THE year 1797 was a discouragingly unproductive one in the history of the Bingham speculation in Maine Lands. One might think that once Alexander Baring had come to terms with William Bingham and had actually visited the Maine property, he would be in a position to draw up a systematic program for the development of the lands, and that a campaign to attract settlers and sell them farms could be conducted with vigor and assurance. Bingham was certainly anxious to realize something in return for the huge sums of money which he had already expended on the property, but he was financially dependent upon his partner and was obliged to await the decisions of the young Englishman. Baring was cautious by nature and training; this American venture of his was the first large-scale operation which he had conducted on his own; and he was determined to make further studies of economic conditions in this country before he committed himself. As a result, he spent almost the entire year touring the United States: he visited the South in the spring; later he travelled through western New York to see how land operations were conducted there; and toward the end of the summer he embarked on an expedition to Canada, returning through New Brunswick and Maine so as to get another look at his property. Thus it was not until the very end of the year that he believed himself sufficiently well informed on American land speculation to come to a definite decision on how best to promote his Maine venture. As noted above, the final details of the purchase were not completed until the spring of this year, and Baring may well have been unwilling to make his final study of American lands until he could be certain that all the legal and financial impediments to his acquisition of the Maine property had been removed. Whatever the cause, operations down east languished, and much valuable time was lost.
This delay was particularly galling to General Cobb, who had accepted his agency in the belief that great things were to be done to develop the Maine speculation, and who was, instead, forced to operate on a shoestring. He was unable to build the roads he wished; nor could he found the “hot-house” settlements which he had planned nor conduct an active campaign to promote sales. His troubles with the lumbermen, who trespassed on the Bingham property almost at will to rob it of valuable timber, were endless; his personal financial problems were a constant source of worry; and above all, he felt himself abandoned by his principals in Philadelphia. He carried out what duties he could with his limited means, but it was not until he was called to Philadelphia in December for a council of war that his prospects seemed once again to brighten. For David Cobb, too, the year was all but wasted.
Finally, the year 1797 marks the beginning of the end of Henry Knox’s active participation in the speculation. Though he continued to correspond regularly with Bingham, the theme of almost every letter was his financial troubles. He proved unable to pay back the loan to Baring when it became due, and throughout the year pleaded with Bingham to extricate him from the financial quicksand into which he sank deeper each month. Though he continued to believe, in an almost Micawber-like fashion, that everything would eventually come out all right, his letters detail with monotonous regularity the bankruptcy that was always threatening.165 General Knox might still be useful to the concern because of his contacts in Massachusetts and Maine and his political influence with the Massachusetts legislature, but beyond that he was a liability to Bingham and Baring rather than an asset and was soon to disappear from their councils almost completely.
Since no important decisions as to the proper methods of developing the Maine Lands were arrived at by the principals, the documents which follow, covering the year 1797, necessarily focus on David Cobb and illuminate the difficulties which a land agent in a new country had to meet—difficulties that were made that much greater by the absence of either specific instructions or adequate financial resources.
Cobb to Bingham, Boston, 30 January 1797 [BP]166
Gouldsborough January 30th. 1797
My dear Sir:
Not a line from you—no, not so much as a hearsay of you since the 24th of September last. What am I to conclude from this silence? Certainly nothing but what must encrease my anxiety and distress.
My last two letters were under date the 8th and 13th of December. I sent my son with the last to Boston and to return here as soon as possible with the amount of the bill I then drew upon you for; the severity of the weather was such, that the vessel in which he took passage could only git into Portsmouth, from thence he went by land to Boston where, being detain’d in negotiating the bill much longer than he expected, the vessel returned without him. He came on by land and arrived here last week.167
My lumber arrangements are compleated for the season. What will be the amount, I will not even conjecture, as I was so much deceiv’d on this subject the last year, but of this I am certain, that if it was possible to obtain an honest account of all the lumber cut from the lands, and the proportion to the proprietor as honestly paid, the amount would be equal to any calculations I have ever made. The only mode to insure such returns as are any ways adiquate to the depridations committed, is to be possess’d of the mills that saw the logs thus taken off, or at least the most of them. These mills can be leas’d on very valuable rents and to be kept in repair, and the whole amount of the proportion for the logs secur’d. In any other mode the amount to be receiv’d will not be one fiftieth of the lumber taken; for however you may employ the respectable characters of the country to superintend this business, it is their interest to deceive you, and they will do it. It is farsical to expect honesty from such thieves. They settled here in the first instance upon the sole principle of plunder. The government have heretofore always connived at it, and the inhabitants have practis’d it for such length of time that it has long since ceas’d to be a crime to plunder the forrests of this country—so far from it, that the principle is completely revers’d, and he is the criminal who attempts to prevent it.
If it is yours and Mr. Barings serious intentions to improve and settle this country, you have but one great leading measure to persue in the first instance, and of this Mr. Baring is sufficiently impress’d—that is cutting of roads and building houses for entertainment upon them; if this measure is persued with steadiness and spirit, I dare pledge myself you will not want settlers or speculators to purchase your lands. Without it, every other measure will languish. The expence of doing it is certainly trifling when compar’d to the object. The whole amount, for all the roads contemplated (which is one hundred and fifty miles), will not, on the most extravigant calculation, exceed five thousand dollars, including bridges and causeways, and three thousand more for houses and their accommodations, this sum to be expended in the course of two or three years, during which period it is certain, that the income from mills, lumber, prompt payments from settlers and speculators, with the interest arising on their contracts, will far exceed the disbursements that this or any other operation can call for. If we advert to the transactions of others who have undertaken to settle new lands, we shall be convinced that this expence, so far from being extravigant is really paltry. When Gorham and Phelps first began to operate on the Genesee Lands, they were obliged to cut a road from the head of the Mohawk River, or near to it, thro’ lands not their own, more than one hundred miles, to come to their purchase, and which cost them above twelve thousand dollars. Williamson did the same to bring him to the roads that lead to Philadelphia, and at much greater expence. Indeed he says that before he sold a single acre of land, he had expended in roads, houses and other improvements ten thousand pounds.168 Can it be possible, after such experience and of the profits that have resulted, of which no doubt you are anxious to participate, that you can hesitate one moment about the measures you have to persue?
I cannot omit mentioning another circumstance respecting your Kennebeck lands. Two young men of this neighbourhood call’d upon me last week, who have just returned from visiting some of their friends in that country. They say that the land is much superior to any they have ever seen, and they intend the next summer to sett down upon it as farmers. They cannot be persuaded to remain here, as this country, in their opinion, is far inferior to that for farming. I have no doubt it is equal to any lands in the District of Maine, and must be very valuable. Do not be too anxious to part with this property, if you can avoid it. It will sooner yield you a profit than any of your speculations, and as large. The current of settlement has already reach’d this tract from the south, and has approach’d it very near on the west.
Mr. Tillinghast,169 the young trader you saw here, is now preparing for building his house; and I have lately been in treaty with the Cape Cod whaleman I mentioned some time since, who went last fall to the bay east of this to reside, to do the same at this place. I have some hope of success with him. I have likewise made an offer to a person who wishes to reside here, that I will build a good house for him on any spot he shall choose, he paying 25 per cent of the cost and mortgaging the property for the payment of the remainder by instalments with interest. I hope this proposal, if it is ever accepted, will not be disagreeable to you. Nothing, in my opinion, should be omitted that can encrease the number of houses and settlers at this port. The excellence of the harbour must make it a place of consequence and value, and some little attention should be paid in bettering its accommodations.
Inclos’d you’ll receive a state of the case of the township of Trenton.170 I have compos’d it from my recollection, in compliance to the wishes of Mr. Baring when he was here. He will, in reading it, observe that I am no lawyer, but I think he may rely on the facts being justly stated.
I have been so distress’d for some time past by not hearing from you, that I could not compose my mind so far as to give you a letter; and I have now done it only under the hope, that the next mail would afford me relief.
I am, dear sir, with esteem, and with an affectionate remembrance of Mr. Baring,
Your obedient servant
William Bingham, Esquire
Cobb to Thomas Davis, Gouldsborough, 10 February 1797 [CP]
Gouldsboro’ February 10th. 1797
My dear Sir:
Some time since I receiv’d your kind favor of the 29th November last, and have delay’d an answer in expectation [of] having it in my power to inform you when I should discharge what is due to the Commonwealth, but I am still unable to do it. I think it extremely unkind in my friends at Philadelphia to neglect me when they know my situation in this business.
It shall be settled before you retire from office.171
The plan you propose for ascertaining the settlers on the lands is the only one that can be adopted. I did intend to have mentioned it and to have proposed characters for your consideration in my first letter, but motives of delicacy prevented. For ascertaining the settlers on the contract for six townships, viz., Nos. 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, east of Union River, I would propose General Campbell of the Senate and Judge Sargeant of Sullivan, either of whom are, I believe, personally acquainted with all the settlers on those townships and as they are the only gentlemen of public character we have here, they appear to be pointed out for the purpose.172 For the million of acres on the Kennebeck, I know of no character, unless our friend Doctor Coney will undertake it. Altho’ he lives at a distance from the tract, perhaps he can mention some person that lives near to or on the land; and for the other million, between the Penobscott and Schudic, John Brewer, Esquire, of Passamaquoddy is better acquainted with the few settlers on it than any other character.
The assessors of the town of Columbia complain that they have receiv’d, for two years past, the Treasurers directions to assess a state tax upon that township. Number 12, which composes one half of this town, was sold to Mr. Bingham under an exemption from state taxes ’till 1801. Whether No. 13, which is the other half of this town, was sold under like conditions I am not able to say, but in either case the government cannot tax this town without a special law for that purpose. The plantations Nos. 8, 9, and 11, east of Union River, are under like exemptions.
I have been told here, sometime since I wrote to you last, that a petition had been signed by a number of our people and sent to Boston, requesting the appointment of Mr. Kidstone,173 a trader here, as a justice. I hope it is not true; if it is, I hope that Governor and Council will never notice such proceedings in future. They have in many such instances already disgraced the government and this will be an addition to it, if they notice it. Ten gallons of rum will procure signers enough to petitions, if they are to be noticed, to have one half the sotts and villains of the country appointed to office.
I must request a little of your attention to the subject of my son’s appointment. Mr. Parker of the Senate may, perhaps give as much information about him as any person and may probably be of some advantage. General Campbell, not knowing that I wish to have my son appointed, will probably advocate the appointment of Kidstone. But partiality aside, he is a very unfit man, unless inebriation is considered a necessary quality for a justice of this country.
Please to remember me affectionately to your brother, the late comptroler, and Mrs. Bradford, and believe me ever your friend
Thomas Davis, Esquire
Treasurer of the Commonwealth
Cobb to Bingham, Gouldsborough, 10 February 1797 [BP]174
Gouldsborough February 10th. 1797
My dear Sir:
I was much pleas’d by yours and Mr. Barings small letters of the 14th January,175 which arrived by the last mail—pleas’d, to think that you have not forgot this country and me. But I have my fears, that if any active operations are contemplated, the next season will be partly lost for want of an earlier determination as to the measures to be persued. I know it is a great field and a vast variety of objects that present themselves, which increases the difficulty of making a choice or of knowing where to begin; but in this as in every other situation, where a measure must be gone thro’ with, let us begin with the most simple and easy parts of what is to be perform’d, and the rest will follow very naturally of course. But if we never begin, we can never obtain what we wish.
If difficulties occur in systematizing your designed operation here, throw it aside and send me general directions, and if you cannot determine what these should be, send me a chart blanch with full powers for sale of lands, etc., and appropriate a capital of ten thousand dollars for my use, and I will cut roads, build a few little houses, purchase mills, run out the lots to settlers in those townships where they are entitled to one hundred acres each, and ascertain such boundaries as are necessary to know where your property is, so as to prevent trespasses thereon; and I am certain before this money is expended, you will see very clearly what further measures may be necessary, and what further advances may be required. But my present opinion is, that you will never have occasion for any further advances but what will be created out of the operations here, and a surplus beside that will be annually increasing to a great amount.
My last letter was of the 30th ultimo. The house wrights I employ’d here the last fall, have been working for Mr. Tillinghast most of the winter, and are now here but will soon be discharged. May I employ them in building a small house for a good shoemaker and his family, who is anxious to reside here, and whose labour we very much want? He pays rent for the house and will purchase it when he is able. The house and shop may cost 250 or 300 dollars. Most of the materials I have by me. It will add one more house and family to our city. If I should proceed in this business, you must not blame me, as I am so pleas’d in obtaining such a character here without the trouble and expence of sending for such a devil.
Please to make my respectfull and affectionate compliments to Mr. Baring, together with an apology for not writing him, and a request that he would accept (with your permission) of this letter as an answer to both, as I am now departing for Union River, to reconcile some differences between my agent and the log stealers there.
I am, dear sir, with esteem your friend and obedient servant
Honorable William Bingham
Ross to Cobb, Union River, 16 February 1797 [CP]
Union River 16th February 1797
I have just returned from making a short tour thro’ the lower part of Trenton towit Jordan’s River, the Narrows and Oak Point.176 The inhabitants are in general I find, very industrious in cutting and removing all the timber and wood that is of any value from the proprietors lands while they let their own lie dormant. Upon enquiring by what authority they did so, one said the General told him to cut; another that he meant to purchase the land, and a third that he intended to become a settler. Such trifling answers as these I told them woud not satisfy you, that you expected to be paid for whatever lumber was cut on your lands, or that otherwise you would commence prosecutions against them. Several of them has lately applied to me on the score of purchasing. I told them my authority did not extend to the sale of any of the lands, but that I woud write you on the subject and communicate to them your answer. They wish to know the price you sel [sic] it at, what time you’ll give them to pay in, and what security you give them of the land. On the other side I have made a schedule of their names with the quantities they wish for, with such remarks as were most obvious to myself on viewing the lands as I passed thro’ them. Should your answer be favorable to their request, they wish to have the lotts run out next May or June in which case if you have no predelection for another person, I hope you will give me the employment. Last Saturday two of the young Bartletts were here. They seem anxious to purchase that part of Hog Island, which you own.177 They say ’tis about 1300 acres. They requested I would write you on the subject, what you would take for it and how long you would give them to pay in, and to let them know your answer which I promised to do. You will much oblige me by dropping me a line by the next post on the foregoing. And am
With much respect
Sir your most obedient servant
Honorable David Cobb, Esquire
Contract for the Construction of a Mill, Gouldsborough, 3 March 1797178 [CP]
This agreement made this third day of March in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and ninety seven by and between Noah Hall Esquire and Elisha Goodwin Yeoman,179 both of Gouldsborough in County of Hancock and Commonwealth of Massachusetts, jointly and severally on the one part, and David Cobb of said Gouldsborough Esquire on the other part, witnesseth: That whereas, for the consideration herein after mentioned, the said Hall and Goodwin have this day agreed with the said Cobb to build for him a good new saw mill and mill dam on the place where the old saw mill so called on the western stream now stands; and of the following dimensions, viz., sixty two feet in length and twenty feet wide, to be boarded and secured on the roff from leaking, with compleat running-gear made of the best seasoned white oak or hard wood of the country; with Negro and Drawup wheels180 and every kind of ironwork and saw compleat for such a mill, excepting the drawup and other chains. The mill frame and dam to be made of the strongest and best timber and plank. And the whole to be finished in a workman like manner and of the best materials throughout, and to be compleated fit for use by the first day of October next.
Now in consideration of the premises, the said Cobb hereby agrees with the said Hall and Goodwin that they shall have the old mill as it now is with all the materials belonging to it and four hundred dollars in cash; to be paid to them on the completion of the mill and dam on the said first day of October next, and as in full satisfaction for the services thus to be performed.
In witness whereof we have hereunto, interchangably, sett our hands and seals the day and year above-mentioned.
Sign’d sealed and deliver’d in the presence of
Noah Hall [seal]
Elisha Goodwin [seal]
David Cobb [seal]
Bingham to Cobb, Philadelphia, 7 March 1797 [CP]
Philadelphia March 7th 1797
Your two letters of the 30th January and 10th February have duly arrived, and by the same mail. A continued scene of business in which Mr. Baring was engaged, previous to his departure for Charleston (from whence he will return in May) prevented his attention to that systematic plan of arrangement, for the improvement of the Maine settlement, which we have uniformly deemed so requisite. I only waited for his ideas, in order to methodize the business and communicate to you the result. My avocations for some time past have called on an unusual portion of my attention, having been placed in the chair of the Senate, after Mr. Adams’s retirement, and the Session of the Day has commenced early and terminated late, in order to expedite the public business, previous to our adjournment.
I observe by the circuitous mode of procuring the proceeds of the bill you negotiated on me, that not only much trouble, but considerable expence will attend the operation. I cannot account for such difficulties, as money has been much wanted to the southward and the greatest ease has attended the sale of drafts on Philadelphia from Boston. The commission, too, is exorbitant—from one half to one per cent is the highest ever known on the negotiation of an inland bill.181
I see with pleasure that you are continuing (with a probability of success) your efforts to arrest the progress of log cutting, or to bring under contribution those who are guilty of these illicit practices. There is no such effectual mode of reforming these rascals as by changing their habits and diverting their attention to agricultural pursuits.
I fully concur with you in opinion of the efficacy of roads in promoting population and improvement, in every new settlement. There can be but one opinion on this subject.
But there are various points of consideration to be taken into account, with respect to the particular time of effecting this operation, and the direction that it will be most proper that the roads shall take. Labor was so extravagantly high, when I was in your country, that it did not appear adviseable, at such a period, to incounter the expence, and there appeared a difficulty in engaging people who would undertake it by contract and at Stipulated prices. I wish to give a decided preference to this mode, as not only the most effectual one to prevent fraud and imposition, but the most certain, as it relates to oeconomy. Indeed, I would be desirous of embracing an additional modification in this business, which is, to contract for the payment of a certain portion of the demands of the undertakers, in lands, on terms to be specified. If by these means, the contractors would eventually become settlers, there would be a great point gained in favor of the proprietors, and a higher price could with propriety be given. The roads already opened appear to have been effected at considerable expence.
With respect to the direction of the roads, and where the operation shall commence, it is a matter involved in much uncertainty; and from a survey of the country, and from a probability of the course that population will be most promoted by giving a preference we are as yet undecided.
There is one position, founded on just principles—that where there are lands situate on navigable waters, they ought to be surveyed in convenient tracts and offered for sale and settlement, for the rivers and streams are natural roads, that open a communication of neighbourhood and facilitate the conveyance of produce from one place to another, in order to satisfy the reciprocal wants of the settlers. I therefore think that those townships situate on rivers, should obtain a preference in our views of settlement. There is a great body of land in this predicament, which I think it would be expedient to prepare for settlers, by the necessary surveys. Mill seats always abound on these waters, which are very essential, and if grist mills were to be built, in any situation where there could be an export of flour, I would recommend some burr stones. Indeed, it would be well enough, if the expence was too great for the owners, that the proprietors should make the advance that would be necessary to purchase them, which I would willingly agree to do.
I wish you would communicate your opinions on the subject of the most eligible direction for the roads you contemplate, and in what manner and at what expence you expect to be able to accomplish the object. We are extremely anxious that every thing should be done, that will contribute to the aggrandizement of this property. The situation, from vicinity to the sea and large navigable rivers, renders it very accessible to emigrants, and if an interior communication was made, it would enjoy every possible advantage, and the sooner it commences, the better. But attention must be paid to the price of labor, when the work is to be compleated.
I think the most oeconomical mode of furnishing you with funds will be by having them carried to your credit on the books of the Branch Bank, where you may draw for them at your leisure and convenience.
It may be prudent to make some advances for the accommodation of the first settlers; but it appears, that this arrangement might involve, if carried to any extent, a very considerable expence and might furnish a precedent, which may be expected to be followed, in cases of all new settlers in the town.
The harbor of this town is excellent, but to attract settlers, there must be a well cultivated surrounding country, in order to supply the wants of those who reside in the town. Unfortunately, the district in the neighborhood of Gouldsborough, is not the most attractive, from fertility of soil.
I hope that no operations that we meditated for the settlement of these lands will be suspended on account of your not having heard more particularly from Mr. Baring and myself. You certainly are authorized to sell, and I suppose you are making every effort to increase the number of inhabitants on the township which was surveyed last year, for where a settlement is commenced, the greatest exertion should be made to extend it.
You will please to inform me what sum will be wanting for your immediate operations, and I will provide it, in the manner I before mentioned.
Mr. Baring and myself have agreed to advance the three thousand dollars, which are wanted for your personal convenience, on the terms you mentioned. It shall be remitted to you, or you may draw for it.
I do not find that any mode has been adopted to determine the number of settlers on the tract, untill which, the deeds for one half of the land remain lodged in escrow. I wish this matter to be arranged as speedily as possible.
The immense demands for money, arising principally from the disappointments of the merchants and detention of their property,182 have thrown me into considerable difficulties, which have prevented my offer to accommodate you sooner.
I will write to you again in a short time. In the mean while, I request you to be as particular as possible with respect to all the objects that is natural we should wish to be informed about.
I am with sincere regard dear General
Your obedient humble servant
Ross to Cobb, Union River, 16 March 1797 [CP]
Union River 16th March 1797
Am exceedingly sorry to find by your favor of the 11th that the lumbago prevents us the pleasure of seeing you at Union River. I hope, however, you are by this time so far recovered as to be able to undertake such a journey when you find it convenient otherwise.
I will pay attention to your orders respecting Smith’s lott; you may probably have applications similar to his from several others from this quarter. I do not pretend to direct, but I coud wish you to defer giving them a final answer, till your arrival here. There are discriminations that am fully confident you woud wish to make, when you know there are reasons existing that woud dictate such a conduct. Those particularly who have been in the habit of transgressing, who still persist in it, who are very officious in confirming others in the same habits, who dispise and set at defiance all laws, and who now have recourse to any shift to evade them, and who would be desperate enough even to resist them openly—such people I presume you woud not be willing to indulge to their hurt.
I have given permission to several people to cutt wood and timber in Trenton; for the wood they are to pay two shillings per cord, for what is handy; what is not, they are to pay one shilling and sixpence; for timber, one eighth part of the value, payable in cash before shipping.
I shoud wish to have previous notice of your visit to this place, that I may be at home. Saturday I go to Captain Hull’s183 and dont expect to return before the Saturday thereafter. However, if you coud take the Mount184 in your route any time next week, I woud proceed with you this way.
I am with much respect Sir
Your most obedient servant
Honorable David Cobb, Esquire
Cobb to Bingham, Gouldsborough, 9 April 1797 [BP]185
Gouldsborough April 9th. 1797
My dear Sir:
On the 1st. instant I receiv’d your letter of the 7th of March. I am exceedingly obliged by the loan that you and Mr. Baring have been so kind as to indulge me with. My embarrassments for the want of it have been great, and I have been too much distressed by them.
Since my last of the 10th of February I have been with the inhabitants of Union River and of the towns of Trenton and Eden (Mount Desert). In this last mentioned town they are rapidly advancing to order and agricultural improvements. I have engaged six farms to the young fellows of this island, who would have paid me part of the purchase money in hand, but not having a power to give deeds (the power I have for this purpose expir’d on the 1st. of November last) I refused it; but I put three of them into possession of the land they intend purchasing. I was told of others, who are now absent, that wanted lands upon this island. Trenton is the best township of land, on the shore, in this country, but there is yet too much good timber on it to admit of the inhabitants doing much in agriculture. Jackson’s deed to Le Roche contains a valuable part of it, and you would do well to repurchase it, as well as the part of No. 8 that was convey’d. The Trenton part, as being on the shore, is at present the most valuable, but the soil of both is very fine and good. The objection you heretofore made, that the title to this land was disputable, can be of no force in your repurchasing it, as Jackson gave a deed of it to Le Roche with warrantee. Colonel Jones has 6,000 acres in this town and I believe would sell, as he is pushed. He has offer’d it, but as I told him you did not intend to make any further purchases, no price was mentioned. He holds these lands high and his price would probably be too much unless his wants are very great. He sold last year for 2½ dollars per acre. The inhabitants of these towns were very particular in their enquiries about their public lots as they want them laid out so as to make such improvements upon them as will facilitate the settlement of a minister and the keeping of schools. In De Gregoire’s deed to Jackson no reservations are made for this purpose excepting on Mount Desert, where Jackson has given 450 acres for the use of the town. I have never seen De Gregoire’s grant from the Commonwealth, but I presume that if these reservations are not particularly mentioned, they are implied by some expressions in it, as I never knew an instance of any grant or sale of land by the government without them. I shall have a copy of this grant in a few days, and if it appears that these reservations were made, what measures shall I persue to obtain redress? De Gregoire has a little property still left on Mount Desert, unless lately disposed of.
The roads that I contemplated opening are those I mentioned to you the first year I came here, that is, from the Narrows on Penobscot River (between Frankfort and No. 1 or Buckston) in a direct route to Machias; from the head of the tide on the same river to the Schooduc; and from Gouldsboro’ northeasterly to the townships in the Northern Division. This last road will pass thro’ a part of No. 17,186 where the settlements are to commence this spring. These three great roads will open the country thoro’ly to the view of all who may wish to purchase or settle in it. The mode of doing this business I intended should be on contract by the people of the western part of Massachusetts, especially from the county of Hampshire, many of whom intend to settle in this country, as some of their friends have already done on Penobscot River. The expence of it, taking into view the number of rivers and small streams that must have bridges and extensive causeways for the low lands, I have estimated at 30 dollars per mile, which for 150 miles, the distance I expect these roads will run, amounts to 4,500 dollars—say the round sum of 5,000 dollars. This, I imagine, will be the ultimate expence at the present price of labour, but the great change that must soon take place in the business of the United States will then give you a much better view of this subject.
However just your observations are respecting rivers being the natural roads of a country and affording great fecility of intercourse to the first settlers of it, yet I think there ought to be a caution in giving townships thus situated a preference for settlement to those on artificial roads. The farmer who setts down on a river in this country turns as naturally to a log stealer as the civiliz’d man does to a savage, and a thousand such settlers will give us no more value to the soil than so many Indians residing upon it, but he who settles upon a road and cannot with ease convey his lumber to markett, will cultivate the soil and give substantial value to the country he resides in. These reasons have operated with me to persuade two of the settlers that are going on No. 17 to take their lots two miles from the river, that they might not be in the way of being tempted to turn lumber men, and thence be a curse to the country and themselves.
In a former letter I inform’d you that I had open’d a correspondence with the Treasurer of the Commonwealth on the subject of the settlers, and the business is now so far advanced that I daily expect his answer approving the men, whom, at his request, I had mentioned as proper persons to ascertain and report the number of settlers on the lands. This business is now in such progress as will soon determine it.187
I am much pleas’d with the mode you have adopted for supplying me with funds in future. It is the best, and only one that will not subject you to certain loss. The last bill I drew upon you cost 5 per cent for negotiation at Boston. Whatever the cause may [be], southern bills at Boston are generally, and have been for years past, from 2 to 5 per cent below par.
I am unable to say what sum of money I shall require in the course of this season; perhaps two or three thousand dollars will be sufficient, unless I should make purchases of mills that may be conveniently situated. But in that case I can give you timely notice so as to place in the bank whatever further sums may be wanted.
The power you gave me for the sale of land expir’d last November, since which I have had no authority for this purpose. I inform’d you of this event in my letter of October last, but thro’ the variety of your avocations it seems you have forgot it. This power should be renew’d as soon as possible, for I contemplate a period not far distant when, by this and other resources I have here, my wants will be compleatly supplied for all your design’d operations in this country.
I intended to have made up my accounts to the first of March and transmitted them to you, but upon reflecting that my year commences on the first of May I have tho’t it best to omit it ’till then, and from thence transmit them half yearly afterwards.
Next week I shall attend the Court of Common Please that setts at Penobscot, where I have promis’d some settlers on No. 9 in Taunton Bay who have a dispute with an inhabitant of Sullivan about a piece of marsh that belongs to neither, that I would adjust their differences; from thence I intend going to Boston to settle my concerns there by means of the loan you have kindly afforded me, and when there, if I do not meet with Mr. Parsons,188 who has the contract for Leonard’s township, I shall visit him at Northampton that I may know what his intentions are respecting it. From thence, I shall return here. If you should have any letters for me that can come to Boston before the 20th of May, you will please to direct to me there. You may expect to hear from me at Boston or Northampton or both.
I am dear sir
with much esteem
your obliged humble servant
Cobb to Bingham, Boston, 9 May 1797 [BP]189
Boston May 9th. 1797
My dear Sir:
I arrived here the 4th instant after more than a fortnights absence from Gouldsboro’; one half of which was occupied in visiting Mount Desert, Trenton and Penobscott. I have seen the grant to DeGregoire from the Commonwealth, and there is no reservations made of lands for public uses for either of the townships in that grant. This is unfortunate as it respects the inhabitants, and will be some check to the settlement of the towns.
Before I came from Gouldsboro’, I convers’d with Colonel Jones about his 6,000 acres of land in Trenton. He will take a dollar per acre, two thousand paid down, the remainder in one and two years with interest. This price is certainly low, and I presume he never would have made the offer but from extreme necessity. This purchase is worth making. If you have any inclination for it, you will inform me by the first post, as I have some fears of its passing into other hands. It is possible that these lands may be obtain’d a little lower by the temptation of money in hand, as I know Jones to be heavily push’d.
By this post I shall draw upon you, at ten days sight, for the three thousand dollars you have permitted me to receive on loan. If in the closure of my affairs here I should require five hundred dollars more, which will make the sum I requested of you, you must permit me to draw for it. If I can possibly do without it, you shall not be troubled with it.
The Treasurer has agreed that the gentlemen I nominated should make the return of the number of inhabitants now on the lands. They will attend to this business immediately on my return, which will be by the 30th instant. The expence must be yours.
I shall visit Northampton before I go east.
I am dear sir, with esteem, your obedient and much obliged servant
William Bingham, Esquire
Baring to Cobb, Philadelphia, 13 June 1797 [CP]
Philadelphia 13 June 97
I have been wandering about so much lately through the southern states that I have not been able to write you as I intended on the subject of our Maine Lands. The few days I spend here are also so taken up that I must leave the business to Mr. Bingham, who has promised immediate attention to it. I set off tomorrow with Mr. Hope190 for Canada through New York and the Genisee. We shall descend the St. Lawrence to Quebec and from there proceed through New Brunswick to St. Johns and St. Andrews to Maine. From the information I last year collected I believe this route to be very practicable. We shall certainly find you at Gouldsboro’ the beginning of August. As we are not known in the backwoods you would oblige me to write a line to Brewer and to Judge Jones in our favor—we may perhaps want to borrow horses and I wish the people to be persuaded we shall not run away with them. We shall call at St. Andrews where you can drop me a letter if you please, at Mr. Pagans.191 I shall certainly call there. Mr. Bingham will write you in reply to the several enquiries you make and I am very glad to hear so good an account of our property and such pleasing prospects of its future importance. I am convinced it requires nothing but active management and some expence in improvements. For the former we trust to you and we shall be ready with regard to the latter to any proper extent. I am not sufficiently stationary to take upon me any detailed explanations but must for the present leave them to Mr. Bingham. I shall only say that I particularly recommend the immediate opening the roads as a necessary preliminary to every improvement, and on my arrival with you we will discuss together the policy of making purchases from our neighbors, some of which may be usefull to us. I am in hopes this will find you at Boston and if it does, I request you will defer your return to Maine a few days untill you hear from me again. I intend sending from New York the deeds from Mr. Bingham to me to you, and beg you will have them recorded in due form in the respective counties, taking great care of them. You may keep them untill my arrival or if you or your son should be going to Boston previous thereto, they may be left under a cover for me with John Codman. If you should be returned to Maine, I must contrive some means of sending them to you and I beg you will take particular care that due formality is observed. I am ever with sincere respect and regard, dear sir
Your sincerely obedient servant
Baring to Cobb, New York, 17 June 1797 [CP]
New York 17 June 1797
I wrote you a few days past from Philadelphia to request, if you were still at Boston, that you would wait to receive some deeds I intended sending you to have recorded in Maine. On reflection I request you will not wait any longer as Mr. Bingham and myself have resolved to send them to General Knox at Boston who will transmit them to you at Gouldsboro’. There are three different original deeds and three exact copies. The deeds are to be recorded in the counties with the utmost form and I wish to have certificates added to the copies that they are correct copies of the deeds so recorded which my lawyer tells me can only be effectually done in the recording offices of the county. To the deed of Gouldsboro’ town is annexed a map and to aid the recording this deed I have ordered a copy of the map to be made and sent you, as I believe it must be inserted in the books. I must request your very particular attention to this business which is of importance and you will please to keep both the deeds and copies untill I call on you in Maine.
When I left Philadelphia, which was two days past, the documents were not perfectly ready and I rather think Mr. Bingham will send them by some returning member when Congress breaks up. I find by a letter from Mr. Codman of the 5th instant that you were then in Boston, which leads me to presume my letters may reach you there. We shall set off from here in two days on our intended tour and hope to meet you in Maine early in August. I am ever my dear sir
Your sincerely obedient servant
Cobb to Bingham, Boston, 2 July 1797 [BP]192
Boston July. 2d. 1797
My dear Sir:
Some unforeseen circumstances in the arrangement of my private concerns have detained me here a month longer than I had any idea of when I left Gouldsboro’. They are now adjusted, and I shall depart for Maine on the 4th. But it is distressing to me that I have to return without your power for the sale of land. My operations depend so much on this that I shall be embarrassed exceedingly. Why it has been omitted I cannot conceive.
I shall be under the necessity of drawing upon you for one thousand dollars before I leave this place, five hundred of which I consider as on my own account and as in part of my annual stipend. The remainder will be accounted for in my operations of the ensuing six months. I must depend on your kindness in honoring this bill. It will be drawn in favour of our friend Jackson and at ten days sight.
In my visit to Northampton and other places in the county of Hampshire, I call’d upon some of those persons who were last year so anxious for a concern in Maine. They still wish it, but it is evident that the failure of the Georgia madness has damp’d the ardor for land speculations in that county. The tide of emigration, however, has certainly changed, and the reputation of Eastern Lands stands high in the opinion of the people there. Some families have remov’d this spring to Penobscot River.
Parsons who has a contract for one of our townships, cannot pay any thing at present; I told him it was not our wish to injure him in any respect, but on the contrary to give him every indulgence that was consistent with the security of the property, but that he ought remember that this indulgence would always be in proportion to his exertions in bringing forward the settlement of the country. He will be at Gouldsboro’ in the course of the summer. The price of labour is still too high for to venture on any important operations in our country, either by contract or otherwise.
It is unfortunate that Mr. Barings deeds etc. were not forwarded before his departure for Canada, as it is probable, thro the conveyance of General Knox, they will not reach Gouldsboro’ much before Barings arrival there.
I am dear sir, with esteem and respect, your obedient servant
Bingham to Knox, Philadelphia, 10 July 1797 [KP]193
Philadelphia July 10th 1797
My dear General:
Mr. Baring intends to make you a visit, after having, in company with Mr. Hope, passed some time at Gouldsborough.
By letters recently received from his father, I find that both he and Mr. Hope continue to be much gratified with the acquisition of the property, in which they are very desirous of making the most rapid settlements in order to turn it to prompt and advantageous account. According to their views, I can very evidently discover that great expenditures will be made, before there is any prospect of reimbursement. I believe this plan to be the most effectual, as relative to eventual profit, but not the most accommodating to those who, pressed by difficulties, have occasion for an immediate supply of active capital.
If the lower tract should not be productive for a considerable period, it becomes more expedient to draw resources from the Kennebeck lands. I have therefore written to Sir Francis Baring and urged him to a sale of this property, which I think the present convulsed appearances in Europe offer a very favorable moment of affecting. I wish you, if the occasion should present, to impress Mr. Baring with suitable opinions on the subject of this tract, which, by Mr. Morris’s misrepresentations, has been very much undervalued in the public estimation. Like a woman, who has lost her reputation, it is almost impossible to recover it.
It is curious to observe what a change has been worked in the public mind, within a few years, relative to lands. The success of a few induced the many to engage deeply in them. The sufferings of some, who may attribute their misfortunes to excessive speculation in lands have cast a gloom over the business, and every body is indisposed to adventure in this species of property. I am convinced that Europe is our only market, and I shall therefore make every active exertion to insure success in that quarter.
I should be exceedingly embarassed if another payment should fall due without deriving any additional pecuniary resources from this property. If a good sale could be effected, we should be placed in an easy agreable situation, and wait without impatience for the sure tho slow profits arising from the improvement and settlement of the lower tract.
Congress has been for some time past attempting to unravel a plot, in which General Blount is a principal agent, whose guilt has appeared so evident, from incontrovertible testimony, that he has been expelled the Senate.
It rather appears that the principal inducement to project the plan was to operate on the fears of the Spanish minister and, by bringing Blounts influence with the Creeks and Cherokees to market, procure an immense gratification from the Spaniard, for detaching these tribes from the British interests, and engaging them in favor of Spain. For the object was an expedition on the part of the British, against the Floridas, the troops to march thro the territories of the United States, from Canada upper.
I am rather inclined to believe that the discovery of this plan (to which the British seemed to have turned a deaf ear) was made to the Spaniard, by Blount himself, and of course much magnified, with regard to its aspect and consequences.
The communications of the Spaniard to the governor of the Floridas have so alarmed him, that he refuses to deliver up the posts on the Mississippi and is making the most serious preparations for a vigorous defence.
We shall probably soon find the clue that will direct our search into much of the business, that is at present involved in mystery, as a committee of the House is now engaged in a severe examination, with a view of supporting a number of Articles of Impeachment.194
With sincere and respectfull compliments to your ladies, believe me to be with the truest regard
my dear General
Bingham to Cobb, Lansdowne, 21 July 1797 [CP]
Lansdowne July 21 1797
Your letter of the 2d instant from Boston was received, after a long interval of absence, arising I suppose from the unexpected detention you were exposed to in settling your concerns at Taunton.
The neglect in sending you the power to sell the lands was an omission which can not be attended with serious consequences, as you can engage to furnish good and sufficient titles within a limited period. The error cannot be rectified, until Mr. Baring’s arrival, as he must join in the same.
Your draft for a thousand dollars has appeared and been duly accepted. I wish you could have confined your demand to a smaller sum, as the difficulty of procuring money has amazingly increased, and I am fearfull that we shall have but slow returns from the sales in the district.
I do not think it a misfortune that the rage for speculating in lands has ceased, especially as relative to that class of characters who purchased on credit in large quantities, with a view of selling for a profit, and who had not the means of fulfilling their engagements, if they were disappointed in such views. Such persons have been a curse to the country. They have not only injured its reputation by their fraudulent conduct, but have reduced thousands to misery, who had an illplaced confidence in them. I hope that those who wished to purchase townships in our district were not of that class. If they were, it is perhaps fortunate that they have declined fulfilling their obligations.
I observe that the price of labor is too high to venture on any important operations.
This evil I think must be soon corrected, as the recent distress of the country, by rendering money less abundant, will naturally reduce labor to its proper level. The immensity of the circulating medium, far beyond what the wants of society required, has been the instrumental cause of the unnatural state of things. However, I do not suppose that labor alone will be affected by the plenty of money. It ought to have an influence on the price of lands, in which case, arrangements might be made, from which no disadvantages would result, for lands at their increased value might be given in exchange for labor.
As an effectual remedy for the complaint, it will be necessary that the population of the District should greatly increase, for labor must always bear a certain proportion to the demand for it, and the numbers to supply that demand. It therefore gives me pleasure to find that the tide of emigration has changed and the current setting towards the Eastern Lands. I wish you had informed me whether this observation was the result of your own reflections, on viewing the increased settlements of the country, or the opinion of those who reside in those districts of Massachusetts from whence the emigration flows.
The public sales of the lands on the borders of the Penobscot, if purchased in small quantities by settlers, will have a very auspicious effect, as relative to increase of population. The lands are excellent in quality, and the advantages are incalculable, with respect to local position, from living on the borders of such a navigable stream. I therefore suppose that settlements will progress in this situation with great rapidity, from which, we shall derive an advantage tantamount to an occupancy of our own lands, as this is the natural door of admission into our district.
Mr. Baring and myself had serious intentions at one time of purchasing one of these townships, but on reflection, I can observe no great advantage would result from it, as their improvement would be equally advantageous, whether resulting from our own efforts or the exertions of others.
Leonard Jarvis made a visit to Philadelphia recently and offered me a tract of land lying betwixt the township of Orrington and our western boundary, containing in estimation, about 50,000 acres.195 His price was two dollars per acre. He did not even hint that he would take a lower price. I had no inclination to purchase. But at the same time was not displeased to find, that lands in that quarter were held in such high estimation. For the quality of the soil and the advantages of local situation, he referred to you.
I find that there is little doubt entertained of the District of Maine becoming an independent state, within a short period, as the result of the late appeal to the opinions of the inhabitants was in favor of this measure.196
I wish to know your sentiments on this subject, in relation to the advantages we shall derive in our prospects of improvement and settlement, by the establishment of this new order of things. The country will certainly, in consequence thereof, be held up in a more prominent point of view, and every encouragement be given it, that can be derived from legislative aid and protection, supported by municipal institutions.
There will be a contribution levied for the expences of government, but where such oeconomical habits prevail, it can be but trifling, and not to be contemplated as an objection, considering the catalogue of benefits connected with the new arrangement.
I observe you make no mention of the present state of Van Berkel’s suit. He filed a bill in chancery, and when the court met, he had no person to appear to support it. He was therefore nonsuited. Whether he has renewed the action again, or in what situation the business is at present placed, I cannot learn.
This business is certainly under your immediate care, as the lands which are the object of contest lay within the boundaries of the tract, which is committed to your superintendence.
As regular posts are established within the District, advices can easily be obtained from the council employed, with respect to the situation of this suit, as well as from General Knox, who is somewhat acquainted with the business.
You do not mention what progress you have made in ascertaining the numbers of settlers on the different tracts, so as to constitute a claim on the State for a deduction to the extent thereof. It is of essential consequence that the persons employed should be characters that will give themselves that degree of trouble which an attention to such business will naturally involve. Every omission of an individual who may be classed as a settler induces an absolute payment (and consequently loss) of thirty dollars, which renders it necessary that those who undertake it should be impressed with the importance of their mission as affecting our interests.
You do not acknowledge the receipt of a letter I wrote you some time since—rather a lengthy one.
I wish you would find it convenient to write to me at least every fortnight, however inactive may be your operations, as I wish to be enabled to forward copies of your letters to the gentlemen in England who are connected with this business.
If a general peace should be the result of the present European negotiations, there will be no part of the United States that will so essentially benefit therefrom as the District of Maine. The reinstatement of the French West India colonies will require an immense supply of lumber of all kinds, as well as live stock, and I have no doubt that many valuable contracts may be made for furnishing these essential articles.
Perhaps it might prove advantageous for the proprietors of the lands to purchase the mill seats, at a time when lumber is of little value and, consequently the mills proportionably low, by which means they would possess a monopoly of the lumber, or at least, so far as the exclusive possession of this property might be deemed such.
I shall probably send you an order to be executed for a quantity of small scantling etc., for the accommodation of the farm I have purchased in the neighbourhood of this city.
Have you any lumber that will answer to make posts, and which will remain sound for any length of time?
With my best compliments to the ladies of your family and your son, believe me to be with sincerity and regard, dear General
P.S. Please deliver the inclosed to Mr. Baring.
Cobb to Baring, Gouldsborough, 26 July 1797 [CP]
Gouldsboro’ July 26th 1797
My dear Sir:
Your two letters of the 13th and 17th of June, from Philadelphia and New York, I receiv’d at Boston where I was detain’d a month longer than I expected in adjusting some private concerns, and came from thence the 5th instant, without receiving a line from Mr. Bingham since I went from this place in April last.
I am very happy to hear of your intended visit to Maine, and I think you must be pleased with your tour thro’ Canada. Your road from Quebec to St. John’s will, I conceive, be much like the one you passed the last year from Machias here—not a bad one for soldiers. But from St. Andrews, I hope your and your friends anticipations of the welcome you will receive at the little hutt in Gouldsboro’ will smooth some of the ruggedness of the roads. The rest, if you please, after your arrival, you may forgit by a few bottles of champaine that are still left.
The Messrs. Pagan’s, whom I have informed of your intention to pass thro’ St. Andrews, will deliver you this. Mr. Brewer and Judge Jones are likewise requested to afford you every assistance their country admits of. You have my best wishes that you may arrive in safety.
I am, dear sir, with esteem (and with my very respectfull compliments to your friend Mr. Hope) your friend and obedient servant
Alexander Baring, Esquire
Bingham to Cobb, Philadelphia, 27 July 1797 [CP]
Philadelphia July 27. 1797
I wrote to you some days ago, and omitted to mention to you that you have forgot to forward to me the deeds, conveyances, etc., that were delivered to you to be recorded.
It is essentially necessary that such important papers should be collected together, and deposited safely, and you will oblige me by committing them to the care of some person, in whom you can confide for the safe delivery of them. The want of them prevents me being enabled to make up an account of some consequence.
You promised to give me ample information relative to the recent purchases made of Shaw by General Jackson, in which there appeared considerable deception and which occasioned me to write to General Jackson to request that he would make no further payments untill there was an eclaircissement on the subject.
It is impossible for me, at this distance to elucidate these points, nor is it agreable to make payments under the impression that I am imposed upon especially as I am acting for others who are concerned in the result, and to whom I am accountable.
You will excuse my mentioning these points so frequently to you, but the necessity as well as inclination to be regular and to introduce order into my arrangements must apologize to you. This disposition unfits me for such operations where by inattention or forgetfullness, important matters, connected with one’s system of proceeding, are passed over.
I shall in my next forward your account, ballance due from you $7,809.82, not crediting a years salary.
I am with regard
Your obedient humble servant
Cobb to Knox, Gouldsborough, 15 August 1797 [KP]197
Gouldsboro’ August 15th 1797
My dear Friend:
Yesterday I receiv’d your letter of the 8th instant. I have been long waiting for it, that I might know you was at St. George’s. I hear nothing from Bearing and I think he cannot be here ’till the beginning or middle of next month, altho’ he calculated being at Gouldsboro’ by this time. I am much pleased to hear you are so well satisfied with your mills, etc. Do make all of them profitable if possible, and I hope the commissioners will adjust your disputes with the settlers.198 They are a cursed ungratefull crew, but I believe that nothing but the strong arm of force, or your surrendering of the property, will ever give peace.
I am at present worse than a widower—Mrs. Cobb, her daughter and the two boys are gone to Taunton. They left me a fortnight since, and will not return ’till the middle of next month. I would certainly see you at Montpelier if it was not for the uncertainty of Baring’s arrival. I receiv’d yesterday a letter from Bingham, the only one since March last. It seems that Jarvis has offer’d Bingham his lands on the Union River at two dollars per acre—say 50,000 acres. He will do well if he gits one quarter of that sum for the whole together. He may in time obtain the price he mentions by retail. It would be well if La Roche was bo’t out as some of those lands can now be sold for two dollars, and his lines interfere very much with ours. I am running our settlers lots, laying out fishing towns, trying to collect something for logs, and preaching the principles of civilization to the people, with as much effect, probably, as other preachers.
Let me hear from you by every post, as long as you stay, how your affairs go on, as you know I feel warmly interested in your prosperity. Adieu
Cobb to Bingham, Gouldsborough, 7 September 1797 [BP]199
Gouldsboro’ September 7th. 1797
My dear Sir:
I return’d here three days since from General Knox’s, where I parted with Mr. Baring and his friend Mr. Hope proceeding on their tour to Boston.
Your letter of the 27th of July came here soon after my departure, and I have now before me this letter, together with yours of the 21st of the same month.
In a conversation with the Treasurer at Boston on the subject of settlers now on the lands, and on examining together the contract between you and the Commonwealth, it seems that the settlers must have the deeds of their land before they can be accounted to you as such. This makes it necessary that the settlers rights should be survey’d and deeds given them, before the gentlemen appointed to take their numbers can proceed on their business. My attention to this subject and to the settlers of Gouldsboro’, none of whom has Shaw ever quieted, has taken up almost the whole of my time since my arrival in the beginning of July.
The character of this country is rapidly increasing in the estimation of the people of Massachusetts and Connecticut, and at present stands high with that class of characters who emigrate from the counties of Worcester and Hampshire, some of whom came into this country the last and the present year and are settled on the Penobscot and between that and the Kennebeck. Those from Connecticut prefer, at present, Union River and the shores of Frenchman’s Bay. They are now purchasing from the settlers at those places. Their object, however, appears to be chiefly mills and commerce. Their can be no doubt of a great change of public opinion respecting this country, as you hear of its good qualities in almost every village at the westward, where a few years since it was execrated.
I know of nothing more of Van Burkells concern than what you mention. When in Boston I made an enquiry and was inform’d that his lawyer did not attend the court because he had not hear’d from Van Burkell after the suit was bro’t. That is, I conceive he had not receiv’d a proper fee for doing the business. General Knox has made the same enquiries. This business I imagine remains in the same situation it did before the action was bro’t, and if any other proceedings take place, you must be the person that will first know it. It is however of consequence that this claim of Van Burkells, whatever it may be, should be adjusted and settled. I mentioned this subject to Mr. Baring, as well as the purchase of La Roches lands.
I was informed at Boston that of the votes returned from this District last June, a small majority was against a seperation. I have ever had my doubts of any great advantages arising to this District from its independence, and these have increas’d since I have been more acquainted with the inhabitants of the country. That the value of the territory of the District would be advanced by such an event, is certain, that as a State it would be much more respectable and important, and probably thereby encrease emigrations to it. Its participation by its representatives in a bra[n]ch of the National Legislature would further these general advantages. But what in my opinion is a counter ballance to all these advantages is the principle of distributive justice and a regard to the rights of private property, which the great body of the people of this country have no just ideas of, and they are to determine, as jurors, what justice is. The reason at present why so few bad verdicts are given by jurors in this District is the opinion generally entertained of the great abilities of the judges of the Supreme Court, and the respect and regard, or rather fear, they have for or of the laws of the old government of which they are a part only. But remove this restraint, and you will have little justice in the District, except in the western counties. The principle of levelism is so strong in man that it requires a length of time for him to be habited to the principles of civil order before it can be so far subdued (it can never be eradicated) as to admit of his doing justice to others. Thence, large land holders have most to fear from the independence of this District. You are not to infer from this opinion of mine that the people of this country are worse than others—they are the same as others under like circumstances, as man always will be. The only mode by which large property in new settling countries can be protected and preserv’d is to have those countries a part of an old organiz’d government. The state of Vermont is a recent instance of the villany of men in the first stages of civil government, when unrestrain’d and unconnected. They are probably now a tolerable orderly government, but within fifteen years past, they were the greatest sett of legal robbers that ever existed.
Any orders you may send for scantling or other lumber shall be executed, only be particular as to size and length, and the use for which they are designed, as scantling is made here from pine, spruce and hemlock. The two last are not so durable when they are exposed alternately to be wet, but they hold nails the best. The larch timber of this country is equal, if not superior, to red cedar for durability, and is particularly usefull for posts in board fences etc. You may have any quantity of these. The size and length must be mentioned.
In my letter of the 30th of October last I inform’d you that your deeds etc. were safe in my possession, and that they should be forwarded to you by a safe conveyance, or by post if you desir’d it. You have never intimated to me since what you wish’d to have done with them ’till your last letter. You will receive them by Mr. Baring. In the same letter I inform’d you of all the material circumstances respecting the last purchases by Shaw that I had ever been made acquainted with, and I do not recollect that I ever promis’d to give you more ample information on the subject. When I was in Boston I enquir’d of General Jackson what you had done with Shaw, as you had mentioned to me when here the last year that you intended to pay all his demand before you went from Boston, and I was surpriz’d to find that you had done nothing with him and that no deeds had passed for the last purchases, when I had been expending sums of money in the finishing of one house and the repairs of another with a barn that belong’d to these purchases. This expence never would have been incur’d, neither should I have ever propos’d to you and Mr. Baring, at General Knox’s the last year, the finishing of these houses, but upon the full persuasion that you would, agreeably to your promise, have taken a deed of this property before you left Boston. On a review of this subject I am persuaded you must be convinced that you have not mentioned it to me so often as you imagine, and that inattention or forgetfullness do not so particularly apply to me in the transaction of this business.
General Jackson inform’d me that you had paid Shaw two thirds of his purchases, and that the last third was due this season which, when paid, you would receive deeds of the property.
In the last paragraph of your letter you mention that in your next you shall forward my account ballance due $7,809.82. I wish to know whether my account for the expenditure of a part of this sum, which was transmitted in October last, has ever been receiv’d or pass’d to my credit.
I think I mentioned in my little letter of the 22d ultimo that I had not receiv’d a line from you, except the letters of July, since March last. Inclos’d you will receive my accounts up to May last.200
I am dear sir
Your friend and obedient servant
Map of the Penobscot Tract about 1817. This map was drawn by John Black when the Bingham Trustees were considering a division of the Tract between the British and the American interests.
Cobb to Baring, Gouldsborough, 12 September 1797 [CP]
Gouldsboro’ September 12th. 1797
My dear Sir:
I left General Knox’s the day after your departure from thence, but I did not arrive here ’till the Tuesday following. I hope that you and your friend Mr. Hope arrived in safety at Boston.
I have frequently mentioned, in my different communications with Mr. Bingham, my ideas of the modes to be pursued for the improvement of this country. I will now endeavour, as far as I can recollect, to place them in one view under the following heads: firstly, making of roads; secondly, forming settlements on this shore and on eligible situations in the interior country with houses of entertainment; thirdly, possessing as many of the saw mills as possible that now communicate with the lumber of the purchase; and fourthly, erecting mills on such interior situations as will command and protect the lumber and for the accommodation of the new settlements. On the subject of roads, I have heretofore contemplated three great ones to pass thro’ the purchase, the first from the Narrows on Penobscott River, at Buckston or No. 2, in a direct route to Machias. The first year I came into this country I applied to the Court of Sessions to lay out this road, and they were then kind eno’ to appoint a committee for that purpose, who have already lay’d it out as far as Union River and will proceed whenever I request it or perhaps sooner. This road from Penobscot to Union River is not within the purchase, but the proprietor’s of this tract will willingly pay for the making of it, as a late law compels them to do it with damages; but after it passes the Union River it goes thro’ Townships No. 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 of the purchase and ought soon to be made or it will probably be done by order of the country at much greater expense. The second great road is from the head of the tide on Penobscot River direct to Passamaquoddy or Schudic River; but as this road will not at present be used, it will only be necessary to open it as far as the east line of the first teer of townships belonging to the purchase, from Penobscot River; the other part may remain for future operations. The third road is from Gouldsboro north to the head of the purchase so as to intersect the two abovementioned roads at right angles. There will be no occasion of opening this road further than the Great Falls of Narragaugus at present, which is eighteen miles distant, six or eight miles of which are already open’d. Other smaller roads will naturally require to be open’d as settlements are made. On the second general arrangement, of forming settlements on this shore, etc., it has ever been my opinion that the building of a few houses, say six or eight, on the point in Gouldsboro’ harbour would be of the first consequence to the future improvements of this country, not only for the temporary residence of the families of those settlers destin’d to the back lands who may arrive here, but for the accommodation of traders, fisherman and others who yearly visit this country for traffic, some of whom would undoubtedly be induced to continue if they had these accommodations. The different mechanics, such as housewrights, blacksmiths, shoemaker’s, tanners and brick makers, etc., that might be induced by fair words or pensions to come here could then likewise have a place of residence. Indeed I am persuaded that these houses would be occupied as soon as they are finish’d. The interior situations that have appeared most eligable for commencing village settlements, are the forks of Union River in No. 20, the Great Falls of Narragaugus in No. 17, the western and eastern branches of Machias River, the Schudic River and perhaps hereafter some spot may be found favourable for this purpose near the Penobscott, say the Passadunky. Houses and mills should be erected in these places as they become objects of attention to settlers. Whenever the road is open that leads from the narrows of Penobscott River to Machias, one or two good houses of entertainment should be built upon it. The third general principle will perhaps require no observations upon it, as you are already acquainted with the reasons that demand the purchase of these mills, more especially as thereby is secured a proportion of the lumber, for the logs taken off the lands, that no other measure can effect. The fourth general principle is so self evidently usefull that it requires but one explanatory observation, that is, on rivers where the mills on the lower fall cannot be purchased reasonably, by erecting mills on the interior parts of the river, the lumber above is protected and preserved from being plunder’d for the use of the mills below.
This is a concise view of the general outlines for operations in this country, which if pursued, cannot I think fail of producing all the benefits that you at present wish or expect; but to make the system perfect a communication should be open’d between this port and Boston by a regular coasting vessel of from 80 to 100 tons. This would ultimately be no expence to the concern, as I conceive she would maintain and clear herself if no misfortune takes place. She may be annually insur’d for a small premium. In carrying this system into operation, I should recommend commencing it upon rather a small scale, as thereby one should be able to correct errors without much injury. The inclos’d scedule will give a view of the number of hands at present requir’d and their expences, and the mode of employment; and the expence of the coaster boats for my use in passing to the different parts of the Purchase. Articles for the buildings should be kept on hand, such as lyme, nails, glass, paints, hinges and latches, iron and mill saws for the mills, provisions for the workmen, and some person employ’d to superintend and prevent their waiste. It would be a pleasing circumstance if a small store of English and West India goods could be connected with the operations here; but you have already given reasons why the concern should have no connections with such a measure. My son would be very happy to undertake this business if he had a small capital to commence it.
Whether all, any or none of these measures are to be put in execution, it is of the first importance that the townships on which settlers reside should be run out, the lots to those settlers ascertained, and deeds given them and all claims of whatsoever nature adjusted and settled, that you may know where your property is.
To carry forward any measures, you must be sensible, will require funds adequate to the operation, and those funds should be placed in such a manner as to be easily commanded. I have been so much distress’d on this account already that I feel extremely unwilling to undertake any measure ’till I know that funds are deposited for the purpose. To draw on Philadelphia is almost always attended with loss to the concern and extremely painfull to me. By this conveyance you will receive Mr. Bingham [’s] deeds and papers. I receiv’d another line on my return here from General Knox’s, of no very pleasing feature. He complains of my inattention about his concerns with Shaw’s last purchase, a business I had never any thing to do with, and therefore feel no guilt on the charge. I have returned him an answer. If you think of it, you may mention that I saw Shaw’s scedule in General Jackson’s possession and there is nothing more in it than the three purchases on this Point, only Shaw has charged full high for his trouble, but as Mr. Bingham has already paid two thirds of the purchases without a deed, he had better pay the other in silence and take a deed. Jackson has had trouble enough in this business and he despises Shaw as much as Mr. Bingham does. The sooner he is disconnected with the character the better.
I shall depend upon your giving me a letter before you leave Boston, and if any of the measures I have propos’d should meet your approbation, I wish you to mention them, as it will be necessary to make provision this fall for engaging men at the westward to be here early in the spring. I have sent for two carpenters. The wharff I have engaged to have enlarged and repair’d, and I am on the point of a contract for building the saw mill at the Falls of Narraguagus. The old saw mill you saw going is now down and the new one raising in its place.
Please to remember me respectfully to your friend Mr. Hope and believe me ever, with esteem
Your most obedient servant
[Cobb’s endorsement dates this September 15th]
Knox to Cobb, Boston, 16 September 1797 [CP]
Boston 16 September 1797
My dear Cobb:
Notwithstanding your savage ungraciousness in leaving me at Montpelier so abruptly contrary to my earnest entreaties, yet I cannot, such is the weakness of my nature, refrain from embracing an opportunity presented in the navy yard by a Captain Snow of writing you a line, and of communicating you a few occurrences.
1st. As relates to Harry. He is well, and as busy as a devils needle, in preparing for the launch which is fixed for Wednesday the 20. The President of the United States, and all the eastern world will be here. From the probable crowd and indiscretion, it may be expected as many lives will be lost as in a small action.201
2dly. As it relates to myself. I left Montpelier on the evening of the 5th and arrived here in twenty four hours. I was summoned by the sickness of Mrs. Knox who had been brought to bed of a dead child, and consequences followed which were deemed highly dangerous. But thank God she has surmounted all and will probably in a few days be able to ride abroad. My son is arrived at New York and expected here dayly.
3. The yellow fever rages at Philadelphia which is almost depopulated—the last information, 60 or 70 in two days died. The very demon of disease seems to be let loose in the West Indies, and in the southern parts of the continent.
4th. Some illiberal attacks have been made on Alexander Hamilton, in a thing published under the direction of Beckley, but ostensibly written by one Callender, a short hand writer of Congress, when you were there.202 The charge, it seems, was speculation and one James Reynolds, the agent. Some short notes or letters written to Reynolds by Hamilton were published as a proof. Hamilton it seems conceived himself in such a predicament, as to get rid of the charge of speculation at any rate, and therefore he confesses a course of adultery with Reynolds wife, for which it appears he paid smart [?] money in 92 to the tune of 1,500 or 2,000 dollars, a pretty deduction from 3,500 dollars!203
Myself and most of his other friends conceive this confession humiliating in the extreme, and such a text as will serve his enemies for a commentary while he Alexander lives, and his name is mentioned as a public man for employment. I wish I could send you the pamphlet but there is but one in town which is not to be had.
It is probable that peace will take place in Europe. Mr. Tallyrand is Minister of Foreign Affairs, and is probably our friend. I have no doubt our ministers will be received, but previously the majority of the executive of France must be displaced or forced to resign.
Let me know from your own view and information how many boards could be collected in your vicinity say during the months of October and November.
God bless you and yours,
Mr. Baring staid here only four days and left the town before day the morning I arrived, therefore I saw him not.
Harry gives his love.
Cobb to Bingham, Castine, 22 September 1797 [BP]204
Castine September 22. 1797
My dear Sir:
I am here where the Courts of Common Pleas etc. for the county of Hancock are now sitting. I have ever consider’d it a duty to attend these courts occasionally that I may thereby be better acquainted with the people, their manners and habits, and be known to them as an inhabitant of their country, but more especially that I may be at hand when any measures are propos’d for making roads, bridges, etc. that pass thro’ your purchase; as they have the power of doing these things and assessing the lands for the expence. They rarely ever want a disposition to do it in the most extravagant manner, when they can compel the large land holders to pay it.
I wrote Mr. Baring the last week, at his request, the general outlines of a system of operations to be persued, so as to bring forward this country as an object of reputation and profit to the concern. You will naturally see it when Mr. Baring returns to Philadelphia. Measures like those cannot, I think, fail of gratifying all your wishes, especially if you interest a number of individuals in the purchase of some of the townships.
I am inform’d by a person who resides up the Penobscot River that Parsons, who has Leonard’s contract for Township No. 26, is coming this fall to make a road from the river out to the township and to commence his settlement upon it. You, no doubt, recollect all the circumstances of this contract, a copy of which was sent to you in my letter of September or October 1795; and the conversation I had with Parsons this last May at Northampton, where I went on purpose to see him and others, you have in my letter of July last. As the contracting party in this instance has already fail’d in complying with the terms of his engagement, and as you have heretofore, I think, express’d that you thought this contract a bad one, which however is very different from my conceptions of it, you have now, perhaps, an oppertunity of evading it, if you think it necessary. The sooner I have your directions on this subject, the better, as Parsons will probably be here the next month. I have already given him encouragement that every indulgence would be granted to those who came forward with spirit and exertion to improve and cultivate this country. I really think that if he commences a settlement in No. 26 with resolution, that it will be, ultimately, the most valuable contract that could be made for the concern.205
Mr. Jarvis who resides here, the brother and agent of Leonard Jarvis of Boston, was directed by his brother to converse with me about the sale of lands to you that lie between the Penobscot townships and Union River. He says his brother will take 1½ dollars per acre for them. My answer was that I did not know your views on this subject, but I believ’d that you did not intend to make any further purchases in this country. Some of these lands on the Union River have been sold to settlers for two dollars per acre, and all that are thus situated will bring that and more; but if the whole are taken in mass, they are not worth more than fifty or seventy five cents at most. These lands are good, but no better than yours, only as to situation at present. But there is a vast difference between the price a settler gives for an acre of land, and the price to be given for townships that include a surface of water and uncultivatable places as well as land.
Mr. Jarvis, I am told, is much embarrass’d at present and would be happy to dispose of his property in this country. If you wish to purchase, I have no doubt a good speculation could be made, but the purchases that would be more immediately beneficial are La Roche’s and Jones’s in Trenton and No. 8.
I will endeavour to communicate with you more frequently.
I am, dear sir, with respect and esteem your most obedient servant
Cobb to Knox, Gouldsborough, 1 October 1797 [KP]206
Gouldsboro’ October 1st. 1797
My dear Friend:
Your letter of the 16th ultimo by Captain Snow I receiv’d a few days since; and it is with pleasure I acknowledge the goodness, not weakness, of your heart in giving me a letter. I have an apology for what you are pleas’d to call my abrupt departure from Montpelier, as it was remote from the place that required my attention, but the manner of doing it, if it did pertake of the savage, it is no more than what you and the rest of my friends must expect from the constant disappointments I have meet with in conducting the business of this country. Indeed, I am fearfull that if I reside here another year under the same neglects of the past that I shall be not only almost but altogether a savage. The inattention of our friends to this country and me is unpardonable. I can write and they will promise.
Hamilton is fallen for the present, but if he fornicates with every female in the cities of New York and Philadelphia, he will rise again, for purity of character, after a period of political existence is not necessary for public patronage. I should like very much to see the pamphlet the devils have wrote against him.
Philadelphia is again unhappily experiencing the ill effects arising from the democracy of the city. You already know some of my crude observations upon this subject, and have not a doubt that the unhealthyness of all cities will ever be in proportion to the prevalence of that principle.
I am more and more pleas’d with this country. A late excursion into the woods has given me new ideas. There is great quantities of excellent land, fine mill seats, delightful situations, rich intervals and meadows and intend every thing to invite the farmer who has hardyhood enough to attack the forrests. Only let us go foremost and they will certainly follow. Our concern are asleep. Mr. Baring when here directed me to commence a settlement eighteen or twenty miles in the rear of this place, a fine spot, and told me he should leave with Mr. John Codman funds for my use. My not having a letter from him at Boston makes me conclude he has omitted it, as he did the last year. Do inquire of Codman what has been done and whether he will answer my drafts. To be directed to expend sums of money and have no funds provided to meet it, has already distracted me; and I am sometimes almost induced to swear that I will never engage in any measure ’till I have the money in hand.
Captain Godfrey is waiting for this letter. He calls at Hays’s207 before he leaves Boston, where leave a letter for me to return by him.
I am happy to hear of Mrs. Knox’s recovery to health, and I joy with you in the return of your son. Present me affectionately to all your family. I wish our old friend Harry had done with frigates. I expect he will send me some cyder if it is not too dear. If it is, I must still drink rum.
Adieu and believe me ever affectionately your friend
We have no boards here and shall not have any this fall. Perhaps you find some at Machias.
Bingham to Cobb, Philadelphia, 2 October 1797 [CP]
Philadelphia October 2d 1797
I received your letter of September 7th dated at Gouldsborough, and find that there are still objections to the enumeration of the settlers, on account of their not having had their deeds given to them, without which you say, according to the contract, they cannot be accounted to me as such.
This is certainly a very partial and inaccurate idea of the business. The only settlers which the contract contemplates as being entitled to deeds are those which were established previous to the date of this instrument. Those of them, which were settled before January 1784, were to have a release of one hundred acres, on the payment of five dollars; and if before 1791 and after 1784, the release of the same quantity on the payment of twenty dollars. But at the same time it is stipulated that in order to be entitled to this deed, the settlers shall make payment, as aforesaid, within two years. But this arrangement only regards those settlers that were already established on the lands, previous to the date of the contract. All those which have arrived since January, 1791, form seperate and independent claims. On a supposition that the settlers of the former description do not pay their consideration money for their lands, without which they are not entitled to a deed, will they not be classed in the enumeration? Or will it be most expedient to give them a deed, and take their obligation for the consideration money, in order to constitute a claim for the deduction of the thirty dollars, to be allowed for each settler?
From the accounts I have received, it appears that there are great numbers of settlers which have, since 1791, fixed themselves on the Kennebeck lands. I suppose there are likewise many on the lower Million in the same predicament. These are all to be accounted to me as such, by the provisions of our agreement, and are thus specified on the back of the deed. They have nothing to do with those which are recognized as being entitled to deeds, from their settlement previous to 1791. Hence you will see the necessity of some decisive plan of operation, of a different nature, from what you mention, which will admit of immediate recourse to the enumeration, as no time is to be lost. I want the deeds, and I cannot obtain them without this specification of the number of settlers, or paying the forfeit. On receiving the papers, you will observe what is expedient, and act accordingly.
You can impart your ideas to General Knox, who being in Boston, will be able to regulate this business in a satisfactory manner. It is highly important that it should be no longer neglected.
There will be no difficulty in making immediate conveyances to the settlers of a previous date to 1791, as you can be impowered to effect the same.
If any difficulties occur to you and any explanations are wanting, please to make them known, as I wish this tedious and disagreable affair immediately terminated.
I cannot view the result of the separation of Maine, in the same disadvantageous point of light, that you do. On the contrary, I can foresee many and great benefits that would attend such an event, as connected with an increased consequence, which this country would derive from it.
Mr. Baring did not bring the deeds you mentioned you would forward by him. He has recently made an excursion to New York and desired me to inform you that on his return, he would write to you fully.
I have never as yet received from Shaw an enumeration of the purchases made of him, and do not at present know the extent of them. I desired General Jackson to purchase as little as possible, and none that had not an indisputable title. My enquiries of you were to determine this latter point. It would have been madness in me to have paid Shaw for his houses and lots, at an extravagant price, without knowing whether the title was unincumbered.
This business remains in an unsettled disagreable situation, and will continue so, unless you and General Knox will give me some clear and intelligible ideas on the subject. Being on the spot, you can by a small effort accomplish the point, and bring into light this business, which is now involved in a chaos of confusion.
With respect to your accounts, I will write to you more particularly by the next opportunity.
I requested you in my last to procure for me a quantity of lumber. Instead of five inches, I wish the boards to be six inches wide, and to be sawed with great care and attention.
The scantling is to be cut into two pieces, to serve as posts for board fences. Since the receipt of your last, I find they ought to be made of birch.
I am about making some considerable improvements on a country seat, I have lately purchased,208 and shall probably forward you a list of some additional articles of lumber, that I shall have occasion for.
In the mean time, with my best compliments to your family, I am with sincere regard
Your obedient humble servant
Cobb to Bingham, Gouldsborough, 11 October 1797 [BP]209
Gouldsborough October 11th. 1797
My dear Sir:
My last letter was from Castine. On my return here, I commenced an excursion into the woods, and with other places I visited No. 17 on the Narraguagus, the great falls of which are exceedingly well calculated for mills. It extends one hundred rods in length and the perpendicular descent cannot be less than sixty feet. The township, as to soil, is good, not however the best. One half of it has been burnt and is now in plains or bushes thro’ which wind a number of rivulets borderd with excellent natural meadows affording two and three tons per acre. The rest of the township is chiefly hard wood and some of it very good with large spots of interval upon the river. The great extent of natural meadows in this township will insure its settlement by farmers; those of that class who came here the last year to settle on this township, and who promis’d me the last spring to improve their lots there, have been prevented by timidity from undertaking it. Their wives and children have so many of their little fears about them, they cannot be persuaded to live eight or ten miles from other inhabitants. But let me go foremost and they will certainly follow. Agreeably to this idea, and in conformity with Mr. Barings opinion, I have contracted for building a mill at the falls in No. 17 and intended to have had it finish’d before the severity of the winter came on, so as to have work’d it early in spring, but as there is no funds provided I shall proceed no further in the business.
A surveyor is now running out the settlers lots in Nos. 11 and 12, and another surveyor is at work on the boat harbours between this port and Schudic Point in this town. He is running those harbours into lots for fishermen. I have engaged eight of these lots, three of them to persons who have been fishing on this coast the present season and will come the next spring with their families. Two of them are from the county of Plymouth, Massachusetts, the other from Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The mill I contracted to have rebuilt is now up and will be finish’d this month. The timber is already procured for repairing and enlarging the wharf. I expect two carpenters by the return of a vessel from Boston. These characters I hope to make permanent here.
I have call’d upon my agents who had the superintendance of the loging business in different quarters, to make their returns. None have been receiv’d yet.
I am more and more persuaded that you can never have any adequate returns for the pillage committed on the forrests, but by occupying immediately the mill seats on all the rivers of any extent, that are above those now improv’d by the present inhabitants, even if you could purchase the present mills at a reasonable price, which however is not to be done. As by this means you throw a number of inhabitants into those townships where mills are erected, and where you want them, at the same time, you put a compleat check to all future pillage; and if at any time, to prevent the poor devils below from starving, you permit the taking of timber, you can always ascertain the quantity taken, as it must pass your dams, and then the toll can be received accordingly.
Mr. Baring’s early departure from Boston has prevented your receiving the deeds and papers by him as was intended. General Jackson has however inform’d me that they have been forwarded by a safe conveyance. I hope they have been receiv’d.
The deeds to Messrs. Willing and Crammond210 arrived here yesterday, and this morning they were sent off with my son to Machias for recording; when they return, they will be sent in like manner to Castine, after which they shall be forwarded by the earliest conveyance to General Jackson at Boston from whom you will receive them.
I am dear sir, with esteem and respect
Your most obedient servant
Honorable William Bingham
Cobb to Bingham, Gouldsborough, 19 October 1797 [BP]211
Gouldsborough October 19th 1797
My dear Sir:
My son returned here the last evening from Machias, and to morrow morning he setts off for Castine to have the deeds recorded in this county; by the time he returns here a vessel from this port will sail for Boston, by which the deeds will be convey’d to General Jackson.
Your letter of the 13th ultimo was receiv’d on the 15th instant. Particular attention shall be paid to the lumber you request, but as the winter is the only time that logs can be procured from the forrests, it is probable these articles cannot be ready for you ’till next spring. For your posts I shall procure the larch, which has the reputation in Europe as well as here, of being the most durable of woods. The scantling you mention for this purpose of 16½ feet in length, is I conceive for two posts.
Yesterday I receiv’d a letter from a Mr. De Forest, a young merchant at Sullivan, requesting the purchase of Township No. 20 on Union River. He is lately from Connecticut and one of a merchantile house at Newfield in that State.212 I returned him for answer that I was not at liberty to dispose of any of your townships on that river, as they were under previous engagements. My reasons for returning this answer were that this township and No. 14 below it (Van Burkell’s) are two of the best as to soil and situation of any in the whole Purchase, and thence I conceive ought not to be sold in townships, but to settlers. Number 20 likewise has two valuable mill seats, one of which I intended to occupy in the same manner I have propos’d to do with the falls of Narraguagus. A large quantity of excellent pine trees are near to this mill seat, and which for the present escaped the devouring clutches of the infernal plunderers. Furthermore, I knew that Mr. De Forest’s object in the propos’d purchase was solely the possession of these pines and mill seats, and I almost hate the man who purchases or settles in this country for the purpose of lumbering only. However, as he appears by his letter to be very anxious for an immediate purchase, you may perhaps think it best to comply with his wishes. I shall with pleasure obey any directions you may communicate.
Since the conveyance of this property to Messrs. Willing and Cramond, it will be necessary for me to have a joint power for the management of the business here. And whatever measures are to be persued, the sooner I am made acquainted with them the better.
I am dear sir with respect
Your obedient servant
Honorable William Bingham
Knox to Bingham, Boston, 22 October 1797 [BP]
Boston 22 October 1797.
My dear Sir:
In addressing you, I feel the awkwardness of a confessing and repenting sinner. But like him I hope for pardon, not for my own merits, but because I beleive you would have no gratification in my condemnation.
Your letter of the 30th of the last month came safely to hand. Yours of the 10th of July I received at St. Georges.213
Although my name was not in the list of persons presented to the public on the attempts to launch the frigate, yet I was present to participate deeply of the mortification. A contrary sensation however took place yesterday. We were highly delighted, by a fine launch of one of the finest vessels on the ocean. You know we Boston people speak in the superlative. For my part, all expence and risque notwithstanding, I am one who rejoices in the creation of every mean of independence and national strength. I hope to see in the course of ten years hence that number of ships of the line and frigates.214
I am much gratified at Mr. Barings handsome compliments of my situation and improvements. I have not the shadow of doubt of the ultimate success in the most ample degree. My expences are made, and my reimbursement will commence with the peace for which I am preparing with all my might. I shall have but little short of thirty saws going in a short period, which will be in a condition to saw many millions of feet of boards annually and a certainty of a sufficiency of stock, or logs to furnish the mills for many years. At present, insurance is so high that lumber cannot be exported either to the West Indies or Europe with any profit, and all building in America seems suspended for the present. But a peace and the supplies required both in Europe and the West Indies will make lumber rise, while all or most other articles will fall.
My five locks at St. Georges Falls will all be completed this fall, and passable in fifteen or twenty days from the present time. They will save in my own operations, and produce from others, a revenue of 50 per cent annually upon the capital expended upon them.
My settlers are mostly tranquilized, and will probably be among the most industrious, orderly and thriving settlers in any new country in the United States.
I do not think it very probable the District of Maine will be anxiously desirous of independence or that it will be effected in less than seven years. I hope before that time you will have made such modifications and sales of the property as to be uninjured by any event. But I beleive, let the circumstance of independence happen when it may, that the security of property will not be lessened by it. It certainly will be my interest and duty to endevor by any seasonable sacrifice that there should be no violation of contracts, nor injury to real estates. But it is questionable whether they would choose me as cheif magistrate or, if they would, whether my own or the interest of my friends would be promoted thereby.
General Henry Knox Lays Down the Law to Squatters
I am extremely sorry that your prospects of European sales seem to be so uncertain. I was in hopes that Sir Francis Baring or Mr. Talon would have effected a favorable sale of the Kennebec tract in the whole, or in part. I beleive it would be a very favorable operation to any monied capital, and produce an abundant profit. But it must be acted upon. It must be populated, it must have roads cut, and establishments effected here and there. In short, in order to be able to reimburse its cost with great profit, it must be lighted up. People must know it.
The emigrations from the southern parts of this State, from the counties of Worcester and Essex and from the southern parts of New Hampshire, are great, and incessant. Lands, of course, rise at all the points to which the emigrations tend. But still there is very little competition among the monied men to get possessed of lands, although a disposition is creating, and encreasing to that end. And it must encrease, as a monied capital shall be accumulated. But at present no sales of large tracts can be effected, as the Georgia bubble has left the most melancholy impressions, by the wrecks it made, on the minds of men, otherwise favorably disposed to landed operations. Besides, some of the Georgia purchasers were holders of lands in Maine, and they are now compelled to part with those lands at a forced sale. It will therefore be next to impossible to raise any considerable sum at present in this quarter from the sale of lands in Maine. If this be true as I beleive it is, how would it answer to endevor to sell to Messrs. Hope and Baring, at a proper price, the whole of the lower tract? I am inclined to the opinion from his favorable sentiments of the country, that he would embrace this idea. If this could be effected, it might releive you and releive me.
I am glad that Mr. Barings opinion of the value of the Kennebec tract is changed for the better. I have good reason to beleive that if he could actually have viewed it, that he would have been charmed with it. Its lumber, and the situations for mills, are in themselves sources of unbounded wealth. But it requires a special agent, who should actively employ a capital, to exhibit a specimen of what the country is susceptible. At present, it is all darkness there, save the glimmerings made by the plunderers of the lumber.
When Mr. Baring was at my house, I did not speak to him on the subject of the loan he furnished me the last year, as I then expected to see him again in this town, as he informed me that he should reside here some time, but he had departed just before my arrival, having been suddenly called away.
It would indeed afford me a precious consolation to be able to pay punctually the amount borrowed. But the great sums which I have been constrained to expend or relinquish my pursuits and expectations, will render punctual payment extremely difficult if not utterly impracticable. If payment should be insisted upon, the first of January, it would prostrate me, and blast all my hopes. But if he could extend the loan for one or at most two years, I should gladly stipulate any compensation that could be desired. I have been attempting a sale or negotiation which would have enabled me to comply in part, but which has failed.
Suffer me therefore, my dear friend, to endevor to effectuate a postponement of this demand for the above mentioned period. I say nothing about obligation to you. That is already too great to be expressed. In one sentence, a postponement will be my salvation; a rigid demand of payment, my ruin. For Gods sake therefore exert yourself on the occasion and let me know the result.
Mrs. Knox was dangerously sick having been brought to bed with a dead child. She is now recovered and unites with me and my daughter in offering our respects to Mrs. Bingham and the young ladies, not for the world omitting Miss Willing.
The Messrs. Orleans215 are here. They will go tomorrow for Portsmouth. I hope they will be pleased with their eastern tour. They are highly interesting.
How afflicted is Philadelphia? We all weep for her, and hope, with some mingled devotion that the like may not happen again.
Yours with true affection
Ross to Cobb, Union River, 24 October 1797 [CP]
Union River October 24th 1797
Am much pleased in having occasion to acknowledge the honor of receiving your letter of the 19th instant, and agreeable to your request have now inclosed you a statement of the different species of lumber that has been cut in Trenton under my permission. Am sorry it has not been more productive to the proprietors, who am very sensible are much imposed on, and till they adopt some more rigorous course, ’twill always be the case. I imagine there has been eight or nine hundred thousand feet of boards sawed here this year that has been taken off the proprietor’s lands, which woud have afforded a tolerable revenue coud it be collected. Am very sorry it happened so that you coud not make it convenient to visit this place last winter before they commenced logging, as several of them then shewed a willingness to comply with the terms offer’d, which however they have retracted on finding that the tresspassers were not molested. I shall esteem myself very happy in affording every assistance I can to any plan you may be pleased to adopt for the insuing winter. Am much of opinion that was you to spend a few days here in the beginning of December, ’twoud answer a good purpose.
By the inclosed statement, there is $47.95 due you of which I have as yet received but two dollars. I will now collect it and pay it where you direct. The collectors for Trenton I will call on and pay them as you desire. There is some more wood now a cutting of which I shall render you an account. And there may be a few cords or tons more to add to the account now sent. On collection I will know the exact amount. There are no boards that I have any hopes of getting any share of except as many as fourteen logs made [and] hauled by a team owned by Major Jordan and myself of which I have not yet got the surveyor’s receipt.
I have the honor to be
With much respect sir
Your most obedient humble servant
The price of wood being low, I was obliged to depart from my first arrangement.
Honorable David Cobb, Esquire
Cobb to Bingham, Gouldsborough, 28 October 1797 [BP]216
Gouldsborough October 28th. 1797
My dear Sir:
By yesterday’s mail I receiv’d your letter of October 2d. The idea I intended to convey in my letter of 7th ultimo, respecting settlers, was confined solely to those who were on the lands prior to the contract in 1791, and as they compose much the greatest number of the whole in all places where I am acquainted, but especially on the six townships, it would be an useless expence and but little advantage to you to have the others enumerated before these are quieted. To effect this it will be necessary that your deeds are ready for delivery when their lots are run out, and those of them who do not incline to receive deeds (I am told there are some of this character) cannot, I conceive, be accounted to you as settlers, but then they forfeit their right to the hundred acres. In all instances I shall make an ultimatum, not to deliver their deeds unless the money is paid or secured to be paid, for they are the last people in the world I would trust with a shilling. You very justly observe that this is a very tedious and disagreeable business. It is truely so, and much more than you have any idea of. You have, with a smooth face and fair words, to bare the vilest insults from the most vicious scoundrels that ever disgraced civil society. Your omitting to give me powers to execute my promises to these people and others to whom I have engaged lands, has given rise to a suspicion that I have no such power, and that they never shall have from you any conveyance of the property. They have even search’d the records of the two counties to know if I have any such power, and not finding it there, they conclude I have none, and laugh at my promises accordingly. One of the settlers on No. 12 to whom two years ago I promis’d an hundred acres of land, has removed out of the township for fear he should not obtain a deed on my promise, and from thence loose the labour he should bestow upon the land. It is too painfull for me to reside here and not have it in my power to comply with my promises which have been made by your requests. I cannot make any more. The time is come when you must send or employ some person here to whom you can entrust the power of giving deeds.
My funds are more than exhausted, and by this conveyance I shall send to General Jackson my bills for eight hundred dollars, which I hope you will honor. I am obliged at last, after repeated promises to have it otherwise, to resort to the most expensive mode of supplying myself with funds, and the most painfull to me.
In my next I will explain, as far as I can, Shaw’s purchases that were made on this Point.
The timber that you mentioned in your letter for posts (birch) is good, but by no means so durable as the larch. You will be pleas’d to inform me which will be the most agreeable, or whether you will have part of each. The width of the boards shall be attended to.
It is the sincerest wish of my heart to serve the concern in bringing this country forward as a valuable speculation to them and an important part of the Commonwealth, seperate, if possible, from any private interest in the business. But without powers and without funds it is impossible.217 You must be sensible that any operations here that depends on five hundred or one thousand dollar drafts on Philadelphia will never bring this country to the state you wish.
Please to remember me to Mr. Baring. I should [be] happy to hear from him.
I am, dear sir, with esteem and respect
Your obedient servant
Honorable Mr. Bingham
Bingham to Knox, Lansdowne, 2 November 1797 [KP]218
Lansdowne November 2 1797
My dear General:
I have received your letter of the 22d October and did not before know that you had returned from the District.
I am exceedingly gratified at the success with which your exertions have been attended in the various improvements you have projected at St. Georges. I am well persuaded that the provision of lumber which you have secured for many years, will turn to highly profitable account, as soon as peace takes place, and the French colonies begin to be reinstated.
As for the independence of the District I am well satisfied that it should remain without prospect of taking place in less than seven years, for altho I am inclined to think many advantages would result therefrom, by encouraging and invigorating the industry of the country, yet I am not without my apprehensions that some considerable inconveniencies might be sustained from a jealousy towards the great landholders. I am therefore well satisfied with the present state of things.
I find you regret that there is so little expectation of an European sale. Mr. Talon has not had the most distant hope or he certainly would have communicated it to me, whereas I have not received a line from him since his departure, nor from Sir Francis Baring, on that subject. So low is the character of the American land-jobbers, and so many tricks of swindling have been experienced by Europeans in their purchases of lands, that I have but very feeble expectations from that quarter. In the mean time I shall experience the greatest disappointment, if a sale cannot be effected. Another payment must be made to the State in June next, which will be the last but one, so that all the payments will soon be made, when on a reference to the account transmitted to you, you will observe the immense sum that I shall be in advance, beyond that received from the sale made to Mr. Baring.219 If I had not accomplished that object, it would have been a most unfortunate state of things, in which I should have been placed.
I observe that you entertain an idea that from the favorable opinion that Mr. Baring had expressed of the lower tract, he might be persuaded to purchase the remaining half.
In the first place, no consideration would tempt me to make him this proposal, as it was well understod at the time he made the purchase that I should retain my share and cooperate with him in the improvement thereof. An abandonment of the object would be therefore, not only offensive to him, from the disappointment, but would be a breach of honor.
As for illuminating the Kennebec tract, in the manner you propose, by cutting roads thro it and peopling it, I am well persuaded that it would be attended with immense advantages.
But it requires capital, the agency of active intelligent and enterprizing characters, a proper system for the purpose, and the superintendance of the persons interested in the object, to prevent the funds being lavishly or ignorantly expended. So many objects would require a devoted attention, beyond what few persons could have time to afford, who were engaged in other pursuits. My wish has therefore been to dispose of this tract to a company, who would operate on it and improve it, by forming a systematic plan for the purpose and providing sufficient funds for carrying the same into effect.
From an apprehension that there was but little prospect of succeeding in Europe, I wished you to endeavor to make an impression upon Boston, where, I observe, from the returns of the banks, that money has begun to be very plenty, and if these depredations continue, I do not know in what manner, it can be employed, except in the investment of landed property. But I am sorry to find that the Bostonians have no disposition towards this object, and that there is no prospect of success from that quarter.
With respect to any other part of the United States, where relief could be afforded from making a sale, I am persuaded that little hope could be entertained—except perhaps at New York where the land mania still continues to prevail, and where there exists an immense capital.
I have reason to believe that a very favorable opinion is entertained of the Eastern Lands in that place; which, from the emigrations that are continually making from the western parts of Massachusetts and Connecticut, must considerably tend to raise their value, in the general estimation. There are some great capitalists in New York, who have the command of extensive funds, and the Europeans, who are desirous of speculating in American property, have more intimate connection with that city than any other of the United States. Perhaps you might have an opportunity of making some effectual enquiries on this subject. I very much lament your not having had a conversation with Mr. Baring on the subject of the protraction of the terms of payment of your note, if you had had any desire to obtain such a facility.
At the time of contracting this engagement, it was well understood that it should be liquidated with punctuality, and I was led to guarantee the payment thereof, by a written obligation.
I think I mentioned to you in a former letter that the means Mr. Baring appropriated were the commercial funds of his fathers House, an indulgence, of which I never knew an example, for, altho credits are given to a larger extent to Houses of business, they are not in the form of loans, but merely anticipations for a short time, with remittances always made to extinguish them.
And then, a consideration is always expected by the profits that an European House derives from the current business of its customers to whom it grants such facilities. When it is considered that the employment of trading capital is supposed to be accompanied by a far greater profit than simple interest, it must be obvious that such arrangements cannot be customary.
In the period of my greatest distress, I never ventured to make such an overture, as I knew it would not be listened to.
In making this loan, Mr. Baring therefore departed from all precedents and he can never justify himself, but by the punctuality with which the engagement is complied with, and I am convinced that he has never dropped a hint to his fathers House, of the least demur or delay.
I observe that you are willing to stipulate any compensation that could be desired. But, in your dealings with such men as Mr. Baring, who are governed by sentiment, there can be no unusual consideration received. There has certainly been a great scarcity of money in London for some time past, but whatever may have been the sacrifice in loaning such a sum, they would not have the appearance of taking advantage of the distresses of a friend, by receiving more than legal interest.
I would very willingly endeavor to effectuate a postponement of this demand, but, thus situated, you will confess that it is impossible.
In recently mentioning his expectations, Mr. Baring hinted that his House could never suppose the least demur in the payment of a note, given by you, and which I had guaranteed. An interference therefore on my part to obtain a postponement would be to solicit a personal service, in a manner that I could not justify. I am therefore well persuaded that you will make arrangements for the payment with punctuality, and I am sorry to find that the operation will be attended with such inconvenience. Money appears to be so abundant at Boston that the difficulty may probably not be so great.
Your distress for want of funds, combined with other causes, operate powerfully on my wishes to obtain a partial or entire sale of the Kennebec tract.
But after the most unwearied efforts, I am still unable to effect it. It has been evident, for a long time past, that the difficulty of selling lands would rather increase than diminish, and that those who placed their dependance on such resources would fail in their expectations. You may possess such property, and starve in the midst of plenty.
To sell for less than Mr. Baring gave would yield no consideration, for all property has risen to two prices since the period when this was purchased, from the mere increase of circulating capital to represent it. And the price he gave is not double of that which it will cost us, including interest and charges. However we must not lose our hopes, for some unexpected circumstances may fortunately occur, of which we may take advantage.
It gives me great pleasure to hear of Mrs. Knox’s recovery. Mrs. Bingham and the children desire to be affectionately remembered to her and your daughters.
I am with sincerity and the greatest regard
P.S. It is probable that Mr. Baring will soon return to Europe; and as the parties who are concerned in the purchase and improvement of the lower tract will have occasion for some person of activity and intelligence to represent and superintend their interests in this country, I find they have engaged Mr. Richards to be their agent, which is a circumstance very pleasing to me, as he appears to possess all those qualities which are essential to such an undertaking.
We shall procure his cooperation with General Cobb in the extension of the settlements, by fixing him in some quarter near the centre of the tract. I promise myself much success from their united efforts.
As many advantages might result, in fixing the most proper mode of proceeding in this business, from having a personal interview with General Cobb, I shall probably write to him, that if it should not be inconvenient to him, we should be happy to see him at Philadelphia, where Mr. Richards may be expected every day.
Baring to Cobb, Philadelphia, 6 November 1797 [CP]
Philadelphia 6th November 1797.
I have to apologize to you that you have not heard from me earlier, having delayed writing with the intention of setling with Mr. Bingham several points we have been discussing and which you want our decision upon. I received not long since your favor from Gouldsboro’ addressed to me at Boston of the 15th September which place I had previously left. I am very much obliged to you for your remarks and judicious observations on the plan proper to be pursued for the setlement of our lands which for the present I shall not discuss in detail. Mr. Bingham and myself are perfectly aware of the necessity of extraordinary exertions and ready to direct them to the best effect, and with the aid of your experience and judgement I am persuaded we shall ultimately work upon a plan with as few imperfections as in an operation so speculative can be expected.
I shall in the course of this winter return myself to Europe and hope before my departure to plan all our arrangements on a systematical and permanent footing which an event I have late information of from my friends in London will now enable me to do to perfect satisfaction. At the time when I concluded my purchase of Mr. Bingham it was our intention that the European share of the property should be represented by some person on the spot but we have not till now been able to fix on the exact character. I find to my great satisfaction that my friend Mr. Richards is named and I am expecting him out daily. Residing in this country, he will obviate the disadvantages of absent proprietors and the necessity of recurring to Europe on subjects which in the course of our operations may not admit of delay. As he will be in this country for this object solely and devote all his time to it, we have resolved to interest him in the fate of our speculation and he will reside on the lands joining his exertions to yours for their improvement. I anticipate very great satisfaction from the acquisition of a character I have, as well as Mr. Bingham, the highest opinion of and I congratulate you on that of a neighbour and coadjutor whom you already know partly and must prove a treasure to you on better acquaintance. We shall not only have the advantage of Mr. Richards’s general agency as a representative of the European concern to confer with Mr. Bingham, but I am confident he will prove most actively useful in the District where we can not have too many hands and heads at work. By having by this means each an agent on the lands, there will be less necessity for writing in trifling cases for instructions which is troublesome, and the danger of inconveniences and perplexities which must necessarily arrise from the decease of a sole agent is removed, but above all it is important to me that Mr. Richards has seen the parties in Europe, explained to them the nature of their property, and possesses their entire confidence. On what part of the lands he will set down or what he will immediately occupy himself with is to be discussed on his arrival and as this will involve the whole of our arrangements and there are many subjects to discuss between us, Mr. B. and myself have resolved to trouble you once more to pay us a visit here as I have no hopes of again inducing him to a trip to Maine. We shall not detain you long and Mr. R. will beyond doubt be here by the time you arrive. We shall then be able to methodize our whole plan and setle many objects which have till now remained much too vague and undetermined. I have discussed with Mr. B. the several propositions your letter contains and we agree with you pretty generally, but we have resolved to leave every thing untill we see you. The only subject which perhaps will not bear delay is that of the roads and if labour must be enquired for this fall to be set to work early next spring you should certainly engage it in the manner you think most profitable. Roads must be cut. It is the improvement without which all others is useless and wherever we begin, we shall equally want the hands. We have also agreed on the absolute necessity of a surveyor attached to the concern and I would wish you to look out for one that you think will answer our purpose.
Designating correctly our boundary is indispensable and without a character of this description we shall for ever be working in the dark. We also agree on the propriety of keeping a vessel plying between the lands and Boston, but this is a subject we will leave till our personal meeting. Shipping is abundant and low in every part of the union at present, and it may be the best time to secure what we want, and it may be well to keep in view anything you think may suit us. The subject of funds shall be arranged as you wish and we shall avoid in future the loss and inconvenience you have heretofore experienced in this respect. I do not find any further reply to your enquiries immediately necessary and shall therefore leave them untill our meeting when we shall be prepared for an ample discussion of every thing. Mr. Bingham has got the deeds you sent on to Boston which General Jackson dispatched by another opportunity. My deeds which were sent you by the latter you will please to bring with you as I doubt not the needful formalities have been attended to agreable to what I wrote concerning them. Before I have received them we can make up no power for you to sell, as the trust of the European share has never yet been executed. This is an object that will want deliberate consideration at our meeting, but can I believe be setled with less difficulty than we supposed at the time of our conversation concerning it at Gouldsboro’. We have determined nothing as to the lands of Jones, Jarvis or LaRoche but leave the subject till we see you when we shall have to determine the advantages to be derived from the acquisition of any of this property. Jarvis presses very hard, but I fear LaRoche’s lands are not so easily come at owing to the pending question of Van Berckel’s claim which remains in statu quo. I am ashamed to say I forgot in passing thro’ New York to subscribe for the newspaper you desired and as you are now coming on it may as well be left untill you return.
I am ever with sincere esteem and regard
Your very obedient servant
P.S. I left Mr. Hope at Boston, from whence he has since sailed for Lisbon. Pray remember me particularly to your son and family.
Bingham to Cobb, Lansdowne, 10 November 1797 [CP]
Lansdowne near Philadelphia November 10 1797
I have received your two letters, of the 23 September and 12 October, the former from Castine and the latter from Gouldsborough, to the contents of which I should give you an ample and detailed reply, did I not flatter myself with the expectation of having a personal interview with you, when every essential point relative to the preferable mode of settling our lands may be freely and fully discussed.
As the period for Mr. Baring’s departure from this country has nearly arrived, the parties in England who are interested in the purchase of the Maine Lands thought it expedient to appoint a person, in whose intelligence and integrity they could confide, to represent them, as partners in so valuable a property, on this side of the water. They have fortunately selected a character, known to, and esteemed by us all, whose temper is well suited to accommodation which is so necessary to meet the versatile views and dispositions of the first settlers in a young country.
As this gentleman is to be employed and paid by the English concern, it is the intention of Mr. Baring that he shall contribute, by every personal effort, to the promotion of the general interest, and for this purpose, that he shall establish himself in some district of the purchase, where he shall encourage and superintend the progress of a settlement.
What spot will be the most eligible, or what arrangement best calculated to insure the success of such an operation, is matter of future consideration, as we have not as yet digested any ideas on the subject.
But we wish to form a system in the establishment of which we expect considerable aid from the experience you have gained since your residence in that country.
The present is a dull season of the year, when all business of an active nature is arrested, and when no interests of the concern can, in our conception, suffer from your absence. At the same time we are persuaded that they may be essentially benefited by a free and detailed communication.
Mr. Richards was to take his passage immediately, which leads to the expectation of his speedy arrival. If therefore no peculiar circumstances should oppose our wishes, we are desirous of your commencing your journey as soon as convenient, and we wish you to prepare notes of all the most interesting points that are proper to occupy our attention.
In the enclosed letter you will find Mr. Baring’s ideas upon many of your enquiries, and a desire expressed of reserving himself for a more accurate answer to them, untill the meditated meeting.
Perhaps you may find a vessel destined to New York, which will expose you to less fatigue and inconvenience than by the common route of the stages, thro Boston. I shall forward this letter to General Knox, to be transmitted to you, by the post or by a water conveyance, as he may deem most expedient.
Mr. Baring wishes you to bring his deeds that have been recorded in your county. Those intended to have been sent by him, have since arrived.
I am with sincerity and regard
As these last two letters indicate, by November Alexander Baring had completed his tour of the United States, had apparently had time to digest what he had observed, and was now back in Philadelphia ready to draw up a more precise program for the development of the Maine property. Two letters which he wrote to the Hopes in England in December, 1797, show that he had indeed made a thorough study of America and that he was probably as well informed on American lands and the problems attendant upon investment in them as anyone in either the United States or Europe.
Baring to Henry Hope, Philadelphia, 12 December 1797 [BaP]
Philadelphia 12 December 1797
My dear Sir,
There has been a very considerable chasm in my correspondence and I have received by the late arrivals and particularly by Mr. Richards, who got to this place about ten days since,220 answers to my last letters. I have been constantly moving about on one bussiness or other and in consequence of the increased risk of captures at sea have determined to wait for the departure of the William Penn to write. I am just returned from Baltimore and fortunately still find that vessel here, owing to the ice in the river, but as the weather is mild, she will get to sea in a few days and I understand the letter bag intended to go by her has been sent to New York. Richards’ accepting the agency gave me very great pleasure; he is in great spirits, very much pleased with every thing that has passed with you in London and disposed to carry through with activity and perseverance the arduous task he has engaged in. He appears pleased with his future situation, either really or from a predetermination to appear so and from what I know of his character, I think him likely to attach himself to his pursuit. It will gradually grow upon him when his mind gets busied with the plans and projects of a speculation, the detail management of which must present the most interesting and pleasing variety. The nature of your concern makes very considerable personal confidence in your agent indispensable and it is no small consolation to have got a person in whom it can be so safely reposed. I would in this respect prefer Richards to Williamson, with all his activity and particularly so to Wadsworth,221 of whom I have my doubts in consequence of his behaviour in England and what I heard of him in his own country. His object must have been to court your opinion merely for the purpose of selling some of his New York lands and I find he has succeded to part with some in London considerably beyond their real value. As you know both characters I was pleased that you should be able to judge for yourselves without the bias of my opinion, and not less so at the result. All Americans that go to Europe to sell lands make up their speeches and character with hypocritical art, and from a general deficiency which certainly exists throughout this country of that nice honour which is not merely contented with being exactly within the pale of the law, those they meet with are not a match for them. Major J. you will recollect did not scruple to assure us upon his honor that we could not do better than buy our Maine lands at five shillings. An act like this has nothing disgraceful atached to it here and if he had succeded he would have obtained the more respected reputation of an able negotiator.
I am very much pleased with the arrangement with Richards; the quantum of compensation and footing you place him on are exactly conformable to my ideas and I shall put them into execution with some little variations which local circumstances make necessary, upon which I shall not at present enlarge.222 Mr. Bingham has for some time been prepared for the probable arrival of Richards and is much pleased. We have both written to Cobb and Knox on the subject and I have no doubt it will give them equal satisfaction. The terms Richards is engaged on are kept a secret from the former to avoid jealousy and I have rather spoken of him as being above a common agent, that he may have a more preponderant sway, and in fact on my departure he must fill my place and decide in most instances in concert with Mr. Bingham, taking on himself both the legislative and executive branch in our share of administration. The power must be left with somebody and I know nobody more proper, for characters here would not only not take the trouble but are almost as ignorant of the nature of the concern as if they resided in Europe. Bingham will himself always prove a check, and as his character is disposed to caution and diffidence, I rather apprehend his falling short of than exceeding the requisite boldness and enterprize. From a thorough knowledge of this man’s character I am persuaded none in this country could answer our views equally well if at all, but we can not expect to have found one modelled exactly to our own fancy. Great vanity and pursepride are perceivable in all his actions; he is consequently not generally liked and attatches nobody, and from a narrowness of mind which naturally leads him to a want of confidence in every body, I have some difficulty to prevail on him to give that latitude of action to his agent which is indispensable. Cobb is for instance much more devoted to me than to him and frequently recurs to me to explain between them. As long as I am here I could manage B. without difficulty and from the high opinion he has of Richards, I am in hopes he will find him equally tractable. I have now all the materials before me to place our adventure on its proper and permanent footing to the immediate execution of which I am attending, though I shall not at present trouble you with details. Cobb is coming on here, as I can not prevail on Bingham to go a second time to Maine, and we shall then finally discuss and arrange every detail and setle the principles we must go on. I am desirous we should all meet that we may understand each other and leave nothing unsetled; also that Bingham may be aware of and concur in the expenses necessary for the improvement of our lands and that we may not suffer by a mistaken œconomy which for the purpose of saving trifles sacrifices the great object we are embarked on. The objects we have to discuss are very numerous and I have been continually preparing by notes and observations as they occur and extracting such remarks from your side which are in point, as many of them are. Method and system are the great essentials and I shall in this respect derive very great assistance from Richards, who possesses both. Cobb does not,223 but he is a very good man of an active mind, both for real execution and eminently for puffing, which his great influence in New England enables him to do with more effect than any other person. Having now been through nearly the whole of the union and seen a vast variety of back setlements and new lands, I have collected information and experience which can not otherwise be acquired and we will endeavour as much as possible to immitate the good and avoid the blunders and follies I have been witness to. Untill now every thing that has been done has been merely preliminary and we must make up our plans de novo. The points that chiefly want discussion are: the situation of our agents, their relative powers and duties; the improvements to be put into execution and means to be employed to favor migration thither; mode of sales, prices and form of deeds; arangement of a regular finance system; plan of keeping accounts and books; and lastly to decide on what contiguous acquisitions we shall make, of which we have several offers before us. When this is done, Cobb will return to Maine and Richards will follow so as to be there very early in the spring. I shall afterwards have nothing further to do than to place the deeds that are now perfectly ready in the hands of trustees and close with Mr. Bingham the articles of association in this speculation between us, in which I want Richards’ advice and assistance.
There are to be two trustees, Thomas M. Willing, eldest son of Mr. Willing and partner in the house of Willing and Francis, and William Cramond, only acting partner in the house of Philips Cramond. I have preferred these gentlemen because their characters are unexceptionable and respectable, both merchants, steady and cautious, and as they married sisters are better acquainted with each other and can act in concert in any steps it may be necessary for them to take.224 In point of security, I find myself equally easy as if you had the property in your own names and the declaration of trust will preclude all possibility of danger if it were not otherwise provided for by character. Young Mr. Willing is an exact copy of the father and I preferred him as a younger man and more pliant to the manners of the present world and consequently better adapted to act in concert with others. The articles with Bingham I have considerably shortened from what I first intended, contracting them so as to be concise and explicit on every event we can foresee. The fewer words the better and I trust the present good understanding betwixt the parties will not be interrupted. I can foresee no possible rational cause for it, our interests and views being exactly the same.
No decision has yet taken place on Mr. Bingham’s petition relative to the upper tract and when it does, you will recollect we have the option of making up our decision. I shall confine myself certainly to what I have done excepting contiguous purchases which may be of advantage to us and particularly the Penobscot Indian lands, which we shall have an eye to when the state sells. The purchase of the Indians has already been made and persons appointed by the State of Massachusetts to examine and report the situation and nature of the lands. They have excited so much curiosity and attention that I fear they will sell for more than we shall chuse to give, especially as state sales are on a long credit and the speculative disposition of the people lead them to disregard distant engagements. No adequate allowance would be made to us for our ready money by government and it will not do to pay cash at the credit price. Where neighbouring lands are in a train of active improvement, it is not for our interest to monopolize, for we are as much benefited by their exertions as by our own. We all work in the same direction and I do not wish to melt down all proprietorships, that we may not stand alone the objects of public envy. I should have no objection to the townships on the sea shore to the east of Gouldsboro, but the proprietor is in prison and the title very foul. The good lots are also out of his hands and owned by actual setlers. The want of these townships is no disadvantage to us, but I should have no objection to them for the sake of compactness. I have no wish for the other half of Mount Desart; this island is the least productive or promising of all our property and contains twice the quantity of uncultivable acres of any other tract of similar extent; it is the highest land of the whole coast of North America and a great portion of it promises no produce to any body but the mineralogist, a character this part of Maine can have nothing to do with for some time. The low lands of Mount Desart are good, but the best are occupied; we have besides got the half opposite to the shore and forming the bay, which is all we want. I have, I believe, frequently explained that the whole coast of North America from the Bay of Fundy to New York is rock and from thence to the Floridas, sand. The sea shore townships of the former serving as a barrier for the continent against the sea are of course the poorest soil, which generally improves as you advance in the country untill you come to the mountains. In Maine the best sea shore townships are those within Mount Desart, say Sulivan, Trenton and No. 6 on Union River; we shall perhaps be able to acquire some small parcells there that may be serviceable. Above all what I want to buy up is the lottery claims, which are scattered through our tract; they can give us no great trouble, as they are all to be laid off by us according to well designated lines, but I should like to get rid of them and as they are floating on the market and could, many of them, be picked up cheap, I purpose getting Cobb to buy them up, as he knows how to set about it. In general a discretionary power will be left by me with Richards to concur with Bingham in any additional acquisitions they may think desirable, provided the motive is benefit of your present property and not an extension of it. I never contemplated any purchase of Knox’s lands; they are valuable but perfectly distinct from ours.
I have resolved to make no further purchases for you either in Maine or elsewhere, as the result of mature deliberation and an experience ripening under the gradual rays of observation and reflection. I wish however to explain that this determination proceeds from no regret of what has been done. My opinion and expectations are unshaken and I remain persuaded that under proper management we can not fail of success; but I think the mass we have sufficient for our operation and large enough to absorb all our exertions. An additional tract would remain a long time before it could come in play and if after we have made greater progress we are desirous of extending our boundaries, we shall probably find occasion to do it. We shall also find one operation of this kind engages our attention sufficiently and the difficulty of procuring a second set of agents and other necessary concomitants is sufficient reason to confine ourselves to it. To buy on speculation for purposes of resale en masse in Europe, for which purpose the Kennebec lands are well adapted, is a precarious and uncertain prospect and if such a resale is possible, I could easily engage to procure them at any contracted price. To buy lands and let them remain unthought of, if in a new part of the country, I know from experience to be unproductive. Your property will on the contrary be perishing from encroachments and neglect. And lastly, though to persons residing in this country scattered landed property well selected may be very productive, as I know it is, yet it would be a bad speculation for persons at a distance who could not watch and avail of opportunities of favorable sale. These are my reasons for abiding by what has been done, which from the general tenor of your letters I conclude to be your wish also. We shall have one object in operation which I am satisfied has advantages with respect to natural situation, abilities of agents and substance of principals to back them, beyond any that has been undertaken in this country. To that we will concenter all our attention and I assure you I feel no little solicitude both from the importance of the interest and pride at the part I have acted in the bussiness that it should turn out what I have no doubt it will.
Bingham is constantly urging the Kennebec tract and I have never communicated to him my intention of making no further purchases, to keep up with him the habit of communicating confidentially with me as he always has done on the subject of his prospects and concerns for the sake of information. I believe he has nearly given up his hopes of Talon’s making any thing in Italy, though he is still busy there and his talent for intrigue has been sufficiently evinced by the most infamous manner he has deceived DeSmeth and Condere225 in their Pensylvania purchase, which has lately come to light in a confidential manner to me. I suspected always that he had deceived them, but had no conception it would have been to such an extent. He bought of Bingham 300,000 acres at 6/ Pensylvania currency of 7/6 per dollar, making 240/M dollars, which he has made them pay for at 1½ dollars, amounting to 450/M dollars and in addition has bought the least valuable part of the lands. Either you or my father have a map of the Pensylvania lands. Bingham divided them about in the midle by a line north and south and gave him his option of the east side at 6/ or west at a dollar. He took the cheaper and overcharged them 210,000 dollars. As a subject of curiosity I will state the terms of payment which are stipulated.
|From DeSmeth and Co. to Talon||Talon to Bingham|
31 December 1797
31 December 1798
31 December 1799
31 December 1800
31 December 1801
31 December 1802
31 December 1803
It is the grossest imposition I ever heard of and I can not conceive how the Amsterdam gentlemen could have been duped by a man in whom I could never discover any thing plausible but his figure. Including the loss on the exchange on the first 100,000 dollars drawn for, they will suffer full £50,000 sterling for this ill placed confidence and get besides a body of lands so shut up by Bingham’s unsettled tract that they can not operate by improvement on them untill he also commences, and from their situation always to great disadvantage. I understand however that Hollinger is coming out to superintend the setlement and that they are again trying what has so often failed, an importation of Germans, each of which will cost them more before they are setled on the land than they will ever get off from it in the first ten years. It has been tried repeatedly and Williamson was obliged to drive off his lands with the bayonet a party Sir William Pulteney sent him. Poor emigrants are always the idle refuse of the country they come from; indolence and ignorance drives them over, to disappointment here and though they have been the foundation of the population of this country, the first comers are only fit to make children for a future generation. I should rather suppose that DeSmeth and his associates can come to some terms with Talon if they get information of the manner he has treated them, which I believe they as yet have not. Bingham is mad, not that they have been cheated but that he did not share the spoil. The sale renders his . . .226 (page or pages missing).
. . . of the continent pleased him very much, especially the back parts of Virginia, Canada and Maine. The latter as a picturesque country he expressed himself very much pleased with and it certainly is beautifull. The islands on the coast, bays and rivers form a very fine scenery and more variety than any part of the American coast. As far as I could collect his opinion I believe he thinks perfectly with me on the subject of our speculation, and understands it; whether he expressed himself so with any idea of personality towards me you will be best able to judge. When we were in Maine, he was in a hurry to get to Boston and I regretted that I could not prevail upon him to explore some of the most promising parts of our tract. We landed at Gouldsboro’, which is a dreary looking place, and from thence proceeded westward to Penobscot and General Knox’s; but as we were in the Genisee and I always endeavoured to draw his attention to objects that were in point, he acquired all the requisite ingredients of a sound opinion, which his own good judgement will easily enable him to compose.
I can not flatter myself that it was the happiest year of his life. He left in Europe what at our age once tasted we can hardly with good humour resign, for a country where there is a peculiar dearth of all the pleasures we are accustomed to look for. The state of society is perfectly unfit for a mind like his; it has no charms for the man of letters, taste or dissipation, nor is it even reconcileable to the less exigent propensities of what we understand by the mixed character of a gentleman. All conversations turn on speculations and money making and every body’s education seems to have stopt short at the bare requisites for that purpose. The cause of this state of things is obvious; it is undoubtedly gradually ameliorating and as riches introduce luxuries, part will be bestowed on internal as well as external decorations. The society of large towns is certainly not engaging here, but though generally poor, my friend made some pleasant acquaintances and passed many agreable hours. The New England states certainly rank much above the others in point of society and the country people are the best informed of probably any in the world; owing to their wise laws and municipal regulations, there are very few of the very lowest class that can not read and write and equality is not only visible in their government but in a most striking degree in the state of property and education.
I wrote you a letter from Albany on the subject of the Archbishop of York’s lands, about which I had collected some information at New York.227 I have continued my enquiries and find every account I get corroborates what I then wrote; that part of the State of New York is little known or setled and I should advise leaving the property dormant for the present, particularly as the present fall of speculators renders it less valuable than it may be some time hence. Morris and Nicholson are both confined in their houses to escape arrest and Greenleaf is actually in prison and has made a vain attempt to get out by taking the benefit of the Pensylvania Insolvent Act. They can none of them ever retrieve their affairs, which are not only desperate but uninteligibly complicated and entangled. Morris’s large house, on which he is supposed to have squandered near 300/M dollars, sold a few days past at auction for the trifling sum of 46/M dollars, but I suspect some rascality, for the ground is worth the money. The building itself is incomplete and absurdly tasteless.
14 December. The weather has again turned to frost and I am apprehensive the Penn will be detained some time, but as I this moment hear of a vessel to sail from New York, I shall close this letter and send it there and write to Mr. Williams Hope either by the Penn, if she gets out shortly or by the packet, which will sail from New York in about ten days. The means of conveyance are at present most distressingly uncertain and no vessels can hardly be relied on. This country is in a perfect political tranquility and will remain so. The people seem disposed to put up with all buffets and affronts and watch attentively the proffits to be drawn by their enterprize and industry from the follies and dissentions of their neighbours. We wait anxiously the return of our three commissaries and with respect to England the frigates in the West Indies can convoy American vessels. Not only all enmity has subsided but the British officers are quite aux petites attentions in proportion as the French become insolent and reject the sister republic from their family. American stocks are very scarce and high, particularly Bank and 3 per cents; if they continue at the last quoted prices in London, they might be raised considerably by once sweeping the market, for none can go from here. I must take my leave at present, begging my most sincere and respectful regards to Mr. and Mrs. Williams Hope and the whole family.
Your ever devoted humble servant,
Baring to John Williams Hope, Philadelphia, 31 December 1797 [BaP]
Philadelphia 31 December 1797
My dear Sir,
I sent a long letter for Mr. Henry Hope by the Mary from New York, which ship sailed from thence the 27th. The river here continues closed and the William Penn will not get out till March. As the French detain almost all the American vessels they meet bound to England, the communication is become uncertain and the packets are as safe as any other vessels. I shall send the present for that conveyance. I have received all your kind favours as late as the 6th September228 and am very much gratified by the satisfaction you express with every thing I have done; but still more so with the friendly and liberal manner both you and Mr. Henry Hope speak of my motives and intentions, which I lay claim to with more confidence than to any judgement, though I have not as yet been sensible of any self-conviction to the prejudice of the latter. The exact result of every enterprize in a country like this must be more or less speculative and though my opinion after full experience confirmed perfectly that which first prompted me to act, I know no persons but yourselves I would have taken upon me to proceed for in the manner I have done, from a conviction of the necessity of that candour and liberality which I have experienced.
I mentioned to Mr. H. Hope that Mr. Richards being arrived, we were immediately to proceed to fix our future plans, and I have this day a letter from General Cobb announcing his arrival in Boston and that we may daily expect him here. I have been preparing for him, to have every point well discussed and matured; all parties agree and appear animated with the proper spirit to proceed with activity. What I have chiefly to counteract is a backwardness on the part of Bingham to pecuniary exertions, but I do not think he will carry it far enough to injure us, and his disposition to close enquiry will preclude all apprehensions of extravagance. Richards is very much pleased with us and I with him. The prejudice to the species of life he has to lead he has nearly got the better of, and I am confident he will answer our purpose. I was very much pleased that you got rid of Wadsworth; when I am gone, it will be necessary to repose a personal confidence which I would by no means trust him with, nor indeed hardly any American; the most honest among them will speculate upon you under some plausible pretext and though it may appear to a person not acquainted with the country hasty and illiberal to brand a whole nation, there is certainly a want of that nice sense of honour which no little meannesses can approach and which I am persuaded is possest [sic] in the highest degree by our friend Richards.
I have been moving about pretty constantly since my first arrival in this country and particularly since that of Mr. H. P. Hope. We have been visiting every thing worth seeing from north to south, seen back lands and new setlements of all kinds and have of course been attentive to collect that information which can assist us in our speculation. I will not trouble you with any uninteresting details of our tour, which may serve for conversation hereafter. The natural beauties of so extensive a country must be great and varied but in particular every part has an extraordinary appearance, perfectly novel to an European, of increasing population and setlements. The back woods from Florida to Maine present a repeated scene of new clearings and log huts; forests some years past totally unvisited falling, and farms scattering through them; and one would be induced to believe from the appearance of every individual tract of back country that the whole surplus population of the continent was forcing itself backwards in that particular spot. A country in that state presents generally nothing pleasing to the eye; the sight is for the most part uncouth, but it affords a vast fund of curious reflection and speculation, both natural and political, to the traveller who receives pleasure through any other sense. The gradual progress of population backwards from the Atlantic towards the Mississipi is regular and nothing can stop it. It must on the contrary increase in an increased ratio with the population itself. Upon this hypothesis it is that all speculation in unsetled land is founded and it can never be overset as long as laws preserve property, people continue to populate and agricultural produce is sufficiently valuable to maintain the cultivator and leave a surplus to the landowner.
The back countries of Georgia are setling very fast and absorb the chief part of the emigration from the setled parts of South and North Carolina. Cotton has become a very valuable staple to that country and thrives remarkably well. The overflowings of Virginia and Maryland turn chiefly to Kentucky and Tenisee, which are growing to very great importance, and from the immense fertility of soil on the waters of the Ohio, a great portion of the Pensylvania, New York and New England emigrants go the same way. The existence of slavery in the southern states produces an inconceivable relaxation of morals and industry which affects very much all their new setlements, which are consequently much more lawless and ungovernable than all others untill their character grows again, as the country becomes rich. The southern back setlements must ultimately depend on the complete opening of the Mississipi and free trade from New Orleans, which must be effected by the total expulsion of the Spaniards from that part of Louisiana and Florida. The militia from Kentucky would drive them out in one campaign and certainly will upon the first political dissention between the two countries. This event, when it takes place, will open a perfectly new scene in this part of the world which will then display riches and resources now little thought of.
The country exhibiting the most extraordinary growth is certainly the back parts of New York and more particularly the Genisee, which is the school for the art of setling large tracts. Mr. Hope and myself went up the North River to Albany and from thence along the Mohawk 100 miles to Fort Stanwix. The borders of the Mohawk have been long setled by the Dutch and are very rich and valuable. From Fort Stanwix, the new country begins. We passed what are called the Military Townships229 about 100 miles to Geneva, which is the first place in the Genisee. The Military Townships are a very fine body of land and improving fast; I think them full equal to the average of Williamson’s tract and they only want good management and clear titles (which they are very deficient in) to be worth the same price. The roads through this country, which is the great entrance to the Genisee, are most abominable, but Williamson by his activity has got the people to improve them and the state to assist them with a sum of money. He has established a stage to Geneva, but it must be a a very losing enterprize. Geneva is a larger place than I expected and situated very pleasantly on the borders of Seneca Lake. The place is not entirely of W’s making, but he has improved it much, though I fear not much to his benefit, as it is rather out of the way of the bulk of his lands. The inn was a very good one and answered his account of it. I here left Mr. Hope, who was very much fatigued, to cross 25 miles to Genisee River, where I met him after making a tour of 150 through Williamson’s lands. I first proceeded to Bath, about 50 miles—lands tolerably good untill I came within 10 miles of the place, where and all round Bath they are very poor. Bath has about 100 houses but most of them belong to Williamson and the whole place appears to depend on his residence there. It is on a river of which the navigation must be very difficult. I spent two days with Williamson, who was very communicative and shewed me all his arrangements and proceedings, and afterwards rode with me to Williamsburg on the Genisee, about 60 miles, and from thence to Hartford on the Genisee, about 20 miles more, where we met Mr. H. P. Hope, whom Thomas Morris (a son of Robert Morris who lives in the Genisee) had accompanied from Geneva. The land between Bath and the river was partly very good, but some tracts indifferent; but the flats on the river are wonderfully fine. I rode over five miles extent of river flats where the grass of the natural meadow was over my horse’s head, but the greatest part of this land does not belong to Pulteney; it has lately been purchased from the Indians. This land is much to[o] rich for any grain but admirably suited for Indian corn or hemp; it is certainly superior to the Mohawk flats, but it forms a very inconsiderable portion of the country which has acquired a general reputation from it. I do not suppose there are above 100,000 acres of this land in all and setlers, though seduced into the country by it, are obliged to take upland, which is not better than good average quality. In a large tract of this kind, there must of course be a vast variety of soil, which considered agregately is equal in quality to perhaps any tract of similar extent on the eastern waters of this continent. Williamsburg is a poor place and in a decaying state. A few miles from it Wadsworth’s brother230 has a neat establishment and owns valuable property in the neighbourhood. Mr. Hope gave a very handsome account of the 25 miles of country he came through, which is the best setled and oldest setled part of the Genisee.
Upon the whole I was rather disappointed with the state of improvements of the farms in this country, which does not answer to the high price the people pay for their lands. Our setlements in Maine really look better and more comfortable, owing to the advantage of deriving supplies by sea of little comforts the others know nothing of. Their houses are chiefly log, ours are frame or at least a much greater proportion of them. I am upon the whole thoroughly convinced that the great success has been more owing to the activity of the man than to any superior natural advantages of the country. It has nothing to recommend it but soil, for the climate is not healthy and it is totally defective with respect to communication, which is of the very greatest importance. The chief communication is with the Mohawk and North River, but every thing Williamson gets to Bath costs near 50 per cent in additional expenses and as to the conveyance of any bulky agricultural produce to market, it will be utterly impossible. In Maine on the contrary our communication is so easy that we can even offer to send firewood to Boston. This inconvenience is not felt so much at present in the Genisee because in all fast setling countries the new setlers consume all the produce of the old and flour is at present dearer at Bath than at New York. But when the country is fuller, they must find an external vent for their produce or it will be worth nothing.
I have collected a mass of information from Williamson which I would not have missed on any account; his operations exibit [sic] much that will be worthy of imitation, as well as shoals to avoid, which he is now perfectly aware of, but which required previous sounding to ascertain and we shall certainly follow his leading operations as much as the difference of our local situation will permit. I conceive him to have been too profuse in expences in many instances and I rather think he now injures the setlement of his land by asking too high a price. He has sold to the amount of £1,200/M New York currency, but he does not appear to keep sufficiently in view that his purchasers contribute nothing but their labor to pay him and that the money must be raised from the land. Two very essential points are fully established in my mind from Williamson’s operations: first, that you can fix your own price for your land as you please after the first commencement of active operations; and secondly, that there will never be a want of applicants if you take care to provide them with such necessaries as are indispensable for new setlers, for it is impossible for any person to labour in both respects under more pointed inconveniences and disadvantages. I do not much like the character of Williamson’s setlers; they appear generally a sad medley of ragamuffins and he has certainly gone upon a bad plan of not paying some attention to their morals. There is not a church in the country, which is a much better censor morum than a jail and indeed the only cement of a society so far distant from the lash of the law. The consequence is that in several instances the bayonet code has been necessary and the Bath militia, who were paraded on my arrival, though not on the occasion, make a very terific martial appearance. I should say however that Williamson has made himself liked in the country by assisting whenever he was able; by this means interest is the chief binder. In Maine we may equally have this advantage with the more permanent one of black coats and pulpits. Cobb rather complains of these itinerants being troublesome, but fanaticism is natural to new countries and whatever their creeds may be, they all preach proper principles of meum and tuum, which is all we want.231
I have had some correspondence with Williamson and inclose two of his last letters. What the nature of his disagreement with Pulteney is I do not exactly know, but I rather apprehend he has drawn heavily and has not been exactly regular in his speculations.232 It was thought in New York that he had bought the Baronet out and not very honestly. You will see he wants me to make some representations to him, but upon what subject I do not know. I have dwelt thus much upon the subject of the Genisee because it has been so much discussed and talked of. I am aware of the danger of giving too ardent opinions and expectations and of drawing comparisons where the public ideas in general at the present moment differ so much from mine, but I can assure you that I am firmly persuaded that our tract in Maine is in every respect more intrinsically valuable than that of the Genisee and more susceptible of future improvements; indeed I am convinced that it has superior advantages to any large body of unsetled land in America and that we must inevitably succeed if any success can be expected from similar operations. I have formed this opinion from more minute and particular investigation and experience than I could possibly have when I made the purchase and though you may from your own opinion doubts its merits, I am persuaded you will not its sincerity.
From Hartford on the Genisee we rode through a wilderness of 80 miles to Buffaloe creek on Lake Erie. This is Morris’s Genisee land, of which the chief part belongs to the Dutch Companies. It has last autumn been purchased of the Indians for 100,000 dollars for about three million of acres, forming the whole of that neck of land between the lakes from Pulteney’s western line, which runs nearly along the Genisee and the northern line of Pensylvania.233 This is a very important circumstance for that country and it is the largest sum of money ever given at a time to Indians for land. The Six Nations were the proprietors and have made some few reserves for several of their chiefs, which are not material. The Dutch can now commence their operations and you will perceive from Williamson’s letters that they intend it. I do not think they will be very active, but rather from a diversity of interests and want of confidence in agents that they will make little of this otherwise valuable property. Cazenove with a great deal of cabinet knowledge has no practical talents for this bussiness and the man who has been sent out to succeed him, a Mr. Busti,234 does not understand English and appears altogether the most perfect ignoramus they could have chosen. I presume they will rely on directions from home and it is perfectly impossible any person who has not seen this country can understand it or direct to any good effect. There is not at present a house the whole 80 miles and we passed here one night under a tree. The lands are good and I should suppose averaging nearly the same quality as Williamson’s, excepting that they have no Genisee flats. There are very large plains called Buffaloe plains as you approach the great lake; part of these are poor lands but some good and they will be valuable by saving first setlers the trouble of clearing. American back lands are always thick wooded with some timber or other, but as you approach the Mississipi these large plains increase and are frequently a perte de vue, now and then a point of wood appearing like the appearance of land at sea. The roads or rather the path, for there is but one, is at present very bad excepting over the plains. There are immense swamps and I doubt if they can ever be made tolerably passable. In general good lands, being fat and clay, makes the worst roads and particularly in this country, where on account of its flatness you can not carry it along dry ridges which you every where else find. These woods are infested with musquetoes and insects which torment the white people beyond any thing you can have an idea of. I should also think it will prove unhealthy and more so than Williamson’s tract, from which people begin to emigrate on that account. The lake waters there begin to have the same effect the water in parts of Switzerland has of producing a species of excrescence from the throat.
From Buffaloe creek we crossed the St. Lawrence into Upper Canada and proceeded to Niagara. The province of Upper Canada has improved very much since the American Revolution under Simcoe’s government. He has had an administration to back him in expences and lands to give away. The task was not difficult and perhaps no part of the continent has setled faster. Setlements are however confined to the neighbourhood of the lakes and St. Lawrence and do not go far back. All the good lands are already granted but from the circumstance of their having been originally given for nothing, they do not bear a proportioned value to the setlement of the country. The whole of Upper Canada, though completely intersected by mediteranean fresh water lakes is as well as the Genisee beyond the reach of any sea port market and must like Switzerland subsist from its own resources in ordinary times. This province as well as Lower Canada is a perfect dead weight to Great Britain. The setlers affect no attachment to the mother country; the attractions to them were cheap lands and no taxes and as long as Great Britain pleases to be at the expence of their government, without its proving any inconvenience to them, they will be satisfied; but when their interest varies, the same scene will be played over which we witnessed in these states, with the only difference that the contest will be much shorter. After viewing the falls of Niagara, which are grand beyond all description, we crossed Lake Ontario to Kingston and descended the St. Lawrence to Montreal and Quebee. From Lake Ontario downwards the inhabitants are all French Canadians, with a few English in the towns; the country fine and very well setled in a narrow strip on each side the river. The people are ignorant and disaffected to the English, to whom the whole of these provinces is a perfect burthen; when conquered they were usefull and indispensable to a peaceful possession of these states, of which they form the boundary; but since the loss of the latter they are of no service but to the empty vanity of large territorial possessions and increase ministerial patronage at the expence of the nation. The trade of Canada is principally in furs, which they get from the Indians in return for British manufactures and chiefly carried on from Montreal. I consider it insignificant in a national point of view and it is mostly confined to a few individuals who monopolize it.
From Quebec we proceeded down to Kamouraska,235 where we again entered the woods and traversed a portage of 45 miles, which brought us to the Lake Timiskuata leading through the river Madawaska into the St. John. Owing to bad weather and the necessity of having our baggage carried by men, we were three nights in the woods. At the mouth of Madawaska there is a setlement on St. John’s, distant altogether about 100 miles from the last setlements we left in Canada. It is yet undetermined whether this setlement does not belong to Maine when the real St. Croix River is ascertained. I rather think it does and that it will fall within Bingham’s upper tract, through a considerable part of which we passed.236 I think the St. John’s the finest river in North America for navigation. We descended it about four hundred miles in canoes with only one portage at the great falls of half a mile, and in general the lands on the river average finer than the borders of any river I know. 90 miles from the river mouth at St. John’s is Fredericktown, the capital of New Brunswick, a new town beautifully situated and from 50 miles above it to St. John’s, setlements are very thick and increasing. I was very much pleased to find good crops and fine farms at least two or three degrees north of Gouldsboro and that in an interior country, which would have quieted my fears if I ever had any about our climate. At the setlement of Madawaska I saw summer wheat producing 25 bushel the acre among stumps and ill cleared land. That country wants nothing but a market for its produce, but from its situation is confined to that of St. John’s. This would be my principal objection to the upper Penobscot tract; the produce of American lands would be obliged to be sent to a British port, which will prove very inconvenient. The question of boundary is deferred to next June, when a decision is expected. I have no doubt it will be the eastern branch of our Schoodic.
From St. John’s we sailed to Passamaquoddy and from thence to Gouldsboro’. I regretted very much that Mr. H.P.H. had not time to visit the Schoodic and the country between that and Gouldsboro’. We shewed him the neighbourhood of the latter place, which is by far the least promising in appearance of any part of our tract, indeed so much so that we have our doubts whether we should not remove our capital elsewhere. Gouldsboro’ has advantages of goodness of harbour and central situation beyond any other place, but its ragged appearance is a serious objection in a country where we want principally to introduce farmers. From Gouldsboro’ we proceeded through the narrows of Mount Desart to the top of Bluehill Bay by water. There is here a remarkably neat little village chiefly of farmers and the lands are good. I had never been here before, nor at Castine, the capital on Penobscot, to which place we went on horseback. The country between is rocky but there are good farms. Castine is a very good harbour and likely to become the seat of the Penobscot trade. There is already a good deal of shipping owned there and about one hundred houses, some of which are very handsome. It has peculiarly the advantage of some pleasant society and sensible people with whom I was very much pleased, and I was altogether with the place, which far exceeded our expectations. I wished very much to have gone up the Penobscot, but we were obliged to cross the bay to Long Island, where we slept, and from thence to General Knox’s. I found the country round him very much improved. He had nearly setled with his squatters and was selling lands at 5, 6, and 7 dollars the acre.
We went this time by land from St. Georges and were very much pleased with the country between that and Portland. It is almost as well setled as any part of New England and with very little improvement, a good carriage road could be made all the way to Penobscot. It is at present far superior to any of the avenues to the Genisee and a stage is established to within 35 miles of the General. I believe Mr. H. P. Hope was much pleased with Maine; the scenery of the country, though it has nothing to do with the speculative value of it, is very fine, and we are apt to have our opinions biassed by the gratification of our senses. I also think we aggreed pretty well on the subject of the speculation, on which he made many very good and judicious remarks and seemed perfectly au fait of the nature of it. This country is not generally a pleasant or interesting one for any person who does not enter into the habits and ideas of the people nor understand the exact point of information to look for. No refinement must be looked for; one must talk about money and lands and hear every body’s story of his good and bad speculations; and though the scenery of the country is fine and in many instances grand beyond conception, travelling is fatiguing and difficult and for a few moments pleasure you are generally obliged to traverse many days journey of uninteresting country. I should advise very few people to come here for their amusement, though I must say I have had my curiosity gratified and have collected in the two years I have spent in the country what I should be loath to part with for the acquisition of any other four of my life.
I shall say nothing at present about our plans of proceeding in Maine, but when we have dismissed Cobb, shall send you the details. I have got my deeds recorded from Maine and shall bring home with me on my return regular attested copies of them, together with the original declaration of trust.
I have placed young Black in Willing and Francis counting house to keep him employed for the present and they speak very highly of him.237 He appears a very steady good young man and will I dare say be usefull to Richards, with whom he will go. He writes a good hand and may superintend the countinghouse work with a little instruction. I would however hint that he will be a considerable expence to you, having already disbursed near 300 dollars for him. I would therefore not send out any other persons of this description, for though we may hereafter want them, such characters are easily found here and at less expence. If Black behaves well we may be able to place him very comfortably some time hence.
I wrote to Mr. H.H. how scandalously DeSmeth and his companions had been taken in. I since find Talon has continued his negotiations with them and am told they have contracted to give him 10/ Pensylvania per acre for the remaining 100,000 of Bingham’s lands in this state, which the latter has promised Talon at 7/6, or one dollar. I could have got any part of this land for 5/ and could still if they were to drop the bargain. How Talon has explained away his conduct I don’t understand, for I find they accepted his bills under protest for honor of the drawer here, R. Gilmor [?]238 and Company. These lands did not cost Bingham 1/ the acre and he will realize an immense fortune. All the people in this country who did not speculate beyond their means and who have been able to keep their lands untill they were called for, have been successful.
Colonel John Black of Ellsworth, Maine
Successor to his father-in-law, General Cobb, as Agent for the Bingham Property in Maine
Portrait by an unknown artist
Those only have been ruined who for years have been obliged to satisfy their engagements by raising money at 50 per cent per annum and consequently have finished by being obliged to sacrifice their property. Morris, Nicholson and Greenleaf are of this description. The first, who is the only man of any head—and he is a very extraordinary one—begins at last to see what he can not retrieve himself and I believe will give up his property to his creditors for a discharge shortly. One of the partners of LeRoy’s house of New York is here for the purpose of securing a debt from him to the Amsterdam houses of 130,000 dollars; and talks of advancing 100/M dollars more to get security of some lands in the neighbourhood of this town and of his house in town (the sale of which was fictitious as I expected) in the same manner I covered Soderström’s debt some time past.239 I do not conceive the property any thing like a security for the money and shall see if I can not contrive to get them to take our Pensylvania lands and pay our claim, which would afford a much greater prospect of surplus for security. I can not act directly on the bussiness or I might otherwise thwart it, but shall contrive to put it in their way. If we do not make some arrangement, we shall be obliged to take these lands and though I consider them worth much more, I would rather liquidate. You are perfectly right in your opinion about Edward Mott’s application; we have nothing to do with it at present. I have seen him since his return and referred him to Morris, telling him that I will make him deeds for any lands he agrees with Mr. M. for, provided the price is paid or secured to me. I have not seen Morris this long time; he is shut up in a house a few miles out of town and keeps close to avoid arrest. Bankrupt laws are very defective all over the continent or rather there exist none and the consequence is that the most scandalous frauds and partiality is practised. It has been repeatedly before Congress and at this moment a Committee is sitting on the subject, but the interest and customs of the states clash so much that no favorable issue is expected and the State of Pensylvania will probably enact one for itself, untill the general government, to whom this power is reserved by the constitution, can agree.
Benjamin Vaughan is gone to live on the Kennebeck in Maine and is highly delighted with the country. He is talked of as a very busy man.
Characters of this kind are usefull to the country for they understand the art of puffing, if nothing else. His brother Charles at Boston and John here are both and particularly the latter, much distressed in their bussiness.240
Your letter about some small claims on some people here came to hand a few days previous to Richards’ arrival. I shall attend to them and write you shortly. The only two of any consequence are McNeil and Wilcocks;241 about the former I have written to Codman; the latter is dead and though his estate is thought to be good, it is embarassed. The house of J. and F.B. and Co. have a larger claim on them and I shall attend to both. I have never been able to meet young Wollaston,242 who left me your letter of introduction. I was on the south when he called here and on my return he was gone to Boston. He however succeeded in his mission and I recommended him to the Secretary of State as a proper person; being now very well acquainted with all the heads of the departments of government, my recommendation in cases of this nature would be attended to. I have looked over the West India papers and think with you that a personal visit to the islands could alone setle our heavy dependence with Runnels. If peace takes place, upon which I can form no calculation, I shall certainly go out. I have no apprehension of climate; the only obstacle at present is the stoppage of communication between the different colonies. I shall say no more on this subject untill I am able to do something.
This country continues undisturbed by the tempest that agitates so seriously every other and more likely to remain so than ever. The present administration is timid and passive; Adams is inclined to follow the footsteps of his predecessor and excite as little notice as possible; the people throughout are satisfied and easy; that spirit of enthusiasm in favor of the French cause, the fatal effects of which was with difficulty stemmed by Washington, has subsided and indeed almost reversed in consequence of the late conduct of France. The change of public opinion is wonderfull and there is now no danger of a relapse. The character of Americans leads them to cool calculation in politics and the plea of national honour is seldom urged by the most visionary. The preservation of neutrality is in consequence duly appreciated and will be pursued if possible. We are still without advice of the works of our missionarys at Paris; any cringing humiliation is disregarded and the result will alone be looked to. Anything short of France persisting in taking their vessels or insisting on a rupture of the British treaty will answer. I think the French will not risk war, both from the unpopularity of it with the people and the accession of strength it would give their enemy in the islands. Talleyrand understands this country perfectly and knows how far he can go; his opinion will probably lead the Directory. The trade of America will never be perfectly secure without a navy; with a very small one they can publish their edition of the laws of nations and without it they must constantly be the dupes of diplomatic sophisms. Half a dozen ships of the line would in time of war enable them to decide the fate of the West Indies and of this the people begin to be aware, but it is too late for the present contest. West India vessels continue to be captured, though we are daily amused with new edicts of the French proconsuls in the different islands, some more and some less favorable.
This place has been extremely unfortunate; the yellow fever raged three months and carried off about 1,000 persons, making about every 30th of the population at that time. 4,000 persons were altogether attacked so that every fourth escaped. Three weeks after the cessation of this pestilence the frost shut us up and there is in consequence an immense quantity of produce in the river bound up. New York and Baltimore are still open, which must give them very great advantage in bussiness. The finances go on well, as you will observe from the inclosed report by the Secretary of the Treasury. Stocks are scarce and much demanded; the Bank dividend for the half year has been declared 5 per cent, instead of 4 per cent; the additional I per cent is surplus proffit which the Bank by its charter is at certain periods obliged to divide and can not be hereafter depended on. Money is much more plenty than it has been, owing to the fall of the great speculators, who have long been in the habit of paying exorbitant interest and the banks hardly get sufficient good paper to discount. Bank discounts are very ill managed and the object of them for the facility of trade is totally misunderstood throughout the continent. I was very much pleased by the family account I got from Mr. Richards, both in Cavendish and Devonshire Squares,243 by which I conclude the air of England and partial relaxation from bussiness must have been of service. An occasional return of your old visitor, if not too violent, is no bad symptom. In particular the account of the addition to your nursery and of course to your happiness gave me great pleasure and I beg my congratulations with the usual tribute of my respectful regard may be presented to Mrs. Hope. Pray believe me, my dear Sir, ever with invariable attachment,
Your most devoted humble servant
Finally, after a season of inactivity and uncertainty, General Cobb received a summons to proceed to Philadelphia, there to confer with Bingham, Baring, and John Richards, the man who was to represent the European partners in the concern as agent in the field, and who from now on was to work very closely with Cobb. The General sailed from Prospect Harbor, in the township of Gouldsborough, on 9 December, and six days later, after a typically stormy winter passage, arrived at Portland in a blizzard. Since the stage for Boston did not leave until Monday, 18 December, Cobb passed the week end with Daniel Davis, a friend of Knox’s and one of the leading lawyers of the town. By Wednesday night Bingham’s agent was in Boston, where he spent the rest of the week enjoying the company of his old friends Knox and Jeffrey. On Christmas Day, 1797, in company with Mrs. Judge Wilson, he set off in the slow stage for New York, a journey which included crossing the Connecticut River on the ice and the Stratford ferry in a canoe; and on New Year’s Eve he was in Philadelphia, ready to act as advocate for a more active promotion of the Maine Lands.244