Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Tench Coxe, 6 August 1791

From Tench Coxe

Augt. 6th. 1791

Mr. Coxe has the honor to inclose to the Secretary of State the account of all the payments for lands, which have been made to the United States prior to this day being Drs. 687,563 70/100.

The contract for land intended to have been made between the United States and Messrs. Flint and Parker, as will appear by reference to their letter of 18th. Octr. 1787 and to the resolution of Congress of the 22d of the same month, was not carried into execution, nor has any money been paid on that Account. It is represented as a project which the proposers abandoned before they took any step by which they became bound, and it is not perceived that it can be considered in any other light (see appendix to 12 Vol. Journ: of Congress, pages 226 and 227). The Survey of the tract on Lake Erie, included in the Cession of New York to the U.S. and since sold to Pennsylvania (See Congress’s Journals 6th. June and 4th. Sept. 1788) has been completed. The Quantity of land proves to be 202,187 acres, agreeably to a return of survey, which accompanies this letter. That return however is so far deficient in the requisite notations of the length of some of the boundary lines, that a correct description of them cannot be made. This is very material and may give rise to questions of considerable importance hereafter. On the return of Mr. Ellicott from the Patowmac the field notes &ca. which have been requested are expected to be furnished to the Treasury.

The account for this purchase has been delayed first by the Vacancy in the Comptrollers office and afterwards in that of the Auditor. Some correspondence towards an adjustment of the demand has taken place between the Governor of Pennsylvania and the Secretary of the Treasury.

The contract proposed by Col. George Morgan was not completed, no money was paid, nor does there appear any reason to expect the object will be further pursued by him. The United states as it appears, possess nothing obligatory on Mr. Morgan.

The quantity of lands in the western Territory sold at new York is exactly 150,896 As. for which the whole purchase money has been received, as stated in the Registers account rendered herewith.

The resolution of Congress of 12th. Augt. 1790 appears applicable only to the purchase of the Ohio Company, that of the Scioto Association, and that of John C. Symmes and his Associates, called the Miami Company. The Survey of the Ohio Company’s tract is among the papers transmitted on the 21 June and will be found complete, except the line which is required to coincide with the western boundary of the 17th. range of Townships, and that which is to run from the Northern termination of this line due East to the western boundary of the 7th. range of Townships. In the Month of May and again in August 1790 the Secretary of the Treasury wrote to the Deputies of the late Geographer to press their return of the surveys executed by them which they made at the Treasury in the Autumn of that year when one of them Israel Ludlow was further instructed to proceed agreeably to the approved resolution of Congress of the 12th. of August to execute all such parts of the Surveys of the lands comprized in the purchases abovementioned as were not given to him or his associate in orders by the late Geographer, or which were necessary to the complete execution of the intentions of the legislature.

Part of the lines of the Scioto company have been also run, and will be found among the papers transmitted on the 21st. June. The Survey will be completed by the running of the two lines mentioned under the head of the Ohio Company.

The lines of the Miami company remain to be run and were, as before mentioned, given in orders to Mr. Ludlow in the autumn of 1790, soon after the Resolution of Augt. on his arrival at the seat of Government, whither he had been previously directed to repair.

Letters from Mr. Ludlow the last of the 20th. May have been recd. by the Secretary of the Treasury informing him that the Indian hostilities have hitherto prevented his executing any part of the work except the survey of the South Boundary of the Miami tract, of which however he has not yet transmitted a return. A letter desiring that this return may be sent forward has been written to him.

There are some purchases which have been made by Individuals with what degree of regularity and effect remains to be determined, but which appear to merit inspection in taking a View of the Western Territory. The purchase of Illinois company, and the purchase of the Ouabache company now united under the two names of which a particular account can be given, so far as regards the claims and pretensions of the purchasers, by Judge Wilson, who is concerned in both. A report of a Committee of Congress on these claims will be found in the Journals Congress for 1781. A conference with the Attorney General appears highly expedient, he having had those claims under official Consideration. The two Yazou companies, the Grants and Contracts under N. Carolina within the Country now constituting the Government South of the Ohio, the lands reserved for the line of Virginia by that State, the Connecticut tract west of Pennsylvania, and the military rights acquired by service in the late war are objects that appear to merit examination. Mr. Coxe refrains from Remark upon them having no authentic information in either of the Cases but what is to be found in the journals and acts of Congress.

Dft (PHi: Tench Coxe Papers); with many interlineations and crossed out words. Not recorded in SJL.

Royal Flint, Joseph Parker, and George Morgan represented private land companies that sought to profit from the Continental Congress’ policy of selling parts of the public domain to such institutions in order to help pay the public debt. In 1787 Flint and Parker sought a contract to purchase two tracts of land in the Illinois country totalling 3,000,000 acres, and in the following year Morgan applied for a contract to purchase 2,000,000 acres of land in the same territory. In both cases the applicants stressed their wish to encourage settlement on these tracts and at the same time wrest a share of the lucrative Indian trade from the English and the Spanish. But even though Congress was favorably disposed to each application, no contracts were ever signed (Flint and Parker to Continental Congress, 18 Oct. 1787; Report of Continental Board of Treasury, 22 Oct. 1787; Report of Continental Board of Treasury, 22 May 1788; Report of Committee of Continental Congress, 20 June 1788, in Carter, Terr. Papers description begins Clarence E. Carter, ed., The Territorial Papers of the United States, Washington, 1934–1962, 26 vols. description ends , ii, 74–7, 109, 112–5; see also George Morgan to Continental Congress, 1 May 1788, DNA: RG 360, PCC).

On 4 Sep. 1788 the Continental Congress approved a contract signed by the Board of Treasury and the Pennsylvania delegates for that state’s purchase of a portion of the public domain comprising slightly more than 200,000 acres and bounded by New York, Pennsylvania, and Lake Erie. Before this transaction could be completed, however, the Continental Congress was superseded by the new federal government. Pennsylvania finally acquired full possession of this tract in Jan. 1792 after Hamilton and Governor Mifflin reached agreement on the terms of payment in Nov. 1791 (Mifflin to Hamilton, 5 May 1791; Hamilton to Mifflin, 3, 10 June 1791, 22 Aug. 1791; Mifflin to Hamilton, 26 Sep. 1791, with enclosed opinion of Jared Ingersoll, 25 Sep. 1791; Hamilton to Mifflin, 28 Sep. 1791; Mifflin to Hamilton, 9 Nov. 1791, all in Syrett, Hamilton description begins Harold C. Syrett and others, eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, New York, 1961–1979, 26 vols. description ends , viii, 325–6, 412, 458, ix, 92, 240–1, 245–6, 485; see also Payson J. Treat, The National Land System, 1785–1820 [New York, 1910], p. 63–4).

Congress’ 12 Aug. 1790 resolve stated that “all surveys of land in the Western Territory, made under the direction of the late geographer, Thomas Hutchins, agreeable to contracts for part of the said lands made with the late board of treasury, be returned to, and perfected by, the Secretary of the Treasury, so as to complete the said contracts: and that the said secretary be, and is hereby, authorized to direct the making and completing any other surveys that remain to be made, so as to comply on the part of the United States with the several contracts aforesaid, in conformity to the terms thereof” (U.S. Statutes at Large description begins Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States1789 to March 3, 1845, Boston, 1855–1856, 8 vols. description ends , i, 187). Only two of the four letters from Hamilton to Deputy Surveyor Israel Ludlow mentioned by Coxe have been found (Hamilton to Ludlow, 13 May 1790, 20 Nov. 1790, Syrett, Hamilton description begins Harold C. Syrett and others, eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, New York, 1961–1979, 26 vols. description ends , vi, 415, viii, 362 n. 2). None of Ludlow’s letters to Hamilton has been located. The papers Coxe transmitted to TJ on 21 June 1791 must have been dispatched without a covering letter, because there is no record of any letter of that date from Coxe to TJ.

The validity of the Illinois and Wabash Company’s land claims in the Illinois country was rejected in a committee report submitted to the Continental Congress on 3 Nov. 1781 (JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, D.C., 1904–37, 34 vols. description ends , xxi, 1098, xxii, 230). U.S. Supreme Court Justice James Wilson and two other members of this company submitted a petition to the Senate in Dec. 1791 reaffirming the legality of their land titles, and they subsequently offered to surrender to the federal government their claims to the lands in question “on the proviso that the United States reconvey to the company one-fourth part of the said lands.” But the Senate rejected this offer on the grounds that the Illinois and Wabash Company did not have a valid title to the lands it claimed (James Wilson, William Smith, and John Shee, Petition to Senate, 12 Dec. 1791; Report of Senate Committee, 26 Mch. 1792, ASP, description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Washington, Gales & Seaton, 1832–1861, 38 vols. description ends Public Lands, i, 27).

TJ incorporated much of the information supplied by Coxe in his Report on Public Lands, 8 Nov. 1791.

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