Ridpath's History of the United States
Volume I


Chapter VIII
New Hampshire

In the year 1622 the territory lying between the rivers Merrimac and Kennebec, reaching from the sea to the St. Lawrence, was granted by the council of Plymouth to Sir Ferdinand Gorges and John Mason. This history of New hampshire begins with the following year. For the proprietors made haste to secure their new domain by actual settlements. In the early spring of 1623 two small companies of colonists were sent out by Mason and Gorges to people their province. The coast of New Hampshire had first been visited by Martin Pring in 1603. Eleven years later the restless Captain Smith explored the spacious harbor at the mouth of the Piscataqua, and spoke with delight of the deep and tranquil waters.

One party of the new immigrants landed at Little Harbor, two miles south of the present site of Portsmouth, and began to build a village. The other party proceeded upstream, entered the Cocheco, and, four miles above the mouth of that tributary, laid the foundations of Dover. With the exception of Plymouth and Weymouth, Portsmouth and Dover are the oldest towns in New England. But the progress of the settlements was slow; for many years the two villages were only fishing-stations. In 1629 the proprietors divided their dominions, Gorges retaining the part north of the piscataqua, and Mason taking exclusive control of the district between the Piscataqua and the Merrimac. In May of this year, Rev. John Wheelwright, who soon afterward became a leader in the party of Anne Hutchinson, visited the Abenaki chieftains, and purchased their claims to the soil of the whole territory held by Mason; but in the following November, Mason's title was confirmed by a second patent from the council, and the name of the province was changed from Laconia to New Hampshire. Very soon Massachusetts began to urge her chartered right to the district north of the Merrimac; already the claims to the jurisdiction of the new colony were numerous and conflicting.

In November of 1635, Mason died, and his widow undertook the government of the province. But the expenses of the colony were greater than the revenues; the chief tenants could not be paid for their services; and after a few years of mismanagement the territory was given up to the servants and dependents of the late proprietor. Such ws the condition of affairs when Mrs. Hutchinson and her friends were banished from Boston. Wheelwright, who was of the number, now found use for the lands which he had purchased in New Hampshire. When Clarke and Coddington, leading the greater number of the exiles, set out for Rhode Island, Wheelwright, with a small party of friends, repaired to the banks of the Piscataqua. At the head of tide-water on that stream they halted, and founded the village of Exeter. The little colony was declared a republic, established on the principle of equal right and universal toleration.

The proposition to united New Hampshire with Massachusetts was received with favor by the people of both colonies. the liberal provisions of the Body of Liberties, adopted by the older province in 1641, excited the villagers of the Piscataqua, and made them anxious to join the destinies of the free commonwealth of Massachusetts. A union was soon effected. It is worthy of special notice that the law of Massachusetts restricting the rights of citizenship to church members was not extended over the new province. The people of Portsmouth and Dover belonged to the Church of England, and it was deemed unjust to discriminate against them on account of their religion. New Hampshire was the only colony east of the Hudson not originally founded by the Puritans.

The union continued in force until 1679. In the meantime the heirs of Mason had revived the claim of the old proprietor of the province. The cause had been duly investigated in the courts of England, and in 1677 a decision was reached that the Masonian claims were invalid as to the civil jurisdiction of New Hampshire, but valid as to the soil--that is, the heirs were the lawful owners, but not the lawful govenrors, of the territory. On the 24th of July, 1679, a decree was published by which New Hampshire was separated from the jurisdiction of Massachusetts and organized as a distinct royal province. The excuse was that the claims of the Masons against the farmers of New Hampshire would have to be determined in colonial courts, and that colonial courts could not be established without the organization of a separate colony. It was clearly foreseen that in such trials the courts of Massachusetts would always decide against the Masons. The purpose of the king became still more apparent when Robert Mason, himself the largest claimant of all, was allowed to nominate a governor for the province: Edward Cranfield was selected for that office.

The people of New Hampshire were greatly excited by the threatened destruction of their liberties. Before Cranfield's arrival the rugged sawyers and lumbermen of the Piscataqua had convened a general assembly at Portsmouth. The first resolution which was passed by th representatives showed the spirit of colonial resistance in full force. "No act, imosition, law, or ordinance," said the sturdy legislators, "shall be valid unless made by the assembly and approved by the people." when the indignant king heard of this resolution, he declared it to be both wicked and absurd. It was not the first time that a monarch and his people had disagreed.

In November of 1682, Cranfield dismissed the popular assembly. Such a despotic act had never before been attempted in New England. The excitement ran high; the governor was openly denounced, and his claims for rent and forfeitures were stubbornly resisted. At Exeter the sheriff was beaten with clubs. The farmers' wives met the tax-gatherers with pailfuls of hot water. At the village of Hampton, Cranfield's deputy was led out of town with a rope around his neck. When the governor ordered out the militia, not a man obeyed the summons. It was in the midst of these broils that Cranfield, unable to collect his rents and vexed out of his wits, wrote to England begging for the privilege of going home. The "unreasonable" people who were all the time caviling at his commission and denying his authority were at length freed from his presence.

An effort was now made to restore New Hampshire to the jurisdiction of Massachusetts; but before this could be done the charter of the latter province had been taken away and Edmund Andros appointed governor of all New England. The colonies north of the Merrimac, seeing that even Massachusetts had been brought to submission, offered no resistance to Andros, but quietly yielded to his authority. Until the English revolution of 1688, and the consequent downfall of Andros, New Hampshire remained under the dominion of the royal governor. But when he was seized and imprisoned by the citizens of Boston, the people of the northern towns also rose in rebellion and reasserted their freedom. A general assembly was convened at Portsmouth in the spring of 1690, and an ordinance was at once passed reannexing New Hampshire to Massachusetts. But in August of 1692 this action was annulled by the English government, and the two provinces were a second time separated against the protests of the people. In 1698, when the earl of Bellomont came out as royal governor of New York, his commission was made to include both Massachusetts and New Hampshire. For a period of forty-two years the two provinces, though retaining their separate legislative assemblies, continued under the authority of a common executive. Not until 1741 was a final separation effected between the colonies north and south of the Merrimac.

Meanwhile, the heirs of Mason, embarrassed with delays and vexed by opposing claimants, had sold to Samual Allen, of London, their title to New Hampshire. To him, in 1691, the old Masonian patent was transferred. Lawsuits were begun in the colonial courts, but no judgments could be obtained against the occupants of lands; all efforts to drive the farmers into the payment of rents or the surrender of their homes were unavailing. For many years the history of New Hampshire contains little else than a record of strife and contention. Finally, Allen dead; and, in 1715, after a struggle of a quarter of a century, his heirs abandoned their claim in despair. A few years afterward one of the descendants of Mason discovered that the deed which his kinsmen had made to Allen was defective. The original Masonian patent was accordingly revived, and a last effort was made to secure possession of the province, but was all in vain. The colonial government had now grown strong enough to defend the rights of its people, and the younger Masons were obliged to abandon their pretensions. In the final adjustment of this long-standing difficulty the colonial authorities allowed the validity of the Masonian patent as to the unoccupied portions of the territory, and the heirs made a formal surrender of their claims to all the rest.

Of all the New England colonies, New Hampshire suffered most from the French and Indian Wars. Her settlements were feeble, and her territory most exposed to savage invasion. In the last year of King Philip's War the suffering along the frontier of the province as very great. Again, in the wars of William, Anne, and George, the villages of the northern colony were visited with devastation and ruin. But in the intervals of peace the spirits of the people revived, and the hardy settlers returned to their wasted farms to begin anew the struggle of life. Out of these conflicts and trials came that sturdy and resolute race of pioneers who bore such a heroic part in the greater contests of after years.


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