Joseph Dow's History of Hampton: STATUS OF THE FOUR NEW HAMPSHIRE TOWNS

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STATUS OF THE FOUR NEW HAMPSHIRE TOWNS

HAMPTON, having been originally settled by a grant from the General Court of Massachusetts, was from the first under that government, and hence less liable to the fluctuating policy incident to independent and isolated settlements. Nearly all the first settlers, before coming here, had been living in Massachusetts--some, several years; others, only a few months--subject to, and protected by, her laws. Their removal to this place was merely a change of locality, not of government, nor of laws. The result was what might have been expected. In all their proceedings the people evinced a deference to the authority under which they acted, and to which they felt themselves amenable. If at any time an individual in the little community was aggrieved by acts either of other individuals, or of the town; if any persons had trespassed upon the town's property, or were charged with criminal acts; there were regularly constituted courts of judicature, to which recourse might be had for trial by disinterested persons, and where it might be hoped, strict justice would be awarded.

These advantages were not at first enjoyed by the other early settled towns in New Hampshire. The settlements at Dover and Little Harbor--the latter of which, being extended further up the Piscataqua river, subsequently received the name of Strawberry Bank, and at a still later day, of Portsmouth--were formed by persons sent from England for the purpose of fishing and trading. They were in fact, independent communities, subject to no government, but such as originated among themselves, except so far as they were disposed to observe regulations made for them by the Company of Laconia, by whom they had been sent, but from whom they were separated, by the broad Atlantic. They were, indeed, subject to the crown of England, but, situated as they were, they could experience but few of the benefits or the restraints of English laws.

The settlement at Exeter, like the one at Hampton, was largely formed by the people who had been living in Massachusetts, and who were influenced by religious, rather than by mercenary, motives. But here the resemblance ended, for while the people of Hampton were of the same religious sentiments as those of Massachusetts generally and were countenanced and cared for by that government, some of the leading men of Exeter had been banished from Massachusetts, on the charge of heresy and sedition, or were in full sympathy with those who had been thus treated, and had settled at Exeter, because there they thought themselves out of the jurisdiction of that colony. Convinced of the necessity of civil government and wholesome laws, of which they declared themselves altogether destitute, they combined together on the fourth day of July, 1639, to erect among themselves such a form of government as their necessities required, solemnly binding themselves "by the grace and help of Christ, and in his name and fear," to submit to such godly and Christian laws as were established in the realm of England, to their best knowledge, and to all other such laws, as should, upon good grounds, be made and enacted among themselves, to the end that they might "live quietly and peaceably together in all godliness and honesty." Several men, who subsequently removed to Hampton, signed this "Combination."

After more than fifteen years' experience, the inhabitants of Dover and of Strawberry Bank were so fully convinced of the necessity of a more efficient government, that they entered into negotiations for a union with Massachusetts. The terms having at length been agreed upon, the union was consummated April 14, 1641.

The people of Exeter managed their affairs according to their original compact, till the autumn of 1642; but on the 8th of September of that year they also, at their own request, were received under the jurisdiction of Massachusetts.

Hampton and Exeter were both "joined to the jurisdiction of Ipswich," in the County of Essex--the latter at the time of its reception by Massachusetts, and the former on the second of June, 1641, when it was also authorized "to send a grand juryman once a year to Ips-wich."

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