Report on Simon Metcalfe
MS (NA: PCC, No. 19, IV, 69). In JM’s hand. Docketed, “Report of Committee on the Memorial S. Metcalf—passed Decr 10th 1782.”
Simon Metcalfe (d. ca. 1795) styled himself the proprietor “of the Township of Prattsburgh commonly called the Seignory of Missisque [Missisquoi] on Lake Champlain.” This tract of over 28,000 acres east of the lake had been conveyed in 1771 to his father, a surveyor, by the royal governor of New York in a grant of doubtful legality. At the time of the present report the “government” of Vermont refused to recognize the validity of the patent.
The economic well-being of the son, who before the Revolution had engaged in trading with the Indians along the Great Lakes and in shipping dried fish and lumber to the West Indies, also depended upon a continuation of his privilege freely to use the St. Lawrence River and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, both for fishing and navigation. In 1782 Congress still owed Metcalfe for supplies which he had furnished to continental troops during their ill-starred invasion of Canada seven years before. Metcalfe claimed that, in retaliation for this aid, the British had destroyed his buildings, imprisoned him for nine months in Canada, and compelled his wife and eight of his children to remain there as hostages for his good behavior (NA: PCC, No. 41, VI, 277–82; No. 78, XVI, 369–73; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , V, 489; XXII, 127, 185; XXIV, 519, n. 1; Mary Greene Nye, ed., New York Land Patents, 1688–1786, Covering Land Now Included in the State of Vermont, State Papers of Vermont, VII , 256–60, 272–77; Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, from the Original Sources, 1745–1799 (39 vols.; Washington, 1931–44). description ends , IV, 532; Hiland Hall, History of Vermont, pp. 101–2).
On 7 October 1782 Congress received an undated memorial from Metcalfe praying that the peace treaty include a guarantee by the British to the Americans of freedom to use the Canadian portion of roads and streams running across the northern boundary of the United States, to navigate the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence River, and Gulf of St. Lawrence, and to fish, cure fish, and cut wood in those waters or along their shores. Beginning with “Octr. 7. 1782,” the following docket of this memorial appears to be in JM’s hand: “Meml of S. Metcalfe in behalf of the landed proprietors on the waters of the River St. Lawrence Octr. 7. 1782 Referred to Mr Duane Mr Madison Mr Carroll Report of the Comee That it be handed to the Secy for foreign Affairs:” (NA: PCC, No. 42, V, 277–80; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIII, 640, n. 3).
[10 December 1782]
1. The “&c” stands for the other “landed proprietors on the waters of the River St Lawrence.” See ed. n.
2. See JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIII, 782, and n. 2. On 26 March 1783 Congress tabled a communication from Metcalfe complaining that the preliminary peace treaty failed to secure for citizens of the United States the privilege of using the St. Lawrence River (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 212–13). From 1788 until at least 1791, as captain of the American brig “Eleanora,” Metcalfe engaged in trade at Macao and Canton and on the coast of North America in the vicinity of Nootka Sound (F[rederic] W. Howay, ed., The Journal of Captain James Colnett aboard the Argonaut from April 26, 1789 to Nov. 3, 1791 [Toronto, Canada, 1940], pp. 9, 82, 186). On 23 April 1799 the “Executrix of Simon Metcalf” received confirmation from the state of Vermont of her rightful title to 28,400 acres (Hiland Hall, History of Vermont, pp. 446–49, 508, 510).