Joseph Dow's History of Hampton: ABRAHAM CORBETT'S SEDITION

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Among the persons appointed to office was one Abraham Corbett, of Portsmouth, who gained considerable notoriety by his course. He undertook to act by virtue of this appointment. As he had never been commissioned by the government, the General Court declared him guilty of a high misdemeanor, fined him £5, and ordered that he stand committed till the fine was paid. Irritated by this act of the court, he sought to be revenged on the government. Accordingly, he drew up a petition to the king, in the name of the four New Hampshire towns, complaining of the usurpation of Massachusetts, and praying to be separated therefrom. Through his influence, several of the inhabitants of Dover and of Portsmouth signed the petition.

This proceeding aroused to action the friends of the government, and they petitioned the General Court that "in some orderly way they might have an opportunity to clear themselves of so great and unjust aspersions," lest by their silence they should seem to be of the same mind with those who framed the petition. The Court appointed a committee to come to New Hampshire and inquire into the matter and report the result.

The committee repaired to Portsmouth, where the people repudiated the petition and professed to be fully satisfied with the government. A similar course was taken at Dover, with a like result. Mr. Dudley, the minister of Exeter, assured the committee that the people of that town had not done anything directly or indirectly, in aid of Corbett's design. From Hampton also the committee received full satisfaction in relation to the subject.

But the troubles and perplexities of the people were not yet ended. The committee from the General Court issued a warrant to arrest Corbett and bring him before them for seditious behavior, but he could not immediately be found. The commissioners, on the other hand, endeavored to thwart the purposes of the committee. They had indeed left the province and gone eastward; but one of them, in the name of the whole, sent back a severe reprimand to the committee, and forbade their proceeding against the signers of Corbett's petition. Each of these parties claimed obedience from the people.

The commissioners had received from the king certain instructions about fortifying the harbors, and they issued warrants to the four towns to meet at a time and place appointed to receive the king's orders. The Governor and Council of Massachusetts dispatched two men to forbid the towns on their peril, to meet or to obey the orders of the commissioners; but, on their own authority, they directed a fortification to be built near the mouth of the Piscataqua river, and made provision for the maintenance and manning of the fort. In a word, though the commissioners had declared that the four towns should be severed from Massachusetts, yet that government continued to exercise authority here as before.

The commissioners, on their return to England, made a report very unfavorable to Massachusetts, and this undoubtedly contributed much to prepare the way for the separation of the four New Hampshire towns from that government, which separation took place a few years afterward.

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