« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »
The jail on the ground floor had been found unsafe, and besides the public buildings at that time did not reflect much credit upon the county. On the 31st of March, 1834, the legislature authorized the supervisors to borrow from the common school fund, on the credit of the county, four thousand six hundred dollars to build a new court house, and directed a tax of five hundred dollars a year to be levied on the county to refund the loan and pay the interest. Francis E. Spinner, Arphaxed Loomis and Prentice Yeomans were named in the act as commissioners to superintend the erection of the building.
The court house is a handsome structure of brick, standing nearly in the center of the village of Herkimer. The jail is on the opposite side of the street. The rooms on the first floor of the courthouse are arranged to suit the public convenience, but the interior arrangements of the court room may be easily improved. Owing to some defect or oversight in rthe construction, the long side walls of the house began to give way and swell out, not long after the house was completed. They were however soon secured by iron rods extending across the building. These rods or bars were inserted in their place when red with heat, and being secured with proper fastenings at the ends on the outside of the walls the contraction of the iron brought them quite into place. The citizens of Little Falls did not fail to make an effort at this time, to change the county seat and bring it to them; but with two-thirds or perhaps three-fourths of the population of the county against them, they " hardly made a ripple."
A new fire proof clerk's office, of brick, was erected in 1847. Mr. Aaron Hall, builder.
Forfeited Estates — Act of 1779 — Persons Attainted under George III — Treaty of 1783 — Attainder of the Johnsons and Butlers justified — Rules of Evidence laid down — British Parliament — Further Provisions of the Act — Royal Grant — Extent of Same — Guy Johnson Tract — Herkimer Estates—Motives of the Johnsons — Sir William Johnson—Events of Revolution still Remembered — Reception of Sir John in Canada — Guy Johnson's Conduct as Indian Agent — Judicial Tribunals always open—The Fifth Article of the Treaty of 1782 — The 9th Article of the Treaty of 1794 — Motives of the Loyalists in Embracing the Cause of the Crown — Congress Fulfilled Treaty Stipulations— Its Messages not Well Received by the States—Present Law of Treason.
At the risk of repeating some of the facts contained in the preceding chapter, and of being considered tedious, I venture to submit some further remarks in reference to the "forfeited estates" of British subjects, confiscated during the war of the revolution. The subject is within the scope of an historical research into the annals of the county, because the title to large tracts of land within its limits has been affected by the action of the legislature of the state. Now, when more liberal sentiments seem not only to be entertained by some governments, but by enlightened individuals, in respect to the mode of conducting war, and of inflicting punishment upon individuals, for acts of hostile aggression in cases where, by the public law, no allegiance was due to the injured state, the opinion has been expressed that the confiscated estates of individuals should have been restored at the peace of 1783. This is a very grave question, and will not meet with an affirmative response from any considerable number of enlightened Americans, even at this day, and they, I am sure, are quite as liberal as any other people in the civilized world. The legislature of this state may have laid down and enforced a rigid rule, and one to which there should have been some exceptions. But the distracted state of the country, and the circumstances of the times, called for the exercise of the most stringent measures of defense and protection. Subjugation, confiscation and the halter was the punishment denounced against what was called an unnatural rebellion. "Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," was the prize contended for.
The act of October 22d, 1779, declared "Sir John Johnson, late of the county of Tryon, knight and baronet, Guy Johnson, Daniel Claus and John Butler, now or late of said county, esquires, and John Joost Herkenier, now or late of the said county, yeoman," to be, ipso facto, convicted and attainted of voluntarily adhering to the fleets and armies of the king of Great Britain, in the cruel and unjust war then waged by him against this state, and the other United States, with the intent to subvert the government and liberties of this state, and the other United States, and to bring the same into subjection to the crown of Great Britain. Their estates real and personal were declared forfeited to and vested in the people of this state.
When George III, on the 3d day of September, 1783, acknowledged the thirteen united states " to be free, sovereign and independent states; that he treated with them as such; and for himself, his heirs and successors, relinquished all claims to the government, propriety and territorial rights of the same, and every part thereof," no question could be raised by the British crown, nor by its subjects, in regard to any of the antecedent acts of these free,sovereign and independent states.
When we examine the traces of blood, and fire, and desolation that marked the footsteps of the two Johnsons, Claus and Butler, through this state, and especially in the Mohawk valley, from 1775 to the fall of 1779, who can justly say this act of attainder, confiscation, and banishment was wanton, cruel or oppressive towards them? Retributive justice demanded the punishment and it was inflicted.
Other persons were convicted and attainted by the same act, some of them civilians, and all the persons named in the act were perpetually banished from the state, and their return to it was denounced a felony punishable with death, without the benefit of clergy. Persons adhering to the public enemy, and guilty of treason against the state, after the 9th day of July, 1776, were subjected to indictment and trial; and it is here worthy of notice, that the legislature were so tender of the rights of those who might be complained of and brought to trial, as to declare that the several matters which, by the laws of England, were held to be evidence and overt acts of high treason, in adhering to the king's enemies, should be the rule in like cases when the parties were charged with high treason against the people of this state, making some other provisions to meet the peculiar circumstances of the times.
After exerting an act of high prerogative, which had been done by the British parliament at various periods in the history of that country, and for causes much less justifiable than those which provoked the attainder we have been considering, all proceedings against other parties chargeable with affairs of this character, against the state, were turned over to the courts, where a conviction could only be had upon an indictment and trial or outlawry.
By the attainder of Sir John Johnson it was supposed the whole of the Royal Grant, so called from the fact that the patent granted to Sir William received the sign manual of the king in person, was forfieted. That tract comprises all that part of the county lying between the East and West Canada creeks, the Mohawk river on the south, and the south line of Jerseyfield on the north, which runs from the village of Devereaux at the northeast corner of the Grant, on the East Canada creek in a northwesterly direction to the West Canada creek, intersecting it north of Prospect in Oneida county, with the exception of Glen's Purchase, a few lots in Burnetsfield, and some few patents in Manheim. The towns of Norway, Russia, Newport, Fairfield, Salisbury, Manheim, Herkimer and Little Falls, contain portions of this extensive domain. The tract of 2000 acres granted to Guy Johnson in 1765, situated in the present towns of German Flats and Little Falls, was forfeited by his attainder.
The Herkimer estates forfeited lay within the present limits of German Flats and Herkimer, and are believed to embrace portions of the Palatine grants; the only case of attainder or forfeiture within the limits of the patent granted to Johan Joost Petri and others.
Sir John Johnson and the wife of Guy Johnson, were the children of Sir William, by a German woman, legitimated a short time before the baronet's death by the solemnization of marriage with the mother. Johan Joost Herkemer is the only instance of attainder and forfeiture by any of the Palatines or their descendants in the upper Mohawk valley. There may have been others who deserved it, and perhaps there was one, but his case did not come within the letter of the statute.
Those who are familiar with all the revolutionary events of Tryon county, can not but be amazed at the infatuated conduct of the Johnson family through the whole of that eventful period. They must, on the outbreak of the struggle, have concluded that all their princely estates in the country were lost to them, and they would henceforth deal with them and the property of their former neighbors as well as trusty adherents, as belonging to the common enemy, to be consigned to indiscriminate destruction; or they must have resolved to act the part of marauders out of mere wantonness and a spirit of revenge.
Sir William Johnson came to this country at an early day, occupying no higher position than that of land agent. By his zeal, ability, good conduct and attention to business, he acquired large estates, and was promoted to the highest