The End of Cobb’s Agency
ONCE the melancholy fact of Bingham’s death had been verified, it became necessary to prove his will as rapidly as possible, so that his many business ventures in this country might be continued with a minimum of confusion and interruption. This task was rendered the more difficult because the testator had died abroad and because misunderstandings arose as to the proper procedure to be followed in Massachusetts.580 Eventually these legal obstacles were overcome and there came into existence a very remarkable trust which, because of its self-perpetuating features, is still in existence today. Aside from some outright grants to his relatives, Bingham left his unusually large estate to his children in the form of a trust to be managed by five trustees—Alexander and Henry Baring, his sons-in-law, Robert Gilmor, his business partner, Thomas Mayne Willing, his brother-in-law, and Charles Willing Hare, a cousin by marriage. The trustees were authorized to sell real estate and invest the proceeds in American stocks. The provision for the election of new trustees makes the arrangement unique in American business history, and the Bingham Trust is believed to be the oldest private trust of its kind in existence in the United States today. The actual management of the estate devolved upon Charles Willing Hare, who acted as agent for the trustees until 1820.581
Aside from the Cabot Suit, which Hare had settled before the will was proved, the most pressing problem facing the trustees was that of the settling duties, which had been provided for in the original contract with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. According to the terms of that contract, twenty-five hundred settlers had to be placed on the Penobscot and Kennebec tracts by 1803; and one half of the deeds were still in escrow to insure the performance of this duty. The only alternative provided for by the contract was the payment of thirty dollars in six per cent stock of the United States for each deficient settler, and since these stocks were selling at close to par, the trustees faced the disagreeable alternative of either paying Massachusetts over seventy thousand dollars or risking the forfeiture of the whole property because the terms of the original contract had not been fulfilled.582 To make matters worse, this question was taken up by the Jeffersonians in Massachusetts, who sought to identify Federalism with proprietary interests and thus win the votes of the Maine squatters. If the Bingham contract could be voided on the ground that the settling duties had not been carried out, those residing on the lands in Maine might well get title to their property free, or at a nominal price, argued the Jeffersonians. Their case could be made all the more forcefully because the delay in proving the will prevented the Bingham agents in Maine from selling lands or giving proper titles, and the fact that the lands were owned in such large quantities and by out-of-state proprietors made the Bingham heirs all the more vulnerable targets. This campaign against landed proprietors was an important factor in explaining why the District of Maine became more and more Jeffersonian in the early 1800’s.583
It was in connection with this political problem that General David Cobb performed his last important service for the concern. As President of the Massachusetts Senate from 1801 to 1805, Cobb was in a position to exert profound influence on the proceedings of the General Court. A staunch Federalist who, if anything, was too outspoken in his views,584 he could be counted on to throw his weight on the side of property owners. When William King, later to be the first governor of the State of Maine, introduced a motion to investigate all contracts with landed proprietors to determine whether or not their terms had been properly carried out, Cobb was accused by the Jeffersonians of using his position to kill the motion in the Senate;585 and while he was not in office when the final settlement was reached, the presumption is that his long acquaintance with Massachusetts politics was of great assistance in securing an arrangement favorable to the Bingham heirs. During almost all of the period from the death of Bingham to the outbreak of the War of 1812, Cobb was prominent in public life, either as senator, councillor, or, in 1809, as lieutenant-governor; and though his services to the proprietors cannot be precisely documented, the Bingham trustees could count on an influential and faithful advocate in the Massachusetts government during this difficult period.
In the meantime the General labored manfully to carry on his agency, handicapped though he was by his inability to give titles. He drew up summaries of the state of the Maine property for Charles Willing Hare;586 he kept an eye on Daniel Cony and the Kennebec tract;587 but for the most part he was obliged to mark time until the trustees could decide upon some positive course of action with regard to the Maine speculation.
Proposals of Nehemiah Bosson for Purchasing and Settling Maine Lands, Roxbury, 17 August 1804 [BP]588
Proposal the first. I will purchase one township of land in the first or south range of townships in Mr. Binghams Kennebec Purchase at seventy cents per acre, one third to be paid in five years with interest, the residue to be paid in ten years. Instead of interest offer my services as agent to the proprietors. Should it prove inexpedient to employ me after the first five years then the interest shall commence, provided I shall have the privilege of leaving the employ at any time after the first five years by paying all that is due for the land; provided also that as the land will be mortgaged for security, and it being probable I shall wish to pay some money before it is due, the proprietors shall at any time release so much of the land as will amount to the sum or sums so paid, calculating at the same rate I am to give for it and the interest, the lots so released to be by me designated. I will obligate myself to get on all the settlers that are required by Mr. Binghams contract with the Commonwealth.
Proposal 2d. I will purchase a township in the second range and give fifty five cents an acre, on the same terms and conditions as are stated in proposal the first.
Proposal 3d. I will purchase a quarter of a township in each of the abovementioned townships or ranges at the same prices, and on the same terms and conditions, with this differance, that the whole interest shall be paid by my services, the land to be so located as will best answer my plans of settlement.
Proposal 4th. If none of the former proposals will be accepted I will undertake the trust of an agent, for five years and give security on the following conditions, to wit, for the first year 8 lots of land 200 acres each; for the 2d year 7 lots; for the 3d year 6 lots; for the 4th year 5 lots; for the 5th year 4 lots to be chosen by me, not to be permitted to take two lots together, to be settled as above.
Roxbury 17th August 1804
Nehemiah Boston’s Observations, Roxbury, 17 August 1804 [BP]
Observations respectfully submitted to the executors on the estate of William Bingham, Esquire
The price offered in my proposals for land may appear to a stranger too low, but when contrasted with the prices of the land in the vicinity it will be considered I think equal to the value. I know of one township in the Kennebec survey, between the Million Acres and Hallowell (the head of navigation on the Kennebec) and at a convenient distance from the latter place, now on sale at fifty cents per acre cash; and another township in the fourth range north of the Waldo Patent and at a convenient distance from the Kennebec and Penobscot marketts, offered for a dollar an acre on credit and is an extraordinary good township; in the Sandy River country, towards the southwest corner of the Million Acres and within one days ride of Hallowell, the land is sold in the new towns at one dollar an acre, and it is the highest price asked in any new town within my knowledge. The purchasers have a choice of lots on a very long credit. The large tracts of lands owned by General Knox and those in the care of General Cobb further to the eastward are valued higher because they are near the sea. The cord wood and lime stone on them are very valuable. The terms of payment I ask are long; but when it is understood that where there is one person who emigrates to the wilderness with money enough to buy a small stock, and provisions to support his family untill he can raise them himself, there are twenty who are in want of the common necessaries of life, I cannot therefore think of paying money for land, when I am certain of being obliged to advace [sic] consierable [sic] sums for the support of the settlers. These settlers will enhance the value of the land, and put [it] in a situation to be sought after by purchasers who have ready money. What cash I receive for land will be paid over immediately, that I may procure the release of the lot I receive the money for, and be enabled to give the buyer a deed without incumbrance. I have not a doubt that after I have settled the land I may purchase agreeably to the resolve of the General Court, made roads, mills, etc., I can sell enough for cash and before the five years expire to make my first payment, being fully perswaded that the settlement of land will certainly make it an object to such as have money. To substantiate this it need only be mentioned that the same land, sold about the time Mr. Bingham purchased his and at the same price, now sells for cash at 5 and 6$ per acre in a state of nature and valued only for farms. The reason is that ¾ths of the town is settled. It is but a few years since that the first 20 or 30 settlers in a town had to pay anything for their land.
I now solicit the attention of the proprietors to that part of my proposals where I offer my services as an agent. I am not ignorant that General Cobb is an agent appointed by Mr. Bingham over the same land, and I should consider anything criminal in my offers that I did not think would meet the approbation of General Cobb. I saw him last winter and he then told me it was uncertain what would be done with the land, that if anything should occur that could benefit me he would give me information of it.589 An agent to be on the land is for several reasons necessary: Firstly, there being a great choice in lots, the prices should be various, and the differance in value must be ascertained by actual inspection. Some lots are valuable for timber, some for mill seats. Secondly, he would sell more land than a person at a distance. Thirdly, there is a vast quantity of land valuable only for the timber. The river Kennebec and the numerous streams running into it afford an excellent opportunity to the lumber stealers (they are very numerous and so poor that it is only a waste of time and money to prosecute them) to strip off the masts and other timber, and nothing but the most active vigilence can prevent their depredations. This saving of itself will almost pay for a mans time. Fourthly, there are those who practice going into a new country, fell 8 or 10 acres of trees and the two following years get two crops and then leave it in an infinitely worse situation than a state of nature. The prevailing opinion is that the land is very rocky, has a large proportion of fir trees and other evergreens on it. There is a report that one surveyor went out in June and could not survey it owing to the depth of snow. Some flourishing settlements would put a stop to such a mistaken opinion. A proof that it exists is that General Cobb has given permission to all disposed to settle to go and take their choice of land for 1$ per acre and only fifteen or sixteen have settled on the whole tract since 1784. This I was told by the settlers when I was there last autumn and also that the same number had settled before that time who where intitled to a deed from the State if they applied before last May. Although I wish for some of it I cannot reccommend the sale of any land (to settlers excepted) in the first range, for the reason that it has on the south line five townships that are settling, some of them rapidly, where the proprietors have been at the expence of cutting roads, etc. If the second range is settled the first will rise nearly as fast as if a large part were sold, and leave some thousands of acres more to rise on the hands of the proprietors. If the original design of Mr. Bingham to settle Europeans (as I am informed was the case) should be persevered in, it is probable they will be placed as far back as possible, for the land nearest the markett will sell best to our countrymen. If the settlement of Europeans should take place, the second range should be settled to accomodate the newcomers with provisions, etc.
The preceeding observations are with defferance submitted. If the proprietors should think proper to employ me, I shall do every thing in my power to promote their interest. I presume when it is considered I have resided five years in the country, have made the settling of land my study, have an extensive acquaintance in the District of Maine, with the inhabitants as well as the territory, I shall not be deemed unworthy of the trust. The reward I request for my services I think moderate, taking into view the trouble of making new settlements and roads, the increased expence of such an extensive territory to take care and give an account of.
Roxbury 17th August 1804
Cobb to Hare, Boston, 3 December 1804 [CP]
Boston December 3d. 1804
Charles W. Hare, Esquire
Agreeably to the promise in the letter of 20th of October you will now receive answers to your several enquiries contain’d in yours of the 8th of July and 20th of September last.590
The estimated value of Mr. Bingham’s lands in Maine, must, in a great measure, be a matter of opinion only. Lands remote from settlements cannot be of any important value separate from speculation. Those adjoining to setttlements, and those where settlements are approaching, are selling from 1 to 6 dollars per acre. As these tracts of land are very large (the lower or eastern tract, in which the Messrs. Hope and others are concern’d, contains between 1,100,000 and 1,200,000, and the Kennebeck tract 1,000,000 acres) only such parts of them as are contiguous, or nearly so, to settlements can command any price. Thence the average value must be less than smaller tracts. I should estimate the lower or eastern tract to be worth 1 dollar per acre, not to include the improvements we have made there, and the Kennebeck tract at 60 cents per acre—not that they would produce this price if bro’t into the market, but they are very valuable property at that, to any person that can afford to keep them.
The settlements and improvements that have been made are chiefly on a part of the southern side of the lower tract, but they are made generally by such characters as lumbermen and fishermen, who by their improvements add but little more value to adjoining lands, than savages. On the Kennebeck tract very few settlements have as yet taken place. At the time of the purchase of this tract, it was near thirty miles distant from the general settlements on the Kennebeck River below. Now those settlements have reach’d the whole southern line of the tract, and some of those adjoining townships, having such numbers of inhabitants, have lately been incorporated into towns. The few lots that have been heretofore disposed of in this tract have been sold at 75 cents and 1 dollar per acre, by way of encouragement to the first that went on to a new township. As the Kennebeck lands are nearer to the great mass of the western settlements than the lower tract, the disposition for settling on these lands is greater than on the other. If Mr. Bingham had not, some years since, interdicted the sale of the Kennebeck lands to settlers, I am persuaded that by this time, hundreds of families would have been settled on them.
From the best information that can be obtained of such wilderness tracts, and as far as my own knowledge extends, there is no essential difference in the fertility of the different tracts, both being capable of great agricultural improvement; but the lower tract is a degree of latitude further south, is perhaps the best water’d country in the U.S., is nearly contiguous to the sea and is thence favorable for commercial advantages.
The annual expenditures on the property are at present small and will soon be less; but that you may have a proper view of this subject, it will be necessary to state that I was Mr. Bingham’s sole agent for the Kennebeck tract, and that Mr. Richards and myself were joint agents for the lower tract. In the management of the Kennebeck tract I have always employ’d Doctor Coney, a respectable character who resides on that river, and have heretofore paid his account for services, which was regularly charged to Mr. Bingham in my private account with him. But since Mr. Bingham’s departure for Europe no account has been settled with the Doctor, but I expect it here soon, as he promis’d me when I call’d upon him on my way to this place that he would forward it immediately. The ballance now due him may be 300$.591 As no taxes are paid on this tract the annual expence cannot exceed 150 dollars. In the joint agency, we have had the management of larger capital which has been applied to a variety of operations, such as a store, making roads, building houses, mills, etc. Our annual accounts that have been transmitted will shew the objects and the amount of our expenditures; but as these are now greatly lessened, the proportion to Mr. Bingham’s estate for this year, seperate from my stipend, will not exceed 1,000 dollars and this will be provided for out of the capital we have on hand. The present amount of taxes paid by the joint concern is about 300$ per annum. Our joint annual account will be transmitted to you in January next, the usual period.
I have had no other offer for the purchase of land in groce but that of Messrs. Mason and Otis, which I communicated to you the last year. Mr. Otis has since told me that as there was no person here with whom they could form a contract for the lands, he and his friends had given up the object, and had devoted their capital to extensive operations in and about this town.
In estimating the residuary profits on 100,000 acres of these purchases, I have taken into view what would probably be that profit twenty years hence. This I have estimated, at the extent, to be 40,000 dollars. Then this sum reduced to the present time will give between 10 and 12,000 dollars. My opinion is that the last mentioned sum is the extent of the present worth of such residuary right. As my particular friend General Jackson at this place, Major Jackson with you, and General Knox have like claims on these lands, I have to request that my opinion on this subject may rest with you, as your request does with me.592
I presume I shall be excused when I mention to you the absolute necessity of having an administration on Mr. Bingham’s estate in this Commonwealth; you must be sensible that no legal measures can be persued with his property here without it. We can neither give deeds or make contracts, neither can I commence actions for the constant depredations that are committing on the property. It is likewise necessary that the powers of agency to Mr. Richards and myself should be renew’d. You have all the parties with you—Messrs. Willing and Cramond are the trustees for the European part, and a majority of the executors of Mr. Bingham’s will are in and about Philadelphia. My powers of agency for the Kennebeck lands if agreeable should likewise be renew’d, unless the executors see fit to unite Mr. Richards with me in all these concerns in Maine, and which perhaps would be best, with a power likewise to deed the Kennebeck lands, at least to those settlers who are entitled to their lots, and to those few who had contracted for lands before Mr. Bingham stop’d the sale of them. I hope these several objects will be attended to in the course of the ensuing winter.
Inclosed you will receive my private and loan accounts with Mr. B. which are made out from the time my last account was transmitted to him and which I hope you will find correct and agreeable to your request.593 I am now going to visit Mrs. Cobb at Taunton 36 miles from this, where she has been during the past season and still remains in a low and distressed situation. I shall remain there for some time to come, during which I shall write you on the subject of the executors petitioning our legislature in the ensuing winter respecting the settling duty contracted for in Mr. B.’s purchases, and lifting the deeds now [in] escrow, as well as on the final adjustment of my contract with Mr. Bingham which expires the first of May next. Whatever communications you may make, may be directed to me at this place. The post master has directions to forward them to Taunton.
If you have no map, among Mr. B.’s, of the lands in Maine, I will request Mr. Richards to copy one for you during the winter, as we have but one in our possession.
I am, dear sir
Your obedient servant
Richards to Hare, Gouldsborough [?], 2 January 1805 [CP]
January 2. 1805
I had the pleasure of receiving yours of the 10th ultimo594 by the last post, and being strongly in the same sentiment with yourself that no time should be lost in pushing for a liberation of the deeds, I answer by return of post, and enclose a hasty rough-drafted Memorial for your inspection,595 with a request that you will point out by letter to General Cobb at Boston what alterations you deem fit. And I shall by this oppertunity transmit a duplicate to him requesting him to make any alterations he may deem necessary and to forward the instrument so prepar’d to Philadelphia for your signature with that of the other trustees if they approve. I have adopted this measure to save time.
So very many reasons concur to render further delay in this business highly injurious, and among the rest the increase of Jacobinism in Massachusetts not the least, that I hope the business may be got thro’ this winter. In sketching the Memorial I have kept in view that temper which will be bro’t in opposition to us, and mention it as a petition of the heirs instead of proprietors, people being more naturally dispos’d to lean favourably toward heirs, and not so likely to transfer a political enmity or jealousy to the inheritors of a divided property.
Mr. Baring is of opinion that a well-drawn Memorial sufficiently explanatory of the state of the concern must obtain a complete remission. With regard to myself I never had an opinion on the subject, having liv’d entirely unconnected with all state politics. Neither was I possess’d of General Cobb’s ideas upon the subject untill my return from England.596 He thinks there can be no well-founded hope of an entire remission but that for a sum of money down, to an amount of which he of course will inform you, the deeds may be obtain’d.
Availing myself therefore of both your ideas upon the subject I have to propose that a Memorial something resembling the enclos’d be presented, and, if rejected, a proposal to be made for—dollars to be paid towards making the turnpike road from Portland in Maine to the Penobscot River, or towards a bridge over the Penobscot, or towards any public work the General may prefer, in lieu of the duties for settlement.
Herein appears to me to consist the whole difficulty namely, the trying of the temper of the Committee to ascertain the lowest sum they may compound for, or to invent some commutation (the cheapest possible for us) and satisfactory to the public mind. I know of no person so well qualified for undertaking this as General Cobb, and his connexion with the lands in question affords a stronger reason for applying to him.
The loss of time in exchanging letters from this place to Boston or Philadelphia precludes my further etc. etc. etc. etc.
Draft of Memorial to Massachusetts General Court, 1805 [?] [BP]597
The Trustees of the estate of William Bingham, Esquire, deceased, being desirous of adjusting his property according to his last Will and Testament and being prevented from the same by the want of certain deeds of sundry wild lands in the District of Maine detain’d by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts not for deficiency of payment by the deceased, but for ensuring settlement on the said lands, and having enquired into the state of that property, present the following Memorial:
That whereas a uniform system of expensive exertion in proportion to its success unparalleled in the United States has been invariably pursued for eight years, not only for the encouragement, but for the forcing of settlement, by which in Townships Nos. 20, 26, 23, 17, and 7, Middle Division, settlements in the wilderness and some very flourishing have been created, the most remote above 25 miles back in the country;
And whereas the accomplishment of these undertakings has required great cost of money in bridging, causewaying, and roadmaking above one hundred miles, with running out of townships, building houses and mills for the accommodation of settlers, assisting them with loans, and in some instances pensioning them with saleries, with a constant strain of exertion for the advancement of the settlement of the country by contributing towards public works, etc., and which system is still in progress, whereby a disburse of 70,000 dollars has been sustain’d in difficult objects, very few indeed of which are or can ever be productive, but solely for the purpose of rendering the country habitable and bringing on inhabitants;
And whereas the difficulties attending the execution of this plan have been most complicated and serious, and in its prominent points absolutely insurmountable since the limits of approaching emigration have not yet reach’d these lands, and the few inhabitants on the sea coast dissuade strangers from settling that they themselves may retain the plunder of the forest, which the laws of the land have yet been insufficient to restrain and by which the property has been stripp’d to an immense amount of all its most valuable timber;
Whereas the great demand for seamen of late years has diverted much labour from new lands and the general character of these lands is unfavorable to settlement, and the proportion of lakes and ponds upon them extensive beyond any comparison in the New England States;
Your memorialists not wishing to make an exaggerated display of their proceedings, but to deliver a plain statement of facts, and to submit them to enquiry, under a full confidence that the intent and object of the Commonwealth’s, having been uniformly, steadily, and very expensively pursued for the advancement of settlement, will result therefrom, and presuming that the fine for deficient settlers was imposed in the spirit of legislative provision, and not of pecuniary exaction, they hope that the severe and heavy losses already sustain’d, by the large disburse, stagnation of value, failure of settlement, and indisposeable state of these lands will not be encreased by the infliction of that penalty, which in the event of shutting out settlers, could only have been justly deserv’d, and more especially as the Commonwealth has liberally given instances of relaxation from severer conditions to their purchasers, they pray for a liberation of the deeds.
Philadelphia January 3. 1805
I did not receive yours of the 22nd till the first instant.
I perceive that you have lately returned from the Kennebeck tract, that serious divisions had arisen among the settlers and others who were on our lands, and that you had deemed it necessary to bend the whole force of your attention to counter-act the ill effects that might result from them. In order that we may obtain more accurate information on these points than we at this time possess, I will thank you minutely to inform us of the causes of those divisions—whether they have existed among those settlers who are on the lands by contract or amoung the intruders only, whether the disposition to intrude continues, and whether the settlers of both descriptions would be willing to pay a cash price to any and what amount for the property they are now on.
While you are at Boston you can probably ascertain whether any and which of the capitalists of that city would be disposed to make purchases of us. I suspect that Messrs. Otis and Mason still contemplate a speculation of this nature and I think that without making any direct overture if they have such an inclination it would be desirable to encourage them in it. Altho’ we are not under any positive necessity to sell, yet the various interests which have been intermingled in this concern induce us to wish to bring it to a close if it can be done without sacrifice. As an inducement to purchase it might be hinted that a long credit upon bond and mortgage payable with interest would be granted for 2/3rds of the purchase money.
It is the wish of all the trustees that whenever any proposal to purchase is made, you should immediately name a price, viz., one dollar per acre by the township and two dollars for smaller quantities—1/3rd cash, the remainder secured by bond, warrant to confess judgment and mortgage payable with interest in three years. Whenever you shall have it in your power to make sales on these terms and shall deem it expedient to do so, we will execute conveyances.
I am desirous to know your opinions as to all the alterations which you would deem it expedient to make in the present system of managing the property, how far it would be practicable to turn upon it the tide of emigration, and to attract to it the attention either of the man of wealth, whose object it would be to make a profitable investment, or the actual settler who would intend to make real improvements.
With a very large tract of country held by Mr. Bingham in this state I have thought sometimes of pursuing some such plan as this—of causing the whole to be surveyed into divisions of 25,000 acres, these to be resurveyed into 3 tracts of five and one of ten thousand acres, of keeping the latter which should be the best, and of selling the former to persons who might be disposed to make investments of surplus capital, or to make retail sales to settlers. It would be useful I think for you to mention the objections which might arise to such a course of proceeding with regard to the Maine Lands, what would be the expence of surveying, management, etc., and whether purchasers on such principles could be found. Nothing of this kind has yet been seriously thought of nor do I wish you to mention to any body except Mr. Richards that it has been suggested, but in fact I am anxious to collect all the materials of forming an organized system to bring the property into action.
Mr. Willing and myself to whom the other trustees have delegated all their powers will shortly send to you a power of attorney sufficiently comprehensive to enable you to attend to every necessary object, and consider you as having agreed to continue your agency for the salary of 1,500 dollars per annum. And we respectfully beg that you will minutely and frequently communicate with us on the important affairs committed to your good management.
With respect to the fines for non-settlements our letter to Mr. Richards is I believe sufficiently full. He will act altogether in concurrence with you, and as unless I shall find it absolutely necessary, I shall not visit Boston this winter, it may be proper to observe that whatever you may do in relation to this business which we wish to bring to some determinate end will meet our approbation.
I beg leave further to make enquiries on a point unconnected with the preceding. I observe that you are one of the subscribing witnesses to a deed from Mr. B. to Messrs. T. and R. Willing in trust for Mr. B. for life and after his death for Mrs. Bingham, her heirs and assigns, for Lansdown estate. It appears that Mr. Bingham on his deathbed told Mrs. H. Baring that he had given that property to her by a deed of trust made to Messrs. Willings which does not we believe exist, and we think he must have alluded to the one I have mentioned. I shall therefore be very much obliged by your stating as far as your recollection will serve you, what took place at the time of executing the instrument, who were present, and particularly what Mr. Bingham said on the occasion. There is no doubt he was mistaken at the time of his conversation with Mrs. Baring, and it would be desirable if not useful to learn in what the mistake originated. I must rely upon your patience for directing your attention to one other object. You doubtless know that many years since, a sale was made to Colonel Walker of a considerable body of lands lying I believe in the Penobscot tract, for which he gave bonds payable at different periods and amounting to about 54,000 dollars. The deeds were lodged in escrow, and as the payments were not made, Mr. Bingham contended he was entitled to a return of them. It appears however that Walker instituted a suit on the Chancery side of the Circuit Court for the District of Maine with the view of compelling Mr. B. to complete his title. What finally became of this suit I do not know. Mr. Otis I believe was consulted on our part and can probably state the result. As however I am desirous of bringing the controversy to a close, I wish you would ascertain in what situation it now exists on the records of the Maine Court, whether any and what decree was made, and whether the proceedings there will render it inexpedient to commence an action against the persons who hold these conveyances and who are in Philadelphia.598 Requesting as speedy an answer as may be convenient,
I remain, dear sir
With very high respect, etc.
Your most obedient servant
C. W. Hare
I send to Mr. Richards by this post according to your desire, 1,000 dollars on account for your salary.
Otis to Hare, Boston, 22 June 1805 [BP]
Boston 22 June 1805
My dear Sir:
Among unanswered letters which lay in reproachful files on my table, I find the card you sent me in Philadelphia containing one hundred dollars as a retaining fee in Mr. Binghams concerns which I hereby acknowledge to have receivd.
I presume General Cobb has advised you of the real and increasing embarrassments attending the want of regular authorization from the legal representatives of the deceased. The spirit of insubordination and enmity to the legitimate rights of property which is hourly increasing in the civilized parts of the country, is of consequence more violent and dangerous among the semi savages who steal land from non residents and hide from justice in the recesses of the wilderness. They are also convenient instruments in the hands of designing men who disdain not to encourage their outrages and defend their depredations. In the last session of the legislature, a committee was raised to enquire into the state of the contract made with Mr. Bingham, which is intended without doubt as a preliminary to rigid measures. We have parried it for the present and may possibly do it once more. But if we follow the example of your virtuous state which we are in a fair way to do, I expect they will exact their pound of Christian flesh.599
I will keep you advised of events, and shall be happy to render you any services in my power, being with esteem and respect
Your obedient servant
H. G. Otis
Hare to Cobb, Philadelphia, 7 August 1805 [CP]
Philadelphia August 7 1805
Since I last had the pleasure of receiving a letter from you, Messrs. Otis and Richards have informed me that a motion has been made in the Massachusetts legislature to enquire into the state of the Maine contract, that it was made by persons whom it is supposed will be unfriendly to our wishes, but that possibly it may ultimately produce a more favorable termination of the business than we could otherwise have expected.
In these ideas I understand you concur and it is a high gratification to us to be assured of the exertion of your talents and influence in effectuating our objects.
It is the opinion of Messrs. Barings from whom I have just received letters on the subject that we should endeavour to obtain a prolongation of the time allowed for procuring settlers, or an abatement (if possible a remission) of the penalty, or an authority to expend the money in improving the country. The first and second of these objects would be most desirable but are I fear impracticable. The third is so reasonable and so well calculated to attract the regard of the Maine members that I cannot but flatter myself with hopes of success. At any rate it is I presume necessary that the business should be brought to a close at the ensuing session of the legislature, and the attested copy of the will which has been sent over will I presume be deemed sufficient evidence of our power to enable us to treat. Mr. Otis has promised us his assistance and I hope the influence of Generals Knox and Jackson will be powerfully exerted in our behalf.600 If you think my presence will be useful or necessary I beg you to advise me of it.
I have received proposals for the purchase of several townships in the Kennebeck tract.601 Will you be so obliging as to inform me what those lands may be worth, supposing 1/3 of the money paid down and a long credit upon bond and mortgage with interest for the remainder.
Begging the favour of you to keep up a regular and frequent correspondence with me,
I remain, dear sir
With high respect
Your obedient servant
C. W. Hare
General David Cobb
Cobb to Hare, Boston, 22 December 1805 [CP]
Boston December 22d. 1805
C. W. Hare
I came from Gouldsboro’ on the 10th of November, and by the way of the Kennebeck arrived here on the 17. instant. Your letter of the 7th of August and a subsequent one came duely by the mail to my house in Gouldsboro’, but my absence in attending the courts of the county and in visiting the settlers on Union River and elsewhere prevented my seeing them ’till late in the following month; and then, as serious difficulties had arisen among those settlers and others that were on our lands, it was tho’t best for me to bend my whole attention in counteracting the ill effects that might be the result. This has occasioned the omission of my correspondence with you. The difficulties I refer to have partly arisen from the death of our friend Mr. B. and had been fomented by the partizans of democracy to a troublesome, if not dangerous, height. They however have now subsided, and I presume with prudent and regular management will not give us much trouble in future.
The subject of the Maine contract that came before the legislature at the last session was bro’t forward by the malignant spirits of our government for party purposes. As there was no danger of any important result, I tho’t it unnecessary to trouble you at that time with any communication on the subject. Our application to the legislature at the next session on this subject should be preceded with caution, and with the best knowledge of the principles of the contract and if possible a knowledge of the temper of the House of Representatives. It is certainly of importance that you should be here at the time, not only for your advice and direction in this business, but that Mr. Richards and myself may have an oppertunity of conversing with you generally on the state of our concerns in Maine, which are unpleasantly situated. The legislature commence their session on the 15th. of next month, but they take up no important business in the first week of their session.
As I depend on seeing you here in all next month, it will be unnecessary to detail to you any of my proceedings on the Penobscot or Kennebeck tracts, further than answering your request as to the price of a township of the latter. The first and second range of townships, east and west, on the southern line of that tract, are now worth one dollar per acre at the least by the township. The lands further north and not so near the settlements, are of less value now, but if you have no necessity for a sale, the rapid increase of settlements will soon place them, if the lands are equally good, in as valuable a situation. One and two hundred acre lots, in the townships on the southern line can now be sold, I presume, at from 2 to 3 dollars per acre.
It would oblige me very much if you would make it convenient to forward to me before the 2d week in January, in Post Notes or otherwise one thousand dollars on account of my stipend for the present year. As I shall be absent for a fortnight from this place, General Jackson or Mr. Richards will receive for me any of your communications.
Since writing the above I have been favour’d with yours of the 13th instant.602 The two modes you propose in the adjustment of the Maine contract, viz., of compromising with the State for a sum in grose, or of prolonging the period for bringing on the settlers required, are perfectly my own, and one or the other I have no doubt can be obtain’d. The first however I think the most elligible, and I hope will be obtained at less expence than you mention. The last mode you propose, i.e., of having the money expended for the improvement of the country, and which is a idea you have heretofore mentioned, will be the least likely to succeed.
If after seeing you here, you should think it necessary for me in the course of next spring to visit Philadelphia, I shall do it with pleasure.
I am dear sir with respect
Your obedient servant
Cobb to Hare, Boston, 2 March 1806 [CP]
Boston March 2d. 1806
Charles W. Hare, Esquire
Your letter of January 3d. came to hand some time after date, previously to which I had receiv’d from Mr. Richards the 1,000$ you had remitted him for my use. Yours likewise of the 24th. ultimo has been receiv’d.
The subject of the deficiency of settlement on all the purchases of Maine Lands has been taken up in the House; and they have passed a resolve ordering all persons interested, to show cause at the next session in June next; this resolve is now in the hands of a Committee of Senate who think the measure dishonorable to government and I think they intend not to report upon it at the present session. If they do not, the subject is necessarily referr’d. Thus this business subsides perhaps for another year and I think with an aspect rather friendly to your wishes. Those who are interested in this business with ourselves, and they are numerous, are anxious to have a prolongation of five years to compleat the number of settlers required and to have it effected at the present session. They are now procuring signers to a petition, to which I have declined my signature. If they succeed we shall probably be equally benefited.603
The disturbances, as mentioned in my last, which took place on and about Union River, in the lower tract, were among those settlers who were on the lands by contract, and who had been artfully persuaded that they would loose whatever they paid us on their contracts, as Mr. Bingham’s death had annull’d our powers of agency; and as his contract with the State had never been compleated, his purchases would all revert to the Commonwealth, if they could only git the Federalists out of office; and then whatever lands they occupied the government would give to them as settlers. These vile insinuations not only had the effect, among these ignorants, to prevent their compliance with their contracts with us, but let them loose upon the other lands from whence they have taken some of the most valuable timber in that part of the country. These trespasses remain unprosicuted for want of due powers for that purpose. I am persuaded that, being frequently with these people the last autumn, their opinions of their situation are changed, and I am very confident that the outrages they committed the last year will not be repeated, but the trespasses committed on the Kennebeck lands are to a great amount, and openly done in defiance of any power to controle them. I have procured the names of most of these plunderers and evidences for their conviction, that when the trustees give powers of attorney for the purpose, they may be prosecuted.
I have convers’d with different gentlemen who appear to wish a concern in the purchase of the Kennebeck lands. They all however go upon the idea that these lands are to be sold cheap, as they conceive the trustees would be very ready and willing to rid themselves of a concern in such troublesome property. Mr. Thorndike of Beverly,604 whom you know, is the only one who has made any proposals for purchase. He conceives that the trustees would think themselves justified, if they could sell the Kennebeck Million for the purchased price, including all the expences and compound interest, say 33 cents per acre, and perhaps he would include the adjustment with the State of the settling duties. If such terms as these were agreeable, he would endeavour to make a company for the purchase. My answer was that I presum’d the trustees would have no objection to a sale of the whole if they could receive a moderate consideration for the value of it, but that the price he had mentioned could not be consider’d an adiquate one. Mr. King,605 a member of the House from Bath, in Maine, who has been the great instigator and leader of all the measures in the legislature relative to Mr. Bingham’s purchase, is another who would wish to be concern’d in the Kennebeck lands and this I suspect has been the source of his violent prosecution and rather persicution, of the subject of Mr. Bingham’s purchases. He has proposed no price, but he wishes to be concern’d whenever they are sold. Mason and Otis apparently have no wish to be concern’d in these lands, but I believe they would not refuse a small share if the purchase was cheaply made, and their friends were concern’d. As the Kennebeck lands have frequently been the subject of conversation when General Knox and myself have been present, we have conferred together about the price at which they ought to be sold, and are of opinion that if 50 cents per acre can be obtain’d for the whole as purchas’d of the State, the sale would do, and if the future adjustment of the settling duties with the State could be included, it would do better.
I perfectly recollect my subscribing as a witness to a certain instrument said to be, as I did not read it, an establishment for Mrs. Bingham of the Lansdown estate; and I think no other persons were present at the time but B. and his wife, myself and, if I am not mistaken, the then Cleark to Mr. B. who was with the other subscribing witness. An establishment for Mrs. Bingham had been frequently the subject of conversation between them when I was present. He first proposed a township of land in Maine. This was given up in the sale to Baring and with a provision that out of the proceeds of its sale a purchase should be made for Mrs. Bingham, and I am well persuaded that Mr. Bingham told me that he had foolishly given too large a sum for the Lansdown estate that he might gratify Mrs. B. in her establishment. I never heard that Maria had any concern in the business.
Colonel Walker or Mr. Van Berkell bro’t a suit in equity against Mr. Bingham at a Circuit Court in Maine. Mr. Davis,606 our present Solicitor General, was Mr. Bingham’s council. He tells me that at the return term there was no appearance on the part of the Plaintiff and the cause he presumes was dismissed.
It is of the first importance that I should have a conversation with you respecting the stated situation of Mr. Bingham’s property in Maine and of my connection therewith; and if I hear nothing to the contrary I shall set off from here by the last of this or beginning of next month for Philadelphia, and I shall bring with me the annual accounts of our concern; and any subjects of your letter that I have not answered in this, I shall then be able to afford you such information about as I am possessed of
I am just inform’d that the Committee of Senate to whom the Resolve from the House on the subject of the Maine Lands was committed, have been call’d upon to make their report, and they yesterday reported not to concur with the House in the Resolve. Tuesday next is assigned to take this report into consideration, and if they concur with the House it is not of essential importance to you, altho’ I had rather had it postponed as it appear’d to me the subject gain’d in your favour the more it was view’d.
Hare to Cobb, Philadelphia, 6 March 1806 [CP]
Philadelphia, March 6, 1806
I have just received and thank you for your letter of the 2nd.
Your presence here will I believe be extremely useful. Indeed I have long thought that it would be absolutely necessary, and that as most of the papers and Mr. Willing are here it must be in this city that all final arrangements will be made.
Mr. Thorndikes proposals forbid all expectations of his becoming a purchaser. Indeed I am now in treaty for the sale of the Kennebec tract at three quarters of a dollar per acre and if I can satisfy myself with regard to the solidity of the contractor I have no doubt that I shall effect a sale subject to the ratification of Messrs. Barings nearly at that rate. If the negociation progresses I shall respectfully beg the favour of your immediate attendance in Philadelphia. Still however it will do no harm for you to encourage proposals for a purchase from whatever quarter they may come.
You will oblige me by mentioning the precise import of the Resolve which passed the House of Representatives—whether it called upon the land holder to shew cause why suits should not be instituted against them, or whether it contemplated any process for the recovery of the lands. Whatever may be the sacrifice to which we should be exposed by immediately raising the whole sum due I would incur it rather than suffer the title to the property to be put in jeopardy or suspicion. You will also oblige me by stating whether it would be practicable or expedient to procure a legislative authority to the officers of the State or to a committee to be appointed for the purpose to compound and settle the claim upon us during the recess of the legislature. I should suppose it would be more easy and advantageous to treat with a few select persons than with a popular body animated with various political and some private interests, and seeking to recommend themselves to their constituents by a zealous adherence to the terms of the contract. But on this head I am unable to form a satisfactory opinion and must rely altogether on your judgment. I will thank you to procure from Mr. Otis an exact statement of the forms to be pursued previous to the proving of the will in Massachusetts. He will observe that it has already been proved in Pennsylvania not by the oaths of the subscribing witnesses but by witnesses to the hand-writing of the testator, which under the general construction of our Act of Assembly has been permitted in contradiction to the rules of the Common Law. He will also observe that the original will cannot now be taken out of the Register General’s Office, at least not without the existence of some strong necessity, and perhaps not even then, so that it will be desirable that the probate copy should be received as sufficient. He will be so good as to state whether my presence will be necessary when the will is proved, whether actions for trespasses may not be maintained after the probate but previous to any oath on my part or taking out Letters Testamentary. In short I wish him to chalk out precisely the course that must be adopted.
I am dear sir
With much respect
Your obedient servant
C. W. Hare
David Cobb, Esquire
Willing and Hare to Cobb and Richards, Philadelphia, 8 April 1806 [CP]
Philadelphia April 8th 1806
Having in our late conversations with General Cobb607 agreed upon a system by which it is supposed your future operations in the management of the late Mr. Binghams estate within the District of Maine can be advantageously regulated, we now proceed to sketch upon paper the outline of the plan and to designate those objects which call more immediately for your attention.
Before you enter upon any other measures, it is doubtless necessary that the will of our testator should be proved in Massachusetts. For this purpose we understand that a probate copy of the will as proved in Pennsylvania is sufficient. Such a copy is now in Boston in the hands of Mr. Richards, and you will therefore be so obliging as immediately to ascertain and pursue the proper measures for effecting this object. We hope it can be accomplished without the presence of either of us, but should your inquiries lead you to form a different opinion, Mr. Hare will proceed to Boston with all the despatch which his occupations will allow of.
After having acquired and communicated to us full information with respect to the mode of proving the will, we beg leave to request that all the papers which we now place in the hands of General Cobb and of which a memorandum is taken, may be put upon record and that after being recorded they may be speedily returned by some safe conveyance back to Philadelphia.
It thus appearing upon record that our title is unquestionable, and your authority complete, we recommend that one of you make a formal entry in the presence of witnesses upon each tract purchased from the State as well as upon all the lands purchased from individuals. The possession should be taken in the names of the trustees, and being properly done will at all times afford the necessary evidence with which to maintain actions of trespass and ejectment against the numerous intruders who infest our property.
After having adopted these preliminary measures you will find yourselves at leisure to attend to the following points:
First. To our situation as it regards the claims of the State.
On this head we agree with General Cobb in opinion that it will be expedient at the next session of the legislature to throw in a petition stating the immense sums that have been expended with a view to the improvement of this country, and the reasons why a greater number of settlers have not been procured, adverting to the causes which have prevented an earlier application, urging the difference between the penalty for the nonperformance of and the real consideration of the contract, and soliciting an abatement or remission of the duties. After the petition shall have been referred to a committee, you will of course inform yourselves as fully as is practicable of the sentiments of its members and regulate your conduct by the information you receive. If one half of the sum due will satisfy the legislature and relieve the deeds, you may promise an immediate payment of it, and we will immediately after such an agreement shall have been formed remit you the money. If terms so favourable cannot be procured, a prolongation of the time of payment would be desirable, but in relation to this business we wish you to use your own discretion. You are much better acquainted with the nature of the business, and what is of more importance with the men with whom it must be transacted, than we are and upon whatever principles it is closed, you may be sure of receiving our approbation.
Second. To the subordinate interests with which our right is incumbered. The debts due from General Knox to the estate of our testator are so heavy as to be much more than equivalent to the value of his proportion of the residuary profits, nor would we now give for his right any thing like the amount of those debts if the money was in our possession. As however he is said to be in circumstances of extreme embarrassment, and as a recovery from him of the sum due cannot probably be expected from any other fund than the one to which I refer, we authorise you to compound our claim on him for his right to one third of the profits. In making this offer we go further than under other circumstances we should feel ourselves justified in going. It is therefore the utmost extent of what he can obtain from us, and should he reject the proposal we shall be compelled to press earnestly and vigorously for the money.608
General Jackson who is entitled to the residuary profits on 100,000 acres, has we are informed repeatedly expressed a wish to dispose of his interest. With him therefore you can easily enter upon a negociation for this purpose. Should he be inclined to part with his right for five or six thousand dollars, we authorise you to purchase at that rate, the money payable in one year. But further than this we cannot go, and if his expectations are higher we must surrender all idea of making a purchase from him.
General Cobb has mentioned to us that Mr. Jackson makes a claim upon the estate to the amount of 3,000 dollars. As this is the first intimation we have ever received of it, and as we know nothing of its merits, it will not be proper for us to say more at present than that when it is presented and supported by proper vouchers it will meet with due attention.609
Third. To the contracts which have been made for the sale of parts of the lands, to the numerous trespasses which are said to be daily committed upon them, and to the mode of preventing these injurious proceedings in future.
Our powers which we herewith send you,610 will we presume be amply sufficient to enable you to execute conveyances to all persons with whom contracts have already been formed. We recommend that these conveyances be made with all convenient speed, so as completely to establish a character for perfect good faith with all those who have claims upon the justice of the estate. Altho the persons who have actually settled upon the lands without having formed any contracts cannot properly consider themselves as belonging to this class, yet where they have made improvements, we wish them also to receive titles at moderate prices. But with regard to those who go upon the property merely with the view of stealing the timber, we wish that prosecutions may be immediately commenced and actively and vigorously pursued. A few examples would probably suffice to prevent the progress of this great and growing evil, and we are willing to encounter every necessary expenditure towards the attainment of so important an object.
Fourth. To the sale of the Kennebec tract altogether or in large masses.
If a sale of this valuable but unwieldy property could be effected, we believe that the interest of the estate would be greatly advanced. Fifty cents per acre we think a fair and moderate tho adequate price, and should any offer to that amount be made, we authorise you to embrace it subject to the ratifications of Messrs. Barings. A lower rate might possibly be acquiesced in, and at all events we beg the favour of you immediately to communicate to us every proposal that is made with the name and character of the person from whom it comes. Should it be impossible to accomplish a sale of the whole by one contract, it may be expedient to endeavour to effect the object by making sales of townships, but except to those with whom contracts have been formed, and those who are now actually settled on the property, we are decidedly averse from entering into any negociations for smaller bodies than townships. From the information we have received from various sources, we are inclined to suspect that some of the large capitalists of Boston are feeling their way towards the purchase of this tract, and in order to accelerate their motions as well as for other purposes we concur with General Cobb in opinion that it will be expedient to have ten or twelve townships surveyed and to give general notice that it is our intention to sell them.
Fifth. To the situation of the Penobscot tract, and of the various concerns which that part of the speculation has created.
It is our design generally to bring to a close all the affairs of Mr. Binghams estate, and in conformity with what was most probably his intention to diminish as much as possible the objects of superintendance. We should therefore pursue the same policy with regard to the Penobscot that we have mentioned in relation to the Kennebec tract, of closing the system of sale to the actual settler, if we were sure that in so doing we should conform to the stipulations which we understand to have existed between Mr. Bingham and Messrs. Hope and Baring.611 As we learn from General Cobb however that this would not be the case, we beg the favour of you at least for the present to pursue the same plan upon which you have hitherto acted, incurring however as little expense as possible and at all events confining your expenditures within your receipts. We shall as soon as possible communicate on this subject with Messrs. Barings, and we think it probable that some new principles will finally be adopted in relation to the whole concern.
We have now we believe touched upon all the points which are of primary importance—and we will trouble you only on one subject further which relates to General Cobb.
We understand that by the terms of his original contract with Mr. Bingham he was entitled to a salary of fifteen hundred dollars per annum, to one thousand dollars towards building a house, and a lot in the town of Gouldsborough, to two thousand acres of land to be located in such places as might be agreed upon by the parties, and to the residuary profits on twenty thousand acres of the Purchase.612 The arrangement we have now made with him is that he shall continue his services at the rate of fifteen hundred dollars per annum, and that you shall fix on a house and lot in Gouldsborough and the different tracts of the land of which his two thousand acres will be composed, upon which we will execute deeds for one half, and Mr. Richards in behalf of Willing and Cramond for the other half, we paying to Mr. Richards the value of the moiety which he parts with.
We have now only to express the very high respect with which we are animated towards you, while we remain your obedient servants
Thos. M. Willing
C. W. Hare
Trustees under the Will of Wm. Bingham.613
Cobb to Hare, Boston, 28 June 1806 [CP]
Boston June 28th 1806
My dear Sir:
On my return from Philadelphia I remained but two days in this place and then proceeded on my rout for Castine on Penobscot Bay, where I arrived in due time for the Court in the County of Hancock, which I was obliged to attend. Such of the deeds I bro’t with me as required it, I had register’d in this county. Others I sent by a safe hand to Kennebeck County, and those which must be register’d in the County of Washington I took on with me to Gouldsboro and forwarded them to Machias for that purpose. After remaining a few days with my family at Gouldsboro’, I returned to this place the last of May, soon after which I receiv’d your letter of the 27th. of the same month.614 General Jackson seems not to remember any thing, if he ever knew, about Walkers bond, but General Knox’s [sic] says he has all the papers at his house at St. Georges, relating to the settlement between Mr. Bingham and Duer, and thinks he shall be able to ascertain the true state of the bond which he promises to communicate to me. He is rather of opinion with me, that this bond was given for the repayment of the money which Duer had advanced to Madam Laval, and for which Bingham paid Duer, Walker being secured by a deed from La Roche of the one half of the land deeded to him by General Jackson (by Bingham’s order, for Madam Laval’s use), and which land Walker has sold within three years past. If this is the true state of facts, the bond has nothing to do with the deeds in escrow.615
My official situation required my remaining in this place ’till the organization of the government at the late election, during which I found that it would be unnecessary as well as unfriendly to our interest, to present our petition at this session as the business could not be got thro’, and the dominant party too warmly opposed to our wishes.616 Delay at present is certainly our best interest. I therefore requested Mr. Richards to give you a letter on this subject, as I was call’d to Taunton to visit a sick and unfortunate wife, where I remain’d nearly a fortnight; on my return to this town two days since I found your two letters of the 6th and 11th instant.617 The difficulty in proving Mr. Bingham’s will is the want of a special power from you for that purpose. This you certainly can forward to Mr. Richards or myself, no matter how short or how simple. The statute in this case requires that the executor, or a person interested in a will, or a special power from either, shall apply for the probate of a will. This circumstance did not occur to me when I was in Philadelphia, presuming the general power to Richards and myself would have been sufficient. Some time since I convers’d with General Knox. He then tho’t he was entitled to 100,000 dollars at least for his third of the contract. Yesterday I mentioned the subject to him again and your anxiety to have the business closed. He said he had no objection to have it closed upon the most friendly and honorable terms, and if on an equitable calculation it should appear he has receiv’d his fair proportion he shall be satisfied. He says, however, that he has paid 6 or 8,000 dollars which Mr. Bingham is to account for. He promis’d to send me a sketch of his view of the subject that I might inclose to you, but it has not been receiv’d. General Jackson is not satisfied with 5 or 6,000 dollars for his demand. He says that he has always calculated upon a sum so much larger for his time, trouble, expences of every kind in making the contracts for Duer in the first instance and constant attention to them afterwards for years, that he should rather, as he views it at present, let his past services be forgotten, than to receive this pittance; I have requested him to think of the subject, and that it was possible, in the final settlement of Bingham’s estate, the profits would not equal that sum. He informed me he should forward his account, that he had delay’d it under an idea that administration would have been had on Mr. Bingham’s will in this State.
Before the receipt of your letter of the 6th. instant I had convers’d with Messrs. Thorndike and King, the two persons who propos’d the purchase of the Kennebeck tract, and told them they might now have the oppertunity of purchasing that tract on a credit for three quarters of the purchase money, at 50 cents per acre. They answer’d that they never contemplated more than 25 cents and were not inclined to take the whole even at that. This naturally closed the conversation.
When I passed thro’ this place, on my return from Philadelphia, I mentioned to Mr. Richards, Mr. Willing’s doubts about renewing our powers for the management of the European part of the Penobscot tract, and that he requested copy of our former power might be sent him. Mr. Richards now informs me that he had wrote to Mr. Willing and inclosed a copy of the power, but has receiv’d no answer, and that unless he receives a power from Mr. Willing to manage the part that belongs to the Hopes, he shall think it his duty not to go into Maine this year, as his appearing there without a power of complying with our promise to give deeds this season to a number of persons, most of whom are settlers entitled to their lands by the State contract, will in their minds confirm their past suspicions, which are that we have no title to that country and that it still belongs to the Commonwealth, an idea that has been artfully propigated for two years past among these people, and which has already given us great trouble and will ultimately be attended with mischief. What objection Mr. Willing can have to renewing this power I know not, for I conceive that if it had not been necessary for Mr. Cramond to transfer his right, the former power was compleat in us to manage the European part of the tract after the death of Mr. Bingham, and since the transfer has been made why not place us in the same situation, when the future importance of the property absolutely demands it? The refusal of Mr. Richards to go with me into Maine embarrasses me exceedingly, as you are sensible, with our powers, I can do nothing without him, not even take possession of the lands for the trustees, a matter of the first importance to their interest. This makes me regret very much that I ever requested you to place Mr. Richards in the power with me, and I know of no mode now by which your views and designs in Maine can be executed, but by forwarding to me, immediately, the sole power to manage that property. Altho’ I dislike extremly to be alone in a business of so much accountability, yet as it will be but of short duration, and the business to be done so particularly defin’d by your instructions, I will undertake it, if agreeable to you and Mr. Willing. Mr. Richards wishes this to be done, as he thinks he shall not have it in his power to attend to the business of the Kennebeck tract. I shall go from this place, the last of this week, for Maine thro’ the Kennebeck country, where I shall remain a week to make contracts with surveyors for running out the two first ranges into townships of six miles square, and if you can immediately forward by mail your new power it may overtake me at Kennebeck, which will save me the trouble and you the expence of another visit to take possession of the tract and to give deeds to those that are entitled to them. Please to direct for me at Hallowell on the Kennebeck, Maine, to the care of Samuel S. Wilde, Esquire.
Benjamin Kimball to Cobb, Bridgton, 16 July 1806 [CP]618
Bridgton July 16 1806
I would inform you that last September, I was at Union River, at Mr. Fabrique’s a few days after you went from their, and spent about a week a looking of the land and lookd of the land on Timber Brook ridge, which I likd very well. I lookd of a lot that was begun opon by a certain Mr. Allen of Gray,619 and was told by Mr. Fabrique that he thought Mr. Allen would like to sell out his labour, and wishd me to buy him out, and that he expected him their soon. I likewise agread with Mr. Fabrique if Mr. Allen come their before I should see him to buy his labour on the lot he had taken up on Timber Brook ridge, and in the course of three or four weeks Mr. Allen was at my house in Bridgton and told me he had been to Union River and sold the lot above mentioned to Mr. Fabrique, and that Mr. Fabrique told him to inform me that he had procurd the lot for me which I wishd him to, and I gave him an answer the first oppertunity. Some time in April last three young men bolonging to the neighbourhood where I live called me and wished for my opinion of the Union River country. I told them that I liked very well and should bring [sic] too a farm for one of my son and perhaps for myself if I could get a number of good lot together. They likewise told me they should go to Union and if they liked the land should settle their, and one of them, Mr. Samuel Ingalls,620 wishd me to give him a minute of the towns and tavern keepers names with the distance from Bridgton to Union River and to have it ready by such a time which I did. Ingalls calld for his directions and asked me if I had any letter wrote to go to Union River. I told him I had not but should by Joseph Kimball621 that was a going with him, but gave him a verbial message to Mr. Fabrique which he will tell you. I sent a letter by Kimball to Mr. Fabrique which Ingalls found means to get and keep and by lying and deceit got the Allen lot. Now if you have not given Mr. Ingalls a bond of the Allen lot, I wish you would not, till you can have a fair understanding of the matter and see who desires it, he or I. I was at Union River about three weeks ago, and should have come to Gouldsborough, but heard you was not at home. This from your humble sevant
Cobb to Hare, Castine, 25 July 1806 [CP]
Castline July 25th. 1806
To Charles W. Hare, Esquire
My dear Sir:
I am thus far on my way to Gouldsboro’ having passed a fortnight in the Kenebeck country, where I have made an arrangement for the survey of the two first ranges of the Million Acres into townships of six miles square each, with directions to the surveyor to run out to every settler he may find on those townships, whether intitled to it by contract or otherwise, one hundred acres; to employ a discreet person to reconoitre the body of the townships, as he runs the outlines, that the best information may be obtain’d of the quality of each; and to return two good plans of his survey, with the names of each settler and the time of his settlement, and his field notes, in which he is to remark the quality of the soil and forrests, the rivers, lakes, mines, lime stone, etc. etc.622 This survey will commence by the 20th of next month, and will be compleated in all the months of September and October. The expence of it will probably amount to between 7 and 800 dollars. The surveyor is to run out the townships for 50 dollars each (being seven in number), and he is to have one hundred dollars advanced to him. The expence of the reconoitring and the survey of the settlers lots will be a seperate bill. I have given notice to all the settlers to be prepair’d with their money to pay for their deeds by the 20th. of September next, at which time I intend to be with them for the purpose of making out their deeds. It is not to be expected that those settlers who have to pay one hundred dollars for their land (who are generally very poor) can advance the whole of that sum; of those, I think it best to receive as much as they can pay, and take their obligations on interest for the remainder at short instalments, retaining the deed ’till all the payments are made. Those settlers who have only to pay 5 dollars or 20 dollars each will no doubt be prepair’d to receive their deeds. I presume by this time you may observe our advertisement in the Boston papers for the sale by townships, of the Kennebeck lands, as Mr. Richards agreed with me to have it inserted soon after my departure from Boston.623 I have directed the Kennebeck printer to insert the same. When I came from Boston, a Mr. Wait of Portland624 was in the stage with me on his return from Philadelphia, who inform’d me that Mr. Broom of your city625 had enquir’d of him the general character of Bingham’s lands in Maine. His answer was that he understood that a large part of them were sandy pine barrens. I ask’d him, with astonishment, how it was possible that he could suffer his thoughtlessness to injure any one with whom he was unconnected and unacquainted, and to betray his ignorance of a country in which he lived, for of all the bad qualities of soil, that fools were so fond of assigning to Maine, that of sandy or pine barren could not be one of them, as little or none of that quality was in the District. He acknowledged his error and ask’d forgiveness, and hop’d that I would undeceive Mr. Broom. I told him that that I could not do, but I consider’d it his duty to do it, which he promis’d to do by letter. I have mentioned this circumstance to enable you to meet Mr. Broom or others, if occasion should require it, on the subject of such kind of information.
I wrote to Mr. Richards from Kennebeck the advice I there receiv’d (which he will probably communicate to you), that Mr. Bingham’s will must be proved in one of the counties where his property lies and not at Boston, for he has no property in that county; and that the power of attorney formerly given by Messrs. Bingham, Willing and Cramond to Mr. Richards, and myself for managing the Penobscot tract is still in full force as it respects Mr. Willing, even after the transfer of Mr. Cramond.626 If a Boston lawyer could ever give a legal opinion on any subject, it would save us a great deal of trouble and confusion.
I have with me the deeds of the Kennebeck tract which have been recorded, and when I receive those from the county of Washington, the whole shall be carefully forwarded to you.
Richards to Cobb, Boston, 1 August 1806 [CP]
Boston the 1st. August 1806
About a week ago I wrote to Mr. Black for the purpose of securing a cargo for the old schooner by purchase of the plank on his hands, and to say that I hope to send for them in course of a fortnight from that time.
I now sit down to give you a few lines, in the first place to acknowledge the receit of your two letters from Kennebec. The first is not at hand, but the last by me is of the 17th ultimo.
Since you left this place Mr. Hare has arrived here from Philadelphia and pass’d a week with us. In many instances he appears to have imbib’d correct opinions respecting the property, but in some respects and particularly on subjects of detail I think he wants further insight into or more experience of the nature of wild lands to have a thorough knowledge of the business. You will see in the papers his advertisement offering the Kennebec Million for sale in townships, and I think it more calculated to have effect upon the southern mind, than on the New England opinions, because few Yankees will become purchasers of large tracts without such a knowledge of the soil, situation, etc., as might be very desirable to the trustees to acquire. He has long been of opinion and still continues in the resolution of not selling lands by retail. We therefore upon the Kennebec can not offer by the lot, beyond the payment to the surveyors which will be ½ in cash and ½ in lots in the survey’d townships, at 1. dollar per acre. With regard to the Penobscot tract, he wishes us nearly to persevere in the plan we have hitherto pursued, with as much attention as possible to œconomy.
It is their particular wish that the lower half of the Kennebec tract may be run out into townships of [torn] miles square before the end of this present year, and I have acquainted Dr. Coney of the same by letter. I think therefore we had better meet at Augusta some time in this month or the surveyors will begin too late upon their business. I do not know exactly when I can leave Boston because Mr. Parish627 whom I expect daily is not yet arrived. I have heard of him at Newport on his way from New York and he must be here very shortly. Soon after his arrival I shall ascertain when I can leave Boston and will inform you by the next post. I think we had better endeavour to meet about the 20th at Augusta which will allow due and sufficient time for all our business. He has brought me individually a power from T. M. Willing to deed lands on the Penobscot tract, which in addition to the joint power in our hands will I conclude answer all ends.
Very likely the will might with more propriety be proved in Lincoln or Hancock than here, but previous to your letters arrival we had presented the petition to the Probate Court and taken steps to prove it here which I conclude will answer every purpose required.
Mr. H. has settled with General Knox upon the principle of a mutual release. As the debt was larger than either you or I had reason to believe, no doubt on the side of General Knox the bargain is a good one; and under all circumstances I think the trustees have done well to accept it.628
With General Jackson there appears no possibility of striking a bargain. He has indulged himself with high ideas of a value which he does not like to relinquish, and as they have now come to a determination to settle with the two other claimants, i.e., Major Jackson and Flint without the General’s settlement as a rule to go by, very probably he may hold on for many more years. We have no particular news except that Jerome Bonaparte is supposed to be near the Chesapiek and a British squadron about 150 miles astern of him.629 American affairs at the Court of St James do not go smoothly and John Bull shews a great aversion to being bullied.
Charles Willing Hare of Philadelphia
Agent of the Bingham Trustees in the Settlement with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1807
Portrait by Thomas Sully
We have to lament a horrible accident lately happened in the family of Harri Otis. His son Allen incautiously bathing was drownd off one of the new wharfs below the Common about a week since.630 Adieu for the present. My kindest remembrances to Black, Mrs. B. and Mrs. Smith,631 and believe me
Richards to Cobb, Boston, 12 August 1806 [CP]
Boston the 12th August 1806
I wrote to you on the first instant stating that I would endeavour to meet you at Kennebec about the 20th August when our exertions might be united for setting off the surveyors on their work by the 1st of next month, as the business ought not to be protracted longer, least the survey of the lower half should not be compleated this year.
You will I hope excuse me for thus disposing of your time without waiting for your consent, but I think if we should delay our Kennebec visit to the time of your proposing, viz., all September, it might make us late.
Since my last Mr. Parish has arrived, and I find that I could easily disengage myself from him by the time of my appointment, but Stephen Jones632 being unexpectedly called to Newport will prevent my setting off till Monday the 25th, and if there is no sickness in my family I will set out as near that time and push on with as much expedition as I can to meet you at Hallowell.
The reason of my writing to Doctor Coney was that Mr. Hare had imbibed such strong prejudice against our eastern surveyors and in favour of Widdington of Dorchester633 that I was apprehensive for some time that your arrangements might be materially alter’d. However as Widdington was otherwise engaged they will of course remain, but we are particularly desired to employ such people as have a fair and undoubted character for truth, honesty and capability. To impress Coney strongly with the necessity of this was the principal motive in my writing to him, and by his reply it appears to me that the expence of the business according to his estimate is higher than it ought to be, that particularly as the townships will be of unequal dimensions and in many instances the running of one line will answer two purposes, I should prefer bargaining by the mile to an agreement per township. I have my doubts if it would not be best to leave the river as a permanent boundary between the 3rd and 4th tier, reckoning from the eastern line, and to have it survey’d upon the ice hereafter, and I have also my doubts whether it would not be best to take 1/3 of the front line west of the Kennebec for each township even if they should amount to 27 thousand acres each, provided it could be done consistently with the General Courts resolve, or the committee’s stipulation. Of the explorer’s use to attend the survey and reconnoitre by himself I cannot say that I approve. People are much inclin’d to be gregarious in the woods, and I doubt if the additional attestation of a character of the lower class would materially strengthen the description we might collect.
You have doubtless seen in the papers the account of the death of young Austin by Selfridge. I consider the thing in every point of view as very unfortunate and the poor young man as the least to blame of the three. It is generally believed that old Honee knew his son meant to flog Selfridge, that S. had heard he was to be attacked by some one, that he went down to ’Change prepar’d and premeditated to defend himself, and the unfortunate sufferer equally so to attack. The Jacobins are endeavouring and Honée among them to turn the event into a party quarrel.634
As to politics I have no news to give you more than might be expected from sober discreet people and what can not surprise other than State Street politicians, viz., that the British Ministry refuse to be frightened or intimidated at Mr. Jefferson’s pop-gun-plots and state that the indecent proceedings of the American Congress in interfering so outrageously, pendente lite, and while the mode of adjustment was in progress, is a sufficient reason at present for breaking off the negotiations. Captain Whitby is reported to have been sent home in the packet, and Miranda is waiting at Trinidad for orders from London how he is to be consider’d and whether to receive assistance or not.635
Remember me kindly to Black and Mrs. Black and Mrs. Smith and believe me
Gowen Wilson to Cobb and Richards, Cherryfield, 19 September 1806 [CP]636
Cherryfield 19th September 1806
I understand by Mr. Lawrence637 that you are going to give deeds upon that plan calld Tuppers,638 which you shew me the other day. I did not think you was. Otherwise I should have informed you more about it. It is most certainly rong, for I fully believe that line running on the north side of Mr. Archer’s639 lot goes through a good part of my mowing field, as I have be’n informed since I saw you that Mr. Archer has (in a secret manner unknown to me) been running a line through my field which I am shure Mr. Tupper never did with his chain or compass in that course; as also one of my neighbors tells me that he shall be very much injured if Tuppers plan takes place.
Wherefore your humble and obedient servant prays that a deed may not be given to Mr. Archer nor Mr. Jordan,640 before it is to me, whom you will oblige
N.B. All I wish or desire in this case is that I may hold my improvements which I have kept [word covered by seal] for twenty-five years.
Late in 1806 Charles Willing Hare, acting as agent for the Bingham trustees, journeyed to Boston to attempt to arrange with the Massachusetts legislature a final agreement on the problem of the settling duties. On his arrival in Boston, Hare immediately got in touch with Harrison Gray Otis, one of the leading Federalists in the Massachusetts Senate, and a man who had been close to the Bingham speculation for over ten years.641 David Cobb and John Richards were also called on for assistance, though whether they actually participated in the final negotiations is not clear. Hare soon discovered that his best mode of approach was to silence the Democratic opposition to the Bingham interests in the Massachusetts Senate by giving the leading Jeffersonians, especially William King, a share in the speculation. Apparently this solution to the problem originated with King; in any event, as the following letter from Hare to Otis shows, a plan for the settlement of the whole problem was soon agreed upon.
Hare to Otis, Boston, 7 [?] January 1807642
Boston January 7 [?] 1807
My dear Sir,
It appearing from your communications to me and from the conversation I have held in your presence with Mr. William King that he has proposed to assume the performance of the settling duties which the late William Bingham Esquire contracted with this Commonwealth to perform on the land owned by him in the District of Maine and to obtain for his devisees a complete discharge of all obligations arising therefrom together with a delivery of the deeds now in Escrow, I hereby authorise you to conclude a contract with him on the following terms
First. That application shall be forthwith made by me to the legislature of Massachusetts praying for an extension of the time for performing the settling duties, stating that I have contracted with certain persons that they shall fulfil them and requesting the Government to accept those persons as substitutes for Mr. Bingham, and to deliver the deeds now held by the Commonwealth.
Second. If the petition shall be sustained and an act of the legislature passed in consequence of it I will upon the receipt of the said deeds and all other securities given by the said Mr. Bingham, and upon the receipt of Mr. King’s bond for 5,000 Dollars payable in two years with interest cause to be conveyed to him or his assigns Townships Nos. 1, 2, and 3 in the southern range of townships on the west side of the River Kennebec in the Bingham purchase with special warranty.
Third. The contract is not be considered as obligatory on my part unless Mr. Bingham’s representatives shall be wholly exonerated from all obligation to the State and the deeds and all other securities given by Mr. Bingham together with the bond of Mr. King before mentioned are delivered to me or my agent in Boston within 90 days from the date hereof.
I am dear sir very respectfully
Your most obedient servant
C. W. Hare
H. G. Otis Esquire
Unfortunately, there is no record of just how the necessary support in the Massachusetts legislature was obtained. With William King working on the Democrats and with Harrison Gray Otis, and possibly David Cobb as well, working on the Federalists, the task may not have been too difficult. In ten days the job was done and the following resolve had become law.
Resolve on Charles W. Hare’s Petition, 17 January 1807643
On the petition of Charles W. Hare, acting Executor and Devisee in trust of William Bingham,
Resolved, for reasons set forth in said petition, that the Agents for the Sale of Eastern Lands be, and hereby are authorized and directed, to deliver to the said Charles W. Hare, or to the legal representatives of William Bingham, all the deeds of lands sold by the said Commonwealth, to said Bingham, for which payment has been made; and all the obligations of said Bingham, relative to said lands, and that the heirs and estate of said Bingham, be discharged from all demands relative to said lands; Provided however, that the said Hare, within six months from the passing of this Resolve, and before the delivery of the deeds and obligations, aforesaid, shall cause to be given to the Commonwealth, one or more sufficient bond or bonds, not exceeding five, in the whole number, and amounting in the whole, to the penalty of eighty thousand dollars; which bonds shall be executed by persons resident within this Commonwealth, with sufficient surety or sureties, to the satisfaction of said agents, with condition that the obligors in each bond shall cause a proportionate number of settlers, amounting to twenty-five hundred, in the whole, to be placed on the tracts of land sold to said Bingham, including all that have already been placed thereon (which last number shall be ascertained, to the satisfaction of said agents) within six years from the first day of June next, or pay to the Commonwealth thirty dollars for each person that shall then be deficient, of the whole number: Provided also, that not less than one thousand of said settlers shall be placed on the tract called the Kennebeck tract.
The final arrangements were well summed up in Hare’s report to the Bingham trustees the following month. He might indeed take pride in his achievement, all the more so when it is remembered that the Jeffersonian Democrats had for several years been making political capital out of the failure of the large proprietors to carry out the settling duty clauses of their contracts, and that in 1806 they had secured control of both houses of the Massachusetts legislature. In short, Hare’s settlement with the Commonwealth was one of the shrewdest pieces of political maneuvering in the whole history of the Bingham speculation.
Passage to C. W. Hare’s Report to Trustees, Philadelphia, 11 February 1807 [BP]644
[I can report] that the most important and perplexing of the embarrassments attending Nos. 95 and 96, the Maine Lands, have been removed, General Knox having consented to a mutual release and a resolution having been adopted by the Massachusetts legislature for delivering to us our deeds on condition that good and satisfactory security is given by persons resident within the Commonwealth to perform the settlement duties within six years.
The first of these arrangements was made in July last in Boston, whither I went for the purpose of adjusting the affairs of this concern. The terms were that in consideration of General Knox’s releasing all claim to one third of the profits on the purchase, we should release him from all debts due to the estate and assume the payment of his bond to Governor Sargent on which Mr. Bingham had become surety.645 Believing Mr. Knox to be insolvent, and therefore that his right would be our only eventual security, perceiving that his political and private influence was gone and therefore that there was no use in being longer connected with him, and knowing that our accounts were so confused and intricate that in a judicial investigation it would be almost impossible to verify them as stated by our testator, I readily proposed and adopted these conditions. That they will be ultimately advantageous I have no doubt. The whole amount with which these lands could be chargeable as against the General does not exceed 25 cents an acre and upon payment of that sum, he, or those to whom he might have assigned his interest would, I think, have been entitled to demand a conveyance of one third of the quantity of land which remained to Mr. B. after his sale to Mr. Baring. This quantity approaches 1,600,000 acres, of which upon such principles we should have been obliged to convey upwards of 530,000 acres. Valuing then the land at 50 cents an acre, which is the price at which we are limited by Messrs. Barings, it is certain that we clear by this arrangement more than 130,000 dollars.
While in Boston I became strongly alarmed with regard to our situation as it respected the rights of the Commonwealth. A disposition was unequivocally manifested on the part of many influential men of all parties to consider the non-performance of the conditions with regard to the settlers as a complete avoidance of the contract for the purchase. Some did not hesitate to recommend an absolute forfeiture urging that the legal right to forfeit fully existed, and that against aliens it would be fair to enforce it, while others, somewhat less ignorant and profligate, proposed that the amount of the purchase money received by the State should be repaid to Mr. Binghams representatives, and the land resold for the benefit of the Commonwealth. These opinions had, I found, taken deep root and in the Province of Maine had become a popular topic of Democratic declamation, and abuse—so much so, that not only General Cobb and Mr. Richards, but all of our friends were seriously apprehensive of some violent and outrageous proceeding being adopted towards us. Towards the close of December I therefore again went to Boston, determined to bring the matter to a crisis before the plans of our enemies were matured, and contracted with certain persons646 to convey to them three townships of the Kennebec tract upon condition that they should give bonds for the performance of the settlement duties within six years, that they should pay us the sum of 5,000 dollars within two years, that the deeds in escrow should be delivered into our possession, and that we should be exonerated from all claims on the part of the Commonwealth. Having made this arrangement I presented a petition to the legislature praying that the deeds in escrow might be delivered to me upon my giving good and satisfactory security that within six years the settlement duties should be performed or the commutation money paid. A committee being appointed upon my petition I appeared before it and in an address of some length endeavoured to explain the nature and enforce the justice of my request. The committee whose disposition had been questionable reported in my favor, and a resolution has since received the legislative sanction granting the prayer of my petition. The detail of this negotiation it is not necessary to state, but the difficulties attending it were so numerous and powerful that I scarcely anticipated success. Of its fairness with regard to the State, and of its advantages with respect to us, there can be no doubt. We are, in consequence of it, absolved from a clear legal obligation to pay a sum approaching 70,000 dollars. All danger of forfeiture is removed and therefore our title is unsuspected. We have created a common bond of interest with some of the popular leaders in Massachusetts who have promised to support us against all future injustice, and we have placed them in a situation which will compel them to turn the tide of emigration as much in our direction as the course of events will allow. The expense too at which all this has been done is to us trifling. The quantity of land to be conveyed will amount to about 65,000 acres, which has not in fact cost the estate more than 25 cents an acre, even tho’ to the principal be added compound interest, and which in that calculation is not worth more than 16,250 dollars. From which is to be deducted the sum of 5,000 dollars to be paid to us by the contractors, leaving a balance of only 11,250 dollars, not much more than one seventh of the sum which we were legally liable to pay. Still however the contract is advantageous to the purchasers, because the land is worth much more to them than to us, and to the Commonwealth, because they will get the settlers which it was the original object of their agreement with our testator to obtain.
William King, First Governor of the State of Maine
His Support made possible the Settlement between the Bingham Trustees and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Portrait by Gilbert Stuart
These arrangements are the most important that have been effected, but others have also been made, promising I think a great degree of benefit.
The Kennebec tract has been advertised for sale throughout New England. One half of it has at a small expense been surveyed into townships and directions given for surveying the residue. The quality of the land surveyed has been nearly ascertained and its real worth proved to be much greater than has been heretofore imagined. Possession has been formally taken in the names of the trustees. The will has been proved in the proper district, and the deeds for the first time duly recorded.647 Conveyances have been made to the settlers having rights under the original contract with the State, to take effect on their compliance with the conditions to be performed by them, and suits have been instituted against the lawless intruders. General Cobb has been instructed to proceed with the retail system in Gouldsborough of which however I do not perceive the advantage, but which I have not thought myself authorised to stop, and Messrs. Otis and Richards have been employed to sell the Kennebec tract altogether or in townships—if in one body at 50 cents, if in townships where the purchaser will have his choice, at one dollar per acre. If the sale is of the whole million they are to receive a commission of three per cent, if in townships, of five per cent, the commission to be divided between them and to be dependent upon the sale. The effect of these measures is already visible. Public attention has been strongly turned towards the property. Applications have been repeatedly made for the purchase of townships. And Messrs. Otis and Richards agree with me in opinion not only that sales may probably be made, but that the concern is assuming a much more prosperous appearance than it has ever yet borne. Mr. Richards’s communication to Messrs. Barings on this head will be so full that I shall not trouble you with further observations at this time . . . .
Harrison Gray Otis was more hesitant than William King when it came to discussing a quid pro quo for his services. He took what he called the “precaution” of getting Hare’s consent in writing before he, too, acquired a share in the speculation. Since Hare expressed himself as more than willing to have Otis become one of the bondsmen and thus a part owner of the three townships, the latter proceeded to carry out his proposal.
Otis to Hare, Boston, 20 January 1807648
Boston January 20. 1807
My dear Sir,
The resolve upon your petition has passed both branches of the Legislature, and upon giving bonds executed by persons resident within the Commonwealth to the satisfaction of the Agents for the sales of Eastern lands, your deeds will be delivered, and all the obligations of Mr. B. to the Commonwealth and all their demands against him are thereupon by the words of the resolve cancelled. There can be I presume no doubt of the Governor’s signature to the resolve, so that the business may be considered as settled. It is now in my power to hold a considerable portion of the three townships; at least one third and probably 5/12, giving bonds in proportion to the quantity retained; and having from the beginning offered either to renounce the whole for the benefit of the Estate, or to admit you to an equal participation of what I may eventually hold, I now repeat the offer, and inform you that if it be now embraced I shall probably be concerned myself in the mode heretofore explained to you. It will give me pleasure to make it a joint concern, and to divide with you any advantage resulting from it; but if from the considerations suggested when here, or from any other, you still decline, you will oblige me by a line expressive of the fact of my having in the first instance appraised you of the possibility of my taking a concern and of my having made you the preceding offers, and of your free and perfect consent and approbation of my being interested. The object of this precaution will be evident and I trust appear to be perfectly correct.
Mr. Richards informs me that General Cobb has given the refusal or premption [sic] of five townships at one dollar until the 15th of March. I think this an inexpedient mode of proceeding. It subjects us to an useless restriction and affords an opportunity for combination by destroying the fear of competition. In this very instance I have reason to believe that persons who made me an offer of 75 Cents for the same townships (and who I doubt not would have given a dollar) have united with those who are in treaty with Cobb. In fact I understand that General Cobb was not to be employed in selling, and you will perceive the necessity of new and explicit powers to Mr. Richards and myself to prevent collisions.
I have no doubt that we shall run off a number of townships at one dollar in the course of the spring and summer, and I believe that the arrangement made will appear pregnant with the most unequivocal advantages, by releasing you from a great incumbrance, and bringing forward purchasers and settlers.
You will be pleased to transmit the power of attorney and instructions without delay, and believe me, Dear Sir, with great esteem and respect
Your obedient servant
Hare to Otis, Philadelphia, 27 January 1807649
Philadelphia January 27, 1807
My dear Sir,
As I am preparing to set off for Washington today I must very briefly answer your letter of the 20th and shall confine myself at present merely to that part of the letter which interests yourself.
Previous to the conclusion of the negociation with Mr. King you certainly informed me that it would be in your power to hold a considerable part of the land to be conveyed to him, that if agreable to me this portion of the land should be held either for my benefit or for that of Mr. Bingham’s Estate, that you had not finally determined whether you would take any beneficial concern in the contract under any circumstances and that at all events you would not do so without my full and entire approbation. To this I replied that so far as regarded myself I thought there would be a strong impropriety in my deriving any emolument from the transaction, that so far as regarded Mr. Bingham’s Estate my object was to wind up old concerns and not to enter into new ones, but particularly to get completely out of the power of your government, that with regard to yourself I stood in a relation to you in which no one could stand to me and that I saw no sort of objection to your taking any interest that might suit your views. These opinions I now repeat, and declare without hesitation that as one of Mr. Bingham’s representatives I would rather you should have an interest in the contract than not.
Upon other subjects I shall on my return to Washington write at length. Excuse the marks of haste which this letter bears and believe me Dear Sir to be
With high respect
Your obedient servant
C. W. Hare
N.B. Do not forget Jackson’s grant.
Late in the spring of 1807 the last details of the settlement were carried out. Otis, together with John Richards and his brother-in-law and partner Stephen Jones, Jr., signed a bond for $32,140 to insure the performance of one-half the settling duties.650 That same day Otis purchased Jones’s share of the three townships—five sixths of an undivided moiety—and by this transaction presumably acquired entire ownership of the “Federalist moiety” of the lands.651 The same day an identical bond was signed by William King and Peleg Talmen of Bath, Benjamin Jones Porter of Topsham, and Moses Carlton, Jr., and Abiel Wood, Jr., of Wiscasset, and the “Democratic moiety” of the three townships passed into their hands.652 As Otis had bought out his fellow bondsmen, so King at some later date acquired complete control of his half by buying out his partners.653
Neither Otis nor King had a very happy time with his newly acquired property. Though the three townships deeded to them by the trustees—the present Kingfield, Lexington and Concord—were on the southern border of the Kennebec tract and thus should have been the first to attract settlers, the expected movement of population onto the lands failed to take place. By 1809 Otis was writing Hare to see if the trustees would not help him out of what was proving a very bad bargain. He pointed out that in two years he had sold but $1,500 worth of land—and he thought he would be lucky to get even that sum in ten years. Since his bond would become due in another three years, he suggested selling his share back to the trustees in return for their paying his expenses and assuming the obligation of the bonds. If that was not feasible, he suggested that the grant of another half township might help him out.654 Charles Willing Hare refused to consider either of these proposals;655 he had succeeded in getting the Bingham Estate out of a bad hole and he had no desire to get back in again. King’s difficulties with his property were of a piece with Otis’s. Eventually he bought Otis out—the sale probably took place at the time of separation—and thereby assumed full responsibility for the whole settling duty; but it was not until 1830, and then only after the most generous interpretation of the terms of the settling obligations, that he finally secured his release.656
With the passage of the 1807 Resolve, the last serious flaw in the tide to the Bingham property in Maine was removed; from now on the trustees could at least feel secure in possession of the lands. Not the least of the advantages derived from the settlement with Massachusetts was the promise of future support for the speculation from these prominent Massachusetts politicians. Otis had been intimately acquainted with the venture since its inception, and his offer to Cobb to purchase lands on the Kennebec shows that he was aware of the possibilities for profit from investment in land down east; as one of the stoutest champions of proprietary rights in all New England, he could be counted on to protect the interests of the trustees for many years to come.657 The same can be said for William King, on the other side of the house, and the trustees received an extra dividend when their man became the leading spirit in the movement for separation after 1816. If the first governor of the State of Maine had been hostile to the proprietors, untold damage might have been done.658 As a by-product of the settlement with the Commonwealth came a new arrangement for the management of the Kennebec tract. Originally the Baring interest had had nothing to do with this part of the Purchase, and it is ironical that by his death Bingham accomplished what he had never succeeded in achieving during his lifetime when, as trustees of the whole estate, the Barings were forced to concern themselves with the Kennebec Million. Since the trustees apparently believed that General Cobb could not handle more than the Penobscot tract, and since Otis and Richards were both now personally interested in the Kennebec region, these two were placed in charge of sales on the Kennebec.659 At the same time the trustees abandoned almost completely Bingham’s program of selling land at retail; they reasoned correctly that they could never make a profit that way, and that their only hope was to sell in quantities no smaller than townships.660 Otis and Richards did succeed, in the year 1807, in making a contract for the sale of one township on the Kennebec, but the agreement was finally abandoned.661 In 1810 a more successful bargain was made with the Boston merchant Joseph Tilden, who purchased, and what is more, apparently paid for, Township No. 33 and a part of Mariaville in the Penobscot tract.662 This one successful sale was, however, an exception to the general rule; it was not until the 1820’s that the land began to sell.
With the problem of the settling duties removed and a new program for the sale of land initiated, Charles Hare turned to the task of reaching agreements with those who had claims against the estate. General Knox’s claim to the residuary profits on one third of the land had already been extinguished, and Knox was dead.663 In 1807 Otis managed to reach an agreement with Henry Jackson, whereby the General relinquished his claim to the residuary profits on one hundred thousand acres, as well as his other claims on the estate, in return for an annuity.664 In 1810 the trustees paid off the assignees of Royal Flint, who had a claim similar to that of Henry Jackson, to the tune of twelve thousand dollars.665 And finally, in 1812, after much litigation, a settlement was reached with Major William Jackson.666 Thus, by the time the War of 1812 began, the Maine property was free and clear of almost all its past encumbrances. There remained only the holdings of the “fortunate adventurers” in the Land Lottery of 1786—holdings which were scattered throughout the Penobscot tract. Though Bingham had considered trying to buy these up, apparently no concerted effort to do so was ever made, and the title to a fairly sizable amount of land in eastern Maine today derives from this source.667
The new policy of the trustees to put Otis and Richards in charge of the Kennebec tract and to sell land only by townships left General David Cobb high and dry. Though he was allowed to continue his program of developing settlements on the Penobscot tract, the trustees made it very clear that they were anything but sanguine about the success of this system and they insisted that whatever money Cobb might need for his developments be obtained from the land itself.668 The trustees must have allowed the General to stay on as agent and continue to draw down his salary because they believed his political influence in the Massachusetts government was a valuable asset to the concern, and perhaps, to a lesser extent, because they felt obligated to maintain him after his years of faithful service to the Bingham speculation. As a result, from 1807 until his retirement in 1820, the General simply went through the motions of being agent: he helped take care of some of the details in connection with the sale to Tilden;669 he saw to it that federal and state taxes were paid when they became due;670 in 1818 he succeeded in getting the Massachusetts legislature to reduce the taxes on the Penobscot tract by some two hundred and fifty dollars;671 he prepared a plan for the division of the Penobscot tract between the Baring and the Bingham interests;672 but for the most part his position was little more than that of a clerk, and one suspects that, in actuality, most of the work was done by his son-in-law, John Black. The General continued his attempt to develop his farm at Gouldsborough, still hoping to demonstrate to his skeptical neighbors that agriculture could really pay down east, but in this program also he made little progress.673
Since there was apparently no future for him as a land agent, General Cobb determined to devote his remaining years to public service, and for most of the rest of his active life, he held positions of importance in the Massachusetts government. After having been President of the Senate for four years, he failed of re-election in 1805, and when he ran for Councillor the following year he was again defeated. Federalist fortunes improved in 1808, however, and Cobb was elected to the Council and in 1809 was chosen Lieutenant-Governor. In the campaign of 1810, when he was running for re-election to this position, the Republicans really opened up on him. They got hold of a letter written by the Reverend Daniel Merrill which described a conversation which Cobb had had with several clergymen and lawyers at Castine in 1808. In the course of this conversation Cobb was reported to have said, “The Christian religion in America will come to nothing,” basing his argument, apparently, on the lack of religious uniformity in this country. When the clergymen present protested, Cobb was alleged to have added that the civil authority could, if it so desired, force men to worship all one way and burn those who refused. Though this last statement was obviously nothing more than a typical example of Cobb’s fondness for hyperbole, the Eastern Argus, the leading Republican paper in Maine, made the most of it.674 At the same time Cobb was attacked for interfering with the normal processes of the courts. In 1808 an indictment had been brought against the town of Gouldsborough for not having a schoolmaster as the law required. Cobb had appeared in court and after explaining that there was a dame school in Gouldsborough and that the town was very short of funds, succeeded in having the indictment nol prossed.675 Finally, Cobb was accused of being a British agent. The Republicans pointed out that he was in the pay of the Barings and suggested that he would naturally be more attached to his own salary than to the public interest whenever questions affecting his employers came up in the Massachusetts legislature.676 Just how much these attacks hurt the General and the Federalist ticket is hard to say; at any rate the Republicans won the election of 1810 and Cobb was once again out of office. When the Federalists returned to power in 1812, Cobb regained his former position as Councillor and managed to hold the office for the next six years, despite the fact that during most of this period the District of Maine as a whole remained solidly Republican. With the outbreak of the War of 1812, Cobb was appointed to the Massachusetts board of military defence and served also as Major-General of the Tenth Massachusetts Militia until relieved by John Brewer, but there is nothing among his papers to indicate that his part in the conflict was in any way an important one.677 With the coming of peace the General returned to his farm at Gouldsborough and his position as Councillor. Now close to seventy, the old man was content to live from day to day and to leave to others the problems and responsibilities of politics and land speculation.
As the nineteenth century wore on, David Cobb’s little circle of family and friends at Gouldsborough began to scatter, until by the time he left Maine, he was living almost alone. In 1808 his wife had died, after years of semi-invalidism, and from that time until his death, his widowed daughter, Betsy Smith, kept house for him.678 Shortly after the 1807 settlement, John Richards moved permanently to Boston, where his business concerns drew him further and further apart from the old General.679 His son-in-law, Samuel Wilde, continued to keep in touch, though he, too, was soon to move to Massachusetts.680 Cobb’s son Henry was at sea681 and the other children were moving away. Sometime after 1808, John Black, realizing that Ellsworth, and not Gouldsborough, was destined to be the leading town of that region, moved there with his family.682 The eldest son, Thomas, must have remained longer with his father, but after the War of 1812, he and his family moved to Bangor.683 As long as Henry Jackson lived, he remained a faithful friend, but when he died in 1812, the last of the General’s Revolutionary comrades was gone.684 After the war, Otis and the trustees began again to turn their attention to the Kennebec tract, but the chances are that Cobb knew little or cared little about this new campaign.685 Thus the old man approached retirement; and it must have been hard for him, in his last years, to watch his former associates, John Richards and John Black, begin to succeed where he had failed.
Cobb to Hare, Gouldsborough, 16 April 1808 [BP]686
Gouldsborough April 16th. 1808
Charles W. Hare, Esquire
My dear Sir:
Inclosed you will receive our annual accounts for the years 1806 and 1807, with my private account. The annual account for 1806 ought to have been forwarded to you the last year, but I had unfortunately misplaced it at the time, and afterwards forgot it. The store, you will observe, is the only department we have, out of many that we formerly had in operation, and that has been kept up, in a very small way, for the collection of its debts, and for little supplies to our settlements and mills. This however will now no longer be continued. The stock on hand is the rubbish of the store and the debts due it. Most of these, if not all, will be gradually collected. The sale of lands is small, and I think will continue so for some time to come, or untill the lands on the western side of the Penobscot River are generally settled. They are settling fast for this country. In this delay of sales, however, we have one consolation—that the value of land, in the general opinion, is greatly enhanced. It is easier now to obtain two dollars per acre, than it was half a dollar when we first came here. Our new settlement in Nos. 20 and 26, Middle Division687 (about fifteen miles east of Penobscot River) is flourishing, and from the demands for lands in that neighbourhood, we contemplate this year a survey of a part of two townships more. A new settlement will likewise be commenced in No. 15, Middle Division.688 A part of this township must likewise be survey’d into lots. These settlements will be of no further expence to concern, than the surveyor’s bills. Our mills would have been more productive this year than ever they have been, if the usual commercial intercourse had continued, but at present all is stagnant. The inhabitants here have always depended on the western parts of the State for at least three quarters of all their necessaries of life, and they were purchased by their lumber and fish. Now not one family in ten, on the sea shore, have had either bread or meat for two months. They have subsisted on clams and small fish and potatoes, in hope that a little time would afford them their usual supply of bread. Let the madness of Congress proceed one step further, and interdict the coasting trade, and this country must of necessity be in a state of rebellion.
I have to request your kind attention in remitting the ballance of my private account, or a part of it, as you may find convenient, to our friends Richards and Jones at Boston, who will receive it for my use.
I hope in future to be more frequent in my correspondence with you than I have been for the year past. The past winter has been peculiarly distressing to me. A severe lumbago has confined me to my house for nearly three months. I am now however returning to my usual health, and hope the warm weather will thoroughly thaw me out.
I am, dear sir, with esteem
Your obedient servant
Elisha Cousins to Cobb, Eden, 24 September 1809 [CP]689
Eden September 24 1809
Thare is an acident happened which semeth strange to us and we find no dirictions in the law in such a case and we beg your advice. The matter is our constable by accident broak the peace by striking a man and wheather his paying a fine mends his oath or not is what we do not know and we pray that you would in forme us how we must proceed in the matter.
As for the November meeting we need some dirictions for thare is none of us knows the bounds of the district neither men sutable for the porpose in them. Sor we subscribe our selves your honours most obedent
Cobb to Hare, Gouldsborough, 29 October 1809 [CP]
Gouldsboro’ October 29th. 1809
C. W. Hare, Esquire
Your two letters have been duly receiv’d, that of the 12th instant by the last mail. The other of 6th. September was at this place when I arrived here from Boston,690 at which time Mr. Black was at our two settlements, the one at Mariaville in Nos. 20, 21, 26, and 27, Middle Division, the other at No. 38, Middle Division, and No. 1, Northern Division,691 attending our surveyors who have been employ’d the past season in running out townships into lots for settlements. He returned here about a fortnight since and soon after embark’d for Boston for the purpose of bringing down the necessary supplies for our families and dependents for the ensuing winter. I expect his return in the course of this week, and as soon after as he can possibly attend it, he will make out the statement of expenditures and receipts of our agency in this country, agreeably to your request. This measure must be tedious, and will take some time to compleat.
Mr. Tilden’s bonds and mortgages must come into this county for record before they can be forwarded to you. You will receive them in due time; but I understand, since I left Boston, that Mr. Tilden is dissatisfy’d about the purchase, and I presume delay has taken place in consequence of it, otherwise the mortgages would have been here for record before this.692
Mr. Richards and myself have long contemplated the cutting of a road thro’ the middle of this tract, from the Penobscot to the Schoodic, or St Croix River, distance say 70 miles, as a measure that would contribute more than any other to elivate the country. (If such a road had been compleated prior to the banefull period of the embargo, it would have been, and would now be, the great thoro’fare for the cattle trade between the States and the Province of New Brunswick), but the want of funds has heretofore prevented the enterprize. But in reviewing the state of our proceedings here, the last winter and spring, we estimated that from the amount of our boards, mill rents, log rents, the old store debts and some small sums that might be receiv’d from the lands, our funds would be sufficient to reconoitre the rout of the remainder of the above mentioned road (as 20 miles of it is now passible), to compleat the survey’s, which were much wanted, to run out Tilden purchase and to rebuild a saw mill belonging to the concern in this town, which will cost 1,200$, all of which are now compleated, excepting the saw mill which will be finish’d by 1st. December. But we shall be very much embarras’d about our funds, as the cursed measures of the government have annihilated our board trade, from which we estimated to have receiv’d nearly 2,000$.
Our Mariaville settlements are very pleasing and fast increasing. Fifty families are now on those four townships, but they have been this year unfortunate in having their wheat blasted. The settlement at No. 38 and No. I consists of fifteen families and will increase. No money has ever been receiv’d from these settlements, only by way of the saw mill we erected at Mariaville.
The vast variety of my avocations, since my return here, must be my apology for not giving you a letter sooner. No man who has not resided in a new and wild country like this can have any conception of the variety of constant attentions that press upon the mind, and partly now occasioned by my own concerns here. Within two years past I have undertaken to bring forward two new farms, by the labour of western husbandmen, for the sole purpose of teaching the Yahoos here, these log stealing scoundrels, how to get their living by cultivating the soil, and I have the pleasure, this early, to say altho’ it costs me 600$ a year it has had its effect.
I shall leave this place in the course of a fortnight or three weeks for Boston, and shall arrive there probably by the first week in December, where I shall remain for the winter; and I promise you from thence a communication now and then.
I am, dear sir, with esteem
Your obedient servant
Cobb to Hare, Gouldsborough, 22 August 1810 [BP]693
Gouldsborough August 22d. 1810
Charles W. Hare, Esquire
I have delay’d giving you a letter since my return to this place from Boston untill I had visited our settlements, seen the general state of our concerns here, and made such arrangements for the operations of the season as were contemplated. These measures are now compleated.
Our great and most important settlement is Mariaville, which occupies parts of five different townships, viz., Nos. 20, 21, 26, 27, and 14, Middle Division, is in a flourishing situation, and contains about seventy families. The next settlement of importance is the Sunkhase, which is on a small river of that name, a branch of the Penobscot, and is in No. 38, Middle Division, and in No. 1, North Division, and consists of from 15 to 20 families doing well. Other settlements are progressing farther east in Nos. 17 and 23, Middle Division, in Nos. 16 and 17, East Division, and in Nos. 6 and 7 on the Schoodic or St. Croix River.694 All these settlements, except the last, are in the midst of the forrests and unconnected with any of the old settlements of the country, and were selected, except the Sunkhase settlement, to facilitate our intended road thro’ the middle of this tract from the Penobscot to the Schoodic, a part of which, as I have heretofore inform’d you, is passable from the Penobscot almost as far as No. 23, Middle Division.695 From thence to the Schoodic, we have contracted to have open’d the present season, and I presume the contractors are now at work. Surveyors are likewise at work in running additional settlers lots in Nos. 21, 22, 27 and 28, Middle Division.696 Our intentions are, that as we progress in making our contemplated road, to run out lots for settlers along the same on lands best fitted for the purpose, and on such moderate terms as to induce purchasers to occupy and improve the same. By these means we anticipate at no very distant period, a road thro’ a wilderness of seventy miles in length compleated, and along its borders settled with a sett of hardy farmers uncontaminated by the disorganizing and demoralizing effects of the lumber stealing business that has ever disgraced the sea shores and rivers of Maine. The completion of this measure will have the happiest effects on the public mind. It brings the eastern boundary of the Commonwealth almost one hundred miles nearer the Capital; it will make the proprietors respectable and popular, and smother for ever the confiscating avarice of Democracy; at the same time it must elivate the value of this property beyond any present calculation.
When we parted at Boston you kindly advanced to me three hundred dollars in cash and your acceptance for twenty one hundred more, making in the whole twenty four hundred dollars, fifteen hundred of which I receiv’d as in full of my stipend for the last year ending the first of May last. Four hundred dollars was to repay Messrs. Richards and Jones for what they advanced for us in our expenditures here the last year, and the other five hundred dollars you permitted me to receive as in part of my stipend for the ensuing year.
On viewing the probable amount of our funds here, I am rather inclined to think we shall receive in the course of the year a sufficiency for our contemplated expenditures, but we have not the present means of making such advances to our road makers and surveyors as are required. I shall therefore take the liberty of drawing upon you, in the course of a fortnight, in favour of Mr. Jones of Boston, for one thousand dollars, which I hope you will honor. If it makes any difference with you in the keeping of your accounts, you may charge this draft as advanced to me in full of my stipend for the present year. If I should be mistaken as to the amount we may receive here this year, I will give you timely notice, if further supplies are required.
In my next I will communicate to you a plan that we have long contemplated for the purpose of increasing the purchases as well as enhancing the price of our lands in this tract.
Mr. Richards sail’d from Machias for England on the 2d. instant with his wife and family, in a ship of his own, purchas’d for the purpose and loaded with pine timber etc. for the Liverpool market.
I intend visiting the Kennebeck in the course of the next month if possible, where I shall make enquiries as to the state of the property there. If my information is true, depredations are making on the Dead River by the infernal log stealers, and a number of people are removing to occupy the valuable extent of interval land on that river, where they may reside and carry into more compleat effect the depridations of the country.
I am, dear sir, with due esteem
Your friend and obedient servant
Philadelphia September 25th. 1810
My dear Sir:
Yours of the 22d of August arrived in Philadelphia during my absence on a journey into the back parts of Pennsylvania and New York, from which I have lately returned. The description you give of the settlements on the Penobscot tract is very satisfactory, and I will advance the money (1,000 dollars you speak of) as on account of salary whenever it may be drawn for. I mentioned when I was in Boston that I would agree to make the necessary advances for completing the road to the Schoodiac and therefore you may also draw for whatever sums are necessary to effect that purpose, but as to all other objects we understand that the funds due from the settlers must repay expences. It would give us new spirit, if we could perceive that within any reasonable time this property would cease to be burthensome. I have lately adopted the idea that the Merino sheep might be introduced upon those parts of the Maine Lands which have the greatest number of settlers, to great advantage, to be fed in flocks under the care of shepherds in the woods in summer, and to be distributed among the settlers to be maintained by them in winter. Will you be so good as to state how far you think this notion is a good one? From all I have observed and learned, the climate of Maine is not unfavourable to this or any other species of sheep. In the woods no doubt abundant provisions may be obtained for them in mild weather. The wool it is proved does not deteriorate in this country, and the very high price of fine wool in England, the increasing demand for it here, and the interruption which the Spanish revolution will probably for ever give to the exportation of it from that country, where I have no doubt the whole sheep system will be abandoned, will I think render the raising of fine woolled sheep very profitable. How far would their introduction on a large scale into Maine encrease the facility of settlement? How many of the settlers might be interested with them? Does the country raise a sufficient surplus quantity of hay fodder etc. for their support during the winter? Are there any common sheep now raised there and are they found profitable? Would it be agreeable to you to give a general superintendance to such as might be sent there? I have suddenly taken up the idea, and have not yet digested any plan. It may be very wild, but I should be glad to hear your opinions in regard to it. If the importation of 200 Merino’s would greatly facilitate the settlement by establishing the fact that our lands in Maine may easily be converted into a fine grazing country, and if land otherwise wholly unproductive can in this way be turned to advantage, the project may be worthy of consideration.
Major Jackson some time since took up the extraordinary notion, and obstinately persists in it, that Mr. Bingham’s estate has already realized great profits from the Maine speculation, and has instituted a suit against the trustees in which for his right to the profits on 100,000 acres he pretends to claim seventy thousand dollars. In order to be furnished with the necessary evidence on the trial I now enclose you a commission for your examination, and that of Mr. Black so far as relates to the accounts. The interrogatives and the papers annexed to the commission will sufficiently explain the object in view. I also herewith enclose instructions as to the manner of executing the commission. You will greatly oblige me by calling the commissioners together and having the return made as soon as possible.
Any plan you may communicate for encreasing the sales and value of the Penobscot tract will receive great and early attention. With respect to the Kennebeck I have fully conveyed my ideas to Mr. Otis, whom I wish you to consult before you adopt any measures there.
I am, dear sir,
Your friend and servant
C. W. Hare697
General David Cobb
Cobb to Hare, Gouldsborough, 10 November 1810 [CP]
Gouldsborough November 10th. 1810
Charles W. Hare, Esquire
My dear Sir:
Mr. Black has just returned from Boston, where he has been detain’d three weeks by contrary winds. In the insuing week is our County Court at Castine which I shall attend, and hope in the course of it to compleat the papers for your District Court, which shall be forwarded immediately after.
On the subject of sheep, I will observe generally, that they have always been in this country from its first settlement, that the climate of Maine has ever been consider’d the most favourable of any in the Union, for the growth of that animal. They have always been here from the first settlement of it, they are larger, the meat higher flavour’d than any in New England, and I presume the fleeces equally good; but they are presarved with difficulty from distraction by wild animals with which our forrests are fill’d, such as bears, wolves, lynx’s (call’d by the French Lucifers), wild cats etc. specially on and near the new settlements. All farmers in this country have little flocks of sheep. Our settlers at Mariaville have their little flocks that are kept in their clear’d fields around their houses. The inhabitants of this and all the neighbouring towns keep their flocks of sheep—I have now twenty five, but we loose more or less every year. I have lost three this year. In this town only, not less than fifty sheep have been distroy’d this year, mostly by bears, and probably now and then a hungry rascal may take one. Mr. Jones an inhabitant of this town has a flock of forty or more mix’d with the Merino blood, which has vastly improved his fleeces. The last year he had four quarter blooded Merino rams, three of which were in one night kill’d by a bear, in a yard within ten rods of his house. The business of keeping sheep has been the universal practice of the farmers of New England ever since its first settlement. They have always, and they do now, keep as many sheep as they are able to winter; from this source they have always supplied themselves with three quarters, if not seven eighths, of the woollen’s their families have ever consum’d; and untill you have a total change of public opinion, and perhaps of government too, you never can essentially increase the numbers of sheep in New England. You may better their fleeces, which will be very valuable, and so long as it is a crime for any one to improve more than 1 or 2 hundred acres of land, so long will it be that none but a farmers family can be cloathed in woolen, and they but partially.698 I have enumerated these circumstances to show the difficulties attending sheep keeping in this country, that you may form an opinion how far your plan for breeding Merino’s is practicable. If it was practicable, I am clearly of opinion that the expences would far exceed any probable returns. If shepards could be had that would keep the flocks in the summer, the winter fodder could not be obtain’d in this country. The present stock of the country is now beyond its fodder. The numerous islands that border the shores of this are the proper places for sheep, where they subsist without fodder round the year, and might now be used, with small expence, for this purpose, if the fishermen and others could be restrain’d from distroying them. But this cannot be done. There is an island in Frenchman’s Bay, within half a mile of the shore of this town, that if I can purchase it of the government, I should be pleas’d in a concern with you in Merino sheep on this island. It contains 800 acres.
The plan that Mr. Richards and myself have contemplated for enhancing the price of our lands here, I intended to have communicated to you at Boston, but thro’ the hurry we were both in, it escaped my memory. It is this—in future to sell land to settlers and receive our pay in pine logs deliver’d at tide water, which logs are there saw’d or hew’d for the European market and to be convey’d in our own ship. We are persuaded that our lands will sell for 50 or 100 per cent. more to be paid in logs, which we shall git, than for money, which we shall never obtain. Say land that sells from 1 to 2 dollars per acre for cash. The settler will not be unwilling to give 3 or 4 dollars per acre if he can pay in logs. The business of freightage is so well ascertain’d that it can pay insurance round [?] with a small profit. The only expense therefore attending this business is the purchase of the ship in the first instance, which the concern must be at the expence of. The business of loading and all negociations here will be transacted by Mr. Black who is to have a small premium on the proceeds. Mr. Richards has long been persuaded that this measure would elivate the value of this country beyond any other plan, and the last spring he communicated to his European correspondents the system; and I understand by Mr. Black, that Mr. Jones has lately receiv’d a letter from Mr. Baring in which he approves of the measure to be put into operation in the first instance on a small scale with a brigg of 150 or 200 tons. As Mr. Richards is now in England, where he arrived with his family the last of August after a short and pleasant passage,699 he will probably mature this plan with his European concern before his return the next year. I should therefore wish that you and Mr. Willing would make up your minds on the subject, whether to take one half of this concern or no.
I am, dear sir, with esteem
During the period from 1810 to 1815 little could be done with the Maine Lands. While John Black must have exercised a perfunctory supervision over them, the war and the British occupation of eastern Maine brought operations to a standstill. There is nothing among Cobb’s papers to indicate that he was even in Gouldsborough during most of this period. John Richards had, however, gone to England with his family in 1810, and his reports to the English proprietors enabled them to see just how badly things were going. And when he was able to go down to Maine again after the war, he was still unable to discover anything to augur success for the speculation in the years to come. The three letters that follow show that Alexander Baring was still keeping in touch with developments down east—and by now he must certainly have regretted his earlier enthusiasm for Maine—and that John Richards was not afraid to tell his English principals the truth as he saw it.
Baring to Hope and Company, London, 9 July 1812 [BaP]
London 9 July 1812
To Messrs. Hope and Co.
and To the Concerned in the Lands in Maine
Before Mr. Richards finally leaves us to return to America,700 it becomes necessary that some arrangement should be made with him to secure his future services in the management and superintendance of your concerns, and also that I should submit to you a statement of your accounts with Baring Brothers and Co., which have not been settled since our first agreement with Mr. Richards in 1804.701 These two points will form the subject of this letter, and I begin with the situation of Mr. Richards, upon which I shall merely have to put to paper what has been already verbally approved by Messrs. Hope. The last agreement with Mr. Richards in 1804 was that he should have for 10 years, viz. from 1804 to 1813 both inclusive, a salary of £800 per annum, one tenth part of the profit resulting from the speculations in which you are interested, and that you should advance him a capital for the management of the commercial projects in which he was engaged of £5,000. It does not appear quite clear whether this capital was or was not to bear interest, the recollection of none of the parties as to this point being very distinct.
Mr. Richards’s situation is since this agreement materially altered. He did, with your consent, remove his residence from Maine to Boston, leaving Mr. Black in the former country. It was thought that his presence at the seat of government would be beneficial to the concern, and it has proved eminently so, more especially since effecting the arrangement with the State of Massachusetts for compromising the settling duties, which I shall presently have to explain; but at the same time this change was a great personal convenience to Mr. Richards. It has enabled him to advance his commercial pursuits, which I have great pleasure in saying are now in a promising state; and his situation in general will therefore enable me to propose, and him to accept, terms for the future more consistent with the oeconomy of expenditure which considering the protracted nature of this adventure it is essential to attend to. These new proposed terms are that he shall continue to receive next year his salary of £800 according to the former agreement, that it shall then cease; that he shall further give up all claim to any portion of the profits, but that his whole compensation shall arise from the £5,000 capital advanced, being continued to him for eight years, viz. from 1814 to 1821 both inclusive, without interest, and that he shall be acquitted of all charge of interest for the past enjoyment of this capital. With this arrangement Mr. Richards is satisfied; he has always shewn the greatest moderation in his pretensions, and you are I am sure too sensibly impressed with the advantages you have derived and are in future likely to derive from his judgement and character for it to be necessary for me to add any thing on the subject.
Mr. Black, who resides and will continue to reside in Maine, has hitherto received 1,000 dollars per annum. His conduct has been in every respect most exemplary, and it is proposed by way of encouragement to allow him in addition the Part of the timber rents which he may collect from the lumberers who cut timber on the tract, and also to interest him to the extent of one half in the shipments of lumber to Liverpool, in which it will be for your interest to employ a small capital of £2,000. Mr. Black has already had authority for this purpose and I am inclined to think that these two modes of compensation so far from proving a burthen are likely to be productive to the concerned as well as to Mr. Black, and Mr. Richards’s general superintendence will be a security to you that this as well as every other part of your business proceeds safely and regularly. Under this arrangement your future expenditure will be restricted to the interest of Mr. Richards’ capital of £5,000 and Mr. Black’s salary of 1,000 dollars, and the latter will I trust be provided for by receipts on the lands themselves which as you will perceive by the accounts has hitherto always been the case.
The account of the concerned with Baring Brothers and Co. to which I now proceed you will find stated in the inclosed account current702 shewing on the 30 ultimo a balance in their favor of £15,005, for which we debit on that Mr. Henry Hope and Co. for their ¾ share £11,253.15, Sir Thomas Baring and C. Wall Esquire their ¼ share 3,751.5, by which this account will be closed,703 and in future we shall furnish you annually with a statement of occurrences on this account.
There are one or two points in the present accounts requiring explanation. You will find it charged with Mr. Richards’ annual salary of £800 and with his capital of £5,000. There are only three years in which the general expenditure exceeded the receipts by small sums, viz. in 1804 by £75, in 1808 by £70, and in 1810 by £86.12.2. In other years the recepits for land sold, timber rents etc. sufficed for all expences including Mr. Black’s salary, and you will perceive that remittances have been actually made at different times to the extent of £2,159.19. In considering the general state of this account you will please always to recollect that altho’ the whole balance seems large, yet that it is not all expended, but that the capital of £5,000 advanced to Mr. Richards will be returned to the concerned in due time.
The article of charge in this account for a compromise of settling duties requires a more detailed explanation. The 1,200,000 acres on the Penobscot River were purchased by Mr. Bingham with 1,000,000 other acres on the Kennebec River of the State of Massachusetts, and the deeds for one half of this property were lodged with the state as a security for the following engagement, viz. that the purchasers would either place 2,500 settlers on these lands or pay a forfeit of 30 dollars for each deficient settler.
The legislature of Massachusetts in 1806 instituted an inquiry in how far this engagement had been complied with, and it appeared that there were on the two tracts 425 settlers, viz. 325 on the Penobscot and 100 on the Kennebec, and the fine for deficiency which for the whole number of 2,500 settlers would have amounted to 75,000 dollars, appeared to be in the proportion 62,250 dollars. After much négociation with a committee of the legislature in which our interests were most ably maintained by Mr. Richards, General Cobb and Mr. Hare, a compromise was effected by granting to certain individuals with whose guarantee the state was satisfied, 60,000 acres of lands from Mr. Bingham’s Kennebec tract and as these acres are only valued at half a dollar each, you will perceive that this penalty was compromised for less than one half of its nominal amount, and the deeds were taken out of mortgage and thus relieved from all incumbrance.704 Mr. Bingham’s estate having surrendered these 60,000 acres, estimated at 30,000 dollars, it remains to be stated in what proportion the 1,200,000 acres on the Penobscot should contribute thereto. If 2,200,000 acres incur a fine of 75,000 dollars so will 1,200,000 on Penobscot be liable to a fine of
from this deducting for 325 settlers found on this tract at 30 dollars per head
The Penobscot tract will owe for deficients
But the net sum due to the state was
deducting for 425 settlers on both tracts at 30
This sum was actually discharged or compromised as you have seen for 60,000 acres costing 30,000 dollars; say therefore if the whole sum due or $62,250 be discharged by $30,000, so will the nett amount of fine due from the Penobscot lands of $31,160 be discharged by $15,017 and of this sum $7,508½ or ½ belong to you and the other half to Mr. Bingham’s estate.
To this sum of should be added interest at 5 per cent from 1 July 1807 to 30 June 1812
and on the other hand deducted for one half of 2,000 acres of land and a house granted to General Cobb, the agent for Mr. Bingham, and estimated by Mr. Richards $3,400
leaves the nett sum with which you are charged
or at the exchange of 10 per cent discount £1,921.7.6 sterling, the sum which is stated in the account. The exchange has varied from par to 20 per cent discount. I take the medium rate.
I hope this statement will have made this transaction intelligible to you. It is made from a sketch of Mr. Richards’s and altho’ I have no doubt that Mr. Bingham’s American trustees will be satisfied with it, as I am, it is understood that should any objections come from them, I shall be at liberty to state them. The only doubt that can exist is as to the value of the 60,000 acres of land surrendered by Mr. Bingham’s estate, which appear to me valued low at half a dollar, but Mr. Richards states that this valuation was concurred in by Mr. Hare and I am therefore satisfied.705
I inclose a project of a letter to be written by Messrs. Hope and Co. to Mr. Thomas Mayne Willing desiring him to join the name of Mr. Richards with his own as trustees of your title. Since the failure of Mr. Cramond and the consequent withdrawing of his name from the trust, that of Mr. Willing has alone continued, and it becomes necessary for your security to add a second. Upon the important question of whether you should continue to hold this property together as an association, which has already been verbaly discussed, I shall not now touch, as it is not necessary that it be determined before Mr. Richards’s departure, for in whatever shape the property be held, I am sure you cannot do better than either collectively or individually to avail yourselves of his agency. I remain with constant devotion and regard
Richards to Sir Thomas Baring, Winchester, England, 24 August 1812 [BaP]
Winchester the 24th August 1812
Sir Thomas Baring, Baronet
My dear Sir,
I have many apologies to make for the neglect with which I have pass’d over the enquiries of yours of the 13th instant upon the Maine lands, on behalf of yourself and Mr. Wall, and am happy that a longer detention in England than I had expected gives me an opportunity of replying to them here.
The undivided half or moiety of 1,200,000 acres of lands in Maine which was purchased by Messrs. Hope and Co. in 1797 of Mr. Bingham,706 and ¼ which moiety, or 150,000 acres, was conveyed by them to the late Sir Francis Baring, was then vested in the names of Thomas M. Willing and William Cramond, Esquires, both of Philadelphia, who then sign’d to a declaration of trust which is now in the possession of Messrs. Hope and Co.
In 1804 Cramond became a bankrupt and his title was immediately transferred to Mr. T. M. Willing, in whom the whole fee is now vested.
But Messrs. Hope and Co. propose that Mr. Willing shall reconvey to me immediately upon my arrival in America the same share which was represented by Cramond, and measures have been taken to carry this into effect. It will be my business to see the deeds properly recorded and to send back to England a declaration of trust with my signature.
It is desirable that this property should appear held in such a manner as not to be liable to the inconveniences attending the tenure of real estate, the greatest of which would be that in case of the death of either of the proprietors and the bequest of his share to a minor, the whole property would be lock’d up during such non-age. This is effectually guarded against on the part of the American side, Mr. Bingham having left the whole of his estate in the hands of trustees; and it has been hitherto provided against here, from being consider’d as a species of personal or commercial property vested in the House of Hope, who have appointed trustees to hold it, agents to manage it, accounting with the different proprietors, according to their respective shares or interests therein, in a manner previously understood and agreed upon between the parties.
This statement will I trust serve for the elucidation of the state of the title.
As to the value of the property, it is more difficult to speak with precision because no permanent value can be attached to American lands, which never are a source of revenue, not being let upon lease. Their value must be a transient or speculative one considered strictly as articles of sale and depending upon the demand of the market for lands in the gross, or upon the spot of the farm to the settler.
These lands were bought in 1797, having a double object in the investment: security as a deposit, beyond the reach of the storms then agitating Europe; and speculative in America, which was then wonderfully active there. They cost 2/ the acre.
We at first pursued the plan of Sir W. Pulteney by endeavouring to anticipate a value by forced improvements, but finding the practical experiment fell very short of our theory and expectations and the general disposition to speculate in American lands becoming extinct, we convert ed our plans of forced improvements into a liberal encouragement of the natural progress of settlement and population, determining to sell in gross whenever oppertunities might occur and always providing a quantity of lots laid out and survey’d for the accommodation of the actual settler.
If these lands should be sold at auction in America, I should not think they would command any thing like first cost, because the capital of that country has been materially diminished of late years as well as the disposition to speculate in lands. Therefore their speculative value is small.
But as objects of settlement, it is to be observ’d that in 1798 we sold to settlers with difficulty at 50 cents or 2/3 the acre and that we now sell with ease at two or three dollars the acre and that the average returns of 1810 yield a sum of $1.70 or about 7/8d the acre, so that the real value is much increas’d.
We have only sold one township of about 20,000,707 which netted about 4/ and the funds were remitted therefor. We have also sold about 30,000 acres by the single lot for about $42,000, for which we have receiv’d in part about $8,000 and given deeds for about 10,000 acres, reserving the remaining 20,000 acres as security for the notes for $34,000 remaining due. But as we make it a rule to extend the time of payment to a settler almost to suit his convenience (as we want his labour and improvements more than his money), this is a fund which must be expected to accumulate in the present state of the concern and will not for some years produce returns.
On the question of retaining the property, my present opinion is that is more a matter of necessity than of choice, because from existing circumstances in America the speculative or selling price, if forced, would certainly fall below the real price which it must ultimately net provided our plans can be continued and the lands held till prosperity has returned to that country, in which case I think it highly probable that a handsome but not a large profit may be look’d for upon this investment. You must be aware also that the circumstance of your share being an undivided one must diminish its value in the estimation of any indifferent purchaser, and would probably confine its being sought after to those only who are already interested in the concern.
I have been unable to give you any idea of the value without entering into this prolix statement of the affairs of the concern, and if your leisure or inclination should lead you to a further acquaintance [?] with it, I should recommend your sending [?] to [?] Mr. Hope for his book of the Maine lands [?] containing the correspondence and accounts relative [?] to [?] this property.708
From what I have said you will easily perceive the difficulty in fixing a positive value and that my opinion is in favour of retaining to selling at present.
My Father desires his particular compliments. I beg to be respectfully remembered to Lady Baring, to Mr. and Mrs. Wall and remain, dear sir,
Your devoted humble servant,
We intend leaving Winton on Wednesday next.
Richards to Sir Thomas Baring, Boston, 15 October 1815 [BaP]
Boston 15 October 1815
Sir Thomas Baring, Baronet
My dear Sir,
I assure you that I have not been unmindful of the promise I made you on leaving England to impart freely and candidly my real sentiments on the value and prospects of the Maine Lands to assist your means of determining whether it would be more desirable to retain or dispose of them if oppertunity should offer, and since my return here my motives for silence must have been obvious to you. All letters sent during the war were liable to examination and the avowal of foreign ownership might have been prejudicial, certainly dangerous. It also became a doubtful question to which nation upon the return of peace these lands would belong, having been occupied by a British force, by an inexplicable policy, and much to the injury of the proprietors; they were finally evacuated and restored.
But peace being again restored and the growing energies of the country returned to their natural state, it would appear as of course that these lands should with the other property of this country benefit from the change and assume an ameliorated condition; but the reasons which will I fear retard the wished for advancement are of too deep a root to be shaken by any comparative degree of prosperity without the lapse of many years. For the facts of an inhospitable climate, of a soil of worse repute than it deserves, as well of a population resident who are unsuited to agriculture, will always deter emigrants from spreading rapidly over Maine, and while the milder southern climates attract almost the whole surplus population south of the Connecticut River, Maine appears to receive a sparse supply only as a species of drain from Vermont and New Hampshire.
However these accounts may vary with that theory which caused the first purchase, the experience of several years has confirmed me in the full persuasion of their truth and justice; and tho’ the investment has long ceased to be eligible, at the convulsed state of Europe, when made, it was doubtless prudent. At that moment the agriculture of America was receiving daily expansion and commerce had been comparatively neglected; but the advantages of a neutral trade unfolding themselves soon after diverted capital from agriculture into commercial pursuits. The Jacobin policy which brought with it the plagues of Embargo, Non Intercourse and war either paralized or destroyed the commercial capital of the country without opening new prospects to the agriculturists. From this dilemma we are now to extricate ourselves, and unless the demand for lumber arising from a general state of peace should bring the Maine lands into notice, I fear the circumstances of climate and opinion will operate for many years strongly against our interests.
The course of improvement which I have ever thought necessary has been to give every assistance to the natural progress of settlement without forcing unnaturally; and the consequence has been that the prices of these lands, not buoyed up unnaturally, have remained stationary during the war, while those of all others have materially declined. But no payments of consequence have been made and we never give deeds till the lands are paid for. In fact, the lands are in a manner lent to the settler, whose improvements add a value to the whole tract.
I have been insensibly led into a general description of these lands which has estranged me from the question of their actual value; upon that however it must be remarked that many national causes since their purchase have contributed to depress them and that the present want of capital and general disposition to emigrate looking southwards also operates materially against them, so that I think it would be more to your interest to sell out whenever you could to your satisfaction than to retain.
I trust you will duly appreciate the motives which have led me to this frank and open disclosure, originating from the desire you expressed at parting and which, however unpleasant it may be for you to receive, I think it better for you to understand fully and explicitly than for there to be any appearance of keeping you in the dark. Mrs. Richards unites with me in respectful remembrances to Lady Baring, yourself and family and I remain, Dear Sir,
Your very obedient and faithful servant
Cobb to Hare, Boston, 4 November 1816 [BP]709
Boston November 4th. 1816
Charles W. Hare, Esquire
After a summer spent in Maine, I have now returned to this place, where, and in the neighbourhood I shall remain for the winter. I have been gratified in viewing the progress of our settlements, and altho’ the number of inhabitants are not essentially increas’d, yet their improvements are greatly advanced; and arrangements have been made, and I presume will be carried into compleat effect, by which our receipts from that country will far exceed any we have heretofore experienced; and I shall be much disappointed if they do not, in the course of the insuing year, exclusive of the sale of land, amount to more than the expence of management. Our great road from Penobscot to the St. Croix will be made better by bridges and causeways the present season, from the resources we have there; and altho’ the season has been very unpropitious, yet I think the poor devils there will have the means of weathering another winter. I am not able to give you any material information about the Kennebeck tract. I have occasionally convers’d with Mr. Otis, but I believe no measures have been taken to prevent evils that must result to the devisees of that tract. Our legislature have already incorporated the inhabitants of two townships in that tract,710 on the last of which, I presume not an inhabitant has any title to a rod of the land, and consequently, by a law of this State, will have the value of the lands settled by others, not the owners. It has ever been our principle, not to promise any settler or person to occupy any land without an agreement for the price of it.
In my letter of last April to Mr. Milligan711 I informed him that during the mad reign of Mr. Gerry in this State, the legislature, for the first time, levied a tax on all the wild lands that had been sold to individuals not settled or incorporated. As these taxes were in my opinion unconstitutional, and no law had been made for the collection of them, I gave myself no concern about them, presuming that some future legislature would repeal the law. But at the close of the last winter session of the legislature, they, by a Resolve directed the Treasurer to issue his warrants for the sale of such lands to the amount of the taxes, if they were not paid before the first of last September. At the last summer session, after a conference with Mr. Otis, I presented a petition on the subject to the legislature as your agent, in consequence of which, they suspended the operation of the Resolve of last winter untill the further order of the legislature. Whether we shall ever be exonirated, legislatively, from this imposition is very uncertain.712 My private opinion is we shall not be, as public opinion is too strong against us. The next question is, shall we contend with the State on the illegality of this assessment? Mr. Richards, before he embark’d for England the last spring, was decidedly of this opinion. I however have my doubts. I think we had better attempt a relief thro’ the legislature, and if we do not succeed, pay it. The annual amount of this tax, in both tracts is 343 dollars, and it has been unpaid for 3 or 4 years.
In my letter of the 7th. May 1815,713 I forwarded to you a ruff sketch of my account with the trustees of Mr. Bingham’s estate, taken then chiefly from memory. I now inclose a new account from actual documents, not essentially different from the former sketch. In this account you will observe a charge of $519.38 which I paid to Mr. Richards last May. This was occasioned by the late unhappy war. Just before Mr. Richards’s departure the last spring, Colonel Black came up from Maine and adjusted the concern accounts with him, leaving the above ballance against the trustees, being the one half. This account was created by the taxes on the incorporated lands to State, County and Town and a remnant of Mr. Black’s stipend which could not be met entirely during that period from accustom’d receipts of mills, log rents and meadows. Knowing your unwillingness to meet such demands I evaded payment for a short time, but finding there would be uneasiness, I paid the account. As this, I presume will be the last you will be call’d upon for, I hope it will meet your approbation. You will perceive an important difference in the amount, between the 1st. and 2d. U.S. taxes. This was occasioned by the ignorance of the assessor for Hancock County, who assess’d no other lands of the concern but those within the incorporated towns of that county. He has however paid us for it this year.
I shall be much gratified in receiving the ballance of my account in any way most convenient to you. Treasury notes are nearly par, 7 per cents are.
The question on the seperation of Maine I think, must now be at rest; the high leaders of the party have conducted the business in such a outrageous manner that their friends are asham’d to persue the measure.
I am, dear sir, with esteem
Your obedient servant
Cobb to Hare, Boston, 11 March 1818 [CP]
Boston March 11th. 1818
C. W. Hare, Esquire
My dear Sir:
I have delay’d forwarding to you the result of my petition to the legislature, under an expectation of receiving from Colonel Black the accounts and maps of the concern, on the Penobscot Million Acres, that I might have the pleasure of forwarding both at the same time; but by a late letter from him, he informs me that his various engagements this winter has prevented his finishing them. I hope to receive them soon.
I now inclose you a copy of the Resolves of the legislature predicated on my petition.714 I have not obtained all I could have wished, but I have got something. A deduction of more than 500$715 has been obtained from the amount of the taxes for the last six years, leaving a ballance due the State of 1,529.78, which I have paid into the Treasury, and in lieu of the irregular mode heretofore pursued by the State in levying taxes on these lands, a sum in gross is to be paid annually for the four ensuing years of $288.67 for the lands, with deductions to be made from that sum for such towns and plantations as are or may hereafter be incorporated and tax’d in either of the tracts. We have now another evil to encounter. By the laws of the State, the counties have a right to assess taxes for their maintenance, on all lands within their jurisdiction on which the State assess their taxes. The counties in which the lands are situated have already assess’d their taxes, and when I have been applied to for payment, I have replied that the subject was still before the legislature, and it was presum’d they would relinquish the state taxes. In that case they could have no demand for theirs on the lands. But as the business is now settled with the State, had we not better propose a compromise with the several counties for their taxes for the last six years, on moderate terms, and to pay them annually for the four years to come such a sum as can be agreed upon? There is no law at present authorizing counties to collect taxes on such wild lands as ours, but their anxiety to tax these lands may push them on illegally to collect what they have assess’d, and thence compel us by law to defend ourselves, or they will apply to the legislature for a law impowering them to collect their taxes. In either case we dimish [sic] our popularity in that country, which it is our interest to retain as much of as we can. I shall pass to your credit the remainder of the 2,000$ after paying the State.
I am, etc.
In the year 1819 supervision of the Bingham property in America passed to John Hare Powel,716 whose brother, Charles Willing Hare, had been obliged because of poor health to give up his agency. Powel visited Maine in the summer of 1819 and made a thorough investigation of all that was being done.717 When Hare died the following year, Powel decided to make a clean break with the past and removed all the Bingham agents, Cobb among the rest.718 Though John Richards interceded for his old friend and tried to prevail upon Powel to postpone this step,719 the Trustee was adamant, and by the end of 1820 the General found himself without either position or salary. He was certainly much too old to be of much further use to the trustees; in the summer of 1820 he wrote Powel, “I am very infirm, but at seventy two we ought not to complain; I am so unwell at present as scarcely to hold my pen.”720 Though the Wildes urged him to come and live with them721 and though other members of the family made similar offers of help,722 the General determined to return to his native Taunton and spend the rest of his days there. Sometime in 1821 he pulled up stakes and left Gouldsborough for the last time. There could have been little to make his departure a pleasant one:723 he had spent twenty-five years of his life in Maine, and while a few settlements had been established and a few roads cut, the central purpose of his going down east had failed of realization and nothing like adequate returns had been obtained for the large sums of money spent to develop the property.
General David Cobb’s House in Gouldsborough, Maine. From a pencil sketch made sometime after his death.
Once back in Taunton, where he must have lived as a guest of some member of his family, the old gentleman could lead a life of quiet retirement among old friends. In 1825 Timothy Pickering asked him to write down what he remembered of the Newburgh Incident and the General prepared a careful account in reply.724 Shortly before he died, he succeeded in obtaining a pension for his services in the Revolutionary War.725 In 1829 his health became so bad that he was moved to the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and there, on 17 April 1830, he died.726
Shortly before his death, his son Thomas wrote an account of the property in Gouldsborough which, in a sense, epitomizes what had happened to most of the dreams of the speculators back in the 1790’s. Thomas wrote:727
I was at Gouldsborough about 4 weeks since, and saw the old farm etc. at the Point. Captain Stevens was then getting the hay. The house looks deserted, and is going fast to decay, and is not in fact worth repairing as that property is now situated: for if put in ever so good repair it would afford you no income, and would very soon, if it remain unoccupied, get out of repair again. Indeed, in my opinion, any expence incurred about that estate would be thrown away. You cannot keep a tenant on the place, for he would want the whole of the income to maintain him, and a good deal more. . . . There being no stock kept on it, the grass will soon begin to fail, and the fences will be decaying: and will require great expence to rebuild them. . . .
The reasons for the failure of the Bingham speculation during the years of David Cobb’s agency are not hard to discover. In the first place, the very assumptions on which it was based were unsound. As Paul D. Evans has pointed out,728 a land speculator in the period after the Revolution could be successful only at the expense of the settler. Once he had paid for his land—and most of the speculators were unable to take even this first step—the proprietor was naturally eager to realize returns on his investment. Barring a lucky sale to Europeans, he would have to make his profits from retail sales to actual settlers. Yet these same settlers seldom had the ready money with which to purchase land. Americans with comfortable bank accounts were unlikely to wish to set themselves up in frontier regions; those who did go into new country nearly always used up what resources they had in getting established. And it might be years before these settlers would be in a position to make payments to the proprietor. This state of affairs was anything but satisfactory to the speculator; furthermore, he was often bound by the terms of his contract to perform settling duties. The natural result was friction between the absentee proprietor and the settler, and the former was lucky if that friction did not assume serious proportions. Had the state governments during this period abandoned their attempt to make wild lands a source of revenue, had they adopted a policy similar to that of the Homestead Act of a later time, much human misery and financial loss might have been avoided. As it was, few if any of the speculators in wild lands did better than break even.729
In addition to this basic dilemma that was characteristic of land speculation in general, Bingham’s attempt to develop Maine labored under additional handicaps. Incomplete knowledge of the country and an incorrect analysis of the course which American economic development was to follow led both Bingham and Cobb to believe that the future success of the speculation lay in the establishment of the typical New England farming community down east and in the discouragement of lumbering. Unfortunately, the region which Bingham selected was not then, nor is it now, suited to farming. Thus the attempt to force agricultural settlements was doomed from the start. It was also unfortunate that Bingham selected the Penobscot rather than the Kennebec tract for his initial experiments. Alexander Baring must bear a good share of the responsibility for these decisions; impressed by what Charles Williamson had been doing on the Pulteney Purchase, he urged Bingham to follow a similar policy in Maine.730 Not until it was too late did the proprietors discover that Williamson’s program was proving a costly failure. Since Baring steadfastly refused to have anything to do with the Kennebec region, Bingham was given no choice but to initiate on the Penobscot tract his program for the manufacture of land.
Before he left America for the last time, Bingham had correctly diagnosed what was wrong with his Maine speculation and had begun to realize that his only hope was to wait until the flow of settlement finally reached his property.731 This policy of watchful waiting was eventually adopted by the Trustees and proved a sound one. Ironically, when the land did begin to sell, it was the Kennebec tract, on which almost no money had been expended, rather than the Penobscot Million, which had received the concerted attention of principals and agents alike, that proved most attractive to purchasers. When John Black took over the agency for both tracts in 1820, the makings of a boom in Maine timber lands were already present. Black wisely abandoned all attempts to promote agriculture and turned his attention to the lumber. As a result, he eventually succeeded in making Bingham’s Maine property profitable for the first time in its history.732 Bingham and Cobb were following the speculative pattern of their day; they simply failed to realize until too late that their basic premises were unsound. Black was fortunate in assuming responsibility for the Maine property just as a new era was opening; but he showed remarkable judgment in all that he did, and the success of his agency was due in large measure to his own abilities.733
A visitor to Gouldsborough today would find hardly a trace of the grandiose schemes for its development which had been started in the 1790’s. Parts of the roads appear to have been untouched since General Cobb and his road-cutters first laid them out. Where the General’s house stood on Garden Point is a dilapidated structure, indistinguishable from thousands of others in Maine seacoast towns. What were to be city lots are still pasture; the harbor is still undeveloped; the maritime activity is still in the hands of fishermen. A glance at a map of the Penobscot tract today shows that many of the Lottery Townships are still unincorporated. Cobb’s “great road” from Eddington to Calais, which cuts through the heart of the Penobscot Million, passes through no town with a population of more than two hundred. For nearly one hundred and fifty years, this section of Maine has resisted development as stubbornly as it did when Bingham and Cobb first tried to make it “blossom like the rose.” Today it is hard to realize that this unproductive territory was once the concern of wealthy Philadelphia merchants, French émigrés, English noblemen, and Revolutionary generals.