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Maryland Indian Land Cessions

 Native American Nations | Indian Land Cessions in the United States                    

The charter granted June 20, 1632, by Charles II to Cecilius Calvert, Baron of Baltimore, contains no reference to the Indians. By section 18, however, full and absolute power is given to the Baron of Baltimore, his heirs and assigns, to assign,

alien, grant, demise or enfeoff such and proportionate parts and parcels of the premises, to any person or persons willing to purchase the same as they shall think convenient, to have and to hold to the same person or persons willing to take or purchase the same, and his and their heirs and assigns in fee simple, or feetail, or for term of life, lives or years; to hold of the aforesaid now Baron of Baltimore, his heirs and assigns, by so many, such and so great services, customs and rents of this kind, as to the same now Baron of Baltimore, his heirs and assigns, shall seem fit and agreeable, and not immediately of us our heirs or successors.

The King's right of granting lands in the province being thereby fully and completely transferred to Lord Baltimore, his heirs and assigns, without any reservation or exception in regard to the natives, gave him full authority to deal with them in his own way in reference to their title to and possession of the lands.

The policy to be pursued was made evident first by action, several years having elapsed after the first settlement before it was announced in an official manner or enacted into a law.

The first settlers under Leonard Calvert, brother of the Baron, as leader and governor, landed on the 27th of March, 1631, on the north bank of the Potomac and planted themselves in the Indian town of Yoamaco (probably Wicomoco), which they named St Mary's. This was done, however, with the consent of and by agreement with the Indians. In order to pave the way to a peaceable admission into the country, the governor presented to the chief and principal men of the Yoamacoes "some English cloth, axes, hoes, and knives," which they accepted with pleasure. They also agreed to leave the whole town to the English as soon as their corn was gathered, which agreement was faithfully carried out. It is supposed that this agreement was facilitated By an anticipated attack by the Susquehanocks, whom they feared.

That this was considered a purchase is asserted by Chalmers, who says that Calvert "purchased the rights of the aborigines for a consideration which seems to have given them satisfaction and lived with them on terms of perfect amity till it was interrupted by Clayborne."1 It does not appear, however, that the extent of territory was indicated or that any metes and bounds were designated.

It will perhaps not be considered out of place to insert here the somewhat strong defense of Maryland's justice and humanity in dealing with the Indians, presented by her historian, Bozman.2 It is given partly because of its bearing on a question which will be alluded to in speaking of the Pennsylvania policy:

As philanthropists have been excessively clamorous in the praises of William Penn for his ostentatious purchase of the lands of the aborigines, particularly at the time of his supposed treaty with the Indians under the great elm at Shackamaxon, (so brilliantly illustrated by the pencil of his Britannic majesty's historical painter,) it is here thought, that the conduct of Leonard Calvert, on a similar occasion will not shrink from a comparison with that of William Penn. It will not be fully admitted, that William Penn, or any other European colonist, or even the United States at this day, can with perfect honesty and integrity purchase the lands of the aboriginal natives of America; for several reasons; first, it is not a clear proposition, that savages can, for any consideration, enter into a contract obligatory upon them. They stand y the laws of nations, when trafficking with the civilized part of mankind, in the situation of infants) incapable of entering into contracts, especially for the sale of their country. Should this. be denied, it may be then asserted, that no monarch of a nation, (that is no sachem, chief, or headmen, or assemblage of sachems, &c.) has a power to transfer by sale the country, that is, the soil, of the nation over which they rule. But neither did William Penn, make, nor has any other European since made, a purchase of lands from any tribe or nation of Indians through the agency of any others than their sachems or headmen; who certainly could have no more right to sell their country, than any European monarch has to sell theirs. But should it be contended, that savages are capable of entering into contracts, and that their sachems have a power to transfer y sale the country of the people over whom they rule, it may be safely asked, what could William Penn, or at least what did he give, which could be considered, in any point of view, as a consideration or compensation to those poor ignorant aborigines for their lands? If we are to follow Mr. West's imagination, (in his celebrated picture of "Penn's treaty with the Indians;") for, history recognizes no such treaty, and the late biographer of William Penn, (Clarkson,) fairly acknowledges, that 11 in no historian could he find any account of it;" but from "traditions in Quaker families," and "relations in Indian speeches," it might be inferred, that there was such a treaty; if then, the pencil of the artist is correctly warranted by "tradition," William Penn gave nothing more than some English broad cloth, or perhaps some beads or other trinkets, which might have been contained in the trunk displayed in the fore ground of the picture, for all the lands, on which he built his city, including also a large portion. of his province; and this he seems to have been induced to do, not from his owe original perception of the justice of the thing, but, as he acknowledges in his letter to the lords of the council composing the committee of Plantations, dated August 14th, 1683, '!that he might exactly follow the bishop of London's counsel, y buying, and not taking away, the native's land." (See this letter at length in Chalmers's Annals, ch. XXI: note 38.) Now, the presents of Leonard Calvert really seem to have been of greater value; for, besides broad cloth, history says, that he gave them "axes and hoes;" thereby endeavoring to introduce among them, as it were the first rudiments of civilization the implements of agriculture. With this, it seems, they were as well satisfied to give up the lands of St. Mary's, as the Indians of Shackamaxon were to give up those where Philadelphia stands.

The foregoing remarks would, perhaps, not have been matte, had they not been drawn forth by a part of a speech, }which the before mentioned biographer of William Penn has dressed tip for him, on the occasion of this celebrated treaty, entirely from 11 tradition," as he acknowledges, in which he makes him to say to the Indians; "that he would not do as the Marylanders did, that is, call them children or brothers only; for, often parents were apt to whip their children too severely, and brothers sometimes would differ: but he should consider them as the same flesh and blood with the Christians, and the same as if one man's body were to be divided into two parts."

By section 3 of the act of March 19, 1638,3 it was decreed that:

No subject of his majesty's the king of England, or of any other foreign prince or state shall obtain, procure, or accept of any land within this province from any foreign prince or state, or from any person whatsoever, (the natives owners of the land excepted,) other than from the lord proprietary or his heirs or some person claiming under him or them. Neither shall he obtain, procure, or accept of any land within this province from any Indian to his own or the use of any other than of "the lord proprietary or his heirs, nor shall hold or possess any land within this province by virtue of such grant, upon pain that every person offending to the contrary hereof shall forfeit and lose to the lord proprietary and his heirs all such lands so accepted or held without grant of the lord proprietary or under him."

It is probable that this law was enacted at this time because of the fact that Lord Baltimore's title to some of the lands of the province was disputed by William Clayborne and those who claimed under him. This claim was based upon a royal license he had obtained to trade with the Indians and an alleged purchase from the Indians (Susquehanocksl) of the Island of Kent. As it does not appear that the Indian title to this island was subsequently purchased or extinguished by the Maryland government, the inference is that, although the lords commissioners of the plantations decided the dispute in Lord Baltimore's favor, the purchase by Clayborne was accepted as an extinguishment of the Indian title. This is confirmed by the fact that in the treaty with the Susquehanocks in 1652 (mentioned below) it is expressly stated that 'the Isle of Kent and Palmer's Island belong to Captain Clayborne."

On April 21, 1649, an act entitled "Ail act concerning purchasing lands from the Indians" was passed, which Bozman says was, as to principle, a law of general utility even up to his day. The substance of this law as given in Bacon's Collection (unpaged) is as follows:

Whereas divers Persons have heretofore purchased or accepted of lands, &e. from the Indians, and made use of and possessed the same, without any lawful Title and Authority derived from the Lord Proprietary, neglecting also to take out Grants from his Lordship, under the Great Seal, for such Lands as have been clue to them by virtue of his Lordship's Conditions of Plantations, or other warrant from his Lordship, which Proceedings are not only very great Contempt's and Prejudice to his Lordship's Dignity and Rights, but also of such dangerous Consequence, if not timely prevented, that they may hereafter bring a great Confusion in the Government and public Peace of this Province. Be it therefore enacted etc.

(1) All Purchases or Acquisitions whatsoever, of any Lands, &c. within this Province, made or to be made, from any Person whatsoever, not deriving at the same Time a, lawful Title thereto, by, from, or under, his Lordship or his Heirs, under the Great Seal, shall be void and null.
(2) It shall be lawful for his Lordship to enter upon, seize, possess and dispose of, any such Lands, &c. so purchased or acquired from, any Indian or other, at his Will and Pleasure, unless such Purchaser, at the Time of such Purchase or Acquisition, have some lawful right or Title to such Lands, &c. y some Grant from his Lordship, &c. under the Great Seal.
(Confirmed among the perpetual Laws, 1676, ch. 2.)

In regard to this law the author above mentioned remarks, in addition to what has been noted, that "The. principle upon which it was founded seems to have been adopted by the United States in the disposition of all the territories conquered or purchased by them from the Indians."

It is worthy of notice that the lords commissioners for plantations, in the decision between Clayborne and Lord Baltimore, declared that the principle enacted in the above law held good even against the King. "Their lordships having resolved and declared as above said the right and title. to the Isle of Kent and other, places in question to be absolutely belonging to the said Lord Baltimore; and that no plantation or trade with the Indians ought to be within the precincts of his patent without license from him; did therefore think fit and declare that no grant from His Majesty should pass to the said Clayborne or any others, of the said Isle of gent or other places within the said patent."4

On the 5th of July, 1652, a treaty was made with the Susquehauocks, the first article of which contained the following cession of land to the English:

First, that the English nation shall have, hould, and enjoy to them their heires and assigns for ever, all the land lying from Patuxent river unto Palmer's island on the western side of the baye of Chesepiake, and from Choptank river to the north east branch which lyes to the northward of Elke river on the eastern side of the said bay with all the islands, rivers,. creeks, . . . fish, fowle, deer, elk, and whatsoever else to the same belonging, excepting the isle of Kent and Palmer's island which belongs to captain Clayborne, But nevertheless it shall be lawful for the aforesaid English or Indians to build a house or fort for trade or any such like use or occasion at any time upon Palmer's island.''

Bowman thinks that Patuxent river, the southern (or southwestern) limit, on the west side of the bay, of territory assigned by this treaty, was the extent of the Susquehanock's claim in this direction, as Powhatan claimed from James river to the Patuxent. It does not appear, however, how far west the granted territory extended.

As nothing appears after this date to show that other cessions were obtained from Indians in this part of the state, it was probably assumed that this grant covered all the territory on the eastern side of the bay north of Dorchester county, and on the western side all east and north of Patuxent river. It is also probable that it was assumed that the purchase from the Yoamacoes embraced all the territory west of Patuxent river and north of the Potomac as far westward as no other claim intervened. There is nothing on record, so far as the writer has been able to find, showing any purchase of land from the Indians, or any treaty with them in regard to any lands west of Monocacy river.

That such was the construction in reference to the latter purchase seems to be indicated by the following fact:

By 1651 the white population in, that part of Maryland comprehending St Mary's county and part of Charles county, had increased to such a degree as to expel most of the aborigines thereof from their lands. These Indians were driven out and forced to find homes in the more interior portions of the province. They consisted of the following tribes : The Mattapanians, the Wicomoco, Patuxents, Lamasconsons, Highawixons, and the Chapticons, probably divisions or bands of the Piscataway or Conoy. Lord Baltimore, being informed of their distress and their willingness to form a settlement by themselves under his protection and government, directed his lieutenant-governor to cause a grant to be made to them under his great seal "of a certain tract of land in the head of Wicomoco river, called Chaptico" (in Charles county), containing about 8,000 or 10,000 acres. He further ordered that the land so granted should be erected into a manor, to be called the Calverton Manor, and that a thousand acres thereof should be set apart as the demesnes thereof, to be reserved for his own use, as was usual in his grants of other manors. he also appointed Robert Clark to be the steward of said manor

and in his name to keep court baron and court leet, as occasion should require, in and for the said manor; and on his behalf to grant, by copy or copies of court roll, copyhold estates, for one, two, or three lives, of any part of the said manor, except the demesnes thereof, to any Indian or Indians that should desire the same, and as he the said steward, with the approbation of the governor, should think fit; provided, that no one copyhold exceed fifty acres, unless it be to the Werowance or chief head of every of the said six nations respectively; and not to any of them above two hundred acres a piece; and that upon every copy so to be granted there be reserved a rent of one shilling sterling, or the value thereof, to be paid yearly to Lord Baltimore and his heirs for every fifty acres of land respectively to be granted as aforesaid, and so proportionally for a lesser or a greater quantity of land.5

As the acts of the assembly contain all the subsequent history of the state relating to Indian lands of any importance in this connection, and within the scope of this work, the substance of these acts is given here as found in Bacon and Kilty's (unpaged) Collections.

The first of these, after those already given, following the date, is the act of May 8,1669. An act for the continuation of peace with and protection of our neighbors and confederates, Indians on Choptank river."

This act, because of the fidelity of the Choptank Indians in delivering up certain murderers, etc, settles upon them and their heirs forever "All that land on the south side of Choptank river, bounded westerly by the freehold now in possession of William Darrington, and easterly with Secretary Sewall's creek for breadth, and for length three miles into the woods. To be held of his Lordship under the yearly rent of six Beaver skins."

This is confirmed among the perpetual laws by the act of 1676 (ch. 2). By the act of 1721 (ch. 12) commissioners were appointed for ascertaining the bounds of these lands, and the same lands are confirmed to them by the act of 1723 (ch. 18).

The next in order of date is an act passed November 12, 1698, "for ascertaining the bounds of a certain tract of land set apart to the use of the Nanticoke Indians, so long as they shall occupy and live upon the same." This act falls under the general repeal of 1704 (ch. 77), and a new act in the very same words (the enacting clause excepted) was made in 1704. and by the act of 1723 the bounds ascertained in this act (which are the same verbatim with those described in the aforesaid act of 1704, ch. 58) are confirmed.

October 3, 1704. This is the act above referred to under that of November 12, 1698. The bounds of the Nanticoke tract as set forth in it are as follows:

That all the Land, lying and being in Dorchester County, and on the North Side of Nanticoke River, butted and bounded as followeth; (beginning at the Mouth of Chickawan Creek, and running up the said Creek, bounded therewith to the Head of the main Branch of the same, and from the Head of the said main Branch, with a Line drawn to the Head of a Branch issuing out of the North West Fork of Nanticoke, known y the name of Francis Anderton's Branch, and from the Head of the said Branch, down the said Anderton's Branch, bounded therewith, to the Mouth of the same, where it falls into the said North West Fork: And from thence down the aforesaid North west Fork, bounded therewith, to the main River: And so down the main River to the Mouth of the aforesaid Chickawan Creek;) shall be confirmed and assured, and, by virtue of this Act, is confirmed and assured unto Panquash and Annotoughquan, and the People under their Government, or Charge, and their Heirs and Successors for ever; any Law, Usage, Custom, or Grant, to the contrary in any wise notwithstanding: To be held of the Lord Proprietary, and his Heirs, Lord Proprietary or Lords Proprietaries of this Province, under the yearly rent of one Beaver Skin, to be paid to his said Lordship and his Heirs, as other Rents in . this Province y the English used to be paid.6

By an act passed November 3, 1711, commissioners were appointed to set aside 3,000 acres on Broad creek, Somerset county, where the Nanticokes were then residing, for their use so long as they should occupy the same. The rights acquired by white settlers on these lands were purchased by the province. Instead of vesting the title in the Indians, it was conveyed by this act to certain trustees for their use, with the proviso that when abandoned by these' Indians it should revert to the province.

By the act of October 26, 1723, "for quieting the possessions of the Indians inhabiting on Nanticoke and Choptank rivers," their right to the lands heretofore granted them was reaffirmed as follows: "That the Nanticoke Indians and their descendants shall have, hold, occupy, possess, and enjoy a free, peaceable, and uninterrupted possession of all that tract or parcel of land lying between the northwest fork of Nanticoke river and Chicueone creek, for and during such space of time as they or any of them shall think fit to use, and shall not wholly and totally desert and quit claim to the same, according as the same is butted and bounded." To the Choptank Indians, with the same provisions, was granted "that tract of land lying in Dorchester county, on Choptank river, according to the metes and bounds thereof" as surveyed by the commissioners.

The act of June 221 1768, authorized the payment of $6662 to the Nanticokes for "three certain tracts of land and also 3,000 acres lying on Broad creek, all. in the county of Summerset," which the said Indians agreed to accept as full payment therefore.

By section 4 of the act of March 12, 1786, authority was given to the governor to purchase the Indian lands in Dorchester county. As this was an important act, and specifies somewhat particularly the steps to be adopted in dealing with the Indians in this instance, a copy of the section is given here.

SEC. 4. And be it. enacted, That the governor and the council be authorized and requested to appoint some fit and proper person to treat with the Indians entitled, under any act of assembly, to any lands in Dorchester County, for the purchasing the said lands, or any part thereof, on behalf of this state, and to agree with them on the terms of said purchase for a certain annual sum to be paid to the said Indians as long as any of them shall remain, and to take a deed to the state expressing the conditions, which said deed shall be acknowledged before the general court of the eastern shore, or the court of Dorchester county, in open court, at the election of the said Indians; and if such purchase be made, the person so appointed shall sell the same, at auction, for current money, in such lots or parcels as will probably bring the best price, on a credit of one third of the purchase money annually until the whole is paid, with interest annually on the several sums, or the governor and the council may, in their discretion, direct a sale of the said lands for state or continental government securities, and eight weeks notice shall be given previous to the sale in the Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and New York papers.7

A similar act, providing for the purchase of a part of the lands of the Choptank Indians and for limiting their reservation, was passed January 18, 1799. The reservation was limited to one hundred acres to be laid off so as to include their settlements.


1 Annals, p 207
2 History of Maryland (1837), vol. ii, pp. 569-79.
3 Bozman, History of Maryland (1537), vol. n, pp. 112-113.
4 Bozman, History of Maryland, vol. ii, pp. 584-585; Hazard, Collections, vol. I, p. 130; Chalmers, Annals, ch. ix, note 25.
5 Bozman, ibid., p. 422
6 Bacon's Laws of Maryland, 1765, chap. 58, under October 3,1704.
7 William Kilty, laws of Maryland (unpaged)


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First annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology, 1879-80

Indian Land Cessions in the United States

 

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