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Among the earliest resolutions adopted by the settlers, was one which has been, I think unjustly, censured as severe.
Any person selling liquor to an Indian was to forfeit his goods, and be expelled the colony. In justification of this seemingly harsh enactment, it may be observed :—That the massacre of 1763 had been ascribed to the Indians being intoxicated; and fears existed that under, to the Indians, the phrenzying influence of rum, another massacre might be attempted; or what was more immediately probable, that individual murders would be committed-retaliation fol. low, and the settlement be brought into hostile collision with the Six Nations, whose subjects the scattered Indians in the valley were. Penalties too severe, if effectual, could not be imposed, to avert so fatal a mischief.
Rights-shares—and half shares, being frequently mentioned in the ancient proceedings of the Susquehanna and Delaware purchases, or companies, it seems proper that they should be explained more fully. Those purchases of a degree of latitude, and two in longitude would give nearly five millions of acres.—The shares issued by the Susquehanna Company, increased from eight hundred and fifty, to twelve hundred and forty, several, perhaps an hundred. being granted for services rendered. A considerable number of half shares were given out, as many poor persons wished an interest in the purchase, whom, of course it was politic to oblige, and who did not feel able to buy a whole right. As dictated by prudence, only two thousand acres were allowed to be surveyed on a whole share, and one thousand on a half share, the balance being deferred until all the shares should have a chance of location.
Prices of whole shares varied from fifty to one hundred dollars. In a deed from Palmer Avery, dated March 7, 1767, the consideration is set down as thirty pounds. Another deed of subsequent date contains a consideration of twenty pounds. The last sales by the company, previous to the Trenton decree, were at fifteen pounds ten shillings. Like other stocks, the price varied with the varying prospects of the company.
Townships of six miles square, generally, were surveyed in the Delaware purchase, extending from the Delaware to within ten miles of the Susquehanna. The Susquehanna purchase was laid out, generally, in townships of five miles square.
To preserve order, and prevent interfering claims, a wise system was early adopted, and rigidly enforced. A land office was established-rights, full, or half shares, being produced to the amount
of sixteen thousand acres, a survey by an appointed officer was made of the township, a patent, or grant issued and recorded, the shares being received and cancelled. For several years John Jenkins was surveyor general; and Joseph Biles his deputy ran more lines than any other surveyor in the purchase.
As the colony could not well subsist, with its greatly increasing population, and diversified interests, without a code of laws to govern them, and it did not yet accord with the cautious policy of Connecticut to avouch their proceedings, and extend her jurisdiction beyond the Delaware: a meeting of the Susquehanna Company, held at Hartford, June 2, 1773, adopted for the government of the settlement the following articles, in every aspect important: honourable to the pen that drew, and the people who accepted them.
“1. Whereas, we the subscribers inhabitants of Connecticut in New England, in America, already settled, and about to settle on certain lands on the river Susquehanna in said Connecticut, by us and our associates sometime since purchased of the original natives, by, and with the consent of the said Colony of Connecticut.
And whereas, the same lands are claimed to be within the jurisdiction of the Province of Pennsylvania; and the Colony of Connecticut choosing to proceed with caution and deliberation, have applied to counsel learned in the law, in Great Britain, for their advice, which at present the colony have not received, by reason whereof we have as yet no established civil authority residing among us in said settlement, in consequence of which deficiency, disorders may arise tending to disturb the peace and happiness of the settlers, as well as the peace of our Sovereign Lord—the king, which to remedy, we have this day come into the following heads, or articles of agreement, with each other.
1st. We do solemnly profess and declare true and sincere allegiance to his Majesty, King George the Third, and that no foreign prince, person, prelate, state or potentate, hath, or ought to have any jurisdiction, power, or authority, ecclesiastical or spiritual, within the realm of England.
2d. We do solemnly promise and engage, that we will, so far as lieth in our power, behave ourselves peaceably, soberly and orderly towards each other, in particular, and the world in general, carefully observing and obeying the laws of this colony, as binding and of force with us equally in all respects, as though we actually resided within any of the counties of this colony.
3d. For the due enforcing such laws, as well as such other orders and regulations as shall, from time to time, be found necessary to be come into by said settlers and Company, we will immediately within each town, already settled, and immediately after the settlement of those that may be hereafter settled, choose three able and judicious men among such settlers, to take upon them, under the general direction of the Company, the direction of the settlement of each such town, and the well ordering and governing the same, to suppress vice of every kind, preserve the peace of God and the King therein, to whom each inhabitant shall pay such, and the same submission as is paid to the civil authority in the several towns in this colony; such inhabitants shall also choose, in each of their respective towns, one person of trust to be their officer, who shall be vested with the same power and authority, as a constable, by the laws of this colony is, for preserving the peace and apprehending offenders of a criminal or civil nature.
4th. The Directors in each town shall, on the first Monday of each month, and oftener, if need be, with such their peace officers, meet together, as well to consult for the good regulating thereof, as to hear and decide any differences that may arise, and to inflict proper fine or other punishment on offenders, according to the general laws and rules of this colony, so far as the peculiar situation and circumstances of such town and plantation will admit of; and as the reformation of offenders is the principal object in view, always preferring serious admonition and advice to them, and their making public satisfaction, by public acknowledgment of their fault, and doing such public service to the plantation, as the Directors shall judge meet, to fines in money, or corporal punishment, which, however, in extreme cases, such Directors shall inflict, as said laws direct.
5th. The Directors of each individual town or plantation, shall, once every quarter, or three months, meet together to confer with each other on the state of each particular town in said settlement, and to come into such resolutions concerning them as they shall find for their best good, as also to hear the complaints of any that shall judge themselves aggrieved by the decision of their Directors in their several towns, who shall have right to appeal to such quarterly meeting
6th. No one convicted of sudden and violent breach of the peace, of swearing, drunkenness, stealing, gaming, fraud, idleness, and the like, before the Directors of the particular town in which he lives, shall have liberty of appeal to such quarterly meeting, from the sentence of such particular Directors, without first procuring good security, to the satisfaction of such Directors, for his orderly and sober behaviour until such meeting, and for his submitting to and complying with the sentence of such meeting.—No one, in matters of private property, shall have liberty of appeal from such particular Directors, to such quarterly general meeting of Directors, where the controversy is not more than twenty shillings.
7th. Such quarterly meeting of Directors, shall appoint an officer, statedly, to attend them as their clerk, who shall carefully register their proceedings, also an officer in the character of general peace officer, or Sheriff, who also shall attend them, and to whom the inhabitants of the whole settlement submit in the same manner as the inhabitants of any county within this colony, by laware obliged, to their respective High Sheriff.
8th. All persons within such settlement accused of the high handed crimes of adultery, burglary, and the like, shall be arraigned before such quarterly meeting, and if convicted, shall be sentened to banishment from such settlement, and a confiscation of all their personal effects therein, to the use of the town, where such offence is committed, and should there still be the more heinous crimes of murder committed, which God forbid, the offender shall be instantly arrested, and delivered into the hands of the nearest civil authority in Connecticut, and should any person or persons be accused of counterfeiting the bills or coins of any province on this continent, and be thereof convicted before such quarterly meeting, the colony whose bills are thus counterfeited, shall have liberty to take such offender and punish him, he shall be instantly banished the settlement, and his personal effects confiscated as aforesaid, and all persons convicted of any heinous crime, in any province on this continent, and shall fly from justice, the inhabitants shall, as well directors and peace officers, as others, aid and assist their pursuers in apprehending them, that they may be duly punished in the Government where they have offended.
9th. No appeal shall be from the doings of such quarterly meeting, or their decrees, to the Susquehanna Company, in general, save where the property of land is disputed, in which case the appellant shall first secure the appellee for his costs, if he make not his appeal good before the Company.
10th. The inhabitants of each town, to wit:-All the males of twenty-one years and upwards, and a proprietor in one of the said towns shall annually meet, on the first Monday in December, and
choose Directors for such town, with their peace officers, and other officers that shall be found necessary for the ensuing year, and the Directors, etc., that now may be chosen, shall have authority until new are chosen, and no longer.
11th. The Directors of each town shall make out and exhibit to their first quarterly meeting, a list in the rateable estate and polls of the inhabitants of each town, and such quarterly meeting shall have power to assess the inhabitants for defraying public expenses, as also to enforce the assessment made in each particular town, if need be.
12th. The law regulating the militia of this colony, shall be particularly attended to by the Directors of the respective towns, and the general regulation thereof, as the particular circumstances of the people require, shall be in the power of such general quarterly meeting.
Also, we do solemnly declare these and such other regulations as we shall hereafter come into, by and with the advice and consent of the Susquehanna Company, in full meeting assembled, to be of force and binding on us, and on each of us, our heirs and assigns, until the colony of Connecticut shall annex us to some one of the counties of this colony, or make us a distinct county, or we obtain from the said colony, or from his Gracious Majesty, King George the Third, whose true and loyal subjects we are, powers of Government in some more permanent method.
And lastly, it is further agreed and voted, that the Directors in each of the several towns now settled, and that shall be settled, shall forthwith procure a copy of the foregoing agreements, which shall be entered at large in a book for that purpose, and all the male inhabitants of the age of twenty-one years, shall, personally, subscribe the same with their own proper names, or mark, and strictly abide by and fulfil the same; and such inhabitants or settlers as are already come into, to settle, or shall hereafter appear to come in as settlers, as shall neglect, or refuse to subscribe to and abide by the foregoing agreements shall not continue there, nor be admitted as settlers on said lands.
Voted, that the following persons be, and they are hereby appointed Directors in the several towns hereafter mentioned, until the first Monday in December next, with the powers and authority according to the foregoing agreement.
To wit:-For the town of Wilkesbarre,--Maj. John Durkee, Capt. Zebulon Butler, and Obadiah Gore, Jr.
For the town of Plymouth,- Phineas Nash, Capt. David Marvin, and J. Gaylord.