EIGHTEEN hundred was the last year during which Bingham’s program for the development of his lands in Maine moved forward according to schedule. The beginning of the nineteenth century saw a series of misfortunes overtake the enterprise which were to stall its progress for more than twenty years. Unfortunately for David Cobb, the many obstacles to the eventual success of the speculation were just beginning to be overcome when he finished his term as agent. Thus his career as promoter of real estate down east ended in failure, just as the tide was turning.
However proud William Bingham may have been of his longawaited son, born late in 1800, the child proved a bitter blessing. The infant’s mother, Ann Willing Bingham, went on a sleighing party too soon after her son’s birth, caught cold, and soon became seriously ill. In an effort to save her life, her distracted husband took her to Bermuda, though the presence on board the ship of a leaden coffin testified to the despair of her physicians. The beautiful Mrs. Bingham reached Bermuda just in time to die there, leaving her husband beside himself with grief.462 On his return to Philadelphia he soon discovered that the many reminders of his wife that surrounded him rendered him incapable of work. Accordingly, he determined to accompany his daughter Ann and her husband, Alexander Baring, to England, where the newlyweds planned to establish themselves. Despite the fact that Bingham assured General Cobb that he would be able to direct the Maine operation from London, his absence from this country brought with it countless problems and seriously handicapped the development of the Maine property.463
As if this were not enough, Bingham’s last days in America were made doubly unpleasant by what may best be called the Cabot Suit. Bingham’s own account of this unhappy litigation464 covers the subject thoroughly, and it now seems clear that he received a good deal less than justice at the hands of the clans of Essex County. When he left for England, he had a judgment of close to $40,000 against him and was faced with the threat of having his Maine Lands attached to execute that judgment. Should this happen, either a large sum of money must be paid, or a large slice of the Kennebec tract would be gone forever. This vexatious business occupied a good part of the time of his agents, both in Philadelphia and in Maine, for the next three years.
Though it was certainly not so immediately menacing, the rise of Jeffersonian Democracy in Maine was to mean trouble for the landed proprietors in general and Bingham in particular.465 This problem did not become acute until after Bingham’s death, but ominous rumblings were heard once the Republicans gained control of the federal government. The question of separation appeared again to divide the District roughly along party lines, with the Jeffersonians favoring separation, the Federalists clinging to the old Bay State.466 In the midst of this rising storm, David Cobb took a firm stand on the side of Federalism and property rights. Elected state senator in 1801, he was at once elected President of the Senate, and from this position, in the course of the next few years, he was able to help counteract the threat of squatter sovereignty in Maine.467 Believing that the courts of Hancock County needed strong leadership, he unwillingly accepted the position of Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas, and was thus able, from another vantage point, to fight for the Bingham interests in the dangerous days ahead.468
With Bingham far away in England, with his agents in Philadelphia confused as to what policy to pursue, with the Cabot Suit threatening dismemberment of the property, and with the Jacobins knocking at the gates, General Cobb could do little more than mark time. He and John Richards attempted to carry on their program of developing settlements on the Penobscot tract, despite these discouragements. In 1801 the General could report that a little over $11,000 worth of land had been contracted for, though, of course, only a small part of this sum had actually been received in cash.469 Two years later he actually received an offer for the Kennebec tract from some Boston capitalists, but the price was so absurdly low as to preclude acceptance.470 Still and all, it was a hopeful sign. But without the active direction of either Bingham or Baring and without adequate funds, the General could do little more than keep his fences repaired. It was but natural, therefore, that he should turn more and more to public affairs while he waited for those in charge to determine on what the next step should be.
Meanwhile a host of petty problems, personal and professional, continued to make demands on General Cobb’s time. When a campaign to remove a corrupt judge in Hancock County was started, Cobb’s aid was requested.471 When a new missionary to the Indians was appointed, he came armed with a letter of introduction to the General.472 When it was suggested that the Post Office at Gouldsborough be moved to a more convenient place, Cobb’s opinion was solicited.473 When De la Roche died and his widow wanted an agent to superintend her property, General Cobb was offered, and accepted, the job.474 Letters from old friends—from Knox, from Jackson, from Eustis and the rest—occasionally brightened his otherwise drab existence, and his attendance at the General Court in Boston enabled him to renew old friendships.475 The needs of his large family were as demanding as ever. When Eunice Wilde fell sick, her husband must ask the General’s medical advice.476 Son Henry embarked on a naval career, as a midshipman aboard the U.S.S. Constitution, but soon left the service.477 George was sent to the Wildes for schooling at Hallowell Academy.478 And the eldest son, Thomas, remained his father’s right hand man at Gouldsborough.479
Thus, as the nineteenth century opened, Cobb’s prospects were anything but bright. His best hope was to try to hold his own and trust that the future would have better things in store.
Cobb to Bingham, Gouldsborough, 27 January 1801 [CP]480
Gouldsboro’ January 27th. 1801
Honorable William Bingham
Inclosed you will receive our accounts for the last season.481 To correct some small errors in our accounts of the two preceeding years, and to make this more plain and intelligible, we have united the amounts of those years with the present, that you might have in one view the whole of our proceedings with the expence of the several departments and the total of receipts.
As it may afford you some satisfaction, I will make a few explanitory observations on our several departments as they appear on the accounts.
Gouldsboro’ Packet. This measure has not been attended with the immediate profit that I wish’d and expected, and the reasons of it are now to me very plain. The captain and crew, who receive monthly wages and subsistance, are not interested either in making their trips with expedition and oeconomy, or disposing of the cargo’s to the best market. Thence we are exposed to a great expence from the indolence and extravigance of our navigators and the vilanous impositions of the lumber yards at Boston.
Others who persue this business on shares make large returns for the vessel and crew, and from this circumstance I formerly calculated that a good profit would result from this measure. However the object of keeping up a communication between this place and Boston has been answer’d and thereby the reputation and value of the country has certainly been increas’d. No loss has accrued, and the packet is now worth as much, or more, as when purchas’d, with which sum this department is ballanced.
Surveying Department. About two hundred dollars will yet when receiv’d pass to the credit of this department, and in justice the five dollars receiv’d from each settler should likewise pass to the same credit, as the intention of government in fixing this sum was only to repay the proprietor the survey of the settlers lot. This however has always been credited to the townships in which the settlers lot is. The experience of operating in new countries has determin’d that this department will ultimately be the most expensive of any.
Rood Cutting Department. This is important in the settlement of all new countries, but in future it will be only occasional and to no great amount.
Home Building Department. The expences of this department have been heavy, but by no means unnecessary, if it was intended that this country should be inhabited by any others than copper and white savages, and the department is ballanc’d by the actual cost of the buildings. There will be little or no expence in this department in future.
Annsburgh Settlement. It is difficult to say what would be [the] value of this settlement now (as there is yet but little value to landed property here), but I should presume it is good for what it has cost if we never obtain any part of the debt due from the occupier. This, however, we shall probably obtain. Indeed it would be wrong, at present, to put this settlement, or any other we should make for like purposes, at a less price than what it cost (altho’, in this instance we have carried to loss the salary we gave this settler for his first years residence there), for our object in making this interior settlement was to form a kind of nucleus, around which settlers would gather, and if in the event the greater part of a township should be sold and settled thereby, the first cost of the operation would deserve a much higher estimate. One settler has already taken his lot adjoining to this settlement, and altho our occupier is a poor devil, yet we have one consolation under this misfortune, that he has a large family of eight boys, some nearly of age, all of whom will probably settle in that country.
Saw Mill No. 1 in Gouldsboro. This mill you purchas’d of Shaw being very old and worn out. The first year I came here I put some small expence upon it and in the fall I rented it for the insuing year at 100 dollars, for which I gave you credit in 1796. At the expiration of this lease, as the mill was too bad to repair, I contracted to have it rebuilt with a new dam, for which I gave the use of the old mill for 1797 and four hundred dollars. The mill was finish’d in April 1798 and we leas’d it for one year for 300 dollars, part of which is now due as per account. Since April 1799 we have taken the mill into our own hands, and the business is done on shares, by which means we receive immediately our proportion of the boards and the log rent. If there were persons in this country in whom the least confidence could be placed, the mill business would be attended with very great advantages.
Saw Mill No. 2 in No. 7, Middle Division. This mill is on the same stream and only one mile and a half above the one in Gouldsboro. I purchas’d this mill in the winter of 1796 and 97 for 550 dollars, and it was under rent from March 1797 for one year at 200 dollars, for which you had credit in my private accounts for 1798. It was again leas’d for 220 dollars ’till March 1799, the greater part of which is now due as per account. This mill since the last mentioned period has been occupied as the preceeding one.
Saw Mill No. 3, Annsburgh. This mill was unfortunate the last year by having its dam distroy’d in part by the flood and which could not be repair’d ’till after the period for sawing was over. It is now repair’d and we hope the next season to receive something from it. We have now indeed about 20 or 30 M of boards there, but as they were not disposed of, they are not carried to the credit of this mill. The amount of this account is what the mill cost.
Saw Mill No. 4. This is Mariaville where there is a large double saw mill built this year, and which will commence working on the opening of the spring. This amount shows the expence of the mill.
Mariaville Settlement—only shews the advances we have as yet made to this settlement. Our agent there has other demands that have not come forward for building a house, for forage for the cattle, for chains, sleads, etc.
Settlement No. 23, Middle Division. This is an advance we have made for bringing forward this interior settlement. It is ultimately to be repaid and we hope to have it attended with an accession of settlers.
Union River Mill. We have a deed of this mill, which is at the settlement near the mouth of the river. We took it as security for a loan to the amount mentioned which we found necessary to make to our contractor who built Mariaville Mills. It is on interest, and we have agreed to the sale of this mill for 2,300 dollars, to be paid in 6 and 12 months. The surplus beyond our loan and interest will revert to the contractor, now our agent at Mariaville.
Township of Gouldsboro’, Townships, Wharf. These several subjects require no particular observations.
Timber Rents. This is the first of our receipts in this department. By a schedule inclosed you will see the sums still due from some of our agents as far as we have receiv’d returns.
Sundry Expences. The sum under this head paid to Judge Sullivan is for his account in full for the Trenton cause which was decided the last year.482 This sum with all the former advances for fees in this case I have made out an account against the Town of Trenton and which I presume they will repay. When receiv’d, the sum of $63.33 will pass to the credit of this department as a part of what has been receiv’d as timber rents ought now to be. But not knowing from our returns what proportion had been receiv’d for the former prosecutions at Union River, the whole has been credited as timber rents. It is further to be noted, that all the different utensils we have here for the use of the concern, have been charged to this department.
Store. One of the evils that lessened the profits of the packet has likewise operated here—the price of lumber at Boston. In future this evil will be remedied, but I think it would be prudent to gradually lessen the capital of this department and devote it to other objects, leaving however sufficient to negociate all our supplies to the department and the settlers.
Cash. This requires no comment.
Profit and Loss. This exhibits the sums that may be said to be lost, as well as those gain’d by our different operations.
Stock. Time must determine whether the several subjects here exhibited as stock will turn out equal the value estimated. It is the price they several cost, and I sincerely hope that your future returns from them may equal your expectations.
I have been so employ’d in reviewing our accounts that I have not given you a letter since the 10 ultimo.
The accounts I have put under a seperate cover, as with this letter I suspect they would exceed the limits of your frank.
I am, dear sir, with esteem,
Cobb to Wilde, Gouldsborough, 1 February 1801 [CP]
Gouldsboro’ February 1st. 1801
It is a long time since I heard from you altho’ I have frequently heard of you, sometimes as an elector483 high on the ladder, at other times moving in a more humble, but much the most profitable, station at the Bar. In whatever sphere you move in you have always my best wishes for success. Take care however that you mix not too much unprofitable ambition in your desires for elevation.
It seems the political die is cast and the events of our country, in future, rest with God. Ben Russell’s folks at Boston appear to be advocates for Burr. He has more ambition than Molock and more avarice than Charters.484 Jefferson with all his faults is best. The most painfull part of this business is the joy express’d by the party in their success, for their management of the government will not, cannot, be essentially different from the past. We are too young, we have too much property, and that too much defused, to admit of successfull rebellions by disorganizes, however the son culottes of our country may wish it. Dearborn must have burst forth with great joy on this occasion with his advocates around you.485 I presume my friend Ben. V. is too prudent to say anything. You will present me to him and his family very successfully.
What is the situation of my Androscoggin lands? I think it best not to dispose of any of them at present, and if possible prevent all trespassers. This property situated in so thick a settlement cannot be of less value than 4 dollars per acre, if trespassers can be prevented.
How will stand my senatorial business with you? If their is no probability of success I should rather withdraw my name. Old Campbell486 is still a[n]xious to go another year, and I suppose another and another, and the Washington people will vote for him and for me, which I do not like. This county will probably vote for me. I am not anxious in this business and I wish your direction. Thomas has improv’d this delightful! winter in a visit to Kennebeck. By him we intended to forward you a Gouldsboro’ cheese, but he tho’t himself and his baggage enough for his pony. The cheese however will be the better for keeping, and when you do get it I shall insist that it is only used on extraordinary occasions of friends and company, and that you inform them it is an English cheese made at my dairy in Gouldsboro’ where any quantity of the like may be obtain’d on paying well for them.
We are all well, and have no other complaint than indolence and the want of good society. Our best and affectionate remembrances to Eunice and the children.
Ross to Cobb, Union River, 3 February 1801 [CP]
Union River 3d February 1801
Your polite favor of the 28th ultimo I was honord with on the 29th. I have returned to my meat and tod and begin to gather strength. I [torn] sleigh rider, am very happy to hear that Mr. Richards has [torn] to his estate, and tho’ you brag of your women turning out boys as fast and as easy as tinkers cast spoons, yet our women here beat yours all hollow. Doctor Payson487 in the course of the last ten days has almost killed an excellent horse in the service, and in one twenty four hours took three lusty boys—so that ’tis more like shelling pease on our side the county.
Fabrique I thought kept you regularly informed of his motions. You ask where he lives. Mariaville or Ellsworth. The latter is his town residence, where he has past the most part of the present winter. I believe he has to this day not hauled one log. At least such is the complexion of the best information on the subject that I can procure. Am a little apprehensive he is of the class of exotics that rich luxurious soils don’t well suit. You will be a better judge next June or July on an examination and eclaircissment of accounts.
I think it now my duty to say something of my own business. I have been attempting (before my face) to create a fund for you in the hands of Peters and Pond. It does not yet exceed seventy dollars, however rest assured that I have good securities for a handsome little fund which by the last of May will be in a state of requisition. Not only that, but as man is frail and myself in particular most ticklishly brittle, I think entre nous it will be best to have a looking over and settlement of the business confided to my care, when I hope by a candid and fair statement, payment and settlement, to give my very honorable friends Messrs. Cobb and Richards due satisfaction, to whom I look upon myself under many and very sensible obligations.
Am too shatterd a piece of furniture to bear a jaunt to Goldsborough this winter. Yet as you want somebody to help you to return thanks, as I generally when I put up my humble supplications for myself do the same for my benefactors, it perhaps will do as well. With mine and wifes best regards to you and your good family,
I am with much esteem and respect,
Dear sir, your most obedient servant
Honorable David Cobb, Esquire
’Tis now one oclock at night. I have been bored since six till this moment by a fellow who is prosecuted for crim con., and I, to be sure, must try to keep him out of the nobble. Its cost him already $300, and I must be paid for this nights tedium. I mention this that you may account for the many blun in my [torn]
Cobb to Bingham, Gouldsborough, 11 February 1801 [CP]488
Gouldsboro’ February 11th. 1801
William Bingham, Esquire
The inclosed will afford you a view of the quantity and price of the land we have engaged to purchasors in the different townships. The greater part is on interest since January 1st. 1799, and some before that period.
I have receiv’d your two letters of November 24th and December 31 St. Dr. Cony has been inform’d of your directions, and I have requested him not to proceed in surveying, road making or any thing else until! he hears further from you or me. Within a few days past I have receiv’d a letter from him, wherein he mentions that the two townships are compleated with their plans and field notes, and that one half of the survey bill will be paid for in land at 1$ per acre within those townships. This circumstance is sufficient to shew you what I have heretofore observ’d, that this country is in a state of settlement of itself.
The information which I some time since communicated to you, and which I receiv’d from a member of our legislature, you may depend upon its being correct, your not receiving it from any other source notwithstanding.489 General Knox did not attend the last session of the legislature; he is now however with the present sessions, and if the subject is again bro’t forward, you will, thro’ him no doubt, be inform’d of it. My distance is so great from Boston, and our communication by post is only once in a fortnight, and that uncertain, that I cannot afford to you the assistance I wish in this business.
I sincerely congratulate you on the birth of your son and you have my best wishes that you may realize all that happiness and pleasure that you naturally anticipate from such an event.
I am, dear sir, with esteem
Cobb to Bingham, Gouldsborough, 7 April 1801 [CP]
Gouldsborough April 7th 1801
William Bingham, Esquire
My last letter was of the 2d. ultimo. The last I have received of yours was of the 31st. of December past.
Our last winter was remarkably moderate. We had but little snow and that of short continuance, thence the lumbering business of the country has fell short near one half of the usual quantity. This circumstance with the great demand for boards for the West India market has rais’d that article from 6 to 10 dollars per M. Our Mariaville establishment has largely pertook of this general deficiency. This however only deprives us of a part of that immediate profit that was contemplated from it, as it will have no effect in retarding the progress of the settlement. Four families of western farmers are expected in the course of the next month to commence their improvements in the neighbourhood of this establishment.
Mr. Richards went for Boston about ten days since, where I suppose he intends making some further arrangements in his business of shipping lumber from this port. Before his departure he mentioned that if he should continue the lumber trade from this port, he should be fond of purchasing the five acre lot at the south western corner of this Point, where he intends building a store and wharf for his accommodation, and that he would pay the original sum that was given to Shaw for it, that is ten pounds per acre. He would likewise wish to purchase the saw mill in this town, if the price could be made agreeable. On this subject Mr. Richards will probably communicate his intentions to Mr. Baring before he returns from Boston. On this subject I shall wish your directions.
The last intelligence we had from the packet was of the 2d February. She was then at Charleston, South Carolina, on the freighting business. If she is not disposed of, she will probably return to this place by the middle of next month, when she will be loaded with lumber and sent to Boston for sale. Such vessels are at present high at market.
I hope we shall not have occasion to trouble you with any of our drafts the ensuing season. We estimate our funds to be adequate to our contemplated improvements.
I have lately receiv’d a letter from Doctor Cony,490 in which is the following paragraph.
I am lately inform’d that a Mr. Merrick, a connection of the Vaughan family, is soliciting the agency of Mr. Binghams landed concerns on this river. Whether Mr. Charles Vaughan is to be a copartner in this business I am not inform’d, altho’ from some conversation with him the last fall, I am confident he wishes it. Perhaps it is not exaggeration to remark that there is not probably a family on the globe more fond of experimenting and of novel revolutionary ideas, of dabbling in almost every kind of business, say Plymouth Company matters, tontine buildings, canals, land speculations, navigation, agricultural societies, India trade, turnpikes, physic, brick machines, bridges, bank stock, Society to Direct Foreigners, aquaducts, etc. etc. etc. Quere: Will all these things qualify a man the better to promote Mr. Bingham’s views and objects in bringing forward the sale and settlement of his lands on the Kennebeck? I have steadily kept in view that thro’ your assistance I should be able to promote those objects in all their various relations as well as any man in this country, and I will not suspect my own understanding so much as to believe my experience, knowledge and acquaintance with landed concerns to be inferior to any other person in this part of the government, and I indulge a hope that my reputation will be found a sufficient pledge for an honorable, œconomical and upright execution of any instructions that may be confided.
Judge Daniel Cony of Augusta
Sub-Agent for William Bingham’s Kennebec Tract
Portrait by Gilbert Stuart
The Doctor’s letter containing this paragraph was written to me in confidence, and I must request the same injunction.
It would have been particularly pleasing to me to have had some method pointed out by which I could receive the land I am entitled to by contract. It would be highly to your interest as well as mine, and I sincerely hope it will not be longer delay’d.
Cobb’s letters to Bingham quite naturally attempted to present the condition of the Maine speculation in the best possible light. Indeed the General had no choice; were the program for the development of the lands abandoned, his agency might well be given up and he would find himself in desperate straits. Thus he made every effort to emphasize the encouraging and minimize the discouraging aspects of the enterprise. John Richards, though he too was committed to the concern, was much more given to calling a spade a spade. The following report which he wrote to the Hopes is probably a much more objective analysis of just how things were going than are Cobb’s more sanguine accounts.
Richards to Hope and Company, Gouldsborough, 7 June 1801 [BaP]
Gouldsborough 7th June 1801
Messrs. Hope and Company
Altho I have not much to say in the communication of which I hope to give you pleasure, I feel it incumbent on me to forward to you a few lines on the opening of the season.
There would be little occasion to remark that the progressive advance of our concern is far less rapid and satisfactory than could be desired by any of the parties in it, were it not for the purpose of explaining why the operations of this year are intended to be on a scale more limited than heretofore. Yet tho’ we are contracting the force of our operating power, I consider it by no means prudent to withold it altogether, for by the general circulation of such an opinion the property would receive a check, more prejudicial than our exertions have been serviceable, giving thereby a publicity to the failure of our schemes, and confirming the former very unfavourable opinion of this country.
Our business this year will be confined to:
Housebuilding. Some little work is here required, say to the amount of $300 or $400, and one of our carpenters hitherto employ’d, having become a resident here, we have as an inducement to him given him this work occasionally to keep him in employ.
Road Cutting. We propose opening a road from Mariaville to a settlement 8 miles westward which communicates with the Penobscot. Some bridges are required on our former roads.
Surveying. Some few towns, viz. Eden on Mount Desert, No’s. 8 and 9, No’s. 11 and 12, Middle Division,491 being partially occupied by squatters or people under promise, we intend to have some or most of them run out.
Store and Packet. The former is neither that engine of reform to the country I had hoped for; nor is it so profitable as to induce its continuance. We shall therefore lessen the stock by degrees. The latter has returned from the southward with much worse success than we had hoped, owing to the sickness of the crew, the Captain having been laid up two months with a violent fever, of which also the Mate (our former Captain) died. She does not however make a losing voyage and is now going to Boston for sale. Whether we shall purchase a smaller one is doubtful; to be without one entirely will be extremely inconvenient both in a general and personal view.
Mills. The price of lumber having risen, those under our immediate inspection will do tolerably well. At Mariaville we shall be disappointed.
Settlements. These require some attention. The settler at No. 23 (Beddington) not being so capable a farmer as we understood, we have been obliged in some measure to take the management of it into our own hands; hitherto the season has been remarkably favourable. At Annsburgh and Beddington we have four families established who reside there altogether and appear to live comfortably. This takes off the horrors of the wilderness and will soon be the means of bringing others on.
In consequence of our advertisements of offering liberal encouragement to the first settlers who would take up lands on Union River, we have had some few applicants. They have, however, all returned satisfied with the land but without coming to any positive decision, altho’ the offers we have made were the same as detailed in my letter of the 27 January to the settler in No. 23. If further proofs were required of the difficulty in inducing settlers to come on at a distance from the borders of emigration, their not embracing eagerly such liberal offers would, I think, be conclusive. How great is the difference between a country which only required to have townships run out and roads cut to settle rapidly and the fact that people hesitate in considering a loan sufficient for their maintenance for three years, a compensation for removing so far into the wilderness!
It would be a needless repetition492 to give my reasons why I think the advance of this country will be slow and gradual, and why I conceive a length of time must be given to reap the harvest of settling and cultivating a country. It is more than ever my fix’d opinion that this will ultimately prove an advantageous speculation, but that the period of winding it up will not arrive for a great many years.
What effect peace and a dispersion of the American capital now employ’d in commerce may have on the value of lands, I do not calculate upon; my opinions are derived from the experience I have acquired.
As the question may possibly arise, why should Mr. Richards continue in so unprofitable a situation? I am free to confess my own private reasons with hopes of your pardon for the egotism: that unless I had some hopes and prospects of turning the export of lumber to account from a residence here, I should notwithstanding the object of my salary cast my thoughts towards engaging in some other occupation which might prove a source of reward before I felt the decline of life.
I am, Gentlemen, with sentiments of respect and esteem,
Your very obedient and humble servant
Richards to Cobb, Gouldsborough, 8 June 1801 [CP]
Gouldsboro’ the 8 June. 1801
Such few occurrences have happened since my last per R. Shaw, that I fear the present will be full of Sir Lucius O’Trigger’s great scarcity of materials.493 The packet is not loaded so soon as I expected which being no novelty scarce deserves notice. It does not appear however that the present skipper is more dilatory than poor David494 used to be. She takes all the boards we had at the Eastern Bay landing and some few from the Western Bay etc., say in all 17 M and compleats her hold with joists. On deck I have put a timber and about 4 or 5 M spruce sheathing stuff for Joseph Russell,495 of which I will write him word. I sincerely hope she will sell well, and if vessels have not fallen in price, your being upon the spot will of course help her off. You will follow your own opinion whether it will be better to paint her a little, for she is very shabby at present. Our spare cordage will go with her. I am at a loss what to say about the purchase of another vessel. It will be inconvenient to be without any, but will not the Ruby do at present, and by waiting a few months may not vessels fall, and we purchase to greater advantage? If you take another in part payment whoever understands vessels best and is sharpest at a bargain will gain the advantage, and to give a handsome credit to this sale, the other vessel may appear a dear purchase. By selling and buying with cash we shall obviate this.
If you see Mr. Barrell496 do speak to him about the families he mentioned to me, and see whether there was any thing serious in his application, or whether he was only pumping.
Pray mention particularly what you wish me to do with Tillinghast. Further discoveries appear against him, and I think of writing to Nelson for a writ in case he refuses to come to a settlement.
If you see Mr. J. C. Jones remember me to him, and state the particulars of the situation of the mill seat in No. 22. They are as follows. A mill was erected there about 19 or 20 years since by one Farnsworth who conveyed his claim thereto and to 100 acres land to a Mr. Lovett of Annapolis Royal. Farnesworth left it about 13 or 14 years ago, since when no person has resided on it. Judge Jones thinks Farnesworth is not mentioned as a squatter. Do give your opinion to Mr. Jones on the subject and it may be well to hint that if land, when it begins to settle, is not worth the expence of running out, it is never to be expected to bear a value.497
The weather since you went has been very variable. At noon the thermometer has been once at 80 since your departure, and at the same time of day at 46.
If the day is fine tomorrow I purpose going up to Beal’s,498 for I conclude they have had a noble burn. Fabrique I am told has broken his crank. I have therefore engaged Bacon499 to take over our spare one for him to Mr. Ross’s. Will you therefore be good enough to procure for us—
- 2 Cranks
- 1½ dozen Nob Letches
- 1. dozen Thumb Letches
- 3 barrels Bread
- 2 dozen Men’s good leather Shoes
I went to Boston unprovided with a list of seeds for my garden which I selected from Bingham’s gardening book. Possibly you may be able to procure them for me at Whites, unless you hear that any of them will not grow. Else, I should like to try them. Next year will do to sow them if this is too late, tho’ the worms have committed such havock that we are all sowing our gardens afresh entirely.
- Seeds as follows—
- Corn Sallad or Lamb’s Lettuce
Please also to send me a barrel flour and to pay my arrears at J. Russell’s Gazette and a quarter or two in advance.
Cobb to Bingham, Taunton, 29 June 1801 [BP]500
Taunton June 29th. 1801
Under all the afflictions which it is the lot of man to participate of in this world, nothing so affectually contributes to the peacefull conciliation of the mind, as perfect silence on the subject. You will therefore permit me only to say, that I sincerely sympathize with you on the late melancholy event that has taken place in your family.
You have no doubt observ’d that I am a member of the legislature of this Commonwealth; my situation there, and the late death of my brother requiring my earliest attendance here, has prevented my attention to your commands as contain’d in your letter of the 8th. instant, but as I shall return in the course of this week to Boston, that business shall then be executed.
As it is not probable I shall return to Gouldsboro’ under a fortnight or three weeks from this, I shall wish to receive your directions about the Kennebeck lands. How are deeds to be given to the surveyors for their services as engaged by Dr. Cony? How are the settlers who are entitled to land, as well as those who purchase, to receive their deeds? I am much solicited on this subject. Whether you wish me to return by that way, to adjust with Dr. Cony his account for the last year, and put in train for execution any other of your directions. I have likewise to request your permission to draw for 500$ in part of my ensuing annual stipend. My private loan accounts shall be forwarded before I leave Boston.
The subject that I heretofore mentioned to you, that a motion had been made in the legislature respecting your contracts with the government, has been explain’d at the late session, and a Resolve has passed501 requiring Jackson and Flint to release to the Commonwealth, within six months, all their right to the back Million or 2,900,000 acres which they contracted for, and on failure, the Attorney General is directed to prosecute their bonds for 5,000$ now in the Treasury, which bond was given for the performance of the contract. It seems that 5,000$ were to be paid within thirty days after the contract was signed by the parties (this sum has been paid), and a bond was then given for 5,000$ more conditioned for the faithfull performance of the contract. This is the bond that is order’d to be prosecuted if a release is not executed agreeably to the Resolution. If it is, the bond will be given up.502
I am, dear sir,
Your obedient servant
Philadelphia June 30th 1801
I have already acknowledged receipt of your favors of the 27 January, February 11, March 2, and April 7, tho I have not, from reasons already adduced, made any particular reply to them.
Your first letter was accompanied by your accounts, which bring into one point of view your expenditures for the years 1798, 1799, and 1800, not comprehending those of a previous date, nor including the agents expences. My accounts relative to disbursments for the settlement of these lands are closed every six months and they amount with interest thereon from the 1 February 1796 (the date of Mr. Baring’s purchase) to $27,282.30, besides which, there were upwards of $4,000 previously expended, to which must be added Mr. Baring’s moiety of expences, which will make the sum total amount to little less than $60,000, from which, in order to ballance this account, is to be deducted the value of the objects on hand, at their real value. The difference will constitute the actual expences attending the settlement and improvement, which will form a very large sum, to constitute a plea in favor of relaxing on the part of the legislature, the demand for settling duties. Your seat in the legislature will enable you to make proper impressions on this subject, and I think may be made very instrumental in obtaining a favorable liquidation of this business. I congratulate you on your appointment as President of the Senate—but what will be the effect, as relative to the necessity of a constant attendance on that body, and how will such a necessary absence from home interfere with your other pursuits and engagements?
I suppose the care of the store is well attended to during your journies to Boston. This establishment has greatly disappointed us, with respect to the profits it would produce. From the great advance, usually obtained on the sale of articles in a young country, where labor is excessively high, we expected the returns would have been very large, and thereby counterballance in a great measure our heavy expenditures for the hire of labourers, for a country must be in a very active state of settlement, so as to insure the receipt of funds from the sale of lands, in order to justify the heavy advances that are made for improvements in order to prepare it for the reception of settlers.
Your experience will determine how far such objects have been, or are likely to be obtained by the disbursements we have already made. I observe that you have engaged to dispose of about 8,000 acres of land in different districts, but you do not mention whether the payments are at short or at long periods. I hope these sales will be more frequent and progressively make us returns for the heavy advances of purchase and settlement. It would have been satisfactory to us to have had the various items which constitute the expences under the different heads as you have arranged them, in the manner you commenced your accounts, previous to Mr. Baring’s purchase. Mr. Black could easily make a transcript from the books, but they must be forwarded by some private hands, as I suppose they would be rather bulky.
Surveying is so simple a business that I suppose you would not find it difficult to procure a settler who understood it, and who would reside in some convenient place, where you might command his services. He might be paid as occasionally employed, and probably might be induced to take land for his services.
I hope the packet will be successfull in her southern voyage, but I much doubt whether she will sell for as much as the price you have valued her at. I observe the great scarcity of lumber arising from the very moderate winter, and the consequent advance in the price of this article. Should you have had any large quantity on hand, you will benefit, thereby, altho I find our mills will sustain an injury from the deficiency of logs. Whenever a peace takes place, this article will greatly rise, as the demand will be immensely great for the supply of the West India market, in order to reinstate the islands.
I hope our housebuilding expences have finished. This is an item, of no great account, in the settlement of new countries.
It augurs very ill for our interior settlements, when you are under the necessity of giving a salary of $450 for a years residence of a settler, after having made expensive improvements and furnished stock, at Annsburgh Settlement.
I hope our mills will prove productive and furnish a full consideration for their cost. Much depends upon the industry and integrity of the persons you employ to superintend them.
In your letter accompanying your accounts, you make no remarks on the subject of the settlement at No. 23, which has involved an expence of $848.47.
However it gives me great pleasure to observe that you have brought this business to such a state as to have no occasion for any further requisitions for money, as it would have been extremely inconvenient to me to have made any further advances.
I have received the returns of survey made under the direction of Dr. Coney, for the two townships of the Kennebec lands. From the indications of the quality of the lands, which he has annexed thereto, it appears that they are exceedingly valuable. I have before mentioned that I am not disposed to enter into any extensive plan of settlement, which would necessarily involve expence, altho I have no objections to accommodating such a number of settlers as are inclined to form their establishments on these lands, specifying by written obligations the terms on which they agree to become purchasers, which are to be complied with when they receive their deed. I think such sales, especially if made at handsome prices, would give an importance and value to these lands in the general estimation and would thereby facilitate the object I have in view, that of disposing of a portion, if I cannot sell the whole tract. I have waited with great impatience for the value of these lands to rise in the public opinion, which I believe has been somewhat effected. This was necessary, previous to the adoption of measures to urge a sale without making an immense sacrifice, and that such a sale had become very urgent you will readily judge, after informing you that the purchase of these lands on the half yearly settlement, terminating on this day, amounts for monies absolutely expended to the sum of $539,426.50, from which is to be deducted the sales made to Mr. Baring with interest thereon. The ballance, which is an advance of money, forms an immense sum, which is independent of the expences of settlement, and some other charges. I am well persuaded that these lands, from their local situation and intrinsic value, can be readily settled, but I am apprehensive that it will be difficult to impress these ideas upon others who may have received different accounts. This induces me to wish you to communicate to me, all information you may receive or can collect, relative to the Kennebec lands, their soil, situation, facility of settlement, general estimation they are held in, after being examined, their vicinity to settlements already made and other local and peculiar advantages. I would thank you to address this information to me in such a manner as would serve as a document to exhibit to such persons as made enquiries, on whom I would wish to impress, on this subject.
It is of the most essential importance to the concern that the prejudices which have been entertained concerning these lands should be eradicated as soon as possible, which I think may be easily effected, as I am informed from every quarter of their intrinsic goodness and the truth must at last prevail.
I wish your settlements had originally commenced in this quarter, being from various reasons, much more susceptible of a rapid progress, than the tract which now occupies our attention.
I have never made him any proposals on the subject, but from several conversations I have had with him, I cannot but acknowledge that I derived very important information from him, concerning this country, its population and resources, as well as œconomical mode of settling it. He is a sensible, intelligent man, and speaks in most cases from experience, altho it may not be adviseable, from particular reasons, to employ him as an agent.
I hope great attention has been paid to accuracy and precision in taking the census of your district, as many weighty inferences will be drawn from the relatively increased population which you will exhibit. I request you to furnish me a copy of the return as soon as you are in possession of it.
You have been made acquainted with Mr. and Mrs. Barings intention of making a voyage to Europe.
The frame of mind in which my recent domestic affliction has left me, and the continued renewal of my grief from all the scenes which surround me, have induced me, by the advice of my friends, to make an excursion, and I have at length determined to accompany my daughter and Mr. Baring, who will probably take their departure in the course of next month. Many of my affairs will be deranged by this temporary absence.
But there are few considerations that can be put into competition with tranquillity of mind. I am gratified in thinking that no serious detriment can be derived to the progress of our settlement, from my early departure. You will as usual communicate with me by letter, addressed to Sir Francis Baring and Company, London, and you will receive regular replies thereto. The only difference will be, that you will not be furnished with such prompt answers, but our affairs have been brought to that simple state, as not to require much interference on our part.
I shall again write to you on the subject of some other parts of your late communications which I am at present prevented from doing by this opportunity. I shall likewise write to Mr. Richards, to whom remember me affectionately.
With sincere regard I am
Your obedient humble servant
Bingham to Knox, Philadelphia, 20 July 1801 [KP]503
Philadelphia July 20th 1801
My dear General:
I wrote you some time ago on the subject of a suit commenced against me by the Cabots and others, owners of the Pilgrim privateer, for the recovery of a vessel and cargo, carried into Martinico during the last war, and which were neutral property.
The United States are bound to indemnify me for any damages, which may be recovered in this suit. At the same time, I find the most vile misrepresentations have been made on the subject, and the greatest prejudices excited. At the trial in the Circuit Court, all the testimony which could explain the nature of the transaction and justify my conduct, was rejected by Judge Cushing,504 and in the recent trial in the Essex Court, Mr. Davis did not think it proper to appear, and judgment went by default.
I will not attempt to account for his motives. He had the direction of the suit committed to his care by the Secretary of State and was told that the United States were responsible for the result. Perhaps it was not advisable to commit to Mr. Ames and him the defense of a suit against persons, with whom they are connected by ties of intimacy and friendship. However, it could not have been otherwise with respect to Mr. Davis, as being Attorney of the District, he must have been officially imployed by the United States. And as for Mr. Ames, I suggested his name to the Secretary of State, and urged him to imploy additional council, for Mr. Davis had declined doing it, altho as early as 1797, he was enjoined by the Secretary to engage such council at the expence of the United States.
I am the more discontented with the conduct of these gentlemen, as in order to effect a compromise, which I cannot consistent with my duty agree to, they endeavor to excite in my mind, apprehensions with respect to my being reimbursed by the United States, altho I have informed them, that I have, independent of the engagements of the old Confederation, the most unequivocal assurances on that score, from the present Government. Mr. Ames has recently hinted that a judgment obtained in the Supreme Court of Massachusetts might be levied on my lands in Maine, but I can hardly suppose, that the Courts will refuse a removal of the suit into the courts of the United States, which would be contravening the express provisions of the Judiciary Act.505 But they alledge that this privilege is only granted to the defendant, and that by an appeal to the Supreme Court from the Court of Common Pleas in Essex, I have become plaintiff. Mr. Davis’s non appearance placed me in this predicament.
I have been informed by very respectable authority that “the clamor made by my adversaries has long been loud, and must have stamped stubborn prejudices on most of the Essex juror’s minds” so that there is no prospect of an impartial trial in that quarter. Whereas, if the truth was known, my conduct would be deemed irreproachable in every point of view which regards this business. To repel such illiberal representations as may have been made, it becomes necessary that I should exhibit a fair and candid statement of this transaction, which I have prepared and now enclose you a copy of the same.
I have had it printed, as it was too voluminous to admit of taking, without great trouble, a number of manuscript copies, which I might have occasion for. I shall be obliged to you, if you will give it an attentive perusal, by which you will be acquaintd with all the merits of the case.
You will then form an opinion of the effect which a verdict and judgment for nearly $40,000, in favor of these Essex gentlemen, will have on the United States, considering all circumstances.
This statement is sent to you in confidence, as I do not wish it to circulate extensively as it may be injurious to a certain person, whose character is implicated therein, but he does not merit such delicacy on my part, as he has been very little attentive to my feelings in the progress of this business.
I want you to write to me frequently and give me any information relative to the progress of population and settlement in the District, especially what may concern the lands on the Kennebec.
You will address your letters to the care of Sir Francis Baring Baronet and Company, London.
With my best wishes I am with sincere regard
Your obedient humble servant
District of Maine
Bingham to Cobb, Philadelphia, 26 July 1801 [CP]
Philadelphia July 26th 1801
I wrote to you under date of the 8th instant and directed my letter to you, at Boston or at Gouldsborough. I expected you would have given orders at the post office to retain all letters to your address which might arrive at Boston. If I do not hear from you in two or three days, I shall be apprehensive of the letter having been forwarded to Gouldsborough.
You have heard of the suit brought against me in Massachusetts by the Cabots and others, owners of the Pilgrim privateer. This cause has had various decisions against them, but they still persevere, under an expectation of succeeding in their claim, by recovery of an immense sum of money, to which it amounts.
From suppressing all the testimony which can throw light upon this affair, at the time of the former trials, the truth could not appear, and great prejudices were excited, insomuch that I am informed from very respectable authority, that there is little chance of a fair trial in Essex.
In order to place this matter in its true point of view, I have made a statement of all the essential proceedings relative thereto, founded on the documents, which belong to the subject. Wishing to have a number of copies, I thought it most advisable to have it printed, as it was too voluminous for manuscripts.
I enclose you a copy, which I request you would give an attentive perusal. I do not give much credit to Mr. Davis or Mr. Ames for their conduct in this suit, as without being very lukewarm on the subject, it must necessarily have been long since finally terminated. The conduct of the former, by not appearing at the Court of Common Pleas at Essex, has been the cause of the suit being now placed in its present situation, altho he had been instructed by the Secretary to defend it, and told that the United States were responsible for the result, and altho he knew that no other council was at that time employed by the Government. Perhaps it is imposing too great a task on human nature to solicit the aid of professional men to defend a suit against those with whom they are in the habits of extreme intimacy and friendship. I mention these circumstances [in] confidence, as I would not wish to wound the feelings of these gentlemen, but I dread the clamor that will be made when provision for the payment of this money is to be made by Congress, after a verdict and judgment shall have been obtained.506 Mr. Ames in a late letter, mentions that after judgment, they may levy on my lands in Maine, and as his object was to create apprehensions, he immediately after proposes a compromise to me which it is impossible I can agree to, as without the consent of Congress, I cannot surrender the trust committed to my charge, however harrassed and persecuted I may be on the subject. Besides I am convinced that they can exhibit no proof of the property being British, and liable to condemnation.507
To remove any unfavorable impression which might arise from my being in possession of this money, I solicited the Treasury to receive it, but a difficulty was started by the Comptroller whether the Treasury could receive any but public monies.
By being acquainted with the leading points of this business, you will be able to correct the infamous misrepresentations which may have been made concerning it, and for which I will thank you, when an opportunity offers.
I wish to hear from you with respect to the power necessary to be given in order to convey to the settlers on the Kennebec tract, their respective lots of land.
I shall take my departure in about eight or ten days, after which you will please to write me, to the care of Sir Francis Baring Baronet and Company, London.
I shall be happy to receive from you such communications as may place the Kennebec lands in their true point of view. The rapid population of this neighbourhood, which shows the preference given to these lands, is a very prominent proof of their advantages, both in respect to soil and situation, but documents to exhibit this, and other important facts, are wanting, and which I shall be very happy to obtain.
I am with sincerity and esteem
Your obedient humble servant
District of Maine
Proceedings Relative to the Danish Brig Hope and Cargo508 [BP]
The Danish Brig Hope, commanded by Capt. Ole Heilm, loaded with 983 barrels of flour, on a voyage from Cork to Lisbon, was captured by the privateer Pilgrim, Capt. Hill, and sent to Martinico.509 . . . From investigating the papers it appeared that both vessel and cargo were neutral property.510 The Captain, therefore, demanded permission from the government to take his departure as soon as he could procure the necessary repairs to his vessel.
But as the cargo consisted of a perishable commodity, and was much wanted for the use of the Colony, the General ordered it to be disposed of, and the proceeds lodged in my hands, after paying freight and disbursements of the vessel, until Congress should determine to whom the property belonged.511
I immediately wrote to Congress and transmitted copies of the papers found on board.512
The account sales and account current were regularly forwarded to Congress, and the nett proceeds carried to their credit513 (under date of the 7th July 1779) on a presumption, as expressed in my letter, “that it would remain a long time without being reimbursed, and not until the claim of the real owners in Europe was made clear and manifest, and that they would, on application of the parties, determine in whom the right of property was vested, and appropriate it accordingly,”514 which evinced no disposition on my part to retain these funds and benefit by the use of them. . . . The affair being thus situated, I received a letter from Wm. Tudor, Esq., of Boston, dated August 22d, 1779, informing me of the owners of the Pilgrim privateer having attached my property to a considerable amount, on a pretended plea of my being indebted to them for the proceeds of this cargo, and the value of this Danish vessel.515 I immediately addressed a letter to the Secret Committee of Congress on the subject,516 dated October 6th, 1779, which, with the papers inclosed, were referred to a committee, who made a report on the 29th November, 1779, which was immediately adopted by Congress.517
In consequence of which, a letter was addressed to the legislature of Massachusetts, requesting them to interfere in removing “the attachments, until judgment could be obtained upon the principal question (prize or no prize) by an appeal to the Admiralty courts of Martinique (which at this period had power to take cognizance of captures made by American armed vessels), after which it would be in my power to discharge myself (of my trusteeship) by delivering to the true owners, the property placed in my hands for their use.”518
Hence the committee of Congress, who were appointed to liquidate my accounts, directed, in conformity with this arrangement, the credit for the proceeds of this cargo to be withdrawn and that I should retain the proceeds in my hands; as will appear by a reference to my accounts, and to the certificate of the Auditor of the Treasury.519
They were prompted to replace this business on the original footing of personal responsibility, under the trust, as ordered by the Marquis de Bouille, as instead of undertaking the decision themselves, they referred the parties to the courts of Martinique, where I was to be accountable for the proceeds. . . . and this arrangement likewise exempted them from the immediate payment of a claim for damages I sustained, by the attachment of my property at Boston, not only for its specific amount, but for the injury derived from its being diverted from the purposes to which I had destined it.
The nett proceeds of this captured property were thus replaced in my hands, to be applied as might be determined by an Admiralty jurisdiction, as alone in the opinion of Congress competent to the decision.
But the plaintiffs refusing to appeal to the Admiralty Courts at Martinico, continued their two suits at common law in Massachusetts . . . , not confining their claims to the funds in my hands, being the nett proceeds of the cargo . . . , but laying their damages in one suit, for the value of the flour at a very advanced price, without any deduction for freight, disbursements or charges,520 and in the other suit, for the estimated value of the vessel.521
These actions were grounded on a plea, which rendered them totally distinct from any connection with the funds placed by Congress in my hands, to await the issue of an Admiralty trial. . . . Besides, they embraced far more extensive demands than could be satisfied by the amount of the deposited monies.
Hence on a representation to Congress522 exhibiting the hardship of my case, as well from being made personally responsible for the result of a business over which I had no controul, as from the injury I sustained by the depreciation of the funds attached in the hands of my correspondents, they entered into various resolutions in June 1780523 . . . , which was seven months after they had replaced the proceeds of the cargo in my hands.
They therein not only justified and approved my conduct, but engaged a full reimbursement of my expenses and damages. They moreover exonerated me from the trouble of the suit, took the management thereof into their own hands, and employed the Navy Board at Boston to “direct the Council in its defence, and to give such security in the name of the United States, as the Court might require.”524 I was of course discharged from any attention to the object. The money advanced to council for their fees etc. by my correspondent, was reimbursed, and I ceased to have any connection with the business, except that of having my name introduced into it.
It was well known to Congress that when I accepted the appointment of political agent throughout the French West Indies, it became an essential part of my duty, in compliance with my instructions, to promote such acts, and induce such proceedings, as would bring the two powers (England and France) into frequent collision, and eventually involve them in war. . . . My successful exertions to produce this effect was a prominent complaint exhibited in the Justificative Memorial of Great Britain, and had previously been the cause of repeated diplomatic representations to the Court of Versailles on the part of the British minister. . . . Next in consequence to fitting our armed vessels, and manning them with Frenchmen, was the permission to sell our prizes in their ports. . . . But although this latter indulgence was granted long before a war existed betwixt the two countries, yet it was always under the restriction of previous proof being produced of enemy’s property . . . , for which purpose, the ship’s papers found on board were exhibited to an officer of the Government. . . . This practice continued after the declaration of war against Great Britain and until the courts of Martinico were authorized to take cognizance of American captures . . . , which happened in the summer of 1779, and to which tribunal, Congress then requested the parties to apply, in order to determine the legality of their capture, but which they declined.
The suit was tried in the inferior Court of Massachusetts in the year 1781, and a verdict obtained in favor of the defendant.
An appeal was made to the Supreme Judicial Court of the said State, and a verdict of the same nature in the year 1784 was the result.525
But had the plaintiffs on the contrary been successful, and recovered in these two suits, instituted in Massachusetts, the principal question (prize or no prize) to which Congress alluded in their proceedings of November, 1779, would have been still undetermined . . . , and until this question is settled, it is obvious from the conditions of the trust, that the neutral owners, or their representatives cannot be divested of their right to the proceeds of this cargo, but may claim it “as property placed in my hands for their use” which is confirmed by the opinion of the Supreme Court of the United States. . . . See Dallas’s Reports.526
The long period of time which has elapsed, without a claim being made on the part of the neutrals, appears to favor the pretensions of the captors. . . . It is presumable, however, that the owners have been reimbursed by the underwriters, and that the latter are ignorant of the original destination, and actual situation of these funds. . . . An abandonment of captured property on the part of the underwriters, in cases much less equivocal and desperate than this must have appeared to be, is daily witnessed by our own observations. . . . Indeed, in cases where so many persons are individually and separately concerned, it is difficult to combine them together, in order to produce a joint effort.
I was ignorant of the favorable termination of these suits, until after a new demand was made upon me by the owners of this privateer (whilst in Boston in January 1793), which induced me to make some enquiry on the subject.
In an interview with Mr. Lowell, council for the owners, I urged him to recommend to his clients an application on their part to Congress for the balance which remained in my hands, having been received on trust, sanctioned by the approbation of that body, and whilst acting in a public character, it became a deposit which I could not surrender, without the intervention of the authority of the United States . . . , that Congress might be favourably inclined to their claim, although it was probable in this case, that they would exact a security, to indemnify the United States against the foreign owners, in case they should hereafter appear; and that the loss, incurred by their attachment of my property in the hands of my correspondents, where it had ever since remained, would of course, constitute a set off against the nett proceeds of the cargo, whenever a liquidation of the account took place.
They were so dissatisfied with this language, and with my refusal to accommodate the business, without the consent of Congress previously obtained, that they immediately, at the instance of Mr. Thorndike (one of the owners) commenced a suit against me, for the proceeds of the flour, estimating it at livres 140,000,527 as well as for the value of the vessel;528 and I was under the necessity of giving security to the extent of 30,000 dollars, to abide the issue of this trial . . . whereas the balance of the money deposited in my hands does not amount to but dollars 4,734, as is evident from the following statement.
Nett proceeds of Flour
107,621 14 6
6,441 9 9
17,211 8 3
23,652 18 0
83,968 14 6
Attached and still laying in the hands of Mr. Thomas Russell
£13,780 17 3529
Attached and still laying in the hands of Mr. Erskine
13,673 5 6530
£27,454 2 9
(which is dollars)
According to the scale of depreciation at that period makes
Which balance I offered to pay into the Treasury of the United States, but there were several difficulties suggested by the Comptroller, amongst others, “whether any but public money could be received into the Treasury.”
On my arrival in Philadelphia, I applied to the Government to fulfil the engagements of Congress, and defend this suit, instituted against me . . . , in consequence of which application, the Attorney General, Mr. Randolph, addressed a letter to Mr. Gore, District Attorney of Massachusetts, requiring him, by direction of the President, to defend this suit, and to report to the President the result thereof.
At the same time, I wrote a letter to Mr. Gore, and inclosed him at the Attorney General’s request, the various documents, drawn from the files of the public offices,531 which were necessary for the defence of the suit as the papers transmitted by Congress to the legislature of Massachusetts,
The cause was tried at a Circuit Court of the United States, and a verdict obtained for the plaintiffs.532 . . . Two other suits, one for the same flour, and the other trover for the vessel, were continued, to wait the event of an appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States, after a Bill of Exceptions had been filed.533 . . . The most extravagant damages had been awarded on the deposition of Mr. Lowell, who withheld from the Court and Jury the accounts, copies of which he had exhibited to me, and deposed that I had informed him that the flour sold for 140 livres the barrel.534 . . . The impossibility of such a declaration having been made on my part, will appear by a reference to his letter535 (at the time he made the overture in behalf of the plaintiffs) which inclosed me exact copies of my account current and account sales, as transmitted to Congress.536 Nothing but insanity could therefore have induced me to assert to Mr. Lowell, what was contradicted on the face of my accounts, presented to me by Mr. Lowell.
The resolution of Congress, the certificate of the Marquis de Bouille, and all other proofs and papers offered as testimony on the part of the United States, were refused by the court,537 from which circumstance, the real merits of the case were not investigated.
A bill of exceptions was filed, by the Council employed by the United States, and an appeal made to the Supreme Court of the United States. . . . I applied to the Secretary of State to fulfil the engagements of the Government and give the security that might be required on taking out a writ.538 . . . On the report of the Attorney General, I was requested to cause the necessary bail to be given, under an assurance, that the United States would indemnify me.539 On a hearing before the Supreme Court which was conducted by the Attorney General of the United States, when the merits were fully discussed, the judgment of the Circuit Court was reversed, and the cause determined to be of Admiralty jurisdiction.540 . . . See Dallas’s Reports, vol. 3, page 19, etc.
A new suit was instituted in Massachusetts, and a verdict obtained for the plaintiffs, which (for informality) was set aside by an appeal to the Supreme Court.
After which, the parties commenced a suit in the Court of Common Pleas in the county of Essex, where the District Attorney, employed by the United States, not appearing thereto, judgment went by default. . . . The damages were now swelled to a still larger amount (dollars 37,490 and 74 cents) in consequence of the testimony of Mr. Lowell, council for the plaintiffs, who now, in contradiction to his former oath, deposed, that I had informed him, that the flour sold for 144 livres, per barrel.541 . . . His former deposition confined it to 140 livres.542
Both the Secretary and myself were ignorant of the time when this trial would take place. It was only known, through the medium of some friends in Massachusetts, that such a suit had been instituted; but it was supposed that the judgment of the Supreme Court of the United States, and the verdict and judgment formerly obtained in the state of Massachusetts, would be pleaded by Mr. Davis, and operate as a bar against the Court holding jurisdiction over it. . . . But he unfortunately declined making any appearance at this court. He might then have removed the suit into the Circuit Court of the United States, in virtue of the provisions of the Judiciary Act of Congress. But by suffering judgment to go by default, it became necessary, by a Writ of Review, to bring the matter before the Supreme Court of the State, where I of course was made plaintiff . . . , and as the right of removal of a suit is by the Judiciary Act confined to the defendant, the Court resisted the application of the Council, and assumed exclusive jurisdiction over the same. . . . It is scarcely credible that by such a manoeuvre, the Act of Congress can be altogether evaded, and the United States be deprived of their right of having this cause tried in their own courts.
The District Attorney’s motives are unaccountable. . . . He had received from the Secretary of State instructions to appear in this suit, on behalf of the United States, and was informed that the obligation of the United States to defend it, was unquestionable.543 . . . He was further told that the United States were responsible for the damages which might be recovered,544 and he was enjoined by the Secretary to engage council, at their expense to assist him, and which the importance of the case would warrant.545
He was referred to the resolution of Congress of June, 1780, by which Congress became accountable for the amount of “what might be recovered against me, by reason of any suits which were then, or might thereafter be brought against me, in the state of Massachusetts.” He must have known that the operation of his instructions to defend this suit, was of course co-extensive with the obligation of the United States; and in the language of the resolution of Congress, embraced all suits, “that were then or might thereafter, be brought against me.” . . . He was referred to Dallas’s Reports, which showed the propriety of having recourse to the cognizance of the Courts of the United States, which had already determined this cause to be of Admiralty jurisdiction.
As a justification of his conduct, he afterwards alledges that he wanted some authority from me, or directions from the Secretary of State.546 . . . As for myself, he knew I never had any further agency in the business, than under the controul of the Secretary to impart such information to the Council, as might essentially benefit the cause, and to which I was more particularly induced, from having my conduct illiberally censured in the course of one of the trials, when no testimony on my part was permitted to be adduced. . . . As for the directions of the Secretary, they had been given in the most explicit manner, and related to all periods and all courts, in which this suit might appear. . . . The Attorney might at least (as during the progress of this suit, he had done, in a case of less importance), have suggested doubts, and solicited instructions547 . . . , as he was aware that he was the only person employed by the Government to pay attention to it. . . . But the first communication from him was in reply to a letter of the Secretary, who urged a removal of the suit into the Federal Courts, after he had received a copy of the verdict and judgment of the Essex Court, transmitted by the adverse Council.
Ross to Cobb, Union River, 12 August 1801 [CP]
Union River 12th August 1801
Permit me most cordially to congratulate you on your safe return to your good family at Goldsborough, whom I hope you have found all well. If your own health is as good as it apparently was when I had the pleasure of seeing you at Boston and continues so, you must enjoy certainly a happiness that, was I an Indian nabob I woud give many sacks to possess. But we ought and if not we must remain satisfied with the portion respectively allotted us. We may grumble ’tis true, but grumbling avails little, nay nothing. My excursion I believe has been of service to me. My health is much better since my return than it has been for several years past.
Coud we have the honor of seeing you now at Union River you woud probably be better pleased than on any of your former jaunts. Tho’ we have no bridge, yet we have several fine pieces of wheat, rye, barley, and oats that look very promising and doubtless will be abundantly productive. And tho’ it is still on a small scale, yet the stimulus that even the prospect has already given, will am pretty confident be the means of a much greater exertion another year. Our crops of English Grass have fallen short. Gardens are nothing. The meadows are pretty well [torn] are now mowing them and almost at loggerheads who shall have the most. I told Mr. Jones548 on applying to me that I was restricted from giving him any permission, and that I had sent people to cut (where he wanted to) on my own account. On his threatening to go vis et armis, being then doing business for Collector Jordan549 at his house, I warned him from trespassing at the peril of a prosecution, which he said he woud risque. Rather than proceed to extremities I agreed to cut only half the meadow in dispute, he to risque your and Mr. Richards displeasure, as I woud not give him any permission to cut the other. As you told me to have no further regard to Sawyer’s550 claim than to reserve enough for his own accomodation, I have accordingly granted permits to cut on parts where he claims. Should he come to you on the subject, you will observe that the land has never been run out to him neither does his northern line commence within ¼ of a mile where your agreement with him states it should, so am informed.
When I have the pleasure of seeing you, I will be ready to acknowledge your goodness to me at Boston. Permit me to offer my best respects to Mrs. Cobb and all the family and believe me to be with the greatest respect and esteem, dear sir
Your most obedient and obliged servant
Honorable David Cobb, Esquire
Bingham to Cobb, Bath, England, 1 January 1802 [CP]
Bath January 1 1802
I had the pleasure of writing to you a short time after my arrival, since which I have not been favored with any of your letters. Previous to my departure I requested you would give me information with respect to a variety of matters, but particularly that you would impart to me every thing relative to the Kennebec tract, in the form of documents substantiating the value of these lands, as relative to soil, situation, surrounding population, and susceptibility of settlement. I wished to avail myself of this species of information, in order to turn this property to some account, which should not be neglected, as it has already suffered from want of this necessary attention.
And to undertake the business solely and without support is a work too weighty and extensive for my faculties and resources. I hope soon to receive from you every thing on the score of information, as relative to this subject which I have requested from you, as well as a detailed account of your proceedings for some time past, which I shall wish to communicate to the gentlemen who are interested in the concern.
The return of peace must operate very powerfully on the interests of our Maine property. It must tend essentially to raise the value of the exports from that country, which must of course increase the active capital of the District and thereby augment the price of lands.
Lumber of all kinds has immensely risen in Europe from the devastation which is common during war and the consequent scarcity. This country will of course offer an excellent market, but it will be necessary to accommodate the various species of lumber to the taste and fashion of the country, by preparing it at the mills according to patterns, which may be sent for the purpose.
Freight will be greatly reduced, as I know no mode of employing your large vessels but in the transportation of such bulky articles, but it is not only wood of all kinds, but every species of provisions has risen, and they are likely to sustain high prices in this country which must undoubtedly have a corresponding effect in America.
The reinstatement of St. Domingo, which is a favorite object with the French, and the establishment of Trinidad by the British will furnish very abundant markets for the exports of Maine, and will afford great encouragement for extensive cultivation.
This is the period to which I always looked forward, as opening the brightest prospects for Maine, and affording the greatest advantages of which the country is susceptible in its present uncultivated state.
Great activity and exertion are necessary, but they will not be wanting, as the inhabitants appear to be intelligent and industrious. I am inclined to think that the English West India Islands as well as the Dutch will be compelled to open an intercourse with the New England States, as they cannot be supplied from any other source with a variety of articles which they stand essentially in need of.
As the trade of the large capital cities in America will be very much diminished from the peace (as a great portion of it arose from the circumstances of the carrying trade of the belligerent powers during the war), I flatter myself that many of the smaller traders in Boston and other parts of Massachusetts, who will be considerably thrown out of employment, may be induced to remove to Maine, and by increasing the wealth and carrying on the commerce of the District, thereby stimulate the industry of the country, which will be always greatly promoted by offering a ready market for the produce of the inhabitants.
Altho it is probable that our commercial people, in the first moments of stagnation of business, which the news of peace will of course produce, will feel the pressure of difficulties and distress, yet, when this period is passed over and they have collected their funds from all quarters, they will certainly amount to a sum far beyond what their trade, under the restrictions it will be exposed to, can possibly require. I know of no mode of employing this surplus wealth but by purchases of real estate, as the country is too thinly peopled to admit of a successful attention to manufactures.
The public funds may be an object to a certain extent, but they never can absorb but a small portion of this superabundant capital. I therefore view the rise of lands as a necessary consequence of a peace.
But it is not only with respect to capital that there will be a redundancy. It will likewise take place in regard to a great portion of that industry which has hitherto been confined to commerce, which by being essentially curtailed, will remove great numbers from their usual occupation and employment. Such persons cannot turn then to objects of greater importance in a moneymaking point of view, than superintending the settlement and improvement of lands, for which their mercantile pursuits and habits, requiring regularity, industry, and a knowledge of the world, peculiarly fit them. I expect therefore that there will be many young men (who will necessarily be detached from trade) who will devote themselves to these objects, as offering a fairer field for independency of situation and accumulation of property than any other. We have more instances of successful exertions of this nature in the middle states, to operate as an incentive, than you have to the eastward.
I therefore think that you will be more dilatory in generally adopting this species of resource.
I have none of the papers relative to the concern in Maine, that I can turn to at present, having left them in London, where I shall return in about ten days. I will then give instructions to my agent in Philadelphia relative to several points, some of which are more immediately interesting to yourself, which during my agitation of spirits and hurry previous to my departure, I omitted.
I wish you to inform me very particularly of the changes that will, according to your apprehensions take place in the District, from the event of peace.
I desire you to remember me affectionately to all your family. Tell Mr. Richards that on my return to London I am to have the pleasure of meeting his father at Stratton, an estate of Sir Francis Barings. I hope his family are well.
With sincere regard, I am,
Wilde to Cobb, Hallowell, 2 January 1802 [CP]
Hallowell January 2d. 1802
Tho’ I have heard nothing of your motions from Gouldsboro’ westward yet I presume that you have by this time taken possession of your winter quarters, with your mind made up for the labours of the approaching session. As a beginning of difficulties, may I beg the favour of your attention to a few words on the subject of the proposition by our friends from Portland. I mean the proposal of a seperation of Maine from Massachusetts. Tho’ I do not know your feelings and sentiments upon this subject, yet I am somehow persuaded, that they accord with my own, which, the more I reflect on the subject, are the more confirmed, that the proposal is hostile to the peace and prosperity of Maine, and that it will probably give rise to more difficulties than our friends from Portland seem to immagine. The idea of giving strength to the Federal interest by the addition of two senators in Congress seems to me will hardly bear examination. Were Vermont and Rhode Island added to Massachusetts, New Hampshire or Connecticut, we should do much better. These little states are so easily operated upon by artful and ambitious demagogues, that we can make no dependance upon their stability or correctness. In Maine I fear we should not do much better. There is a spirit in the people of Maine hostile to all correct notions respecting title to lands. To flatter this spirit would be the business of unprincipled and ambitious men. No large proprietors would be safe either in their persons or property. Sentiments leading to this have been already avowed by persons from whom we should have expected better things. Upon the whole I am for myself convinced that the lapse of two or three years under a seperate government, would place Henry Dearborn in the chair, give a new tone to our political sentiments, and make every honest man sick of his new State. And for what object are we to disturb the present tranquil state of our affairs? I confess I can see none, nor have I conversed with a man who can distinctly point out a reason for a change. The arguments made use of have been so vague and hypothetical, that they may be fully answered, I think, without the aid of any objections to ballance them. Indeed I was of opinion, when the subject was first mentioned, that it would subside without exciting much interest, but I find the business seems to assume a more formidable aspect, and tho’ I think it will eventually fail, yet I fear it will go so far, as to create among us some unpleasant divisions. If the business should come before the legislature (and it undoubtedly will) I will thank you, if leisure will permit, to give me some information of its progress. If the legislature should be inclined to hearken to the petitions, I presume they will not order a convention until the sense of the inhabitants is first taken as to the propriety and utility of such a measure. I really hope however that the matter may subside in some way which will give us less trouble. I have one thing more to add which may be worthy of notice. We hear from Ballstown, Litchfield, and the other disaffected places551 where the subject of land titles has given so much trouble that they have lately had meetings, have discussed the subject, and have agreed to sign the petition which has been circulated among them. This will serve in some measure to show us with what spirit the subject will be pursued by some of our citizens. But I am growing tedious I fear. I should not have said so much upon this subject, were I not persuaded that the measure proposed, is full of difficulties and inconveniences, that it is both unnecessary and mischievous. If this persuasion is not well founded, I should wish it might be removed; otherwise that it might become general. Mr. Dummer552 will be on in the course of two or three weeks. He will be upon what I call the right side of the question. Indeed this is the general impression here with our best informed men. There is but one exception, in our worthy friend Doctor C.553 who has had his eye upon the Chair these many years. If the present measures should fail, suppose you should furnish him with one of your eastern islands, on which he may play the Governor ’till he is satisfied?
You probably received before you left Gouldsboro’ a letter I addressed to you soon after George554 arrived here, and upon that supposition I will now only say that he is well, attends to his studies at the Academy steadily, and in no respect gives us any trouble. His disposition is uncommonly good and amiable, he is a great favourite with the family, and appears to be perfectly contented and satisfied with his situation.
We have at length received the smooth and horrid message of the Presidents.555 There is something very mean, I think, in his attempt to take all the merit of a full treasury to himself. One is reminded of what Virgil writes when some of his first writings were assumed by another—sic vos non vobis millificatis apes,556 etc. But as every man of information must know that we are indebted to the late administration for the present flourishing condition of our finances, we may judge pretty certainly, I think, to whom he in fact addresses his smooth and flattering message—the huzzas of the multitude are of more importance to him than the applause and esteem of the virtuous and intelligent few, who judge by actions and motives and not by professions.
Shall we see you on your return, or shall you take passage by water? Mrs. Wilde is better than usual and the children are as fat, ragged, and saucy as ever.
With great respect I remain very sincerely
Your friend and servant
Sam S. Wilde
Cobb to Bingham, Boston, 11 April 1802 [CP]
Boston April 11th. 1802
My last was of July 25th 1801, soon after which on my return to Gouldsboro’ I was favor’d with your several letters of June 21st and 30th, July 8th and 20th, and of August 1st 1801.557 Most of these letters unfortunately passed by me when I was in Boston, occasioned by their being put up in the Gouldsboro’ mail at Philadelphia. Had they been directed for me at Boston, instead of Boston or Gouldsboro’, I should have receiv’d them, as I had directed the post master at Boston to retain my letters.
The inclosed accounts will afford you a view of our proceedings for the last year. Our objects have been chiefly confin’d to making improvements in nearly the center of the tract (as will naturally fecilitate the future settlement of the country) and in making such communications to them as are required. A road for this purpose has been laid open from the Mariaville settlement on Union River in No. 20, Middle Division, westward to Penobscot River, this being the natural rout for the emigrants from the west to pass into the tract.558 Beddington is in No. 23, Middle Division, and 4 [?] miles distant from Annsburgh in No. 17.559 At this place, Beddington, we have two settlers, one of which we have largely assisted, and he has sixty acres of land cut down and almost clear’d, 22 of which are now in rye and grass seeds, from which he had corn the last year, and this year he will have 25 acres more in corn. This settlement is 17 miles east of Mariaville. Between these two settlements, a road will gradually be laid open that settlers may have the benefit of viewing the places they may wish to occupy and have a communication to their improvements. When we add [?] this road in the progress of settlement will probably be continued east across the Western and Eastern Branches of Machias River to the St. Croix, opposite St. Andrews, and have such establishments at those two rivers as will prevent, if possible, the loggers from plundering the country above. We have three settlers at Annsburgh who have got up their houses and are making some decent improvements, but our settlers in general are not the true Yankee agriculturists that bid defiance to all difficulties. These characters are not to be obtain’d, in any numbers, untill the lands on the west of the Penobscot River are so fill’d with inhabitants as to command generally six or eight dollars per acre, a period not far distant.
You will observe that Machias has no credit yet for timber rents. This business has been unfortunately arrang’d, but it is in train to be productive.
Last December, as I came from Gouldsboro’ to this place, I call’d on Dr. Cony at Kennebeck. He thinks the southern side of your lands on that river including a range of 3 townships north would be in as rapid state of settlement as any lands in that country, if security could be given to the settlers of their lands. Applications to him have been numerous, and with some he had engaged to sell 1,000 acres, one half at a dollar and the other at 75 cents per acre, remote from any settlement, one third of the purchase to be paid in hand, the other two thirds in two annual payments with interest, and four settlers are to be placed on the land within two years. He is persuaded, from the applications that have been made to him, that he can place upon those lands from 50 to 100 settlers per year at 75 cents and at I dollar per acre for the first 10 families on a new township. He thinks that more townships should be survey’d as he has applications for lands where they will be run out, and he assures me that he is ready to undertake to superintend the survey’s and settlement of the tract for a stipend of 500 dollars per annum and to pay this or any other expence that may be tho’t necessary, out of the lands, so as not to call upon you for a dollar; and he has not a doubt, over and above the obligations he may receive that he shall have an annual surplus in money for your use. All differences with the settlers on these lands are adjusted. Those few, whom you may remember had 200 acres of land assigned them by the Plymouth Company and which they intend’d to hold under that proprietor, have agreed to pay 25 dollars for the additional hundred acres to that that the State allow’d them, and most if not all the settlers are now ready to pay whenever they can receive their deeds. I realy think it very injurious to your interest in these lands that a power for the sale of them was omitted being sent the last year. This power may be given to me and Mr. Richards, who is willing to undertake this business for you, or to any others you may choose and I hope you will not omit doing it on the receipt of this.
Inclosed is a copy of the Doctors letters to me the last fall.560 On the subject of the last clause of it, I gave him directions to proceed with those plunderers as we had done with such fellows on the other tract, and on their refusing to comply, to prosecute them as trespassers.
As you had pointed out no mode, before your departure from this country, by which I could receive my annual stipend, I have taken the freedom thro’ Mr. Codman to receive a part of it for the last year. One thousand dollars of the bill he drew upon you for in February last was on my account, the remainder was a small ballance due to him on the close of our accounts in 1800 and which he had omitted to draw for. If it would not be too inconvenient, I could wish your permission to receive thro’ Mr. Codman one thousand dollars sometime in June next as in part of my stipend for 1803.
General Jackson is prosecuted by the State for the bond that was given on the contract for the back tract. The Resolve of the legislature on this subject I mentioned in my letter of June last. Your letter to me in answer, does not afford him the satisfaction he wants. As he is the only person that can relinquish this contract to the State, and as you have a just claim to it, if he undertakes to relinquish without your direction, he subjects himself to an Action of Damages, which you may bring against him, for doing it. He wishes a letter from you directing him to make the relinquishment, and which he is anxious to receive before the month of August next.
In the course of the late session of the legislature I presented a Memorial, as your agent, a copy of which is inclos’d, on the subject of township No. 23, East Division,561 which altho’ a Lottery Township was not deeded to you with the rest of the like townships in your purchase of the lower Million. As no sufficient reason could be assigned why it was not deeded I presumed the omission was an error. The committee who had this subject have reported a state of facts: that a contract was made for a million of acres to include the Lottery Townships; as these townships were not sufficient, a quantity of land was added at the head of the tract to make up the deficiency; and that you had the whole quantity deeded that was contracted for, without No. 23, East Division, but why this township was not then deeded, as it appears to have been contracted for, can not at present be ascertained. On this report, I observed that the gentlemen who were owners of that country did not wish an acre more than what had been contracted for, and altho’ it appears that the whole quantity thus contracted for had been deeded which I was pleas’d to find, yet as it likewise appears that No. 23 was evidently included in the original contract and no sufficient reason can be assigned why it was not deeded, it would seem to afford some claim of p[r]eference or right of choice to the purchasers between this township and the northern head of the tract, and which we should wish to be indulged with in making this exchange if upon further investigation no further evidence should appear. Not that this township is better situated for settlement or that the soil is better than on the northern line, but solely for the purpose of occupying a mill seat on the Western Branch of Machias River that lays within this township, that the plunderers of the forests may be prevented from robbing the country that borders on the river of its timber and which the laws of the country are incable [sic] of restraining. The subject was referr’d to the next session for further information. If this exchange can be made it would be usefull and I think it can be effected. I have not heard a word on the subject of your settling duty, during the sessions.562
I hope not to omit giving you letters in future at regular periods. My late omissions have arisen from my being almost wholly occupied, either in the woods of Maine, with the General Court, or at Taunton where the death of my brother has compell’d my attendance for the adjustment of his estate.
I am now only waiting for a passage to Gouldsboro’, which I expect in two or three days, to return to that place
Bingham to Cobb, London, 6 October 1802 [CP]
London October 6th 1802
I received your letter of the 11th April 1802 in reply to mine of the 20 and 30 June, 8 and 20 July, and I August 1801.
It was exposed to a very long detention on the route, as I did not receive it untill a considerable period had elapsed, after the date.
I made but a short reply, enclosing a letter to General Jackson, renouncing in the most explicit terms whatever right I might be presumed to have, or interest, or claim, in or concerning the contract made with the State for the lands to the north of the Lottery Townships.
I waited for the further and regular communications which you had promised me, after your arrival at Gouldsborough, in order to have a fuller view of the existing state of the property and its future prospects, previous to my reply to your letter.
But I have been entirely disappointed in my expectations, as from your various avocations having absorbed your time, or some other cause, I have not received any of your favors since that of 11 April. My only source of information is derived from the advices which Messrs. Hope receive.
I observe you have laid open a road from the Mariaville settlement in No. 20 to the Penobscot River. I do not find that the parties thro whose lands it passed, contributed towards this improvement. The small number of farming families at the settlements you have established, and the considerable expence at which they have been procured, evidently shows that these lands are as yet in little demand, and that the intermediate space must be filled up to the westward, before there will be any great emigration to our Penobscot tract.
As the emigrants travel from the westward, they will be always intercepted before they reach our more distant possessions, and if the road of communication with the Penobscot is not much used, it will in a short time, by a second growth of trees and shrubs, be rendered unfit for travelling. This objection applies to making any road, that there is not a moral certainty of being much frequented.
I observe what you mention as relative to the Kennebec tract. In some former letters, I fully communicated to you my opinions as relative to my views concerning these lands.
We have reason to regret that the greater facility in settling them, by the ease with which settlers might be procured, was not foreseen, at an earlier period, as the same amount of expenditure, disbursed on this property, as has been devoted to the other tract, would probably have produced the requisite number of settlers, to exonerate me from any obligation towards the State.
The arrangement which you recommend would press too hard upon my finances, which are not in a situation to support it. It is unfortunate that the same opinions cannot be impressed upon others, which some of my friends entertain with respect to the value of this property. If such was the case, it would not be difficult to procure a cooperation and partnership in the expences, and a relief from the very heavy advances I have made for the purchase of this property which with the accumulating interest, forms an immense sum.
I am very anxious to adopt measures to facilitate my views of bringing forward this property, but it has unfortunately been exposed to misrepresentation, and it will take some time to eradicate the prejudices entertained concerning it.
If you think the exchange of a portion of the strip of land to the northward of the Lottery Townships for the township No. 23, East Division, which was omitted to be conveyed in the deeds, will be advantageous, you have my assent in making it. If it was ceded on the terms of the original purchase, does Mr. Richards suppose that his constituents would find it their interest to take a moiety of it, at the price they paid for the other portion of what they bought?
I herewith send you a copy of the letter addressed to General Jackson.
I have not all the materials at hand which are necessary to the examination of the accounts you have transmitted me, which I shall more particularly attend to at a future day.
They are not kept in the manner most easy to comprehend, but they may easily be brought into proper order. The various sums which have been advanced from time to time, will form an aggregate amount, to balance which, will come forward the different expenditures for specific purposes, which with the balance of active capital and property on hand, will equal the said advances.
I am surprized to find you do not notice the printed statement I sent you, relative to the law suit against the United States in Massachusetts and in which I appeared as a formal defendant, for the United States made themselves the real defendants, when, in their Resolutions of June 20, 1780, “they pledged themselves to pay to the plaintiffs, all such sums of money as they might recover in this action.” Now when they have obtained final judgment, by means the most astonishing, considering who the parties were, which had recourse to them, they refuse to apply to the Government who promised to pay (and which promise of its responsibility was frequently confirmed to the council by Colonel Pickering), and urge me to satisfy the judgment, under a threat of exposing my Maine Lands to execution. My agents are thereby put to an immense inconvenience in raising so large a sum of money, which I must, in case they are compelled to pay it, have refunded by the United States, who, on an investigation of the subject will find that if all the testimony offered on their part had not been rejected in the trial, the parties would not have had the most remote chance of recovery.563
The change in the administration of the government is the reason why the parties decline an application to the United States, who have so solemnly pledged themselves to pay the amount of the judgment. But this will not prevent the examination of the means by which it was obtained, and an accurate attention to the conduct of all who were connected with the suit, in the different stages of its proofs. Surely Mr. Ames has not been consulted on this subject, as he expressed in his letters to me a very great concern at some of the prominent points, relative to this suit, being known to the new administration, and when Colonel Pickering had expressed his astonishment that the United States or myself should be exposed to any further trouble, in a case which had been so often adjudicated (in his letter to Mr. Davis of the 5 March, 1799), I also wrote to General Knox to inquire what could be the cause of so much difficulty in so simple a case. His reply of April 17 unfolds the reason, and for the honor of the party who was council for the United States officially I shall not now mention it, as it would very deeply implicate him and some of the other council who chose to presume that I was personally interested in the event, and to make indirect overtures accordingly,564 whereas the very money which had been advanced to council in the first action in 1780, by my agent, had been refunded by Congress, and Colonel Pickering had repeatedly informed the council of the U.S., previous to this period, that the United States were responsible (and of course to pay, and not me). It was not until my character was attacked by malicious and slanderous reports, in consequence of the rejection of all the evidence which justified and approved it, that I expressed an anxiety on the subject of the suit, as well as for the result thereof, as affecting the interests of the United States. My interference has arisen from my public character, as an agent of the United States, and I will undertake to say that the publication of every letter I have ever written or received on the subject of this cursed business will tend to exhibit my conduct as perfectly correct and proper, as I never for a moment lost sight of my being a trustee, approved of in that capacity by Congress, and holding a balance in my hands, “to be paid to whosoever it belonged, according to the orders and decisions of Congress” and that before I could exonerate myself from this charge, the terms which it imposed upon me must be complied with.
In narrowly watching the progress of this suit, the motives and views of the parties, the means they had recourse to, and their endeavors to maneuvre me into an acceptance of their insidious overtures, were not unobserved, and the cooperation of persons in their plans, who ought not, because from their relative situation it was not decent and becoming to perform such agency, did not escape me, and of which I am in possession of written testimonials.
After having created such prejudices in Massachusetts as, by the acknowledgment of the best informed characters, to prevent the possibility of a fair trial, unwearied pains have been taken to make the same impression on some of the officers of the government. This Mr. Hare writes me. But my consolation is, magna est veritas et prevalebit.
I have wrote to him not to pay this judgment untill compelled thereto, in order to prevent the sale of the Maine Lands, and to make no compromise which after obtaining the judgment, they were offering to him, without the most explicit directions on the part of the government.
The removal of all the executive officers who were acquainted with the nature and progress of this business, the prejudices which have been instilled into those who have succeeded them, and the entire unacquaintance with the merits of the case on the part of my agents, expose me to much more difficulty than I had any reason to expect. I thought the simple statement of facts, copy of which I sent you, would have been amply sufficed [sic]. I now find that a more voluminous publication will be necessary, with all the documents and correspondence attached to it.
I mention these circumstances to you confidentially, fully persuaded of your making use of them with your usual discretion. No one can be more anxious to be exonerated from an obligation than I have invariably been to pay the balance of monies in my hands, to those who may have a right to receive it, but if more is extracted from me, than I have ever received, I must necessarily recover it back, and expose the means by which it has been forced from me.
I shall write to Mr. Hare to remit you the $1,000 you have occasion for, by a draft on the Branch Bank. If Mr. Codman draws upon me, it will be attended with a commission of 2½ per cent in negotiating his bill.
I hope you will be able to obtain from the General Court an entire exoneration from the demands for the settling duties. Considering the efforts we have made, the expences we have incurred, and the impossibility of forcing settlers into a country which is not ripe to receive them, I think the legislature on a fair view of the subject, will be disposed to be indulgent. Your influence and management will effect a great deal whenever this question is agitated.
If I could meet with a convenient direct opportunity, I would send you a variety of machinery which would be very usefull in a young newly settled country.
You have not as yet informed me the impression which peace will probably make on the commercial pursuits of the District. Wood of all kinds is extremely high in every part of Europe.
Should any attempt to sell the Maine Lands under the judgment be made, or any circumstances of an interesting nature come to your knowledge, relative to this suit, I will thank you to communicate the information to Mr. Hare.
I forgot to mention to you that since my arrival in Europe, I have discovered that the plaintiff’s to the suit had obtained in July 1793, proof of the cargo in question being British property, by means of some queries they addressed to the shippers of the cargo, who candidly made the acknowledgment. They never before possessed any testimony to this effect, and I never, untill lately, knew that they were in possession of it, for they had their reasons for concealing it.
You will before this have heard that my daughter Maria is married to Mr. Baring’s brother Henry, a connection in every respect highly gratifying.565 The interest you have always kindly taken in what regards my family, induces me to mention the circumstance to you.
My best compliments to your family and to General Knox and General Jackson as well as Mr. Richards.
Samuel Thatcher566 to Cobb, Washington, 16 January 1803 [CP]
Washington January 16th. 1803
I take the liberty to address you respecting the separation of Maine from Massachusetts. I consider the present an improper time to divide the State. I have consulted many Federalists and have heard the subject largely discussed here. They are all of opinion that we shall run a great hazard of becoming democratic. Every attempt will be made by the present administration to shake any part of New England, where there can be the most distant prospect of success. As we now are we are Federal in our politics, and shall remain so, but it is thought that if we divide, either Massachusetts or Maine or perhaps both will be revolutionized. It has been an argument in favor of division that we shall have two more Federal senators. This is by no means certain. When we shall call a convention, every petty town will send a delegate where as at present our representatives to the legislature are principally from the largest and most Federal towns. The consequence will be that a greater proportion of obscure and ignorant men will come forward who will naturally be inclined to democracy. Besides, there will be many causes and objects of contention resulting from the division, such as the choice of officers, the seat of government, etc. Whoever is disappointed will naturally become a Democrat. The current sets strongly that way at present and nothing but the firmness and ability of New England can serve the country. If Massachusetts goes there can be no longer any effectual resistance from any quarter. But if we ride out the storm we shall preserve the federal Constitution and shall be a rallying point to the Federalists at the southward. Two senators (supposing them Federal) would not make even one third in the next Congress, and could help the federal interest very little. Gentlemen of the first respectability here consider the measure as decidedly wrong unless there can be no avoiding it without giving great offence. I believe all the Federalists in the Massachusetts delegation are of one opinion respecting it. I have been requested to write to some of the most influential men in the District upon the subject, which togeather with the interest I feel in it will be my apology for troubling you with this letter.
However I consider it improper to assign these reasons publickly as it would promote the measure with the democrats. From what I observed when in Maine I concluded that the business would not be vigorously pushed. If it should be the request of a large majority perhaps policy will require that it should be done, but I know you sir perfectly competent to judge what will be best under all circumstances.
I am sir with great respect your
P.S. I should not wish to defer the separation long but I think the state of politicks will alter for the better in a year or two. Massachusetts at present is vastly needed as a counterpoise to Virginia and has more influence than she could have when separated.
Wilde to Cobb, Hallowell, 13 February 1803 [CP]
Hallowell, February 13th 1803
I have for sometime intended to address you on a subject, in which I take an interest in common with my brethren of the bar, and which must be my apology for the liberty I am taking in offering you a few suggestions upon a matter of which I am very sensible you are the best judge. I refer to the unhappy situation of the county of Hancock as it respects the present derangement of the judiciary, and the various other evils which are necessarily dependent thereon. As you have a perfect knowledge of the state of that distracted county, I shall say nothing of what has fell under my own eye, or what I have heard from others. You are sensible, I think, that if a reform does not soon take place, the most deplorable consequences must ensue.
As I understand there is but little doubt that two of the present Judges of the Pleas will be immediately removed, and such measures are in train, that the other two will probably follow them in the course of another year, I think the time now presents [? torn] itself, in which the evils, so universally felt, may be struck at the root, for it seems to me beyond a doubt, that all the errors and corruption of the civil administration of the affairs of the county, are to be traced to the injudicious appointments of the judges. By corrupting the fountain head, all the little streams which flow in the judicial department have partaken of the same muddy and corrupted waters: the judges have held up a picture of depravity and wickedness, and no one can wonder that justices, coroners, constables, sheriffs, deputy sheriffs, etc. should be found ready to follow examples which are calculated to flatter the little dirty passions of the mind, and to promote what they may conceive may tend to their pecuniary benefit. You have it I conceive in your power, now, to be instrumental in reforming these evils, in two ways, firstly by accepting what will doubtless be offered to you, the office of Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, secondly by recommending suitable persons to fill the other vacancies . . . [torn]. I shall only, therefore, state to you a fact which may not have come to your knowledge, that your acceptance of the office is unanimously desired by all the gentlemen of the bar attending the court [? torn] in that county, and I might add by all the attornies and honest men in the District. I have had the subject very often mentioned to me and I have lately been desired very particularly to state to you the wishes of the bar, and that their expectations of a reform rest almost wholly on you. After stating this, I am sensible that I can add nothing more but what will readily occur to your own mind upon reflection.
[Paragraph at close on family matters and signature badly torn]
Cobb to Bingham, Boston, 20 April 1803 [CP]
Boston April 20th. 1803
To William Bingham, Esquire in London
Your several letters of January 1st. dated at Bath 1802, of March 7th., at London, with a duplicate of the preceeding letter, and of October 6th dated at London, of the same year, have been receiv’d. The several subjects they contain, I will notice in order. I am at a loss to determine what you would wish by requesting to have forwarded to you “in the form of documents, substantiating the value of your Kennebeck lands, as to soil, situation, surrounding population and susceptibility of settlement,” as you have had communicated to you from time to time all the general information that could be obtain’d on the subject. More particular information never can be had of wilderness tracts untill settlements are made in them, and thence, since this has been partially effected, the reputation of this tract of land stands as high in the estimation of the people of that country as any other tract under the like state of settlement. Indeed their cannot be a doubt that its soil and situation is equal to any. The general population of the country has reach’d the southern line of the tract, and I think, in its whole extent. Settlements are now forming both on the east and west lines of it, and in three different places in the tract itself, viz., in the first township on the east side of the river, and in the southeastern and southwestern corners (in how many more I know not) settlers are making improvements, many of them without permission, and the repeated applications of settlers to purchase lands in the tract is the strongest evidence of its reputation and susceptibility of settlement. If it is your wish to have certificates of these facts from gentlemen of known character on the Kennebeck I will obtain and forward them.
I am very sorry that you have omitted forwarding a power for given deeds to settlers on the Kennebeck lands, as likewise to the surveyor who engaged, agreeably to your directions, to take part of his pay in land, and to the few whom Dr. Coney had contracted with, under your instructions. I have requested this for almost three years and particularly in my letter of April last. The promises that I have so often made to these people under your directions, that they should have their deeds, I shall be asham’d to repeat. This tract of land is growing every day in value, and much more an object of your interest and attention. In the same ratio will the malignant passions of man increase. You are already acquainted with my opinion on the subject of these lands, and you certainly cannot persue a measure more conductive to your interest than the system partially adopted some time since, of disposing of them to actual settlers; especially as this business can now be done without the advance of a dollar on your part, and with a positive certainty that the nett proceeds of such sales will far exceed any sum that can ever be receiv’d by a sale in groce or to companies. At the same time the general value of the tract will be gradually advancing by the improvements thus made by the settlers, and any future large sales will command a much higher price than can ever be experienced from its present state. I am very sensible that your opinion on this subject has been different, but I persuade myself that on a review of it, you will adopt a measure that combines so many objects for the advancement of your interest.
The European peace has not been attended with any of those advantages to the District of Maine which you have anticipated, and lumber, which is our staple, is as dull now as it has been at any time within four years past. Indeed very few of the evils or benefits that were expected to result from the peace have been experienced. Provisions, excepting bread stuffs which have fallen a little, are at the war price and in demand, seamen’s wages have fallen, but labour is enhanced, the general price of commodities either for consumption or export remain much as they were, and the capitals of our merchants united to their industry and enterprize enable them still to keep on float their immense tonnage, altho’ commerce is apparently restricted. The price of ships however has fallen.
You have kindly mentioned the subject of the lands to which I am entitled by contract with you. This business has given me great pain for some time past. You may perhaps remember that you and Mr. Baring agreed when I was last at Philadelphia in 1798 that Mr. Richards and myself should deed these lands, at my request, to some third persons, who could then deed them to me, and you was to pay Mr. Baring for one half of the lands thus deeded at the price he paid you for them. Presuming that this business was perfectly understood, I apply’d to Mr. Richards the year after we went to Maine to join with me in a deed. He refused by saying that he had no recollection of any agreement on the subject. The year following, 1800, Richards went to Philadelphia. By him I wrote to you on this subject and requested that the farm which I occupied at Gouldsboro’ excluding therefrom the wharf and stores might be consider’d as part of the lands to which I was entitled, on my paying an estimated price for the buildings. My particular wish in making this request was that my family might have a place to reside at in case of any misfortune to myself, and I did not think it too great to be indulged with, considering that I am entitled by the same contract to a lot in Gouldsboro’ which would naturally be a part of this farm, that the farm itself is at least one half a ledge of rocks, and altho’ it cost in the first instance an extravagant sum, yet as it stood in the general sale to Mr. Baring it was of no more value than any other land. On Mr. Richards return he inform’d me that Mr. Baring had no other conception than that I was to have the land in one place, altho’ my contract expressly says the contrary, and that you tho’t the farm cost too much in the first instance—it could not be assigned as a part of the lands intended by contract. Thus this business has rested, and I have unfortunately the mortification to see myself, after near eight years residence in Maine, without a house to cover me or an acre of land. In whatever way you may prescribe to have this part of my contract adjusted, that way will be most agreeable to me.
Your law suit with Thorndike and others I had never any concern with, and I am in a great measure unacquainted with the dispute. All I recollect knowing about it was obtain’d from your printed statement that you communicated some years since. From that statement it appear’d that they could not have a colour of a demand on you, and how they have been able to obtain executions against you is a trick I am unacquainted with. I convers’d with Mr. Ames the last winter on this business. He thinks you have now no other remedy than paying. He wish’d to have had the business compromis’d as a much less sum would have been receiv’d, but that you dislik’d it. I shall be informed of the progress of this business and I will communicate to Mr. Hare.567
As the term for placing the whole number of settlers on the lands in Maine is now expir’d, it is perhaps necessary to determine on some mode of adjusting this business with the Commonwealth. On this subject I wish to receive your advise and direction. There are three modes in which this business may be bro’t forward.
1st. To obtain a prolongation of the term for placing settlers on the lands.
3dly. A compromise with the State on the following principles: that the government, in demanding a forfeiture for deficient settlers intended it as a stimulus on the purchasers to effect the settlement, and not a means of obtaining money to the Treasury; that this intention of the State has had its full effect, as great expenditures have been made to effect the settlement of the country, but unfortunately without obtaining the object, and this had been occasioned by circumstances which were unforeseen and uncontrolable by either party and therefore each party ought to bear an equal proportion of the evil. Under these circumstances the purchaser submits to the wisdom and generosity of government, what in justice and equity he ought to pay, so as to lift his deeds now in escrow.
The first mode I presume can be obtain’d as it has been usual with the legislature to grant it to others; and if the Kennebeck tract is laid open for settlements, the whole number of settlers may probably be obtaind in 5 or 6 years. The second we cannot succeed in as our envy and avarice are too strong to carry such a measure; but the third I think we can on the payment of from 10 to 20,000 dollars. Not a word has been mentioned in the legislature on this subject since I have been in it, but as the time must come when it will be taken up, I have tho’t best that you should be forewarned that necessary arrangements may be made.
I am now waiting only for a wind to carry me to Gouldsboro’, and as my letter is already too lengthy, I must omit giving a view of our proceedings on the lower tract ’till my next, which shall be in June, at which time I shall probably be here again to attend the legislature.
Vexation, perplexity and disappointments have attended me for the last eighteen months in such manner that I have hardly been myself, chiefly occasioned by the death of my brother at Taunton, who had obstinately wrapt up in his property a portion of my Fathers estate, to whose will I was the executor. Law suits and references have at last liberated me in a great measure from this trouble. This with others has occasioned the omission of my correspondence for the last year. My last letter was of the 11th of April last. Indeed my mind has been too much disturbed to have afforded you any usefull communications. I shall endeavour in future to give you letters regularly.
The enclosed concern account I receiv’d from Mr. Richards the last winter. My private and loan accounts will be transmitted in my next.
Mr. Black, the last fall, was married to the only daughter I have left, and they are at house keeper [sic] in our little neighbourhood at Gouldsboro’.568 Please to remember me respectfully to Mr. Baring and Mrs. Baring, and believe me ever with esteem,
Your friend and obedient servant
William Bingham, Esquire
To the care of Sir Francis Baring
Baronet and Co., Merchants, London
Cobb to Hare, Boston, 8 June 1803 [CP]
Boston June 8th. 1803
Your letter of the 1st instant569 was received the day before yesterday. Soon after the receipt of yours of the 13th of March last,570 with its enclosure of 1,300$ of Post Notes, I returned to Maine, and in the hurry of my arrangements at that time, I had forgot that I had omitted a letter of acknowledgement.
On my late arrival at this place, I had a conversation with Mr. Thorndike, who is the chief agent in prosecuting the unhappy suit against Mr. Bingham, who inform’d me that on his recovery of final judgement here, he wrote on to Philadelphia to be inform’d whether a judgment obtain’d in the courts of this Commonwealth could be sued out in that state, as his intention was to transfer the demand there, that he might levy his execution on Mr. Bingham’s property in that city. This day he has been with me and says he receiv’d his letter, the last evening, from Philadelphia that informs him that he can sue the judgment of our courts in that State, but that it will take three years before he can obtain execution. This had determined him to proceed in making his levy on Mr. Bingham’s Million Acres on the Kennebeck, and he came now to give me the information that I might, as Mr. Bingham’s agent, appoint one of the three appraisers that are required by law. He is to call again to morrow when the business will be finally adjusted. You may rely upon it, that every cautious and prudent measure shall be persued in this business. Mr. Thorndike and myself are on the best terms, and I think it probable we shall agree upon such gentlemen as appraisers that I think will do justice to Mr. Bingham. I shall consult Mr. Otis this evening.
From some expressions in Mr. Binghams last letter to me, I was in hope this cursed business was intended to have been settled in a different manner thro’ you, or some other of his friends at Philadelphia or Baltimore, as it must have an unpleasant effect on Mr. Bingham’s property in Maine. When Mr. Thorndike first call’d upon me, I intimated to him that I tho’t it probable Mr. Bingham had made arrangements for the payment of his demand, and thence there was no necessity of being in haiste in levying his execution. His answer was that if security could be given for the payment of the money with interest in five, seven or ten years he should be perfectly satisfied.
Before I return to Maine I shall give you what may be our final arrangement; in the meantime I have to request, if agreeable, that 750 dollars as part of my stipend for this year may be forwarded to me in Post Notes or otherwise, so as to arrive here before the 20th. instant.
I shall be happy at all times to receive your communications and without apology,
I am sir with esteem
Your most obedient servant
Charles W. Hare, Esquire
Hare to Cobb, Philadelphia, 13 June 1803 [CP]
Philadelphia June 13. 1803
I have been favored with yours of the eighth.
Nothing could be more agreable to me than Mr. Thorndikes venturing his judgment in this State or any where out of Essex County in Massachusetts. If he is really desirous of obtaining a judgment here, he may bring his action in the Circuit Court of the United States and obtain a trial in the course of one year after which, if he succeeds, judgment and execution will follow immediately. But he is too well advised to believe that the record of his suit, if it sets forth the facts of the case at all, can be supported any where except in Massachusetts, where in my humble opinion as much flagrant injustice has been practiced as has been ever known in this country.
You may be perfectly persuaded that Mr. B. so far from contemplating any arrangement for the payment of this judgment, is most obstinately and inflexibly bent upon resisting it till the last moment. A Writ of Error will now be sued out from the Supreme Court of the United States and every exertion made there to arrest the proceedings of the plaintiffs. Even if there they should be successful they may probably find themselves in a new difficulty of which they are at present however but little aware. The course which they should adopt is to apply to Congress for the ballance of the monies in Mr. Bingham’s hands and for the indemnification which the Resolutions of Congress promise. If they were to unite their efforts with ours for this purpose I have little doubt that the whole sum would be recovered from government, for the chief obstacles I have found there have arisen from the malignant misrepresentations made by the plaintiffs in Massachusetts.
Such a measure could not possibly affect any rights of which they may suppose themselves possessed. It certainly could in no respect invalidate their judgment against Mr. Bingham, in case the adverse politics of the day should cause a refusal from Congress to act on the subject. All measures could then be resorted to that are now in contemplation. Mr. B.’s feelings which in the progress of the business have been cruelly hurt would be healed, and the plaintiffs would have the prospect of receiving cash for their claims instead of Maine Lands.
In the course of a few days I will remit you the 750 dollars according to your desire.
I remain sir with high respect
Your most obedient servant
C. W. Hare
Cobb to Bingham, Boston, 24 June 1803 [CP]
Boston June 24th. 1803
William Bingham, Esquire
Agreeably to my last letter, under date of the 20th. April last, I shall proceed to detail our proceedings at the different settlements on the tract.
The road from the Penobscot River to Mariaville is now in constant use by the intercourse of emigrants, and the inhabitants of the former with our settlement at the latter. This road is the entry port to our lands, and our present experience compleatly justifies the measure of cutting it. Mr. Jarvis, thro’ whose land it partly runs, promis’d to pay his proportion of the expence of making it, but his embarrassments must prevent any present advance. At this settlement, we have one of the best double saw mills in the country, a grist mill and three families in the neighbourhood. Three more are now at work on No. 20 (Mariaville), and No. 26, part of which has been survey’d this spring to accommodate these settlers. These mills, after the difficulties are overcome that have ever attended such new settlements, will afford an annual income of 25 per cent. on the cost, besides giving us compleat possession of the country, and fecilitating our future settlements. The tide of emigration is just beginning to flow on the east side of Penobscot River, and it cannot be long before it reaches, in full flood the western line of our tract.
Our settlement at Beddington (No. 23, Middle Division), about 18 miles due east of Mariaville, is a farming settlement altogether and good progress has been made there, but some of the people who first undertook it and to whom we made large advances proved to be rascals. We have turned them off, and are now at some expence keeping the farms in order, ’till better fellows may come, and to prevent the least suspicion of a dereliction of the country two families still remain at this place. Our settlement at Annsburgh continues to improve. The saw mill at this place has been of no other advantage than assisting the settlers with materials for their buildings; the dam must be rebuilt and a grist mill created this year.
I have heretofore mentioned that we contemplated a road between Mariaville and Beddington. This probably will be partially effected the present year, so that a communication may be had between these two settlements. At No. 19, Middle Division, two lots were settled last year, and the south west corner of the township was survey’d into lots. Others have engaged lots in the same township. Settlements of this kind will gradually advance northward from the old settlements on the shore, but the great torrent of settlement that will finally overun the country, must come from the west. At Webb’s Brook in No. 14571 on Union River we intend this year to erect a small mill and make a settlement. Four families have applied for lands in that township and will probably commence their settlement after we have begun ours. This mill was to have been built the last year, but the contractor deceiv’d us. Webb’s Brook communicates with two or three large ponds in No. 15, Middle Division, from around which the loggers cut timber and convey it down the brook to the mills at Union River, and in spite of our best regulations they will cheat us. We have tho’t it better at some expence to stop up this avenue, rather than excite the warmth of savage temper by too many legal prosecutions.
To make good our past and present engagements we found ourselves under the necessity of drawing on Mr. Codman for 1,500 dollars, 300 dollars of which Mr. Codman paid just before his death which took place suddenly the middle of last month, and the remaining 1,200 dollars has been advanced by Mr. Stephen Codman, the brother of John and executor to his will, for which we have given him triplicate receipts. I sincerely hope we shall not have occasion to draw on you again.
Map of the Kennebec Tract in the 1830’s. This map was presumably made after the boom in timber lands in 1835.
Soon after my arrival here at the late election in this Commonwealth, I communicated to Mr. Hare, Mr. Thorndikes intention of levying his execution on your Kennebeck lands. By Mr. Hare’s letter to me it seems it was what had been expected. Thorndike is gone to Kennebeck to make his levy and Doctor Coney has directions to attend to it. Such measures are taken by the advise of Mr. Otis as I persuade myself will prevent any unfairness in the appraisement of the land. Dr. Coney was here at the time, and I gave him verbal as well as written orders on the business. He is an intimate of the sheriff and thence perhaps may prevent the ill effects of Thorndikes cunning and craft. When I receive an account of Thorndike’s proceedings, I will communicate them to you and Mr. Hare.
You have frequently intimated your wish that some capitalists of this country would engage in your Kennebeck lands, but heretofore they have laugh’d at any projects I have proposed to them. Within a few days past, Mr. Mason and Mr. Otis,572 the first a late senator in Congress, the other you know, have been with me to know whether I was authoriz’d by you to make sale of your Kennebeck lands. I told them I was not, but if they had any propositions to make I would communicate them. They said that they should like to purchase that Million Acres, if the price could be made agreeable; that they would pay one half the money in hand and the other in six and twelve months with interest, or they would pay the whole in hand as would be most acceptable; and that if you had any person here that was impower’d to make a contract, they were now ready to make the purchase. The price they mentioned was 1/6 sterling per acre. My answer was they could not obtain it for that. I think it probable that you may obtain 40 cents per acre, if you have still a desire to sell this tract in groce, and if you have no prospect of a sale in Europe, I should recommend to you to empower some person in this place in whom you have confidence and who is accustomed to such négociations, as I am persuaded the time is now come when the surplus wealth of the country will be directed to land speculation.
I am again a member of the legislature and in the same place I have been in for the last two years; and it is my particular wish that whatever business you may have with the Commonwealth, it might be adjusted and settled before I cease to be a member. The legislature finish’d their spring sessions yesterday, and this evening or tomorrow morning I shall depart for Maine.
I beg of you not to omit forwarding a power to Mr. Richards and myself jointly or to any other person, to deed the lands to settlers and others who have been promis’d lands, on the Kennebeck tract.
Castine June 28th 1803
Whilst writing this letter I was call’d to take my passage, which I had engaged for this place (my only conveyance), where I was obliged to attend the Supreme Court now sitting here. I must omit forwarding my private and loan accounts ’till my next, as I find my papers are at Gouldsboro’.
I must repeat to you the necessity of having some person who can dispose of your Kennebeck lands. The present moment is certainly favourable to your views, and if the former misunderstanding between you and General Jackson has not distroyed your confidence in each other, he would be as likely to serve you with honor and fidelity as any person.573
You have kindly mentioned your wish of forwarding to me sundry articles from Europe, if you knew of a ready conveyance. You may at all times with safety ship in the Port of London on board the ships bound to Boston any thing you may think necessary. Any new and valuable publication would likewise be very acceptable and for which I should wish to be accountable.
Cony to Cobb, Augusta, 3 July 1803 [CP]
Augusta July 3d. 1803
Honorable David Cobb, Esquire
The enclosed is a copy of the appraisal of a tract of land,574 belonging to the honorable William Bingham, Esquire, set off to cancel the execution in favor of Messrs. Brown and Thorndike, by which you will perceive that a much larger portion of the Million Acres tract has been taken than we contemplated would be necessary for that purpose. It therefore seems to result [in] the necessity or rather propriety of its legal and early redemption. I embrace the earliest opportunity to communicate this information. Neither Brown nor Thorndike were present, Judge Bridge575 being employed to attend to this business as their agent and attorney, and who behaved very honorably thro’ the whole transaction. The appraisers, tho fair honest men, appeared to conceive an unfavorable opinion as to the quality and value of the land. The effect however I presume will prove of little consequence as Mr. Bingham most unquestionably will redeem it.
Thier attorney appeared disposed to take a range or more of townships entirely across on the south line of the tract, but at my request, conceiving it would be quite improper to take the whole front of the tract, it was agreed to lay it off on one side of the river, forming nearly a square in the south east part thereof.
You will please to notice that we have reserved the lots and lands for the settlers in order that our agreements with them may be honorably fulfilled. And it would be particularly desirable if Mr. Bingham would authorize the execution of their deeds, a measure proper in principle and useful in its effects. To give a fair title to the soil while it creates confidence, ads solid encouragement to good characters to settle on the premises.
Accept the respect and esteem of
Dear sir, your obedient servant
Cobb to Hare, Gouldsborough, 21 August 1803 [CP]
Gouldsboro’ August 21st. 1803
Inclosed you will receive copies of Dr. Cony’s letters and the appraisers return of the lands they sett off to satisfy Brown and Thorndike’s execution. My absence, among the settlers, for some time past, has delay’d your receiving them earlier. I am much disappointed in the price fixed to these lands. We had no idea of their being appraised at less than 50 cents per acre. The appraisers are men of character, but they must have had prejudices as to the value of the lands, and I presume neither of them ever saw the interior part of the tract they have sett off. Many of the lots that have been reserved in this appraisement were sold by my agent for a dollar and 75 cents per acre two years since.
Your letter of July 5th. was receiv’d by the last mail. The term of redemption of lands sett of by execution, is one year from the actual levy of the execution. I am not able to inform you correctly who are the parties in this suit, but I believe a number of heirs of some of the branches of the Cabot family are interested. You can obtain this information from Messrs. Otis or Ames.
It is of importance to Mr. Bingham’s interest that these lands should be redeemed, and whatever actions may be bro’t for the reversal of the judgment, for which these lands have been sett off, if successfull, will not give a repossession of the lands, but only the amount of the former judgement. It is therefore of consequence to redeem before the year expires.
I have inclosed the original copy of the levy, which I receiv’d from Kennebeck. As I shall therefore not have it in my power to forward a copy of it to Mr. Bingham, I must request you to do it.
It would oblige me if you could forward to General Henry Jackson of Boston the 750 dollars that I have requested. He has my directions to receive it. If agreeable, you may send it in Post Notes in his name. My partner Mr. Richards is going for London this fall.
Bingham to Cobb, Tunbridge Wells, England, 28 August 1803 [CP]
Tunbridge Wells August 28th 1803
I was very much pleased at the receipt of your letter of the 20 April (which must have had a very long detention in its way), as I had been so long deprived of any communication from you, arising from the vexation and perplexity in which you have been recently involved. It gives me pleasure to find that you are likely to be released from any further anxieties on that score.
There are several parts of your letters, as well as the accounts, to which I cannot at present pay attention, from not having the papers, to which it would be necessary to refer, at hand, in order to make a reply to them. I shall do it on my return to London.
When I requested the most particular information respecting the various advantages of the Kennebec tract, well authenticated and respectably attested, you would naturally conjecture it was with a view of making some arrangements for turning this property to beneficial account, in such manner as would be most conducive to the interests of the concerned, and most consonant to their views, at the time the purchase was effected. I thought such documents more necessary, as this property however valuable and susceptible of rapid improvement, has a cloud hanging over it, from the unfortunate failure of our hopes relative to the immediate increase of value of the lower tract, in consequence of the operation of progressive settlement, for, it now appears to be candidly confessed on all sides, as the result of experience, that notwithstanding all the expences we have incurred, and the efforts we have made for populating this territory, that we must patiently wait untill the influx of settlers has filled up the intervening space, and the tide of population flowing from the westward, reaches us.
I was to a certain extent impressed with this opinion at a very early period, which induced me to be rather averse to making large annual expenditures, untill time and experience had convinced me that settlers could be induced to pass over the intervening country or to have recourse to a water conveyance, in order to fix their establishments in our tract, for without such an assurance, the funds that were expended must necessarily turn to little or no account.
If I could have induced the parties who became purchasers to have taken a concern in the Kennebec instead of the lower tract, there would have been a much better prospect of an immediate success. But unfortunately, no impressions of its superior advantages on this score could be made upon their minds, at that period, and at present, the relative disappointment in our operations on the sea side has occasioned too much discouragement to admit of their listening to any proposals which may be made to them, for a more extensive concern. And I am very apprehensive that others may have their desire of purchasing damped, by enquiries which may be made of the result of their speculation. Their hopes were originally too sanguine. It would have been better that they had been at first impressed with the idea that the progress of settlement would be slow, and that their advantages, as an investment of money, must be principally derived from the intrinsic good quality of the soil, its advantages of local position, and the rapidly increasing population of the District, which as it approached the tract, would proportionally add to its value.
With respect to undertaking this operation, single handed, with all the expences attending it, and trusting for reimbursement for those, as well as the heavy advances, which have already been made, to the slow and casual receipts of money from settlers, I must confess it would not suit my convenience in the present state of my funds, nor can I foresee, that it would conduce to my interest. Nor does such an operation pursue the views and intentions which prevailed when the purchase was originally effected.576
With respect to the settling duties, I hope you will be enabled to procure an exemption, considering the large sum that has been expended, and the incessant exertions which have been made to carry the object of the government into effect. Even in New York, where the forfeiture of the land was made a condition of the non compliance with the terms of settlement, such rigid measures were never carried into effect.
They are only adopted, as a means of stimulating the efforts of the proprietors.
You seem rather to despair of this exoneration, from the operations of envy and avarice opposing it. The latter may be presumed to have its due weight and influence, altho in public bodies, such a propensity should not be indulged at the expence of a just and liberal way of thinking.
But what room can there be, for the existence of the balefull passion of envy? For calculating what these lands, with all their charges, originally cost, connected with the accumulation of interest and the difference in the value of money betwixt the period when they were purchased and the present moment, I think there would be no room for disturbing the tranquillity of the members of the legislative body, by exciting their envy towards the possessors of this property. I will undertake to say that so large a capital, under a discreet management, has seldom produced in any state of the Union, a less favorable result.
If an act of oblivion for these settling duties cannot be procured, enumerating the reasons which induced and which would justify the measure, then perhaps the next most eligible plan would be a commutation with the legislature, for a fixed sum, in lieu of the deficient settlers which might appear.
But if this could not be obtained on easy terms, or if a better temper of the legislature might be expected eventually to appear, then a prolongation for a certain number of years might be solicited, when a favorable moment might be watched, which would present a better prospect of success.
It is certainly very desirable to possess the deeds, which are lodged in escrow, as the title seems to be incomplete without them.
However as you are a member of the legislature and possessing a considerable influence, you will be better enabled to form an opinion of the expediency of the time when and the manner how the business should be brought forward and arranged, so as to insure the greatest success to the application, on which subject I shall be happy to have your opinion.
In my next letter I will give you a sketch of the first cost of these lands, with the charges of interest which have accrued, which will furnish you with the means of making a correct statement of the sum they have cost.
I cannot suppose that any additional expenditures will be made which will require advances of money for the settlement under your care, as in case of funds being wanted to a small extent, and the amount should not be supplied by the timber rents and the sale of lands, then the capital invested in the store, which is no longer the same object as when at first established, will supply the deficiency.
It is impossible to determine what impression the cession of Louisiana will make on the general interests of the United States. I do not suppose it will occasion any extraordinary emigration from the New England States to the westward. In the scale of national policy and individual advantage, the District of Maine presents very superior advantages for settlement. The Atlantic States have now a distinct and seperate system to pursue, and every effort should be made to render their population more compact, and to prevent their inhabitants from being scattered over that immense western wilderness, thereby weakening the aggregate strength of the country, from their labor turning to so little account.
Our friend Richards, I find, does not view his prospects so flattering as he expected they would be, and indicates a wish of engaging in scenes of business that would promise to be more immediately successfull.
Mr. A. Baring has gone to America to negotiate some important transactions for his fathers House and Messrs. Hope and Co.577 He will probably have an interview with Mr. Richards, as I know he wrote to him, previous to his departure, that he should be glad to have a conference with him.
I sincerely congratulate you on the marriage of your daughter with Mr. Black. Please to make my compliments to them, with my best wishes for their mutual happiness.
As I before observed to you, I have no opportunity of comparing the accounts of the present year, as received by you from Mr. Richards, with those of the preceding.
Nothing can show the unripened state of our lands more than the continued state of expenditures, to form a few settlements, which in usual cases is supported by the purchasers who become settlers. House building department has been a very heavy expence, and I find no credit for any rents received. Beddington farm and Mariaville settlement absorb nearly $2,000 this year, and at this advanced season of our establishment, when we might expect that our receipts would be at least commensurate with our necessary expences, I find that money in the year 1802 was drawn from Mr. Codman. The expenditures of this year amount to nearly $4,500, independent of other charges, which are $3,000 more. When I can have access to the accounts, I will place the various expenditures under different heads, so as to balance them by the money which has been received, which amounts to about $30,000 for my moiety, including salary and the interest on the advances.
With sincere regard, I am,
August 29 I have just received yours of the 26 June, to which I shall reply by the next opportunity, being too late for that by which the present will be forwarded.
Bingham to Cobb, London, 15 October 1803 [CP]
London October 15th 1803
Under date of 28th August I wrote you in answer to yours of the 20 April, since which as I mentioned in a postscript in my last I have received yours of the 24 June.
I am happy to find that the mills you have erected promise to yield so handsome a revenue for the money expended on them, added to the advantage of controuling the depredations on the forests by curbing the licentious conduct of the woodcutters. From the high price to which lumber of all kinds has risen in every part of Europe, it may readily be inferred that this article must every day obtain additional value in America, and therefore that it becomes an essential point to take the most effectual measures to preserve it.
Your account of the tide of population flowing so very rapidly towards you is very encouraging, and I am very anxious to see the best evidence of this improving state of things, in the rising value of, and demand for this property, for this is the criterion from which our partners in the association will alone form their opinions.
I observe that Thorndike is about levying his execution upon the Kennebec lands to satisfy a judgment for the most excessive damages obtained by man, the most disgracefull as it regards the evidence and the perversion of the most regular course of judicial proceedings. But as the suit is thus terminated, any further opposition becomes useless. I find from the copy of a letter which you have addressed to Mr. Hare that the appraisers have proceeded to sett off a portion of these lands to satisfy the judgment, and I never was more astonished than at the little value which they appear to have attached to them. However to this treatment likewise, I must patiently submit, regretting that you had not been personally present, to have averted the injury sustained by such an undervaluation of the property.
It now becomes necessary to make every effort to redeem these lands, whatever sacrifices I may be compelled to make, in order to effect it.
I shall in consequence write to my agent concerning it. I should have been much gratified if you had given me particular information concerning the process to be pursued in cases of this nature, as it would have enabled me to have given precise instructions on the subject, and having no source from which I can derive any intelligence, but thro your letters and communications.
As for General Knox, I have not received a line from him since my arrival in Europe, altho I have wrote to him very particularly, and altho I have rendered him an essential service immediately after my arrival.
However I do not despair of receiving a letter from you shortly, on the subject of this attachment, which is of so very important a nature to the interests of the concern.
With respect to the offer which has been made to purchase the whole of the Kennebec tract, I think it very incompetent [?] to the value which has been affixed to it, in the opinion of all those who have been acquainted with this property.
Taking the two tracts together and the various expences attending them, connected with the first cost and interest thereon, they cannot, from a rough estimate, cost less than 30 cents per acre.
And if an allowance is made for the depreciation of money since the period of their purchase, which is certainly as fair an item in the calculation as the original purchase money, it will be found that their offer is far below the first cost to the parties.
I am certainly very anxious to dispose of this property, as neither my resources of time and capital would admit of my entering into the business of settlement etc. with that spirit which is necessary to insure its success.
And from my residence at Philadelphia I am too far removed from the scene of action, to give that superintendance which so important a concern would require. Whereas gentlemen who are inhabitants of Massachusetts possess every facility of this nature, and therefore, as far as such views of improvement extend beyond my present engagements, I would wish to confine them to my lands in Pennsylvania, which are very susceptible from local situation, of being greatly benefited by a systematic plan of settlement.
As yet I have never offered any of my lands for sale in Europe, from a conviction that from the agitated state of Europe, much better opportunities will offer than now exist, which will be greatly increased from the importance which our country is daily gaining in the estimation of the most intelligent people on this side of the water.
If the offer which has been made had more nearly approached the real value of the lands, I would immediately have forwarded yourself and General Jackson powers to treat with the parties.
With respect to the latter person, there was no room to suppose that there was any alienation on my part towards him, on account of a difference of opinion which existed on a single point, each supposing at the same time that he was in the right. If any further communication should be made to you by Mr. Mason and Mr. Otis, I will thank you to inform me thereof, and I will immediately write you on the subject.
The time which I limited for my excursion to Europe, being nearly expired, I contemplate returning the next season, except some unforeseen circumstances should occasion a further detention. I shall then be able to fulfill your views, on many points, which cannot be so well effected whilst we are at such a distance.
Indeed my affairs essentially require my presence.
I find that you are again chosen a member of the legislature, and that you recommend an application to that body for an exoneration from the settling duties, whilst you continue in that situation. This would certainly be the most favorable time. My opinion is that a commutation for as small a sum as possible would be the most advisable mode of proceeding, if there are no hopes of obtaining an absolute release.
As you are chosen for two years, there will be time to write me more particularly on the subject, which I request you to do at all events, as your letters would be forwarded to America, admitting that I should have taken my departure.
I request you would likewise write to Mr. Hare and give him all the information on the subject and his mode of proceeding.
I have prepared some small publications and pamphlets for your perusal, which will give you some insight into the present political state of this country, as well as of Europe, and which I will forward by the first direct opportunity to Boston. A military spirit pervades all ranks of people in this country, and the most active and energetic measures have been adopted to repel the invasion if it should be attempted. But I never believed that it was the system of Bonaparte to pursue this course, except urged to the adoption of it by imperious circumstances. He risks every thing by attempting such a coup de main. But, by protracting the war, he forces this country to an immense expenditure, diminishes its resources by curtailing its commerce, deranges its finances by increasing its debt, and will eventually create great discontents in consequence of such an adverse state of things, whilst his additional armaments are maintained at comparatively very little additional expence, having quartered them upon the dependent states which surround him.
I will thank you to give my compliments to General and Mrs. Knox and General Jackson, and remember me in the same manner to your family.
Mr. Richards, I find, is soon expected in England on a visit to his family, when probably I shall again hear from you.
I am with sincerity and regard
Your obedient humble servant and friend
This letter from London was the last Bingham ever wrote to Cobb. In it he speaks of his intention to return to America, “except some unforeseen circumstances should occasion a further detention.” In February, 1804, a most unforeseen circumstance occasioned a permanent detention in England, for on the sixth of that month, William Bingham died at Bath, at the age of fifty-two.578 If his absence in England had presented difficulties to his agents in America, his death was to cripple the whole speculation for years to come. The problems of settling his estate, picking up the loose ends of the enterprise, coming to an agreement with Massachusetts on the matter of settling duties, and revising the whole program for the development of the property were not worked out for many years. Indeed it was not until after the War of 1812 that the underbrush of individual claims, legal snarls, and political difficulties had been cleared away sufficiently to allow the trustees once again to get on with the central business of making the property profitable.
Bingham’s death spared him the final humiliation of seeing the Cabots win their pound of flesh. The low price per acre placed on the Kennebec lands by the appraisers had meant that a large part of that property had been attached to satisfy the judgment against Bingham. There was nothing to do but pay up; and in May, 1804, Charles Willing Hare, acting for the Bingham Trustees, paid the thirty-seven-odd thousand dollars.579 Though this payment removed a serious impediment to the promotion of the Kennebec tract, there still remained the problem of lifting the remaining deeds from escrow, let alone the old difficulty of getting people to buy the lands, before the speculation could be transformed from a liability into an asset. Bingham’s death, therefore, was an important factor in delaying for nearly twenty years the development of the Maine property.