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thrown in such evident distress, confusion and danger-
ous disorder as would touch your royal breast with com-
passion could our inexpressible misery be truly repre-

The British Board of Trade reported to the Privy
Council on July 5, 1770, their belief that the actual set-
tlers under grants from New Hampshire "ought to be
left in entire possession of such lands as they have
actually cultivated and improved." In regard to lands
proposed to be granted to claimants under New Hamp-
shire titles, but unsettled and unimproved, it was recom-
mended that action in these cases be suspended until the
country had been surveyed. The closing paragraph of
this recommendation shows that the abuse of power by
Colonial Governors was not unknown to the King's min-
isters. It was as follows: "We are of opinion that
the instructions to be given to the Governor of New
York in the latter case cannot be too explicit and pre-
cise in order to guard against those irregularities and
abuses which we are concerned to say have but too much
prevailed in the exercise of the powers given to His
Majesty's (Governors) in America, for the granting of
lands, to the great prejudice of His Majesty's interest,
to the discouragement of industry and in many instances
to the apprehension of the subject by the exaction of
exorbitant and unreasonable fees."


William Tryon, having become Governor of New
York in the summer of 1771, issued a proclamation
on the eleventh day of the following December, reiterat-
ing the right of that province to the region known as
the New Hampshire Grants, and setting forth the
familiar arguments based on the ancient grant to the
Duke of York.

A meeting of delegates from Bennington and adjacent
towns was held at Manchester on October 21, 1772, at
which time Jehiel Hawley of Arlington and James
Breakenridge of Bennington were appointed agents to
go to Lyondon and present to the King a petition for the
confirmation of their claims under the grants of New

The British Board of Trade made a somewhat
elaborate report to the Lords of the Privy Council on
December 3, 1772, in the nature of a plan to settle the
ditticuities in the New Hampshire Grants, 'ihe report
took up the proposition to re-annex to New Hampshire
the lands west of the Connecticut River, declared a part
of New York by the order of the King in Council, July
20, 1764, and while that policy was not approved, the
report, it was said, "contains a variety of matter well
deserving your lordships' attention, and we think that
there is too good reason to believe that many of the
proprietors of lands in the townships granted by the
Governor of New Hampshire who have bona fide made
actual settlement and improvement thereon, have sus-
tained great injury and suffered great oppression by the
irregular conduct of the Governor and Council of New


York in granting warrants of survey for lands under
such actual settlement and improvement."

The proposition is made in this report that each per-
son claiming possession of lands under New York Grants
within the limits of towaiships established by Massa-
chusetts, should receive a grant of an equal number of
acres in some other part of the district between the
Hudson and Connecticut Rivers. To officers and sol-
diers who had received grants from New York in the
district, it was proposed that an equivalent should be
granted in some other part of the district if the lands
had been actually settled and improved under some pre-
vious grant. Another proposal was to the effect that in
every township, whether granted by New Hampshire
or New York, a tract not exceeding five hundred acres
in area be reserved as a glebe for a Protestant minister,
and that a tract not exceeding two hundred and fifty
acres in area be reserved for a schoolmaster. It was
further recommended that of the residue of lands un-
granted, or without actual settlement or improvement,
conditions should be imposed requiring that each
grantee, over and above the usual quit rent of two-
sixths sterling per hundred acres, should pay a further
consideration of five pounds sterling for every hundred
acres. The report alluded to the difficulty of settling
these lands if the grants were ''to pass through all the
forms now adopted in New York upon grants of lands
and are to be subject to the payment of the fees at pres-
ent taken by the Governor and other officers of that


The action of the New York officials was condemned
in the following vigorous terms :

"We have upon former occasions found it necessary
to take notice of the complaints which have been made
of the injustice and extortion of the servants of the
Crown in New York in this respect, and we have at all
times considered the liberty they have assumed to them-
selves of taking greater and other fees upon grants of
land, than what were established by the ordinance of the
Governor and Council of the year 1710, as most unwar-
rantable and unjust. By that ordinance the fees
allowed to be taken upon grants of land by the Gov-
ernor, the secretary and the surveyor are considerably
larger than what are at this day received for the same
service in any other of the colonies, nor are fees allowed
as we conceive to any other officers than those we have
mentioned. Of later times, however, the Governor, the
secretary and the surveyor have taken and do now
exact considerably more than double what that ordinance
allows, and a number of other officers do upon various
pretences take fees upon all grants of land, insomuch
that the whole amount of these fees upon a grant of one
thousand acres of land is in many instances not far
short of the real value of the fee simple, and we think we
are justified in supposing that it has been from a con-
sideration of the advantage arising from these exorbi-
tant fees that His Majesty's Governors of New York
have of late years taken upon themselves upon the most
unwarranted pretences to elude the restrictions contained
in His Majesty's instructions with regard to the quan-
tity of land to be granted to any one person, and to con-


trive by the insertion in one grant of a number of names,
either fictitious or which, if real, are only lent for the
purpose to convey to one person in one grant from
twenty to forty thousand acres of land, an abuse which
is now grown to that height as well to deserve your lord-
ships' attention."

The advice is offered that "most positive instructions"
be given the Governor of New York that upon any re-
grant of lands no fee shall be taken by the Attorney
General, Receiver General or Auditors.

Lord Dartmouth reported to Governor Tryon on
April 10, 1773, the recommendations of the Board of
Trade, offered by the King. It was also directed that
''some short and effectual mode be established, by act of
legislature or otherwise, for ascertaining by the inquest
of a jury, the state of possession, settlement and im-
provement, upon all lands within the said district,
claimed under grants made by the governments of New
Hampshire or New York, and that all lands never
possessed, improved or granted be disposed of in such
manner as the King shall think fit."

Governor Tryon replied to Lord Dartmouth under
date of July 1, 1773, in a long communication. He ex-
pressed the belief that the recommendation of the Lords
of Trade could not be carried into eft'ect without the
action of the Legislature, and he made the rather re-
markable declaration: "I cannot flatter myself with
the slightest hope of procuring the concurrence of the
Assembly of this province in a scheme so repugnant to
the claims of persons who from their numbers and con-
nections have a very powerful influence."


He raised numerous objections to the plan of the
Board of Trade and made some propositions of his own
to the effect that all New York patents be declared valid;
that all New Hampshire patents be declared void; that
all occupants of lands under New Hampshire titles with-
in New York patents "have such liberal equivalents out
of the waste lands, and such other indulgences by a sus-
pension of quit rents as His Majesty shall think equit-
able," The settlers on the New Hampshire Grants
wanted not "indulgences," but justice, and Governor
Try on learned before many months had passed that
"liberal equivalents out of the waste lands" would not
be accepted by these pioneers for farms bought and
cleared and tilled.

It is apparent that, although British ministers repre-
senting opposing political parties were in power during
the period when the title to the New Hampshire Grants
was a matter of dispute which engaged the attention of
the King and his ministers, the settled policy of the
British authorities was to uphold the bona fide settlers
holding titles under the Wentworth grants. It was
never intended that these lands should be taken from the
actual settlers, and the Governors of New York were
forbidden repeatedly to make such grants, in terms as
forceful as the English language permitted. That they
disobeyed explicit orders of the Crown is a matter of
history. Alexander Wedderburn, Solicitor General of
Great Britain from 1771 until he was made Attorney
General in 1778, later Chief Justice of the Court of Com-
mon Pleas and Lord High Chancellor, in a letter written
December 27, 1775, to William Eden, referring to this


subject, mentions the "abuse of an order of Council
which was never meant to dispossess the settlers in the
lands in debate between ye two provinces." This dis-
obedience brought down denunciation upon the heads of
the Governors of this province, but conditions in the
Colonies were so threatening at this period that the
British authorities hesitated to make an example of offi-
cials who, on general principles, were in sympathy with
the ideas of Old England rather than those of New Eng-
land. Had the honest intent of the British Government
been carried out, however, the long and bitter contro-
versy between Vermont and New York in all probability
might have been avoided.

Chapter XI

THE settlement of the New Hampshire Grants had
not proceeded so far that much governmental
machinery was necessary when the order of the
King in Council was made known, establishing the Con-
necticut River as the eastern boundary of New York.
A mere handful of townships had organized local gov-
ernments. Settlements had been begun in several towns
but had not progressed to the point where municipal
authority could be established. Such court business as
the circumstances demanded was transacted at Ports-
mouth, N. H.

The first attempt on the part of the province of New
York to institute any form of government here was an
extension of the jurisdiction of the Sheriff of the county
of Albany to extend from Lake Champlain to the Con-
necticut River. In order to attend court, or to transact
business with the provincial authorities, it was necessary
to go to Albany or New York City.

As early as October, 1765, a petition was presented
Governor Colden, praying for the erection of five coun-
ties, as follows : First, the county of Colden, extending
from the Massachusetts border to the northern line of
Norwich, the county seat to be Colden in the town of
New Flamstead, later known as Chester; the second
county, known as Sterling, to include that portion of the
Connecticut valley on the west bank of the river north
of Norwich, and Newbury was to be the county seat;
the third county, to be called Manchester, extending
from a point twenty-six miles west of the Connecticut
River, on the Massachusetts boundary line as far as the
northwest corner of that province, and thence westward


to the northern branch of the Mohawk River, Stillwater
being the county seat; the fourth county, to be called
Kingsbury, extending north of the third county as far
as the north end of Lake George, the county seat to be
Kingsbury; the fifth county, to be called Pitt, to extend
from the northern limit of the fourth county to the forty-
fifth parallel of latitude, the county seat to be situated
on Hospital Point, on the east side" of Lake Champlain,
not far from Crown Point.

The request embodied in the foregoing petition was
denied, it being asserted that the inhabitants were as
yet "wholly unacquainted with the laws of the province
and the modes of dispensing justice therein." How-
ever, on July 3, 1766, the county of Cumberland was
erected by New York, the lines running along the Massa-
chusetts boundary from the Connecticut River to the
southeast corner of Stamford, thence north about sixty
miles to the northeast corner of Rutland; thence easterly
to the northwest corner of Linfield, now Royalton, and
following the northern lines of Sharon and Norwich to
the Connecticut River. On June 26, 1767, this act of
the New York Legislature was declared void by the
King ; but the difficulties attendant upon the administra-
tion of justice being so great, a royal order was issued
on March 19, 1767, re-establishing the county of Cum-
berland, the boundaries being practically the same as

On February 28, 1779, the New York Council erected
the county of Gloucester, which included that portion
of the present State of Vermont north of the county of
Cumberland and west of the Green Mountains, as far


north as the Canadian border, Newbury and Kingsland
being made the county seats. Although the latter place,
now known as the town of Washington, was a wilder-
ness, eight miles from any settlement, a log court house
and jail were erected there. The reasons advanced for
the erection of that county were that there were upwards
of seven hundred persons in that region, and that they
were "exposed to rapine and plunder from a lawless
banditti of felons and criminals, who fly thither from
other places."

In 1772 the county of Charlotte was erected. This
county, beginning at the Green Mountains, extended
along the north lines of the towns of Sunderland and
Arlington westward to the Hudson River, and included
both sides of Lake Champlain as far north as the Cana-
dian border. That portion of the present State of Ver-
mont, south of Charlotte county, and west of the Green
Mountains, was included in the county of Albany.

It has been pointed out already that the serious con-
troversy which arose between the settlers on the New
Hampshire Grants and New York may be traced
directly to the refusal of the provincial authorities of
New York to follow the plainly expressed desire and in-
tent of the British Government, by recognizing the
validity of New Hampshire land titles held by actual
settlers. Although these pioneers, with few exceptions,
were New Englanders through and through, and pre-
ferred democratic rather than aristocratic forms of gov-
ernment, it is hardly probable that there would have
been any revolt against the authority of New York if


the settlers had been left in peaceable possession of the
farms they had wrested from the primeval forests.

The first conflict of authority over lands in what is
now Vermont occurred in Pownal in August, 1764, prob-
ably before any knowledge had reached the settlers of
the royal order, establishing the authority of New York
in this region. A letter from Sheriff Schuyler to Gov-
ernor Golden, dated August 17, 1764, shows that he
received news on the Friday preceding that date to the
effect that "the New Hampshire people" had ejected one
Hans Greiger, holding title under the "Hoosick patent,"
a New York grant, taking possession of his lands and
tenements; that they had driven off his cattle and com-
pelled him to pay forty-five dollars for their redemption,
and that they had taken "a parcel of Indian corn." It
was intimated that Peter Voss and Bastiane Deale ex-
pected to be ejected the following day, and the claim was
made that these possessions had been held by the three
men mentioned upward of thirty years, with the excep-
tion of the periods when they were driven off by the
Indians "during the last two wars."

The New York reports of the period show that
Sheriff Schuyler took two justices of the peace and "a
few other good people of this province" and arrived on
the scene on Saturday morning. Upon his arrival he
found that Voss and Deale had not been dispossessed of
their property, but expected a call from "the New Hamp-
shire people" the following Monday. They were not
disappointed, for early on Monday morning the two
men were ejected on the ground that they were within
the province and jurisdiction of New Hampshire.


Sheriff Schuyler was notified, but did not arrive until
after the dispossession had been accomplished. Making
haste he overtook the New Hampshire party about a
mile from the homes of Voss and Deale and placed under
arrest Deputy Sheriff Samuel Ashley, and Justice of the
Peace Samuel Robinson, also John Horsfoot and Isaac
Charles, who claimed to own, respectively, the lands held
by Voss and Deale. The four prisoners were committed
to Albany jail.

The New Hampshire statement regarding this episode
may be found in a letter written by Governor Went-
worth to Governor Colden, dated September 4, 1764,
which declared that several of the inhabitants of Pownal,
at a time when the deputy sheriff was executing "a legal
precept," were set upon by the Sheriff of Albany and
more than thirty armed men on horseback, and that a
deputy and three other of the principal inhabitants were
seized, carried to Albany and committed to jail. Gov-
ernor Wentworth observed that "it would be an act of
cruelty to punish individuals for disputes between two
governments," and suggested his willingness to submit
the matter of jurisdiction to the King.

This letter was submitted to the New York Council,
and that body advised Governor Colden to acquaint the
Governor of New Hampshire with the New York ver-
sion of the affair, and that he (Colden) could do nothing
more than to recommend that the bail demanded be
moderate, and let the matter take its natural legal course.
Later the four prisoners were released on bail, having
been indicted. A deposition of James Van Cortlandt,
taken March 4, 1771, stated that they had not then been


brought to trial, and several years previous to this date
Samuel Robinson had died in London.

The first open resistance to the authority of New
York, following the annexation of the New Hampshire
Grants to that province by royal decree, occurred in
the autumn of 1769. Thirty years earlier, in 1739, a
tract of land containing twelve thousand acres, known
as the Walloomsack Patent, was granted to James
Delancey, Gerardus Stuyvesant, and others, the greater
part of which, beyond doubt, was within the present
limits of the State of New York. As was the custom
in some of the New York grants, an attempt was made
to secure only the most fertile land, instead of taking
a regular section, and this grant followed the windings
of the Walloomsac River in order to obtain the valuable
intervale lands in that valley. It was claimed by the
New York holders of the patent that it extended across
the southwest corner of Shaftsbury, and about three
miles into the northwestern part of Bennington. This
grant contained the usual provision that it should be
void if the grantees should not cultivate a certain pro-
portion of their lands within three years from the date
of granting, and there was not the necessary compliance
with this requirement.

So far as known this region never had been settled
by white men when Bennington was granted by Gov-
ernor Wentworth. James Breakenridge, under a New
Hampshire title, bought a farm in the northwestern
part of Bennington, adjoining the line Wenty mile's
from the Hudson River, claimed by New Hampshire,
prior to the King's order of 1764, as its western bound-


ary, and upon this farm extensive and valuable improve-
ments had been made. This was considered a particu-
larly good opportunity for bringing a test suit in the
New York courts. A writ of ejectment was served and
commissioners were appointed for the purpose of divid-
ing this land among the New York claimants.

On October 19, 1769, the commissioners appeared
with surveyors in the vicinity of the Breakenridge farm.
Breakenridge and his farm hands were in a field gather-
ing corn. It is probable that the visit of the New York
party was not altogether unexpected, as a party of men,
a few of whom w^ere armed with guns, were assembled
at a convenient distance. In a deposition signed by
James Breakenridge and Samuel Robinson (the latter
being a son of the founder of Bennington) February
14, 1770, they gave their version of the affair to the
effect that John Munro, a well known New York parti-
san and a Justice of the Peace, notified Breakenridge of
the approach of the New York party, and their purpose,
and warned him not to stop them by force. Breaken-
ridge therefore requested his neighbors to withdraw
from the field, and they retired some distance.

After the surveyor had crossed the twenty-mile line
Breakenridge and Robinson went to him, asked him his
authority in the proceedings and requested him not to
run the line. This question and request were referred
to the commissioners, who were John R. Bleeker, Peter
Lansing and Thomas Hun. After a conference they
went to a neighboring house where the act of the
Assembly to divide the patents, and the order of the
patentees of this particular grant were shown. Break-


enridge and Robinson replied that the commissioners
were without the limits of Albany county, and were in-
fringing- on a grant made by New Hampshire ; that they
understood that the King had forbidden the granting of
lands already granted, or interference with settlements.
Breakenridge again expressed a desire that no survey of
his property be made, saying that Robinson and himself
were appointed a committee for Bennington, were large
proprietors of lands in Shaftsbury, and as such would
forbid their running the lines, asserting that if it were
done it must be considered as on disputed lands.

According to this deposition the New York party re-
peatedly asked the Bennington men to break their chain
or compass, or tread on their chain, but this they stead-
fastly refused to do, desiring to avoid the breaking of
any law. Thereupon Breakenridge and Robinson left
the spot, returning to their homes and leaving the sur-
veyors on the field, and it was their opinion that all their
neighbors left at that time.

On December 12, 1769, Governor Golden of New
York issued a proclamation in which he asserted that the
surveying party on the Breakenridge farm was "inter-
rupted and opposed by a number of armed men, tumultu-
ously and riotously assembled, for the declared purpose
of preventing said partition, who, by open force, com-
pelled the commissioners' surveyor to desist from said
survey, and by insults and menaces so intimidated the
said commissioners that, apprehensive for the safety of
their persons, they found it necessary to relinquish any
further attempts to perform the trust so reposed in
them." It was further claimed that the principal


"authors of and actors in said riot" were James Breaken-
ridge, Jedediah Dewey (pastor of the Bennington
church), Samuel Robinson, Nathaniel Horner, Henry
Walbridge and Moses Robinson, and the Sheriff of
Albany county was ordered to arrest them and commit
them to jail. These men were indicted, but never were
arrested or tried for the alleged rioting.

As a sequel to the afifair at the Breakenridge farm, an
attempt was made by Sheriff Ten Eyck of Albany and
a posse to take possession of the house and lands of
James Breakenridge in Bennington. Having sum-
moned a posse comitatus by means of a general sum-
mons to the citizens of Albany, the party left that city
on the morning of July 18, 1771. The size of this posse
is variously estimated. Some of the affidavits of the
New York men who participated place it as low as one
hundred and fifty men. Ira Allen placed it as high as
seven hundred and fifty; Hiland Hall placed the number
at about three hundred. In this party were the Mayor
of Albany, several Aldermen and four eminent lawyers,
Mr. Silvester, Mr. Bleeker, Robert Yates and Chris-

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