Walter Hill Crockett.

Vermont, the Green mountain state (Volume 1) online

. (page 18 of 34)
Online LibraryWalter Hill CrockettVermont, the Green mountain state (Volume 1) → online text (page 18 of 34)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

far as the western boundaries of Connecticut and Massa-
chusetts, the Council disposed of this rather forceful
argument by declaring: "We apprehend that no good
title can be within His Majesty's dominions but under
valid grants of the crown, and know of no valid grant
that Massachusetts have to any soil or jurisdiction west
of Connecticut River. We are further of opinion that
the intrusions of the Massachusetts Bay within this
province could be no good reason for Governor Went-
worth to commit the like." By vote of the Council,
taken December 6, 1753, this committee report was
ordered to be transmitted to the British authorities.

For practically a decade following the transmission
of these reports to the British government by the Gov-
ernors of New Hampshire and New York, the matter of
the disputed boundary appears to have received scant
attention. This was due in part, no doubt, to the over-
shadowing importance of the French and Indian War;
but there appears to have been no very vigorous protest
on the part of New York while Governor Wentworth
was granting townships by the score in the disputed
territory during the two or three years immediately fol-
lowing the close of the war.

The matter of the boundary dispute between New
York and New Hampshire was treated very fully by the
late Hiland Hall in his "Early History of Vermont."
He called attention to the indefinite limits of the grant
made to the Duke of York on March 12, 1664. If it
had been intended to convey to the King's brother all
the territory from the source to the mouth of the Con-


necticut River, extending to and including the full length
of Delaware Bay, then it would have comprised a con-
siderable region already granted to others by the King,
for the charters granted to Connecticut and Massa-
chusetts extended the limits of those provinces westward
to the Pacific Ocean.

For nearly a century after the settlement of the bound-
ary between New York and Connecticut, the northern
boundary of New York was undefined, and it was not
until 1763 that the forty-fifth parallel of latitude, ex-
tending from the St. Lawrence River across Lake
Champlain to the Connecticut River, was declared to be
the southern boundary of Canada. Until the boundary
between New Hampshire and Massachusetts was estab-
lished in 1740, it had been considered that the northern
boundary of the latter province, like that of New York,
extended north to the very indefinite limits of Canada.

In writing other Colonial Governors for aid against
the French and Indians, Governor Sloughter of New
York said: "I doubt not that you are very sensible of
the many branches that have been copped ofif from the
government in the last reigns, and that it is now con-
fined to great narrowness, having only Hudson's River
and Long Island for the bounds." In 1720 a series of
questions was addressed by the Lords of Trade and
Plantations to Robert Hunter, Governor of New York
from 1710 to 1719, including a request for a statement
of the reputed boundaries of the province. In his reply,
he said, in part : "Its boundaries, east, a parallel twenty
miles distant from Hudson's River."


Cadwallader Colden was more active, probably, than
any other New York official in the attempt to secure the
New Hampshire Grants as a part of the province, and
choice portions of this territory as the property of New
York citizens; and yet, when Surveyor General Cad-
wallader Colden, in 1738, was called upon to name the
boundaries of New York, he made no mention of the
Connecticut River.

When the boundary line between the provinces of
New Hampshire and Massachusetts was established in
1740 by royal decree, it was found that Fort Dummer,
on the west side of the Connecticut River, which had
been built and maintained by the government of Massa-
chusetts, was in the province of New Hampshire. The
Governor of Massachusetts complained that it was un-
just that the government of his province should be com-
pelled to maintain a fort that was situated within the
jurisdiction of another province. An order of the King
in Council followed, directing New Hampshire to garri-
son and maintain it, under penalty of forfeiting the fort
and the surrounding district to Massachusetts. New
Hampshire failed to comply with this order, and Massa-
chusetts felt under the necessity of maintaining Fort
Dummer for the protection of its citizens. The subject
being brought before the British Board of Trade, the
governmental department having charge of Colonial
matters, it was ordered that New Hampshire should re-
imburse Massachusetts for the maintenance of the fort.
Nothing can be clearer than that His Majesty's ministers
were not aware that the Connecticut River formed the
boundary between New York and New Hampshire.


A question having arisen in 1752 relative to the legal
effect of the boundary decision between Massachusetts
and New Hampshire upon the so-called "Equivalent
Lands," situated upon the west bank of the Connecticut
River, it was referred by the Crown to the Attorney
General, Sir Dudley Ryder, and to Solicitor General
Murray, better known in later years as the famous Lord
Mansfield, one of the greatest of English jurists. These
eminent lawyers decided that this region, as a result of
the boundary decision, "is become a part of New Hamp-
shire." It would be absurd to argue that these officials
of the Crown did not know the nature of the grant made
to the Duke of York. This decision was made after
Governor Wentworth had appealed to the British
authorities for a settlement of the boundary dispute with
New York, and after claims were made by Acting Gov-
ernor Colden and his Attorney General based upon the
assertion that the Connecticut River formed the eastern
boundary of New York.

The Lords of Trade, in recommending to the King,
on May 25, 1757, the establishment of a line twenty
miles from the Hudson as the boundary between New
York and Massachusetts, described it as running in a
northerly direction to a point twenty miles east of the
Hudson River "on that line which divides the province
of New Hampshire and the Massachusetts Bay." Lieu-
tenant Governor Delancey, writing to the British Board
of Trade, described this proposed boundary line as reach-
ing northerly to the line of New Hampshire.

Cadwallader Colden, who had become acting Governor
of New York upon the death of Lieutenant Governor


Delancey, was succeeded in February, 1761, by Gov-
ernor Monckton. Just prior to the departure of Gov-
ernor Monckton for England on June 25, 1763, a com-
mittee of five members of the provincial Council, includ-
ing Judge Horsmaden, Oliver Delancey and Lord Stir-
ling, made a report to the Governor on the boundaries
of the province, which contained the following signifi-
cant statement: "We are humbly of opinion that it will
not be inconvenient to either province if His Majesty
should be pleased to order that some line which shall
be established as the division between them and the
province of Massachusetts Bay be continued on the same
course as far as the most northerly extent of either
province, with a saving to the inhabitants of New York
of such lands as are held by grants under the great seal
of the province eastward of Hudson's River beyond
the distance of twenty miles, etc."

The Council considered that the twenty-mile line
"would be an equitable boundary," between New York
and New Hampshire and advised Governor Monckton
that it would be proper to agree to such a line in order
to prevent further tumults and controversies on the
border. It is clear, therefore, that the New York offi-
cials were by no means unanimous in supporting Gov-
ernor Colden's position.

With the departure of Governor Monckton for Eng-
land, Lieutenant Governor Colden again became acting
Governor, and he took occasion very soon to combat the
ideas embodied in the report of the Council to his prede-
cessor relative to the boundary line between the prov-
inces of New York and New Hampshire. In a letter




addressed to the British Lords of Trade, dated Septem-
ber 26, 1763, Governor Golden maintained that an exten-
sion of the western boundary hne of Gonnecticut could
not be adopted rightfully by Massachusetts.

In his letter Golden complained that "the Governor
of New Hampshire continues to grant lands far to the
westward of Gonnecticut River to numbers of people
who make a job of them by selling shares in the neigh-
boring colonies, and have even attempted it in the Gity
of New York, and perhaps with success. The quit
rents in New Hampshire, as I am informed, are much
lower than in New York, and this is made use of as an
inducement to purchase under New Hampshire rather
than settle under New York Grants."

This is a significant admission, and the writer pro-
duced another argument, supposed to have an important
bearing on the matter of revenues, when he said: "If
all the lands in the province of New York, from 20 miles
of Hudson's River to Gonnecticut River, were given up,
the crown would be deprived of a quit rent, amounting
yearly to a large sum, in my opinion greater than the
amount of all the quit rents of the whole that would re-
main and is now received." The amount of quit rents
received by New York from lands now included in the
State of Vermont must have existed in anticipation when
this letter was written, as it was not until May 21, 1765,
that Governor Golden issued his first patent for lands
within the present limits of the State.

Near the close of his letter the New York executive
embodied a paragraph, the importance of which cannot
well be over-estimated in the light of subsequent events,


in which he said: "The New England Governments
are formed in republican principles and these principles
are zealously inculcated on their youth, in opposition to
the principles of the Constitution of Great Britain. The
government of New York, on the contrary, is established
as nearly as may be, after the model of the English Con-
stitution. Can it then be good policy to diminish the
extent of jurisdiction in His Majesty's province of New
York, to extend the power and influence of the others ?"

It_should be remembered in considering the influence
of the foregoing letter of Governor Colden, that William
Pitt had recently retired as Prime Minister after accom-
plishing a notable series of events which constitute one
of the most brilliant chapters in English history; and
that his ministry had been succeeded by a cabinet com-
posed of men of a much less liberal type, like the Duke
of Newcastle, the Earl of Bute and George Grenville.
It is altogether likely that Governor Colden's comparison
between the spirit of New York and that of New Eng-
land had much more to do with the decision of the dis-
puted boundary line than did the ancient grant to the
Duke of York.

Governor Colden issued a proclamation on December
28, 1763, "Commanding and requiring all judges, jus-
tices, and other civil officers within the same (province
of New York) to continue to exercise their respective
functions as far as the banks of Connecticut River, the
undoubted eastern limits of that part of the province
of New York, notwithstanding any contrariety of juris-
diction claimed by the government of New Hampshire,
or any grants of land westward of that river made by


said government." To this he added the injunction:
"And I do hereby enjoin the High Sheriff of the county
of Albany, to return to me or the commander-in-chief,
the names of all and every person and persons, who
under the grants of the government of New Hampshire,
do or shall hold the possession of any lands westward of
Connecticut River, that they may be proceeded against
according to law."

Following this proclamation. Governor Golden wrote
the British Board of Trade, on January 20, 1764,
elaborating his previous arguments, so often advanced,
relative to the western boundaries of Gonnecticut and
Massachusetts. He expressed his surprise that New
Hampshire had made a large number of grants in the
disputed territory after the matter had been submitted
to the British authorities for adjustment, and remarked
that these grants "had probably been still concealed from
the knowledge of this government, had not the grantees
or persons employed by them travelled thro all parts of
this, and in the neighboring province of New Jersey,
publicly offering the lands to sale, at such low rates as
evince the claimants had no intention of becoming set-
tlers, either from inability, or conscious they could derive
no title to the lands under the grants of New Hamp-

He argued that transportation would be easier to
Albany than to New Hampshire and that Albany
afforded superior markets. An item of information is
found in the letter to the effect that *'the revenue to the
Grown, if the lands are settled under this province, will
be greater than if granted under New Hampshire, in



proportion to the difference of quit rent which I am in-
formed is 1 s sterlg. p 100 acres in that province and is
by His Majesty's instructions fixed here at 2/6 sterg."
This may have been an effective argument with the
Lords of Trade, but it ought not to have occasioned sur-
prise that lands patented by New Hampshire were more
salable than those which carried the burden of the New
York schedule of quit rents.

This letter was followed by another from Governor
Golden to the British Board of Trade, bearing date of
February 8, 1764. In the last mentioned communica-
tion allusion is made again to Governor Wentworth's
numerous land grants, and attention is called to what
evidently is intended to be the shocking information that
"a man in appearance no better than a pedlar has lately
travelled through New Jersey and this province, hawk-
ing and selling his pretended rights of 30 townships, on
trifling considerations. The whole proceedings of the
government of New Hampshire, in this case, if what is
told me be true, are shameful and a discredit to the
King's authority, under which they act."

Mention was made of the large number of reduced
officers and disbanded soldiers who were applying for
land grants, and attention was called again to the differ-
ence between the New Hampshire and New York rates
of quit rents, the Governor saying that "this difference
on a moderate computation may amount to one thousand
pounds sterling." To clinch the argument, he added:
"So that it is likewise much for the benefit of His
Majesty's revenue of quit rents that this dispute be
speedily put an end to."


Governor Wentworth issued a proclamation on March
13, 1764, in the nature of an answer to Governor
Colden's proclamation, which he considered "of a very
extraordinary nature"; and he proceeded to call atten-
tion to some important omissions relative to the bound-
aries of New York and Massachusetts. He observed
rather pertinently that "New York pretends to claim
even to the banks of the Connecticut River although she
never laid out and settled one town in that part of His
Majesty's lands since she existed as a government."
Governor Wentworth called attention to the fact that
from the grants he had made "a considerable revenue
is daily arising to the Crown."

Recognizing the fact that Colden's proclamation pos-
sibly might affect and retard settlement under the New
Hampshire charters, Wentworth assured the grantees
that the patent to the Duke of York was obsolete, citing
the boundaries of the Jerseys and Connecticut as illus-
trations, which provinces were included, at least in part,
in the grant to the King's brother. The northern
boundaries of New York were said to be unknown, but
the proclamation declared that as soon as they were
known "New Hampshire will pay a ready and cheerful
obedience thereunto, not doubting but that all grants
made by New Hampshire that are fulfilled by the
grantees will be confirmed to them if it should be His
Majesty's pleasure to alter the jurisdiction." Possibly
Governor Wentworth had reason to suspect that the
boundary dispute might not be decided in his favor. If
he harbored such a suspicion he was not deterred from
closing his letter in vigorous fashion, saying : "To the


end, therefore, that the grantees now settled and settling
on those lands under His Late and present Majesty's
charters may not be intimidated, or any way hindered
or obstructed in the improvement of the land so granted,
as well as to ascertain the right & maintain the jurisdic-
tion of His Majesty's government of New Hampshire as
far westward as to include the grants made, I have
thought fit, by and with the advice of His Majesty's
Council, to issue this proclamation hereby encouraging
the several grantees claiming under this government,
to be industrious in clearing and cultivating their lands
agreeable to their respective grants." He required all
civil officers to be diligent in the exercise of their re-
spective offices "as far westward as grants of land have
been made by this government, and to deal with any per-
sons, that may presume to interrupt the inhabitants or
settlers on said lands as to law and justice doth apper-
tain. The pretended right of jurisdiction in the afore-
said proclamation (that of Governor Golden) notwith-

Golden wrote the Board of Trade again, on April 12,
1764, citing Wentworth's proclamation as an illustration
of the necessity "of coming to some speedy resolution"
in the matter of the disputed boundary. He had not
long to wait, for on July 20, 1764, there was issued an
order of the King in Gouncil, those participating being
the King, the Lord Steward, the Earl of Sandwich, the
Earl of Halifax, the Earl of Powis, the Earl of Har-
court, the Earl of Hillsborough, the Vice Ghamberlain,
Gilbert Elliot, Esq., establishing the Connecticut River
as the boundary between New York and New Hamp-


shire. The text of the order is as follows: "Whereas
there was this day read at the Board, a report made by
the Right Honorable the Lords of the Committee of
Council for Plantation Afifairs, dated the 17th of this
instant, upon considering a representation from the
Lords Commissioners for Trade and Plantations, rela-
tive to the disputes that have some years subsisted be-
tween the provinces of New Hampshire and New York
concerning the boundary line between those provinces,
His Majesty taking the same into consideration was
pleased with the advice of his Privy Council to approve
of what is therein proposed, and doth accordingly here-
by order and declare the western banks of the river Con-
necticut, from where it enters the province of Massa-
chusetts Bay, as far north as the forty-fifth degree of
northern latitude, to be the boundary line between the
said two provinces of New Hampshire and New York.
Whereof the respective governors and commanders-in-
chief of His Majesty's said provinces of New Hamp-
shire and New York for the time being and all others
whom it may concern are to take notice of His Majesty's
pleasure hereby signified and govern themselves accord-

It had been an opportune time for Governor Colden
to press the claims of New York, with a British ministry
in power determined to tax the colonies, and displeased
with the growing spirit of freedom existing in New

A meeting of the Governor and Council of New York
was held on May 22, 1765, and the following order was
issued : ''The Council taking into consideration the case


of those persons who are actually settled under the
grants of the government of New Hampshire, on lands
westward of Connecticut River, and eastward of Hud-
son's River, which, by His Majesty's order in Council
of the twentieth day of July last are declared to be with-
in the jurisdiction of this province; and that the dis-
possessing of such persons might be ruinous to them-
selves and their families, is of opinion, and it is accord-
ingly ordered by His Honor the Lieutenant Governor,
with the advice of the Council, that the Surveyor Gen-
eral do not, until further order make return on any war-
rant of survey, already, or which may hereafter come to
his hands, of any lands so actually possessed under such
grants, unless for the persons in actual possession there-
of, as aforesaid; and that a copy hereof be served on
said Surveyor General."

This order appears to have been an act of wisdom
and justice, based upon a desire to deal fairly with those
who had settled in good faith upon lands granted by the
Governor of New Hampshire; but the records show that
on the day before this benevolent order was issued, on
May 21, 1765, Governor Colden made his first grant of
lands within the present limits of Vermont, and this
grant included a large number of farms already settled
under the Wentworth grants. This tract was patented
as Princetown, contained twenty-six thousand acres, and
included a comparatively narrow strip of the best lands
in the Battenkill valley in Arlington, Sunderland and

According to R. C. Benton, who, in his book "Ver-
mont Settlers and New York Land Speculators," has


made a very thorough and comprehensive study of this
period of Vermont history, the tract known as Prince-
town covered most of the settlements in ArUngton, all
those in Manchester, and probably some in Sunderland.
Approximately fifty farms, and the land on which
Remember Baker was building a sawmill and a grist-
mill, were taken summarily from the actual settlers, so
far as the grant of the Governor of New York could
take them. A few days after the grant was made the
nominal holders conveyed their rights to Attorney Gen-
eral John Taber Kempe, James Duane, a prominent
lawyer, and Walter Rutherford, men largely interested
in land speculation.

Improved lands in Bennington were sold on May 30
to a man named Slaughter, and the ejectment suit which
he brought figured prominently in the land controversy
a few years later. During the same year about ten
thousand acres of land in Bennington and Pownal were
sold to Crean Brush, a New York lawyer and land specu-
lator, who was prominent in early Vermont affairs prior
to the American Revolution. Before November 1, 1765,
it is said that Governor Golden had issued patents for
nearly all the improved lands in Bennington county, not-
withstanding the fair sounding order of the Council
adopted earlier the same year.

While the settlers on the New Hampshire Grants,
with few exceptions, were thoroughly in sympathy with
New England ideas and ideals, and not at all in sym-
pathy with the more aristocratic customs and policies
of New York, nevertheless, it is probable that the people
of this region would have accepted the governmental


authority of New York without serious objection if the
titles to the farms they had cleared and cultivated had
been recognized as valid.

If Gov. Benning Wentworth never had the right to
grant lands west of the Connecticut River, then, as he
said in an early letter to Governor Clinton, such grants
would be void, and however great the hardship might
be to the settlers, they had no legal rights, being only
squatters. If, on the other hand, Governor Went-
worth's grants were legal and the decision of the King
in Council was in the nature of an annexation of terri-
tory, a matter of policy, permissible because New Hamp-
shire was a royal colony, and the King might do as he
pleased with his own, then the attempts to dispossess
the settlers on the Wentworth grants clearly were illegal
and a gross abuse of the fundamental rights of a free

Lord Hillsborough, who was a member of the King's
Council which made the order establishing the Connecti-
cut River as the boundary between New York and New
Hampshire, and later was Secretary for the Colonies,
in writing to Governor Moore of New York, February
25, 1768, refers to an order "forbidding any grants to
be made of the lands annexed to New York by His
Majesty's determination between that colony and New
Hampshire." In a letter to Governor Colden, dated
December 9, 1769, Lord Hillsborough used almost
identical language, alluding to "the lands annexed to
New York by His Majesty's determination of the
boundary line between that colony and New Hamp-
shire." He wrote Governor Tryon of New York on

Online LibraryWalter Hill CrockettVermont, the Green mountain state (Volume 1) → online text (page 18 of 34)