Зображення сторінки

azine, p. 272–3–4. It was settled as early as 1720, especially the part which is now included in Sterling. Gamaliel Beman, Samuel Sawyer, Benjamin Houghton, David Osgood, and Jonathan Osgood, removed to that place, from other parts of Lancaster.*

From the close of the last Indian war the population began to increase rapidly. The descendants of the original planters, and the hew comers, were spread over a broad surface in every part of the town. Uninterrupted industry produced an improved state of the social system, and the character of the place at this time, and for many succeeding years, ranked high for general intelligence, good habits, union and prosperity.f

lo 1730, sundry people living on the east side of the Penecook petitioned for a new town. Afterwards, in the same year, the inhabitants were willing to give their consent, if the “General Court should see cause." An act of incorporation was granted, June, 1732, by the name of Harvard ; at which time, there were fifty families in the place. I

Stimulated by this success of their neighbors, and subjected to great inconveniences by their distance from church, the inhabitants living south of Harvard, and within the limits of Lancaster, in 1733, petitioned for a new town. This was refused at the time, but was granted, as far as was in the power of Lancaster, in 1736, and in June, 1738, was incorporated by the name of Bolton. Gamaliel Beman and others in Chocksett, stating the same grievances as the Bolton men, urged the same suit in 1733, in their own behalf. This petition was rejected for a number of years, till, in 1741, a conditional permission to form a separate town, was granted to

* A minute and valuable history of Sterling having been published by Isaac Goodwin, Esq. it will not be expected, that I shall touch upon the same subject, any further than, as incidentally, it becomes necessary, in describing Lancaster.

t In May, 1721, Gershom and Jonas Rice, two inhabitants of Worcester, sent a letter to John Houghton, Esq. of this town ; and Peter Rice of Marlborough, requesting them to present a ceriain petition to the General Court, in bebalf of Worcester, and closed with saying ; “so craving your serious thoughtfulness for the poor, distressed town of Worcester, we subscribe ourselves," &c.

#. Feb. 5th, 1732. The proprietors of Lancaster granted to the town of Harvard thirty acres of land, where the inhabitants of Harvard "have built a house for public worship--also for a training field, and for a burying place, and other public uses." Feb. 1734. They gave Mr. Secomb, the first minister of Harvard, the two islands in Bear (or Bare) bill pond.

This word is a corruption of Woonksechauxit, or Woonksechauckset, now Sterling

them. To these conditions, they did not assent. They, however, were made a separate precinct.

Next came forward those of the northwest, in 1737. They were incorporated June, 1740, by the name of Leominster. Notwithstanding these successive diminutions in territory, which included a part of Harvard and Bolton, and the whole of Leominster, the population and wealth of the town still ranked bigb, and went on increase ing by the accession of new inhabitants, in the east and west precincts.

The town, however, st. Fered in proportion to its means, all the evils that attended the state of the currency at that period. The general evil extended as far back, as the seventeenth century; when, to meet the expenses attending the expedition against Canada in 1690, bills of credit were issued anticipating the taxes of the year. This system was continued for some years, and till 1704, the bills were in good credit and answered the purpose of specie. But draughts, beyond the means of the province to bear, being made to defray the heavy expenses incurred in subsequent expeditions, the evil at length became intolerable, and, after the peace of 1713, the public mind was turned towards finding a remedy. There was not sufficient silver and gold in the country to redeem the bills, and the very currency caused these metals to disappear. A public bank, loaning bills on land security, was, after much debate, established in 1714. The few, who at that day seemed to understand what are now deemed first principles in banking, were out voted. These bills, from the operation of the cause I have mentioned above, sunk continually in value, and to an equal extent occasioned a loss to the community. The system was continued many years, and produced a continual sacrifice of property to artificial and imaginary wealth. The bills were loaned by trustees, in every part of the province, on mortgage, with interest and one fifth of the principal payable annually. And when the time of payment arrived, the paper having sunk much below its nominal value, the debtors would be obliged to pay a much larger amount in this trash, or sacrifice their estates in payment of the mortgages. To avoid this, laws were passed from time to time, extending the limit of payment, but prolonging only a lingering state of affairs, that must, in the pafure of things, have its crisis, and shake the province to the centre. So infatuated were the people, that they supposed paper emissions would one day work out their redemption from distress and poverty.

Lancaster, I find, instructed her Representative in 1731, “to pay such a regard to his majesty's Governor, as becomes the Representative of a loyal people, and that he also use his utmost vigilance that no infringements be made on the royal prerogative, nor on any of the privileges of the people ; and especially by supplying the treasury, without appropriations, unless of some small quantities that may be necessary to defray unforeseen charges that may require prompt payment." This probably related to the Governor's salary. Hutchinson observes that “the major part of the house were very desirous of giving satisfaction to the Governor, and to their constituents both.” Lancaster had its proportion of the various issues of paper from time to time, and appointed trustees among the inbabitants to distribute it upon mortgage.*

The land bank company of 1741, established for the same purposes as the bank of 1714, loaned bills of credit on security of real estate, but possessed no funds for redeeming them. The evil at length, after long and indiscribable distress was removed in a great measure, in 1749, by the introduction of specie, from England, in payment of the provincial expenses of the expedition against Cape Breton.

At this time, and for many years previous, Lancaster was in the County of Worcester. In 1728, a petition by Capt. William Jennison, for a new County, was forwarded to Lancaster; and the town instructed its Representative," that in case the Superior Court be holden at Marlborough, and two inferior Courts at Lancaster, annually, then to accede' to the proposal. But in case the Courts cannot be so stated, then to offer such objections as the selectmen shall furnish him with.” At a subsequent meeting, Feb. 1729, this vote was reconsidered, “as the westerly part of the County of Middlesex will be broken in pieces, in case that the towns petitioned for by Capt. Jeonison, be joined with Suffolk.” It was also voted to "petition for a new County in the westerly part of Middlesex.”I

This was afterwards granted and an act of incorporation was obtained in 1731.

In the wars subsequent to this period many of the inhabitants were called into service. War was declared against Spain, in October, 1739, and some of the soldiers from Lancaster perished at

*In 1728, the proportion of the £60,000 issued in bills of credit, to which Lancaster was entitled, was £471 05.

† Josiah White.

James Wilder and Jonathan Houghton were chosen agents. Judge Joseph Wilder, a man of extensive influence in the depths of his wisdom, prevented Lancaster from being made a half shire town, lest it should be the means of corrupting the morals of the inhabitants. In 1743, an attempt, it seems was made to divide the County. Lancaster chose Wm. Richardson, Joseph Wilder and David Wilder, to oppose a division, before the General Court.

Jamaica in the sickly season of the year.* At the siege of Louisbourg there were present 3250 soldiers from Massachusetts, not including commissioned officers. In this number, there were many from Lancaster, both officers and men. The treaty of Aix la Chapelle in 1748, by which Cape Breton was restored to the French, was not of long continuance. The contest was renewed in 1755, under a much wider range of operations, and continued with mighty efforts, and unabated zeal, till the French were finally driven from the American continent in 1762. During this war a large proportion of the able bodied men, both cavalry and infantry, in town, were actively engaged in the service. These troops were not merely " food for powder” men, but the substantial yeomanry of the country. New England poured forth her best blood freely, like water, and gained the military experience that afterwards proved so useful in the war of '75.

The year previous to the French war, an effort was made to unite the colonies for all measures of common protection and safety. But the plan that was projected, was far from satisfactory, either to the King or the colonies, though for opposite reasons. In reference to this scheme, the representative of the town was instructed "10 oppose all plans of a general or partial union, that shall anywise encroach upon the rights and liberties of the people.”

An addition was made to the town in February, 1768, by taking from Shrewsbury a strip of land belonging to that town, and usually called the Leg. Those who lived at this place, sought to be united to Lancaster as early as 1748, but did not obtain permission from the General Court.

The minds of men were now generally intent upon the great question of right, that was at this time in full discussion. The whole bias of this town was towards liberty. The attempts of Parliament to biod us in all cases were received with indignation. Here, as well as elsewhere, though the stamp act was disliked, it was thought that reparation sbould be made to those who suffered by the mobs that law occasioned. “The cause of liberty" it was believed, “was a cause of too much dignity, to be sullied by turbu. lence and tumult.

* Jacob Wilder in a letter written at Jamaica, Dec. 1740; after med. tioning a number of his acquaintance who had died, says, "through the prove idence of God, I am in nomination for an Ensign, and I hope that I may be fitted for it." There were eighteen or nineteen in this expedition, who belonged to Lancaster ; none of them lived to return.

+ The whole company of cavalry, excepting five privates, was out during the war.

See the whole of the fine passage in Farmer Dickinson's third letter.

No event of much local importance occurred in town for many years preceding the revolution. The whole current of thought was turned into this one channel, the arbitrary exactions of parlia. ment. All men were looking forward beyond their immediate anxiety, to the darker prospect that clouded the future. The principle of resistance was at work in every village. It is quite important to dwell somewhat at large upon the transactions of the town at this period, and till the termination of the war. Posa sibly all are not aware how much was accomplished by towns, as such; how many sacrifices were made in every way, to help on the cherished undertaking. New England contributed more, both in men and money, to the success of the great struggle, than all the other provinces; and those miniature republics, the towns, so singular a feature in the body politic, gave to New England, weight and importance.

At a town meeting, in January, 1773, "The dangerous condition of public affairs, in particular the independency of the Superior Judges, came into discussion, as a subject of great interest. The representative received particular instructions, herein, and also as to the right claimed by the mother country, to transport persons to England for trial. He was directed to use his utmost endeavours to obtain a radical redress of grievances.

A committee* was chosen, and reported the following resolves :

66 That this and every other town in the Province, has an undoubted right to meet together and consult upon all matters interesting to them, when, and so often, as they shall judge fit. And it is more especially their duty so to do, when any infringement is made upon their civil or religious liberties.

66 That the raising revenue in the colonies, without their consent, either by themselves or their representatives, is an infringement of that right, which every freeman has to dispose of his own property.

6. That the granting a salary to His Excellency the Governor of this province, out of the revenue unconstitutionally raised from us, is an innovation of a very alarming tendency.

“ That it is of the highest importance to the security of liberty, life an property, that the public administration of justice, should be pure and impartial, and that the Judges should be free from every bias, either in favour of the crown or the subject.

6. That the absolute dependence of the Judges of the superior

* Dr. William Dansmoor, Messrs. John Prescott, Aaron Sawyer, Josial. Kendall, Joseph White, Nathaniel Wyman and Ebenezer Allen.



« НазадПродовжити »