Saturday, February 16, 2008

Rev. Robert Bracewell's 1650 Articles of Agreement

Contributed by Carey Bracewell

Articles of Agreement concluded & agreed Between Ambross Bennett of the one partie & Thomas Webb of the other partie in manner & forme as followeth

Imprimis it is agreed between the parties aforesaid that the said Ambross Bennett doth give unto the aforesaid Thomas Webb & his heires forever, one acre of Land, that he shall erect a Mill upon, & the privilege of the Run that the said Mill doth stand upon, and it is further agreed between the parties aforesaid, that if in Case the aforesaid Thomas Webb be att any time disposed to make sale of the aforesaid Mill, or Acre of Land, the aforesaid Ambrose Bennett or his heirs for ever, shall have the refusall, of the aforesaid Mill & the Acre of Land, And it is further agreed between the parties aforesaid, that the said Thomas Webb is to grind the aforesaid Ambross Bennetts Corne toll free, & his heires & all them that doo belong to his owne family for ever, And it is further agreed between the parties aforesaid, that the said Ambross Bennett doth sett & lett unto the aforesaid Thomas Webb Sixty Acres of Land for the terme of Thirty years complett & ended, bounded on the other side, so farr as the aforesaid Ambross Bennetts Land doth runne & soe over the Runn, & soe bounded upon the Land of Mr Robert Bracewell, and from his Land A Cross over the path that goeth to the Church It is agreed between the parties aforesaid, that the said Thomas Webb, is to give the aforesaid Thomas Bennett in Consideration of the aforesaid Land three thousand pounds of tobacco & Cask & one hogshead of ground meal, to be paid ready downe, the Tobacco to be paid fifteen hundred in the year, of our Lord God One thousand Six hundred fifty & two, & for the true performance hereof we have Enforchangeably sett our hands & seales the 29th of Aprill 1650

Ambrose A Bennett (seal)
Thomas W Webb (his mark)

The word heires incerted in the first article was
done by the consent of Ambross Bennett being
onely forgotten att the first soe along

Teste Robert Bracewell
Ann A Bennett (her mark)

This was entered in the indyent
= water way . . . .

Signed Sealed & delivered in the presence of
Henry Preston
George Rawley

9th February I Ambross Bennett acknowledged the within written Articles In open court held for the Isle of Wight County & by him proved to be Recorded which is accordingly Ordered & done & Examined per me Johann Combe, Clerk Deputy. . . .
Record of Wills, Deeds, Etc., Vol. 1, 1662-1715, page 426


Excepting his will and inventory some eighteen years later, this informal agreement is the most important document that has come down to us from Rev. Robert Bracewell because it (1) dates his arrival to the New World to before 29 April 1650, (2) provides the history of the grain mill and adjacent land that later became the property of the Reverend and his heirs, and (3) gives us a writing very likely in his own words.
That this agreement was written by a non-lawyer is evident from its unique language. Nowhere else do we find such expressions as "sett & lett", "the terme of Thirty years complett & ended",
"to be paid ready downe" and such other vernacular expressions. No lawyer would have admitted in a post script to some important term "being onely forgotten att the first soe along."

So if a lawyer didn't write this agreement-- which is really two documents in one, an agreement and a sales contract--then who did? Rev. Robert is the obvious choice. He had a personal interest in the transaction and signed himself as "teste" (an arcane use of 'testator') along with Ann Bennett's dower mark and two witnesses. Moreover, he had the same education as a seventeenth century lawyer. And even to this day, county clerks are obliged to file important documents regardless of who wrote them.