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title:“Petition for Warrants for Lands in Fincastle County”
authors:George Mason
date written:1774-6-17

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 7:58 a.m. UTC
retrieved:April 15, 2024, 5:10 a.m. UTC

Mason, George. "Petition for Warrants for Lands in Fincastle County." The Papers of George Mason. Vol. 1. Ed. Bernard Bailyn and James Morton Smith. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1970. 193-96. Print.
Manuscript, Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress

Petition for Warrants for Lands in Fincastle County (June 17, 1774)

[17 June 1774]
To his Excellency the Governor and the Honble the Councill of Virginia—The Memorial & Petition of George Mason of the Countyof Fairfax Humbly Sheweth That (in) the Charter granted by King James the first to the Virginia Company in the year 1609 [there] is Among Others a Clause declaring "That it is his Royal Will & Pleasure, & Charging, comanding warranting & authorising the Treasurer & the said Company, & their Successors, to Convey asign & set Over, Such particular portions of lands, Tenaments & Heridtaments, unto such his Majestys loving Subjects, Naturally born, Denizens, or Others, as well adventurers as planters, as by the said Company shall be nominated, appointed & Allowed, Where in Respect to be had as well of the proportion of the Adventure, as of the special Service, Hazard, Exploit, or Meritt of any Person, so to be recompence[d], Advanced or rewarded"
PURSUANT to which, within a few years after, fifty Acres of Land were ordered to be asigned & granted to every Person importing himself into this Collony; & to every person who should import others, fifty Acres for each person so imported. This, as your Memorialist Conceives, was the Original, or first Rise of the Antient Custom of granting Lands in Virginia, Upon Importation Rights; which (is) now more than an hundred & fifty years Old, & Appears to have been interwoven with the Constitution of the Colony, from its first settlement, That the same was Constantly practised during the said Company's Government here & after the Government was taken into the Hands of the Crown, upon the Dissolution of the Virginia Company, the same Custom & Right was always Allowed & Continued, as Appears by the Patents, & Records in the Secretarys Office; the Titles to great Part of the Lands in this Colony being founded upon importation-Rights; & the Constant Stile of the Old Patents is "the said Lands being due by & for the transportation, or by & for the Importation of...... Persons into this Colony."
That in the Year 1662, and Act of Genral Assembly was made, prescribing the Manner of proving Rights to Lands due for the Importation of Servants, & obtaining Certificates thereon, to intitle the Importers to Surveys & Patents; & giving such proofs & Certificates the preference to Actual Surveys without them & in the same Year, another Act of Assembly was made, reciting that the former (laws) concerning deserted Lands, reserved to the first Taker-up his Rights to take up Lands in Another Place, & enacting that for the future, in Care of deserted Lands, the Rights, as well as the Lands shall be forfeited, & the grantee made incapable of useing any of them afterwards: from which Law it is Clear, that Importation Rights are Always good, until they have been Applyed to Patents for Land, and the Said Land forfeited, by Want of Seating & Planting.
That in the Year 1676, the said custom & Right to Lands was solemnly confirmed &continued, by Charter & Letters patent from King Charles the Second, to the Colony of Virginia, under the Great Seal of England "As According as hath been used & Allowed from the first plantation; to (be) held of his Majesty his Heirs & Successors, as of their Manor of East Greenwich in their County of Kent, in free &common Soccage" and declaring "That all & Every Clause, Article and Sentence, in the said Letters patent contained, shall be from time to time for ever hereafter, as often as any Ambiguity Doubt or Question, Shall or may happen to Arise thereupon, expounded, construed, deemed & taken to be meant & intended, & Shall enure & take Effect, in the Most beneficial and available Sense, to All intents & purposes, for the proffit & Advantage of the Subjects of Virginia, as well against his Majesty his Heirs and Successors, as against all & Every other Person or Persons whatsoever" which Charter was recognised by an Act of Assembly in the year 1677, (prescribing) a perticular form of all Patents for the future, in which form is recited "That his Majesty had been graciously pleased by his said Letters Patent, to Continue & Confirm the Ancient Right & priviledge of granting fifty Acres of Land for every Person imported into his Majesty's Colony of Virginia" & it Appears from the Patent Record books, that all Lands in this Colony, ex[c]ept escheat Lands, were Granted upon importation Rights Only; until in or about the year 1710, when Treasury-Rights, or paying a certain Consideration in Money to (the) Crown for Lands, was first Introduced here; but that the same never affected Lands claimed under the Royal Charter; for the Ancient Rights to Lands due for the importation of People Still Continued upon thesame footing as before, & hath ever been held Sacred & inviolable and Subject to (no) new Charge or Imposition Whatever; & great Quan(ti)tys of Land, from time to time granted Acordingly.
That from the Earliest times of this Colony, there hath been Alowed to the secretary, & (the) Clerks of Countys by Law, a certain fee for Certificates of Rights to Land; and upon the Last Regulation of the Fee Bill in Virginia, Within thess few years, the Legislature Alowed to the County Court Clerks "For proving Rights for lands, produced at one time, belonging to one person, & Certificates thereof, a Fee of thirteen Pounds of Tobacco" & to the Secretary "for (recording) a Certificate (of rights) fifteen Pounds of Tobacco" & by An Act of Assembly made in the year 1710, when Treasury Rights were first introduced it was (among other things) enacted "That upon the passing of any patent for Land Thereafter; the Secretary of this Colony & Dominion, for the time being, should cause such patent to be truly Entred upon the Records of his office, together With (the) Certificate of Rights, either by importation, or by Money paid the receiver-Genral of this Colony" Which Your Memorialist is well informed hath Continued to be the practice ever Since; and that these two modes of Granting Lands, Since the year 1710, as before mentiond have never in (the) Least interfered with Each Other; as the Crown Could only Alter the Terms, or fix a New Price upon the Lands, to which there was no Legal Right. So that Mr. Stith, in his History of Virginia (which is Chiefly extracted from Records) mentioning the Custom (of) granting lands for the importations of People, had good reason for his remark; that "this is the Antient, Legal, and a most indubitable Method of granting Lands in Virginia." And your Memorialist, with All due submission, begs Leave to Observe, that the King being as much bound by the Act of his Royal Predecessors, as any Private Subject, holding an Estate from his Ancestor, is bound by the Act of (that) Ancestor; & the before mentioned Ancient Right to Any Vacant or ungranted Lands in this Colony, having been Solemnly continued & Confirmed, by the Said Charter from King Charles the Second, in Manner herein before mentioned, the same was thereby made part of the Law & Constitution of this Country, and hath remained so ever since; & therefore can not be Avoided, injured, invalidated, or in any manner affected, by any Proclamation, Instruction, or other Act of Gover[n]ment; (nor) subjected to any new Charge, Expence, Burthen, or Imposition whatsoever. For which reasons, your Memorialist most Humbly Conceives that any (instruction), or Later Regulations, respecting the ungranted Lands in this Colony, from (our) present most gracious Sovering, ever Obse[r]vant of the Laws, & atentive to the just Rights of his People, were never Meant, or intended to affect Lands due as aforesaid, under the Royal Charter.
That your Petitioner confiding in, & upon the faith of the before mentioned Royal Charter, Laws & Custom hath been at great trouble & Expence, & hath Laid out Considerable Sums of Money, in purchasing from the Importers, legal Certificates of Rights to Large Quantitys of Land, due for the Importation of People from great Britain and Ireland into this Colony & Prays that he may be admited to Entrys for the said Lands, upon the Western Waters, in the County of Fincastle; upon his producing the usual Certificates & Assignment, [or] that his Excellency the Governor, will be Pleased to Gr[ant your] petition[er his] Warrants for Surveying the same, which Ever his Excellency and (this) Honble board Shall Judge most Proper. And your Petitioner will Ever pray.

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