Front Page Titles (by Subject) C.: (Page 377.) FROM THE BOSTON PATRIOT, 23 OCTOBER, 1811. - The Works of John Adams, vol. 1 (Life of the Author)
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C.: (Page 377.) FROM THE BOSTON PATRIOT, 23 OCTOBER, 1811. - John Adams, The Works of John Adams, vol. 1 (Life of the Author) 
The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States: with a Life of the Author, Notes and Illustrations, by his Grandson Charles Francis Adams (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1856). 10 volumes. Vol. 1.
Part of: The Works of John Adams, 10 vols.
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When the conferences between the British and American ministers were first opened, or very soon afterwards, the former demanded the cession of the whole Province of Maine. They pretended that it was no part of the Province of the Massachusetts Bay, and therefore no part of the American confederacy; consequently, not included in their commission nor in ours; that the boundary between the United States and the British territory in America must be the Piscataqua River, &c.
This wild pretension was unexpected to us all, I believe. I am sure it was to me. I contented myself with observing, that the Province of Maine had been long incorporated by charter with the Old Colonies of Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay; that they had all been under one government and administration for a century: that the Province of Maine had been in arms against the pretensions of the British ministry and parliament, as long and as ardently as any part of the Union; had contributed her full proportion both of men and money in the whole course of the war; and that the British commissioner might as well claim the town of Boston or the town of Plymouth, as the town of Falmouth, York, or Wells; for all these had alike been represented in congress from 1774 to the present day, and been equally or at least proportionally concerned in electing and maintaining delegates in that great council of the nation. My colleagues promptly and cordially supported me in all these observations, and the English gentlemen did not appear to possess any information to countervail them; but still insisted that they must have the rivers Penobscot and Kennebec within their dominions. From time to time after this, both in private conversations and in public conferences, the English gentlemen contended for Penobscot, Kennebec, and as far as Piscataqua River. There was so much said upon the subject that it began to be a topic of conversation at Versailles, and I was informed that some of the courtiers had received impressions favorable to the British claim. This induced me to carry to Versailles and show to the Comte de Vergennes, (as I have mentioned in the foregoing journal,) the documents containing the authority of the Governors Shirley, Pownall, Bernard, and Hutchinson, in our favor, and directly in contradiction to the present pretensions of Mr. Oswald, Mr. Whitefoord, Mr. Strachey, &c. This precaution, which I took long before I produced any of these documents in our public conferences, silenced all the praters at Versailles, and we heard no more of British pretensions to Penobscot, countenanced at court. Messengers and couriers were continually passing and repassing between Paris and London, from the British ambassadors to the British ministry. One gentleman I have been informed crossed the Channel eight or ten times upon these errands during the negotiation. And whenever a new courier arrived, we were sure to hear some new proposition concerning the Province of Maine. Sometimes the English gentlemen appeared to soften down a little, and to be willing to compromise with us, and to condescend to agree upon Kennebec River as the boundary; and at last they seemed to insinuate that for the sake of peace they might retreat as far as Penobscot. But Penobscot must at all events be theirs. We concluded, from all these appearances, that they had instructions to insist upon this point; but we insisted upon the River St. Croix, which I construed to mean the River St. John’s, for St. John’s had as many holy crosses upon it as any other river in that region, and had as often been called St. Croix River.
One morning, I am not able to say of what day in November, but certainly many days after the commencement of conferences, the British minister introduced to us a special messenger from London, as the oldest clerk in the board of trade and plantations, and a very respectable character. He was sent over by the British cabinet with huge volumes of the original records of the board of trade and plantations, which they would not trust to any other messenger, in order to support their incontestable claim to the Province of Maine. We all treated the gentleman and his records with respect. After the usual ceremonies and salutations were over, the gentleman produced his manuscripts, and pointed to the passages he relied on, and read them.
I said nothing at first; but I thought the British cabinet believed that Dr. Franklin was too much of a philosopher to have been very attentive to these ancient transactions, and that Mr. Adams and Mr. Jay were too young to know any thing about them; and, therefore, that they might, by the venerable figure and imposing title of the most ancient clerk in the board of trade and plantations, and by the pompous appearance of enormous volumes of ancient records, be able to chicane us out of the Province of Maine, or at least to intimidate us into compromise for the River Kennebec, or, at the worst, for Penobscot. When the aged stranger had read for some time in his aged volumes, I observed that I had, at my apartments, documents which I flattered myself would sufficiently explain and refute whatever might be contained in those records, which should be construed or alleged against our right to the Province of Maine, and requested that the deliberation might be postponed till I could produce my books and papers. This was agreed. Accordingly, at the next meeting, I produced my documents.
Here I hope I shall be indulged in a digression, to show what these documents were, and how I became possessed of them.
When in October, 1779, I received from congress my commissions and instructions to treat of peace and commerce with the ministers of his Britannic majesty, and my orders to embark for Europe in order to be there ready to treat whenever negotiations for peace should be opened, I foresaw that there might be much difficulty and discussion in ascertaining the boundary between that part of Massachusetts called the Province of Maine and the British Province of Nova Scotia, and possibly of Canada. To prepare myself against this contingency, I procured the charters of Massachusetts, and a pretty thick quarto volume of the printed negotiations of Mr. Maitland and Governor Shirley in the year 1754, in which many questions, and perhaps all the questions relative to the subject, had been largely treated at Paris. I took some pains to procure another paper, too, which, though it could be of no authority of itself, would serve me as an index to all other authorities. Although the history of this paper will be considered another digression, it must be here inserted.
In the autumn of the year 1773, the two houses of the legislature of Massachusetts appointed the Honorable James Bowdoin and John Adams, Esq., a committee to prepare and report a statement of the title of the province to certain lands to which the legislature of New York had asserted a claim, and endeavored to support it by a very learned work elaborately drawn up by Mr. Duane, and adopted and printed by their authority. When the committee met, Mr. Bowdoin insisted that Mr. Adams should take upon himself the investigation and prepare the report, as he was pleased to say, because it lay more in the course of his studies and daily researches. I was very much pressed with business; Mr. Bowdoin had great leisure. Mr. Bowdoin had been fifteen years in the legislature, and having much more experience and weight, I excused myself and urged him to undertake it, promising to give him all the assistance in my power. But he refused, and at last, with much reluctance, I undertook it.
A much more considerable part of the winter than I could well spare from my necessary engagements in other business, was spent in researches to prepare this report. I visited Dr. Mather, and was kindly admitted to his library and the collections of his ancestors. I was admitted to a valuable collection of Mr. Moffat, who was very curious in amassing ancient records and pamphlets, particularly the journals, ancient and modern, of the Massachusetts legislature. I mounted up to the balcony of Dr. Sewall’s church, where were assembled a collection which Mr. Prince had devoted himself to make from the twentieth year of his age. The loss of this library of books and papers, in print and in manuscript, can never be sufficiently regretted. Such a treasure never existed anywhere else, and can never again be made. He had endeavored, and with great success, to collect every history, pamphlet, and paper which could throw light on the Reformation, the rise and progress of the Puritans, and the persecutions which drove our ancestors over to this wild and unknown world.
From the materials, collected from every quarter, I drew a report, and presented it to Mr. Bowdoin, who, after taking time to peruse it, was pleased to say it was an excellent report, that it wanted no amendment, and that he would present it to the House. Mr. Samuel Adams was then clerk of the House. The legislature were convened by Governor Gage, at Salem, and whether the report was ever read to the House or not, I know not. It was not printed in the Journal, as all other reports of that nature ever had been. Expecting to see it in print immediately, I had omitted to preserve a copy of it. This report now, in 1779, I wanted to assist me in preparing documents for the negotiations for peace. But applying to Mr. Adams, who had been clerk of the House, and was now secretary of the State, he informed me that in the confusion at Salem, when they resolved on a congress and chose their delegates, he had mislaid it, and could not find it. It was, however, afterwards found and delivered to the commissioners, who finally settled the dispute with the commissioners of New York. I say it was found, because I have been informed by Governor Sullivan, Chief Justice Parsons, Mr. Dalton, and Mr. King, that they had it in my handwriting, and that it enabled them to obtain from New York the cession of the Genesee country. Where it is now, I know not; but it ought either to be returned to me or published, as I never had any compensation for it, though a grant had always been customary on such occasions, or even acknowledgment of it. This however, is no mortification to me. Another consideration is infinitely more afflicting,—the prudence of our State in trifling with this immense interest, and selling a principality for a song. That territory would now build hospitals, universities, botanical gardens, or any other public institutions, without applying to individual subscribers, or laying any burden on the people.
As I could not obtain my report in manuscript or in print, I looked about to furnish myself with such other documents as I could find. I procured all the printed Journals of the Massachusetts legislature, which contained any thing relative to our boundaries; and among the rest, the journals of the years 1762, 1763, 1764, 1765, and 1766. In all these journals it appeared that one counsellor or assistant, an inhabitant or proprietor of lands, within the territory lying between the River Sagadahock and Nova Scotia, was annually chosen by the two houses of the legislature of Massachusetts Bay. And this Sagadahock counsellor had never been negatived by any governor, nor was any disapprobation of his election signified by the government in England. On the contrary, the express approbation of the governor had been annually recorded.
It appeared in all these journals that representatives from the towns in the counties of York, Cumberland, Lincoln, all within the Province of Maine, had been annually chosen, and several in the House, without any remonstrance from any governor, or from the government in England. In short, the legislature of Massachusetts Bay had laid out counties, incorporated towns, granted lands, and regulated every thing from the date of the charter in the Province of Maine, as much as in the Old Colony of Plymouth, or in the Counties of Worcester and Hampshire.
[Here follow references to the volumes of the Journal, and to the report of Mr. Hutchinson of the title to the territory in question, in 1763, which it is unnecessary to repeat here, the printed volumes being readily accessible to the curious. There is also a break in the article, as printed in the Boston Patriot, caused by the accidental loss of a part of the manuscript.]
In addition to these, I had another journal, in which was recorded the voyage of Governor Pownall to Penobscot, his treaty with the Indians there, and his solemnly taking possession of the river and the country on both sides of it in the name and by the authority of the Province of Massachusetts Bay. This volume has been borrowed or mislaid, or something worse; so that I have it not in my power to give it in all its details.
These volumes, i. e. Shirley’s and Maitland’s memorials, the Journals of the House of Representatives, and the charter and laws of Massachusetts Bay had run all hazards with me in a leaky ship, every hour, for fifteen days, in danger of sinking, and through Spain and France to Holland, and thence back to Paris. When they were produced and laid on the table before the British minister and his associates, I saw no great symptoms of surprise in any of them, excepting the tall and venerable clerk of the Board of Trade. His countenance and the agitation he was in convinced me that he knew the contents of those volumes as well or better than I did. It was impossible but he must have been familiar with them all. It was manifest enough that the Comte de Vergennes was not the only refined politician with whom we had to do.
When the gentleman had read from his ancient records all that he thought proper to read of misrepresentations of Coram and his associates against the Massachusetts Bay, requesting the gentlemen to peruse my other volumes at leisure, I read the foregoing report; and before I had gone half-way through, I saw that all the gentlemen, not excluding the clerk himself, were fully convinced that they had taken possession of ground they could not maintain or defend. Although they did not expressly acknowledge their error, the subject subsided and we heard little more concerning it. The clerk, with his records, soon returned to England.