Thomas Jefferson Papers

From the Virginia Committee of Safety to the Virginia Delegates in Congress, 17 June 1776

From the Virginia Committee of Safety to the Virginia Delegates in Congress

Williamsburg June 17. 1776.


The confusion which hath for some time happened amongst the People in the disputed Lands between Pennsylvania and this Colony, and a Representation to the Convention, that a Civil War, was like to be the consequence if something was not done to prevent it, Induced that Body to take the Subject into consideration, who were sorry to discover that a Jealousy seemed to prevail in the Governing Powers of Pennsylvania, of our intending the Garrisons on the Ohio to influence that dispute, and to overawe their people, whereas we only mean by them to protect our people, and those in the contested Settlement from the danger they are exposed to of Indian ravages, without the most distant view to offer any Injury to our friends and neighbours; with whom it is our Inclination as well as Interest to unite, a Temporary boundary appeared to the Convention the only means of quieting the people, until we have liesure to refer the final decision to some Arbitrating Power between us; and in fixing that they judged, that to point out a line, which would most nearly leave the Inhabitants in the countrey they respectively settled under, would be most likely to give general Satisfaction. And having examined several Gentlemen well acquainted with that country, who were of opinion that end would be answered by the line described in the enclosed Resolution, they have Resolved to propose that line to the Pennsylvania Assembly, and have Commanded us to transmit it to you, requesting you would negotiate the matter in such manner as you shall think most effectual. They will probably say that having fixed the boundary with Maryland they have a right to continue their line there begun to its utmost Western Extent, Whereas we shall contend in the Ultimate Settlement, that we are not bound by any determination or compromise to which we were not parties; that their bounds are to come no further than to the 40th. degree of Latitude, to which we have a right to confine them after the termination of the Maryland Boundary, the Meridian of the head Spring of Potowmack: However by allowing them to come to Braddocks road, we leave them a considerable tract which if we are right will belong to us, but which for the sake of our principle, we suffer to rest with them for the present. You’l please to inform us the success of your application.

We Inclose you our Declaration of Rights now agreed to. The Plan of Government is forming but not complete. We have no Arrivals here, nor have we any further Intelligence of Clinton and his Troops. We are with great regard, Gentlemen Your obedt humble Servts.

edmd. pendleton thos. lud: lee
dudley digges w: cabell
p. carrington jos: jones

RC (DLC); in a clerk’s hand, with autograph signatures and a notation at foot of text reading: “The honble. the Virga. Delegates at Congress.” Enclosure: Resolution of Virginia Convention of 15 June 1776 (DLC, copy attested by John Tazewell, clerk of Convention), on which see the explanatory note below.

For the background of the Virginia-Pennsylvania boundary dispute, see the Virginia and Pennsylvania Delegates’ address to settlers west of Laurel Hill, 25 July 1775, and Thomas Walker and Others to TJ, 13 Sep. 1775. Since the date of the latter, the danger of a loyalist-Indian combination had been allayed at least temporarily by the seizure of John Connolly at Hagerstown, Md., on his way to Pittsburgh (R. G. Thwaites and L. P. Kellogg, Revolution on the Upper Ohio, Madison, 1908, p. 136–42). This merely encouraged the rivalry between the two groups of settlers and, as Dorsey Pentecost wrote from West Augusta on 2 June 1776, their “unhappy difference … hath lately been Productive of more disturbances than ever,” both governments exercising their jurisdiction “in one and the same place” and neither being able to enforce its authority (to the President of the Virginia Committee of Safety, VMHB description begins Virginia Magazine of History and Biography description ends , xvi [1908], p. 48–9). Responding to this and similar appeals, the Virginia Convention resolved on 15 June 1776 to propose A temporary boundary line for the reasons and on the terms stated herewith (Conv. Jour. description begins Proceedings of the Convention of Delegatesin the Colony of Virginia (cited by session and date of publication) description ends , May 1776, 1816 edn., p. 53–4). The line proposed was as follows:

“From that part of the meridian of the head fountain of Potomac, where it is intersected by Braddocks road, along: the said road to the great crossing of the Youghagany, thence down the meanders of that River, to the chesnut ridge, thence along that ridge, to the easterly branch of Jacobs creek, otherways called Green lick run; thence down the said run, to Braddocks old road, thence along the same, and the new road leading to Pittsburgh, to a place called the Bullock Pens, now in the tenure of William Elliott, & from thence a direct course to the mouth of plumb run on the Alleghany River above Col. Croghan’s” (text from copy of Resolution enclosed in the present letter).

This line is shown in Paullin and Wright’s Atlas, pl. 97G, but may be traced in more detail on the historical map of southwestern Pennsylvania in Report of the Commission to Locate the Site of the Frontier Forts of Pennsylvania, n.p., 1896, II, between p. 64–5. The details are essential in connection with TJ’s Memoranda on the Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Maryland Boundaries, printed below under the date of 5 Nov. 1776. For the Virginia delegates’ action on the present instructions, see their letter to the Speaker of the Pennsylvania Convention, 15 July 1776.

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