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some of its inhabitants had a controversy with the Indians living at Naticke as to the title of certain lands, the General Court heard the parties and declared that, though the legal right of Dedham could not be denied, yet there had been such encouragement of the Indians in their improvement of the land, as “added to their native right, which cannot in strict justice be utterly extinguished,” required that the Indians be not dispossessed of the lands they were then possessed of, but that compensation be given to Dedham out of other lands not then granted.*
So in 1672, when certain inhabitants of Northampton and other towns desired a grant of land for a village at Squakeage, the land was granted upon certain conditions, and upon the further condition that, if the grantees should purchase the Indian title to the lands, it should belong to the colony, unless the grantees performed the conditions of the grant.f
In Rhode Island Roger Williams and his associates at first claimed that the only title required was the Indian title, and took conveyances of it as the titles to the land on which they settled, though they afterwards obtained and accepted a crown grant of the same land in 1663.5
The same course was pursued in Connecticut, the lands being purchased by the first planters from the Indians, or acquired, as in the case of the Pequot territory, by conquest from the Indians. In 1662, however, the Connecticut Colony obtained a charter and a grant from the Crown.
* Records of Colony of Massachusetts Bay, Shurtleff edition, Vol. IV, Part II,
† Ibid., p. 529.
| Arnold, History of Rhode Island, Vol. I, pp. 114, 284; Rhode Island Records, Vol. I, p. 31 et seq., pp. 130, 134, 135, 143.
$ Trumbull, History of Connecticut, Vol. I, p. 249.
New Hampshire was created a royal province in 1680, the English Courts having held that the title was in the Crown, subject only to the vested rights of Mason in the soil, and it included, as was claimed, the territory now known as Vermont. The titles there were, from the government under the crown grants, somewhat conflicting, but all resting primarily upon the title of the Crown.*
In Plymouth the land was granted under a patent in 1620 and a royal grant in 1629.
The title to the land in Maine was granted under the Crown Charter of 1692, under the jurisdiction of Massachusetts, which had a right to grant the lands, subject to the approval of the Crown, within two years.
The origin of the title to land in all these colonies was, as stated at first, based upon the ownership by the Crown arising from discovery and possession, subject only to the right of the Indians, as natives of the soil, to the enjoyment of it, but with no power of disposal.
The English royal grants of the territory of the New England States began by a commission to John and Sebastian Cabot by Henry VII in A.D. 1495, authorizing them "to seek out countries or provinces of the heathen and infidels, wherever situated, hitherto unknown to all Christians, and to subdue and possess them as his subjects.” 1
Under this commission the Cabots in 1497–98 landed upon the American coast, and explored it to some extent from Labrador to the Carolinas, more than a year before Columbus had seen the continent. Cabot drew charts of his voyage, which were referred to by Gilbert as existing in 1576, but have entirely disappeared.* Two years later a Portuguese explored Labrador. In 1507 the French visited the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and made a map of it and the neighboring country.
* Belknap, History of New Hampshire, Vol. II, p. 205. † Maine Historical Collections, Vol. I, p. 239. | Hazard's State Papers, Vol. I, p. 9.
In 1522 there was a settlement of fishermen at Newfoundland, comprising, it is said, about fifty houses inhabited by people of different nationalities. In 1524 the French explored the coast from the Carolinas to Newfoundland, very much as the Cabots had done, but more in detail, and they called the country New France.
From 1534 to 1542 the Spaniards explored the coast of Florida, and the French erected monuments in token of possession in the region of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
England, however, took no steps to maintain her rights as a discoverer by taking possession of the territory explored by the Cabots until 1578, when Queen Elizabeth gave a patent to Sir Humphrey Gilbert in the same terms as that given by Henry VII to the Cabots.f Gilbert landed at Newfoundland, called the merchants and masters of the ships of the various nations then there together, and took possession with prescribed legal formalities. He made laws which the people promised to obey, and made grants of land upon covenants of annual rent. Gilbert was lost at sea, but Sir Walter Raleigh, his half-brother and partner in the enterprise, obtained a similar patent in his own name, under which he was the first to occupy the soil of Virginia in 1584. I With his consent Gosnold visited Massachusetts Bay in 1602, but before his return to England for the purpose of obtaining supplies to establish settlements Queen Elizabeth died, Raleigh was imprisoned, and all traces of his attempt to colonize in America disappeared.
* Sir Humphrey Gilbert, A Discourse of a Discouerie for a New Passage to Cataia, London, 1576. † Hazard, Vol. I, p. 24.
* Hazard, Vol. I, p. 33.
In 1606 a patent was granted by James I, to Sir Thomas Gates and others for the Colony of Virginia, but its limits did not include the whole of the English claim to title. It extended no further south than the present boundaries of North Carolina and no further north than the present limits of the State of New Hampshire; that is, between 34° and 45° of north latitude. It provided for two colonies, one southern, between the 34th and 41st degrees, and one northern, between the 38th and 45th degrees, leaving, as may be seen, three degrees, or the territory from about the southern point of Maryland to the southern point of Connecticut, as common territory.*
In 1620 a charter was granted by James I to forty persons called “The Council established at Plymouth, in the County of Devon, for the Planting, Ruling, and Governing of New England in America.” This charter referred to the patent of 1606, and granted to the persons named in it all the territory from the 40th to the 48th degrees of north latitude, and from the sea to the sea, to be called New England; that is, its territory extended from about the latitude of the city of Philadelphia to the middle of Newfoundland and from the Atlantic to the Pacific. †
The chief managers of this Council were Sir Ferdinando Gorges, Captain John Mason, and the Earl of Warwick, who was president. Gorges was to be governor of the new State. The Council made about twenty grants under their charter, but fell into difficulties, and finally came to an end in 1635. * Hazard, Vol. I, p. 50.
† Hazard, Vol. I, p. 103. | A list of these grants will be found in Palfrey, Vol. I, p. 397, note, and also in “History of Grants under the Great Council for New England," by Samuel F.
March 28, 1629, a patent and charter was granted by Charles I to Sir Henry Rosewell, Sir Richard Saltonstall, John Endecott, and others, as a body corporate by the name of the “Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay in Newe-England."'*
January 13, 1629, a grant was made by Charles I to William Bradford and his associates, reciting that they had for nine years lived in New England and “planted a towne called by the name of New-Plim-. outh.”+
In 1630 the Council of Plymouth in the County of Devon granted to Robert, Earl of Warwick, a part of New England, including the later colony of Connecticut, and it was confirmed to him by a patent from Charles I. March 19, 1631, the Earl of Warwick granted this territory to William, Viscount Say and Seal, and ten others, and the settlers of Connecticut were granted their lands by these eleven persons, the grantees of Warwick, who was the grantee of Charles I.
The grants of land by the colonies under these grants from the Crown were usually made to “proprietors,” who as such, or as towns, often called "plantations,” granted the lands to such persons as they desired to have become inhabitants of the towns. In some cases the “proprietors” and the towns acted independently, but in most cases the “proprietors” were the town, and made grants as such. S Haven, in Lectures on the Early History of Massachusetts, Lowell Institute Course. 1869. The supplement to this lecture gives an interesting chronological statement of the different charters covering the New England States. * Hazard, Vol. I, p. 239.
† Hazard, Vol. I, p. 298.