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THE STATE OF THE LANDS IN THE PROVINCE OF

NEW YORK, IN 1732.

BY CADWALLADER COLDEN, SURVEYOR GENERAL.

[Colden Manuscripts, N. Y. Historical Society.]

In obedience to your Excellency's Commands, I now lay before you the State of the Lands in this Province, in the best manner I am capable of, by a plain Narrative of such facts as have come to my knowledge.

It may be necessary in the first place to observe, that the Kings Commissioners, who were sent in the year 1664 to reduce this Country to the Kings obedience (it being then in the possession of the Dutch) issued a Proclamation wherein they Promised and Declared, that whosoever of what Nation soever will upon the Knowledge of this Proclamation, acknowledge and testify themselves to submit to his Majesties Government, as good subjects ought to do, shall be protected by his Laws and Justice, and peacibly enjoy what ever Gods blessing and their own industry hath furnished them with, and all other privilidges with English Subjects And by the third article of Surrender, agree'd to with the Dutch Govr it is stipulated that All People shall continue free Denizens, and enjoy lands, houses, goods, ships wheresoever they are within the County, and dispose of them as they please. And by the eleventh Article The Dutch here shall enjoy their own customs concerning inheritances.

In pursuance of which the Inhabitants took out Confermations of their Lands and tenements under the hand and seal of Coll Nicholls the first English Governor under the Duke of York in which their Title under the Dutch is recited, and the form of these Confirmations appear to be every where the same.

Govt Nicholls likewise granted unimproved Lands, to anv that were willing to settle and improve them and these first grants were made without any previous survey, or without reciting any certain Boundaries, but only to contain for example 100, 200 or 300 Acres adjoining to such another mans Land, or to a certain Hill or River, or Rivulet

The Reddendum in these first Grants raried from time to time. At first it was Paying the usual Rents of New Plantations, what that was is now a dispute, but perhaps it may still be ascertained by living Evidences and sometimes their is added as a condition of the Grant, that the Grantee shall do and perform such acts and things as shall be appointed By his Royal Highness or his Deputy.

In about a years time the form of the Reddendum was changed as follows Paying such duties as shall be constituted and ordained by his Royal Highness and his heirs or such Gov' or Gours as shall from time to time be appointed or set over them. It is probable people were not willing to axcept of Grants upon such precarious terms and therefore we find this form soon after changed into the following, Paying such duties and acknowledgements as now are or hereafter shall be constituted and established by the Laws of this Government.

What Laws were then in being or afterwards enacted I know not tho° perhaps they are still among the Records ; but it is to be observed, that the Legislative authority was then assumed by the Govr and Council without the assent or concurrence of the Representatives of the People and the Laws then made are now in disuse. And for this Reason, none of these Lands pay now any Quitrent, tho' their number be large, being, as I compute, not less than a Thousand: but I take into this computation all those grants in recording whereof the Clerks have omitted all that part of the grant which is comn only called the Habendum and Reddendum. The reason of which neglect, I suppose to be that they were all in the same words with a few that are Recorded at length in the begining, for so much is recorded as wherein they can differ, when the Habendum and Reddendum is the same viz The Motives to the Grant, the bounds to the thing granted, and the Grantees name and designation,

Before I proceed further, it will be likewise necessary to observe that the greatest part of Long Island, Viz all that part which lies opposite to Connecticut, was settled from Connecticut, and claimed by the Inhabitants under the Connecticut Title, to which in pursuance of the Proclamation above mentioned some regard is had. For the first, or at least the principle Grants of Lands upon this Island, are made in Townships according to the custom of Connecticut, & to the Freeholders and Inhabitants which supposess a previous Title some I know, think that these Grants of Townships are not Grants of the Soil, but only for the Good Government of these parts of the Country, as I remember it is expressly mentioned in the Patents for the Townships of Southampton and Southold and perhaps it is so in others likewise, and the Governours who granted these Town Patents continued to grant the Soil, within the limits of these Townships, as some of the succeeding Governours did likewise, However most of all the Lands within these Townships are held by Grants from Trustees, or Common Council of these Towns upon the General Town rights only. If these Town Patents should not be valid, as to the whole Soil contained within their limits yet they may operate as a confirmation of the particular rights and possessions of those who are called freeholders in the said Grants. These Town Patents are generally upon small yearly acknowledgements

Notwithstanding that the GovIs under the Duke of York, took these extraordinary methods to secure their Masters Authority, and interest, they made some Grants of Large Tracts of Land, upon trifling Quitrents but as these are very few, in Comparison of what happened afterwards what observations I have to make on this head will come in more properly in another place

Sir Edmond Andross the third English Govt of New York, as he seems to have had the interest of his Master and of the People he Governed as much at heart as any Govr that has at any time been set over this Province so he was very carefull in Granting of Lands: All Lands to be Granted were Surveyed before the Grant and bounded in the Grant according to the Survey. The Quitrents were likewise fixed by the Grant, generally at the rate of one Bushel each hundred acres tho some times at a higher rate and sometines the rent was less, probably as the value of the land was represented. And as these grants are the most profitable to the Lords of the soil, so are they to the Tenant, they being free of all those disputes about their Boundaries which have in a great measure rendered some others useless to the grantees. S: Edward has left but a few exceptions to be made to this general account given of his care of his Masters Interest. Coll Dungan who succeeded him, followed his steps in the Granting of Lands, but the exceptions to the General Good Rule are both more numerous and more considerable than in S: Edmonds administration.

While Coll Dungan was Gove the Duke of York became King by which the property of the Soil and the Quitrents became anexed to the crown, and have continued so ever since, but as the Revolution happeneù soon afterwards, there is nothing material to be observed 'till after that time.

After the Revolution the Grants of Lands to all ran in the Kings name, whereas before that they were made in the Govrs name that granted the Land, and this method of Granting in the Govrs name was continued after the Duke of York became King, as it was before.

Coll Slaughter the first Governor after the Revolution, found the Country in such confusion and lived so short a while that I think only one Patent passed in his time for Lands, But Coll Fletcher, who succeeded him, made amends by the liberal hand with which he gave away Lands. The most extraordinary favors of former Govrs were but petty Grants in comparison of bis He was a generous man, and gave the Kings Lands by parcels of upwards of One hundred thousand Acres to a man, and to some particular favourites four or five times that quantity, but the King was not pleased with him, as I am told, and he was recalled in disgrace. This lavishing away of lands probably was one reason for

The Earl of Bellamont, who succeeded, having orders to use all legal means for breaking extravagant grants of Land, joined with the assembly in vacating several of the extravagant Grants made by Coll Fletcher but as this act was carried thro’ with Spirit of party in the assembly, it passed with much less impartiality than might have been expected from the Justice of the Legislature. For some of the most extravagant Grants were passed over, while some others were declared extravagant and vacated, that no way (leserved that Character. However this act has considerably encreased his Majestys Quitrents for of these tracts which were then vacated, and which by their pattents were to pay altogether five beaver skins, one otter skin one fat Buck and twenty shillings the lands since that tiine regranted within the bounds of the said patents pay near four hundred pounds yearly at the rate of 23 60 per hundred acres, notwithstanding that a great part of these lands still remain ungranted. The Earl of Bellaront's adıninistration was short he being removed by Death before he could compleat the designs he had in view

After his death the administration fell into Capt Nafans hands, then Lieut Gorr. It appears that the Grants made in his time pass’d in a hurry, without any previous Survey, but upon very uncertain informations of the natural Boundaries, which the Grantees took in their Grants, so that some of them are become a sort of ambulatory Grants. The Patentees claiming, by virtue of the same Grant, sometimes in One part of the Country, and sometimes in another, as they are driven from one place to another by others claiming the same lands with more certainty. In other grants we find the same persons joined in several Grants with others, which Grants were intended for different Tracts and in appearance seem to be so, and yet by their present claims they take in the same Lands within the bounds of their several grants.

The Earl of Bellamont was succeeded, after Queen Anns accession to the throne by her Cousin the Lord Cornbury. The Grants of large tracts upon trifling quitrents, that were made during his Lordships administration at least equalled those of all his predecessors put together. Indeed his Lordship’s inclinations were so evident to every body at that time that two Gentlemen (as I am well assured) had agreed with his Lordship for a Grant of all the lands in the Province, at a Lump, which were not at that time granted, and that the only thing which prevented the passing of that grant was, that those Gents apprehended that the Grant would of itself appear so extravagant and would create so many

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