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This Country of Ours - H. E. Marshall

How Maine and New Hampshire Were Founded

North of Massachusetts two more colonies, New Hampshire and Maine, were founded. But they were not founded by men who fled from tyranny, but by statesmen and traders who realised the worth of America, not by Puritans, but by Churchmen and Royalists. The two men who were chiefly concerned in the founding of these colonies were Sir Ferdinando Gorges and Captain John Mason. They were both eager colonists, and they both got several charters and patents from the King, and from the New England Company.

It would be too confusing to follow all these grants and charters, or all the attempts at settlements made by Mason and Gorges and others. The land granted to them was often very vaguely outlined, the fact being that the people who applied for the land, and those who drew up the charters, had only the vaguest ideas concerning the land in question. So the grants often overlapped each other, and the same land was frequently claimed by two people, and of course confusion and quarrels followed.

In 1629 Mason and Gorges, being friends, agreed to divide the province of Maine between them, and Mason called his part New Hampshire, after the county of Hampshire in England, of which he was fond. Mason and Gorges each now had an enormous tract of land, but they wanted still more.

The French, as you know, had already made settlements in Canada. But just at this time that buccaneering sea captain, David Kirke, besieged Quebec, took it and carried its brave governor, Champlain, away prisoner. Now, as soon as they heard of this Gorges and Mason asked the King to give them a grant of part of the conquered land, for it was known to be a fine country for fur trade, and was also believed to be rich in gold and silver mines. In answer to this petition the King granted a great tract of land to Gorges and Mason. This they called Laconia, because it was supposed to contain many lakes. They never did much with it however, and in a few years when peace was made with France it had all to be given back to the French.

Both Mason and Gorges spent a great deal of money trying to encourage colonists to settle on their land, and the people of Massachusetts were not at all pleased to have such powerful Churchmen for their neighbours.

As has been said, land grants often overlapped, and part of the land granted to Gorges and Mason was also claimed by Massachusetts. The Massachusetts colonists insisted on their rights. Both Gorges and Mason therefore became their enemies, and did their best to have their charter taken away. To this end Gorges got himself made Governor General of the whole of New England, with power to do almost as he liked, and he made ready to set out for his new domain with a thousand soldiers to enforce his authority.

When this news reached Massachusetts the whole colony was thrown into a state of excitement. For in this appointment the settlers saw the end of freedom, the beginning of tyranny. Both Gorges and his friend Mason were zealous Churchmen and the Puritans felt sure would try to force them all to become Churchmen also.

This the settlers determined to resist with all their might. So they built forts round Boston Harbour and mounted cannon ready to sink any hostile vessel which might put into port. In every village the young men trained as soldiers, and a beacon was set up on the highest point of the triple hill upon which Boston is built. And daily these young men turned their eyes to the hill, for when a light appeared there they knew it would be time to put on their steel caps and corslets and march to defend their liberties. Ever since the hill has been called Beacon Hill.

But the danger passed. The new ship which was being built for Ferdinando Gorges mysteriously fell to pieces on the very launching of it, and Captain Mason died. "He was the chief mover in all the attempts against us," says Winthrop. "But the Lord, in His mercy, taking him away, all the business fell on sleep."

But still Gorges did not give up his plans. He did not now go out to New England himself as he had meant to do, but sent first his nephew and then his cousin instead. They, however, did not trouble Massachusetts much.

Over the Province of Maine, Sir Ferdinando ruled supreme. He could raise troops, make war, give people titles, levy taxes. No one might settle down or trade in his province without his permission, and all must look upon him as the lord of the soil and pay him tribute. It was the feudal system come again, and Sir Ferdinando Gorges was as near being a king as any ruler of America ever has been. He drew up a most elaborate constitution, too, for his kingdom, making almost more offices than there were citizens to fill them. For, after all, his kingdom was a mere wilderness containing two fishing villages and here and there a few scattered settlements. And when the deputy governor arrived to rule this kingdom he found his "palace" merely a broken-down store house with "nothing of household stuff remaining but an old pot, a pair of tongs and a couple of irons."

Thus side by side with the Puritan colonies of New England, colonies which were almost republics, there was planted a feudal state which was almost a monarchy. Of all the New England colonies, New Hampshire and Maine were the only two which were not founded for the sake of religion. For although the English Church was established in both as the state religion that was merely because the proprietors were of that Church. The colonies were founded for the sake of trade and profit. But they grew very slowly.

In 1647 Sir Ferdinando Gorges died, and Maine was left much to itself. For his son John took little interest in his father's great estate. Thirty years later his grandson, another Ferdinando, sold his rights to Massachusetts. From that time till 1820, when it was admitted to the Union as a separate state, Maine was a part of Massachusetts.

Neither did the heirs of Mason pay much attention to their estates at first. And when they did there was a good deal of quarrelling and a good deal of trouble, and at length they sold their rights to twelve men, who were afterwards known as the Masonian Proprietors.

There was a great deal of trouble, too, before New Hampshire was finally recognised as a separate colony. It was joined to Massachusetts and separated again more than once. But at last, after many changes, New Hampshire finally became a recognised separate colony. And although Captain John Mason died long before this happened he has been called the founder of New Hampshire.

"If the highest moral honour," it has been said, "belongs to founders of states, as Bacon has declared, then Mason deserved it. To seize on a tract of the American wilderness, to define its limits, to give it a name, to plant it with an English colony, and to die giving it his last thoughts among worldly concerns, are acts as lofty and noble as any recorded in the history of colonisation."