General Court’s Two Responses, 1684

General Court First Response, 1684
The Magistrates made the first response, on October 17. In line with the decisions the Court had already made, though not yet acted on, it was a proposal to grant the Farmers’ petition to build a meetinghouse and call a minister. It also laid out some other ways in which the Farms, as a “distinct society” could operate separately from the town. The original petition had not asked for these provisions. There may have been a later petition that has not survived, or it may have been the Court’s custom to include them whenever it made this kind of grant. The Magistrates’ proposal also specified several taxes and charges that the villagers, as citizens of Cambridge, would have to go on paying, but omitted those that went to support the ministry.

However, the Magistrates apparently felt that the survey committee had paid too little attention to the town’s concerns, and were still inclined to favor Cambridge’s interest. Their response (if I've interpreted it correctly) said that they heard not only the arguments of both sides, but also "the consent of those that appeared in court on the town's behalf," and proposed a revision of the boundary. If the town actually did consent, it may have made this revision a condition.

Instead of 5½ miles, the line, as proposed by the Magistrates, “shall be six miles from Cambridge meeting house, measuring along the high road leading to Concord, and at the end of said six miles to be a straight line across the bounds of the town, which cross-line is to run parallel with the now stated head line at the eight miles’ end of the said town’s bounds.” (This is a reference to the so-called “eight-mile line” set by the General Court in 1638 as the western limit of Cambridge’s expansion, the eight miles being measured from the Cambridge meeting house in what is now Harvard Square. It had not been a boundary since the town was enlarged in 1644, but people obviously still knew where it was.)

The Deputies, for their part, would have none of this revision business. They responded to the Magistrates’ conventional invitation to consent by replying that they did indeed consent, but only “provided the dividing line run as the Committee have stated it in their return,” and added the ominous provision that “if the town of Cambridge consent not hereto then they [are] to provide an able … minister for the village within one year.”
General Court Second Response, 1684
On October 30, the Magistrates made another attempt. They sent back the same paper (which as you can see was a little thin), with a new proposal written on the reverse side. The line should be drawn where the committee and the Deputies wanted to put it, but only for a trial period of seven years, after which “it is left to the determination of this Court, whether the dividing Line shall so remain as the committee have set it; or to be at the six miles’ end according to the former vote of the Magistrates.”

The Deputies refused, rather sharply, to go along: “The deputies consent not hereto but adhere to their former vote on the other side.” (So there!)

Since the two houses couldn’t agree, no action was taken. We can see, however, that they were at least disagreeing on a substantial issue that might have serious economic consequences for one community or the other, not indulging in mere political or bureaucratic arm wrestling.