Alexander Hamilton Papers

From Alexander Hamilton to William Rawle, 13 March 1794

To William Rawle1

T. D. March 13th 1794


I return you the papers concerning the Miamia Tract with one marked A, which will be directory to you, as to objects.

You will be so good as to prepare without delay drafts of the respective instruments & to communicate them to me, for examination.

The Grantees are to be described in the terms of the Acts.

With consideration & esteem   I am Sir   Your obed ser

Wm Rawle Esqr
District Atty

ADf, Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford.

1Rowle was United States attorney for the District of Pennsylvania.

John Cleves Symmes and his associates had purchased a million-acre tract of western land, one of two such tracts sold by the Board of Treasury under the Confederation. This letter concerns changes which two acts passed by Congress in the spring of 1792 made in the Symmes agreement.

Symmes had originally agreed to purchase two million acres. On August 29, 1787, however, he petitioned Congress for a reduced grant to extend along the Ohio River between the mouths of the Little and Great Miami rivers and back along the two Miami rivers and to include one million acres (Beverley W. Bond, Jr., ed., The Correspondence of John Cleves Symmes [New York, 1928], 29n, 32n). On October 23, 1787, the Board of Treasury was empowered to enter into a contract with any individual or group for one or more millions of acres under conditions similar to those arranged with the Ohio Company, provided that no tract extend along the Ohio, Mississippi, Wabash, or Illinois rivers further than one-third of the depth of the tract from the river (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (Washington, 1904–1937). description ends , XXXIII, 701). Under this resolution Jonathan Dayton and Daniel Marsh, as attorneys for Symmes, on October 15, 1788, signed Symmes’s name to a revised contract for one million acres which reduced the frontage of Symmes’s purchase on the Ohio River (Bond, Correspondence, 49, 204–05). Symmes was angered by the reduction in the Ohio River frontage, for he had not agreed to it and had already sold one large tract on the Ohio which would not be included within his purchase if the revised contract were upheld (Bond, Correspondence, 32n). As a result of the controversy in 1791 raised by some sales Symmes had made (Arthur St. Clair to H, May 25, July 21, 1791; H to George Washington, September 24, 1791; Washington to H, October 2, 1791), “An Act for ascertaining the bounds of a tract of land purchased by John Cleves Symmes” was enacted on April 12, 1792. This act permitted the President at the request of Symmes or his agent to alter the 1788 contract so that Symmes’s purchase might run along the Ohio River for the entire distance between the two Miami rivers (6 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America [Private Statutes] (Boston, 1856). description ends 7–8). In addition, on May 5, 1792, “An Act authorizing the grant and conveyance of certain Lands to John Cleves Symmes, and his Associates” allowed Symmes to obtain a patent for the part of the tract already bought and for the whole fraction of the total purchase which Congress had allowed Symmes to pay for in military land warrants (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 266–67). This second act was designed in accordance with a memorial that Dayton had submitted to Congress (Carter, Territorial Papers description begins Clarence E. Carter, ed., The Territorial Papers of the United States (Washington, 1934– ). description ends , II, 391) to give Symmes benefits equivalent to those given to the Ohio Company on April 21, 1792, by “An Act authorizing the grant and conveyance of certain Lands to the Ohio Company of Associates” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 257–58).

The accounts for the Symmes purchase which reflect the changes in the contract are recorded in the auditor’s reports (D, RG 217, Miscellaneous Treasury Accounts, 1790–1894, Accounts No. 1781 and 4182, National Archives). The information in Account No. 1781 is hardly legible, but the same information may be found in the blotters of the register of the Treasury for July 13, 1792 (D, RG 39, Blotters of the Register of the Treasury, 1782–1810, National Archives). For the arrangement with the Ohio Company upon which the Symmes payments were patterned, see H to Washington, May 9, 1792, note 2. For a description of the 1788 terms of payment, see Bond, Correspondence, 49n. See also William Rawle to H, January 6, 1793, note 2.

Index Entries