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Currency and banking in the province of the Massachusetts-Bay online

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he was mistaken. On the tenth of November, William
Stoddard, a justice of the peace, transmitted his resigna-
tion of his trust on account of the proclamation of

' The report of the Board of Trade to the Privy Council vras made
November 13. They recommended ''prosecutions against all con-
cerned in the said Land Bank." The Privy Council, on November 19,
stated that they agreed with the board in their opinion that '* the
said Land Bank Project may create great interruption and confusion
in business;" but referred the question of methods of suppression to
his Majesty's attorney and solicitor-general (News- Letter, January 29,
1741).

** October 25, 1740, the Privy Council received a petition from mer-
chants, traders and inhabitants of Massachusetts, complaining of a
scheme lately projected and published at Boston called the Land
Bank, etc. ; January 26, 1740 [41], in a report from the law office of
the crown, they ordered instructions to the governor to give all pos-
sible discouragement to said Land Bank, as likewise to all other
banks of the like nature." (Register of the Privy Council. ) Palfrey,
History of New England, vol. 4, p. 551, note 2.



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148 American Economic Associatio7i. [448

November 5. Robert Hale, a justice of the peace,
resigned the same day. Samuel Adams and John
Choate, justices of the peace, also sent in their resigna-
tions, in a joint letter, on the same day. The influence
of these resignations may perhaps be traced in Belcher's
letters. November 13th he writes to Partridge, the
province agent : ** Never was so vile a scheme set on
foot. Yet what is done about it will not be sufficient
without an Act of Parliament.^' Again, on the nine-
teenth, writing to the same correspondent, he says : ** I
believe nothing less than an Act of Parliament will put
an end to it, the undertakers are so needy and violent
in the pursuit of it."

On the 5th of December, an instrument entitled the
Manufactory Scheme was laid before the council. It
had been offered by Robert Hale, one of the directors,
for record in the office of the secretary. The board re-
fused to permit this, alleging that the proposition to
record it after they had publicly expressed their opinion
of the pernicious tendency of the said scheme was a
great indignity offered to the board. The same day,
Samuel Adams, William Stoddard, Samuel Watts,
Robert Hale, and John Choate — all of whom, except
Watts, had presented their resignations as justices of
the peace — were removed and dismissed from their said
oflBces. On the ninth, George Leonard, a justice of the
peace, and one of the justices of the Inferior Court of
Common Pleas in the County of Bristol, was dismissed
from office. On the nineteenth, Joseph Blanchard, a
justice of the peace, was also dismissed from office ;
January i, 1741, John Burleigh, a justice of the peace,
and January 3, John Fisher, Elkanah Leonard,* and

* Hobart, in his Historical sketch of Abington, p. 166, says : ** It is
not known that anyone was removed from office in Plymouth County
excepting Elkanah Leonard, Esq., of Middleborough.*'



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449] ^^^ Land Bank of IJ40 and the Silver Bank, 149

Ammi Ruhainah Wise, justices of the peace, were re-
moved from ofHce for receiving and passing the notes
commonly called Land Bank and Manufactory Bills,
and persisting therein.'

Many of the military officers were also recalcitrant.
Among other instances of this sgrt we find in a letter
addressed to Colonel John Chandler, that nine officers
who had taken and passed, and who continued to take
and pass Land Bank bills, tendered their resignations
on the twenty-ninth of December. The columns of
the press contain abundant evidence of the discontent
occasioned by the proclamation.*

Open letters were sent to the several registers of deeds,

* Samuel Adams, one of the directors, was publicly accused of re-
fusing to receive Manufactory Bills in payment of a debt. He there-
upon offered a reward of £$ to any person who would inform him who
the person was who was resp>onsible for this false rep>ort. On the i6th
of February, Benjamin Pollard published full information on the sub-
ject in the Evening Post, and claimed the reward. Adams resisted
payment, whereupon Pollard sued him and finally Adams confessed
judgment, which fact Pollard published in the Evening Post, July 27,
1741.

* The American Antiquarian Society is now engaged in publishing
the diary of Christopher C. Baldwin, formerly a librarian of that
society. It appears that Baldwin examined a bound volume of the
Boston Evening Post for 1741 and 1742, and made notes of a number
of items bearing u]x>n the Land Bank. These consisted mainly of the
names of persons who had been removed from office. I am indebted
to Mr. Nathaniel Paine for his kindness in calling my attention to
these entries in advance of the publication of the diary. Diary of
Christopher Columbus Baldwin, Worcester, 1901, pp. 98, 99.

The references given by Mr. Baldwin add the following names to
to list of justices of the peace removed : Isaac Little, of Plymouth
County and John Metcalf of Suffolk, reported in the issue of April 6,
1741 ; Samuel White of Suffolk, and Samuel Dudley of Worcester, re-
ported in the issue of April 13, 1741 ; and the following entry relative
to the dismissal of militia officers from the i.ssue of April 27, 1741 :
**Col. Estes Hatch (Capt. Adams and Capt. Watts of Chelsea), and
seven or eight lieutenants and one ensign, were dismissed, etc., etc."
The name of Col. Edward Winslow also appears in the paper of that
date as one of the removed officers. Adams was in command of the
Boston company.



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150 American Economic Association. [450

ill December, calling upon them to make a return of the
Land Bank mortgages. As a further means of influenc-
ing military officers, the colonels of regiments were in-
structed to inquire into the conduct of the officers sub-
ordinate to them. The justices of the general sessions
of the peace were instructed to use their power both in
court and as individuals, to prevent the circulation of
the Land Bank bills. In granting licenses to retailers
or common victuallers, they were to take this into con-
sideration, and were to caution licensees against passing
or receiving the aforesaid bills. A blank form of sum-
mons was prepared for use by the council in cases where
they wished to bring before them persons accused of
passing Land Bank bills.

The registers of deeds responded to the call of the
council, and a complete list of all the subscribers to the
Land Bank whose loans were secured by real estate was
thus brought under their scrutiny. Information was
also freely offered as to delinquencies on the part of in-
dividual officers, who were thereupon instructed by spe-
cial letters to explain and desist.

The inquisitorial nature of these proceedings called
forth from individuals against whom they were directed
responses which differed in tone according to the charac-
ter of the writers and their sympathy with the Land
Bank, and which were perhaps in some instances gov-
erned by the importance of the offices held by them.
Many were cringing and obsequious ; a few were manly
and independent ; and there can be detected in some the
contempt of the writers for the despotic and tyrannical
methods of the council. Andrew Burley wrote :

As to the complaint exhibited against me for receiving and passing
Manufactory BiUs since his ExceUency's proclamation, I freely ac-
knowledge 1 have done and am determined so to do at present.

Henry Lee, of Worcester, said :



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45 1 ] The Land Bank of 1740 and the Silver Bank. 151

I am determined to do what I can to encourage it, and think that
the privilege of an Englishman is my sufficient warrant therefor. . . .
As I act to my conscience, I regard being punished any way for differ-
ing in my opinion from the Council, to be civil persecution, and to be
deprived of my office until I be proved unfaithful in it, or have
violated the laws of the land, I look on as an invasion of my native
rights.

Lee, who was a justice of the Peace, was of course re-
moved from office. Whatever our views as to the eco-
nomic character of the Land Bank and Manufactory
Scheme, we can but agree with him that, so long as
there was no law against the experiment, it was his
privilege as an Englishman to encourage it ; nor was it
anything short of civil persecution to punish him for
holding a different opinion from the council. The pow-
er of the council under the charter to remove from office
was disputed by contemporaneous writers ; and Lee was
not alone in his opinion that it was an invasion of his
natural rights. Yet the steps of this kind taken by the
council in the cases of individual office-holders were in-
significant in their consequences when compared with
an order issued on the 27th of January, 1740-41, in the
following words :

Voted^ That no person shall be admitted to appear and plead before
this Board as an attorney and counsellor at law, on any pretence
whatever, who shall pass, receive, or give encouragement to the bills
called Land Bank or Manufactory Bills, but that notice be given here-
of in the public prints.

To appreciate to-day the full force of this order, we

must recur to the charter of William and Mary, where

we find it established and ordained, —

That the Governor of our said Province or Territory for the time
being with the Council of Assistants may do, execute, or perform all
that is necessary for Probate of Wills and granting of administration
for, touching, or concerning any interest or estate which any person
or persons shall have within our said Province or Territory.

Attorneys who differed from the council on this point



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152 Americayi Economic Association. [452

were therefore cut off by this order from all probate
practice before the board.

Meanwhile the governor, at the close of the January
session of the assembly, had in his address to the court
acknowledged the zeal and steadiness of the council in
their efforts to suppress the Land Bank, and had
reproached the house for the countenance which it had
•given to this iniquitous contrivance, a considerable
number of the members themselves being, as he was
told, greatly interested in it. He alluded to measures
taken here and at home for the suppression of the
scheme, measures which he did not doubt would soon
have the desired effect. In aid of these efforts, the
council caused a letter to be prepared to the Lords Com-
missioners of Trade and Plantations, which on submission
to the board was duly approved.

The combined efforts of the governor and council, the

Boston merchants, and the individuals interested in

securing legislation in England adverse to the Land

Bank were so far fruitful that on the 27th of March,

1741, Francis Wilks, Agent, wrote:

A bill is just passed the House of Commons to extend the Act
commonly called the Bubble Act, passed in 1720, to the plantations in
America, after it had sundry alterations from what was first printed
which I could not have a copy of, and time to consider it before it was
sent to the Lords. I am satisfied it is the determined resolution of the
Parliament to dissolve all companies in America who have put forth
any notes or bills to pass in public, and to prevent any other from
doing it hereafter.

On the 9th of April the bill referred to by Wilks had
its third reading in the House of Lords. It still had
certain formalities to go through before it would become
a law, and some weeks would necessarily elapse before
knowledge of its passage could reach America.* Pending

* Saturday, April 25, 1741, his Majesty went to the House of Peers
and gave royal assent, to an act for restraining and preventing several



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453] '^^ Land Bank of 1740 and the Stiver Bank, 153

its arrival, the province was destined to witness scenes
which testified to the earnestness with which the inhab-
itants of some of the poorer towns were prepared to
carry on the battle in behalf of the Land Bank bills. It
must be remembered that in some of these towns it had
been voted to receive these bills in payment of the town
rates. The selection of town officers and the choice of
representatives had been controlled in many instances
by the opinions of the candidates upon the Land Bank
scheme, and the character of the new house was to show
that the land bankers were still in the ascendant*

At such a time as this, when the popular voice had
distinctly expressed itself in favor of the Land Bank,
the attempts of the governor and council to suppress the
company led a few lawless spirits to counsel resistance.
Of this the governor received warning through an affi-
davit, made May 2, by Samuel Bates of Weymouth, be-
fore Edward Hutchinson, to the effect that there was a
report in that town of a confederacy in the country of
about five thousand men, whose design it was to come
to Boston to know the reason why there was not a cur-
rency for the Land Bank money. Bates further said

unwarrantable schemes in the American Plantations. The Gentle-
man's Magazine, vol. 1 1, p. 218 ; see also Journals of the House of Com-
mons, vol. 23, p. 740; and the London Gazette, no. 8008.

' Middletown unanimously voted, 27 January, 1740-41, to receive
Land Bank bills for town rates (News- Letter, 29 January*, 174 1).
Abington passed a similar vote 51 March, 1741, (Hobart's Historical
sketch of Abington, p. 133).

It was one of the points submitted to the qualified voters of Dart-
mouth, 30 March, 1741, (Suffolk Piles, vol. 343, no. 53351).

The supremacy of the Land Bank in Salem affairs in 1741 is de-
veloped in the Diaries of Benjamin Lynde, &c., pp. 104 and 162. The
overthrow of the advocates of the bank in 1742 is noted, p. 163. The
question whether the treasurer of Braintree should receive the notes
was included in the warrant for a town meeting issued March 2, 1740-
41. It was decided affirmatively. Records of the town of Braintree,
1640 and 1793, edited by Samuel A. Bates, Randolph, 1886, p. 237.



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154 American Economic Association. [454

that a paper had been passed about in Abington for that
purpose, and that there were rumors of the storage of
corn in Boston, for shipment for a market. The Gov-
ernor, on the fourth of May, appointed John Quincy to
make inquiry into the matter with privacy and caution,
and if he should find that there was need of action to
call upon Mr. Justice Lincoln for aid in suppressing this
riotous and disorderly proceeding.

Apparently the investigation revealed the fact that
there was some foundation for the information lodged
by Bates. Affidavits were procured showing that there
had been some attempts made to obtain the written
engagement of a large number of persons in the towns
of Hingham, Weymouth, Stoughton, Abington, Ply-
mouth, and Bridgewater, for a simultaneous rising on the
19th of May. Notices had been posted at meeting-
houses, vague in import, and indicating some secret un-
derstanding. Precisely what was intended is not clear,
but from certain veiled threats it may be concluded that
the conspirators wished to compel persons having corn,
and especially the proprietors of a large amount supposed
to be stored in Boston, to sell their corn for Land Bank
bills. The evidence appears to have been sufficient to
justify the council in voting that they had information
of a combination to force the currency of the Land
Bank bills, and to order, on the 14th of May, the issue
of a warrant for the arrest of a number of persons who
were alleged to

have been concerned in a design and combination with a number of
evil-minded persons to come into the town of Boston in a tumultuous
manner tending to the disturbance and disquiet of the government and
affright and terror of his Majesty's good subjects.

On the nth of May, 1741, the governor wrote to
Thomas Hutchinson, concerning these events, saying :
** I assure you the concerned openly declare they defye.



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455] 1^^ Land Bank of 1740 and the Silver Bank. 155

any Act of Parliament to be able to do it. They are
grown so brassy and hardy as to be now coming in a
body to raise a rebellion, and the day set for this coming
to this town is at the election (27th instant), and the
treasurer, I am told is in the bottom of the design, and
I doubt it not. I have this day sent the Sheriffe and
his OflScers to apprehend some of the heads of the con-
spirators.'"

The premature disclosure of the attempt and the
prompt measures for its suppression prevented any out-
break. The only significance of the conspiracy lies in
its testimony to the widespread influence of the Land
Bank.

One explanation that might be given for the uprising
of these people would be the waning popularity of the
bills. They had been distributed in the outlying towns,
where they found a ready local circulation, but with
time there must have come a realizing sense that the cir-
culation was after all limited, and that the combination
of the Boston capitalists who were opposed to the bills
was powerful. At any rate we have evidence that about
this time the managers of the Land Bank put forth new
efforts to secure the co-operation of the subscribers.

The date of the first lot of mortgages taken by the
Land Bank was September 9, 1740. Within six months
of that time there is evidence that the bills did not re-
main in the hands of the public to their satisfaction.
This is to be found in the printed form of a supplemen-
tal agreement which was prepared for execution on the
part of subscribers who had mortgaged lands to the
company. This instrument after reciting the leading
features of the mortgage goes on to say that the
mortgagor covenants that he ** will annually pay one-

'CoU. Mass. Hist. Soc., 6th series, vol. 7, p. 338. Belcher's letters.



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156 American Economic Association. [45^

half at least of each of the annual payments in those
indentures mentioned, of five in the hundred of the
principal sum by him received, with three per cent, in-
terest for the principal enjoyed, in the manufactures in
the said indenture mentioned.

" Also that it shall be lawful for the Directors of the
said Company at their discretion from time to time to
let out such bills as shall be in their Treasury, on good
security, to be repaid both principal and interest in the
aforesaid manufactures only.

** And lastly, that it shall be lawful for the Directors
of said Company, at their discretion, to continue in the
Treasury and not let out any of the bills that shall hap-
pen to be in the Treasury, at any time in the two last of
those twenty years mentioned in said Indentures, but to
keep them there till the expiration of said last two
years." '

The only copy of this interesting document which has
yet been disclosed was in the possession of the late Wil-
liam G. Weld who communicated it to the Colonial So-
ciety of Massachusetts, at their February meeting in
1895. This agreement was executed by Joseph Weld, a
subscriber to the Land Bank, on the 19th of March,
1740-41, as a supplement to the mortgage which he had
executed September 9, 1740. The inference is inevita-
ble that the Company was then realizing some difficulty
in keeping its bills afloat, and if that be accepted it can
hardly be doubted that the Land Bank could not long
have been maintained even if the government had not
undertaken to suppress it.

It is a curious fact that simultaneously with this at-
tempt on the part of the Land Bank to keep its bills

*This document was printed in the publications of the Colonial
Society of Massachusetts, vol. 3, pp. 47-48. See plate 3.



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457] '^^ Land Bank of 1740 and the Silver Bank. 157

afloat, and the riotous effort which has been described to
enforce by violence their circulation, several schemes
were under consideration in different parts of the pro-
vince for the organization of local banks of a similar
character. From Scituate a gentleman wrote in April :

" A number of us in this and the neighboring towns
are designing the same thing and propose the same sum,
[;^50,ooo], and as some wealthy men encourage our
proceeding, by promising to be concerned, I doubt not
it will be completed in a month's time.'*

About the same time it was rumored that a bank was
to be formed in Middlesex County, which was expected
to profit by the mistakes of the Land Bank. In Essex
County, a bank was organized and a petition in its be-
half was presented to the General Court by Edward Eve-
leth, Ebenezer Stevens and John Brown, in behalf of
themselves and partners. April 2, 1741, the Council
voted to refer the petition to a joint committee, but the
house refused to concur in the reference. This Essex
County bank actually prepared and put in circulation
notes of small denominations.' They were dated at

* One of these notes is to be found in the Lenox Library, another
in the Essex Institute. The American Antiquarian Society has an un-
signed impression from the plate. The Massachusetts Historical
Society has a cancelled note.

The execution of the engraving is of very good quality. The fol-
lowing is a copy of the note in the Lenox Library :
The Bank Bill
No. Two Shillings. (520).

We jointly and severally for our selves and part-
ners promise to take this Bill as 7 wo Shillings, lawful
silver money, at Six Shillings and Eight Pence pr ounce,
in all Payments, Trade and Business, and for Stock in our
Treasury at any Time and to pay the same at that esti-
mate on Demand to Mr. James Eveleth, or order in
the Produce or Manufactures enumerated in our Scheme ;
as recorded in the County of Essex's Records, for Value
rec*. Dated at Ipswich, the First Day of May, 1741.
2 s. 2 s.

(seal) Jonathan Hale,

Sloop on an escutcheon. Robert Choate.

Motto, y«j/z/ja, above ; John Brown,

Rediviva^ below, Eben Stevens.

inverted.



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158 Americafi Economic Associatioji. [458

Ipswich, May i, 1741, and were payable to the order of
James Eveleth, one third at the end of every fifth year,
in produce or manufactures. ** Will it not be for the
interest of all the Counties to follow this laudable ex-
ample?" said a querist ; ** and if all these notes obtain
circulation who can complain for want of paper money?" *

On the 27th of May, immediately following^ the issue
of the warrant for the arrest of the conspirators, a new
assembly met, and Samuel Watts, a director of the land
bank and one of the justices of the peace whom the
council had dismissed from office, was elected speaker of
the house. The governor disapproved this choice,
whereupon the house proceeded to elect William Fair-
field, an abettor of the scheme, and this election met
with approval.

The council and the house then proceeded to the
choice of councillors. The names of thirteen of the
newly elected councillors were rejected by the governor
on the ground that they were directly interested in or
were abettors of the Land Bank. The evidence which
these elections furnished the governor, being conclusive
as to the temper of the house upon the important ques-
tion in which he took so much interest, he dissolved the
house the next day for that reason, and writs for a new
election were issued, returnable July 8.

On that day the new house met, and proceeded to or-
ganize by the election of John Choate as speaker.
Choate, it will be remembered, headed the Ipswich
petition in favor of the Land Bank which was presented
in 1740, and had been dismissed by the council from his
oflSce of justice of the peace after he had tendered his
resignation. It is not probable that there could have

• See News-Letter, April 16, and May 21, 1741.



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459] 1^^^ Land Bank of 1740 and the Silver Bank, 159

been any expectation on the part of the representatives
that this choice would meet with Belcher's approval. It
is almost certain that the bit of bravado in which they
indulged by electing Choate met with the fate which
was anticipated when the governor promptly refused his
approval, and that the act was taken merely to show him
that there had been no change in popular opinion.
Choate having been rejected, the house then chose John
Hobson, Esq., speaker, a friend of the Land Bank, but
not a subscriber. On the thirty- first of July, the Gen-
eral Court proceeded under the general powers in the


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Online LibraryAndrew McFarland DavisCurrency and banking in the province of the Massachusetts-Bay → online text (page 13 of 28)