputation by procuring a description from accurate personal observation as Morris’s account of them has made a very unfavorable impression.
The Senate adjourned yesterday. I think we shall take our departure from hence, about the 8 to 10th instant. We shall probably stay at New York for some days.
Mrs. B. joins me in affectionate compliments to Mrs. Knox and your daughter, and believe me to be very sincerely
P.S. I observe that the period allotted for accepting Shaw’s proposals will expire in a few days. Altho the offer is so very advantageous, I do not know whether it will be in my power to provide the means to enable me to accept it, without having recourse to bank discounts, to be continually renewed, every sixty days, which I most cordially detest. I am highly pleased with General Cobb’s recovery. It would have greatly disconcerted our views, if any accident had happened to him, which would have deprived us of his assistance.
Bingham to Knox, Philadelphia, 3 June 1796 [KP]78
Philadelphia June 3 1796
My dear General:
I have received your favor of the 30 May. My last will have informed you of the ineffectual result of my endeavours to procure you the facilities you were so desirous of obtaining and of my success in engaging an accommodation to the extent of 8,000 dollars, for about six months.
I find that you suppose no difficulty will occur in getting the legislature to agree to limit the contract for the back tract, to one million of acres. I hope that will be the case, as I should not be willing to extend my engagements further than such a purchase will amount to, which with the settling duties and interest will be £50,000 more than will be received from Mr. Baring.
I know no mode of procuring the amount but from the sale of the Kennebeck tract, which will then leave our possessions in the District of Maine entirely compact and under good direction and a well digested system of settlement.
But the difficulty is to find the purchasers that will make proper payments and give a good price for the lands. I am really fearfull that we shall be under the necessity of sacrificing this property, as I do not know where we shall find a market for the article. In this part of the Union, land speculations have been pushed to such an extravagant height, that I can foresee nothing but distress in the extreme, perhaps ruin, to attend them. There is no expectation therefore of diverting any part of the active capital towards such objects, as much more than can be spared for such purposes have been already absorbed by them. To the southward there is no money and to the eastward I believe they are in the same predicament, and possess the rage [?] of land speculation.
I am afraid Europe is our only resource and from my communications with that country and my efforts to sell lands, I do not derive hopes of very flattering success. However, we will converse more freely on that point, when we have the pleasure of meeting.
I am much obliged to you for your kind offer in assisting the party in procuring accommodations in Boston. Our movements cannot be determined with precision whilst there are ladies to be consulted. It is not as yet fixed what shall be our stay in New York but I rather suppose a very short one. I shall take the liberty of writing from thence to General Jackson (as I do not suppose you will be in Boston) and requesting his aid on the occasion.
It will not be worth while to engage the packet boat you mention, as it is possible we may continue our route by land, or at least as far as Portland. I rather think the ladies will prefer this mode of conveyance.
As for the gentlemen, they must accommodate themselves to such vessels as offer, in their visits on the coast and up the rivers. If they can obtain one that is very convenient, so much the better. If not, they will be satisfied. However, when we arrive at Boston, we will determine the point.
I suppose the Portland packet can be obtained, on giving a certain previous notice which I think it would be proper to engage.
I do not suppose that any letters you will write to me after receipt of this, will meet me at Philadelphia.
Yours sincerely and affectionately
Knox to Bingham, Boston, 20 June 1796 [BP]
Boston 20th June 1796
My dear Sir:
I have learned that you set out from Philadelphia on the 13th. I presume you will stay in New York a week or ten days. We shall sail tomorrow bag and baggage. I have been divided in my opinion whether to remain until you arrive or precede you, but as I hope your stay here will be short at this time, extending your visit here on your return, and as my affairs there pressingly demand my presence, I have determined it adviseable to go on. If you should determine to stay here some time now, I think you had better occupy my house which I have taken for the next year. It will have all the necessary articles of furniture. But if you should now stay only a few days, it will be best to lodge at Mrs. Archbalds which are secured for you and Mrs. Bingham and family. You will act as you judge proper. But I think your longest stay will be most agreable on your return. Present our respects to Mrs. Bingham and the young ladies. We shall impatiently expect you at St Georges. I shall write you again and leave the letter with General Jackson. Let him know the day you will be in this town. You will find him all zeal, truth and affection. The deeds will be ready.
The affair of the back Million is again referred to the next session.79 No legislature ought to sell land. The committee of the two houses were unanimous in their report, which was accepted by the Senate and sent down to the House. There some underwork prevented its acceptance. The arguments against it were: that the proprietors or purchasers had had several years to examine the thing, and would, were there not some hidden cause, execute the contract; that time therefore must be afforded the legislature to look into the business.
The advocates for the measure stated that the land relinquished was of the best quality, and that its value would be trebled and quadrupled before the periods of payment came round; that the advantage was entirely on the side of the State, and that therefore the proposition ought to be accepted; that the original contract by the evidence of itself and the Committee contemplated only one million; that the present contract never could be executed as the land surveyed extended itself probably into the British government and the north boundary was unascertained, assumed, and would be disputed. But suspicion had been let loose by the designing that it was a trick, and the House were deaf to all argument and therefore it was referred.
The question now is where is the injury? The contract is valid, not an idea to the contrary. If it be expedient to execute the whole, it may be done. If not, we shall get a million or relinquish it altogether. The legislature have suspended the operation. I think the sort of hold we have of this contract is just the thing you would please to have shaped for yourself.
Compliments to the gentlemen of your party. Lodging will be procured for them in this town. Do not suffer one to stay behind. You must have the vessel I mentioned to you. I expect her every moment from Portland, newly painted.
Bingham to Cobb, Boston, 28 June 1796 [CP]
Boston June 28th 1796
My dear General:
We have arrived thus far on our route to the District of Maine, where we were fortunate in finding General Knox had not taken his departure, as his arrangements previous to our arrival have rendered our situation, as it regards accommodations, more agreable than I expected. He sailed from hence with his family two days ago with a fair wind, but it changed immediately afterwards, and I am apprehensive he will have a tedious passage. My personal intention is to continue my journey by land, as far as Wiscasset, and there imbark for St. Georges, as the ladies are very averse to the sea, from the sufferings they experienced in their voyage from New York to New Port. A packet boat will be ready to receive us at Wiscasset, which we shall retain, in order to visit the different rivers and sea coast situations in our territory and its neighbourhood.
I was extremely pleased at hearing that you had recovered from your late severe attack. I wrote you some time ago, and forwarded to you answers to the various questions you addressed to me relative to the improvement and settlement of our lands, as well on the part of Mr. Baring as myself.
I imagine your indisposition prevented your reply and any observations thereon. I am very anxious to know what arrangements you have recently taken, in order to carry into effect our objects, relative to settlement, and whether you have entered into any engagements with influential individuals for the sale of lands, either of an absolute or conditional nature. Indeed, all species of information, that is in the least interesting on this subject, I will thank you to communicate. Mr. Baring is very inquisitive on all these points, for he is desirous of making known to his friends, who are engaged in this purchase, the precise state and future prospects of their property.
I am waiting with great anxiety for the receipt of the conveyances you were to forward from Gouldsborough, for some of the private purchases, as I cannot make a deed to Mr. Baring until the exact quantity of the land can be ascertained, and untill the title can be exhibited. Near four months have elapsed since we fixed on the terms of our agreement, and it is not prudent to delay the proper measures to carry into legal effect the conditions we mutually stipulated. I am prevented during all the intermediate period, from receiving the amount of the sale, besides exposing the contract to the chance of accident and unforeseen events. I would willingly have paid the expence of an express, to have been dispatched for these documents.
I have accepted your two drafts on me dated the 14 and 16 instant in favor of M. M. Hays at ten days sight, one for 515 and the other for 453.33 dollars.
I have no letter of advice and therefore do not know whether I am to charge them to the old or the new account. You will oblige me by framing an account current, in which you will give credit for all the monies you received, for expences previous to the 15 February last, and debit the establishment with the various expenditures, made from time to time. Otherwise, no entries can be made, in the books appropriated for keeping these accounts.
It is more peculiarly requisite at present, for the gentlemen who have been recently connected in this business, are very precise on all these points, from their mercantile habits, and are in the practice at stated periods, of balancing their books, so as not to make the difference of a farthing.
I mention these circumstances from a conviction that it will give you pleasure to know them, as you will be naturally anxious to accommodate our views, on all such points.
I am with sincere regard
Your friend and humble servant
P.S. Our party consists of Mrs. B. and the Miss B.’s, Miss Willing, General de Noailles, Mr. Baring, and Mr. Richards, an Englishman, who is a friend to Mr. Baring.80
The excursion of the Binghams and their party to the District of Maine in the summer of 1796 was a major undertaking; indeed, when all the preparations are considered, it assumes the proportions of an important military operation. Though the primary purpose of the expedition was business, the presence of the ladies gave to the outing the air of a party of pleasure; and Baring’s prediction that the “procession [would] make a noise in the New England states” proved, if anything, an understatement. If the wealthy Philadelphians, accustomed to every comfort at home, could be properly provided for in Maine, it would be striking proof of the advanced state of civilization in the eastern country.
The party went first to New York, where, after spending a few days, they proceeded to Newport, Rhode Island, by water and unfortunately experienced a rough passage. “The ladies suffered exceedingly by sea sickness,” wrote Bingham to Knox, “and which has impressed on them a very serious dislike to water excursions.” Bingham hoped they would forget their troubles; otherwise, he despaired of ever getting them to Montpelier by water.81
On; 22 June the party arrived in Boston, where, with the aid of Knox, they were able to secure comfortable accommodations.82 Since Bingham and Baring still had several business transactions to complete, the expedition remained until the middle of July, before proceeding farther eastward. At long last the deeds for the purchases from individuals had been collected, and the presumption is that Bingham was finally able to complete the conveyance of half of these properties to Baring at this time.83 The two gentlemen also engaged Harrison Gray Otis to try to untangle the contract with Madame de Leval and Benjamin Walker.84 Finally, about the middle of July, the party moved on by stage to Portland, where they were met by the Portland packet Mercury, Captain Weeks, who took them the remaining distance to Thomaston by water.85
From the moment of his first setting foot in America, Alexander Baring had been unusually conscientious in reporting to his superiors in England all that he did and saw. When it came to writing up the excursion to Maine, however, he outdid himself and produced sixty-eight manuscript pages of description of the eastern country. His account of eastern Maine in the year 1796 must rank with those of Talleyrand and Liancourt as classics of their kind.
Baring to Hope and Company, Philadelphia, 3 December 1796 [BaP]86
Philadelphia 3 December 1796
I have not written any regular and general letter to you concerning your speculation in Maine since the one you have acknowledged receipt of and replied to.87 It is my intention to give you by the present all the communications that may be interesting and necessary as they occur to me, in as much order as possible, in doing which I may perhaps repeat what has before been written, which, as I have no copies of my letters, you will please to excuse. I have duly received all the letters I have been favored with: say those from Mr. H.H. of the 29 April and 13th August; from Mr. J.W.H. of the 30 April, 10 August and 7th October; and from my father down to the 20th September inclusive.88 You had received and digested my dispatches by the William Penn and I felt myself most gratefully impressed with the honor conferred on me by the uniformly handsome and flattering expressions of approbation you bestow, both on my intentions and actions. I found a considerable difficulty in explaining to you to my satisfaction the speculation in its different points of view and I am now pretty confident of having succeeded in as far as I could have expected from the very judicious and apposite remarks which my letters have drawn from you and which prove you to be as much au fait of the real state of the business as, considering the natural and irremoveable impediments to such information, I could have expected to have made you.
I shall not make a regular reply to the general remarks and queries your letters contain. Many are antecedent to my letter by the Penn and are answered by it. On the others I shall touch in the course of my letter, having them all marked down before me, and I shall take care that nothing essential be omitted, premising only, to encourage their continuation, that they have been importantly usefull on several occasions. I thought it not difficult to form a good idea of a new country but the real sight of it and the reflections that occur on the spot opened a total new scene, reversed many former opinions, and confirmed others to perfect conviction. I will give you my opinion of the country in a narative of our excursion and will thank you to follow me on the small map.
We left Philadelphia the 13th June with four ladies, Mr. Bingham, Richards and Viscount de Noailles. The latter, I must observe to you, has no connections or communications either with Mr. Bingham or myself, but he is a necessary family appendage and also an agreable travelling companion. Richards you will recollect went at my desire to see the country previous to his engaging to settle in it. We staid a few days at New York, went from there through the Sound to Newport in Rhode Island by water and from thence by land to Providence and Boston, where we again made a stay of some days and arrived at Portland in Maine (the first place marked in the corner of the map)89 on the 18th July. The part of the province of Maine from the New Hampshire line to Portland is setled very thickly and the cultivation equal to most and superior to many parts of the State of New Hampshire. There are several small sea ports where very considerable business is carried on with the West Indies and Europe, particularly from Sawko and Kenebunk, where they make their importations of foreign articles direct and not through Boston as they used to do and still do in many parts. The exports consist chiefly in lumber and agricultural produce with which assorted cargoes are made up for the West Indies.
Portland is the most important place in Maine. The harbour is very fine and thought the best between that and Newport in Rhode Island. The trade of the country enters chiefly there; it contains about three thousand inhabitants and many of them very respectable and rich. The place will probably be the capital on the seperation of the District from the State of Massachusets. Its situation is one of the most beautiful I have seen on the continent and the lands for a considerable distance round it sell readily from 10 to 20 dollars the acre. The road to Portland and even as far as the Kennebeck is very good and accomodations for travelling as far as the former place equal to those in any part of the union. Further than Kennebeck there is no carriage road but General Knox is exerting himself to open one and promises that it will be fit for travelling next year to Penobscot Bay. This prevented our seeing the Kennebeck setlements which are very considerable and undergoing rapid improvements all the way up the river to the margin of Bingham’s tract.
We embarked at Portland in a Portland packet which we hired and arrived the next morning before General Knox’s door on St. Georges River; the distance by water is near sixty miles. Knox’s house is situated on the river side where it becomes narrow, precisely where the foot of the letter T of Thomaston is on the map. The situation is a fine one and Richards will shew you a drawing he took of it. I must here give you a short account of General Knox’s position and property. The Waldo patent was a royal grant of a tract forty miles square to the late General Waldo. Knox inherited the chief part through his wife and bought out the others heirs so that he is sole proprietor. On this land, as on all lands where the proprietors pay no attention to it, a number of people had set themselves down for many years without right or title. These people are very emphatically called Squatters. The part Knox took in the revolution, in which he distinguished himself greatly, saved his property from sharing the fate of all large royal grants and it was conserved to him and confirmed by the State. Knox became Secretary of War but not being able to support his family by his salary, which is as of all public officers very small, he wisely resolved to make the most of his property in Maine by his own personal residence and exertions. He went on his lands in the year ’86 for the first time and found all the good situations on the waters taken up, with a united disposition on the part of the farmers to hold their lands and set him at defiance. After several attempts he convened them all together at his house to the number of 800, spoke to them in a firm but friendly manner and offered to confirm all their titles on their paying 4/ New England currency the acre or 2/3 of a dollar, with a long credit, notwithstanding every acre taken up was worth ten dollars. The people were so pleased with his treatment that notwithstanding they had all leagued to oppose him, in a very short time six hundred of the eight signed. He gave them a fixed time and then raised his price to two dollars and of the two hundred refractory, one hundred and fifty have already compounded at that price, and others are coming in daily. I never saw in my life so completely the effects of good management, for not only he has made the people pay for their lands but is universally liked. In this instance it was not the question how much should be paid but whether his patent should be valid at all and if he got only a barleycorn, his object was attained, as the setlers were in fact an advantage to him and made the two or three hundred thousand acres which were left more valuable than the whole patent was before. The inhabitants of this country are a very honest well disposed lot and I think the compromise proves them to have very correct ideas of property and it hardly could be thought surprizing that in a new country, where people must be more out of the reach of the arm of the law than in an old one, some opposition should at first be made, by setlers who had occupied waste lands for near thirty years without interference, to the introduction of a royal patent for forty square miles to sweep away all their property and that at a time when royal grants were not much respected and many of the best organized states in the union had made use of pretexts to set them aside. The history of this arrangement is highly creditable, both to the country and to Knox, whose conduct in every respect has been well judged and masterly.
The country round about Knox is prety well setled, though the soil is but midling, and you can count at least thirty houses from his windows. Thomaston is a neat village of near seventy houses and a church, and Warren, which is about six miles further up the river has upwards of twice that number. I find the people in general nearly equal in information, manners and comforts of life to those of the old New England states. This is an advantage resulting from the easy water communications with all parts, which in fact brings them nearer the old countries than any back lands at not one third the real distance. You find a newspaper in almost every farm house and seldom meet anybody who has not a tolerable idea of European politics and a very good one of his own. I was much surprized by the appearance of a congregation at Warren church. The dress of the women was really distinguished by taste and offered by no means so great a contrast with that of the large towns as any part of England six miles distant from a large town would do. There is not (nor indeed is there in any part of America) the slightest provincial idiom or pronunciation in their language; every person can read and write and the village of Warren has even a circulating library. These otherwise trivial circumstances are descriptive of the character of the people and you will observe that they are not forced by the setlement of speculators among them as in the Genisee and the back parts of this state but the spontaneous result of common New England setling emigrators. In the Genisee many people of information have been introduced but the bulk of setlers are ignorant and destitute of all ideas of morality, but in Maine Knox is the first gentleman resident who comes among them that I know of and their manners are of their own creating.
The character of the people in Maine is nearly the same throughout, verging of course more on refinement and civilization as parts of the country are more or less setled and society formed. I dwelt considerably in my last letter on the advantages of character in the New England states in preference to that of the southward and westward, in which I am more and more confirmed.90 The New England setlers are the only I wish for; whenever they are collected together in a small society and the bare necessaries of life are acquired, their first wants are a church and school. The German and Irish setlers to the westward never dream of such things even as a luxury and there are many large towns in Pensylvania where they are not found. The necessity of religion may be a speculative question in old countries, but I am sure it is perfectly indispensable in new ones, where you must depend more on the clergyman than the constable for the protection of your property, and, where the mass of the people are called in republics to act as self governors, nothing but information and morality can insure society from those incongruities which we see a want of their deity produce. This difference of manners and habits is distinguishable in all comparisons of the conduct of the New England and neighbouring states in a most striking manner and most particularly in their political conduct on great national questions. I shall another time have occasion to say more on the subject of this distinction, in which according to my ideas the future fate of this continent is wrapt up. At present it is sufficient for our subject to say that the New England character is that which is prevalent in our new colony and from its situation is likely to continue. No sales by the State of Massachusetts are made without making the reserve of 1,250 acres per township for churches and schools, but this is at the public expence and not at that of the purchaser, as you imagined.
To return to General Knox’s setlement, the house he has built is a very fine one and the whole of his stile rather bordering on magnificence. I think he is right in his calculations on this subject, although to himself it is an unnecessary expence. It attracts very much the attention of every part of the country. His house is talked of every where and is certainly equalled by nothing out of the large towns. He has besides being known for a man of refined manners and as a lover of society shewn the country to be a comfortable and agreable one to inhabit and I am persuaded more strangers have visited it from curiosity the short time he has been there than in any ten years before. His house is altogether 120 feet by 40, including in the front piazzas of 20 feet on each side of the body of the building. He farms about 200 acres of land in high order as an example and carries on besides a lime kiln, brickmaking, shipbuilding, lumber trade, saw and grist mills, and a store for all imported articles. He breeds a vast number of horses and is excessively active in all sorts of projects such as cutting canals etc. For his own interest he does too much, as I believe he is a loser by most of his undertakings, but they are of vast advantage to his surrounding lands and to the country in general. The soil of his tract at a distance from the sea is fine and near his house he has discovered and works a vein of limestone which is very soluable and the more singular as it is not otherwise met with on any part of the Atlantic coast. The land on rivers and creeks is very valuable and worth certainly 10 or 20 dollars the acre. Knox estimates his back lands at 3 dollars but he is too enthusiastic with regard to his own property, tho’ in detail it would sell for that and in many parts for much more. Upon the whole the property is really well managed and thriving, at the same time that Knox from being near us is of great benefit to our property.
We sent our packet round to Owls Head in Penobscot Bay, left our ladies at General Knox’s,91 and embarked with the General and our gentlemen. Penobscot Bay is excessively fine and the islands in it offer many handsome scenes, the shore on all sides being very high. The navigation is very good and the coast as far as Gouldsboro’ affords good anchoring ground all the way and a number of good harbours. It is a perfect inland navigation and in that respect as well as in beauty exceeds any part of the coasts of this continent. We sailed up the Bay as far as Winslow or Long Island, then struck down what is called Edgemogin Reach between Deer Island and the main, then between Duck and Cranbery Islands to Gouldsboro’. All the islands are well setled. Long Island is covered with farms and belongs to General Knox, who is to be paid 3 dollars the acre though worth much more.
Mrs. William Bingham, the former Ann Willing
One of the “Party of Pleasure” which visited the Maine Lands in the Summer of 1796
Sketch by Gilbert Stuart
At Gouldsboro’ we found General Cobb, who accompanied us in all our excursions afterwards. Gouldsboro’ being the first part of the purchase we were to see (for Bingham never saw any part of his lands before) we were looking forward to it with great impatience and I must confess the approach to it made me feel very unpleasantly indeed. The whole of the point is a white rock which presents the most barren object you can imagine and to add to the uncouthness of the scene some pine woods had been burnt just behind it, as is customary in clearing lands, which presented a singular contrast of white and black. Upon going further back we found good land, but the point itself is fit for nothing but a town, for which it is in every respect very well situated. If any part of the country fell short of my expectations, it was certainly Gouldsboro’, for although soil for so small a spot is of no great consequence, yet as it is the place where our setlers will generally land, I could have wished it had not looked so frightfully barren, as it must have on them the effect it had on me. I rather expected to find more of a town and houses in better condition, instead of which there are not above three comfortable houses in it, one of which is Cobb’s. Bingham was certainly deceived in his purchases there and I had no reason to repent that I had made no allowances in our bargain for houses, farm, etc. I have no doubt that this will in time become an important place. The country back is fine and the harbour very good, but more on account of its easy access and good anchoring than depth of water. This circumstance makes it a very convenient resort for the Bank fishing, which begins within sight of that part of the coast. One fisherman is established there92 and I have no doubt of more following on proper encouragement being given by buying their cargoes and supplying them with their wants, the aid of capital being the most effectual assistance in a young country. In other parts of the township of Gouldsboro’ there are good farms and particularly round the inlet of water touching the corner of No. 7.
We staid on our first visit but a short time at Gouldsboro’, but the wind being fair sailed directly to the eastern extremity of our lands and entered Passamaquody Bay by the west passage between Quoddy Head and Campobello Island. The whole of this coast is again indented with harbours, there being no less than six good ones between Gouldsboro’ and Quoddy Head. This is a very great advantage to navigation, as the coasters need never stay out a night and can always put in when they please. The waters of Passamaquoddy Bay are again beautifully fine and Richards, who has travelled a good deal and has taste for drawing thinks them beyond any thing of the kind he has seen. The British and American lines run between Campobello and the main and between Deer and Moose Islands. The river boundary still remains in dispute, the British contending for the Scoodic and the Americans for what is called in the small map Passamaquoddy River. I was agreably surprized to find important settlements in this remote part of the country, both on the British and American side. Campobello is a fine island but the proprietor resides on it and through mismanagement does not make much of it. Moose Island is covered with important setlements and very considerable trade is carried on by the Americans there in the produce of the country. It is though large divided into small lots and worth certainly from 30 to 50 dollars the acre. St. Andrews again on the British side is an important place but much injured by the war. I calculate there must be 2,000 inhabitants there and I was told that they have had captured eighteen topsail vessels since the war. This was an American refugee setlement and there are many respectable and wealthy people there.
The Schoodic up to Devil’s Head is a large and fine river; it narrows there but is navigable for 200 tons up to the bend in No. 5, where there are falls which can never be made passable for vessels from sea.93 At these falls on the British side there is a considerable setlement called St. Stephens and several setlements on the American side. The former are more forward than the latter for the obvious reason that the government have given away the lands for nothing there and the other is all private property. There is a very good saw mill on the falls and three others on falls further up the river. A small tribe of Passamaquoddy Indians encamp near the first falls in the spring for the salmon fishing every year. We hired some of them and went further nine miles up the river in birch canoes to about the middle of our township No. 7, where the last setlement on this river is.94 The river is constantly interrupted by falls, where the Indians are obliged to carry their canoes on their backs and at each fall a mill is built on joint account by a number of the neighbours, the owners of soil on both sides having the right of mill seat. The lands of No. 6 and 7 and generally the borders of the Schoodic are very rich; they are low and the river, which is a large and rapid body of water, constantly overflows them and I have no doubt they will in time, like the meadows of Connecticut, become of very great value. They produce great quantities of natural grass and fine timber. There are two farms on No. 7, one of Stone, an honest industrious man with a large family, another of two young men who have just lost their father called Bailey,95 also apparently well disposed people. All these are concerned in the neighbouring mills. The situation of all this part of the country astonished me, as I did not expect to find any setlers and we are all convinced that it is a part of the country that will in time be very important, as it unites the two requisites of rich lands and good water communications.
Knox was appointed one of the arbitrators of the boundary line but refused as he might be supposed to be concerned in the decision. From what I have seen I am persuaded the Schoodic and the eastern branch of it, where it seperates above No. 7 will be the line. I do not see that either decision can affect us materially, but I should wish it to be so decided, first because the contrary decision would bring a large additional mass of lands to market on the part of the state and secondly because a boundary is always valuable from the opportunities of smuggling, which is already in practice. The value of lands on the American side is much higher in estimation than on the New Brunswick, but both [are] on the advance and will continue so, as the good lands to be given away are nearly all disposed of. The inland water communications of the Schoodic from the lakes must make this river important. The Indians pass up the river in their canoes through the great lakes above Nos. 4, 5, 6, and down the Passadunky above Nos. 1 and 2 into the Penobscot in four days, which perfectly insulates that part of the country. I wished very much to try the excursion, as it would give me a very good idea of the susceptibilities of the country, but we were too many and my companions did not like it. I may perhaps try it next year. A very valuable branch of occupation on this river is the salmon fishing. Vast quantities are caught for which you could get cash on the spot at 9 dollars the barrel. I saw the Indians in one night catch for the value of upwards of 20 dollars, which they afterwards spend at the stores of imported goods.
In fact the country wants nothing but hands to be made any thing of; an industrious labourer can generally earn two dollars a day or nine shillings sterling. The intrinsic resources of such a country must be great; we generally presume that population and means of subsistence find their level and that the first will flow where the last exists to the greatest degree and that must ultimately be inevitably the case in that country. I have however remarked that the great ease of obtaining a living is frequently prejudicial to a country and the natural indolence of man will not let him work two days for what he can earn in one. This is much the case in this part of the country and I saw many men who subsisted a week on three days labour; the cause however is a happy one and though the effect may be momentarily bad, it must necessarily be remedied by an increase of population. Again only a small part of the natural resources of the country are employed for the subsistence of the inhabitants and the superfluity of means prove in a manner prejudicial to it for the moment. The only occupations attended to with few exceptions are fishing and lumbering. They are found the most profitable and none less so being resorted to, agriculture is neglected, but this will also find the same remedy. It would surprize you to hear that where lands are so good and cheap upwards of half the Indian corn and wheat flour consumed in the country has for a long time past been imported and that so new a country can bear to pay for it. It has however from experience been found that though the nominal proffits of the fisherman and lumberer are greater than those of the farmer, yet that the latter lives better and enjoys more of the comforts of life. There are many instances of this in the country which have and continue to have considerable effect. On the British side near Oak Point in particular there are near thirty families setled who attend to nothing but their farms and are considered as the best livers in the country. Many of the families make from 4 to 500 weight of maple sugar, which can be done entirely by the women and children and sells at St. Andrews for three fourths of the value of West India sugar. The inhabitants on both sides of the boundary live in perfect harmony together and there is not the least visible appearance of different governments. The tides in this part of the country rise to an enormous height, in some parts of the Bay of Fundy fifty to sixty feet and near thirty in the Schoodic.
We were detained by calms some days in these waters and afterwards sailed to Machias.96 The bay is fine and the navigation of the river good for small vessels. It is not accurately laid down on the map. The setlements are on the two branches called eastern and western, about three miles from the port. At each setlement there are saw mills for lumber, which constitutes with ship building the only trade of these parts. The largest village is on the Kawahskitchwook, as it is called on the map, where there may be near a hundred houses and many good ones; in the other setlement just under Machias Lake there are not much more than half that number but the whole country between and round about the bay is thickly inhabited.97 Here again agriculture has been much neglected and flour is still imported, but a change is taking place and there are some good farmers who attend to nothing but their lands. Some low lands on Machias River, which are not so fine as those I described on the Schoodic, are valued at 20 dollars the acre.
At Machias our party seperated; Knox and Richards went with the vessel round to Frenchman’s Bay; Bingham, Noailles and myself remained a day longer at Machias and were hospitably entertained by Judge Jones and Mr. Bruce, two very respectable characters. The next morning we set out on horseback for Gouldsboro’, which is 46 miles distance. The road for 17 miles is merely a path cut through the woods without any attention to the ground and terribly bad, so much so that one degree more would be impassable. At 8½miles distance from Machias you fall on a very pretty setlement in the middle of the forest on Chandler’s River in the township No. 22, of which we own a small undivided part.98 The borders of the river from No. 23 to the sea are setled and there is a mill on the river. At the same distance from thence there is again another much more considerable settlement on Pleasant River on the borders of our No. 13 and from thence to the sea.99 The land of all these townships is good but especially No. 13 and the borders of Pleasant River, where there are very fine meadows. The Pleasant River setlement contains several very good houses, a neat inn lately built with two stories and a garret, several other buildings coming forward and very good saw and grist mills. The occupation here as every where else is chiefly lumbering but there are some good farms and a great deal of good summer wheat is grown. The setlement belongs principally to one family composed of a widow and several children who own a large undivided part of No. 6, which with a part of No. 13 has been incorporated into a town by petition to the inhabitants called Pleasant River town.100 There is no objection to this interference with the old run lines provided we do not get into confusion, which we must take measure to prevent. I was more pleased with this spot than any I had seen. It presents more the appearance of cultivation and of old countries than any other and I should certainly prefer it as a residence. The people are agreable and when we were there they were getting their church ready by subscription and had appointed their clergyman and built him a handsome mansion.
The bad roads end at Pleasant River; a few miles through Number 12 there is a good carriage road and the remainder is a good path to Gouldsboro’. We talked to the people at Pleasant River about their roads and in conjunction with those of Machias, they are this winter to burn [?] out and widen them. About four miles from Pleasant River and nearly in the center of No. 12 we found a setlement of about thirty Quaker families, who had all good farms near each other and had formed themselves into a society.101 Setlements in new countries always commence on the waters and in Maine by lumbering and not by agriculture. This was the first exception I met with, for they were distant from any river and lived entirely from their farms. I attribute it to the Quaker character, being averse to the vagrant life of a lumberer, and as they are a moral quiet set of people I think them a vast acquisition to our country. The land hereabouts is strong and good, but in the corner of No. 12 between 11 and 5 there is a plain of two or three miles diameter very poor and barren.102 The soil is perfectly barren and covered with a short kind of heath and no wood. It has the appearance of having been burnt but the soil is so hard that it can never have been good. We thought it likely to contain some valuable mineral but I had rather it had been good production soil. There are some remarkable fine springs of water in it and the nature of the whole is singular and different from any thing I ever saw. When you get over the plain, which is a hill with a table top, you descend again on good lands. On our No. 11 there again are some farming setlements which continue untill you come to Naraguagus River, which is thickly setled from No. 11 down to the sea with mills and every possible convenience. This setlement is much larger than Pleasant River and we were hospitably received by General Campbell, who lives there, owns mills, and is a leading character in the country.103 We slept at Naraguagus after having been eleven hours on horseback. There are some farms round about this river but the labour of the inhabitants is again chiefly engrossed by lumbering.
Judge Stephen Jones of Machias
First Citizen of Washington County
Portrait by Gilbert Stuart
The next morning we crossed No. 4, which is good land but not much setled excepting on the sea shore, which is incorporated into a town called Steuben town. As you approach No. 7, the settlements begin to thicken and continue uninterrupted to Gouldsboro’, which we now entered from the land side, finding the soil good until we came again upon the rocky point. From General Cobb’s we crossed the township to the inlet of water on the other side, which makes it a peninsula, just over the letter N of No. 3 on the map. Here we found again our friends that we left at Machias with our vessel at anchor. On this inlet of water lives the richest character to the east of Penobscot, a Colonel Jones, distant relative of Judge Jones of Machias.104 He owns the part of Gouldsboro’ which does not belong to us and in fact the best part. He has long resided here, has a large farm, good house and three mills which go by water from a pond above him which he lets through by sluices. He has been making experiments of all kinds and is useful to the country. As such Cobb keeps friends with him and he received us very hospitably but we believe him to be a great rascal and do not trust him. The situation of his estate makes it not only remarkably beautiful and desirable but very valuable. He asks 30,000 dollars for it and for a person who would live there it is worth that to[o], but not to a speculator. Jones, who is an artful man, having resided long in Maine, has picked up several other of the most valuable spots and I believe has been cheating his neighbours and especially the former proprietors of Gouldsboro’, but for that there is no remedy and we can only take care of ourselves. He owns several vessels at sea, which he builds himself at his wharf; while we were there one of his ships returned from Europe on freight for her first voyage, which had entirely paid her cost.
Frenchmans Bay, tho’ it appears open on the map is a very good harbour and could contain the largest navy in safety, particularly on the Gouldsboro’ side within the islands. We sailed from Jones’s to Mount Desart Narrows between the island and the township of Trenton and the wind being adverse tacked the whole day about in different parts of the bay. I will refer you to Richards for the beauties of all this part of the country, as that part of the description is not the object of my letter. I can only say that it is the finest scenery I have witnessed in this country and when cultivation is more general, it must be very much ornamented. We did not land on any part of Sullivan township but saw the settlements, which are numerous and in good order. The same is the case with Mount Desart. This island, which is a very large one, contains in the middle very high mountains, higher than any part of the American coast. The tops are uncultivable but at the foot of them, they gradually slope towards the water with fine lands and are very thickly setled, as much so in fact as any part of the country and I think the island will in time become very valuable. On the point of land in the township of Trenton projecting most towards Mount Desart, excepting the point of Union River Bay, is situated Van Berckel’s mansion on the 8,000 acres he has there which do not regard us. The situation is fine but the house is a loghouse and though larger than any ever seen is an ugly, dreary thing and there are no improvements on the farm. The whole has quite the appearance of a French whim, for with half the money expended, the place might have been made comfortable. At present they have abandoned it altogether and it is in ruins. The branch of the sea seperating Mount Desart from the continent is dry at low water and the island could with ease be joined by a bridge. At high water a vessel drawing eight feet can pass and it could very well be made passable for a larger burthen; but these kind of improvements can only take place at a very distant period.105
On passing the Narrows we came into Bluehill Bay, which again is beautifully interspersed with islands. We sailed up Union River to where it becomes narrow on the map and from thence we went about nine miles up the river in our longboat. Both sides of this river are very well setled up to the middle of No. 8 and the country on all sides round it. Jones has property here; he owns the mills which a son of his superintends.106 Vessels drawing about ten feet can come up to the middle of No. 8 but above that it is only navigable for boats. The setlements here are thriving and will, I think, be important. The lands are very good and are represented as very rich indeed further up the river, where there are natural meadows from which the farmers fetch their hay every year. All the lands between Union River and Penobscot are well setled and a great distance up the rivers. On the part of the township No. 9 projecting into the bay is situated the town of Castine or Penobscot, which is the largest town in any part of the country, has a good harbour, and will probably be the capital on Penobscot River. Opposite to it on the otherside the river, in Belfast Bay, a small island to which no name is given on the map called Brigadiers Island forms also a good harbour. It belongs to Knox and he thinks it will be a competitor with Castine, but the latter has got the start and where the natural advantages are equal, monied capital will turn the scale. Certain it is that some very important place will form itself on the Penobscot, probably one at Castine and another at the head of the tide. Every landholder can give you many reasons why it must be on his property, but I did not see the country sufficiently to form any opinion myself. Charles Vaughan gave £900 New England currency for a hundred acres on the western banks of the river above the Waldo Patent under an idea of fixing the seat of trade there. The Penobscot River in point of easy navigation and extensive inland communication is surpassed by none in this country but the Hudson, and it must for some time be a very attractive object to new setlers.
From Union River we sailed to the small island coloured on the map near Mount Desart called Bartlet’s Island. This island, which contains only 1,400 acres, is a very promising property; the soil is good and there is a quantity of timber on it which from the easy approach to it is valuable. The only inhabitant is Bartlett107 and his two sons; he owns 200 acres in a setlers right and requested us to let his sons have a farm, which we shall do. The old man’s farm is in good order and we got a supply of good butter, cream, milk, vegetables and mutton from him, which indeed every part of the country afforded us daily with much less difficulty than any of the interior parts of this or the southern states. Bartlet protects the island for us and in securing to himself the advantage of game, which is very abundant here, he is at variance with the inhabitants of the neighbouring islands and when we were there at open war. The effects of a recluse and unsocial life was evident in these people on the islands; their minds were more savage and their ideas different from those of their neighbours on the continent. All the islands are thought worth 3 or 4 dollars the acre and I believe would fetch that if really sold; but they are precious appendages to our property and I wish we owned more of them. Deer, Fox, and Burncoat Islands are almost entirely covered with farms and I should have mentioned that part of Mount Desart is incorporated into a town by the name of Eden, which the inhabitants gave it in consequence of its fertility. Our party being all in a hurry to get home, we could not effect our project of going up the Penobscot, which I very much wished, and hope to effect next year with Mr. H. P. Hope.108 From Bartlet’s Island we returned with our packet the same track we came and landed at Clam Cove, six miles from General Knox’s after being out from thence twenty two days. We staid a few days at the General’s and returned again to Portland in an extraordinary passage of seven hours. We took our horses again at Portland and returned to Philadelphia, where we arived the 22nd September after a very pleasant and gratifying excursion.
In turning back to the foregoing sheets, I fear I shall have tired your patience with an unnecessary detail of our excursion. It appeared to me the easiest manner to communicate to you local and partial information of the different parts of the country. I will now trouble you with some general remarks on the subject of our lands as the result of the above particular and partial observations. Bingham’s situation and the nature of the bussiness itself obliged us to a singular mode of proceeding in this operation—that of making our purchase first and looking at what we had bought afterwards and what is more singular is that a man in the country itself should have bought and held the property three years without ever seeing it. It is a mode I should be very cautious of adopting again, for I perceive clearly that printed informations, though they may be correctly true, by telling only part of the truth, and hiding what may be prejudicial, must always be deceptive and give an inadequate idea of the object. We went in this instance entirely upon public report and opinions and it is with great pleasure I inform you that though my ideas of the thing were in many instances erroneous, yet considering all circumstances my expectations have been very much exceeded and my opinions of the speculation have never in any instance been shaken. You will be able to draw a great deal of information from Richards, whose opinion I think highly of and believe formed with great judgement and impartiality. You will only recollect that he was not in the excursion by land which was more usefull than all the rest together and produced much flattering evidence.
You will observe by the map that we only visited the setled parts and did not go much into the heart of the country. Our company was not disposed for any thing more arduous and I was obliged to satisfy myself with information from the inhabitants of what we could not visit personally. The setlements are in fact the interesting object, as in the wild lands it is merely the variation of soil that is worth noticing. The state of the country with respect to settlements principally exceeded my expectations, both as to numbers, and character and disposition of the people. I thought we should have had almost every thing to create instead of which you will have remarked that we are surrounded by population that is daily increasing in addition to the migrations from the old states. From No. 7 on the Schoodic all round the Atlantic coast and up to the same height on the Penobscot, there is a ring of settlements which of itself must naturally force itself upon the interior of the country, which with our improvements and exertions will be hastened. It is impossible for a country to be more ripe nor more conveniently situated for increase of population and we perceived the natural effects every where in the constant clearing new farms and burning the woods. We were in the country at the time this takes place and could constantly see the smoke rising out of the woods in eight or ten different places at a time. The easy water communications of the Passadunky River and of the Lakes will also enable us to bring forward the setlements in that quarter. The New England people who emigrate in great numbers to the southward every year begin to turn their ideas more and more to Maine and the country becomes better known. It would not surprize me if the tide of population should turn strongly to the north as the old prejudices against the country are removing. A great inducement to the emigrators is the easy conveyance of their property and communications with the country they leave, which they find in none of the back countries so completely as in Maine, for the average passage from Gouldsboro’ to Boston is not above three days and the expence when a packet is established would be a mere trifle.
But in addition to the emigrations we can attract, the natural increase of population must insure a certain though much slower settlement. The country is remarkably healthy and the inhabitants more robust and handsome than in any part of the continent. There are few houses that are not full of children. A Quaker we visited on No. 12 had seventeen and I found on enquiry that the thirty families setled there averaged upwards of eight children each. A large family being rather an assistance than an embarassment, people all marry and generally early.109 This is more or less the case through all parts of this continent and makes the increase of population much more rapid than in Europe. The satisfaction that was every where expressed with their situation by the inhabitants was very general. I enquired minutely and heard no complaints against the climate, soil, etc., which is almost always the case in new countries; but every body seemed pleased, which was a great effect on visitors. The principal settlements are on the rivers, where they always commence, and from thence they extend backwards. From this circumstance and the easy communications along the coast, the roads are neglected and bad; this is an inconvenience to be attended to. I described the path from Gouldsboro’ to Machias and from thence it continues in the same state to Passamaquoddy Bay opposite St. Andrews in No. 4. This is the post road but so bad that you can not find it without a guide in the woods. What is understood by making a road in a new country is merely cutting down and removing the large trees, leaving the stumps and small wood. The breadth varies from three to four and twenty feet; it is not easy to ascertain in a thick wood the best direction for a road and the surveyors accustomed to this bussiness often make mistakes. Our road from Gouldsboro’ is begun and carried a few miles, but the price of labour was so high that Cobb gave it up and will make a contract for it in the course of the winter.
Not only the number of setlers round our lands surprized me agreably but I was equally pleased with their disposition and character, as having less of the wild and savage about it than from the remote situation of the country we had reason to expect. At all the chief points of settlement there are steady and respectable characters which give the tone to the others and so far from any irreligion prevailing, we found the country infested with a pack of fanatical itinerant Methodist preachers that had disturbed the community and were rather obnoxious in the other extreme. I found private property very generally understood and respected and no disposition to invade, as was the case in Knox’s patent.
I am not sure that I ever mentioned to you the reserve made by the State of Massachusetts for setlers on the lands at the time of sale; it obliges us to give every setler previous to the year 1784 a deed for one hundred acres adjoining and including his improvements for five dollars and the same to every setler before the year 1791 for twenty dollars. The greatest number of our setlers were within one of those two dates and we found them all ready to come forward and setle with us. Others that had setled without any protection preferred petitions that they might be leniently treated and in no one instance was there the least threat of resistance or opposition. The sum we are to receive is nothing, for it will cost us more to run out the lines of their farms, and I consider them as so much given away, but the addition of value this population gives us is so much more than a compensation that I regret there are no more and should have no objection to half the tract being occupied in the same manner. In arranging with these people we shall be subject to impositions in point of dates and boundaries, but I believe we must be indulgent and not stick to the letter of the law. One difficult question has already arisen, whether a setler on a river with a millseat has a right to that millseat in virtue of the law or whether he has merely a right to the farm. I have no doubt that the latter is the just interpretation of the law, but as it bears a doubt we think it will be good policy to compromise, particularly as the setlers have in many instances built mills and the difference to us is not material and particularly not worth standing at variance about with people on whose good will we must in a great measure depend. My idea of policy with respect to the people is that we must make ourselves liked, never claim any thing which is not only legally but equitably right, and a claim once being made, that it must be firmly upheld, in short that the method of our agents must be suavitur in modo fortitur in re [sic]. We were not only called on by all the setlers to come to arrangements but had through the whole of our excursion constant applications for the sale of new lands, all which we referred to Cobb to be taken up upon certain principles when he is ready to receive proposals. I see clearly that there will be no want of applicants and that a very little encouragement will attract as many as we wish.
I mentioned in relating our excursion the soil of the particular tracts we passed through. On this subject my enquiries were very particular and the result generally speaking very satisfactory. In a tract of land fifty miles square there must of course be a vast variety of soil and notwithstanding all reports were favorable it would be absurd to suppose that there were not in the interior of the country spots similar to the one I mentioned in No. 12 or that there were not bogs, rocks, and sand as well as fine loam. The old states of New England are very poor within ten or twenty miles of the sea. New Hampshire, Massachusets, Connecticut and part of New York are extremely rocky, so much so that a foreigner would think them uncultivable. The southern states on the contrary are one bed of barren sand for fifty miles back. Maine is more like the New England shore, the coasts being rocky but not near so much as, excepting near Gouldsborough, and the soil when you come to it is good. I can safely assert and I am sure Richards will confirm it as his opinion that the lands near the sea in Maine are superior for cultivation to any part of the coast on the continent. It appears as if nature had dispensated different advantages to different parts of the country; that part enjoying advantages of situation is defective in soil and made to defend the rich lands of the interior from the approach of the ocean. You will observe we have not generally the sea shore townships, which though of inferior soil are first setled. It becomes better as you get into the country and from all the reports I have collected I believe the tract to contain as much cultivable and good land as any tract of the same extent on the continent (excepting the flats of the Genisee and of the Ohio, which you know are very defective in situation) and considerably more than any enjoying the benefits of a similar situation. The growth of the sea shore lands is chiefly spruce and pine of all kinds but in the second townships the hard woods commence and are principally the oak, hemlock, maple, larch, ash, elm etc. Soils are generally distinguished by their growth in this country, but the distinction is frequently deceptive and the same tree indicates different soils in different parts. Our pine lands in Maine are often fine, but to the southward very seldom; the oak on the contrary which is a good sign is frequently seen in poor lands but of small size. All our rivers are bordered with rich meadows and the account given by the Indians and others that have visited our back lands round the lakes lead us to believe them to be very rich in soil. No. 16 in the East Division round Lake Meddybump110 is also called very fine and we have had application by a company for lands there. No. 17 Middle Division111 is setling by some people Cobb brought with him from Taunton in Massachusetts and he writes that they are very much pleased with the land. New England in general is full of fresh water lakes, the borders of which are generally high and they do not create swamps as stagnant ponds do in Europe. The country is in that respect singular. I do not mean that there are no swamps but that the tract generally speaking, though well watered, is not subject to them to any extent. The reduction you talk of for water and for roads would never have occurred to persons here, though it does not surprize me that it should to you. The fact is that the lands must be resold either in large tracts in which case the purchaser takes surface in the same manner you do, or in retailed farms when the value must be so very much beyond your purchase price that the reduction would never be an object; for you will please to keep in view that our present sales are not for the purpose of realizing but to attract setlers and enhance the value of the remainder and probably the last hundred thousand acres if well conducted will be worth more than the whole entire tract is now. The land was measured by the surveyors of the state, who run strait lines and when it has been possible, of six miles so that the townships are mostly a square of six miles or thirty six square miles. Water has been paid no attention to and the inequalities of surface are in your favour. There are no setlers who would not pay double for a farm on some waters and even what we should suppose to be swamps are generally of great service to them.
You will have remarked from the details of our excursion that the inhabitants of Maine are more occupied at present with lumbering and fishing than with agriculture. This, as I mentioned, is the effect of the great resources of the country and must be gradually removed by increase of population. There is not a river on which a mill for sawing boards is not erected and the southern states, as well as the West Indies, are supplied entirely from Maine, the old countries being exhausted. Maine to the west of Kenebeck and almost to the Penobscot is itself nearly cleared of all the fine lumber and the people go as far as forty or fifty miles back for it. This is the occupation of the winter; it is drawn over the snow and sent down the rivers in the spring to the mills, when the lumberer and miller gets his share. There is scarcely a setler in the country who has not some direct or indirect concern in this bussiness, it being so much more lucrative than any other pursuits. It is in consequence alluring to the individuals but equally fatal to the growth of the country, for many reasons which reduce themselves to two general ones: first, it affects the character and disposition of the people, for the nature of the bussiness necessarily encourages indolence; they have no constant occupation, no tie to the country or object in view to engross their care or solicitude as a farmer has, no fixed homes and consequently lead a vagrant life which is attended by dissipation; secondly, the labour of the people is not productive to the country; for every dollar the farmer draws from the land he adds an equal value to it by improvements and the country itself grows with the prosperity of the inhabitants. But the lumberer adds no value by his labour; he earns by cutting the wood wherewithal to consume, not the produce of the country itself, but the imported produce of others and if millions of these people had been on this tract and left it, they would leave no vestige of benefit to the proprietors. If on the contrary the farming interest was strong enough to supply the lumberman with his food, the country would reap some advantage from his labour, for the whole produce of it would not go abroad and this additional source of prosperity would benefit us by attracting an additional population. The migrations from the New England states have a great repugnance to this mode of living and I am happy to say the tide is turning; there are in many parts farmers who attend merely to their farms and the number is increasing in proportion as people became convinced of the real superiority of that occupation to procure them the comforts of life, though the other, on a shortsighted calculation, may be more plausible. We have frequently considered of the means of discouraging lumbering and encouraging farming but I believe the best policy will be to leave the people to themselves and to let nothing be forced. As, however, all the lumber between Penobscot and Schoodic has been stolen off our lands, we intend in future to take our share, as proprietors, of boards at the mills and Cobb writes that he has made a successfull commencement in this operation during the winter. They have always considered this a fair depredation and our new regulation has succeeded better than I expected. We have also in contemplation to buy up some of the mills round us and rent them and shall most probably do it, by which means we shall get the bussiness into our own hands and can manage it at pleasure. For if properly carried on, the circumstance of a setler being able to dispose of the wood he clears from his lands is a very great advantage, it being merely the manner and the excess that is prejudicial.
In enumerating the advantages and resources of the country I should in its present state rank lumber at the head; it is the article that keeps the shipping and trade of the country in activity, but at the same time employs the labour of the country in the least productive manner. There is no small port in Maine that does not own some shipping; the whole coasts swarm with coasters who are employed in nothing but carrying lumber and firewood to Boston and the ports as far down as Connecticut River. Penobscot River owns upwards of two hundred sail and the wind having changed while we were in the bay, we saw one hundred sail get under weigh for the southward at once. Knox’s river owns 1,400 ton of shipping and 900 were on the stocks when we were there. It is a singular circumstance that a country so little cultivated should in every other respect be so forward. Wiscasset, a port on Kennebec, owns more shipping than all the State of New Hampshire together and the whole District more than one half of that of Massachusetts. I am collecting some exact calculations on this head. Every person in Maine understands shipbuilding and the vessels are constructed on joint account by a few neighbours with a very trifling expence, all the materials being on the spot. We saw an instance of a vessel being put to sea with the advance of only three hundred dollars which cleared two thousand the first trip to Europe. It is not to be wondered at that under these circumstances people will not trudge after the plough. We saw a farmer in Knox’s patent who owned two good farms, two ships at sea and was blacksmith and butcher for the neighbourhood. At all these occupations he worked alternately but the want of a division of labour must make each imperfectly followed.
This state of things can only find their remedy in an increased population and when that happens will be of vast service to the farmers, for it creates a circulation of money and resources and I found less difficulty in getting dollars in Passamaquoddy Bay for a Boston or New York bank note than you would in the heart of Virginia. The consequence will be that the setlers will hereafter be able to pay you in cash and you will not be obliged to take a calf or a bushel of corn as is the case in Genisee. An inhabitant of Frenchmans Bay informed me that a few years back there was so little money in this country that dollars were shewn about among the farmers as curiosities and now there is an abundance every where and all bussiness is done for cash or boards. The anecdote proves much, though I believe the contrast magnified. The article of firewood is important, the old states being much exhausted. Wood sells in Boston currently at 5 or 6 dollars the cord and has in winters been as high as 7 or 8. In Maine you can ship it at one and the owners of coasting vessels make large proffits by this business. Wood for fires near the large towns is dearer than it was in France and Germany and from a total want of any system of preservation of forests, the country is daily exhausting. After wood and shipbuilding the fisheries will be a vast resource to Maine, no part of the continent being better calculated for it from the easy acces to its harbours and proximity to the Banks. At this moment it is carried on by means of capital from Marblehead and other ports in Massachusetts Bay and wants nothing but capital in the country to secure a decided superiority over them.
But as proprietors of lands we must look to the last and most important object of resource, I mean agriculture. The former may insure the country’s future growth and importance but one man occupied with the latter is more valuable to us than fifty others. The District has the same advantages as Massachusets as a grazing country and is in addition a good wheat and corn country. The New England states produce no wheat; the people say the soil is not suited to it, but I rather believe it proceeds from ignorance in theoretical agriculture, which pervades every part of the union. Certain it is that all the states to the north of New York import their wheat flour, though they export large quantities of Indian corn and salted meats. In Maine the summer and winter wheats have been tried with great success, but only for a few years past and chiefly to the east of Penobscot. At Chandlers, Pleasant, Naraguagus and Machias rivers we saw some very fine fields of standing wheat and near Gouldsboro’ and in Frenchmans Bay it was growing quite down to the sea side, which is very uncommon. I was informed the crops averaged from 20 to 35 bushels per acre, which is very high and perhaps rather exagerated. I believe the average of England is not above 15 bushels and you must remember that they have in Maine no manure to prepare their lands and only rake in their seeds among the stumps without ploughing. Barley and oats do well and particularly the latter is better than in any parts of the southern states. We also saw some good fields of flax and plenty of Indian corn. I look upon the discovery of wheat succeeding so well a vast advantage to Maine, for as they can navigate much cheaper than the southern people they will monopolize the supply of the old New England states.
The most rooted prejudice existing against the District of Maine and indeed the only one that has any shadow of pretext is the subject of climate, which upon strict enquiry I find to be a complaint merely of those who were never in the country. None of the setlers stated it as an objection and on the contrary many who emigrated from Massachusets and Connecticut made no distinction in this respect. I believe the winters may be rather longer, but not so as to prevent the farmer getting the same succession of crops from his lands as you can in Pensylvania, though the latter may be more forward and the Virginia farmer still more. The winters are more steady as the snow generally lays upon the ground two months without interuption, which is the most busy time for those concerned in lumbering and a time of relaxation and amusement for the farmer. The cold is no more intense than it is here and less so than up the North River. I took the following notes from a meteorlogical observation taken on St. Georges River last winter in a fair exposure by Fahrenheit’s thermometer.112
8 o’clock a.m.
4 o’clock p.m.
N.B. Mercury before sun rise twice below o.
The freezing point is at 32 and we have had here for the last week several times mercury 3 below naught or 35 below the freezing point. As a winter climate for a residence I should prefer Maine to Philadelphia in consequence of the steadiness of the weather and as before remarked the objection as it respects the interuption of labour and of vegetation is not grounded. The summer climate I can speak knowingly of and it is certainly the finest I ever witnessed, the thermometer varying in the middle of the day between 70 and 80, that is on the coast, where there are constant sea breezes; further back in the country the heat is stronger. Indian corn thrives well, which is a proof that the average heat is sufficient for all the produce of these latitudes. The reason why the same latitudes in America are so much colder than those in Europe is still a subject of doubt and speculation but it is certain that the climate is temperated by setlement, which enables the sun to come at the earth instead of being warded off by the leaves of the forest, which do not retain or absorb it. In Maine as every where this effect of clearing land is sensibly felt. We have therefore to look to an amelioration and I have no hesitation in believing that some years hence, when probably our concern in the country is at an end, the climate will be thought the finest in America. You will recollect that Penobscot is only in latitude 44:23—only 2 degrees north of Boston though 246 miles distant, the course being more easterly than northerly. It is to the southward of Halifax and Quebec and near 8 degrees south of London. The objection of climate being weighty I have paid great attention to it and I realy believe it of little real consequence, but as it is a prejudice it becomes of real consequence to be removed and attended to. When a country is to be raised to importance by setlement, imaginary evils are nearly as bad as real, and imaginary advantages are of the same real benefit to you in the other scale. The report of the inhabitants of Maine themselves will stand the test of enquiry and as the country becomes better known I am sure it will be better appreciated.
It is expected that the District of Maine will be formed into a seperate state. Two years past a petition was presented to the state of Massachusetts to desire they would take the general sense of the people on this question in Maine, which was complied with and three fourths were averse to this seperation. It is now to be tried a second time and expected to succeed, the growing importance of the country having rendered it necessary to have their state government nearer them. In the judiciary it becomes most necessary for on the Kennebeck setlements there are numbers of disputed titles in the decision of which in the present state of things litde progress is made. There are more than twice the number of inhabitants requisite to form a state, the last census having estimated them at 100/M, which must since have nearly doubled, and there can be no doubt of their admission into the union if the people desire it. The refusal of their independence and satisfaction with the dominion of Massachusetts proves in my opinion great moderation and wisdom, as self-government is an enticing thing and a people is more apt to over than underrate their readiness for it. The constitution will be modelled after that of Massachusets and I have no doubt that our friend Knox will be made governor. The Federal party or political supporters of government in this country and consequently all the leading characters in New England wish for the seperation to strengthen their party in Congress and ballance the addition of the last new made states of Kentucky and Tenisee, which are under Virginia influence. I think the event a desirable one for us, as it will raise the importance of the country and attract more the notice of its neighbours. The consequences to be apprehended would be a want of sufficient character in the country and that the state legislature might direct their laws to the prejudice of non resident proprietors of land who are now under the protection of Massachusets, but I confess I do not think these apprehensions weighty, for I believe the mass of the people to be well disposed and in addition the State of Massachusets will make some regulations in this respect and scrutinize their constitution previous to their emancipation. Mr. King, who headed the Federal party in the Senate, can give you any information on this subject.113 He is a native of Maine, though I believe he left it young.
I informed you of Richards having given up his idea of setling on our lands by a letter of introduction I gave him for Mr. H. Hope. I regret very much the loss of him, for I think he would have proved an active agent if he could have brought himself to like the thing. Without that, abilities and activity are nothing. An enthusiast like Williamson or Knox who always think their property worth twice as much as any body else are the most usefull men, for you can never convey your extravagant ideas to others so well as when you are really the dupe of them yourself. As I mentioned in my letter I do not think any person accustomed to gay life, however his situation may be broken down, could bring himself to enter with spirit into the bussiness, though perhaps he might promise it in Europe. Perhaps understanding the character that is wanted you may hear of a likely one and in the meantime I am also looking out and we need neither of us decide hastily. I did not offer Richards at first as much as I really intended giving him and I would advise you, whomever you may take, to make small promises so that we may afterwards enhance the compensation in proportion as from experience we may expect benefit from his services which will enable us to attach him additionally by generosity to us. You will keep in view that as we must with the best regulations always be at the mercy of our agent, moral character is the primary requisite and we shall always be ready to give a handsome compensation provided we are sure that what we give is the extent of his proffits and that he does not prey upon us by underhand artifices. We must never alow an agent to do bussiness on his own account but give him ample latitude on ours with a proper contract. The Scotch generally possess great industry and activity but they are artfull and their consciences often stretch to the shape of their interest. I believe this is the case with Williamson, who is speculating in the Genisee and has been very busy on his own accounts so as to have made a large purchase. It is true that Pulteney’s speculation was left without controul to one agent and proves the policy of an American concern. Cobb is a good man and of great service to us from his character being so generally known and respected, but he grows old and we want some younger and more enterprizing man to second him, for in addition to the necessity of the European concern being represented there will arrise a complicacy of arrangement shortly that can not all be put on paper and will require two persons for security in case of death.
In the course of our excursion with Cobb and Knox we gave our opinions and local directions in the several parts of the country requiring it and Bingham has agreed to resume, in a general letter, the chief points of arrangements which, as he has been delaying it by constant occupations since the meeting of the Senate, I shall draw up myself and send you a copy. Not withstanding the high price of labour I would have the roads continued and some measures taken to make the public one better, either by remonstrances to government or private support. The importance of roads is immense and can not be too much attended to. The expence would immediately be found in the additional value of the neighbouring land and the appearance of our exertions in the country would increase our popularity. The next chief object I want compleated is the exact survey of all the setled parts, that we may exactly understand our own and be subject to no more impositions. Without this we shall be always in the dark. When that is compleated we must go round and settle with every person on the land that they may have their titles and we can then, when farms are laid out on paper, fix the principles and make them known on which future sales may be made. We must also attend to the puff direct and indirect and put a few paragraphs in the New England papers so as to make the country more talked of. We shall establish our packet from Gouldsboro’, form stores either by encouraging those who will do it on their account or do it on ours, and buy up several of the mills and appoint our agents to attend that we get our share of the lumber cut on our lands. We do not want to benefit by the detail of trade and stores; on the contrary our object is to make it profitable to others so that our setlers may be supplied cheap, looking for our proffit merely to the enhanced value this is to give our lands. Surveyors are very difficult to be had on tolerable terms. We must have one by the year and perhaps two at first and as soon as possible a more correct general map shall be formed. The small one is upon the whole very good and there are few lands that have the advantage of such a map. As to any additional purchases, the sea shore townships Nos. 4, 5, 6 belong to a rascal who is in prison here114 and he has mortgaged them to several different people; the best situations are besides all setled but if the remainder should be for sale in any secure shape we shall attend to them. The townships that do not belong to us in Passamaquoddy Bay are in the possession of people who are exerting themselves to settle them, which answers our purpose, for we do not want to monopolize land but merely that it should not be dormant and that every part of the country should move with different exertions. You could get none of these townships under a dollar the acre. The townships up Penobscot are in the same case; the bargain with the Indians is compleated and when the state sells we shall attend to them closely. The demands of the holders of the vacant lands in Trenton and on Union River are much too high for the speculator and as the settlements are carrying on briskly, we don’t want them. A dollar the acre is asked for the other half of Mount Desart; it belongs to Lane Son and Frazer of London; not above one half is cultivable and as we own the part nearest the shore, it is of no importance to us to have the other, particularly as one half of the good lands is already taken up.
I feel pretty much as you do on the subject of Van Berckel’s claim and although I feel no apprehension of the ultimate result of a lawsuit, yet I confess I should be disposed to give more than the risk is worth to get rid of one. I have been trying to bring about some arrangement through the means of Cazenove but am obliged to be very cautious and let him come forward, that we may not compromit ourselves, for he is an artful fellow and neglects no opportunity to exercise his malice. I keep on good terms with him and with patience something may perhaps be done when Van Berckel loses the idea of our wanting to clear the difficulty. Our legal ground I think very safe, for the time of payment is as much a part of the contract as the sum to be paid and the deed was lodged in escrow for the punctual performance of every part of the contract. In this country particularly, where money is so scarce, the difference in price between ready money and credit is more than half the capital. In England, where that great difference does not exist, some relief might perhaps be found in chancery, tho’ I should hardly think it would in this instance, for chancery might, I believe, protest the forfeiture of a title but hardly vest one where it did not before exist. If the lawsuit could immediately be brought forward I would not give a hundred dollars to get free of the risk, but as it may be a tedious and troublesome threat to hang over us, I shall lose no opportunity to compromise reasonably, to which I feel much more inclination than our partner here, who unfortunately lets these little vexations take hold of his temper so as to disable him from acting prudently. Van Berckel has filed a bill against us at Portland,115 which on account of informality has been set aside; we must await his further steps and in the mean time you will please to keep in view that we run no risk of our capital, as the price Van B gives if he gains the suit is higher than ours, so that we shall even make a proffit by the loss, but the lands are more valuable to us and we must keep them. In how far it will be prudent to leave these townships untouched for the present I have not decided on, as I am always in hopes of removing the difficulty. The existence of it might make setlers who could not investigate the merits of the case shy of their titles, though if we should be condemned we should undoubtedly always recover the value of our improvements. The second payment of last May elapsed again so that two were left unsatisfied, but he has since made a formal tender of both instalments which, of course, were refused. His friends alow that he has no pretensions at law but expect their relief from a court of equity, which is a very limited and ill understood court in this country. My great reliance however still remains that our adversary is poor and that we shall ultimately get rid of him for a few hundred pounds. Mr. Gore is a good lawyer and can give you any information you may wish on the subject.116
I have now to communicate to you a probable alteration that may take place of importance in our original bargain. I believe I mentioned to you the situation of Bingham with the back tract, the exact extent of which was uncertain. You will recollect that he treated with the committee appointed by the state for the sale of eastern lands for a track back of his and extending to the highlands supposed to be about one million acres more or less and the payments by annual instalments were stipulated accordingly. But on survey the tract appears to contain three million acres, contrary to every previous expectation. Bingham consequently petitioned that the bargain might be confined to the quantity the purchaser and sellers had in view, or thereabouts. The committee reported in his favor and it passed the Senate, but it is stopped in the lower house by the objections of some new members who do not understand the case and require time for consideration. I believe there can be no doubt that it will pass and nothing can prevent it but the jealousy the people of Boston have of those who got the start of them in the land purchases in Maine. If Bingham’s petition should not be carried, he must either take the whole three millions or none, upon which he is not decided. The price is 21 cents. In the mean time, if no arrangement is made before next spring, which is a year from my bargain being made, we shall be free to act as we please in consequence of the article in our agreement which I inserted foreseeing the possibility of our disappointment. I am not certain how I shall act under this circumstance, but shall see what can be made of Bingham and most certainly invest in some shape or other to the extent of your permission, availing in deciding on the mode, of my additional information and experience. As a tract to work upon by setlement one million acres is perfectly sufficient, but I still think the remainder a cheap and promising speculation and may perhaps conclude for it, tho’ possibly I may be able to avail of B’s situation to mend the bargain. In buying an additional tract my idea would be to sell it again to speculators and not settle it, which, in the present rage for American lands, I consider as no improbable event. B has offered the option of the Kennebeck tract in lieu of the upper million if we should not get it. I have heard reports of this tract very favorable and as it is near setlement it will in time be valuable. The report of Morris117 I believe to be incorrect; he was never over it and only on one part in the middle of winter. I think this tract likely to succeed to sell to speculators in Europe from its being compact and well watered, but the river Kennebeck is bad for navigation, though it is better setled than any part of Maine. You will find on recurring to the original bargain that B is bound, although we are not, for the upper million and when the time comes round I shall make up my mind according to the offers that are made.
I have continued to keep open and undecided the plan of association, that I might have time to receive your opinions and for my own to ripen; in the mean time I have taken for our security a provisional deed to Thomas Willing Esquire,118 who has executed a declaration of trust, so that the delay can be of no prejudice and that we might have time to give a point of such importance due consideration. I am now occupied in putting the whole in the order it is finally to remain in. It will be done in a few days previous to my departure for the southward and as I shall immediately send you copies of every thing, I shall not at present say much on the subject. Mr. H. Hope’s name can not be availed of, as I expected.119 In this state it might but in Massachusets it has been established as a precedent that all American citizenship of natives of the country dates from their independence, for on their seperation from England every person was supposed to have the option of sticking to the colony or the mother country, and those who absented themselves from the former were supposed to adhere to the latter and on their return are subjected to the same oath as perfect foreigners. This is the opinion of the best informed at Boston and I think it conformable to justice. Even if Mr. H.H. could hold, there would be endless difficulties, for he must in case of decease bequeath in trust and upon understanding the subject clearly I find very little risk or inconvenience attending the tenure we shall be obliged to. There can be no difficulty in finding honest trustees and even they could not injure us, as they will always be checked by Bingham himself; without his concurrence nothing can be disposed of. The law on naturalization is very strict and positive and no exceptions could be carried through; the right of naturalizing is not reserved by the constitution to Congress but only the right of enacting a law on the subject which was to act uniformly through the continent, which has been done. Individual states have granted particular priviledges to foreigners to hold lands, which does not regard the federal but the state governments. New York gave it to Mr. Ellis but refused it since to Augerstein and others.120 Massachusetts has never granted it and it would be difficult with great interest and intrigue to move them to it. Even then the priviledged person could not leave his estate to foreigners so that the difficulty might return and I believe on due consideration that it will be best to put the property immediately in trust, as I see no disadvantage you can thereby be placed under. In Pensylvania foreigners can hold lands but the law expires next spring and its renewal is very doubtful. The country people who compose seven eights of the state legislatures argue this subject differently in different states. It is by some thought that the attraction of foreigners’ capital enhances the value of their farms and by others that the monopoly of large tracts prevents settlements. Both positions are certainly true and the only question is whether the benefit or injury is greatest. I at first intended fixing our trustees at Boston, but I find on reflection that for the dispatch of business it will be best to have them here, as they must join with Mr. B. in all acts and will be near him to discuss any points that may require it. In point of character I am indifferent which is the place, and the advantage of the vicinity of Boston to our lands is removed by the necessary difficulty of obtaining concurrence of the party here. Two persons are sufficient, who will then give power to our agents in Maine to make titles to the extent we may direct. If we afterwards find our agent is a man we can perfectly rely upon, we can give him carte blanche with our trustees, but in this we must be cautious and know our character. We run no risk in the first instance to allow our trustees to follow Bingham’s directions; he will never do anything that is not for our joint benefit and it will be a proper confidence to shew him.
Upon knowing characters in this country better and being personally acquainted with all leading ones in the places I have been in, I am very much pleased with our selection of Bingham, and can even say that I know none, though many in other respects better, that would have been suited at all for the situation he is in with us. Large property, honour, abilities are seldom found together, but in him the former could not be wished better and the two last are very sufficient and above par as this world goes. There is a littleness about the man in trifles that will make him for instance dispute all the tavern bills on the road, but when he thinks the world looks at him, his pride makes him make up that artificial character which he thinks a man of his fortune should have. He knows how to treat his equals but not his inferiors and is consequently unpopular or he would otherwise have been raised to the Vice President’s chair. I believe I understand pretty well both his disposition and his situation; we are on very good terms and always have been, so much so that I am always confidentially consulted on all important bussiness that regards him and could I believe lead him to any thing within tolerable bounds of reason.
In drawing up the articles of agreement all your hints and directions shall be availed of. I shall not particularize at present, as they are shortly to be sent you. There is only one idea that I shall take the liberty of differing with you concerning, which is the term of association, which you wish to be long. I am of the contrary opinion, for in case we should differ on any subject, our hands on both sides would be bound up and each would have the other in his power. On the otherhand, if the term is found too short, we can always prolong it during pleasure and you may depend upon it that the association can be desirable to neither as soon as either party feel a disposition to dissolve it. I feel myself so confident in my reasoning that I shall make the term five or six years. I am submitting the papers relative to our speculation with every information necessary to Mr. H. R. Hope, the benefit of whose judicious remarks and reflections I am now happy to be able to avail of. If you could send over a copy of my letter of last spring, it would bring it before him in a more regular manner and give him a more correct idea of the whole than cursory conversation can do.
I shall say nothing at present on the department of finance as before I leave this I shall settle all accounts and send you a correct detail with a seperate letter on that subject.121 I have taken upon myself a measure which I thought both politic and proper and I am persuaded will meet your approbation. Knox, though the proprietor of very valuable landed estates, was in pecuniary difficulties, chiefly in consequence of a disappointment in the payment of a sum of money due to him for some lands sold. Bingham, before our departure, had several times enquired if I could not make an advantageous sale of some of his property or advance money on it. I always evaded the thing as handsomely as I could and shifted it on Bingham, who has actualy advanced him upwards of £10/M sterling at different times, but is secured by his owing Knox an undivided share of profits on 300/M acres of the Maine lands to be accounted for when the speculation is wound up. During our stay at Knox’s he made through B. a direct application to me to lend him some money on the mortgage of parts of the Waldo Patent, stating that it would relieve his difficulties and I consented to give him 17,500 dollars or about £4,000 sterling at legal interest of 6 per cent for his notes due the 1st January 1798, but as I told B. I did not wish to enter into any discussion about his lands and that my situation would not permit me to expose myself to any excuse at maturity which might make you question my prudence, he might secure himself as he pleased and enter into an engagement to take up the notes if Knox did not and that his name would satisfy me. In this manner it is arranged and the whole extent of the liberty I have taken is to lend out £4,000 of your money at 6 per cent for a year, for as to security I look upon it to be as good as if it was in the funds of the country. The application from the quarter it came from could not well be refused if the security had been less certain and by complying we have acquired the gratitude of one of the best characters in this country, the man who will be constantly superintending our property and who will shortly be governor of Maine. Knox does not know B is become security, the latter having concealed it to induce him to punctuality. The former is consequently additionally pleased with my apparent confidence and particularly with my having refused an exorbitant interest which he offered and which is almost always exacted in this country. I think in this instance that we have done a great deal at very little expence.122
Before I left England you had some idea of sharing any purchases that might be made with other friends, which I now observe you have given up. I confess, gentlemen, that from knowing your situation the resolution gave me pleasure, as I firmly believe you will not repent it. But as an object of this kind is so perfectly speculative I have been constantly troubled with apprehensions that my ideas and consequent representations are too sanguine and my wish is that you should principally attend to my statement of facts and scrutinize my conclusions and opinions with your more solid judgement. My theories, such as they are, I can not however refrain from imparting to you. I can conscientiously assert that placing myself in your place what I have done for you I would have done for myself and I can with pleasure add that on the acquisition of additional experience and information I never have one moment regretted what has been done. This letter has insensibly grown so voluminous that I will confine it to the subject of our speculation and write seperately though perhaps by the same conveyance on other subjects. I am ever with the greatest respect and attachment
Gentlemen, your sincerely devoted humble servant
[Endorsed: 26 December 1796]
When the party of pleasure left aboard the Portland packet for the westward, at the end of August, it was with the feeling that the tour had been a great success,123 as the following “bread-and-butter letter” shows.
Bingham to Knox, Portland, 31 August 1796 [KP]124
Portland August 31 1796
Our voyage to this place, my dear General, will in great measure compensate for the delays and disappointments we were exposed to, on our eastern excursion. We performed it in eight hours from your house at St. Georges, and six hours from Franklin Island.
The wind was not so violent as to incommode the ladies and they experienced very little sea sickness. We shall take our departure to morrow, and proceed with all convenient expedition to Philadelphia, where I am very desirous of arriving.
I have seen several of the most noted inhabitants of this place, who are surprized at the accounts we have given of the Eastern Country. They seem to have been entirely ignorant and mistaken on the subject.
We all feel most gratefully impressed with the hospitable attentions of your family at St. Georges, which I am requested particularly to express to you by each individual of the party, and to make their affectionate and respectfull compliments to Mrs. and Miss Knox not forgetting Miss Julia.125
You will oblige me by facilitating the forwarding a copy of the citation to appear, as well as the bill filed in chancery, by Colonel Walker. The person who notified the same to me, promised he would expedite the business, but he may be inattentive thereto. The clerk of the district court, I am informed, lives on the Kennebeck.126
The session of the court will be in December next and there is no time to lose.
God bless you. My best wishes will attend you in your present and all other of your pursuits.
Yours sincerely and affectionately
Philadelphia September 24th 1796
After a very pleasant excursion, we arrived here yesterday, in good health and spirits.
The first object that will attract my attention will be a settlement with Mr. Baring and the formation of a plan of operations for the improvement of the lands under your superintending care.
In order to effect these objects, it is essentially necessary that I should receive your account of expenditures, as it is from their dates that I must ascertain whether they belong to the old or the new concern. I think you had better transmit your accounts in the form of an account current, in which you will give credit for all the monies you have received as well as supplies forwarded to you by General Jackson, as well as the amount of drafts passed on me. You will then ballance the same by charging the concern with your annual compensation and with the various expenditures that have been made, a detailed account of which will be necessary, as they must be arranged under their proper heads, in the entries made of them.
This will be more desireable, as General Jackson in the account he has furnished, has referred to you for a specific account of the articles, and has only mentioned the sum total. I regret exceedingly that a settlement should be delayed on this account and that after so long a period has elapsed, I have not the means of exhibiting to Mr. Baring, the appropriations of the monies that have been drawn for, and which he is desirous of seeing. I hope to receive them in a short time, as you promised to forward them immediately on your arrival at Gouldsborough.
I wish you would make some enquiries relative to Shaws late purchases—from whom he procured them, the price he gave, your opinion of their value, the motives that probably induced the purchases on his part, whether the amount has been paid to the parties, and whether deeds have been given and the premises are entirely unincumbered. General Jackson, possessing the most implicit confidence in Shaw, has paid him the greatest part of the consideration money, and has received no title nor even a discriptive list of the purchases. I have little reliance on this man, and therefore wish to be guarded in all my transactions with him. The want of these deeds will be another obstacle to my settlement with Mr. Baring, who with his habits of precision and punctuality, is not a little astonished at the difficulties I meet with. I wish they may not indispose him to the object.
Please to inform me whether Mr. Jones has entered satisfaction for the mortgage on Trenton and Mount Desert.127
I shall write you more particularly in a short time, and am, with best compliments to your family, in which the gentlemen of our party sincerely join
Your obedient humble servant
Cobb to Knox, Gouldsborough, 27 September 1796 [KP]128
Gouldsboro’ September 27th 1796
My old friend:
Four days after leaving your house I arrived here. I cannot say much for Scrub, that I road to Camden. I hope he was returned in safety. The surveyor and his party are now running out No. 17, and the settlers that are with him are much pleased with their choice of this township. My difficulties are, and all times will be so great in obtaining surveyors, not to say any thing of the extra expence of our present mode, that it would be madness not to employ such a character with the chainmen by the year. Gleason told me he would write to a friend of his for this purpose. Do ask him about it. I am this day going with two lawyers, Wilde and Nelson,129 to see the surveyor and the Township No. 17. We shall return here by Fryday, and on Sunday I shall go with them to Machias, where I shall endeavour to place the loging business on some better footing. This is one of the most disagreeable things in the concern of this country. The habits of the people are so fix’d in this business, and their attachments are so strong, that few are willing to undertake the execution of my orders, and none honest enough to do it. Those I trusted last year, I find on examination are villains or fools. Our friend the Colonel here has deceiv’d me in every instance, and yet I am so situated that I cannot resent it, but at the risk of suffering greater evils. What can I do? This business of cutting timber must be restrain’d, or this country can never have any value.
I have not yet receiv’d any letters from Bingham. I desir’d him to place a small fund at Boston for my drafts. I do not yet want it, but I shall when the surveyor has done his business, not only for him but for purchases of saw mills that I have now in train. To be disappointed would be ruinous to my proceedings.
Let me hear from you frequently. My compliments, and affectionate ones, to the ladies.
I should be happy in seeing the Duke and Mr. Gilmor,130 if they will put up with a matrass and not sleep long in the morning, to whom present me.
Cobb to Bingham, Gouldsborough, 14 October 1796 [BP]131
Gouldsboro’ October 14th 1796
My dear Sir:
This letter is chiefly intended to cover my accounts of old and new concern up to September 1st 1796.132 I hope they will meet your approbation, especially when you reflect that all new operations in new countries must be very expensive. I am sure I have found it so, and thence I am much more in your debt than I had any idea of untill the accounts were posted. I hope I shall find it less expensive in future.
On my return from St. Georges to this place, I engaged the surveyor for Township No. 17 on the Narraguagus. He has been on that business since the 12th of September and will finish the township by the 1st of November. The settlers who are with him are much pleas’d with the land. The purchase of the saw mills are now in train and the rebuilding that on the western river of Gouldsboro’ will be contracted for in the course of this month. Two carpenters whom I have procured from the westward are now at work finishing the house on the Point near to where I live.
Since the middle of September I have been mostly absent on a tour to Machias and eastward with an intention of looking into the loging business of last year and to regulate it for the future. On my return from thence, ten days since, I only escaped drowning in fording Chandlers River, eight miles on this side of Machias. The rapidity of the current trip’d my horse and swept me down the river. My little art of swimming, which I have not exercis’d for fifteen years before, enabled me to reach the shore, twelve rods below, altho incumber’d with my great coat, but so exhausted as to be incapable of rising for some minutes. I escaped, thank God, with only the rheumatism for which I am now cloath’d in flannel. The loging in that part of the country for the last year will neat about three hundred dollars. This dificiency has arisen from two causes: the one, that as this was the first time they had ever been restrain’d, it was advis’d, by the wise and prudent, that the premium should be less than the one directed—by this means the mode adopted did not amount to more than one twentieth instead of one eighth of the boards; the other was, that numbers who had been accustomed to log on these lands refus’d to pay anything and therefore cut all their logs on the townships adjoining, say Nos. 13, 14, 15 and 18 of Eastern Divisions.133 Townsley has acted fairly in his agency as far as I have yet discover’d, but our friend Jones has deceiv’d me in every instance, I cannot git any return from him, and I believe it is his intention not to make any. He has certainly been the greatest trespasser of any. What can I do with such a fellow? Shall I make war upon him? I am fearfull he is a man of too much influence to break with at present. I am endeavouring to evade this fellow’s craft, by finding out from the surveyors of boards what quantity have been cut at such mills where none but our logs can be had, and to whom they belong. By this means I will git something. I hope in future to put this business upon some better footing, if possible, but it is extreemly difficult to find an honest man in the country capable of doing it; indeed the best mode, and the only good one, is to possess the mills, and then all this plunder must be accounted for.
I am much disappointed in not hearing from you at Boston. It was certainly intended that funds should have been left for me there, for the purchase of the two mills, for rebuilding one, for finishing the house on the Point, and for paying the survey of No. 17. The last two objects are now in operation, the last almost finish’d, the others are in train and would have been compleated by this, as they ought to have been, if funds had been provided.
You will hear from me again very shortly.
I am sir, with esteem, your
My best wishes attend Mr. Bearing to whom present me respectfully and affectionately. I should be happy in hearing from him.
Montpelier 18 October 1796
My dear Cobb:
I have unpardonably omitted writing to you in reply to your kind favor. My sensations have however been excited in a manner that evinced how much I loved you by being told by Mr. Wild of your escape from drowning. It seems the great impending evil of the country. The viscount in the Schodiac, the Duke in the St Georges, and you in Pleasant River. What a succession of paragraphs if the catastrophe had happened to you all. By the Lord, it would have injured the country beyond calculation. I pray you be not drowned—nor hang yourself nor any other act which may come under the description of suicide.
I would you were in a more agreable situation. I think the Penobscot would be better, but I submit I am every day increasing in my attachments to this place. My mills begin to operate. My dam is excellent, answers perfectly, and opens an interior navigation of thirteen miles. I shall have a party logging upon my own land about twenty miles above my mills this winter, sufficient to get four millions of feet of boards, and I expect to be able in the freshets, this fall and in the spring, to get them down. The vessel will be launched by the 15th next month, and most excellent she is as well in workmanship as materials. My brick making is finished for the season, and I have discharged all the hands, excepting five who are to get wood and clay for the next season. We are ploughing about twenty acres of land.
We expect to leave this about the 15 or 20th of next month.
You have seen the Presidents farewell address—a glorious setting sun. The French are pushing all Europe like the ram in the Revelations, and threaten to take all neutrals like pirates.
Pray could you, in your neighbourhood, purchase 10 or 20,000 feet of clear seasoned boards and send them to me? No? You say its impossible to send them? Well [torn] I was to send for them, could they be had let me.
Present our affectionate respects to Mrs. Cobb. Your son [?] Cobb we hear is in Boston.
The Binghams left us the 30th August since which I have not received a line excepting from Portland which they reached in seven hours.
Cobb to Knox, Gouldsborough, 19 October 1796 [KP]134
Gouldsboro’ October 19th 1796
My old friend:
What are you about? Not a word from you or any of our friends since I left your house. Bingham, I believe, has given this country up, and I suppose I go with it, for I have not heard from him or Bearing, altho they promis’d particularly to write me from Boston and to make such provision for me there as would be necessary to meet the purchases they directed me to make here. My suryevor and his men have almost compleated the survey of No. 17, and I have two carpenters, whom I procured from the westward, now at work on the house near my nest. The settlers who are with the surveyor are much pleas’d with the township they have chosen to reside in. If I could git them well settled down and making improvements there, their old acquaintances and friends would soon follow them.
Mr. Wilde, I suppose, has inform’d you of my escape from seeing our friends in the other world a little sooner than I wish’d. It was only an escape—one minute more and I must have given up. I desire to thank God I am still among the living, altho’ I have lost all my old friends and acquaintance, and have at present a rheumatism that has obliged me to be cloath’d in flannel, but life with all these disagreeables is certainly preferable to death, especially a drowning one. Falstaff did not like it, and from the experience I have had, I like it as little.
How is your health? How go you on in your various operations and what are your prospects of success in those and others of your designs? Do the sheep, hogs and cattle flourish on Brigadier’s Island,135 and are the mairs and colts at home in good health? You have such numbers of these with you, and your quantity of forage is so small in proportion, that I have been almost tempted to take those two undersiz’d mares, provided they are with fole and the terms could be made easy.
What is the state of politics? The President I see is gone at last. The French are uncheck’d; I could wish the insolence of nations might be curb’d, if it could be done without adding a greater degree of it to those who effect it in others.
Mrs. Cobb is in her usual state of health, and rather depress’d, especially since her daughter and Miss Barnum136 went to the westward. Their return is daily expected. Our compliments to Mrs. Knox and Miss Knox. You must not forgit me with Washington137 and the girls. Let me hear from you for God’s sake.
Map of Gouldsborough, Maine, about 1795. The handwriting is that of General David Cobb.
Cobb to Bingham, Gouldsborough, 30 October 1796 [BP]138
Gouldsboro’ October 30th 1796
My dear Sir:
Your letter of the 24 ultimo came to hand by the last mail, four weeks after date. My accounts for the last year I hope you have receiv’d by this time, as they went from this to Boston by water. I believe they are drawn out in the manner you wish.
All the purchases that I know of, which were made by Shaw in this town the last year, are on this Point. They were made at the request of General Jackson who receiv’d your orders for that purpose. They are four in number—Doctor Allen, Mr. Wright, Mr. Godfrey, and the heirs of a Mr. Newning.139 These were all intitled to one hundred acres of land in the township including the lots they owned on the Point, and I think Wright was intitled to two hundred acres. To Doctor Allen, Shaw gave two hundred pounds in cash and has a clear deed of the property. Their is a decent little house and a good barn on the estate. One of the settlers now lives in the house. Mr. Wright receiv’d three hundred pounds. Some of it was discounted for a debt, the rest is now due for which Shaw’s obligations are held. Wright gave a deed of this property but his wife would not sign it. It consists of two front lots on the Point and extending back perhaps fifty acres, with a poor house and barn, some ragged out houses and a bad tan yard. Mr. Godfrey’s consists of the decent new house, that I am finishing with the fish house and fish yard, being a front lot, for which Shaw gave him six hundred dollars in cash. There was some dispute with Godfrey respecting his title to this estate, which I believe is the reason of its being cheaper than the rest, but whatever title he had Godfrey gave a clear deed of it to Shaw. The estate belonging to Newning’s heirs is a front lot running back twenty or thirty acres. What title Shaw has to it or what he gave for it I know not. He only told me when he was here that he had obtain’d this lot from Newning’s widow and children and could dispose of it to you. The prices given by Shaw for these estates, tho’ very high in my estimation, were as little as they could be obtain’d for from the owners. But as I am extreemly jealous of this man and have no opinion of his honor, I should suspect that when he gives the list of these estates, he will put in others that he has in the town, under the idea of purchase, and at such prices as he has heretofore receiv’d for some of the property here, which is at least double if not three prices of the value. None of which will be of any use to you excepting the old mill seat, and for that he demands three times its worth. The places purchas’d on the Point will be of use to the concern, altho’ at present you must give more than their value.
I have not heard anything of Jones’s release of the mortgage on Mount Desert and Trenton, but if you left it with General Jackson to be transacted, it is probably done and sent to Penobscott for recording.
The deeds I receiv’d from you at General Knox’s, are recorded and are now with me. They shall be sent to you whenever a convenient oppertunity presents. They are too large to be transmitted by the mail unless you request it.
A late occurrence here compels me again to mention the advantages that would result from having two or three good houses built at this place. A whaleman with his vessel and family came in here from Cape Cod with an intention of residing and persuing the whale and cod fisheries out of this port, but the want of a house to accomodate his family compell’d him to go to Dyers Bay, next east of this, where he has got a shelter, and perhaps we have lost him for ever. I could now rent two houses to the families of masters of vessels that sail from this and Frenchman’s Bay. Those who come to this country to persue the fisheries or trade will certainly sett down in those places (and all in this neighborhood are equal for these persuits) that are best accommodated for their reception—and the goodness of this harbour will always give it a preference if other accommodations are equal. Since I have mentioned the subject of improvements, I cannot but observe to you the necessity of having a surveyor and chainmen attach’d to the concern, boats procur’d for passing to the different parts of the purchase, roads to be cutt, let them cost what they may, and on certain places on these roads, houses should be built for entertainment. The very report that such operations are going on in this country will raise the value of it beyond any calculation, and will turn the attention of all New England to this country. Such measures will enhance your property more in one week, than puffing in seven years.
My power for the sale of land expires the 1st. November. I have not used it in any instance, but I have promis’d to settlers, lots in Trenton, Mount Desert, now Eden, Nos. 7, 11, 12, and 17, and in No. 7 on the Schudic.140 They must be survey’d and the bounds known before they can be convey’d; I have likewise engaged the little island near the narrows, where Mr. Baring run the mud race and which the little Frenchman that was on board of us, wanted, for four dollars per acre, which price I wish you in your next letter to me to mention as the lowest sum you will take for it, having part of the purchase pay’d down, and the remainder in three or four years, the first year without interest. Mount Desert, now Eden, is settling fast. Many have spoke for lots there who are the sons of the old settlers. The shore lands of Trenton will sell for three dollars per acre, but we cannot yet dispose of them. This purchase of De Gregoire will much more than make good your bad one of Shaw.
My want of funds will probably deprive the concern of the use of the saw mills, that were design’d to be purchas’d, for this season. Money cannot be laid out to more advantage than in the purchase of such mills. They will produce annually from 20 to 40 per cent of their purchase; but what is of more importance, you secure the whole of the proportion for the logs taken off the lands.
The new double mill at Narraguagus will cost two thousand dollars at least. I am fearfull I cannot obtain it for that. The single mill in No. 7, five hundred dollars. The rebuilding of the old mill as much more. This, however, I shall not at present agree to, as I think it too much. The survey of No. 7, which is now finish’d, at 2½ dollars per lot, amounts to 360 dollars, and the compleating of the house on the Point to as much more perhaps. I think Mr. Bearing promis’d me funds should be left at Boston for these purposes.
I have now to request your attention to the subject (a very painfull one to me) that I mentioned at the time of my parting with you at General Knox’s. I suppose you have made Mr. Bearing acquainted with it before this, and I sincerely hope that you are now in a situation to afford me the assistance I so much want, as I have engaged myself to the Treasurer of the Commonwealth that what I owe the State should be paid in the course of the ensuing month. On failure, I shall be distress’d exceedingly.141 Indeed I shall not know what to do. The sum I want is 3,500 dollars which will liberate me from all embarasments. The mode of repayment you may arrange as you please from my annual stipend. If I should do otherwise than well, my estate at Taunton will be your security or your contract with me here. I beg of you not to fail me. I have always Mr. Bearing in remembrance.
Adieu and believe me sincerely
Cobb to Knox, Gouldsborough, 4 November 1796 [KP]142
Gouldsborough November 4th. 1796
My dear Friend:
By yesterday’s mail I received your letter of 18th ultimo. Rum and the waters of this country are the only avenues the people have to the other world. But for these and a little old age the inhabitants would be immortal, for they have no diseases. I never hear’d before that the Duke had taken his tour of drowning.
It gives me pleasure to hear you are so much pleas’d with your operations. Your mills must be good, and I have no doubt they will be profitable. You have one evil, however, to encounter, and that is a passage way thro’ your dam for the fish to pass up in the spring. I think you have not made provision for this, and it is of importance; for however well effected the people of Warren are towards you, yet this subject of fish will let them loose upon you to the destruction of your dam if you do not make this provision. On this subject this good creature call’d man cannot be restraint by any laws.143
I have 6 or 7,000 of season’d clear boards, not the best, which are the only boards of the kind in this country. They were to have been the best and 12,000 in quantity, but our friend Jones has cheated me in the quality and deceiv’d me, as he has in every thing else, in quantity. You may have them if you please, but they are hardly worth sending for.
It is a matter of great indifference to me where I reside in this country, if I had a good house to live in. I expected to make every sacrifice of present comfort, in expectation of future reward. I fear very much, I shall be deceiv’d. The concern do not conduct this business in the manner they do their other operations. They directed me, when I parted with them at your house, to make purchases of mills and to erect others etc., as would amount to near 4,000 dollars and promis’d to leave funds at Boston for this purpose. They have left none, intending to consult at Philadelphia what to do; and by a letter from Bingham of 24th September, the day after his arrival there, it appears, they are still consulting. By this means, they will loose another season of profit from mills and from the lumber taken from the lands. I am very anxious on this subject, perhaps too much so, but I know that all failures that take place in the operations here will naturally be laid at my door, and it is a burthen that I am very unwilling to bear for 1,500 dollars a year. I am certain, unless different measures are persued with their property here and that very soon, I shall be very willing to return back to my lost honors with some poverty, than to reside here in disgrace. If they doubt my integrity or ability, I ought not to be imploy’d. I have sent Bingham my accounts of the last year some time since, and I have lately represented to him the necessity of more attention to his affairs here. I am determin’d at present not to draw upon him for any thing, ‘tho’ I am under engagements for near 800 dollars here. But I shall make no further contracts. The property of this country is rapidly advancing. I have engaged, not less than twenty settlers lots since you was here, and I have bargain’d a little island for four dollars per acre. As you are going for Boston, will you be my correspondent there for the winter, just to inform me once in a week or fortnight, how you and others spend your time? And don’t fail of writing by every post as long as you stay at St. George’s. Mrs. Cobb joins me in respectfull remembrance to the family. Mary return’d last evening from Boston. Harry d---n him almost, [torn] not give me a letter tho’ on business.
Knox to Cobb, Montpelier, 12 November 1796 [CP]
Montpelier 12 November 1796
My dear Friend:
Your favor of the 19th ultimo is before me. It has lain on my table since I received it, and has like a bad conscience been an unceasing reproach. I intended to reply to it the first foul day which should compel me to keep house but no such opportunity presented, as all the weather at Montpelier is fine, and so I have taken a portion of precious time of the evening which Mrs. Knox and myself devote to our charming amusement of chess.
I have received but two short letters from Mr. Bingham since his departure, the one dated Portland and the other on the 8th of the last month in Philadelphia. The last was not so full of hope and good expectation as I presume his visit entitled him to entertain. He speaks of the success of the French, the alarms of the English, and the depreciation of their funds, as causes which must prevent the rise of our lands. He complains that he has not received a line from you since his departure and particularly that Baring was urging for the accounts of the disbursements which you promised to transmit to him. Pray, my dear friend, write him a minute history of every existing thing, and of every thing which ought to exist on his lands and how they ought to be conducted in order to make them most profitable. The lands may in five years be made to bring an increditable price, but they must be first made known. I have invariably refused to sell at less than 20/ per acre and in one instance I have sold for £40 for one acre and only 100 feet on the road. I am treating with a great number of Quakers, who are much pleased with my lands, and I think it probable I shall sell them considerable quantities. I do not mean by townships, but so that each actual settler may have from 1 to 400 acres. But write to Mr. B. and send his accounts. Urge him to establish funds, or draw upon him for such as you find essential. I rejoice for the sake of your friends that you were not transmitted to another grade of existence. I hope you will long continue to irradiate and cheer them.
My affairs here interest and please me exceedingly inasmuch as I am more happy than at any other period of my adult age.
My mills bid fair to be profitable provided I can obtain an abundance of logs before the winter sets in. I have a party at the logging business which after this week will not be less than 20 men and sixteen yoke of oxen. They will generally cut 200 logs per day, each averaging 250 feet of boards. Hence you may calculate upon my getting a considerable number of logs, but whether I shall get them to my mills will depend upon a freshet before the winter sets in. I have enlarged the old mill so as to saw plank 50 feet in length. It is now an 100 feet long, but I intend to add 20 feet more in the spring so as to saw lumber 60 feet in length. My new mill operates well and I shall expect to get from it a cargo for my vessel. She will be ready to be launched in seven days, will be about 140 tons federal measure, rigged into a brig and I beleive called the Quantibaycook. She would answer well for the West India trade, but there are so many devils there that I fear to risque her, among them. I can load her with bricks, lime, or lumber, or combine them.
We have been busy in ploughing up new land. We have turned up about 35 or 40 acres. We are now busy in getting manure for it. Already we have upwards of an hundred cart loads of rock weed and 100 casks of lime.
You will perceive that all these things occupy me much. Besides Vose144 has gone to Boston on my account for goods for a store. I have a vessel just returned from Philadelphia with nearly a thousand bushels of corn for a cargo of spars I sent thither.
My mares and colts are well. One of the mares which you mention is not nor was she the last year with foal. The other has a colt. They are fine blood, but bad breeders. They would be excellent for a phateon [sic], but too light for the saddle or a larger carriage.
The colts promise great things. Brigadier Island has done well—12 barrells of salmon, 200 weight of wool, five hundred weight of cheese, and two or three hundred weight of butter has been the revenue. My winters wood to the amount of 65 cords has been and will be sent to Boston, and I have contracted to have 2,000 cords cut and carried to the landing this winter, which will cost me 4/ per cord, the teaming to be done with my oxen. I hope you will not call this egotism, but the communications of a friend in pursuance to your inquiries. Burn, burn it therefore as soon as you have read it.
Buonaparte is my hero. How charming! how modest! If his army will stand by him, depend upon it he will not be ill treated by the Council of 500, the Council of the Elders, the Directory nor any other person or body whatever! I pity Wurmser, poor old fellow, to have his laurels torn from his brow, the growth of almost an age, by a boy, a surgeon! But he must not heal, nor can he heal Buonaparte. My little Caroline will not suffer that. What a devil of drubbing has the Arch Duke given Jourdan! day after day! pushing him like the ram in the Revelations! Have you seen the message of the Directory to the Council of 500, respecting the army of the Interior? What a melancholy picture! Not a sous for soldiers, not a comfort for the hospitals. They have exhausted every mean of requisition and they can no more! An explosion may be expected. The Spaniards will have to pay a serious reckoning for their entering into the war with Great Britain. Indeed, my old fellow, there does appear to be an hell of an uproar in Europe! Are not we happy in being out of the scrape?145
The federal interest in Pennsylvania and Maryland seems to have gained ground in the late elections although Johnny Swanwick146 is again reelected. Mr. Wild, who dined here yesterday, says General Dearborn had but one vote in the Waldo Patent from Waldoborough to Ducktrap inclusively.147 Mostly for Parker. Mrs. Wild and young family are perfectly well.
Having the itch upon me, I could write you much more, but my paper ends and chess is the word. Our respects to Mrs. Cobb and your family.
General D. Cobb
Stephen Jones to Cobb, Machias, 17 November 1796 [CP]
Machias November 17th 1796
I receivd per last post, your letter of the 30th ultimo.148 I shall pay particular attention to your request respecting the cutting of lumber on the lands of the proprietors, whom you represent.
I am fully of your oppinion that it would be much better for the people concerned in lumbering buisness, in a great measure, if not wholly to quit it; and attend to the farming buisness; but they have been so long in the habit lumbering, that it would be very dificult for them to quit altogether, especially at this particular time, when the price of every necessary is so very high. Should they be wholly prohibited from cutting logs, it would render the situation of many almost desperate, and be the means of driveing them out of the county, and Commonwealth.
I think the best method of coming at the value will be (after they finished their winter loging) to estimate what the logs will be likely to make, when sawed; and take each ones obligation for the amount, to be paid in boards, when the logs are sawed; for if it is let alone until the logs are sawed, in order to come at the quantity, there will be room for considerable jockeying in the buisness, by turning [?] of the boards without a surveyor, and pretending many of the logs are stoped, on the falls, and in the lakes, and of course are not sawed. I am of oppinion that your letter gives me sufficient authority to do what is necessary in the buisness at present; but any further advice that you think necessary, be pleased to communicate it to me. I am of oppinion that it will be best to run the north line of No. 19 as there is some persons that log on our river that pretend they are within that township, and we cannot determine wheither they are within it, accepting the line is run.
Mrs. Jones and daughter, present their compliments to you, Mrs. Cobb, and family, to which I add my own.
I am with sentiments of esteem and friendship
Your most obedient servant
Cobb to Donald Ross149 Gouldsborough, 2 December 1796 [CP]
Gouldsboro’ December 2d. 1796
On the recommendation of our mutual friend Mr. Sherriff Hunnewell150 I take this occasion of troubling you with this letter to know whether you will undertake the superintendance of the lumber that is bro’t down the Union River from the lands of Mr. Bingham whom I represent; if you should be so kind as to undertake this business, it will be necessary for you to have the following information and regulations to direct your conduct. It has ever been the wish of the proprietor that the timber on his lands should have been preserved intire for the benefit of the settlers who may hereafter improve the lands, but the habits of the present inhabitants of this country are so fix’d, and their living depends so much on the loging business, that out of charity to this necessity, he has consented to permit the lumber to be taken from his lands on these conditions: that no trees that are fit for masts should be cutt; and that he should be allow’d one eighth of the boards, at the mills, that are made from the logs thus taken off, and such proportion for any other kinds of lumber as is customary in the country, or such as your judgement shall direct. This proportion to the proprietor is the lowest that is given in any part of the District of Maine, and I have no doubt that the people with you will readily acquiess in the terms. If however, any should be so unmindfull of their duty to the society in which they live as to refuse a compliance with them, you will in such a case, be carefull to obtain proper evidence of the trespass they commit, and they shall be prosecuted. The people must certainly be convinc’d that it is high time that a stop should be put to their depridations upon lands not their own. This same regulation takes place from the Schudic to the Penobscot. Judge Jones has the direction of the business at Machias, and John Brewer, Esquire, at the Schudic.151 They find no difficulty with the people there; and I am persuaded, after a proper introduction, you will not, on the Union River. The places that will more particularly call for your attention, are the part of No. 8 adjoining the Union River, No. 14 and all the townships above,152 that communicate with that river or its branches. It would likewise be agreeable if you could attend the regulation of this business in Trenton as far as Jordan’s River, over such part of that township as belongs to Mr. Bingham, or appoint some faithfull persons there to do the business. Major Jordan has heretofore superintended this business, but as he has made no returns to me, I conclude he has paid no attention to the subject. I shall expect to make you such returns as will be an honorable compensation for the services perform’d. You will be pleas’d to let me hear from you, if possible by the next post, and if you should accept of this trust, you will inform me from time to time how you proceed in the business.
I am sir with esteem
Your obedient servant
Mr. Donald Ross
Knox to Bingham, Thomaston, 3 December 1796 [BP]
Thomaston 3 December 1796.
My dear Friend:
I ought to have written to you before this time, and I feel as if I had omitted a duty, in not having done it. Certain it is however that my omission is not owing to any diminution of affection or respect. The truth is that having been busy I postponed it from post to post until this time. For a month past, I have been expecting to go to Boston, but have been detained by my affairs (willingly enough) until this period.
I have received two of your favors, since your departure. The one dated at Portland and the other at Philadelphia on the 8th of October. The moment I received the first (which by the bye was not until after it had been to Boston and New Haven) I wrote to Mr. Tinkham at Wiscasset (the deputy Marshall)153 who informed me he had about the 10th of September transmitted to General Jackson a copy of the bill of Walker against you, so that I expect, allowing for all detentions, that you must have received it soon after yours of the 8th October. I did not receive your last until the 8th November. I wrote directly to Mr. Tinkham again who informed me that he had sent another copy, on the 18th November for which he charges me seven dollars.
I hope therefore you received the papers by the first transmission, and that you employed able counsel to attend the court.
Since your departure my employment has been considerable. My mills are in operation, and I am preparing a maazaine [magazine?] of logs for a years stock. My expectations are to saw three or four millions of feet of boards and planks of all sorts reduced to inch measure, in the course of about a year. My vessel is launched, being a brig of about 130 tons but will not depart at present.
We ploughed forty acres of land in November, and the autumn was as fine as possible. But on the 25th of that month we had the first snow of about six inches deep. Since then the weather has been unusually cold for the season, inasmuch as I am apprehensive the Delaware will be shut by the ice.154
The last year no ice obstructed this river until January, and the year before the river was not frozen at all. The upper part is now frozen, but it is open at our wharves, and before us now, lay nine vessels loaded waiting for a wind.
We are preparing for Boston. But our son Washington has been and is very sick, which renders our departure and progress uncertain. We shall probably go by land, as a water passage is too hazardous and uncomfortable at this season.
It would be fortunate for you and for me provided you could make a good sale of the Kennebec tract. A great portion of the land is excellent for cultivation and that which is not of the best quality is loaded with an invaluable treasure of timber which is dayly encreasing in its value. It is and always has been my impression that the timber only on that tract would at a dollar per acre repay a company all expences and in the course of five years nett them a profit of 100 per cent annually for their money. This is supposing a great capital employed to the best advantage in all respects, as well the cutting, sawing, as the after disposal, of the timber at the best markets.
My situation in this country is as flattering as I ought to wish. Every thing promises to repay me abundantly for my expences and residence here. The people are not only tranquil, but becoming more and more kind and strongly attached.
Lands partly improved to which I have given title sell quick from one to another at high prices. Uncultivated lands are rising much in their value. I have not sold any this year for less than 3. 33/100 dollars at six or seven miles from navigation and I expect to sell still higher to a considerable body of excellent settlers. I have sold small lots on the north side of the road about half a mile from my house, and of course that distance from the water, at 133. 33/100 cents per acre, and only 100 feet fronting the road.
But with all these prospects before me, which I deem really good I want circulating capital to mature my plans.
You have my dear sir been of eminent service to me for which I shall ever love you and yours. It would afford me inexpressible delight to repay the pecuniary obligations immediately, and particularly the eight thousand dollars which you mention. But this I have not the power to do instantly. Nay more I must appeal further to your kindness, by asking some indulgence in the payment of notes to the amount of five thousand dollars, which you endorsed for me in the year 1794 and which become due the 1/3 January next, and for which I gave you my acknowledgement at the time. I ought to have mentioned this circumstance when you was here. But I hoped an arrangement which would have enabled me to pay them when due. Any extra expences you may be at in this affair shall be repaid by me.
If it were possible to induce Mr. Baring to double the loan he made me, that is to extend it 17,500 dollars further, and for the same or a shorter period it would do me an essential service indeed! In this case the 5,000 dollars due the 1st of January could be paid and the remainder left at my disposal. It is with infinite difficulty I have brought my mind to the task of asking this additional favor of him. But the pressure of my affairs, and my anxious desire to extricate you from this payment, have overcome my reluctance, and I have written a letter accordingly to him by this post. If you will advocate this measure and make it succeed, my obligations and atachment will if possible be encreased.
To almost any other person the requests which I now make would at least be attended with uncertainty. But the solid proofs I have had of your friendship and kindness induce me confidently to hope that you will continue me your support.
Mr. Francis, the surveyor,155 made some inquiries of me respecting articles of timber wanted for Algiers. I mentioned to him the terms on which I could furnish the most of them, but to which I have received no reply. I suppose therefore that he has provided himself elsewhere. Had we concluded a contract, it would have been of considerable extent and of course furnished me with some funds.
It affords me real satisfaction to learn from several quarters that Mrs. Bingham, the ladies and gentlemen express their approbation of the District of Maine. The visit certainly will ever be precious to my remembrance, and in my judgement it must be of service to the country in its consequences.
Mrs. Knox, Lucy and Julia unite with me in presenting our cordial respects to Mrs. Bingham, Miss Willing, Miss Bingham and Maria.
I hope General Cobb has given you a full and satisfactory statement of affairs under his direction, accounts and all. I have urged him to this effect. He wrote me that he had had No. 17 surveyed, that the settlers had gone on it and were well pleased with it.
We were within a point of having three drownings the summer past. The viscounts (to whom I pray you to give my love), the Duke de Liancourts and General Cobbs, who was swept away by a current in fording a river, and was when taken up at the last gasp.
With perfect affection and respect
I am my dear sir, your friend and servant
The Honorable William Bingham
Union River 6th December 1796
I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of your favor of the 2d instant. Am exceedingly obliged to my good friend, General Hunnewell, for recommending me to your notice; and hope by a marked assiduity and fidelity to my employer to merit it.
I have no objections to accepting the trust you have been pleased to offer me. Am conscious it is rather an unpopular one at present, tho’ I have little doubts from my knowledge of the people that with only common adress, and a candid representation of the proprietors intentions, both with respect to indulgence to the compliant, and severity to those resolved to agress, that they will in a little while be willing either to refrain from the depridatory mode they have hitherto followed, or give a reasonable compensation to the proprietor for his timber. Am a little apprehensive that you have fixed the compensation rather high, viz., one eighth. On Mr. Jarvis’s grant, Mr. Brimmer asks but one tenth,156 and Mr. La Roche in his day had a ninth from the people of Trenton. However, this I submit to your better judgement and will be determined by your instructions. The part of Trenton which belongs to Mr. Bingham is equally convenient for me to superintend as the rest.
It will be necessary that you forward me by return of post some document authorising me to contract with those that are willing to comply with the proprietor’s terms and generally empowering me to superintend the business. I will then signify to them personally and particularly the plan you mean to have adopted and then publicly notify it, after which they can have no pretence of agression, tho indeed am not apprehensive they will persist.
Any services I can render you or Mr. Bingham in this business I will cheerfully and faithfully perform without dread of the fear or shame annexed to it.
Trusting to your and his genorisity [sic] for such compensation as you think my services may claim,
I have the honor to be
With much respect, sir
Your most obedient humble servant
Honorable David Cobb, Esquire
Cobb to Bingham, Gouldsborough, 8 December 1796 [BP]157
Gouldsborough December 8th 1796
My dear Sir:
My last letter was of the 30th of October. The last I receiv’d of yours was under date the 24th of September.
My attention of late has been chiefly directed to placing the lumbering business of this country on its proper footing. Untill this is done, all other regulations will necessarily fail in their effects. Mr. Brewer at the Schudic and Judge Jones at Machias have undertaken to enforce the regulations at those places. Mr. Ross at Union River superintends the business in that quarter. Other inferior characters at other places are likewise engaged to attend to this business in their vicinities. I have met with some difficulty, and it has required great persuasion, to induce characters of any respectability to undertake this business. They wish not to embroil themselves with that herd of people who live by depridation; and as they profit in some degree by this plunder, they injure themselves in their estimation in some proportion as they benefit the proprietor.
I have now almost compleated my arrangements of this business for the season, and from repeatedly conversing with the people and explaining the rights of property to them, I am persuaded that in a short time the present passion for plunder will cease, and agricultural industry succeed. But a constant attention to this subject is necessary and I make it the burthen of all our conversations. I cannot say, indeed, but I shall go forth as an itinerant and have this the subject of my preachments. The fear however of being blanketted may prevent me for the present. The attention of the people here to agriculture for the last year is surprizing, when we consider their habits devoted to lumber and fishing; there is more grain, ten to one, in the ground this winter than ever has been since the country was settled. This affords a happy presage to future improvements.
I have purchased the upper western mill in No. 7 for 550 dollars and have contracted for rebuilding the old mill in Gouldsboro’ for 450 dollars. The survey of No. 17 is compleated and I have receiv’d from the surveyor a plan of the township and the field notes. It is particularly fortunate that the lots own’d by the fortunate ticketts are in general the worst land in the township. This evinces the propriety of not purchasing in those rights. The carpenters have almost finish’d their business. The mill at Narraguagus, in No. 11, I shall not at present purchase, as they ask too much for it; I intend to have it however whenever the owners will take what is reasonable.
I have been anxiously waiting for weeks past for your mode of supplying me with funds for my little operations here. I can wait no longer. I shall therefore draw upon you for 1,200 dollars in favor of General Jackson, by the next vessel that sails from this port. You will see that I am under engagements for near 1,800 dollars. All the property of yours that I have in my hands is the ballance on account the rent of the western mill. This indeed I have never receiv’d, but it goes towards the purchase of the mill in No. 7. The proportion of boards due from the Machias people I hold their obligations for. They promis’d to pay them this winter. Whatever is coming for hay that has been taken off the marsh, I must catch it in boards and shingles in the spring, and whatever I can git for the last years loging in this part of the country I must take in the same way. The township I contracted with Leonard for he has transferr’d to a Mr. Parsons of Hampshire County who was here last July and promis’d to pay one thousand dollars, as part of the contract, in the months of September or October, but I have not heard from him since. This contract is on interest.158
I hope by this time that you and Mr. Baring have made your ultimate determinations respecting this country and the measures to be persued. You cannot fail, let your operations be what they may, of being benefited by them. Only operate, for every shilling you expend in the country will return you tenfold. I could wish that Mr. Baring was concern’d with you in the Kennebeck Million. I am certain, from late information receiv’d from that country, that it is better land than this, and will be sooner fill’d with inhabitants. It is decidedly my opinion the best speculation in this country. The adjoining townships on the western side of this tract are now settling, and those on the southern side have inhabitants in almost all of them, and not less than one hundred and fifty families are now on the tract. Experience has determin’d the fact that interior new countries subsisting by agriculture, will, in a given space of time rise in value much faster than a like quantity dependent on commerce, as a length of time is required to collect such capital by which commerce can inrich any country. Agriculture carries its capital in the industry of every inhabitant.
Some time since I open’d a correspondence with the Treasurer on the subject of the settlers now on the lands. His answer I have not yet receiv’d.
I have lately engaged four lots in this town to settlers, one for four dollars per acre, another for two. The other two are to be at a little harbour, call’d Birch Harbour, between this and Schudic Point. As this place will be very convenient for the fisheries, I intend laying it out into lots before any of it is dispos’d of, as it is delightfully situated for a little fishing town.
If I do not receive from you, very soon, some directions or instructions for my future conduct in this country, either general or particular, I shall not only be much disappointed, but conclude you have forgot you have any interest in the District of Maine.
I am, dear sir, with esteem and respect
Your obedient servant
I should be very happy in receiving a letter from Mr. Baring, to whom present me affectionately.
Cobb to Bingham, Gouldsborough, 13 December 1796 [BP]159
Gouldsborough December 13. 1796
My dear Sir:
I have this day drawn on you, in favor of General Jackson at Boston, for 1,200 dollars, which I hope you will honor. Nothing but the necessity of my engagements here has induced me to adopt this mode, as I have heretofore been convinc’d of its being the most expensive to you.
Our winter has come upon us much earlier than usual, and for this fortnight past the cold has been severe. Our bays are frozen up, but the harbour has no ice in it. Snow is eight inches deep.
Tomorrow I shall sett off for the town of Eden (Mount Desert), where and along the shore of Trenton, I propose a tour of ten days, to confirm the virtuous, anathematise the vicious, pay the taxes of the towns, and to make fair promises and offers, to the children of the present settlers, of good farms adjoining their parents.
I am extremely anxious to hear from you, particularly respecting the propos’d advance of 3,500 dollars as the time for the payment of it is now at hand. Indeed, if I should not hear from you in the course of this month, I shall begin to suspect that you think my services are of no use to you here. They will then cease of being any to me.
I am dear sir with esteem
your friend and obedient servant
Honorable Mr. Bingham
Cobb to Knox, Gouldsborough, 13 December 1796 [KP]160
Gouldsboro’ December 13th. 1796
My dear Sir:
As you are a bird of passage, I must shoot at you flying, and by directing for you at Boston I shall probably hit you. My last letter, was, thro’ the irregularity of the post, detain’d in the office here for a week, and thence probably you did not receive it, ’till after your departure from Montpelier. The early severity of the season has I conceive shut up your vessel in the St. George’s. It is extremely disagreeable to have any concern with vessels in the winter, especially in small rivers; I have heretofore experienced the evils of it. I hope your vessel is still on the stocks, she will be much better there than in the water. How did you and the family git to Boston? I hope the time is not far distant when you will cease these peregrinations. Mrs. Knox I know would be perfectly content to reside at Montpelier, but your attachments to the social pleasures of the city are not so easily overcome, and I am fearfull we shall never see you fix’d till you have grown so old as to be useless to yourself and friends, and then perhaps we may find you busying yourself at Montpelier about the place for your tomb and the form of it, if you do not git drown’d before that time comes, of which the chances are certainly in favor—or you may be Governor of Maine and be obliged to reside at the capital in the winter. In every view, it seems you are never to reside in winter at Montpelier, and consequently it will take two lives to civilize the Patent.
Not a word from Bingham since September—no funds provided—no arrangements for future operations. I have wrote him repeatedly, and in my last I mentioned that his omitting to write made me suspect that he conceiv’d my services here were of no use to him, and if so, they could be none to me. It is distressing enough to reside here without any additional vexation; and I have made too many sacrifices to be sported with. If I am to be left here I could wish to know it as soon as possible, and if no operations are to be carried on here, I positively will not reside in the country, for my only relief, in a residence among the worst of boors, is having some business to beguile the hours.
I have made engagements agreeably to Bingham’s directions, in purchasing mills and rebuilding others, finishing a house upon the Point and surveying a township, for which he has made no provision, ’tho’ Baring promis’d to do it before he left Boston. And I have been waiting for his mode of supplying the funds ’till I can wait no longer, as the payments are become due; I have therefore drawn upon him and have sent my son to bring the money to me as soon as possible. I have requested General Jackson to negotiate it. To have such vexations and troubles about the little sum of twelve hundred dollars in the negotiations of this country, where at least five or ten thousand should always be at command and in operation, is too trifling, if any serious exertions are determined upon. It is from such circumstances as these that I have concluded, that, either they have no confidence in me, or they do not intend to conduct the business here as will do honor to them or benefit the concern. If the first, I would quit the country in an hour. If the other, it would disgrace me to stay here. So that in either case I am grosely imposed upon, and have been induced under the most specious promises to make such sacrifices as will never be compensated.
Let me hear from you by every post. It will afford me consolation. And in whatever situation I am placed, you will believe me
Your friend and servant
Our compliments to Mrs. Knox, Miss Lucy and the family.
Bingham to Knox, Philadelphia, 22 December 1796 [KP]161
Philadelphia December 22d 1796
My dear General:
I have to acknowledge receipt of your favor of the 3d instant from Thomaston. I regret that my letter from Portland made such an unaccountable and circuitous a route. I wrote you likewise from Boston, but you do not mention the receipt of this letter.
I have submitted the bill filed in chancery by Colonel Walker to the consideration of Mr. Lewis, who requested me to employ counsel to appear at the court, as nothing further would be done than an order to prepare an answer, which Mr. Lewis will attend to. I wrote to General Jackson requesting him to engage a suitable character who attended these courts, and forwarded him an official copy of the bill. I have not since heard from him, but suppose he attended to the object. At the same time, it gives me pain that I should be under the necessity of so frequently troubling him. I am very anxious to know the result. Either in my letter from Portland or Boston, I recollect to have addressed you particularly on this subject.
I am exceedingly pleased at finding that you are engaged in such various and active pursuits, and that you will probably be so well recompensed by the result. I have no doubt that with your vigilant and superintending care, your property will rise exceedingly in value, as it has already taken such a start. But it requires a great deal of time and much personal attention to accomplish these objects.
I have no doubt that you might employ very advantageously a more extensive capital, which, actively engaged in a young country, will always turn to profitable account. It would give me extreme pleasure to be able to facilitate your views in obtaining it, but such is the state of monied operations in this city, that there is not the most remote prospect of success.
There never was such a calamitous period as the present. The disappointments that have arisen from the non payment of such immense sums as have been thrown into the market by our great speculators, have occasioned such a stagnation, as was never before experienced. When Greenleaf called his creditors together, he acknowledged that his paper (most of which is now due) amounted to eighteen hundred thousand dollars, and the property he possesses to oppose to these obligations, is of such a nature, as not to be easily converted into active stock, to liquidate the amount.162 Many others are in a similar predicament, who were not supposed to be of this class (such as Blair Maclanachan),163 which, with some unpleasant circumstances that have recently happened, has occasioned a very general want of confidence, and of course, a great scarcity of money.
Immense quantities of land will be brought to the hammer and are now advertised. If they are sold, by purchasers being found who are enabled to pay for them, they will be sacrificed at very low prices.
With all my efforts, I have therefore been disappointed in selling the Kennebec tract, which you are so desirous of disposing of, nor do I see any prospect of succeeding. If Mr. Baring would have taken an interest in it, instead of the upper Million, which depends on eventual arrangements with the State, it would have furnished funds. I have hinted a disposition towards such a exchange, but do not find him disposed to accede to it, even at the price he was to pay for the other, for as no price was mentioned he must naturally have supposed that the sale was to be made on the same terms, which I do not regard, on fair calculation, to be the first cost of the property, for by an account, herewith furnished, you will observe that the disbursements and engagements for these lands amount on the 31 December 1796 to the sum of $501,420, without reckoning any charges attending the management of the property.
This would, on a rough calculation, be near 25 cents per acre. Now the price Mr. Baring is to pay for the upper tract, is 1/6 sterling per acre, or 33 1/3 cents. Now the difference betwixt these two prices is far less than that which has attended the depreciation of money.
Any real estate, however stationary, in any part of the United States, that has come under my observation, if purchased in the year 1792, would now sell at double the price, arising from the increased quantity of circulating medium. This is not a comfortable reflection, but I believe, on examination, you will find it a just one, and that as far as relates to the Kennebec tract, a loss will be virtually sustained, at the abovementioned price.
I have therefore resolved to try again the European market, and to authorize Sir Francis Baring to make sale of the Kennebec tract, which from the convulsed state of Europe, he may possibly accomplish. With Duers notes due this day and the installment in June, I shall have 50,000 dollars to advance, besides the amount of the settling duties, which Mr. Baring insists upon being paid, in order to procure the remaining deeds that are pledged as security therefor.
With every disposition to oblige you that friendship or my best wishes can induce, I find it entirely out of my power to take up your two notes, of 2,500 dollars each, making 5,000 dollars due on the 15th January, and not as you suppose on the first of that month. I cannot even pay the debts that I owe, not having the means of liquidating a bond which I gave the insurance company for $20,000, except I have recourse to bank negotiations, to avoid which, considering the dirty insinuations that have been made on the subject, I would sacrifice any property I have, at any price.
With respect to Mr. Baring, I am convinced that it will not be in my power to prevail on him to double his loan. It required a great deal of persuasion on my part, and a full conviction of your punctuality in discharging your obligations, to procure his assent to the measure.
At this period, money has become, both in England and here, far more valuable, and engaged as he is, in more active pursuits than he at that time was, I have no doubt he turns it to much more profitable account. From the conversations I have already had with him, I do not augur much success.
To obtain money, on the credit of one’s name, by going into the market amongst the brokers, would induce a most exorbitant interest to be paid, at this time and in this place, which inclines me to think that you had far better negotiate for your supplies at Boston. As for the sale of your share of the profits, I do not see much chance of your effecting it, as this property has not as yet so favorably impressed the public mind, as to induce an anxiety to possess it.
I think your most eligible mode of raising money would be by a loan procured on the security of your real estate, if it could be effected.
Altho I do not think it could be procured without some difficulty.
Our ladies and all the gentlemen of the party present their sincere compliments to Mrs. Knox and the ladies of your family, in which I with pleasure unite.
Mr. Adams has secured his election, having 71 votes in his favor. Mr. Jefferson will be the vice president. I am with sincerest regard and affection, my dear General
General H. Knox
Ross to Cobb, Union River, 29 December 1796 [CP]
Union River 29th December 1796
Your favor of the 16th instant came to hand but last post. Having made no communications to the people here, in consequence of your first letter and waiting for an answer to mine, prevents me now from having it in my power to acquaint you particularly of the people’s disposition with respect to your proposals. The few that I have communed with on the subject allow the measure to be a reasonable one on the part of the proprietors, but still think it a great grievance to be obliged to give any compensation for the timber; and one of the principal millmen told me (half jest, half garnish [?]) that I had better not attempt paying them a visit this winter in their camps as I might depend on meeting with ill treatment and that binding me fast to a tree I might rely on. I replied that such threats would not intimidate me from fulfilling the duties of the trust I had accepted, and that I was determined to make the triall.
I will endeavour to give you a more satisfactory account by next mail, and will follow your directions with respect to the compensation. This day I mean to notify the inhabitants here of your proposals and determination.
I think it will be also necessary to do the same at KilKenny and Hog Bay164 and should I meet with tolerable success here, I shall have no objection to taking Hog Bay in with the rest. How soon you can make it convenient to visit this part of the country, I shall be very happy. Such fare and accomodations as my habitation affords you may freely command. ’Twill be necessary that you have a plan of the lands in contemplation with you, as it may prevent any disputes that might otherwise occur by interfering with Jarvis or Jones. I wish you many happy returns of the season and am
With much respect sir
Your most obedient servant
Honorable David Cobb, Esquire
And so the year 1796 ended with the hopes of all those concerned in the speculation still undimmed. Though there was, to be sure, little in the way of specific accomplishment to show as yet, at least the two men who must decide future policy had seen their property at first hand and presumably were, as a result, in a better position to act. Now, with the lands paid for, the legal complications of the purchase all but mastered, and the proprietors possessed of specific information, it was reasonable to expect that the program for the improvement and sale of the lands could go forward smartly.