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HISTORY OF THE BOUNDARIES
STATE OF DELAWARE.
HON. JOHN W. HOUSTON.
THE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF DELAWARE.
THE DELAWARE HISTORIC
The following paper was read by Judge Houston, on the invitation of the Historical Society of Delaware, on Thursday, February 21, 1878.
ADDRESS ON THE HISTORY
BOUNDARIES OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE.
GENTLEMEN OF THE HISTORICAL SOCIETY:
I have selected for the subject of my address on this occasion the history of the early and primitive questions. in relation to the coterminous boundaries of this State and the States of Maryland and New Jersey, respectively. For, notwithstanding they have long since been practically and definitively settled, as we think, and Delaware, the oldest State in the Union (I say so, because she was the first to enter it), has now been in the undisturbed possession of all her present domain for more than a hundred years on the one side, and for nearly two hundred years on the other, yet, I am extremely sorry to say that, small as it is, the whole world, it seems, is still not fully satisfied that we are justly and rightfully entitled to quite all of it. Now, I must admit that it is not very pleasant, if it is not positively painful, to be obliged to make, at this late day, such a public confession; but for the melancholy proof of the
statement which I have just made I have but to refer you on the one hand, to the fact that the great State of New Jersey has actually sued us, within a year past, for a little piece of land entirely covered with water, and not much larger than the Pea Patch, before the highest tribunal in the country, where it is now pending; and on the other hand, to the interesting and elaborate address of an eminent citizen of the State of Maryland, delivered before this Society a few years since only, upon the original validity of the Lord Baltimore's title to the whole of it, under the royal grant contained and described in his letters patent for the Province of Maryland. I must, however, do New Jersey the justice to say that she is this time seeking, it seems, to recover water with its incidental rights of fishery, rather than land, or mud merely, as in the Pea Patch case. Now, before a tribunal of conscience and equity jurisdiction, my first defence to her present claim would be, that she already owns and is surrounded by more water than any other State in the Union, and has no further need of any more of that unstable element, until a second flood comes. And the same remark may be made with regard to fish also. And on that subject I would add, that it is unfortunately but too well known to all her neighbors that her remarkable and innate affinity for fish is already too strong and selfish, particularly as to shell-fish, and always has been; and that it ought not to be encouraged in this liberal and enlightened age of the world, and in a country like ours. Her claim is therefore clearly unconscionable, I think, on both of these grounds.
Although the questions presented are separate and dis
tinct from each other, one historical review will include both from the time the one in relation to the boundary between this State and New Jersey arises, which was some fifty years subsequent to the origin of the other in relation. to the boundary between this State and Maryland; but in the consideration of the latter we must necessarily commence the review with the date of the first settlement by a Christian people within the limits of our State, and with the date of the letters patent to Lord Baltimore for his Province of Maryland, together with the petition on which they were issued, and the terms of it, describing the lands applied for in it, and which were granted to him pursuant to the description. For upon these facts alone that question originally depended.
Prior to that period, and even to the discovery of our bay and river, or of any part of our coast from the capes of the Chesapeake to Cape Cod, the English had discovered and claimed all the coast of New England north of the latter cape, and had also discovered and claimed all the coast from the capes of the Chesapeake to the coast of Florida; and although the intervening portion of it had not yet been actually discovered by any English or other European navigator, the Crown of England had already made grants to its subjects of the whole country, extending from North Carolina to the northern limit of New England, with a view to the speedy colonization and settlement of it; and under one of those early grants to the London Company, by name, the colony of Jamestown, Virginia, had been planted on the southern shores of the Chesapeake Bay as early as the year 1607, and three thousand miles of its