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title:“Enclosure 7 to Samuel Purviance (May 20, 1782): Some Remarks on the Title of Virginia to the Lands on the Western-Waters”
authors:George Mason
date written:1782-5-20

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 7:57 a.m. UTC
retrieved:Dec. 1, 2023, 8:15 p.m. UTC

Mason, George. "Letter to Samuel Purviance (May 20, 1782): Some Remarks on the Title of Virginia to the Lands on the Western-Waters." The Papers of George Mason. Vol. 2. Ed. Robert A. Rutland. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1970. 727-31. Print.
Manuscript, Gunston Hall, Lorton, Va.; Tr, Duke University, Durham, N.C.

Enclosure 7 to Samuel Purviance (May 20, 1782): Some Remarks on the Title of Virginia to the Lands on the Western-Waters (May 20, 1782)

Enclosure No. 7. Some Remarks on the Title of Virginia to the Lands on the Western-Waters
Besides the Right derived from the Charters of 1606, 1609, & 1667, there are many strong Evidences of the Title of Virginia to her western Territory; that Country has been uniformly laid down as Part of Virginia in all the Maps, as well those published by public Authority as others; it has been acknowledged & recognized by many solemn Acts of the British Government at different Periods; nor can the smallest circumstance be adduced to impeach it, until the present King's Reign, and the Adoption of a Plan evidently calculated to divide weaken and enslave the Colonies; a Plan, which by forcing them to appeal to Heaven, has produced the present Revolution.
In the Year 1705, an Act of Assembly was made in Virginia, empowering the Governor for the time being, with the Consent of the Council, by Charter or Grant under the Seal of the Colony, to grant to any such Person or Persons, their Heirs Executors Administrators or Assigns, as shou'd at his or their own Charges, make Discovery of any Town or Nation of Indians situate or inhabiting to the Westward of, or between the Apalatian Mountains (since called the Alleghany Mountains) "the sole Liberty & Right of trading to & with all & every such Town or Towns, Nation or Nations of Indians, so discovered as aforesaid, for the space of fourteen Years then next ensueing, with such Clauses or Articles of Restraint or Prohibition of all other Persons from the said Trade, and under such Penalties & Forfeitures, as shall be thought convenient."1
In the Year 1753 an act of Assembly was made in Virginia "For further encouraging persons to settle on the waters of the Missisippi" declaring "that it wou'd be a Means of cultivating a better Correspondence with the neighbouring Indians, if a further Encouragement be given to persons who have setled, or shall settle on the waters of the Missisippi, and that a considerable Number of Persons, as well his Majesty's natural born Subjects, as foreign Protestants were willing to come into this Colony with their Families & Effects, and settle upon the Lands near the said waters, in case they have Encouragement for so doing, that setling that Part of the Country will add to the Security of the Colony in general, and be a means of augmenting his Majesty's Revenue of Quit-Rents" and enacting "That all persons being Protestants, who have already setled, or shall hereafter settle & reside on any Lands situate to the westward of the Ridge of Mountains that divides the Rivers Roanoke, James, & Potomack, from the Missisippi, shall be, and are exempted & discharged from the Payment of all public County & Parish Levies for the Term of fifteen years next following."2
And in the Year 1754, another Act of Assembly was made "For the Encouragement & Protection of the Setlers upon the waters of the Missisippi" declaring "that many of his Majesty's faithful Subjects had been encouraged by the Acts of the General Assembly heretofore made, to settle & inhabit on his Lands in this Colony on & near the Waters of the River Missisippi; and that it hath been represented to the General Assembly, that the Subjects of the french King, and by their Instigation the Indians in Alliance with them had encroached on his Majestys said Lands, murdered some of his Subjects, & taken others Captive, and spoil'd them of their Goods & Effects" empowering "the Treasurer of this Colony to borrow a Sum of money upon Interest" nominating certain Directors (Members of both Houses of Assembly) & empowering them "from time to time, with the Consent & Approbation of the Governor or Commander in chief for the time being, to direct & appoint how the said Money shall be applyed towards protecting his Majesty's Subjects, who then were setled, or thereafter shou'd settle on the Waters of the Missisippi, and laying sundry Duties & Taxes on the Inhabitants of this Colony for raising a Fund to repay the Money to be so borrowed.3" And for the same purposes, vizt. for the Defence & Protection of the Country upon the western waters, were several hundred thousand Pounds granted by Acts of the General Assembly of Virginia & levyed upon the People during the Course of the last War, & a great Number of Lives lost. All these Acts of Assembly, having received the Royal Assent, were to all Intents & Purposes Acts of the British Government; and cou'd not legally or constitutionally have been altereted or invalidated, by any other Authority than that which made themā€”vizt. Acts of the Virginia Legislature, with the Royal Assent.
In an additional Instruction from his late Majesty King George the second, to Sir William Gooch Bart. Lieutenant Governor & Commander in chief of the Colony & Dominion of Virginia, or to the Commander in chief of the said Colony for the time being, Given at the Court of St. James's the t6th Day of March 1748/9. in the 22d. Year of his reign, reciting a Petition which had been presented to his Majesty by the Ohio Company, the said Governor is directed & required "forthwith to make a Grant or Grants to the said Petitioners & their Associates of 200,000 Acres of Land, betwixt Romanettos & Buffaloe Creeks on the South Side of the River-Alleghany otherwise Ohio, and betwixt the two Creeks and the yellow Creek, on the north Side of the said River, or elsewhere to the westward of the Great Mountains within his Majesty's Colony of Virginia.*
These Quotations & Examples, drawn from different & distant Periods, are sufficient to shew the uniform Sense both of the Virginia Legislature & the British Government upon this Subject, and to prove that Virginia hath constantly & publickly asserted her Right to the western Country, & that the same has been solemnly legally &constitutionally acknowledged & recognized by the Crown, under the former Government.4 Before the Revolution & under the former Government, an Act of Assembly, of long standing, empowered persons taking up Tracts of unappropriated Land not exceeding 400 Acres to enter them with the Surveyors of the respective countys where the Lands lay; such Entry & the Surveyor's Certificate of Survey, entitled the party to a patent, upon producing his rights, either by Importation of people into the Colony, according to the Charter, or payment of money to the King's Receiver, at the rate of 10/Ster: hund. Acres; a great Number of Entries & Surveys were thus made upon the western-waters in Virginia, & patents issued on many of them, before the present King's Reign. The Power of granting any larger Tracts of Land had been for a great Length of time vested by the Crown in the Governor & Council; this was the legal &constitutional channel, thro' which all Entries & Grants for large Tracts of Land passed; and it appears from authentic Records in the Council office that from the Year 1746 to 1763, a great Number of Entries were made by different Persons for many Millions of Acres to the westward of the Alleghany Mountains upon the Waters of the Ohio, & that above thirty years ago there was an Entrie & order of Council for 50,000 Acres of Land at the Confluence of the Ohio & Missisippi, binding upon both Rivers. It is worthy of remark, that Mr. Trent, the Agent for the Indiana Company, is one of the Grantees in one of the Entries & orders of Council for a large Tract of Land upon the Ohio River.
In consequence of these Entries & orders of Council, some hundred thousands acres of Land were surveyed, Rights paid to the King's Receiver & Patents issued, & a great Number of Familys actually setled upon the western-waters before the present King's Reign, & when the Land-office was shut up by the illegal proclamation of 1763. There were many hundred Surveys upon the western-Waters lying in the Office, upon which the Rights had been made good, & the Fees of Office paid; which have been confirm'd, & Grants issued for them, since the Revolution.5 In the Year 1754, a Proclamation was issued by the Governor of Virginia, promising a Bounty of 200,000 Acres of Land upon the Ohio to the Officers & Soldiers of the first Virginia Regiment; which was afterwards carried into Execution, & Patents granted by Lord Bottetourt & Lord Dunmore. Before the Revolution two or three Countys had been established upon the western waters, Civil & military Jurisdiction exercised there, & the Inhabitants legally represented in the Virginia Assembly. About the Year 1753 or 54, Mr. Trent was empowered by a Commission as a Captain of Rangers, from the Governor of Virginia, to raise a Company in the out skirts of Augusta County, in virtue of which Commission, he raised a Company at, & about the Place where Fort Pit was afterwards built. There are patents upon Record in the Secretary's office of Virginia upon the Ohio River, as low as the Great Falls, under the former Government: many disputed Titles of Lands upon the western waters, upon caveats against Patents &c. had been regularly tried & determined in our Courts of Justice, under the former Government. In short, Virginia can shew as clear & positive Evidence & Marks of Right & Jurisdiction for the Lands to the westward of the Alleghany Mountains as to the Eastward; but she will hardly submit her Title to a power arrogated by Congress, in direct violation of the Articles of Confederation, and after such strong Grounds of Suspicion of Partiality, & private Interest in many of the Members of that once respectable Body.
NB: Colo. George Mercer joined the Ohio Company to the Vandalia, petition, without the authority or knowledge of the sd. Ohio Company; who as soon as they received Information of it, protested against it, & had their Protest instead of Record [filed] in the Council Office of Virginia.
  • * This original Instruction, under the privy Seal, & the King's own Hand, has been lately put into the Hands of the Virga. Delegates.
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