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John Jay to John Adams

22 Feb. 1786

Dr: Sir New York 22d. February 1786

I had the Honor of writing to you on the 3d. Instant, since which I have not had the Pleasure of receiving any Letters from You. Among other Papers then sent, was a Copy of a Report (agreed to by Congress) on the Subject of certain Representations from Massachusetts, but Copies of the Documents referred to in it, and which were then making could not be compleated in time to be then sent. You will find them herewith enclosed, together with a List or Account of them.—

Nine States are not yet represented in Congress, and therefore the Affairs of this Department continue in the same State that they were in at the Date of my last.—

The public Papers will enable you to see the Complection of the Times—fœderal Opinions grow, but it will be some time before they will bear Fruit; and what is not the base with most other Fruits, they will, to judge from present Appearances, ripen slower in the South than in the North.—

The Packet will sail next Week—I shall then write to You again.—

With great & sincere Esteem & Regard I have the Honor to be / Dr: Sir / Your most obt. and very hble: Servt.

John Jay

[enclosure]

Gentlemen of the Senate and Gentlemen of the House of Representatives.—

Upon receiving information from our Excise Officer at Machias, that the Inhabitants of Moose Island in Passamaquoddy Bay in this Commonwealth, had been notified by the Sheriff of the County of Charlotte, in the British Province of New Brunswick, to send Jurors to that County-Court, on penalty of forfeiting their estates in case of refusal, I wrote a Letter on the subject to Mr. Carleton, Governour of that Province, dated the 9th. of September.—As I was not informed, that Governour Carleton had interposed his authority, I mentioned to him, that I was inclined to believe my informant was mistaken in his opinion, that the Government of New Brunswick had given its sanction to a measure altogether unexpected and insupportable; and that I assured myself, he would issue orders effectually to prevent the abovementioned, and every other encroachment on the territorial rights and sovereignty of this Commonwealth, and of the United States.

To that Letter I have received an answer dated \at/ St. John the 18th. October, which not only justifies the proceedings of the Sheriff, but contains an implied declaration, that the said Island, with several other Islands, is, by virtue of the Treaty of Peace, within that Province.

As it seems clear, they mean to obtain possession of those Islands, by compelling the Inhabitants to acknowledge the right of Jurisdiction to be in the Government of New Brunswick, I think it highly expedient you should be informed of their proceedings as soon as may be, that such measures may be adopted concerning them, as you shall judge suitable.

Of those proceedings Congress have been informed by my letter to our Delegates: and have sent an account of them to the Minister of the United States at London.

My Letter to Governour Carleton and his answer to it will be delivered to you Gentlemen, by the Secretary.

James Bowdoin.

Council Chamber / Novr. 24th. 1785 / True Copy / Attest— / John Avery jun Secretary

James Avery

[enclosure]

Gentlemen of the Senate and Gentlemen of the House of Representatives—

I sent you a Message the 24th of November last, relative to the encroachments, which the Government of the New British Province of new Brunswick were disposed to make on the territorial rights, and sovereignty, of this Commonwealth, and of the United States. Since which a letter has been received from James Avery Esqr. our Excise Officer at Machias dated the 24th. December last: in which he mentions he had just received advice from Passamaquoddy, that Mr. Wier the high Sheriff for Charlottee County in that Province, a few days before went on to Moose Island, and took the body of Mr. Tuttle Deputy Collector of Excise on an action of debt; and told him he must either find bail, or be carried to Goal at St. Andrews. Upon Mr. Tuttle’s informing the Sheriff, that he considered himself a subject of this State, and should not regard him as an Officer, the Sheriff called on some of the Inhabitants to assist him to carry Mr. Tuttle to Goal, but they refusing, he informed them, he should go to the neighbouring Island of Campo Bello, and get Assistance from the Ship lying there; being determined to carry the said Tuttle to Goal; and that orders had come from St. John’s to exercise jurisdiction over the inhabitants of Moose Island.

This account is in part confirmed by a letter communicated to me by Leonard Jarvis Esqr., who as he has lately been in that Country, can give information concerning the circumstances of it—

Mr. Avery concludes his letter with expressing his hope, that Government will take some steps to prevent its subjects from being insulted by a foreign power; and being liable to be dragged away by armed force.

In my former Message on this subject I informed you, Gentlemen, that Congress had been made acquainted with all the proceedings referred to in that Message; and had sent an account of them to the Minister of the United States in London—

This affair, Gentlemen, merits your serious consideration.

Mr. Avery’s letter, which will be laid before you, mentions several things respecting the Duty of his Office; and of that of the Naval Officers within his District: which may also require your consideration.

James Bowdoin.

Council Chamber / February 10th. 1786 / True Copy / Attest— / John Avery jun Secretary

[enclosure]

Dear Sir,

Machias December 24th. 1785

Inclosed you have Captain Smiths returns of the Naval Office—I ought as Collector to make a Return of all \the/ Entries &ca. in my District (in which there is four Naval Officers and five Deputies) but the Naval Officers have been so remiss as not to make returns to me which puts it out of my power to do it, many of the Naval Officers \are/ quite ignorant of the duties of their Office and often issue out old Registers signed by the late Governour and dated at this time, which I consider very improper.

I have just recieved advice from Passamaquoddy, that Mr. Wier the high Sheriff for Charlotte County, a few days ago went on to Moose Island and took the body of Mr. Tuttle Deputy Collector of Excise on an action of debt and and told Mr. Tuttle he must either find bail or be carried to Goal at St. Andrews.— Mr. Tuttle told him he cou’d not get Bail and considered himself a Subject of this State, and shou’d not pay any regard to any other power—Mr. Wier then call’d on some of the inhabitants to assist him to carry Mr. Tuttle to Goal, they all refused on which Mr. Wier informed them he shou’d go to Campo Bello and get the Ships Boat that was there to come to his assistance, as he was determined to carry Tuttle to Goal and that orders had come from St. Johns to exercise their jurisdiction over the Inhabitants on Moose Island—Thus the matter stood when I heard from there—I hope Government will take some steps to prevent their Subjects from being so daily insulted by a foreign power and be liable to be \so/ drag’d away by armed force.

In haste, / I am, / Dear Sir, / Your hble Servt.

[enclosure]

Commonwealth of Massachusetts

The Committee of both Houses to whom was committed the Message of His Excellency the Governor of the 10th: of February 1786. respecting the conduct of a Mr. Wire, the high Sheriff of Charlotte County in the british province of New Brunswick, in taking & carrying off the body of Mr: Tuttle (on an Action of Debt) from Moose Island; as represented in a Letter from James Avery Esqr. to Mr. Secretary Avery, dated at Machias the 24th: of December last: Have attended that service, & ask leave to report as their opinion—That the matter complained of in the said Letter, involves in it such a great national question respecting the bounds of territory, as can only be taken up, with propriety, by Congress.—That therefore His Excellency the Governor be requested to procure, as soon as possible, the evidence necessary to ascertain the facts complained of, & to transmit the same to the Delegates of this State in Congress, to be by them laid before the United States in Congress assembled, for their consideration & determination.

And with regard to the latter clause of the Governor’s Message, respecting the canduct of the Naval Officers & their Deputies, the committee are of opinion that the difficulty mentioned in the Letter from James Avery Esqr. Collector at Machias, may be prevented in future, by directing the Secretary to transmit, forthwith, to each of the naval officers in that department, printed copies of the several Acts & Resolves, now inforced, that respect the office & duty of naval officers & their deputies, that so no plea of ignorance in their duty may for the future be made—

And whereas another Message from His Excellency the Governor dated November 24th: 1785 (which was committed to a joint committee at the last sitting of the General Court, but not acted upon) is now committed to the present Committee, in which, his Excellency acquaints the two houses, with the conduct of the aforementioned Sheriff, in compelling the inhabitants of Moose island to send Jurors to the County Court of Charlotte County, on pain of forfeiting their Estates in case of refusal; And that on his representing to Mr Charleton Governor of New Brunswick, the conduct of the said Sheriff, he received from the said Governor such an answer as contained an implied declaration that the said Island, with several other islands, is, by virtue of the Treaty of Peace, within that Province.” And that thereupon he had “by Letter to our Delegates, informed Congress of those proceedings, & also sent an account of them to the Minister of the United States at London”. This Committee therefore ask leave further to report as their opinion—That the early attention & vigilance of His Excellency the Governor, in taking such prudent care that the Commonwealth should suffer no harm, is worthy the Character of a virtuous & patriotic Governor, & deserves the warm approbation of the Legislative body: And that His Excellency be requested to procure all such further evidence, as may be thought needful to be laid before Congress, & take all such other measures as he shall think requisite, to prevent encroachment on the territorial rights & sovereignty of This Commonwealth & of the United States—

All which is submitted / Richard Cranch [per] Order

In Senate March 11th. 1786 Read & accepted / Sent down for concurrence / Saml. Phillips jun. Presidt. / In the House of Representatives March 13th. 1786 / Read & Concurred / A Ward Speakr. / True Copy / Attest.— / John Avery jun Secretary

[enclosure]

Gentlemen of the Senate and Gentlemen of the House of Representatives—

A number of persons, who appear to be Inhabitants of Moose Island in the Bay of Passamaquoddy, have by their Letter of the third of January just received, representated, that the Officers of the neighbouring british Province of New Brunswick are pursuing every method to subjugate them; and that several Writs had been executed upon them: imploring the interposition of this Government, and that such steps may be immediately taken as are necessary to quiet their minds, and give them full possession of their rights in the said Island: as you will observe by their said Letter.

This matter, in consequence of former similar representations, has been at your request laid before Congress; and as it is in a train of settlement, there seems to be nothing further necessary to be done, but to quiet the minds of those Inhabitants, by informing them, that Congress had taken measures to procure an amicable adjustment of the dividing line between the territory of the United States, and the said Province of New Brunswick; to commend them for their resolution, that no allurements or threats shall induce them to forsake that System and Constitution, by which they, very justly think their natural rights & priviledges will be secured; and to exhort them to abide by that Resolution.

The said Letter Gentlemen, is laid before you for your determination concerning it.

James Bowdoin

To / John Avery Esqr. / Secretary— / True Copy / Attest— / John Avery jun Secretary

Council Chamber / March 21st. 1786—

Commonwealth of Massachusetts—

In Senate March 23d. 1786

Ordered, That his Excellency the Governour be, and he hereby is, requested to write to the Inhabitants of Moose Island, and inform them, that Congress have taken measures to procure an amicable adjustment of the dividing Line between the Territory of the United States and the Province of New Brunswick, and to advise them to abide by their commendable Resolution, not to forsake that system and Constitution by which, they justly think, their natural rights and priviledges will be secured.

sent down for Concurrence / Samuel Phillips junr. President / In the House of Representatives March 23d. 1786— / Read and Concurred / Artemas Ward Speaker / True copy / Attest— / John Avery jun Secretary

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