Thomas Jefferson Papers

Virginia Delegates in Congress to the Speaker of the Pennsylvania Convention, 15 July 1776

Virginia Delegates in Congress to the Speaker of the Pennsylvania Convention

Philada. July 15. 1776.


The honorable the convention of Virga. attending to the inconveniencies which may arise from an unsettled jurisdiction in the neighborhood of fort Pitt, have instructed us to propose to your honorable house to agree on some temporary boundary which may serve for preservation of the peace in that territory until an amicable and final determination may be had before arbiters mutually chosen. Such temporary settlement will from it’s nature do prejudice to neither party when at any future day a complete information of facts shall enable them to submit the doubt to a just and final decision. We can assure you that the colony of Virga. does not entertain a wish that one inch should be added to theirs from the territory of a sister colony, and we have perfect confidence that the same just sentiment prevails in your house. Parties thus disposed can scarcely meet with difficulty in adjusting either a temporary or a final settlement. The decision, whatever it be, will not annihilate the lands. They will remain to be occupied by Americans,1 and whether these be counted in numbers of this or that of the United states will be thought a matter of little moment.2 We shall be ready to confer on this subject with any gentlemen your house may please to appoint for that purpose and are Sir with every sentiment of respect Your very humble servts.

Dft (DLC). Drafted by TJ for all the delegates to sign.

Written in accordance with the instructions transmitted by Pendleton, president of the committee of safety, to the Virginia delegates, 17 June 1776, q.v. After the instructions had been issued, the Pennsylvania Assembly had been superseded by a revolutionary body, the Convention, which met for the first time this day and elected as president Benjamin Franklin, who was technically, therefore, the recipient of this letter. The letter was read to the Convention the next day, and on the 20th a committee (David Rittenhouse, Thomas Smith, Alexander Lowrey, Owen Biddie, and James Potter) was appointed to confer with the Virginia delegates (Force, Archives, 5th ser., ii, 1, 3, 5, 7). A copy of the resolution of the Pennsylvania Convention, signed by John Morris, Jr., secretary, was sent to the Virginia delegates and is in DLC, TJ Papers, 2: 273. The two parties may never have sat down together, for in the report of the Pennsylvania committee to its Convention, 14 Sep. 1776, is quoted an undated letter from that committee to the Virginia delegates stating that the committee had found the Virginia Convention’s proposed temporary boundary line “very wide from the true limits of Pennsylvania, according to the Charter,” However, the Pennsylvanians expressed an “earnest desire that a temporary boundary as nearly correspondent to the true one as possible” should be run. Three Virginia delegates, of whom TJ was not one, answered this on 12 Sep., saying that they were limited to discussion of the Virginia proposal but that they would lay the Pennsylvania counter-proposal before the next assembly (Force, Archives, 5th ser., ii, 40–2). This was accordingly done, and on 5 Nov. 1776 TJ was named first on a committee of the new House of Delegates to make a fresh proposal, for a permanent line (JHD description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia (cited by session and date of publication) description ends , Oct. 1776, 1828 edn., p. 41). See TJ’s Memorandum on the Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Maryland Boundaries, printed under 5 Nov. 1776.

1TJ first wrote “the sons of freedom.”

2“by an American” deleted.

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