First Ownership of Ohio Lands

. . . . to have it printed and to present signed copies thereof to each of the delegates of other states to the intent and purpose that copies may be communicated to our brethren in the United States, and the contents taken into their serious and candid consideration.

The old argument appears in the declaration of the injustice and unfairness in the exclusive use of the crown lands by individual states, but additional force and effect is secured by reference to certain preparations for immediate sales of the vacant lands. However, the most interesting feature of the paper is the fresh cry of alarm raised on account of newly discovered dangers in the proposed confederation.

Maryland apprehensions were aroused by the reading of Article III of the confederation, which seems to be merely an expression in fervent language of the "firm bond of friendship" which was to hold the sister states in perpetual amity. By this bond the assembly seemed to fear that Maryland might be "burthened with heavy expenses for the subduing and guaranteeing immense tracts of country, although having no share of the moneys arising from the sales of the lands within those tracts or be otherwise benefitted thereby." It is stated:

We declare that we mean not to subject ourselves to such guaranty nor will we be responsible for any part of such expense, unless the third article and proviso [of article IX] be explained so as to prevent their being hereafter construed in a manner injurious to this state. 23

No trace of the instructions appears in the January record of Congress. This document was not filed with the declaration, but was read in secret and held in reserve by the Maryland delegation to answer the call for further powers for ratification, should that be heard. The paper instructs the delegates respecting the use of the declaration, and directs them as to the votes they give and the opinions they deliver in Congress respecting confederation. "We have spoken with freedom as becomes freemen, and we sincerely wish that our representations, may make such an impression on that assembly as to induce them to make such addition to the articles of confederation as may bring about a permanent union."

Maryland's course of opposition is explained at length, and the obstruction of the confederation is fully justified to the delegates on patriotic grounds. The private use of the crown lands, which were secured at common expense, is the main point. The instability of the proposed union, formed on so great an injustice, is argued on the theory that the states which have acceded to the present confederation contrary to their own interests and judgments will consider it no longer binding when the causes cease to operate, and will eagerly embrace the first occasion of asserting their just rights and securing their independence. The preparations of Virginia to sell the lands is cited as to what may be expected.

Suppose Virginia indisputably possessed of the extensive and fertile country to which she has set up a claim, what would be the consequences to Maryland? They cannot escape the least discerning. Virginia, by selling on the most moderate terms a small portion of the lands in question would draw into her treasury vast sums of money, and in proportion to the sums arising from such sales would be enabled to lessen her taxes. Lands comparatively cheap and taxes comparatively low with the lands and taxes of an adjacent state, would quickly drain the state thus disadvantageously circumstanced of its most useful inhabitants, its wealth, and its consequence in the scale of confederated states would sink of course.

The declared intention of Virginia to relinquish at some future period a portion of the country contended for is criticised "as made to lull suspicion asleep, and to cover the design of a secret ambition; or, if the thought were seriously entertained, the lands are now claimed to reap an immediate profit from the sales." The argument of nationalizing the crown lands follows, and then the words:

We have coolly and dispassionately considered the subject; we have weighed probable inconveniences and hardships against the sacrifice of just and essential rights; and do instruct you not to agree to the confederation unless an article or articles be added thereto in conformity with our declaration. Should we succeed in obtaining such article or articles, then you are hereby fully empowered to accede to the confederation. 24

For reasons not disclosed in official records the Virginia resolutions proposing a confederacy of part of the states were not presented in Congress until the 20th of May. On that day the delegates of Virginia laid before Congress an attested copy of the two resolutions of the assembly pertaining to this subject, which had been in their care since the December previous, and the same were read and entered in the journals. In pursuance of the powers and instructions therein contained the delegates moved to carry the resolutions into immediate effect by recommending ratification on the basis proposed, on a fixed date to be determined in Congress. The delegates of Virginia then delivered a paper signed by them in the following words:

In consequence of the foregoing instructions and powers to us given we do hereby declare, that we are ready and willing to ratify the confederation with any one or more states named therein, so that the same shall be forever binding upon the state of Virginia.

Merewcther Smith, Richard Henry Lee.

Cyrus Griffin, William Fleming.

No action of Congress is recorded on the Virginia proposition. No discussion took place and, apparently, the motion of the Virginia delegates was not put to vote. The next day's business began with the delegates of Maryand "informing Congress, that they had received instructions respecting the articles of confederation, which they were directed to lay before Congress, and to have entered on their journals." The Maryland instructions were read by the secretary and were spread upon the pages of the journal. Following this the Connecticut delegation filed the further powers issued to them authorizing them to ratify the confederation with eleven states, omitting Maryland, "in the most full and ample manner. Always provided, that the state of Maryland be not thereby excluded from acceding to said confederation at anytime thereafter."

Confident in the security of her claims from local interference, and no longer fearing the interposition of Congress, the Virginia assembly now made haste with the legislation necessary for immediate disposition of the property to the best advantage of the commonwealth. The long deferred land office was provided for in a bill enacted soon after the close of the Indiana Company hearing. A second bill "for adjusting and settling the titles of claimers to unpatented lands under the present and former governments, previous to the establishment of the commonwealth's land office," was enacted at the same time to ease the anxiety in the settlements on the frontiers.

The land office was to open in October, the terms and manner of granting waste and unappropiated lands were fixed, and a register was appointed to take office immediately. A special order for record books of sales was made in the assembly so that no time would be lost in the remote counties of Monongahela, Yohogania, Ohio, and Kentucky, bordering upon the river. The lands were to be distributed according to the ancient custom to prospectors making entry and survey by county surveyors commissioned by the College of William and Mary, and warrants issued on proof. Officers and soldiers had the preference, as provided by the several bounty laws, and actual settlers on uncontested claims were also privileged to purchase the lands they occupied. All other waste and unappropriated lands on the eastern or western waters, within the territory of the commonwealth, were for sale to any person in quantity desired at the rate of forty pounds per hundred acres. The laws were printed and distributed to the various counties, and extraordinary means were employed to spread abroad quickly the news of the opening of the land office. On the last day of the summer session of the Virginia assembly it was

Resolved, That the Governor be desired to transmit by the post one hundred copies of the act . . . . to the Virginia delegates in Congress. and desire them to take the most speedy and effectual measures for dispensing and publishing the same in the different states. 25

These laws were intended to apply, until further orders of the Virginia assembly, to lands only as far westward as the Ohio River, but it will not be doubted that it was the plan to extend as soon as practicable to the regions across the river. But the time never came for Virginia to sell off Ohio lands. Disapproval of the land office act arose to prevent it. These laws made actual trespassers of the speculators and settlers along the river, most of whom held title from the confederated Indians. As this was an issue of national magnitude the dispossessed memorialists took an appeal to Congress and secured the interposition of the United States to restrain Virginia. 26

The memorials were presented and read in Congress on the 14th of September. George Morgan, petitioning for the Indiana Company, contends

"that the tract of country claimed by the Indiana Company was separated by the King of Great Britain, before independence was declared, from the dominion, which, in the right of the crown, Virginia claimed over it, and cannot remain subject to the jurisdiction of Virginia, or any particular state, but of the whole United States in Congress, assembled."

Morgan prays for an order to stay Virginia in the sale of the land in question till the case can be heard in Congress, and "the whole rights of the owners of the tract of land called Vandalia, of which Indiana is a part, shall be ascertained in such a manner as may tend to support the sovereignty of the United States and the just rights of the individual therein." The same point was raised by William Trent in a second memorial in regard to the larger tract called Vandalia, and there were other appeals of minor importance. 27

The delegates of Virginia made instant objection to the consideration of these Papers in Congress, raising for the first time in American polities an issue of state rights. The matter of Virginia's protest does not appear in the records, but from subsequent proceedings in Congress its purport may be known. The objections were based on the doctrine that Congress had no jurisdiction over the subject-matter of the Morgan memorial since it was related to the internal affairs of a sovereign state. The question was put to vote and the reference was ordered. The committee of five delegates elected by vote of states was directed by order of Congress

??to enquire into the foundation of the objection formerly made by the Virginia delegates, upon the reading of the petition and the memorial, to the jurisdiction of Congress on the subject matter of the said papers, and first report the facts relating to that point. 28

The committee took quick action on the protest, with results detrimental to Virginia, declaring

. . . that they have read over and considered the state of facts given in by the delegates of Virginia, and cannot find any such distinction between the question of jurisdiction of Congress, and the merits of the cause, as to recommend any decision upon the first separately from the last.

And in addition to this, they offer a preamble and a resolution reprobating the action of the commonwealth in opening a land office.

The delegates were in conflict in Congress for two days over this report. There was apparently no trouble in the decision on the point of jurisdiction, for the members seemed to agree with the committee; but on the wording of the preamble, and the substance of the resolution, there were several divisions. Maryland delegates offered a substitute of more drastic criticism of Virginia's land office programme. On this there was a sharp conflict. 29 The Maryland form carried at first, but on reconsideration a more reasonable resolution was adopted, in these words:

Whereas the appropriation of vacant lands by the several states during the continuance of the war, will, in the opinion of Congress, be attended with great mischiefs; therefore,

Resolved, that it be earnestly recommended to the state of Virginia, to reconsider their late act of assembly for opening their land office; and that it be recommended to the said state, and all other states similarly circumstanced, to forbear settling or issuing warrants for unappropriated lands, or granting the same during the continuance of the present war.

Report of this action first reached the Virginia assembly in a letter from the delegates of the commonwealth. The letter and proceedings were read in the house of delegates on the 13th of November and referred to a committee of the whole house on the state of the commonwealth. The committee took up the matter the same day and soon came to resolutions which were at once reported; and, all formalities being suspended in view of the importance of the subject, the resolutions were unanimously agreed to by both house and senate.

Resolved, nemine contra dicente, That a remonstrance be drawn up to the Hon. the American Congress, firmly asserting the right of this commonwealth to its own territory, complaining of their having received petitions from certain persons, styling themselves the Indiana and Vandalia companies, upon claims which not only interfere with the laws and internal policy, but tend to subvert the government of this commonwealth, and introduce general confusion; and expressly excepting and protesting against the jurisdiction of Congress therein as unwarranted by the fundamental principles of the confederation.

Resolved, nemine contra dicente, That the Governor, with the advice of the council, be empowered and required to use the most effectual means for apprehending and securing any person or persons within this commonwealth, who shall attempt to subvert the government thereof, or set up any separate government within the same, that such person or persons may be brought to trial, according to due course of law.

A remonstrance to Congress was issued by Virginia in pursuance of this action, but not in the belligerent tones of the resolutions. The remonstrance bears date of its adoption in the assembly thirty days after the passage of the resolutions. It doubtless found its way directly to the congressional committee, which was still at work on the memorials. The remonstrance assures Congress that, "Although the general assembly of Virginia would make great sacrifices to the common interests of America . . . . and be ready to listen to any just and reasonable propositions for removing the ostensible causes of the delay to the complete ratification of the confederation, they . . . . expressly protest against any jurisdiction or right of adjudication in Congress, upon . . . . any matter or thing subversive of the internal policy, civil government, or sovereignty of this or any other of the United American States." There are other interesting features of the remonstrance not anticipated in the resolutions: a warning against establishing dangerous precedents in seizing lands of states; a reminder of the effect of congressional interposition, upon the pending negotiations for peace, in which the charters of the states were to be urged as the basis of definition of the United States boundaries; 30 and a reference to the safety clause in the ninth article of the confederation by which "the rights of sovereignty and jurisdiction within her own territory were reserved and secured to Virginia when she acceded to the articles of confederation." There is information, also, of the offer of the general assembly of bounty lands "out of their territory on the northwest side of the Ohio river," and Congress is assured that "the offer when accepted will be most cheerfully made good." No word appears respecting reconsideration of the land office act, nor of a suspension of the distribution of the vacant lands; but in the first paragraph of the document it is announced that "the general assembly have enacted a law to prevent present settlement on the northwest side of the Ohio river."

The law to prevent present settlements on the northwest side of the Ohio River, referred to in the Virginia remonstrance, is easily identified as a paragraph inserted by the Virginia House as an amendment to a bill relating to the location of warrants on the military reservation, then in its final passage in the assembly. The circumstances of this enactment are interesting. Information was received in the House on the 8th of November, in a communication from the Governor, respecting "intrusions on Indian lands upon the Ohio." From reports 31 received the same day in Congress it is learned that these intruders are

. . . some of the inhabitants from Yoghiagania and Ohio counties, Virginia, who had crossed the Ohio River and made small improvements on the Indian's lands, from the river Muskingum to Fort McIntosh, and 30 miles up the branches of the Ohio River.

The trespassers had been apprehended and their huts destroyed by the Continentals under Col. Broadhead. In consequence of this news from the frontiers the assembly made haste to enlarge the scope of the pending bill, adding the paragraph prohibiting settlements on the northwest side of the Ohio, and

. . . desiring the Governor to issue a proclamation, requiring all persons settled on the said land immediately to remove therefrom, and for??idding others to settle in future, and moreover, with the advice of the council from time to time, to order such armed force as shall be thought necessary to remove from the said lands, such person or persons as shall remain on or settle contrary to the said proclamation. 32

New York, moved by this display of national spirit in Congress, made an immediate surrender of all claims upon the western country. The firm stand of Congress against Virginia, proudest of the claimants, inspired the legislature to relinquish the long standing rights of the state to the Iroquois lands. New York gave up this great property freely, with no thought of reservation, and without suggestion of personal indemnity for the expenses of a century of support of the historic contract with the Six United Nations, from whom the state derived title. The New York cession of territory is in the form of "an act to facilitate the completion of the articles of confederation and perpetual union among the American States," passed by the legislature on the 19th of February, 1780. The act confers full power and authority upon their delegates in Congress, . . . to limit and restrict the boundaries of the state in the western parts thereof, either with respect to the jurisdiction or right of pre-emption of soil, or both, and to relinquish the territory to the north and westward of these boundaries, "to be and enure for the use and benefit of such of the United States as shall become members of the federal union."

The New York act of cession was read in Congress on the 7th of March following its passage, and was referred to a committee of three delegates chosen by a vote of the states to consider the matter The New York act and the unfinished business of the former committee of five, the Maryland and Virginia papers, and the memorials of the Indian claimants, were reported upon six months later, and the famous recommendations of September 6, calling upon the claimant states to surrender a portion of their claims for the general good, is the report of this committee. 33

Congress took the report into consideration on that date, and it was agreed to as reported. This document is often printed in full in accounts of the land cessions. The committee conceived it to be unnecessary to take up the matters raised in the papers of Maryland and Virginia. They declared?? That it appears more advisable to press upon those states which can remove the embarrassments respecting the western country, a liberal surrender of a portion of their territorial claims since they cannot be preserved entire without endangering the stability of the general confederacy.

It was advised to urge upon the legislatures the indispensable necessity of establishing the federal union. The example of the New York act was commended. The states were to be urged to pass the laws for the desired cessions, and the legislature of Maryland was to be earnestly requested to authorize its delegates in Congress to subscribe the articles.

Congress took the necessary measures to carry out the provisions of this resolution. But in order to reassure the states making land cessions, that the territory entrusted to Congress would be held only for the common use and benefit of the United States in the manner contended for from the beginning of the controversy, a pledge was issued October 10, in this form:

Resolved, That the unappropriated lands that may be ceded or relinquished to the United States, by any particular state, pursuant to the recommendation of Congress of the 6th day of September last, shall be disposed of for the common benefit of the United States, and be settled and formed into distinct republican states, which shall become members of the federal union, and have the same rights of sovereignty, freedom and independence as the other states; that each state which shall be so formed shall contain a suitable extent of territory, not less than 100 nor more than 150 miles square, or as near thereto as circumstances will admit; That the necessary and reasonable expenses which any particular state shall have incurred since the commencement of the present war, in subduing any British posts, or in maintaining forts or garrisons with??in and for the defence, or in acquiring any part of the territory that may be ceded or relinquished to the United States, shall be reimbursed.

That the said lands shall be granted or settled at such times and under such regulations as shall hereafter be agreed on by the United States in Congress assembled, or any nine or more of them.

Two days after the adoption of this resolution in Congress, October 12, 1780, the Connecticut legislature, without knowledge of the programme therein pledged for territorial disposition, resolved to make a proportionate cession of the land claims of the state in the western country. The Connecticut resolutions proposed to surrender a portion of lands westward of the Susquehanna purchase, in compliance with the earlier recommendation, reserving full jurisdiction of the lands ceded. This was unsatisfactory as compared with the unreserved cession authorized by New York, but the resolution was not officially returned to Congress until the last day of January, by which time the third state had reported a plan of cession even more objectionable.

 

The three cessions of New York, Connecticut, and Virginia, covering practically the same lands and being so fundamentally different, required careful consideration, and Congress ordered a committee of seven to be elected to take them in charge. 37

The interest now passes to the struggle of Virginia with the committee of Congress to whom was re-committed the acts of cession and the unfinished business of the Trent and Morgan memorials. The Virginia delegation resisted a notice to appear before the committee and confer with the memorialists on the subject of their memorials, conceiving that "it derogates from the sovereignty of a state to be drawn into a contest by an individual or individuals." They inquire if Congress "intended to authorize this committee to receive claims and hear evidence in behalf of the Indiana and Vandalia Companies adverse to the claims or cessions of the states," and requested the committee to forbear the conference until Congress could advise. They appealed to Congress a second time for a ruling "on the authority of the committee to admit council or to hear documents, proofs, or evidence not among the records, nor on the files of Congress, which have not been specifically referred to them." Congress supported the committee on these rulings, and Virginia from this time on found herself deserted by her former friends in the north. Finally, in the last call of the committee for proofs, the delegates on the part of Virginia stood on their state's rights, "declining to make any elucidation of the claim, either to the lands ceded, or to the lands requested to be guaranteed to the state by Congress." The committee delayed no longer, and made final report to Congress on the 3d of November, 1781, on all matters recommitted to them.

The report of the committee of five appears in full in the journals of the Continental Congress for the first of May, 1782, when, after several postponements, it was on the order of the day for final discussion. It is an exhaustive report, covering all points under dispute of the right and title of the public domain, laying foundations for the land policy of the United States for all time to come. The report deals primarily with the cessions, but it does not bring the settlement of this vexatious matter. Many years must pass before all that was necessary was said and done in Congress on this subject. But while it seems to fail in securing concessions from the states in the form desired, it removed the subject from controversy, advanced the sovereignty of the United States, and fixed a modus operandi in territorial disposition and Indian control.

The report takes up the several cessions and claims on the basis of vouchers examined, 38 and information obtained as to the status of the lands mentioned in each; and gives the results of the findings in the form of recommendations, with reasons itemized. The findings are entirely adverse to Virginia on all points in controversy, and, according to the recommendations of the report the act of cession of the state of New York is to be accepted as based on claims of jurisdiction authentically derived from the Six United Nations of Indians. The claims of Massachusetts and Connecticut are disregarded entirely in the report, and these states are earnestly recommended "that they do without delay release all claims and pretensions of claim to the western country, without any conditions or restrictions whatever." As to Virginia, it is resolved that "Congress cannot accept of the cession proposed to be made, or guarantee the tract of country claimed by Virginia," for the reason that the lands are within the claims of other states and outside the bounds of the late colony of Virginia as it stood at the beginning of the war. It is proposed as a resolution,

That it be earnestly recommended to the state of Virginia, as they value the peace, welfare and increase of the United States, that they reconsider their said act of cession, and by a proper act for that purpose, cede to the United States all claims and pretensions of claim to the lands and country beyond a reasonable western boundary, consistent with their former acts while a colony under the power of Great Britain, and agreeable to their just rights of soil and jurisdiction at the commencement of the present war, and that free from any conditions and restrictions whatever.

Certain of the claims of the memorialists are sustained by the committee and confirmation of their purchases recommended, while others are condemned. The outline of a national Indian policy will be referred to later, as also the pledge of suitable method of opening up the territory for settlement by a new system of quadrilateral surveying based perhaps on the suggestion contained in the Connecticut resolution of cession, adopted at Hartford on the 12th of October, 1780,

Always provided that the said lands to be granted be laid out and surveyed in Townships in regular form to a suitable number of settlers, in such manner as will best promote the settlement and cultivation of the same according to the true spirit and principles of a republican state.

The settlement offered by the report on cessions and claims afforded the means to Congress, as the natural possessor of all the crown lands within the confines of the United States, to dispose of the same according to the pledges of the resolution of October 10, 1780. Provisions needful for such a course were contained in the report, and no determined opposition remained in Congress, save only the Virginians. In addition to the references to cessions and claims the report advises indemnification for the expenses of the Clark campaigns, recommends a policy of paternal handling of the Indians, and outlines a plan of extension of the settlements and expansion of government over the western territory. All that remained to be done, had this report endured, was for Congress, as the executive head of the United States in the exercise of right descending logically from the British crown, to proceed as convenient to carry out its provisions, to settle matters with the Indian tribes, and to dispose of all the lands from the greater mountains of the Alleghanies to Louisiana, and from Florida to Quebec, for the joint use and benefit of the United States. But Congress deliberately gave up this great advantage. The report was laid aside. No action was taken on it as a whole, and no separate part of it was ever submitted to vote. The end of the war approaching brought other mighty problems: the shifting of Congress from a martial to a civil base, and the "forming arrangements for the United States in time of peace." Examination of the minutes of Congress of this period seems to show that much of this business moved along on the theory that the land controversy was finally settled by this report.

But the Virginia delegation had never relaxed opposition to that portion of the report pertaining to their own cause. They demanded a rule requiring pledge of personal disinterest in the claims from each delegate voting, they moved for postponement whenever opportunity arose, and they constantly pressed the acceptance of the Virginia cession as a ready remedy for all the financial woes which developed in the stress of debate. For more than a year the fight kept up, and in the end the Virginians won. They secured the recommitment of that portion of the report and a final reconsideration of the question of accepting the conditional cession of the commonwealth. The New Jersey delegates filed a protest of the legislature against re-opening the question, and the Maryland delegation proposed a declaration 39 for the immediate disposition of the lands. Congress disregarded these apparently just complaints and, choosing to hold a portion only of the disputed territory, and that on a federal and not a national basis, voted on the 13th of September, 1783, to accept the Virginia cession, with all conditions approved, except the guaranty of reserved lands 41 Meanwhile preparations to enter and occupy the hostile region across the Ohio were in active progress in Congress, and little attention was spared for further details of the cessions. Acts of cession followed in time from all the claimant states, but not without renewed pressure 42 on the legislatures and considerable anxiety as to the form of the cessions. But the extent and conditions of the various cessions are well known matters of history, and the dates and circumstances of each act are easy matters of reference. Weightier business was now pressing for attention in Congress. Enough had been done already respecting the title to justify immediate perfection of the programme of expansion of the government upon that part of the crown lands which had been relinquished to the United States by the cessions of New York and Virginia.

At the first signs of the coming of peace with Great Britain, Congress turned to consider the Indian preliminary to the formal occupation of his hunting grounds. The Indian policy outlined in the report on cessions and claims was ready at hand. This was merely a brief expression of the relations long subsisting in the colonies, and now recommended as a means of more clearly defining and establishing the jurisdiction of Congress regarding Indian affairs. It declares

That the sole right of superintending, protecting, treating with, and making purchases of the Indian nations outside the state lines, is necessarily vested in Congress for the benefit of the United States, that no person in separate capacity can, or ought to purchase any unappropriated lands belonging to the Indians, and that Congress has no claim in point of property of soil to lands belonging to the Indians unless the same has been bona fide purchased of them, or shall be purchased by Congress, and that at a public treaty to be held for that purpose.

But before such a policy could be applied to the extensive regions beyond the western frontiers matters had to be settled with the hostile nations, who, abandoned by their late allies, were left stranded on the conquered territory. 43

"Letters from the Commander in Chief, and from the Generals" were read in Congress, while the measures for cessation of hostilities were being drawn, "informing of the sentiments of the Indians" in camp and on the British side. Agents were despatched at once to the northern and western frontiers to gather more news from the British posts. As soon as peace was announced a resolution was agreed to in Congress ordering

That the Secretary at War take the most effectual measures to inform the several Indian nations, on the frontiers of the United States, that preliminary articles of peace have been agreed on, and hostilities have ceased with Great Britain, and to communicate to them that the forts within the United States, and in possession of the British troops, will speedily be evacuated; intimating also that the United States are disposed to enter into friendly treaty with the different tribes; and to inform the hostile Indian nations that unless they immediately cease all hostilities against the citizens of these states, and accept of these friendly proffers of peace, Congress will take the most decided measures to compel them thereto.

A committee, of which James Duane of New York was chairman, was appointed to take the Indian situation into consideration and report thereon. Meantime, to save the territory from invasion of settlers and to shield the Indian from molestation until negotiations were concluded, an ordinance was passed, September 22, and a proclamation issued prohibiting the settlement and purchase of lands inhabited or claimed by the Indians. The Duane report was ready the following month. It reviews the sentiments of the Indians and considers the situation from their standpoint, refers to their resentment against their late allies, and the natural advantage to the Americans which might be made of this feeling as a protection on the Canadian frontiers. It estimates the effect of continuing hostilities with the Indians "until all are driven into the protection of the British posts," and recommends a peaceable settlement by friendly negotiations with all nations of Indians on the basis of a waiver by Congress of the rights of conquest of the Indian lands and "atonement made by the Indians of the enormities which they have perpetrated and a reasonable compensation for the expenses which the United States have incurred by their wanton barbarities." It was proposed to ascertain and fix lines of property for the Indians, by purchase if necessary, in which care ought to be taken neither to yield nor require too much; to accommodate the Indians as far as the public will admit and to give some compensation for claims rather than to hazard a war which will be much more expensive. Conventions for this purpose were suggested to be held at various posts, and an ordinance to regulate trade, with many items particularizing how trade should be carried on. The report further declares

That nothing can avert the complicated and impending mischiefs, or secure to the United States the just and important advantages which they ought to derive from those territories, but the speedy establishment of government and the regular administration of justice in such district thereof as shall be judged most convenient for immediate settlement and cultivation.

As may well be supposed, this enlightened report met with general acceptance in Congress. Difference of opinion developed on one point only. A resolution proposing a committee to report on the expediency of laying out a suitable district within the territory, and erecting it into a distinct government, etc., for settlement, gave way, after some debate, to a substitute offered by Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts, recommending prompt action in thus extending the government over the territory in advance of settlement without intervention of a committee to investigate its expediency. The main body of the report was agreed to, and the committee was continued to frame an ordinance to regulate the Indian trade, and to draw up details of instruction for the treaty conventions. 45

Preparations for extending the settlements upon the new land were developing in Congress while the Indian matter was still under consideration. The recommendations of the Gerry resolution on this subject were expanded into a plan for a temporary government to apply to as much of the western territory as the cessions and Indian purchases would admit. This was in accordance with the pledge of October 10, 1780, and in conformity with the report on cessions and claims filed November 3, 1781, which provided for the erection "of a new state or states not exceeding 150 miles square, to be taken into the federal union, and the same to be laid out into townships of the quantity of about six miles square." All reasonable engagements for lands to the military were to be made good, and bona fide settlers were to be "confirmed in their title to their reasonable settlements, on the same terms as new settlements." This plan was taken up in Congress immediately after the Virginia cession, and recommitted for further consideration. A plan was reported by the committee April 19, 1784, and passed after four days debate and considerable amendment, providing for division of the territory into two distinct states by parallels of latitude and meridians of longitude. A number of forms of this ordinance, found among the papers of Congress, are of curious interest. No attempt was made to put the plan into practice. In fact, all these first efforts at providing a government for a fanciful state in the midst of an unbroken forest were abandoned as premature. The Indian treaties were not yet settled, and the actual purchase of soil had not been made. So all plans were dropped for another year, and when they appeared again the subject matter of the plan was divided, and there were two separate ordinances--one the land ordinance of 1785, and the other the famous Ordinance of 1787.

The land ordinance of May 20, 1785, made its preliminary appearance in Congress early in March and passed through several commitments until reported April 14 by a grand committee in a form "for ascertaining the mode of disposing of lands in the western territory." Thereafter the ordinance was the subject of continuous attention until its final passage in amended condition. 46 This is the act which the states had long desired, to open the coveted lands of the Ohio. It defines a mode of subdividing the territory into small parcels for quick sale, and names for the first offer a most desirable section. The price is low per acre, to insure a ready market, and the terms easy, to fit the infirmities of the times. The act thus made favorable was passed to meet a public exigency, and its application was hastened to satisfy a suppositive demand, which never existed, and to supply a quick revenue, which never came. The subdivision of the soil into small areas was made in the wilderness in heroic manner, as ordered, and the lands were offered at public vendue to save time and trouble for purchasers, but the sales were so few, and the returns in funds so inconsiderable, that the event itself is nearly forgotten and its traces in the records are almost entirely lost.

The land ordinance of 1785 inaugurated a system of surveying which was afterward perfected by practice and experience into that now in use in almost every civilized country on earth. It replaced the customary method of the ages, of locating by metes and bounds. The returns of homestead settlement by description referring to familiar objects of the landscape--so much frontage on a river or lake, including so many acres, by lines running to a tree or mountain as near as may be--would not apply in an unknown wilderness. An exact rule was needed of locating accurately, determinable by rod and chain, projected from an astronomical point whereby "the homesteader could locate his hut by the stars of heaven, no longer dependent on the whim or caprice of the overlord." The parcels were to be "squares" formed by parallels and meridians, the lines run by the compass and marked by chops on the trees as numbered towns and ranges, the whole presentable in a checkered plat, from which the purchaser might select his site. The first suggestion of the original ordinance made these squares "hundreds," ten miles on a side, with one hundred interior squares or lots of 640 acres each. The draft of April 26 reduces the township to seven miles, with forty-nine interior lots, and the final ordinance makes a further reduction to thirty-six lots, as now in use.

 

Immediate attention to the enforcement of the land ordinance follows its enactment. On the seventh day after passage, May 27, 1785, "The Geographer of the United States (Captain Thomas Hutchins) was continued in his office for a term of three years, at an allowance of six dollars a day for his services and expenses," and, according to order, Congress proceeded on the same day to the election of a surveyor for each state. 48 This action was taken in the reasonable expectation that the Indian programme settled upon would be carried out by the commissioners elected, the object being to obtain from the northern and western nations and tribes consent in writing to the extinguishment of their rights to the federal lands intended for settlement, and substantial engagements for the establishment of permanent relations of peace and friendship between the Indian and the settler. 53 He endeavored also "to find out the true variation of the needle and the latitude of the point of beginning the east and west line, and from a mean of a great number of observations called, the Geographer's Line, westward for a distance of 3 miles, 66 chains and 78 links to the place where he heard the evil news. 60 and a repeal of the clause requiring them "to pay the utmost attention to the variation of the magnetic needle and to run and note all lines by the true meridian." The treaty at the Big Miami, held on the 21st of January, had rendered everything secure--as Congress supposed. 61 The geographer set out for the frontier May 23 and, arriving at Pittsburg June 25, despatched messengers for the chiefs of the Delawares, Wyandots, and Shawnees who, "agreeable to their promise to the Commissioners, were to give him protection." He informed Congress, in a letter dated July 8, that "troops may be necessary," and he proceeded at once, without waiting for either soldiers or Indians, to resume the surveys. But when he summoned the men, who had assembled at the former camp awaiting orders, they positively refused to proceed until a body of troops was provided to cover their operations. 62

Thus the surveys were resumed. The east and west line was projected westerly to the ninth range, a distance of over fifty miles. From this line as a base, range lines six miles apart were run southerly to the river, a distance on the westerly ranges of ninety-five miles. Cross lines were run every six miles, working westerly from the river at right angles to the range lines, and every mile was marked by chops on trees standing on or near the line, as required by the ordinance. The geographer and his eight surveyors and many more chainbearers, axe men, and followers, and a battalion of military to escort them, were thus spread out over the triangular field of the survey, pushing the work steadily, "even Sundays not excepted," to finish the thirteen ranges--if possible, altogether making quite a stir in the wilderness east of the Muskingum and the Tuscarawas. The storm broke upon them in September. At his camp, "38 miles on the the East and West line," Hutchins received a message from the chief of the Wyandots, informing him that they could not comply with the request to assist in the surveying until they had brought the "back nations" 63 to terms. "I am just now between two fires," spoke Half King, "for I am afraid of you and likewise of the back nations." From other sources it was learned that a large body of Indians was collecting with hostile intentions, determined "that the Ohio river and the line being cut by Pennsylvania shall remain forever the boundary between them and the Big Knives." The Shawnees had five hundred warriors ready to move the "moment they hear Captain Hutchins is out." On October 1 the danger had become so threatening that the surveyors held to camp, absolutely refusing to continue. 64 The men were in terror, and the geographer, "to his great mortification," was obliged to advise retirement to the back ranges. With great difficulty he kept enough men at work until four ranges were completed. Still the attacks continued, and in November, on advice of the military, the surveyors withdrew to a camp on the Virginia side. 65 Captain Hutchins informed Congress of the interruption of the survey in a letter dated at the Virginia camp, December 2, adding: "I shall be detained here until such time as the townships already surveyed are delineated on paper, which will probably take to the commencement of the ensuing year, when I shall lose no time in proceeding with them to New York." 66 Captain Hutchins returned to New York in February, carrying with him the visible and tangible evidence of his labors. "I have brought with me," he wrote to the President of Congress, "the plats and description of four ranges completely surveyed containing in the whole six hundred and seventy-five thousand four hundred and eighty acres." These he deposited with the board of treasury, according to the ordinance; and on the 18th of April he sent his own returns to Congress.

Captain Hutchins's returns were the subject of immediate action in Congress, in the consideration of "a plan for selling for public securities the townships surveyed in the western territory" reported by the board of treasury on the 19th of April. The report condemns the plan of proportional distribution by states through the Secretary at War and the local loan offices, fixed in the ordinance to take place "as soon as 7 ranges of townships shall have been surveyed," as too slow and expensive, and recommends a direct sale at public auction to the highest bidder regardless of his local habitation. Congress agreed to this report April 21, and ordered "the sale to be advertised to commence at the expiration of five months from date, in the place where Congress shall sit and continue from day to day until the same shall be sold." The advertisements appeared as directed. 67 Twenty-seven separate townships or fractional townships are listed in a table by range and township numbers, to be exposed to sale, either entire or in lots ( now called sections) of one mile square in alternate order, at not less than one dollar per acre, plus cost of surveying, payable one third down and the remaining two thirds in three months, in specie, or certificates, "excepting therefrom and reserving one third part of all gold, silver, lead and copper mines within the land sold." 68 Proper maps and descriptions of the lands were to be exhibited at the time and place of sale, and the sales were to continue from day to day until the whole were sold. "The admirable quality of these lands, and the favorable climate in which they are situated," the advertisements declare, "are too well known to need description."

The sale took place as advertised, in New York, September 21, 1787, continuing until October 9, when it ceased, with the greater part of the townships remaining unsold. During the sixteen days of sale 32 persons bought 148 parcels, aggregating 150,896 acres, 176,090 6/90th dollars, purchase money, of which 87,438 18/90th dollars was paid at the time of sale in public securities. 69 The highest price bid was 22 dollars for a fractional lot of an acre and a half on the river, but most of the sales were at the minimum rate of a dollar per acre. During the summer of 1787, the surveyors again returned to the Ohio. Troubles with the Indians had not abated, but they finished closing in the townships of seven ranges. Hutchins probably did not attend this survey as he was in New York in October busy with his accounts. He made final report the following summer and turned in the finished plan of the Seven Ranges, which he transmitted to the board of treasury under date of July 26, 1788.

The circumstances of the first survey and sale of the federal lands, from which so much had long been expected and so little realized, would be interesting and doubtless important if all were known, but searcely anything remains of this period in the public prints or official records to tell the story. The sale itself was a failure and the survey a disappointment. The first returns of four ranges, after years of waiting, expense, and danger, were so meagre as to justify criticism in Congress of the mode of survey, and call for immediate revision of the ordinance, and a move in that direction is noted in the minutes of Congress at the time the sale was ordered. 70 At this very moment, also, memorials began to appear, praying Congress for grants of large areas for private adventure in settlement for which large sums of money were promised for immediate payments, offering quicker means of revenue than the auction sales.


This document, consisting of six large tabulated sheets, signed by M. Hillegas, U. S. Treasurer, and Wm. Duer, Secretary of the board of treasury, and dated September 13, 1788, gives names of each purchaser, township and lot number, acreage, amount paid etc. 74 There is also in the land office in Washington the book of patents issued for the sale, in which the names and dates of the complete purchases are given. 75 In addition are the surveyors plats, previously mentioned, on which are recorded the names and other data of sales. Finally there are the lands themselves entered in the several counties in Ohio, with records of the original purchasers. From all these sources it is possible to compile a list of the first owners of public lands of the United States.

It is possible also to give a correct list of the 1000 original proprietors and settlers of the Muskingum settlement of the Ohio Company from the official records of draughts and allotments of lands to each proprietor, kept by Col. John May, secretary of the Ohio Company, and recently found. The draughts took place at Providence, R. I., on Thursday, the 8th of May, 1787, and on the Muskingum in July, 1788. (Cf. Cutler's Journal, also the Journal of Col. John May.) 76

The lists of names of first owners of lands within the limits of the State of Ohio, as proposed on an earlier page of this writing, here follow. They are constructed for the purpose of this publication by comparison of the several documents mentioned. 77

First Owners of Lands in Ohio

The sale of lots or the Four Ranges of Townships at public vendue in the City of New York, September 21 to October 9, 1787, terminated the period of reservation or prohibition of "settlement and purchase of the lands inhabited or claimed by the Indians." 78 Purchasers of lots at this sale obtained thereby the right of entry and occupancy of the lands that they had purchased; all others were trespassers, excepting the French and Canadians in the Illinois Company, who were protected by their oath of fidelity to Virginia. 79 These purchasers received certificates of payment of purchase money issued by the Treasurer of the United States, 80 which entitled them to such right. Certain purchasers, no doubt, moved at once upon their lands, probably from the vantage camps on the Virginia hills overlooking the forbidden river, but other purchasers made no actual settlements; facts to be ascertained by those especially interested. 82 The plats of the surveyors show the exteriors of the townships as surveyed, on which are lines drawn at right angles to represent the 36 square lots in each township. The plats are drawn on the scale of 40 chains to the inch, making each of these lots two inches square, on which is written the name of purchaser, date, acres, etc. The lots are numbered, also the townships and ranges as required by the ordinance: Ranges; westward from I to VII beginning with the Pennsylvania line. Townships, northward from the river, each range beginning with Township No. 1, and the lots; northward from the base line of the township, in ranges of six, beginning with Lot I at the southeast corner. 88 n p (no patents issued)

Cornelius Ray Patent 18 March 12, 1788

III 2 19 385 1/4 acres 385:23 dollars M Ohio Tp.