A CRITICAL JUNCTURE
CONVENTIONS OF THE TOWNS
The powers conferred on these representatives of the town were not adequate to the object intended. They were instrutcted to confer with the members of the convention from the other towns, but were not authorized to agree to any plan proposed. They were required "to bring a true account of every particular," and report to the town, at an adjourned meeting on Saturday--two days after the meeting of the Convention.
There is no record of any town meeting at the time named; and nothing has been found to show even that the proposed convention was held. It might have been ascertained before the time appointed that equal powers had not been conferred upon delegates from the several towns, in which case, the convention would be useless. The town of Portsmouth, for instance, had "engaged themselves certainly to comply with" whatever delegates from that town should promise to do; while those from Hampton could do nothing whatever to bind the town. If the convention met, it is certain that nothing effectual was accomplished.
The fault may have been and probably was, on the part of the people of Hampton; for not long after, one with ample means of information, wrote as follows: "The inhabitants of the town of Hampton began to be very jealous of their friends and neighbors, that they would bring them under several inconveniences, in commanding from them their men and money as they pleased, and so they were very hard to be brought to anything."
Near the close of the year 1689, there was another proposition for a convention. In this case, it seems to have originated in Hampton. The town, "considering the unsettled state they were in for want of government, and so the more incapacitated to defend themselves against the invasion of an enemy," appointed delegates, to meet with such as might be chosen by the other towns, "to consider and debate the matters" of common concern. But here again the same jealousy appears as in the former case. No greater powers were conferred on the delegates now chosen than had been on those chosen in July. The delegates were: Mr. Nathaniel Weare, Capt. Samuel Sherburne and Ens. Henry Dow.
As nothing further is found on record in regard to the proposed convention, it may be presumed that the plan failed at that time also; though it was revived not long afterward, the towns of Portsmouth and Dover then taking the lead. Since the seizure of Andros, nine months had already elapsed, and no orders had yet arrived from the new sovereigns of England. The Indians were in a state of hostility, and the settlements were exposed to imminent danger. This consideration was urged as a strong reason for immediate action for the common defense. Under these circumstances, Portsmouth and Dover each chose six commissioners, to meet with commissioners from the other towns, "with full power to agree upon a method of government."
In accordance with the invitation, a town meeting was held in Hampton, January 20, 1690, when the town, satisfied that the late justices, the only civil officers exercising any functions in the town, were powerless to raise men and money for the common defense, chose six commissioners, with more authority than had been given to the delegates on former occasions. No pledge, however, was given, to abide by the measures of the convention, unless a majority of the commissioners from this town should agree to them. But, on condition of their approval, the town voted to hold the measures of the convention as good and valid, and to obligate themselves, "to yield all ready obedience thereto, until their majesties' orders should arrive for the settlement of the government over them." The commissioners chosen were Henry Green, Esq., Ens. Henry Dow, Mr. Nathaniel Weare, Capt. Samuel Sherburne, Morris Hobbs, Sen. and Mr. Edward Gove.
The convention met at Portsmouth, on the 24th, all the towns being represented. After free discussion, a method of proceeding was finally agreed upon by every man present. It then became necessary that the several towns should choose officers, to carry into effect the plan adopted by the convention. This plan failed, chiefly, perhaps, through the opposition to it in Hampton, where, as in the other towns, a meeting was held, to ratify the doings of the convention and choose officers. But a very large majority seemed to be fearful and suspicious that the other towns did not intend to act according to their professions, but wished to bring the people of this town under them. The minority regarded this view as uncharitable and unjust; but they were referred by the majority to some former acts of some of the towns, which appeared to afford ground for being jealous of them. The town, therefore, voted not to choose officers, according to the direction of the commissioners; and so the plan failed.