Imágenes de páginas

there abolished forest laws somewhat dissimilar, but equally obnoxious.

The troubles which we have enumerated, the disputes which grew out of the question, whether, as the territories purchased of Gorges had never reverted to the crown, the surveyor-general's duty did, in fact, require him to mark and protect the mast-trees within its limits, and especially the charter inhibition of grants east of the Kennebec without the king's consent, kept out settlers, held titles in suspense, and compelled most of the few occupants of the soil to earn their bread by getting and transporting lumber. As far down as 1719, no man of the Saxon race had a habitation from Georgetown to Annapolis. Fifteen years later, there were not more than nine thousand people of European origin between the Piscataqua and the St. Croix, and thence norther. ly to the dividing of the waters on the “ highlands," where royalty last contended for the soil of Maine. In truth, not a grant was made beyond the Penobscot before the year 1762 ; and Machias, though the oldest town on the French claim, was not alienated by Massachusetts before 1770, and had no corporate existence until after the close of the Revolution. In 1790, there were but three resident clergymen from the last named river to the frontier.

We have seen, that Massachusetts never owned the entire face of Maine, but on the contrary, while her jurisdiction was extended from time to time, till it embraced the whole area, her title to the property of the soil was cumbered with ancient grants, patents, and Indian deeds, to the amount of about two and a half millions of acres. Between the date of the charter of William and Mary and the peace of 1783, Massachusetts herself disposed of one and one third millions more ; so that, when she broke her Colonial bonds, nearly four millions of acres were in other hands. The creation of a land-office and the making of surveys, to bring into market her now entirely unincumbered domains, were among the first uses which she made of her newly acquired sovereignty. In debt, poor, distressed even, from the losses and sacrifices of a struggle, which she did more than any of her sister Colonies to bring on, and as much as any to carry forward to a successful issue, she looked to these domains for partial relief. Purchasers, however, came forward but slowly; and, in 1786, fifty townships between the Penob


scot and St. Croix were proposed to be sold by lottery. These townships were represented by twenty-seven hundred and twenty tickets, at £ 60 each, payable partly in specie, and partly in evidences of the public debt. The plan did not succeed as they hoped, and only four hundred and thirtyseven tickets were sold, producing hardly one fifth of the sum that had been anticipated. By the year 1795, twelve years after the peace, Massachusetts had parted with more than three and a half millions of acres, or one hundred and fifty townships ; but of this quantity, a great part was absorbed by liberal grants to quiet settlers, remunerate public services and sufferings, and endow literary institutions. The aggregate of sales and grants from 1783 to 1820, was a little more than five and a half millions of acres ; of these, one and one tenth millions had been conveyed without pecuniary consideration. The entire sum of money which found its way into the treasury, from the recognition of American independence to the creation of Maine into a State, period of thirty-five years, was but $ 924,000. From that time to January of the present year, she received the additional amount of $ 972,000, or $ 1,896,000 in the whole. * At the separation, the quantity of land which remained ungranted and unsold, and which, by the terms of that event, was to be divided between the two States, appears, from the best data we can obtain, to have been full fourteen millions of acres.

To discuss the policy which has been pursued by Maine and Massachusetts, since the period at which we have now arrived, would require a space which we cannot now afford.I

* The statement for the first period is derived from statistics collected by the late Moses Greenleaf, Esq., and does not include interest on the notes given by purchasers who bought lands on credit. The amount of receipts from 1820 to 1844, we obtain from official sources.

f A Report of a Committee of the Legislature, in 1814, estimates a million more then. From 1814 to 1820, the aggregate of sales was not two hundred thousand acres, and the allowance of eight hundred thousand is sufficiently liberal.

# Since this was written, Mr. Coffin has kindly furnished us with the following synopsis of the operations of the Land Office of that State from 1820 to the close of 1843. Number of acres of land sold since the separation of Maine from Massachusetts,

1,562,860 Number of acres granted to colleges, academies, and individ uals,

510,546 Total number of acres alienated,


The subject might well form an article of itself. But before we proceed, we must record our dissent from the charge sometimes made, that the course of Massachusetts towards Maine, in the management of the lands, has been illiberal. Official documents disprove the imputation. Of the one and one tenth millions of acres given away, the colleges, academies, bridges, and sufferers of Maine received two thousand acres more than the half. In “ An appeal to the people of Maine on the question of separation,” a tract of some pretensions in its day, the selling of lands to “speculators, which, as the writer truly alleges, had been the practice, is reprobated ; and a

" liberal and enlightened ” plan of procedure, which had “in vain been urged” upon the Commonwealth as then constituted, is shadowed forth. To this, we mourn while we reply, that the “speculators” in these our times, unlike those bred up in the past, left their accustomed walks in life and trusted their fortunes, and sometimes

Amount received for lands sold,

timber sold,
commutation of duties,

$ 965,853 18 103,671 48 11,213 98

$ 1,080,738 64 Amount paid for surveys, explorations, &c., 38,871 58

roads, clearing streams, &c., 51,359 25
current expenses of Land office, 28,977 85


$ 119,208 68 Deduct amount paid from treasury for warrants,

10,683 60

108,525 08

[ocr errors]


Balance, net, paid into the Treasury,

$ 972,213 56 Mr. Coffin gives a statement, also, of the average prices received for lands, from which it appears, that the average from January, 1785, to February, 1820, was 20 cents per acre; from 1820 to 1826, 14 cents; from 1827 to 1829, 443 cents; and, for the subsequent years, as follows ;

1831, •30 cents. 1836, $ 2.098. 1840, $ 1.525.
1832, .277
1837, 0.74.


1838, 2.21.

1842, 1.629. 1834,

1839, 2:21.

1843, 1:32, 1835, $ 2.12. of the variations in price, he remarks, that they are owing to “the fact of there being, in some years, a larger quantity of valuable lands sold, and other years of inferior quality. Further, that from “the excessive de. mand for lands in 1835 and 1836, and during the sales down to 1840,” the price “ was augmented beyond their intrinsic value ;” and that, since that period,“ the sales have approached their true worth.

•58 .793 6

their morals, on the throw for a township. And besides, speculations, though usually retarding settlements, are less pernicious at some periods than at others. Lands deemed unfit for culture, as were those of Maine, may be in the hands of any body with little harm, until the prevalent opinion of their value changes. Usher, whom Massachusetts employed to bargain with Gorges for a province, was a great land dealer on his own account; but he and all of his generation coveted pine trees, not the ground on which they grew. Coram — who, after his return to England, founded the Foundling Hospital of London - and his associates did, indeed, look to tillage ; but their mad scheme was for a vast joint stock company, to raise enough of flax and hemp for all the royal navy.

Waldo exclaimed, “ Here is my bound,” and dropped dead on the site of a city.* The leaden plate that Pownall placed there to mark the spot, was buried in soil which men abandoned in search of farms on the Miami, years after the opening of the present century. Gardiner, a loyalist of our Revolution, whose hundred thousand acres on the Kennebec were confiscated and sold, but restored to his heirs, hardly knew, that men would ever buy and sell these acres for wheat fields and orchards. And when Bingham bought " the two millions," although men began to learn that they could live by the plough within the bounds of Gorges's patent, few would attempt cultivation east of it; and probably none foresaw, that the valley of the St. Croix was destined to produce the finest potatoes and other vegetable roots in the whole Union.

Narrow views existed elsewhere. When Macomb acquired more than three millions of acres in New York, for a price scarcely equal to seven cents the acre, his clamorous and disappointed opponents failed in the attempt to press through the legislature a resolution condemnatory of the sale. And why? These lands were scarcely thought of for husbandry, and Clinton's plan of bringing the waters of Lake Erie to the Hudson was ridiculed and scouted full twenty years afterwards. Nor is this all. Monarchies favor great landed estates ; the nearer we go back, therefore, to the era of colonial submission, the less should we wonder at the prevalence of large patent rights, or the desire for them. The greatest names in our history belong to men who sought to own or control large tracts of country ; and Franklin tasked his powers to the utmost to answer the minister who opposed a large grant on the Ohio.* Mason, Lee, and Mercer were men dear to Virginia, and Washington is dear to the world ; and they all stand in our annals connected, more or less, with immense land projects. We are to judge the great operations in land of the past by what existed in the past, rather than by the changed wants, circumstances, and opinions of the present times.

* Within or opposite Bangor, then the hunting grounds of savages. The 66 Waldo Patent perpetuates his name. He used the exact words quoted in the text, supposing that he stood on a limit of his grant. Governor Pownall and a considerable party of armed men were with him.

Although all the New England colonies derived wealth from their forests, none of them, we think, pursued the trade in lumber for the same ends, or with the same results, as Maine. In the one case, to cut off the trees was to open lands to husbandry ;. but in the other, the “ hewers of wood ” continued in the same hopeless bondage to axes and saws, generation after generation, and almost from century to century. The fathers of Plymouth shipped off clapboards within three years of their coming. . The first notorious pilferer in "the Massachusetts a lumber thief, and though he was not exactly hanged, he was doomed to give up all his estate to those whom he had plundered, to be whipped, to be bound to service for three years, and to be at the disposal of the court at the expiration of his bondage. Almost the first conflagration at Plymouth that we read of, was that of a house “made all of clap-boards.” This branch of industry advanced so rapidly, that a trade was opened between the northern Colonies and the West Indies as early as 1641 ; and in a tract called “ New England's First Fruits,” published in London two years afterwards," clapboards, hoops, pipe-staves, and masts are enumerated among the staple commodities which fetch money from other parts. But the forests in some parts of the country soon gave out ; and so much alarm was felt, and Plymouth Colony became so “ straitened for building-timber," that within half a century after the landing, certain kinds of lumber were not al


* Mr. Sparks thinks, that Franklin's reply to Lord Hillsborough " is one of the ablest efforts of his pen.” Franklin's Works, Vol. IV. p. 233.

« AnteriorContinuar »