• Historic Letter Provides MA Gov. Hancock With Boundary Between Canada And Massachusetts

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    The Treaty of Paris (1783) ended the Revolutionary War but did not clearly determine the boundary between British North America (Canada) and the United States. Massachusetts began issuing land grants in its District of Maine, including areas that the British had already laid claims to. Questions regarding the boundary line between the district of Maine and Canada arose not long afterward and the negotiators of the 1794 Jay Treaty agreed that a commission should determine the source of the St. Croix River, the principal geographic feature identified in the earlier treaty.  Boundary conflicts continued until the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842.  The historic and significant letter offered here was written to Massachusetts Gov. John Hancock and provides important background on the origins of this long and tedious boundary dispute.


    The writer, Aaron Dexter, very likely an assistant to Gov. Parr of Nova Scotia, tries to resolve boundary conflicts between the district of Maine and Halifax.  No date, but the letter references Gov. John Parr, who served as governor from 1782 to 1783.  John Hancock was Governor of Massachusetts from 1780 – 1785 and 1787 – 1793.  


    “His Excellence Governor Hancock


    “Honored Sir


    “In consequence of your request I have minuted all the conversation that I recollect of Governor Parr’s at Halifax – The Governor mentioned Col. Allen’s applying to him to order his settlers from a track of country to the East end of a river commonly called the great St. Croix known among the natives by the same of Skudock.


    “The Governor said it was a river supposed by the people of that Province to be the river mentioned in the provisional Treaty as a boundary between the two Countries.


    “Mr. Charles Morris the King surveyor on being present, declared it to be the River, that Governor Barnard established as a perpetual boundary in the year 1763, and in consequence took a grant of this very land to the east of said river from the Province of Nova Scotia, a record of which he produced.


    “The Governor expressed a great desire to have the boundary line ascertained, to remove every possible cause of dispute, hereafter between the two countries for it was his earnest desire to establish a perpetual amity between the Province of Nova Scotia and the United States, particularly the State of Massachusetts Bay.


    “Mr. Morris said there was three rivers on the Bay of Passamaquody of the same name, and above twenty in the Province, that the French settlers when they baptized an Indian child it was commonly on the bank of some river, which they ever after called St. Croix.


    “I do not at present recollect any other conversation on the subject.  I am Sir with the


    “Greatest respect your


    “Excellency’s Most Obedient


    “Very Humble Servant


    “Aaron Dexter


    “His Excellency John Hancock, Esq.”


    The letter references Colonel Allan, no doubt John Allan (January 3, 1746 – February 7, 1805) who was a Canadian politician and later became an officer with the Massachusetts Militia in the American Revolutionary War.  He served under George Washington during the war as Superintendent of the Eastern Indians and Colonel of Infantry, and he recruited Indian tribes of Eastern Maine to stand with the Americans during the war.  Allan also participated in border negotiations between Maine and New Brunswick.  [Research included]


    The letter also references the King’s renowned surveyor Charles Morris (June 8, 1771 – November 4, 1781), who created some of the first British maps of Canada’s maritime region and designed the layout of Halifax, Lunenburg, Lawrence town and Liverpool.


    Letter is in excellent condition. Folds and expected toning.  Spelling has been corrected in the transcription for clarity.


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