Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Friday, March 03, 2006

1666 Letter from Thomas Pell to John Winthrop, Jr. Regarding Pell's 1654 Purchase of the Lands That Became Pelham

In 1666, Thomas Pell scrambled to gain some form of authoritative recognition from colonial authorities regarding his June 27, 1654 acquisition from local Native Americans of the lands that became the Manor of Pelham. He sought a royal patent from Richard Nicholls, the first English Governor of the colony of New York.

Pell was a resident of "Fayrefield" (Fairfield) in the colony of Connecticut. Thus, among the actions Pell took in support of his request to the Governor of the colony of New York where his lands were located was to issue a letter to the Governor of his own colony, John Winthrop Jr., seeking Winthrop's support for the issuance of a patent and pleading the legal basis for his claim. Pell's efforts succeeded. Governor Nicholls issued the royal patent confirming Pell's purchase on October 8, 1666.

The contents of Pell's letter to John Winthrop Jr. have survived. The Massachussetts Historical Society published the text of the letter in Vol. I - Fifth Series of the "Collections of the Massachussetts Historical Society". The text of the letter appears immediately below:

"To ye Honored John Winthrip Esquire, Governour off his Maiestys Colony in Connecticut att his house in Hartfford these psent.

FAYRFFEILD 2 : 5 : 66 :

HONOURED SR, - Once more I doo humbly present my request to you yt you would be pleased to visit Generall Niccols in my behalfe wth a few lines. Ye coppy off ye purchase I sent to your worship when you liued in New London in 1655 p my sonne Scott, wch you judged to be good : since it is conffirmed p oath beffore Captayne Talcot. Wt ever ye Dutch Gouernour Stevensons [Peter Stuyvesant's] pretence was, the kings majesty in his letters 1664 chalengeth all these parts of America to be his dominions; & wt ye Dutch possesed claymed to be his teritoryes, therffore will not suffer any neighbour nation how allied so euer to sitt downe in his terittoryes wth out his leaue. No dominion his majesty allowes to forreigne power, therffore calleth them intruders : no dominion, no jurisdiction, no purchase, no pattent legally. Sr, you well know no alien, except he be naturalized, can inherit in any off ye kings dominion, nor purchase. The Dutch not naturalized because his majesty in ye fore sayed letter 1664 calleth them intruders : therefore will haue them sujected p power (no right off dominion, no right of jurisdiction, no right to purchase), when as a naturall English man hath power to purchase in any off his majestys dominions ; all his majestys dominions being an English mans house & home, beinge vnder ye protection off his Soueraigne Lord. I judge it impossible it can legally fall to ye Duke off Yorke p conquest : when ye inhabitants off West Chester were called vnder one of his majestys colonyes p pattent power, ye inhabitants in parson endeavoringe p force off armes to subdue ye intruders accordinge to ye kings command, & their superiors, vnder whom they were subjected, maniffesting it p their parsonall apperence beffor General Niccols. Neither is it possible yt ye articels off aggreement made wth ye Dutch had any refference to ye English vnder made wth ye Dutch had any refference to ye English vnder his majestyes suiection : articeles off aggreement weare made wth enemies (as enemies) not wth freinds. Ye articells off aggreement could not comprehend ye Dutch breiffs yt they should be ratiffied, wch were no vnder ye Dutch power & weare his jaiestys subjects, as will appeare p ye Court off Records in Hartfford. So it makes ye kings subjects in a worse case then intruders & oppen enemyes : loyal subjects to loose all & oppen enemyes to injoy their clames p articells off aggreement. Sr, you being one of ye 4 New Englands Commissioners know yt ye articels off aggreement did not reach his majestys subjects, but those yt opposed his majestys interest that were made wth those parsons yt weare in enmyty wth his majesty to mantayne their owne interest : his majestyes subjects weare not in a cappasity to be capitulatinge, standing vppon articels off agreement whear was no disagreement, but wear willinge to attend his majestys service. Shall enemys power be established, & his majestyes made null & voyed? Sr, you know in his majestys letter to ye Gouernour & Councell to Connectic[ot] Colony it was his pleasure to exprese himself yt their priveledges & libertys, neither Civill or Eccesiasticall, should be in ffringed not in the least degree.

I shall desire to present these queres ; whither so doinge doth not charge his majesty off iniustice (establishinge Dutch breeffs), 2ly whither it doth no justly lay a stumbling block to his majestys most loyall subjects. Sr, it was your Worpps pleasure to say you gaue ye Generall ye gouern[ment] off ye bounds belonginge to West Chester, not ye propriety. Sr, I hope you will seriously consider ye premises & appear to be helpffull at this time to your humble servant to command.


Indorsed, 'Mr Pell. Rec : July 4, 1666.'"

Source: The Massachussetts Historical Society, Collections of the Massachussetts Historical Society, Vol. I - Fifth Series, pp. 410-12.

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