George Washington Papers

To George Washington from James Boyd, 27 November 1789

From James Boyd

Boston Novr 27. 1789.

To the President the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled.

The Petition of James Boyd of Boston in the County of Suffolk and Commonwealth of Massachusetts Esquire, Humbly sheweth1

That your Petitioner was possessed from the Year 1767 till the Beginning of our Contest with Great Britain of very large Property in Lands situated on the Eastern Bank of the River Schoodick, granted him by the British Government of Nova-Scotia, and that during said Period he introduced many Families on the same Lands at his own Charge, and expended much Property in getting the same under considerable Improvement and Cultivation; But feeling himself attached to the Cause of America, he took such an active Part in their Favour, that the resentment of the British Subjects in that Province compelled him to leave the Country, and flee to the Protection of the United States; & that in Consequence thereof he has suffered Poverty and Distress from that Day to the present Time, that the said Lands which your Petitioner held, are on the western Side of the River St Croix, and within the Dominions of the United States, but unjustly now held in Possession by British Subjects—That the Facts aforesaid and your Petitioner’s Situation have been particularly set forth to Congress by the Legislature of this Commonwealth, in a Letter of Instruction to their Delegates in the Year 1786, signed and transmitted by the then Governor Bowdoin, and which is now on the Files of Congress, accompanied wth a Number of Letters from Governor Bowdoin, the present Governor Hancock, and others upon the Subject, to which your Excellency and Honours will please to be refered:2 that your Petitioner by his thus quitting the British and joining the American Interest has been subjected to peculiar Hardships and Difficulties, which with a large Family he has with great Anxiety sustained: But confiding in the Power and Disposition of the present Congress of the United States to do him compleat Justice, he requests them to put him in Possession of his Lands aforesaid now held by British Subjects, tho’ on this Side the Line between the two Dominions, or otherwise recompence your Petitioner who has lost the whole of his Property and Means of procuring a comfortable Subsistence in Consequence of his Attachment as aforesaid.

Your Petitioner begs Leave to add that he is possessed of Papers, and that John Mitchel Esqr. of the State of Newhampshire (now an old Man about 76 Years of Age)3 is also possessed of Papers, that may be useful in determining the real Situation of the River St Croix, entended by the late Treaty of Peace to be the dividing Line between the Dominions of the United States & Great Britain, as will appear by a Plan taken in the Year 1764 by the said Mitchel, and another taken by the Surveyor General of Nova Scotia the Year following, and now in the Possession of your Petitioner, who, As in Duty bound will ever pray &c.4

James Boyd

DS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters.

James Boyd (c.1736–1798) came to America from Scotland around 1760 to act as agent for his brother in the sale of goods. He eventually settled at Passamaquoddy, Maine. His original scheme for supplying settlers in the area of Schoodic Falls and Outer Island failed, but in 1767 he received a grant of 1,000 acres in the area of Passamaquoddy Bay. Supporting the Patriot cause, he apparently left Maine at the beginning of the Revolution. He is listed in the 1790 census as living in Boston and heading a family consisting of two males over sixteen years old, one under sixteen, and two females (Heads of Families description begins Heads of Families at the First Census of the United States Taken in the Year 1790: Massachusetts. 1908. Reprint. Baltimore, 1964. description ends [Massachusetts], 187; Columbian Centinel [Boston], 6 Oct. 1798; Murchie, Saint Croix, description begins Guy Murchie. Saint Croix, The Sentinel River: Historical Sketches of Its Discovery, Early Conflicts and Final Occupation by English and American Settlers, with Some Comments on Indian Life. New York, 1947. description ends 131–32, 138).

1The heading to this document is partially printed.

2The British and American negotiators at the Treaty of Paris in 1783 had used Dr. John Mitchell’s 1755 map to determine which of the two large streams that flow into Passamaquoddy Bay formed the boundary between the United States and Canada. The fact that Mitchell’s map designated the eastern stream as the St. Croix placed the boundary at that river, a point that remained in dispute between the United States and Great Britain until a mixed commission appointed under the terms of the Jay Treaty defined the boundary in 1798 as the western stream, known locally as the Schoodic.

3Boyd is referring to John Mitchell (c.1713–1801), son of John Mitchell, one of the pioneer settlers at Londonderry, N.H. The younger Mitchell came with his father from northern Ireland around 1719. In his early youth he was apprenticed to a carpenter but soon turned to surveying and land speculation in the area of Belfast, Maine. Because of his interest in mapmaking, the details of his career are occasionally confused with the activities of Dr. John Mitchell (1711–1768), creator of the map used at the peace negotiations in 1783. See, for example, Williamson, History of Belfast, description begins Joseph Williamson. History of the City of Belfast in the State of Maine, From its First Settlement in 1770 to 1875. 1877. Reprint. Somersworth, N.H., 1982. Vol. 1 of the History of the City of Belfast, 2 vols. description ends 1:63. Mitchell remained in Belfast until 1779, when the British occupied the town. He went to New Hampshire and did not return to Belfast after the war although he retained much of his property. In 1789 he may have been living with one of his ten children in Chester, New Hampshire.

4A copy of this letter was sent to the Senate on 9 Feb. 1790. See GW to the United States Senate, 9 Feb. 1790, enclosure.

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