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we find that, however prudently phrased, the petitions are in fact complaints against taxation; demands for expenditures by the colony in their behalf; criticisms of absentee proprietors; intimations that they may be forced to abandon the frontier position so essential to the defence of the settled eastern country.
The spirit of military insubordination characteristic of the frontier is evident in the accounts of these towns, such as Pynchon's in 1694, complaining of the decay of the fortifications at Hatfield, Hadley, and Springfield: "the people a little wilful. Inclined to doe when and how they please or not at all.” i Saltonstall writes from Haverhill about the same time regarding his ill success in recruiting: "I will never plead for an Haverhill man more," and he begs that some meet person be sent “to tell us what we should, may or must do. I have laboured in vain: some go this, and that, and the other way at pleasure, and do what they list.”. This has a familiar ring to the student of the frontier.
As in the case of the later frontier also, the existence of a common danger on the borders of settlement tended to consolidate not only the towns of Massachusetts into united action for defence, but also the various colonies. The frontier was an incentive to sectional combination then as it was to nationalism afterward. When in 1692 Connecticut sent soldiers from her own colony to aid the Massachusetts towns on the Connecticut River, she showed a realization that the Deerfield people, who were “in a sense in the enemy's Mouth almost," as Pynchon wrote, constituted her own frontier 4 and that the facts of geography were more compelling than arbitrary colonial boundaries. Thereby she also took a step that helped to break down provincial antagonisms. When in 1689 Massachusetts and Connecticut sent agents to Albany to join with New York in making presents to the Indians of that colony in order to engage their aid against the French,5 they recognized (as their leaders put it) that Albany was “the hinge” of the frontier in this exposed quarter.
1 Proceedings Massachusetts Historical Society, xliii. 506 ff. % xliii. 518.
Connecticut Colonial Records, iv. 67. • In a petition of February 22, 1693-4, Deerfield calls itself the "most Utmost Frontere Town in the County of West Hampshire" (Massachusetts Archives, cxii. 57 a).
6 Judd, Hadley, 249.
In thanking Connecticut for the assistance furnished in 1690 Livingston said: “I hope your honors do not look upon Albany as Albany, but as the frontier of your honor's Colony and of all their Majesties countries."1
The very essence of the American frontier is that it is the graphic line which records the expansive energies of the people behind it, and which by the law of its own being continually draws that advance after it to new conquests. This is one of the most significant things about New England's frontier in these years. That long bloodstained line of the eastern frontier which skirted the Maine coast was of great importance, for it imparted a western tone to the life and characteristics of the Maine people which endures to this day, and it was one line of advance for New England toward the mouth of the St. Lawrence, leading again and again to diplomatic negotiations with the powers that held that river. The line of the towns that occupied the waters of the Merrimac, tempted the province continually into the wilderness of New Hampshire. The Connecticut river towns pressed steadily up that stream, along its tributaries into the Hoosatonic valleys, and into the valleys between the Green Mountains of Vermont. By the end of 1723, the General Court of Massachusetts enacted, That It will be of Great Service to all the Western Frontiers, both in this and the Neighboring Government of Conn., to Build a Block House above Northfield, in the most convenient Place on the Lands called the Equivilant Lands, & to post in it forty Able Men, English & Western Indians, to be employed in Scouting at a Good Distance up Conn. River, West River, Otter Creek, and sometimes Eastwardly above the Great Manadnuck, for the Discovery of the Enemy Coming towards anny of the frontier Towns.” 2 The "frontier Towns” were preparing to swarm. It was not long before Fort Dummer replaced “the Block House," and the Berkshires and Vermont became new frontiers.
The Hudson River likewise was recognized as another line of advance pointing the way to Lake Champlain and Montreal, calling out demands that protection should be secured by means of an aggressive advance of the frontier. Canada delenda est became the rally1 W. D. Schuyler-Lighthall, Glorious Enterprise, p. 16.
Sheldon, Deerfield, i. 405.
ing cry in New England as well as in New York, and combined diplomatic pressure and military expeditions followed in the French and Indian wars and in the Revolution, in which the children of the Connecticut and Massachusetts frontier towns acclimated to Indian fighting, followed Ethan Allen and his fellows to the north.
Having touched upon some of the military and expansive tendencies of this first official frontier, let us next turn to its social, economic, and political aspects. How far was this first frontier a field for the investment of eastern capital and for political control by it? Were there evidences of antagonism between the frontier and the settled, property-holding classes of the coast? Restless democracy, resentfulness over taxation and control, and recriminations between the western pioneer and the eastern capitalist, have been characteristic features of other frontiers: were similar phenomena in evidence here? Did “populistic” tendencies appear in this frontier, and were there grievances which explained these tendencies? 2
In such colonies as New York and Virginia the land grants were often made to members of the Council and their influential friends, even when there were actual settlers already on the grants. In the case of New England the land system is usually so described as to give the impression that it was based on a non-commercial policy, creating new Puritan towns by free grants of land made in advance to approved settlers. This description does not completely fit the case. That there was an economic interest on the part of absentee proprietors, and that men of political influence with the government were often among the grantees seems also to be true. Melville Egleston states the case thus: “The court was careful not to authorize new plantations unless they were to be in a measure under the influence of men in whom confidence could be placed, and commonly
1 "I want to have your warriours come and see me," wrote Allen to the Indians of Canada in 1775, "and help me fight the King's Regular Troops. You know they stand all close together, rank and file, and my men fight so as Indians do, and I want your warriours to join with me and my warriours, like brothers, and ambush the Regulars: if you will, I will give you money, blankets, tomahawks, knives, paint, and any thing that there is in the army, just like brothers; and I will go with you into the woods to scout; and my men and your men will sleep together, and eat and drink together, and fight Regulars, because they first killed our brothers” (American Archives, 4th Series, ii. 714).
2 Compare A. McF. Davis, The Shays Rebellion a Political Aftermath (Proceedings American Antiquarian Society, xxi. 58, 62, 75–79).
acted upon their application.'
." 1 The frontier, as we shall observe later, was not always disposed to see the practice in so favorable a light.
New towns seem to have been the result in some cases of the aggregation of settlers upon and about a large private grant; more often they resulted from settlers in older towns, where the town limits were extensive, spreading out to the good lands of the outskirts, beyond easy access to the meeting-house and then asking recognition as a separate town. In some cases they may have been due to squatting on unassigned lands, or purchasing the Indian title and then asking confirmation. In others grants were made in advance of settlement.
As early as 1636 the General Court had ordered that none go to new plantations without leave of a majority of the magistrates.? This made the legal situation clear, but it would be dangerous to conclude that it represented the actual situation. In any case there would be a necessity for the settlers finally to secure the assent of the Court. This could be facilitated by a grant to leading men having political influence with the magistrates. The complaints of absentee proprietors which find expression in the frontier petitions of the seventeenth and early eighteenth century seems to indicate that this happened. In the succeeding years of the eighteenth century the grants to leading men and the economic and political motives in the grants are increasingly evident. This whole topic should be made the subject of special study. What is here offered is merely suggestive of a problem.
The frontier settlers criticized the absentee proprietors, who profited by the pioneers' expenditure of labor and blood upon their farms, while they themselves enjoyed security in an eastern town. A few examples from town historians will illustrate this. Among the towns of the Merrimac valley, Salisbury was planted on the basis of a grant to a dozen proprietors including such men as Mr. Bradstreet and the younger Dudley, only two of whom actually lived and died in Salis
1 Land System of the New England Colonies, p. 30. Massachusetts Colony Records, i. 167.
Compare Weeden, Economic and Social History of New England, i. 270–271; Gookin, Daniel Gookin, pp. 106–161; and the histories of Worcester for illustrations of how the various factors noted above could be combined in a single town.
bury. Amesbury was set off from Salisbury by division, one half of the signers of the agreement signing by mark. Haverhill was first seated in 1641, following petitions from Mr. Ward, the Ipswich minister, his son-in-law, Giles Firmin, and others. Firmin's letter to Governor Winthrop, in 1640, complains that Ipswich had given him his ground in that town on condition that he should stay in the town three years or else he could not sell it, “whenas others have no business but range from place to place on purpose to live upon the countrey." 2
Dunstable's large grant was brought about by a combination of leading men who had received grants after the survey of 1652; among such grants was one to the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company and another to Thomas Brattle of Boston. Apparently it was settled chiefly by others than the original grantees.3 Groton voted in 1685 to sue the “non-Residenc” to assist in paying the rate, and in 1679 the General Court had ordered non-residents having land at Groton to pay rates for their lands as residents did.4 Lancaster (Nashaway) was granted to proprietors including various craftsmen in iron, indicating, perhaps, an expectation of iron works, and few of the original proprietors actually settled in the town. The grant of 1653-4 was made by the Court after reciting: (1) that it had ordered in 1647 that the “ordering and disposeing of the Plantation at Nashaway is wholly in the Courts power”; (2) “Considering that there is allredy at Nashaway about nine Families and that severall both freemen and others intend to goe and setle there, some whereof are named in this Petition," etc.
Mendon, begun in 1660 by Braintree people, is a particularly significant example. In 1681 the inhabitants petitioned that while they are not "of the number of those who dwell in their ceiled houses & yet say the time is not come that the Lord's house should be built," yet they have gone outside of their strength "unless others who are proprietors as well as ourselves, (the price of whose lands is much raysed by our carrying on public work & will be nothing worth if we
1 J. Merrill, Amesbury, pp. 5, 50.