From Thomas Cushing
Boston May 9th. 1785
The Agents appointed by the Genl. Assembly of this State to conduct & prosecute their Claims to certain Lands lying to the Westward, controverted & disputed by the State of New York, have represented to me that in order to support this Claim they should wish to be furnished with an Authenticated Copy of the Patent of King James 1st. to the Council of Plimouth given in 1620 & the original Grant of Massachusetts by the Council of Plimouth to Rosewell & others, if it can be had, if not an authenticated Copy, if to be procured, & if not, then the best evidence of it that can be obtained—1 Of the former only a Copy of a Copy can be had in America, of the latter even an unattested Copy cannot be procured— Chalmer in his Political Annals2 mentions the first as remaining in the Plantation Office, perhaps the other may be there too, or in the hands of the Posterity of some of the first Patentees, or some of the first Assistants under King Charles Charter while the Government continued in England— The Agents after making diligent Search cannot procure these Papers from among our records, they have therefore requested me, knowing that I had the honor to correspond with you, to write to you upon the Subject. I do not write to you in my public Capacity, neither to you as a Minister, but in my private Character & to you as a friend who I am persuaded would willingly do any thing in your Power to serve the interest of the State to which you belong— If therefore you would be so kind as to imploy some person to obtain the Paper above referred to you would do an essential service to this Commonwealth, & the Agents who are furnished with money to prosecute this business have desired me to assure you that they will cheerfully refund any expen[ce] you may be at upon this occasion. If you should be so happy as to obtain these Papers please to transmit them to me by the first opportunity—
I am, With great Esteem & Respect, / Your most Obedt. hb̃le Servt.
The Agents to prosecute the Claim above referr’d to are
Honb̃le John Lowell
& Rufus King Esqrs.
RC (Adams Papers); internal addresses: “His Excellency John Adams Esqr.” and “His Excellency John Adams Esqr.” Some loss of text due to wear at the edge.
1. Cushing’s request is probably owing to Rufus King’s 23 Feb. letter to his colleagues John Lowell and James Sullivan (Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789, ed. Paul H. Smith and others, Washington, D.C., 1976–2000; 26 vols. description ends , 22:211–213). Writing from New York City where Congress was meeting, King informed them that William Samuel Johnson, the Connecticut lawyer representing Massachusetts in the boundary dispute (vol. 16:558), had indicated that the documents requested by Cushing would be useful in presenting the commonwealth’s case. JA apparently never replied to this letter from Cushing, but on 4 Jan. 1786 he wrote to King that he was enclosing a copy of one of the documents that he had procured at the cost of fifteen guineas, which should be paid to Cotton Tufts (NHi:King Papers; AFC description begins Adams Family Correspondence, ed. L. H. Butterfield, Marc Friedlaender, Richard Alan Ryerson, Margaret A. Hogan, and others, Cambridge, 1963–. description ends , 7:74, 75). On 12 April 1786, King again wrote to his colleagues, this time including Theophilus Parsons, indicating that he had received from JA “an attested copy of the Letters patent of King James the 1st to the council of Plymouth” (Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789, ed. Paul H. Smith and others, Washington, D.C., 1976–2000; 26 vols. description ends , 23:229–230).
2. George Chalmers, Political Annals of the Present United Colonies, from Their Settlement to the Peace of 1763, London, 1780. A copy is in JA’s library at MB.