Before 31 December 1699
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Mr. Thorsell is chairman of the editorial board of The Globe and Mail and a member of the World Economic Forum's global issues advisory group.
# The Northwest Angle of Nova Scotia
# Massachusetts Boundaries, 1691
RESOLUTION NO. 353Whereas, according to legend, Prince Henry Sinclair, in 1398, set sail from the Orkney Islands with 12 ships and 300 crew; and
This is the earliest event in the history of Nova Scotia that can be dated to a single day (according to legend). The Resolution refers to "Guysborough," located on the west side of the Strait of Canso, which separates the Nova Scotia mainland from Cape Breton Island.
Born in Scotland in about 1345 A.D. Henry Sinclair became Earl of Rosslyn and the surrounding lands as well as Prince of Orkney, Duke of Oldenburg (Denmark), and Premier Earl of Norway. In 1398 he led an expedition to explore Nova Scotia and Massachusetts. This was 90 years before Columbus "discovered America"! Prince Henry Sinclair was the subject of historian Frederick J. Pohl's Atlantic Crossings Before Columbus, which was published in 1961. Not all historians agreed with Pohl, but he made a highly convincing case that this blond, sea-going Scot, born at Rosslyn Castle near Edinburgh in 1345, not only wandered about mainland Nova Scotia in 1398, but also lived among the Micmacs long enough to be remembered through centuries as the man-god Glooscap...
Source: The Westford Knight
Nova Scotia historic plaque
commemorating John Cabot
Unique and interesting, though a most disastrous failure, was the colonizing enterprise of Marquis de la Roche in 1598. The location of this attempt was Sable Island, which is more interesting to read about than to visit.
Sable Island is a bank of sand, deposited by the swirl of meeting ocean currents. It lies 90 miles [about 140 km] southeast of Nova Scotia, and is the center of fogs and fiercest storms. Its shape is roughly that of a crescent, 22 miles [about 35 km] by 2 miles [about 3 km] wide and a shallow pool divides it from end to end. Its position is shifting gradually eastward, and the dreadful wrecks of which it is from time to time the scene have won it the name of "charnel-house of North America."
De la Roche, being made the Viceroy of Canada and Acadie, set sail for hius new dominions with a ship-load of convicts for colonists. Approaching the Acadian coasts he conceived, in his prudence, the plan of landing his dangerous charges upon Sable Island, till he might go and prepare for them, on the mainland, a place of safety. The forty convicts, selected from the chief prisons of France, were landed through the uproar of the surf, and the ship made haste away from the perilous shore.
But she did not come back! De la Roche reached Acadie (Nova Scotia), chose a site for his settlement, and set out for the island to fetch his expectant colonists. But a great gale swept him back to France and drove him upon the Breton coast, wher the Duke de Mercoeur, at that time warring against the king, seized him, cast him into prison, and held him close for five years.
Meanwhile those left on the island were delighted enough. They were free, and began to forget the scourge and chain. Beside the unstable hummocks and hills of sand they found a shallow lake of fresh water, the shores of which were covered luxuriantly with long grass, and lentils, and vines of vetch. Lurking in any and every portion of the grassy plain were little cup-like hollows, generally filled with clear water. Every such pool, like the lake, was alive with ducks and other water-fowl, among which the joyous convicts created consternation. There were wild cattle also, trooping and lowing among the sand-hills or feeding belly-deep in the rank water-grasses; while herds of wild hogs, introduced years before by the Portugese, disputed the shallow pools with the mallard and teal.
The weather for awhile kept fine, and the winds comparatively temperate, and the sojourners held a carnival of liberty and indolence. But this was not for long, and as the skies grew harsher their plight grew harder. As the weeks slipped into months they grew first impatient, then solicitous, then despairing. Their provisions fell low, and at last the truth was staring them in the face — they were deserted.
From the shipwrecks along the shore they built themselves at first a rude shelter, which the increasing cold and storms soon drove them to perfect with their most cunning skill. As their stores diminished, they looked on greedily and glared at each other with jealous eyes. Soon quarrels broke out with but little provocation, and were settled by the knife with such fatal frequency that the members of the colony shrank apace.
As they had been provided with no means of lighting fires, they soon had to live on the raw flesh of the wild cattle, and little by little they learned the lesson, and began to relish such fare. Little by little, too, as their garments fell to pieces, they replaced them with skins of the seals that swarmed about the beach; and their hut they lined with hides from the cattle they had slaughtered.
As the months became years their deadly contests ceased, but exposure, and frost, and hunger, and disease kept thinning their ranks. They occupied themselves in pursuing the seal for its skin, the walrus for its ivory. They had gathered a great store of sealskins, ivory, and hides, but now only twelve men remained to possess these riches. Their beards had grown to their waists, their skins were like the furs that covered them, their nails were like birds' claws, their eyes gleamed with a sort of shy ferocity through the long, matted tangle of hair.
At last, from out of his prison, De la Roche got word to the king, telling him of their miserable fortune, and a ship was at once sent out to rescue them.
Source: Pages 201-203 of The Canadian Guide Book: The Tourist's and Sportsman's Guide to Eastern Canada and Newfoundland... by Charles G.D. Roberts, Professor of English Literature at King's College, Windsor, Nova Scotia; 378 pages, published by D. Appleton, New York, 1891.
Early Canadiana Online http://www.canadiana.org/
page 201 http://www.canadiana.org/ECO/mtq?id=1c89ddcf4f&display=56228+0279
page 202 http://www.canadiana.org/ECO/mtq?id=1c89ddcf4f&display=56228+0280
page 203 http://www.canadiana.org/ECO/mtq?id=1c89ddcf4f&display=56228+0281
Henry by the Grace of God King of France and Navarre, to our beloved and faithful counselors, the officers of our admiralty in Normandy, Brittany, and Guienne, bailiffs, marshals, provosts, judges, or their lieutenants, and to each one of them, according to his authority, throughout the extent of their powers, jurisdictions, and precincts, greeting:
Acting upon the information which has been given us by those who have returned from New France, respecting the good quality and fertility of the lands of that country, and the disposition of the people to accept the knowledge of God, We have resolved to continue the settlement previously undertaken there, in order that our subjects may go there to trade without hindrance. And in view of the proposition to us of Sieur de Monts, gentleman in ordinary of our chamber, and our lieutenant-general in that country, to make a settlement, on condition of our giving him means and supplies for sustaining the expense of it, it has pleased us to promise and assure him that none of our subjects but himself shall be permitted to trade in pelts and other merchandise, for the period of one year only, in the lands, regions, harbors, rivers, and highways throughout the extent of his jurisdiction: this we desire to have fulfilled. For these causes and other considerations impelling us thereto, we command and decree that each one of you, throughout the extent of your powers, jurisdictions, and precincts, shall act in our stead and carry out our will in distinctly prohibiting and forbidding all merchants, masters, and captains of vessels, also sailors and others of our subjects, of whatever rank and profession, to fit out any vessels in which to go themselves or send others in order to engage in trade or barter in pelts and other things with the savages of New France, to visit, trade, or communicate with them during the space of one year, within the jurisdiction of Sieur de Monts, on penalty of disobedience, and the entire confiscation of their vessels, supplies, arms, and merchandise for the benefit of Sieur de Monts; and, in order that the punishment of their disobedience may be assured, you will allow, as we have and do allow, the aforesaid Sieur de Monts or his lieutenants to seize, apprehend, and arrest all violators of our present prohibition and order, also their vessels, merchandise, arms, supplies, and victuals, in order to take and deliver them up to the hands of justice, so that action may be taken not only against the persons, but also the property of the offenders, as the case shall require...
Given at Paris the seventh day of January, in the year of grace sixteen hundred and eight, and the nineteenth of our reign. Signed, HENRY...
The origin of the word "Fundy" is believed to be traceable to 16th century Spanish and Portuguese mariners. Their use of the word "Rio Fondo" (meaning deep river) on early imprecise maps was thought to refer to the Bay. By the time of Champlain's maps, Fundy was fairly accurately portrayed and now named Bay Francoise...
Early Perspectives on the Fundy Environment
...The Order of Good Times is the oldest social club in North America, having been first formed at Port Royal in Annapolis County on November 14, 1606...
— Hon. Murray Scott, the Speaker of the Nova Scotia Legislature
proposing Resolution Number 1111, 11 May 2001
Complete Hansard report
For an account of this event, see:
History of Nova Scotia Book #1: Acadia, by Peter Landry
Part 1, Early Settlement & Baronial Battles: 1605-90
Chapter 8 — The Battling Barons of Acadia
The Treaty of Breda, signed by France and England in 1667, marked the return of Acadia to its place among the French colonies. Thomas Temple, the English administrator of Acadia (Nova Scotia) from 1650 to 1660, created so many difficulties before handing the territory over to the French that Hector d'Andigne de Grandfontaine, the new governor appointed by France, was not able to take possession of the colony until 1670.
Accompanied by about 30 soldiers and 60 settlers, Grandfontaine now found himself faced with the enormous task of having to restore French authority among 400-odd settlers who had been living independently for several years. He was hampered by the fact that Louis XIV had decided not to make any "outlay" for his colonies in North America at a time when the colony needed support more than ever. It was too late for Acadia to be reintegrated by a colonial administration that had spent considerable sums in the 1660s but whose policies were totally oriented towards Europe by 1670. Grandfontaine was also obliged to prevent the English in the Anglo-American colonies (Massachusetts, Virginia...) from trading and fishing in French territory.
It would appear that neither Grandfontaine nor his successors were able to achieve the objectives which were essential to French control of Acadia. In the colonial context of North America, Acadia was of marginal significance. Positioned between two rival colonies, the territory along the Bay of Fundy was the subject of dispute on several occasions and the scene of numerous military engagements. Successive governors — Joybert de Soulanges, de Chambly, and Leneuf de La Valliere — all faced similar military and administrative problems which demonstrated the weakness of the Acadian colony.
After the Treaty of Breda, Acadia became a royal colony, which meant that the French crown took over the financial and administrative responsibilities, since neither private nor public companies had been successful in developing the colonies in North America. From an administrative point of view, the governor of New France had jurisdiction over Acadia but, in practice, the administrators on the Bay of Fundy preferred to deal directly with France. The isolation and communication difficulties, and specific internal problems, forced officials in Acadia to follow a very different course of action than those in New France.
Given their meagre resources, the authorities in Acadia could do no more than pursue a laissez-faire policy with regard to the fishery and the fur trade. There were no ships to guard the coastline of the colony, consequently fisherman from Boston and Salem were able to continue operating as if nothing had changed.
Nowadays, when we in North America routinely view television pictures — live, at thirty frames a second, in full colour with sound — from Europe (or most anywhere in the world) less than one second after the events being reported, it is difficult to realize what those words "the isolation and communication difficulties" (above) mean.
Communication between an administrator in Nova Scotia and the authorities in Paris was slow beyond our comprehension. There was no such thing as telephone communication; not even telegraph.
All communication had to be by way of a message written on paper, or, occasionally, carried in the memory of a traveller. A message sent from Nova Scotia to France — or the other way round — would bring a reply only after the passage of months — five or six months at best, and eight or ten months most of the time.
WILLIAM & MARY by the grace of God King and Queene of England Scotland France and Ireland Defenders of the Faith &c To all to whome these presents shall come Greeting Whereas his late Majesty King James the First Our Royall Predecessor by his Letters Patents vnder the Greate Seale of England bearing date at Westminster the Third Day of November in the Eighteenth yeare of his Reigne did Give and Grant vnto the Councill established at Plymouth in the County of Devon for the Planting Ruleing Ordering and Govcrning of New England in America and to their Successors and Assignes all that part of America lying and being in Breadth from Forty Degrees of Northerlv Latitude from the Equinoctiall Line to the Forty Eighth Degree of the said Northerly Latitude Inclusively, and in length of and within all the Breadth aforesaid throughout all the Main Lands from Sea to Sea together alsoe with all the firme Lands Soiles Grounds Havens Ports Rivers Waters Fishings Mines and Mineralls as well Royall Mines of Gold and Silver as other Mines and Mineralls Pretious Stones Quarries and all and singular other Comodities Jurisdiccons Royalties Privileges Franchises and Prehen1inences both within the said Tract of Land vpon the Main and alsoe within the Islands and Seas adjoyning...
And whereas severall persons employed as Agents in behalfe of Our said Collony of the Massachusetts Bay in New England have made their humble application unto Us that Wee would be graciously pleased by Our Royall Charter to Incorporate Our Subjects in Our said Collony...
And alsoe to the end Our good Subjects within Our Collony of New Plymouth in New England aforesaid may be brought under such a forme of Government as may put them in a better Condition of defenceof Wee doe by these presents for Us Our Heirs and Successors Will and Ordeyne that the Territories and Collonyes comonly called or known by the Names of the Collony of the Massachusetts Bay and Collony of New Plymouth the Province of Main the Territorie called Accadia or Nova Scotia and all that Tract of Land lying betweene the said Territoritorzes of Nova Scotia and the said Province of Main be Erected United and Incorporated... into one reall Province by the Name of Our Province of the Massachusetts Bay in New England.
"the Territorie called Accadia or Nova Scotia"|
then included the region we call New Brunswick.
And... Wee doe... grant unto... the Inhabitants of... the Massachusetts Bay and their Successors all that parte of New England in America lying and extending from the greate River commonly called Monomack alias Merrimack on the Northpart and from three Miles [about 5 km] Northward of the said River to the Atlantick or Western Sea or Ocean on the South part And all the Lands and Hereditaments whatsoever lying within the limitts aforesaid and extending as far as the Outermost Points or Promontories of Land called Cape Cod and Cape Mallabar North and South and in Latitude Breadth and in Length and Longitude of and within all the Breadth and Compass aforesaid throughout the Main Land there from the said Atlantick or Western Sea and Ocean on the East parte towards the South Sea or Westward as far as Our Collonyes of Rhode Island Connecticutt and the Marragansett [Narragansett] Countrey all alsoe all that part or portion of Main Land beginning at the Entrance of Pescataway Harbour and soe to pass upp the same into the River of Newickewannock and through the same into the furthest head thereof and from thence Northwestward till One Hundred and Twenty Miles [about 190 km] be finished and from Piscata way Harbour mouth aforesaid North-Eastward along the Sea Coast to Sagadehock and from the Period of One Hundred and Twenty Miles aforesaid to cross over Land to the One Hundred and Twenty Miles before reckoned up into the Land from Piscataway Harbour through Newickawannock River and also the North halfe of the Isles and [of Shoales together with the Isles of Cappawock and Nantukett near CapeCod aforesaid and alsoe [all] Lands and Hereditaments lying and being in the Countrey and Territory commonly called Accadia or Nova Scotia And all those Lands and Hereditaments lying and extending betweene the said Countrey or Territory of Nova Scotia and the said River of Sagadahock or any part thereof... and alsoe all Islands and Isletts Iying within tenn Leagues [about 50 km] directly opposite to the Main Land within the said bounds...
And Wee doe further... ordeyne that... there shall be one Governour One Leiutenant or Deputy Governour and One Secretary of Our said Province or Territory to be from time to time appointed and Commissionated by Us... and Eight and Twenty Assistants or Councillors to be advising and assisting to the Governour... for the time being as by these presents is hereafter directed and appointed which said Councillors or Assistants are to be Constituted Elected and Chosen in such forme and manner as hereafter in these presents is expressed And for the better Execution of Our Royall Pleasure and Grant in this behalfe Wee... Nominate... Simon Broadstreet John Richards Nathaniel Saltenstall Wait Winthrop John Phillipps James Russell Samuell Sewall Samuel Appleton Barthilomew Gedney John Hawthorn Elisha Hutchinson Robert Pike Jonathan Curwin John Jolliffe Adam Winthrop Richard Middlecot John Foster Peter Serjeant Joseph Lynd Samuell Hayman Stephen Mason Thomas Hinckley William Bradford John Walley Barnabas Lothrop Job Alcott Samuell Daniell and Silvanus Davis Esquiers the first and present Councillors or Assistants of Our said Province...and wee doe further... appoint... Isaac Addington Esquier to be Our first and present Secretary of Our said Province during Our Pleasure and our Will and Pleasure is that the Governour... shall have Authority from time to time at his discretion to assemble and call together the Councillors or Assistants... and that the said Governour with the said Assistants or Councillors or Seaven of them at the least shall and may from time to time hold and keep a Councill for the ordering and directing the Affaires of Our said Province and further Wee Will... that there shall... be convened... by the Governour... upon every last Wednesday in the Moneth of May every yeare for ever and at all such other times as the Governour... shall think fitt and appoint a great and Generall Court of Assembly Which... shall consist of the Governour and Councill or Assistants... and of such Freeholders... as shall be from time to time elected or deputed by the Major parte of the Freeholders and other Inhabitants of the respective Townes or Places who shall lve present at such Elections Each of the said Townes and Places being hereby impowered to Elect and Depute Two Persons and noe more to serve for and represent them respectively in the said Great and Generall Court... To which Great and Generall Court... Wee doe hereby... grant full power and authority from time to time to direct... what Number each County Towne and Place shall Elect and Depute to serve for and represent them respectively...Provided alwayes that noe Freeholder or other Person shall have a Vote in the Election of Members... who at the time of such Election shall not have an estate of Freehold in Land within Our said Province or Territory to the value of Forty Shillings per Annum at the least or other estate to the value of Forty pounds Sterling And that every Person who shall be soe elected shall before he sitt or Act in the said Great and General Court... take the Oaths mentioned in an Act of Parliament made in the first yeare of Our Reigne Entituled an Act for abrogateing of the Oaths of Allegiance and Supremacy and appointing other Oaths and thereby appointed to be taken instead of the Oaths of Allegiance and Supremacy and shall make Repeat and Subscribe the Declaration mentioned in the said Act... and that the Governour for the time being shall have full power and Authority from time to time as he shall Judge necessary to adjourne Prorogue and dissolve all Great and Generall Courts... met and convened as aforesaid And... Wee doe... Ordeyne that yearly once in every yeare... the aforesaid Number of Eight and Twenty Councillors or Assistants shall be by the Generall Court... newly chosen that is to say Eighteen at least of the Inhabitants of or Proprietors of Lands within the Territory formerly called the Collony of the Massachusetts Bay and four at the least of the Inhabitants of or Proprietors of Lands within the Territory formerly called New Plymouth and three at the least of the Inhabitants of or Proprietors of Land within the Territory formerly called the Province of Rain and one at the least of the Inhabitants of or Proprietors of Land within the Territory lying between the River of Sagadahoc and Nova Scotia... [The General Court may remove assistants from office, and may also fill vacancies caused by removal or death.] And Wee doe further... Ordeyne that it shall and may be lawfull for the said Governour with the advice and consent of the Councill or Assistants from time to time to nominate and appoint Judges Commissioners of Oyer and Tcrminer Sheriffs Provosts Marshalls Justices of the Peace and other Officers to Our Councill and Courts of Justice belonging... and for the greater Ease and Encouragement of Our Loveing Subjects In habiting our said Province... and of such as shall come to Inhabit there We doe... Ordaine that for ever hereafter there shall be a liberty of Conscience allowed in the Worshipp of God to all Christians (Except Papists) Inhabiting... within our said Province... [Courts for the trial of both civil and criminal cases may be established by the General Court, reserving to the governor and assistants matters of probate and administration.]and whereas Wee judge it necessary that all our Subjects should have liberty to Appeale to us... in Cases that may deserve the same Wee doe... Ordaine that incase either party shall not rest satisfied with the Judgement or Sentence of any Judicatories or Courts within our said Province... in any Personall Action wherein the matter in difference doth exceed the value of three hundred Pounds Sterling that then he or they may appeale to us... in our... Privy Councill... and we doe further... grant to the said Governor and the great and Generall Court... full power and Authority from time to time to make... all manner of wholesome and reasonable Orders Laws Statutes and Ordinances Directions and Instructions either with penalties or without (soe as the same be not repugnant or contrary to the Lawes of this our Realme of England) as they shall Judge to be for the good and welfare of our said Province....And for the Government and Ordering thereof and of the People Inhabiting... the same and for the necessary support andDefence of the Government thereof [and also] full power and Authority to name and settle Annually all Civill Officers within the said Province such Officers Excepted the Election and Constitution of whome wee have by these presents reserved to us... or to the Governor... and to Settforth the severall Duties Powers and Lymitts of every such Officer... and the forms of such Oathes not repugnant to the Lawes and Statutes of this ourRealme of England as shall be respectively Administred unto them for the Execution of their severall Offices and places...
Grants of land by the General Court, within the limits of the former colonies of Massachusetts Bay and New Plymouth, and the Province of Maine, excepting the region north and east of the Sagadahoc, to be valid without further royal approval.
The governor shall direct the defense of the province, and may exercise martial law in case of necessity... Provided alwayes... That the said Governur shall not at any time hereafter by vertue of any power hereby granted or hereafter to be granted to him Transport any of the Inhabitants of Our said Province... or oblige them to march out of the Limitts of the same without their Free and voluntary consent or the Consent of the Great and Generall Court... nor grant Commissions for exercising the Law Martiall upon any the Inhabitants of Our said Province... without the Advice and Consent of the Councill or Assistants of the same... Provided alwaies... that nothing herein shall extend or be taken to... allow the Exercise of any Admirall Court Jurisdiction Power or Authority but that the same be and is hereby reserved to Us... and shall from time to time be... exercised by vertue of Commissions to be yssued under the Great Seale of England or under the Seale of the High Admirall or the Commissioners for executing the Office of High Admiral of England.... And lastly for the better provideing and furnishing of Masts for Our Royall Navy Wee doe hereby reserve to Us... all Trees of the Diameter of Twenty Four Inches [60 cm] and upwards of Twelve Inches [30 cm] from the ground growing upon any soyle or Tract of Land within Our said Province... not heretofore granted to any private persons And Wee doe restraine and forbid all persons whatsoever from felling cutting or destroying any such Trees without the Royall Lycence of Us... first had and obteyned upon penalty of Forfeiting One Hundred Pounds sterling unto Ous [Us]... for every such Tree so felled cutt or destroyed...
Source: The Second Charter Of Massachusetts, October 17th, 1691
17 October 1691
We forbid all persons whatsoever from felling any such Trees
Penalty: £100 per tree
This prohibition applied throughout
the territory now known as Massachusetts,
Maine, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia.
...for the better provideing and furnishing of Masts for Our Royall Navy Wee doe hereby reserve to Our Heires and Successors all Trees of the Diameter of Twenty Four Inches [60 cm] and upwards of Twelve Inches [30 cm] from the ground growing vpon any soyle or Tract of Land within Our said Province or Territory not heretofore granted to any private persons And Wee doe restrains and forbid all persons whatsoever from felling cutting or destroying any such Trees without the Royall Lycence of Our Heires and Successors first had and obteyned vpon penalty of Forfeiting One Hundred Pounds sterling vnto Ous Our Heires and Successors for every such Tree soe felled cult or destroyed without such Lycence...
Source: The Second Charter Of Massachusetts, October 17th, 1691
Where was the Northwest Angle of Nova Scotia? That is now a forgotten question, but it sorely vexed two generations of diplomats, molded the early history of Aroostook, and dragged two great nations to the verge of war. Its answer determined the location of much of the boundary of Maine and whether thousands of people should be American or Canadians by birth. It was a prime factor in the famous northeastern boundary controversy which culminated in the equally famous Webster-Ashburton Treaty between the United States and Great Britain in 1842.
The Border Dispute, How the Maine-New Brunswick border was finalized
The foundations of that controversy were laid in the very beginnings of the English colonies in America. As early as 1621 James I of England granted to his Scotch favorite, Sir William Alexander, the province of Nova Scotia, which included the present provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and most of the Gaspe Peninsula now belonging to Quebec. The western boundary of this grant was to follow the River St. Croix from its mouth to its most westerly source, and thence by a line running northward until it intersected a tributary of the St. Lawrence.
Later, when Charles II granted the province of Sagadahoc to his brother, James, Duke of York, he designated the western boundary of Nova Scotia as the eastern boundary of Sagadahoc.
Subsequently Massachusetts claimed the ancient province of Sagadahoc under the terms of the Royal Charter of 1691 although Nova Scotia disputed the claim. This dispute was settled after the conquest of Canada, when the British government confirmed the original line of the Alexander grant as the boundary between the rival provinces. At the same time, the southern boundary of Quebec, where that province bordered on Massachusetts and Nova Scotia, was established "along the highlands which divide the rivers that empty themselves into the said River St. Lawrence which fall into the sea, and also along the north coast of the Bay des Chaleurs and the coast of the Gulf of St. Lawrence to Cape Rosiers..." thus definitely fixing on paper the boundaries of the three provinces.
Incidentally, it located the Northwest Angle of Nova Scotia at the point where the north line from the source of the St. Croix intersected the line along the "Highlands."
The treaty of peace between the United States and Great Britain at the close of the Revolution recognized these provincial boundaries of Massachusetts and made them a part of the international boundary. The article in the treaty defining boundaries described that concerning the district of Maine thus:
From the northwest angle of Nova Scotia, viz.: that angle which is formed by a line drawn due north from the source of the St. Croix River to the Highlands. which divide those rivers that empty themselves into the St. Lawrence from those which fall into the Atlantic Ocean, to the northwesternmost head of the Connecticut River...east by a line to be drawn along the middle of the St. Croix from its mouth in the Bay of Fundy to its source, and from its source directly north to the aforesaid Highlands, which divide the rivers that fall into the Atlantic Ocean from those that fall into the River St. Lawrence.
This description seems sufficiently definite that the boundary might be surveyed and marked without controversy, yet controversies arose serious enough to call out troops and bring the two countries to the very brink of bloodshed.
There were three major stumbling blocks; no one knew which river was the true St. Croix; the territory claimed by the United States cut off direct communication between Nova Scotia and Quebec; and when the country was explored and mapped, no point could be found on the face of the earth to which the treaty description of the Northwest Angle of Nova Scotia exactly applied.
Sieur de Monts and his French colonists spent the winter of 1604-05 on a small island near the mouth of a river that flowed into Passamaquoddy Bay, and to both the bay and the island he gave the name St. Croix. The colony proved a failure, and the colonists moved to Port Royal, but the name of the river was perpetuated on maps of the region drawn by Champlain. However, the country remained a wilderness; repeatedly changed ownership from French to English and back again; and, with the march of years, although the name was remembered, the location was forgotten.
The first step taken by the two governments toward marking the international boundary was the appointment in 1786 of a joint commission to "decide what river is the St. Croix intended in the treaty," describe the river, and locate its mouth and source. This commission found that there were three considerable rivers flowing into Passamaquoddy Bay — the Cobscook, the Schoodic, and the Magaguadavic. The United States claimed that the river the farthest east, the Magaguadavic, was the river sought, while the British agent contented in favor of the Schoodic.
Much conflicting evidence was presented, but all doubt was dispelled by the discovery on the island at the mouth of the Schoodic, now known as Dochet or St. Croix Island, of cellar holes and other evidences of human occupation which corresponded exactly with a plan that Champlain had drawn of DeMonts' settlement at St. Croix. Thus it was proved that the Schoodic was the true St. Croix of De Monts and Champlain, of Sir William Alexander's grant of Nova Scotia, and of the Treaty of 1783.
The next question to decide was whether the Princeton or the Vanceboro branch of the Schoodic was the main St. Croix, the British agent claiming the former and the American agent the later. The commissioners decided in favor of the Vanceboro branch, and located the source of the river where the present north line begins. Thus the boundary was established from the mouth of the St. Croix to its source, and it would seem that some progress had been made toward locating the Northwest Angle of Nova Scotia.
But the next controversy that arose wore a much more serious aspect. The natural line of communication between the settlements along the Bay of Fundy and those in the St. Lawrence Valley is up the St. John to the Madawaska, thence up that river to Lake Temiscouata, thence across Lake Temiscouata and over a height of the land by a portage to a small river flowing into the St. Lawrence. This was the route used by the Indians for years without number, then by the French, and after the fall of Canada by the English themselves. Not only was it the only practical route between St. John and Quebec before the days of turnpikes and railroads, but when the St. Lawrence was icebound in Winter, it was absolutely the only line of communication through British territory from Quebec to St. John, and thence to Halifax and Europe.
As long as Massachusetts remained a British possession, it made little difference to what province the upper valley of the St. John belonged, but when Massachusetts became part of an independent nation, it also became a matter of paramount importance to Great Britain to control the entire length of this key line of communication between her provinces. Before the end of the eighteenth century, military posts had been established at Grand Falls and at Presque Isle on the St. John, post houses had been built at convenient distances along the way, and scattered settlements had sprung up even on the Madawaska.
The peace Treaty of 1783, as commonly understood at the time, made the Madawaska and upper St. John region a part of the United States, thus, from the Canadian standpoint, seating a foreign country squarely across an essential line of communication. In time of peace, the royal mails might pass through international courtesy; but in time of war, communication could be maintained by force alone.
Scarcely had the terms of the treaty become generally known before Lord Dorchester, governor-general of British North America, perceived the importance of preserving to his government the line of communication, and a little later he advanced the opinion that the "Highlands were to be sought south of Grand Falls rather than north of that place. However, it is evident that both American and British leaders were agreed prior to the War of 1812 that the Northwest Angle of Nova Scotia was far to the north at the St. Lawrence watershed. Even Governor Carleton of New Brunswick and Ward Chipman, for many years the British agent during the boundary controversy, held that opinion.
The British commissioners who negotiated the Treaty of Ghent at the close of the War of 1812 must also have held this belief, for they proposed that the United States should cede to Great Britain the territory north of the St. John in return for land elsewhere or its equivalent. The American commissioners, among whom was John Quincy Adams of Massachusetts, took the ground that they had "no authority to cede any part of the United States," and there the matter rested for the time being.
The Treaty of Ghent did provide, however, for the appointment of two commissioners who should ascertain the exact location of the Northwest Angle of Nova Scotia and of the northwesternmost source of the Connecticut River; and should survey, mark and map the boundary between the source of the St. Croix and the River Iroquois. If the commissioners should disagree, the whole question was to be referred to some friendly sovereign or state for arbitration.
President Madison appointed Cornelius P. Van Ness as one of the commissioners, and King George IV appointed Thomas Barclay as the other. One of the first acts of the commission was to authorize a joint survey of the line running north from the source of the St. Croix. The line was to begin "near a yellow birch tree hooped with iron and marked "ST and JH, 1797," and extend to the highlands that formed the southern boundary of the St. Lawrence watershed. The commissioners were also to explore the different highlands between that line and the headwaters of the Connecticut.
This survey brought to light two facts that had an important bearing on the controversy. First, the river basins of the St. John and the St. Lawrence were not separated by a continuous range of Mountains, or "Highlands," as was supposed; and, second, there was no place on the north line that answered exactly to the treaty description of the Northwest Angle of Nova Scotia. That is, there was no ridge which divided the waters falling into the St. Lawrence from those falling into the Atlantic. This was because the line crossed the headwaters of the Restigouche River, which emptied into the Bay of Chaleur. Thus, there was a point on the line that separated waters falling into the St. Lawrence from waters falling into the Bay of Chaleur, which is an arm of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and another point that parted waters flowing into the Bay of Chaleur from waters falling into the Bay of Fundy, an arm of the Atlantic, but no point that completely fulfilled the description of the treaty.
Ward Chipman, the British agent, and his advisors were quick to see the advantage that they might gain from this technical flaw in the treaty, and they made the most of it. Since the Northwest Angle of Nova Scotia could not be found north of the St. John, they reasons, it must be south of that river. Moreover, since the St. John did not flow into the Atlantic but into the Bay of Fundy, the treaty markers must have meant by the term "Highlands" the watersheds that separated the basins of the St. John and the Penobscot. They further argued that, while there were no "Highlands" where the north line intersected the St. Lawrence watershed, there was a very prominent highland on that line south of the St. John namely Mars Hill, central Maine at or near the southern limits of the St. John basin. Thus they set up the claim that Mars Hill was the Northwest Angle of Nova Scotia, and that the whole basin of the St. John, including of course the coveted line of communication, belonged to Great Britain.
The Americans claimed that the intent of the men who made the treaty of 1783 was to leave the boundary between Massachusetts on the one hand and Nova Scotia and Quebec on the other just where it had been before the Revolution; that, prior to the conquest of Canada, both Massachusetts and Nova Scotia had extended to the St. Lawrence, separated by a boundary that followed the St. Croix from its mouth to its source and thence north to the St. Lawrence; that when the southern boundary of Quebec was established it included only land that drained into the St. Lawrence, and left the entire St. John Valley west of the old line still in Massachusetts; that, when the treaty was made, little was known concerning the topography of the area, everyone supposed that the Restigouche was a very small river, and that the map that the treaty makers used showed the headwaters of the river far to the east of the line due north from the source of the St. Croix; and that to the best knowledge and in the intent of both the British and the American commissioners, the Northwest Angle of Nova Scotia was at the height of land south of the St. Lawrence.
The commissioners could not agree. Barclay adopted the extreme British view that the Northwest Angle was located at Mars Hill, while Van Ness took the American view that the angle was some eighty miles [about 130 km] north of the St. John near the headwaters of the Metis, a small branch of the St. Lawrence. Surveys had been made; the issues had been clearly defined; otherwise the labor of the commissioners seemed barren of results.
After a delay of several years the two countries proceeded in accordance with the terms of the Treaty of Ghent and referred the dispute to a friendly sovereign, William, King of Netherlands. Albert Gallatin, one of the foremost statesmen of the day, assisted by William Pitt Preble of Maine, prepared the case for the United States. The king prefaced his decision by stating that, in his judgment, neither party had presented conclusive evidence to substantiate its claim, and that, in justice, he could not decide in favor of one nation without prejudice to the interests of the other. Accordingly he offered a compromise, which, like most compromises, satisfied nobody.
He decided that the international boundary should follow a north line from the source of the St. Croix River to a point where it intersected the channel of the St. John, thence up the middle of the channel of the St. John to the mouth of the St. Francis, thence up the middle of the St. Francis to its source, thence due west to the highlands which separated the basins of the St. John and the St. Lawrence, and thence along those highlands to the source of the Connecticut.
King William rendered his decision in January, 1831. Great Britain had won her long-coveted line of communication and accepted the award, but the United States, influenced by the uncompromising attitude of the State of Maine against the cession of a single foot of her territory, rejected it. Again matters rested just where they had been for fifteen years. The rejection, however, was unfortunate for Maine, for the king's decision gave her much more territory than did the final settlement, and developments had already begun within the disputed area that kept the state in a turmoil for a dozen years, and that nearly rushed her people headlong into war.
Source: Trying to Locate The Boundary Line
Chapter Four of Aroostook: The First Sixty Years
a history in fifteen chapters by Clarence A. Day, which was first published serially in the Fort Fairfield Review, Fort Fairfield, Maine, beginning 26 December 1951 and concluding on 27 February 1957. The electronic version was produced for the Internet by the Northern Maine Development Commission, and uploaded to the Web in July 2000.
The Wayback Machine
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ARTICLE 2nd: And that all disputes which might arise in future on the subject of the boundaries of the said United States may be prevented, it is hereby agreed and declared, that the following are and shall be their boundaries, viz. From the north west angle of Nova-Scotia, viz, that angle which is formed by a line drawn due north from the source of Saint-Croix river to the Highlands...
Source: Library of Congress, Documents from the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, 1774-1789
between Nova Scotia/New Brunswick and Massachusetts/Maine
"The Ashburton-Webster Boundary Settlement," Canadian Historical Association, 1938
Burrage, Henry F.
Maine in the Northeastern Boundary Controversy, Portland, Maine, 1919
Classen, H. George
Thrust and Counter-Thrust: The Genesis of the Canada-United States Boundary, Don Mills, Ontario, 1965
Corey, Albert B.
The Crisis of 1830-1842 in Canadian-American Relations, New Haven, Connecticut, 1941
Clarence A. Day
Aroostook: The First Sixty Years, Fort Fairfield, Maine
Fox, Dixon R., ed.
Harper's Atlas of American History, New York, 1920
Ganong, William F.
"A monograph of the Evolution of the Boundaries of the Province of New Brunswick," Royal Society of Canada, Proceedings, 2nd series, II, pages 295-358
Irish, Maria M.
"The Northeastern Boundary of Maine," Journal of American History, XVI (1922), pages 311-322
To the Webster-Ashburton Treaty: A Study in Anglo-American Relations, 1783-1843, University of North Carolina Press, 1977
Keenleyside, Hugh L. and Gerald S. Brown
Canada and the United States, New York, 1952
Kerr, D.G.G., ed.
Historical Atlas of Canada, revised edition, Toronto, 1966
"The Maine Boundary and the Northeast Boundary Controversy," American Historical Review, LIII (October, 1947), pages 30-41
MacNutt, W. Stewart
New Brunswick: A History, 1784-1867, Toronto, 1963
Martin, Lawrence and Samuel F. Bemis
"Franklin's Red-Line Map Was a Mitchell." New England Quarterly, X (March, 1937), pages 105-111
Mills, Dudley A.
"British Diplomacy and Canada: The Ashburton Treaty, " United Empire, N.S. II (October, 1911), pages 682-712
Moore, John Bassett
History and Digest of the International Arbitrations to Which the United States Has Been a Party, Washington, D.C., 1898
Paullin, Charles O., ed.
Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States, New York, 1932
Sprague, John Francis
"The North Eastern Boundary Controversy, 1783-1842," in Lewis C. Hatch Maine: A History, New York, 1919
Washburn, Israel, Jr.
"The North-Eastern Boundary," Maine Historical Society, Collections and Proceedings, VIII (1881), pages 1-107
Source: Northern Maine Development Commission
and other sources
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