« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
treats as circumstances dictated. At the time of passing the act, the affairs of that country had assumed a very different and still more menacing aspect.
The number of settlers was increasing. The Susquehanna Company, under whom they held, was composed of influential characters in the States of Connecticut and New York. The efforts of Pennsylvania after the decree of Trenton, to dispossess the settlers by an armed force, united that company in a resolution to support them. They offered a bounty of two hundred acres of land, to every able bodied man who would settle among them. Many had already accepted of these terms of enlistment, and marched to the land of conflict. The settlers were emigrants from Connecticut, where their friends, connexions and adherents, remained. The Legislature of Connecticut, their parent State, which had by her public acts countenanced the forming of that settlement, were, to use the words of some of the witnesses. in 'a Aame the moment they heard of the conduct of Pennsylrania, which they branded with the epithets of “cruel and unjust;" and with much difficulty the cooler members abated their resentment.
But danger did not threaten from these quarters only, and Pennsylrania had perhaps still more to apprehend from another. It was made appear at the bar of the House, and if inquiry had not been precluded, it might have appeared again, that shortly before the passing of the act, Col. Ethan Allen, one of the principal founders of Vermont, had been at Wroming, and joined in the plan of erecting a new State, and that he and his followers were to be rewarded by a share of the lands for their services; that he had returned home, as was probable from circumstances, with the view of collecting his strength to carry this plan into execution. It would not have become Pennsylvania at any time, much less in her then feeble and distracted state, to behold such a dangerous combination with indifference, or to be inattentive to the breaking of it.
Nor was this all; for it appeared from very respectable evidence given at the bar, that a gentleman of high rank in the late army, had at the same time resolved on marching with a large train of his followers to Wyoming, and after settling there, to share one common fate with those who had alone baffled Pennsylvania in all her attempts to expel them. And it is equally certain, that as the insurrection in Massachusetts had just been quelled, there was too much reason to fear, that the ringleaders and their followers might take the same course. What was it but this that induced Pennsylvania to offer additional rewards for apprehending them? Whether a mistaken policy on the part of Pennsylvania, prejudice against her, or the feelings of humanity in favour of devoted victims, led to these confederacies, is not now material, since they did exist, and her faith was plighted by solemn contract in order to break them.
Thus situated, did sound policy call for girding on the sword against numerous bands of gathering foes, or for the adoption of those lenient but honourable measures, which had been so warmly recommended by disinterested and well informed judges. Pennsylrania remenbered that the Connecticut claimants, had alone and unsupported for many years baffled all her exertions to establish her authority among them. She had seen them increasing in numbers and prowess, amid all their difficulties. She saw dangerous combinations formed and forming against her. She saw herself but just emerged from a long, a burthensome and a bloody war. She saw her treasures exhausted, and her citizens overburthened with taxes. She saw general reluctance, and sometimes a refusal in her militia, to risk their lives in what was considered by some as the quarrel of individuals about their speculations in lands. By party broils she was enervated at home, and from the prejudice which had been excited by her preferring arms to the lenient, but dignified measures which had been recommended after the decree at Trenton, she had little to hope and much to fear from abroad. Political exigencies determined her choice, and called for immediate action. A small delay might have plunged her into a long and expensive war, or obliged her to retreat with the loss of reputation. For these reasons, the act appears to have been founded in wisdom, justice and sound policy, and if the epithets now bestowed upon it apply at all, it must be to the bill for its repeal.
4th. Because the act hath, so far as depended on the Connecticut claimants had the effects proposed, and the allegations to the contrary, in the preamble to the bill for its repeal, are
unfounded. It was incontestibly proved on a former occasion, at the bar of the House, that the Connecticut claimants whose rights had been acquired previous to the decree at Trenton, and who were the only persons included in the act, were perfectly satisfied therewith, and that all of them, except six or eight, had submitted to the government and laws of Pennsylvania ; that all those who had been disposed to join them, had abandoned their de. sign, except the half-share men, who had come among them since the decree at Trenton, and who were not included in the act. These being too insignificant to make any formidable opposition, have either abandoned the settlement, or, encouraged by the wavering conduct of Pennsylvania, remain ready to renew their mischiefs, if by her breach of faith, others should be induced to join them.
Hence the most salutary effects have been derived from the law; and war, perhaps more expensive than the compensation to have been made, was avoided; peace and tranquillity were restored, or rather took place for the first time. The government and laws of Pennsyldania have been established and had their free operation, and allies, formidable from their numbers and situation, abandoned their hostile views.
Thus the great objects which the Legislature had in view, in passing the Confirming Law, have really been accomplished. They were principally these.—1st. To conciliate the minds of those Claimants ; to induce them to relinquish their designs of absolutely rejecting the jurisdiction of this State, and in conjunction with others who had associated, and were preparing to associate with them, of erecting a new and independent State in that and the adjacent country. 21. To put an end to the distresses, expense and bloodshed, which, during a series of years had attended this dispute ; and to prevent the still more serious evils of a civil war, which not only a contrary policy, but a delay of that salutary confirmation were likely to produce; the measures which those people were then pursuing having a direct tendency to that fatal issue. 3d. A further object of that law was, that by having their lands confirmed to them, those people might be induced not only to relinquish the designs already mentioned, but to submit to the government, and become useful as well as peaceable citizens of this State. 4th. Another object and it was an object of high importance, was to render practicable the settlement of an extensive adjacent country, to which the contention about the Wyoming lands bad for many years proved a fatal bar. These were the great objects of the Confirming Law; these were the effects proposed and expected to result from it; and the event has justified the expectation. The adjacent country is in a train of settlement, and if the county of Luzerne itself has not greatly increased in population and improvement, it is to be attributed to the long suspension of the Confirming Law.
5th. Because the preamble contains most indecent and unwarrantable reflections on the Assembly, by which the Confirming Law was enacted. That Assembly was impressed with the weighty considerations above stated; considerations which received additional force from many collateral circumstances, which a retrospect to the numerous mischiess which had flowed from the dispute about the Wyoming lands could not fail to bring to remembrance. That Assembly must have recollected the many fruitless attempts of government to extend its juris diction over that country, and have seen that the obstacles to it were daily increasing. They saw that there was but this alternative, either to confirm the lands to the old Connecticut settlers, or immediately to raise a military force, with the hope of subduing them. They chose the former, and disinterested men of sound judgment, approved the choice. It is well known that at the time when that law passed the union of these States was but a rope of sand; that the people of Wyoming, amidst many sufferings and oppressions, received countenance from their parent State, Connecticut ; that they had numerous and interested connexions in that State; and that under such circumstances, a war commenced against the Wyoming settlers might have drawn after it very serious consequences. A Legislature passing the Confirming Law, for such reasons and under such impressions, ought not to be charged with doing it hastily and without due consideration. It was a measure which we have seen had been recommended to the State by men to whose judgment, in this case, the high est deference was due, and whose discernment and impartiality ought not to be im
peached by this House. And various transactions of the Legislature, at different periods, before the Confirming Law was made, clearly manifest their opinion that some equitable provision ought to be made for the Connecticut Claimants, who had settled in that country before the decree at Trenton, and for the widows and children of such as had fallen, (and a multitude of them had fallen,) fighting against the savages. A law passed under such circumstances cannot justly be called unconstitutional. At the time when the Confirming Law was passed, the General Assembly had the exclusive right to judge of its expediency, propriety and necessity; and even admitting, (which we do not admit) that the Assembly had a those points formed an erroneous judgment; yet so far as its grants or engagements extended, they are irrevocably binding on the State, and cannot be canceled without the consent of those to or with whom they were made.
6th. Because all the acts of the Legislature which appear on their journals since the Con firming Law was passed, manifest an intention, ultimately, to establish the claim of the Connecticut Claimants. When accidental causes had rendered it impossible for all of them to exhibit their claims within the time prescribed by the Confirming Law, the power of the Commissioners was suspended by a law made for that purpose; lest by a partial establishment of claims, (which could apply only to such as they had an opportunity to receive and examine,) much mischief and confusion should arise. But the suspension of a law is in its na. ture only a temporary measure ; and in this case it was expressly declared to be only until the Legislature should make further provisions and regulations in the premises. At the same time a bill was introduced, adopted, and published for consideration, for the purpose of granting the seventeen towns entire to the Connecticut Claimants ; a grant that there is sufficient evidence to show would greatly have exceeded the claims which could have been admitted under the Confirming Law. The next day a resolve was passed, to authorize the Supreme Executive Council to take proper measures for ascertaining the quantity and value of the land claimed by Pennsylvania owners, to be reported at the next Session, “that the House might the better be enabled to decide upon the compensation to be made them." All these transactions took place long after the Confirming Law had been enacted, and they will admit of but one or two meanings :-Either that the Legislature still judged it proper and necessary substantially to carry the Confirming Law into execution, and meant eventually to do it; or, that the cogent reasons which induced the passing of it, still continued in such force, that a repeal of it would have been dangerous, and therefore, that the Suspending Law, the bill for granting the seventeen towns entire, and the resolution preparatory to the making compensation to the Pennsylvania Claimants were necessary to excite in the Connecticut Settlers an expectation of a final establishment of their claims, to soothe and keep them quiet, to prevent any accession of force, and to detach from them their new associates ; but that when these views should be accomplished, and when it should be found that the jurisdiction of the Cou:monwealth was completely established in Luzerne county, the Confirming Law should be repealed. But if some. by their conduct in this business are disposed to impute such baze and dishonorable motives to a former Legislature, we are not. The obvious construction of those public acts forbids the suspicion.
7th. Because the grants of land solemnly made by the Confirming Law to the Connech. cut Claimants, assure to them effective titles, and the property thereby vested in them carnot be taken from them, without providing for them a complete compensation. But such compensation would far exceed that which has been engaged to the Pennsyltania Claim ants: Therefore, if the mere interest of the State be regarded, the Confirming Law ought not to be repealed. The journals and files of the Legislature clearly show that the Assembly which enacted the law for confirming to the Connecticut Claimants the lands by them claimed in the county of Luzerne, were not ignorant of the magnitude of ber grant.
The petition of those claimants explicitly states, that their claims extended through seventeen towns generally of five miles square, and to soine detached lots, and the Committee on that petition reported to the Assembly that the petition was for entire and extensive tracts.
In addition to this, the law by relative terms refers to the petition ; is founded upon
and confined to it; and as the claims are there stated, it is but a trifling with words to say, that “The Legislature had not proper information of the magnitude of the grant."
8th. Because, if we should say that at the time the Confirming Law was enacted, there did not exist sufficient reasons for passing it; if we should declare in the words of the preamble of the repealing law, "that it was hastily passed without due consideration ;" it would be to accuse that Legielature of criminal improvidence, and inattention to their duty. But nu subsequent Legislature can be justified in doing this, unless (which is impossible) they can see and feel all those reasons and impressions under which the law originated.
9th. Because, if the repealing law could possibly produce the effect intended by its supporters, it will nevertheless bring an indelible disgrace on the State. It will show that not honour and justice, but mere mercenary viewe, governed its conduct; that it held itself bound by its contracts, only when a fulfilment of them coincided with its intereste; and that though by its laws, it will compel the honest performance of disadvantageous contracts, entered into by individual citizens, yet in its own case, setting itself above the law, it will pay no regard to them.
10th. Because the formal repeal of the Confirming Law, while it prostrates the faith, honour and dignity of the State, will not procure any equivalent, if, in the nature of things, there can be any possible equivalent for the sacrifice of those great principles of society and government; because the repeal, itself, will be nugatory, for it is an infraction of the laws of nations, a violation of the Constitution of the United States, an ex post facto law, a law violating the obligation of a solemn public contract, and the courts of the United States must pronounce it to be of no effect, Hence the folly of the repeal will equal its injustice ; for there will not remain even the paltry consideration of interest to console the State for the loss of its honour, dignity and faith. It is too probable that the mischiefs resulting from the measure may be serious in their nature and of long continuance. Those who were appeased by a good policy, will not be appeased by a faithless one; and thoạe who formerly joined them, from motives of humanity, may do it again, from the additional one of our having added treachery to violence. Whatever may be the event, we dissent from the vote passing the bill into a law, and desire that our reasons may be recorded in justification of our conduct, and for the information of our constituents.
OPINION. "Judge Brackenridge, in Carkhuff versus Anderson, (Binney's Reports, Vol. iii, page 10.) " The appearance of right which the Susquehanna Company, a people of Connecticut, had to advance a claim to this district of country, is in my mind in considering the case before me. I do not view them in the light of trespassers, with a full knowledge of their want of title. At all events, the bulk of them do not appear to have been apprised of their want of title, and I make a great distinction between trespassers, knowing, or having good reason to know, their defect of title, and such as may reasonably be supposed to be ignorant of what they are about.
“Before the decree of Trenton, the most intelligent and the best informed, might have been led to believe that the part of the country in question was settled under a GOOD TITLE from the State of Connecticut."
“But” In favour of those who had settled under the idea of a good title, and with an expectation of enjoying the land which they were improring and defending, at a great risk and with much loss, from the common enemy during the Rerolutionary war, TRERE 18 A CLAIM which ought not wholly to be disregarded. I do not call it a right, but a claim, on the ground of moral obligation.'
Our readers have been apprized that a part of the people of Westmoreland were located on the Lackawaxen, (now Wayne county,] and that it was designated in the ancient records as the “ Lacka. wa" settlement. To WARRËN J. WOODWARD, Esq., I am indebted for the interesting details which follow.
Separated by many miles of wilderness and mountain, although under the same government, and the people coming to Wilkesbarre to Courts and Elections, the intercourse could not be frequent, and distance divided their interests and their fortunes. The memoir will be found full of interest, rescues from oblivion fast fading facts, and adds valuable matter to the history of Wyoming, and the early settlements in north-eastern Pennsylvania.
THE WALLENPAUPACK. A tract of country lying upon the Wallenpaupack creek, and contained in what is now Palmyra township, Pike county, was settled at the time of the emigration of the Wyoming pioneers from Connecticut. The details that are subjoined, contain the entire history of its settlement, which tradition has preserved.
In 1752, the county of Northampton was erected. Of this county, the country along the Wallenpaupack was a part. Whether Connecticut, at the time of the emigration, claimed the ownership of, and civil jurisdiction over this colony, I have had no means of ascertaining
A warrant was issued out of the Proprietary Office, 25th November, 1748, under which a tract of land upon the Wallenpaupack creek, containing 12,150 acres, was surveyed 14th October, 1751, “ for the use of the Proprietaries of Pennsylvania," called “The Wallenpaupack Manor.” 21st February, 1793, this manor was conveyed to the Hon. James Wilson, who gave mortgage to John Penn, elder, and John Penn, younger, the vendors. In 1804, when this