James Madison Papers

Notes on Territorial Claim of New Hampshire, 1780

Notes on Territorial Claim of New Hampshire

MS (LC: Madison Papers, Vol. 91). Undated memorandum docketed by JM, “Livermore’s state[ment] of the Territorial claim of N Hampshire.” To give this memorandum even an approximate date depends upon what JM meant by “state[ment].” If it signifies an oral statement to which JM listened and upon which he took this obviously hurried note, it must date between 20 March 1780, when he first entered Congress, and 8 April 1780, when Livermore left Congress, or between 14 May 1781 and 29 April 1782 (Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1921–36). description ends , V, 110, n. 2; VI, xlvii) when both men were again members of that body and the subject of the memorandum was frequently discussed. On the other hand, if JM’s note was upon a written statement filed with Congress by Livermore during either of his two periods of service as a delegate, JM might have made these jottings at any time between 20 March 1780 and a decade later, since the controversy came to the fore now and again until the admission of Vermont as a state in 1791. If, however, Livermore presented a written brief, it apparently is not among the Papers of the Continental Congress in the National Archives. Perhaps he took it back to New Hampshire when he returned there early in April 1780 (ibid., V, 170). Being unable to date the memorandum, the editors have placed it immediately preceding JM’s resolutions upon the Vermont issue. Samuel Livermore (1732–1803), who had been the attorney general of New Hampshire and would be its chief justice, and a United States congressman and senator, arrived in Philadelphia on 5 February 1780 as a special delegate to Congress from his state to defend its title to the Vermont area against the rival claims of New York, Massachusetts, and the de facto independent government organized by many of Vermont’s settlers in the winter of 1776–1777 (ibid., V, 28, n. 3).

About the year 1630 a grant was made by Chas I to Capt. Mason,1 of a tract of Country call’d by him N. H. beginning at the mouth of Piscataqua river & to extend 60 miles into the Country about north. Then to begin at the head of Nahumkeeg river2 & to extend 60 miles abt west into the country & so to cross over to the end of the 60 miles aforesd. without jurisdiction,3 wch Till about the 1680 was exercised with the acquiescence of the inhabitants by Massachussetts, over the grant itself & such parts of the country back of it as was from time to time settled. About this time civil Govt. was established over N. Hamshire by the King without specifying its limits.4 About the 1738. a line was settled between N. H. & Mass: by Commisrs. appointed by the Crown, according to their present possessions; extending Westward till it should meet with his Majesty’s other Govts. The Comissrs. to the Governors of the former have since been conformable to the sd. settlement; by which as well as by other acts of the Crown & especially that relating to fort Drummer it appears that the territory of N. H. should extend to the twenty mile line.5 prior the year 1764. the Govr. of N. H.6 had granted upwards of 130 townships 6 miles square each in the territory thence called N. H. grants, lying between Connecticut river & the 20 Mile line upon wch. not less than 10,000 souls settled. In the year 1764 on an exparte hearing at the instance [of] L. Govr. Colden7 of N. Y. who wished to regrant the land & made imme[n]se sums therefrom. a decree of the King in Council extended the jurisdiction of that State to Connecticut river.8 The Govt. of N. H. was prior to the revolution taking measure[s] in conjunction wth. the Inhabts. west of the River to obtain a reversal of the decree, and had made such progress therein, that a prohibition agst. further grants had issued to the Govt. of N. Y.9

1By virtue of its royal charter, the Council for New England, not King Charles I, issued several patents to John Mason (1586–1635) between 1622 and his death. The one here referred to was dated 7 November 1629.

2Naumkeag or Salem River.

3That is, having merely grants of land from the New England council and no charter from the Crown, Mason and his heirs lacked constitutional authority to govern their holdings (Herbert Levi Osgood, The American Colonies in the Seventeenth Century [3 vols.; New York, 1904–7], III, 320).

4On 18 September 1679, King Charles II created the royal province of New Hampshire without designating its geographic limits. Thereafter the area was in the main a separate jurisdiction, although from 1699 to 1741 the governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony, acting under a distinct commission, was also the governor of New Hampshire.

5The blockhouse of Fort Dummer, erected in 1724, in the present site of Brattleboro, was the earliest English settlement in the disputed area. Following the determination of New Hampshire’s southern and eastern boundary with Massachusetts in 1738, New Hampshire’s principal boundary quarrel was with New York on the west. By “twenty mile line” is meant twenty miles east of the Hudson River, so as to make New Hampshire’s western boundary conform with the western limits of Massachusetts and Connecticut. JM probably meant “Commissions of” rather than “Comissrs. to.”

6JM’s confused punctuation, capitalization, and verb forms suggest the haste with which he made these notes. The intended reading here is probably, “Prior [to] the year 1764, the Govr. of N. H.” “The Govr.” was Benning Wentworth (1696–1770), who held that office for twenty-five years, ending in 1767.

7Cadwallader Colden (1688–1776), lieutenant governor of New York from 1761 until his death.

8The meaning of this sentence and the preceding one would be clarified if “make” were substituted for “made,” and a comma for the period after “therefrom.” The date of the Order in Council was 20 July 1764 (Nathaniel Bouton, comp. and ed., Documents and Records Relating to the Province of New-Hampshire from 1764 to 1776, VII [Nashua, N.H., 1873], 62).

9The matter was again before the King’s Commissioners for Trade and Plantations in the spring of 1775 (The Letters and Papers of Cadwallader Colden [9 vols.; New-York Historical Society, 1918–37], VII, 279–81).

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