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THE FIRST PLYMOUTH PATENT.
[It is well known that when the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, in 1620, they had no patent or charter authorizing them to make a settlement there. They had intended, before leaving Holland, to plant near the Hudson River, and had secured a grant accordingly from the Virginia Company. Finding themselves beyond the bounds of their patent, which therefore became “ void and useless," on the return of the Mayflower, in May, 1621, they made application, through the Merchant Adventurers, to the President and Council of New England, established at Plymouth, in the county of Devon, for a grant of the territory on which they had unintentionally settled ; and the document which follows is the result of that application.
Mr. Weston, in a letter to Governor Carver, dated London, July 6, 1621, sent by the Fortune, writes : “ We have procured you a Charter, the best we could, better than your former, and with less limitation." (Prince, Vol. I. p. 114.) Judge Davis, in a note on Morton's Memorial, p. 73, remarks: “ This intimation refers to a patent from the President and Council of New England to John Peirce and his associates, which was in trust for the company. It was probably brought in this ship [the Fortune), and was a few years since found among the old papers in the Land Office at Boston, by William Smith, Esq., one of the Land Committee. 1
It bears date June 1, 1621." This original instrument, after it was used by Judge Davis, appears to have been lost or mislaid for a number of years, as Dr. Young, in his Chronicles of the Pilgrim Fathers, p. 235, remarks : “I have sought for the original in vain in the archives of the State. It was never printed; and it is to be feared is now lost.”
Fortunately, however, this ancient memorial of the Pilgrims has been recently recovered at Plymouth, where it most appropriately belongs, among some papers which were once in the possession of the late Judge Davis. By the kindness of Mr. William S. Russell, the Register of Deeds at that place, and with the aid of Mr. David Pulsifer, distinguished in the art of deciphering ancient chirography, I have been enabled to secure an exact copy
It may not be deemed uninteresting to state, that this first Plymouth patent, now for the first time printed, is the first grant, of which we have any record, made by the great Plymouth Company, which had received its act of incorporation seven months before, viz. on the 3d of November, 1620. The instrument is engrossed upon parchment, twenty-one by twenty-four inches in size, and is signed by the Duke of Lenox, the Marquis of Hamilton, the Earl of Warwick, Lord Sheffield, and Sir Ferdinando Gorges. It has the remnant of another signature which has nearly disappeared with the seal that was affixed to it. The seals of Hamilton and Sheffield are also wanting, while those of Lenox, Warwick, and Gorges yet remain attached to the instrument, in good preservation.
The editor of the Memorial gives an abstract of this patent in his Appendix, p. 362, and adds: “It does not appear what use was made of this patent by the Plymouth planters; it was, not long afterward, superseded by the second patent, surreptitiously obtained by Peirce, for his own benefit, and which, after his misfortunes, was assigned to the Adventurers.” The second patent (which is not extant) was obtained April 20, 1622, as appears from one of the following memoranda, furnished me by Rev. J. B. Felt, from the State Paper Office in London :
“ June 1, 1621, Peirce had a grant from the Council for New Eng. land, of lands in N. E. for a plantation.”
April 20, 1622, he obtained a grant for himself and associates, as a joint interest, but on same day gave this up, and procured a patent or
Deed Pole' of the said lands to himself for his heirs, associates, and assigns forever. With this proceeding the adventurers in Plymouth Colony find fault, and conceive themselves deceived by Peirce.”
May 18, 1623. Difficulty between John Peirce and his associates settled."
The difficulties concerning this second patent were finally settled by an assignment of it by Peirce to the Merchant Adventurers for five hundred pounds. See Morton's Memorial, Davis's edition, pp. 95 to 97; Prince, Vol. I. p. 136; Baylies's Memoir of Plymouth Colony, Vol. I. pp. 185, 186.
The original of the third patent, granted 13th January, 1629, O. S., to William Bradford and his associates, is preserved in the office of the Register of Deeds at Plymouth. This has been frequently printed. In this grant their territorial limits are defined, which was not the case in the first patent.
A patent of Cape Ann, dated January 1, 1623, O. S., was granted to the Plymouth people, by Lord Sheffield, a member of the Council of New England. This place, used for a time for their fishing stages, they soon after abandoned. The patent is extant, and will soon be published.
The terms and conditions of the grant which the Pilgrims procured from the Virginia Company at London, for a settlement about the Hudson River (alluded to above), and which was taken out “ in the name of Mr. John Wincob, a religious gentleman, then belonging to the Countess of Lincoln,” are not known. The correspondence and negotiations that took place in procuring it may be seen in Young's Chronicles of the Pilgrim Fathers, pp. 52-76. C. D.]
his Andenture made the First Day of June 1621 And in the yeeres of the raigne of our soủaigne Lord James by the grace of god King of England Scotland Fraunce and Ireland defendor of the faith &ce That is to say of England Fraunce and Ireland the Nynetenth and of Scotland the
fowre and fiftith/ Betwene the President and Counsell of New England of the one stie And John Peirce Citizen and Cloth worker of London and his Associate of the other ptie Uitnesseth that whereas the said John Peirce and his Associatl haue already transported and vndertaken to transporte at their cost and chardges themselves and dyvers psons into New England and there to erect and build a Towne and settle dyvers Inhabitante for the advancem' of the genall plantacon of that Country of New England Now the sagde President and Counsell in consideracon thereof and for the furtherance of the said plantacon and incoragem' of the said Vndertakers haue agreed to graunt assigne allott and appoynt to the said John Peirce and his associate and eủy of them his and their heires and assignes one hundred acres of grownd for eủy pson so to be transported besides dyvers other pryviledges Liberties and comodyties hereafter menconed/ And to that intent they haue graunted allotted assigned and confirmed / And by theis öntl doe graunt allott assigne and confirme vnto the said John Peirce and his Associate his and their heires & assignes and the heires & assignes of eủy of them seually & respectyvelie one hundred sedall acres of grownd in New England for eủy pson so transported or to be transported (Yf the said John Peirce or his Associatl contynue there three whole yeeres either at one or sellall tymes or dye in the meane season after he or they are shipped with intent there to inhabit The same Land to be taken & chosen by them their deputies or assignes in any place or places whersoeů not already inhabited by any English and where no English pson or psons are already placed or settled or haue by order of the said President and Councell made choyce of, nor within Tenne myles of the same (vnles it be on the opposite syde of some great or Navigable Ryver to the former pticuler plantacon, together with
the one half of the Ryver or Ryvers, that is to say to the middest thereof as shall adioyne to such landl as they shall make choyce of together with all such Liberties pryviledges pffitte & comodyties as the said Land and Ryvers which they shall make choyce of shall yeild together with free liptie to fishe in and vpon the coast of New England and in all havens portl and creekes Therevnto belonging and that no pson or psons whatsoeû shall take any benefitt or libtie of or to any of the grownds or the one half of the Ryvers aforesaid (excepting the free vse of highwayes by land and Navigable Ryvers, but that the said vndertakers & planters their heires & assignes shall haue the sole right and vse of the said grownds and the one half of the said Ryvers with all their pffittl & app'teñncl/ And forasmuch as the said John Peirce and his associatl intend and haue vndertaken to build Churches, Schooles, Hospitalls Towne howses, Bridges and such like workes of Charytie As also for the maynteyning of Magistrate and other inferio' Officers/ In regard whereof and to the end that the said John Peirce and his Associate his & their heires & assignes may haue wherewithall to beare & support such like chargl/ Therefore the said President & Councell aforesaid do graunt vnto the said Vndertakers their heires & assignes Fifteene hundred acres of Land moreover and aboue the aforesaid proporcón of one hundred the pson for eủy vndertaker & Planter to be ymployed vpon such publiq vses as the said Vndertakers & Planters shall thinck fitt/ anð they do further graunt vnto the said John Peirce and his Associate their heires & assignes, that for eủy pson that they or any of them shall transport at their owne prop costl & chargl into New England either vnto the Lands hereby graunted or adioyninge to them within Seaven Yeeres after the feast of St John Baptist next coming Yf the said pson transported contynue there three whole yeeres either at one or sedall tymes or dye in the meane season after he is shipped with intent there to inhabit that the said pson or psons that shall so at his or their owne chargl transport any other shall haue graunted and allowed to him & them and his & their heires respectyvelie for eủy pson so transported or dyeing after he is shipped one hundred acres of Land, and also that eủy pson or psons who by contract & agream to be had & made with the said Vndertakēs shall at
his & their owne charge transport him & themselves or any other and setle and plant themselves in New England within the said Seaven Yeeres for three yeeres space as aforesaid or dye in the meane tyme shall haue graunted & allowed vnto edy pson so transporting or transported and their heires & assignes respectyvely the like nomber of one hundred acres of Land as aforesaid the same to be by him & them or their heires & assignes chosen in any entyre place together and adioyning to the aforesaid Landl and not straglingly not before the tyme of such choyce made possessed or inhabited by any English Company or within tenne myles of the same (except it be on the opposite side of some great Navigable Ryver as aforesaid Xeilding and paying vnto the said President and Counsell for edy hundred acres so obteyned and possessed by the said John Peirce and his said Associate and by those said other psons and their heires & assignes who by Contract as aforesaid shall at their owne chargl transport themselves or others the Yerely rent of Two shillingl at the feast of St. Michaell Tharchaungell to the hand of the Rentgatherer of the said President & Counsell and their successo's forei/ the first paym' to begyn after the’xpiracón of the first seaven Yeeres next after the date hereof and further it shalbe lawfull to and for the said John Peirce and his Associate and such as contract with them as aforesaid their Teñnte & śrvantl vpon dislike of or in the Country to returne for England or elsewhere with all their goodl & chattells at their will & pleasure without lett or disturbaunce' of any paying all debte that iustly shalbe demaunded And likewise it shalbe lawfull and is graunted to and for the said John Peirce and his Associate & Planters their heires & assignes their Teñnte & śrvant and such as they or any of them shall contract with as aforesaid and send and ymploy for the said plantacon to goe & returne trade traffiq inport or transport their goodl & nchaundize at their will & pleasure into England or elswhere paying onely such dueties to the Kingl make his heires & succeso's as the President and Counsell of New England doe pay without any other taxes Imposicons burthens or restraintl whatsoeû vpon them to be ymposed (the rent hereby resved being onely excepted) And it shalbe lawfull for the said Vndertakểs & Planters, their heires & successo's freely to truck trade & traffiq with