« AnteriorContinuar »
Under deeds from the same unquestionable proprietors, Francis Small acquired lands between the Great and Little Ossipee, and Small and Nicholas Shapleigh a part of Shapleigh. The most celebrated of all, however, is the “ Pegypscot purchase,” on the Androscoggin, the limits of which were as indefinite as they well could be ; from their vagueness grew contests which endured many years. On the Kennebec, and along the sea-coast to Damariscotta, are still other lands which depend on Indian title, but each tract is small, and the aggregate is inconsiderable.
Of the French grants, which were many and extensive, covering much of the country between the Penobscot and the St. Croix, only one has been recognized, and that was considered valid more as a matter of favor than of right. It was confirmed by an act of Massachusetts, releasing about sixty thousand acres to the descendant of De la Motte Cadillac ; being all that remained unsold of a patent of Louis the Fourteenth, in 1691, to the ancestor of the claimant.t Within this last foothold of France, this relic of the proud Cadillac's seigniory, is the grave of Father du Thut, herald of the pious Madame de Guercheville in spreading the Catholic faith, and the first victim of the long and bloody strife between France and England for the mastery of the Western hemisphere. Here, too, Winthrop and his associates first gazed upon the shores which they came to people ; and the “ Mount Marsel,” which showed America to them, is yet a land-mark of voyagers to and from the home of their fathers.
On acquiring Maine, as it was in 1677, the date of Gorges's quitclaim, Massachusetts gave its inhabitants privileges which hardly differed from those possessed by its own people ; and not the least important of these, in their estimation, was that which exempted from rents and exactions of all sorts, save assessments for defence, all the lands which they had obtained of Gorges, of Massachusetts herself, and of their respective agents, and also, all the streams and mill
* The towns of Brunswick, Topsham, and Harpswell are within the lines which Hutchinson and others claimed (under the original grantee), in 1715, when they petitioned to have their title confirmed and these townships cre. ated. They purchased the year before, of an insolvent estate, for £ 100.
| Embraced in these 60,000 acres, are the whole of Trenton, a part of Sul. livan, Ellsworth, Hancock, Eden, and Mount Desert, and the islands in front of them out to the main sea.
sites that might be granted thereafter. The fears of the lumberers, at the time of which we are speaking, lest, in changing their political connexion, they should lose a part of their prescriptive or legal rights to the forest, may seen, as well from this stipulation, as from the fact, that on the union of New Hampshire with the mother of New England, some forty years before, it was made a condition, that their former and accustomed liberty of selling timber should not be restricted.
This meagre outline of the controversies consequent upon carelessly drawn grants and deeds must suffice. But we cannot leave this part of our subject without commending the indomitable spirit evinced by Massachusetts in her struggles to root Gorges and the Cavaliers of his planting out of Maine, and to put in their place the humbler but purer Roundheads of her own kindred. Had she faltered, when dukes and lords signed parchments that conveyed away her soil ; had she not sought to push her sovereignty over men and territories not originally her own; had she not broken down French seigniories and English feoffdoms,-Maine, east of Gorges's eastern boundary, might have continued a part of the British empire to this hour. This opinion is given considerately, and not to round out a period. And whoever will consult the diplomacy of 1783, will learn that, even as it was, the British Commissioners contended for that boundary to divide the thirteen States from the Colonies which had remained true to the crown.
Soon after the purchase of Maine, Massachusetts lost her own charter ; and it was not among the least of the causes of Charles's anger against her, that she had bargained with Gorges's heir, and thwarted his •design of procuring Maine for his natural son, the Duke of Monmouth. It throws light upon the feelings and transactions of the times, to mention here, that among the measures devised to keep back the threatened quo warranto, it was proposed to send the monarch two large masts aboard Capt. Peirce, thirty-four yards long, and the one thirty-six, and the other thirty-seven, inches diameter."
The new charter, procured of William and Mary, confirmed Massachusetts in her acquisitions east of the Piscataqua; but it contained several restrictions which bore hard upon the interests under consideration. The most prominent we shall briefly notice. And first, that instrument provided, that all pine trees, of the diameter of twenty-four inches at more than a foot from the ground, on lands not granted to private persons, should be reserved for masts for the royal navy; and that, for cutting down any such tree without special leave, the offender should forfeit one hundred pounds sterling. This stipulation was the source of ceaseless disquiet, and it introduced, to guard the forests from depredation, an officer called the · Surveyor General of the King's woods.” Between this functionary, who enjoyed a high salary, considerable perquisites,
and great power, and the lumberers, there was no love. The officials of the day, who were now of royal appointment, and not, as under the old charter, elected by the people, generally ranged themselves on the side of the surveyors ; while the House, as commonly, opposed their doings, and countenanced the popular clamors against them. The first surveyor-general was John Bridges, or Bridger, who came with Lord Bellamont, in 1698; his jurisdiction embraced the King's woods in all New England. David Dunbar, a reduced colonel in the army, a man poor, proud, deeply in debt, and as rapacious as the fabled harpy, succeeded him in 1729. Dunbar was a scoundrel, and laid the foundation wickedly, as we believe — of land quarrels in Maine, which lasted sixty years, and were hushed then only by legislative interference. He sold out his surveyorship to Governor Benning Wentworth, of New Hampshire, in 1743, for £ 2000. Wentworth had been a large dealer in lumber, and was now ruined, from a timber contract with an agent of the government of Spain. His nephew, Governor John Wentworth, was appointed to his place and emoluments in 1767, and, with the pomp and show of the dignitaries of by-gone days, traversed the country, from South Carolina — where he landed on coming from England — to his own home in New Hampshire, recording his commission in every Colony through which he passed.
We hear little of the course of conduct pursued by the Wentworths, though it is said, that Benning neglected his duty, and suffered his deputies to be remiss in theirs, and to “ waste the King's timber.” But it stands charged upon Bridges, that he connived at trespasses, and took hushmoney. Against Dunbar, it is alleged that, attended with
armed men, he turned lumberers from their homes, seized their timber, burned their buildings, and threatened them with imprisonment. His ways and airs provoked the rough men whom he watched and thwarted quite as much as the losses which he caused them ; and he seldom went to a saw-mill to place the “ King's mark” upon boards suspected or known to be made of interdicted trees, without quarrelling with the mill-men. Sometimes, threats of extreme violence passed on both sides ; and, in the forest, the “loggers” gave him
swamp-law often as they dared, or as his officious zeal aggravated them beyond endurance. “Kill me ; " said Paul Gerrish, “ but mark or touch that pile, and you die yourself, here, and instantly!” The craven Dunbar sneaked away. On another occasion, some lumberers, in the garb of Indians, stove the hull and cut and destroyed the sails and cordage of his boat, and beat his men most cruelly. Excitement ran high ; the Council was summoned, and a proclamation issued; but the offenders so kept their secret, or had so many friends, that they were never discovered. We finish with Dunbar, by saying, that, in the early part of his career, the Governor of Massachusetts was solicited to remove him, though the act should require a military force.
As already remarked, the controversies introduced by the provision in the charter, intended to preserve spars for the royal navy, were not confined to the woods or the mills, but were carried to the halls of legislation, and even to the Board of Trade in England. There seemed, indeed, in the judgment of the Colonial governors, no way for them to please their royal master more, than by discoursing to the House of Representatives about the care they should exercise over masttrees,” and about the severity with which the statute-book should provide against trespassers ; while the House, on the other hand, appeared to be best satisfied whenever they could manage to postpone, or get rid altogether of such unwelcome subjects. Prerogative and the popular sentiment never agreed. Discussions about forests again and again ended in wrangles. Friendships were broken up, and enmities created for life. This is emphatically true of Shute's administration, when Cooke, the Counsellor of Sagadahock, and the champion of the “ fierce democracy,” — as his father had been before him, — involved the whole government of the Colony in disputes, which, in the end, drove the Governor home to England. And so, subsequently, a forged letter, probably written by trespassers or their friends, and transmitted to Sir Charles Wager, first lord of the Admiralty, charging Governor Belcher with conniving with trespassers, though seemingly aiding that “ Irish dog of a Dunbar," did its intended work. Shirley, his successor, when he pressed upon the House the necessity of further enactments to protect the masts and spars for the royal navy, and to punish those who obstructed or annoyed the royal agents, was tartly told, in substance, by that body : “Our laws are sufficient ; we have done our duty ; let the crown officers do theirs.” Hutchinson, for a like call upon the House, was in like manner reminded, in terms hardly more civil, that there were already charter and statute penalties for trespassers, a surveyor-general and deputies, and courts of law; and that, provided with these, he must look to the pines “twentyfour inches in diameter, upwards of twelve inches from the ground,” for himself. The means for dealing with offenders, it must be confessed, were ample ; the crown could try them in the Court of Admiralty, where there was no jury ; upon conviction for a common trespass, a fine of £ 100 could be imposed ; and for the additional misdeed of plundering the interdicted trees under a painted or disguised face, twenty lashes could be laid on the culprit’s back ; while, more than all, convictions could be had upon probable guilt, unless the accused would, on oath, declare his innocence.
But there was no such thing as enforcing laws, when it was the popular impression, that the woods were “the gifts as well as the growth of nature”; and that the king's claim to them was merely " nominal at the most. The provision in the charter was unwise. To reserve to the crown a thousand times as many trees as it could ever require, and to allow all to decay that were not actually used, was absurd. A stipulation, that the wilderness should be under the care of the Colonial government, and that the government should furnish annually all the masts needed by the royal navy, would have been far better. But the charter, nevertheless, ought to have been respected, while the servants of the king maintained Colonial rights inviolate. As it was, we can easily imagine that the woodman, when rid, by the Revolution, of the presence of surveyor-generals and their deputies, exulted as heartily as did the peasant of France, when the outbreak