Enclosure No. 4. Application & Motion Made in Congress by the Delegates of Virginia
WHEREAS Upon a Review of past proceedings in Congress particularly on the 19, 22, & 26 Jany. the 5, 8, 16, 23d Feby. the 1, March the 15 April the 11, 18, 28 of May 1 June, 5, 28, July, the 1, 27, 30 Sepr. the 26, 30 Nov. & 8, 20, 22d Decr. it appears, that when upon reference of papers to a Committee of their Members, it was judged proper that the Committee should seek for documents, proofs or Evidence, other than what are on the Records or files of Congress, or to confer with any person on the subject referrd, it has been the uniform practice of Congress to instruct the Comee. specially: And whereas it appears from the said proceedings, that when Comees. not so instructed, have found it necessary in order to gain fuller information, & form a more Accurate judgment, to have recourse to other documents than those on the records, or files aforesaid, or to confer with persons, it has been usual for them to apply to Congress, & receive special powers & Instructions for that purpose. And whereas the Committee to whom were referred on the 2d Inst. the territorial cessions of Virginia &c. have taken upon themselves, without any special Instruction for the purpose, previously given, to confer with the Agents of the said Companies on the Subject of their Memorials, & did on the day of notify to the Delegates of Virginia such their Intention—& whereas the said Delegates upon such Notification, judging this an unauthoriz'd assumption of power & in the present instance liable to several strong objections, and leading to dangerous consequences, did request the said Comee. to forbear exercising such power until the sense of Congress should be taken thereon—& whereas it appears upon a review of the Journals particularly of Feby. 7, & 25, March 4, 13, Apr. 22d, May 15-24, 1779. & elsewhere, that when doubts have arisen respecting the extent or meaning of an order of Congress, it has been usual to call for the sense of the House thereon.
The Delegates from Virginia, in Conformity to this practice, desire to know the sense of Congress on this Question.
Whether a general reference of a paper report, or Memorial to a Comee. without any special Instructions, doth warrant or Authorize the Committee to hold Conferences, hear Council & seek for documents or evidence relative to the subject referrd to them, other than with Members of their own body, or what are on the records or files of Congress.
N. B. Congress would come to no decision on the subject NB: The Virginia Delegates very lately urged in Congress the taking up the Report of the Committee upon the territorial Cessions, that some Determination might be made upon the Subject; and previous thereto, that every Member shou' d be required to declare upon his Honour, in his Place, whether he had any Share, Interest or Concern in the Indiana, Vandalia, lllionois or Wabash Companys.
This was most violently opposed, and the Question evaded by every Artifice & Subterfuge; such as previous Questions, Motions for Adjournment, &c.
After spending two or three Days in this Manner, Congress refused taking the Matter up at that time, or giving any Opinion thereon.