Mississippi Land Company Articles of Agreement
[3 June 1763]
We whose names are underwritten do agree to form a Body of Adventurers by the name of the Mississipi Company, with a view to explore and settle some Tracts of Land upon the Mississipi and its Waters; and the better to succeed in this design have determined on the following Rules and Regulation’s.
First. it is proposed that the Company shall consist of Fifty Members and no more,1 who are to contribute equally toward the expence of sending an Agent to England to obtain from the Crown a Grant of Lands on the Mississipi aforesaid and its Waters to the amount and upon the terms hereafter mentiond.2
- 1st Every single Adventurer to have 50,000 Acres of Land for a share—
- 2. The Lands to lye on the Mississipi and its Waters
- 3. The Settlement to be protected from the Insults of the Savages, by the assistance of His Majestys Forces disposed of in such manner as the Ministry shall think proper
- 4. The Lands to be obtained if possible clear of all Composition Money, Expences and Quit Rents for the space of Twelve Years or longer upon Condition that we settle the same in that time if not interrupted by the Savages3
That the Subscribers begin to sollicit the Grant without further delay before the number to be admitted is made up; and the Adventurers who join to be liable for an equal share of all expences incurred—
That the Lands obtained by such Grant be not held in Jointenancy but that every adventurer hold his respective share to himself and his Heirs in Fee simple, any thing in the said Grant to the Contrary notwithstanding.
That a General Meeting of the Company be annually had on the [ ] day of [ ] at [ ]4 and to consist of a Majority of the Members residing in Virginia and Maryland who shall have power and Authority to determine by a Majority of the Members so met all matters relative to the purposes for which the Company is instituted And to make such Rules and Regulations as they shall from time to time think expedient, and for the Interest of the common cause Provided that if any Member of the Company residing in Great Britain or any other part of the World shall at any General Meeting of the Company happen to be present it shall be lawful for such Member to vote at such meeting.
Whereas it will be highly necessary to preserve Order and Decency at the General Meetings of the said Company; It is agreed that the Majority of the Company shall choose a President who is to preside for that Meeting only and to have the casting Vote in case of a Division And the President so chosen shall collect the Votes of the Members present whose Orders and Resolutions shall be entered in a Book to be kept for that purpose, and shall be absolutely conclusive on the said Company.
That it shall be in the power of the said Company from time to time at a general Meeting as aforesaid to direct and appoint any Sum and Sums of money that they shall judge necessary for the purposes for which this Company is instituted to be paid into the hands of the Treasurer for the time being by every particular Member; which Sum and Sums of money the Subscribers do bind themselves, their Heirs, Executors and Administrator⟨s⟩ to pay into the hands of such Treasurer at the times to be appointed for the payment of the same Provided that if any Member or Members shall neglect or refuse to pay into the hands of the said Treasurer upon demand or shall fail to pay down to him at the next general Meeting of the Company the full Sum with legal Interest thereon from the time of the demand so made the said delinquent shall forfeit all Right Title and interest in the said Company and be no longer deemed a Member thereof.
The said Company at the first general meeting to be had shall appoint a Treasurer out of their Number5 who shall immediately on his appointment and before he is admitted to Act in that Office enter into Bond with two or More good and sufficient Securities to the said Company by the name of the Mississipi Company for the just and faithful performance of his Office of Treasurer and shall also make Oath that he will execute the same with justice and punctuality; which said Treasurer shall also act to the said Company as Clerk or Secretary and shall act in the Capacity of Clerk and Treasurer one Year and from thence to the next meeting of the Company and no longer And shall be allowed by the said Company for his Services five per Centum for all Moneys that shall pass through his hands.
A Committee of Ten Members to be chosen by the Compa. five of which shall be a sufficient number to do business who shall meet twice a year (to wit) on the [ ] day of [ ] and on the [ ] day of [ ] or oftener as the exigencies of the Company shall require6 upon notice of such extraordinary meeting being published in the Virginia and Maryland Gazette by one or more of the members of the Committee And it shall be lawful for any member of the said Company that shall happen to be present at such Committee tho’ not nominated as one of the Committee to vote at such meeting Provided nevertheless that the Treasurer for the time being shall have no Right to vote at the meeting of such Committee.
Such Committee shall have power to put in Execution suc[h] Plans as shall be laid down by a General meeting of the Company and apply the moneys raised by the said Company for the effecting such Plans.
The Treasurer and Secretary of the Company aforesd shall act as Clerk or Secretary to the Committee and shall enter all the Orders of the said Committee in a Book to be kept for that purpose.
That no Member shall have a Right to dispose of his share without first acquainting the Company at a General meeting and giving the Company the preference of purchasing.
If any of the Members of the said Company shall hereafter sell and dispose of his whole share to divers Persons he shall loose his Right of voting in the said Company and it shall be in the power of the said Company to choose which of the said Purchasers they shall most approve to be a member of the said Company; no more than one Vote being to be allowed for one share But if any member shall dispose of only part of his share he shall not loose his Right of Voting at any meeting of the said Company, any thing to the contrary of this and the foregoing clause seeming to the contrary thereof notwithstanding.
It shall not be lawful for any Member of the said Company purchasing the share or Shares of any other Member or Member’s therof to have more than one Vote. In testimony whereof we have hereunto set our hands this 3d day of June 1763.
|Francis Lightfoot Lee||Richard Henry Lee|
|Jno. Auge Washington||Thos Lud. Lee|
|Anthony Stewart||Adam Stephen|
|Richd Parker||William Lee|
|Robert Woddrop||Presley Thornton|
|Wm Flood||William Booth|
|Robert Brent||Thos Bullitt|
|William Beale Junr||William Brockenbrough|
|Henry Fitzhugh||William Fitzhugh|
D (copy), in GW’s hand, DLC:GW; D (copy), P.R.O., 30/8, Chatham Papers, ff. 124–25.
The prospect of the French withdrawal from continental North America at the end of the French and Indian War precipitated in the early 1760s in America and Britain the formation of a number of companies for taking up and colonizing the vast lands that came under British protection. The Mississippi Land Company (or, as GW called it, the Mississippi Adventure) was one of these. Formed by the efforts largely of four Lee brothers, it was composed mostly of Virginians living in the Potomac River valley. At the time that GW attended the meeting on 3 June to organize the Mississippi Land Company, he was on his way home to Mount Vernon from a trip to Williamsburg and the Dismal Swamp (see Dismal Swamp Land Company: Articles of Agreement, 3 Nov. 1763, source note). On 2 June he was at Leedstown (then in King George County), and on 3 June he crossed the Potomac at Hooe’s ferry in Stafford County (see Cash Accounts, June 1763). It is likely that the organizational meeting of 3 June was at one of the sites of subsequent meetings, at Stafford County Court House, then on Potomac Creek, or at nearby Belleview (Bellview), the house of Thomas Ludwell Lee. The first regular meeting of the company held under the Articles of Agreement was at Belleview on 9 Sept. 1763, when GW was present; and the Mississippi Land Company was active at least as late as 1768 (see the source note in the Mississippi Land Company’s Memorial to the King, 9 Sept. 1763). The minutes of the first regular meeting of the Mississippi Land Company on 9 Sept. 1763 are in Carter, Illinois Country description begins Clarence Edwin Carter. Great Britain and the Illinois Country: 1763–1774. Washington, D.C., 1910. description ends , 165–71; the minutes of the meeting of the executive committee of the Mississippi Company, 26 Sept. 1763, are in Carter, “Mississippi Land Company,” description begins Clarence E. Carter, “Documents Relating to the Mississippi Land Company, 1763–1769.” American Historical Review 16 (1910–11): 311–19. description ends 311–15.
1. At the initial meeting of the Mississippi Land Company on 9 Sept., there were five men listed as members who were not among the nineteen who signed the Articles of Agreement on 3 June. Eighteen of the nineteen who signed the Articles on 3 June were living in Virginia, and four of the five new men who attended the September meeting also were from Virginia. Nine of the fifty places were reserved for men in London (see note 2).
2. The minutes of the meeting of 9 Sept. record the following: “Resolved that the said Committee [see note 6] do with all possible diligence transmit the Memorial [see the Mississippi Land Company’s Memorial to the King, 9 Sept. 1763] after the same shall be fairly transcribed, to Thos. Cumming Esqr. of London to be by him laid before the King; that they invite Mr. Cumming to be one of the Company, and desire him to procure subscribers to the Scheme, not exceeding nine of such influence and fortune as may be likely to promote its success. That the Committee request Mr. Cumming, that if he sho’d not choose to be one of the Company or to sollicit their Grant, to put all their affairs into the hands of an Agent or Sollicitor as in his opinion may be most likely by his Interest and Diligence to Succeed; That Mr. Cumming on finding the Ministry disposed to comply with the Company’s Memorial give the most early intelligence thereof to the Committee, in order that a meeting of the Company may be had to raise such a Sum of money as may be sufficient to obtain Letters Patent from the Crown, that in the meantime he proceed as far as the nature of the thing will admit in issuing out the said Letters Patent; That he inform the Committee, the expence that will accrue on the said issuing of such Letters Patent” (Carter, Illinois Country description begins Clarence Edwin Carter. Great Britain and the Illinois Country: 1763–1774. Washington, D.C., 1910. description ends , 170). In the meeting of 26 Sept. after approving a letter to Thomas Cumming (see the Mississippi Land Company’s Memorial to the King, 9 Sept., n.2), the committee members present voted: “that the Treasurer take a fair Copy of the original Agreement, the Memorial, and the Letter together with the Resolves of the said Company made at Belleview Sept. 9, 1763, and deliver the same to Mr. Chas. Digges to be by him presented to Mr. Cumming.
“Resolved that the Treasurer pay into the hands of Mr. Chas. Digges One hundred Guineas to be by him delivered to Mr. Cumming agreeable to the resolves of the Company” (Carter, “Mississippi Land Company,” description begins Clarence E. Carter, “Documents Relating to the Mississippi Land Company, 1763–1769.” American Historical Review 16 (1910–11): 311–19. description ends 315).
3. For amplification of these terms, see the Mississippi Land Company’s Memorial to the King, 9 Sept. 1763, and the letter of 26 Sept. to Thomas Cumming printed in note 2 of that document.
4. The company voted to hold “the annual general meeting” at Stafford Court House on 1 Oct. (Carter, Illinois Country description begins Clarence Edwin Carter. Great Britain and the Illinois Country: 1763–1774. Washington, D.C., 1910. description ends , 169).
5. William Lee was appointed treasurer on 9 Sept. (ibid.).
6. The following were named on 9 Sept. to be members of this committee to meet twice a year at Westmoreland Court House: Presley Thornton, Thomas Ludwell Lee, Richard Henry Lee, Francis Lightfoot Lee, Henry Fitzhugh, John Augustine Washington, William Booth, William Brockenbrough, Richard Parker, and Dr. William Flood (ibid., 169–70).
7. The four Lees signing the Articles of Agreement—Thomas Ludwell Lee (1730–1778), Richard Henry Lee (1732–1794), Francis Lightfoot Lee (1734–1797), and William Lee (1739–1795)—were sons of Thomas Lee of Stratford Hall in Westmoreland County. A fifth brother, Arthur Lee (1740–1792), at this time studying medicine in Scotland, was to become a member of the Mississippi Land Company and represent it in England. GW and his brother John Augustine Washington (1736–1787) were later joined as members by their two brothers Samuel and Charles. Dr. William Flood (d. 1775) and Richard Parker (1729–1813), a lawyer, were from Westmoreland County. Col. William Brockenbrough (1715–1778) and William Beale, Jr. (d. 1778), were Richmond County planters. Col. Presley Thornton, a planter and member of the Virginia council, and the merchant Robert Woddrop (d. 1767), lived in Northumberland County. Robert Brent (c.1730–1780) of Woodstock, Col. Henry Fitzhugh (1723–1783) of Bedford (probably the Henry Fitzhugh who signed), and William Fitzhugh (probably William Fitzhugh, Sr. [1725–1791], of Marmion but possibly Capt. William Fitzhugh [1729–1785] or William Fitzhugh, Jr. [1741–1809], of Somerset [later of Chatham]), were all planters in Stafford County except for Captain Fitzhugh. Anthony Stewart (died c.1791), the lone Marylander involved in the initial organization of the Mississippi Land Company, was a merchant in Annapolis. Adam Stephen and Thomas Bullitt were GW’s former companions in arms. Only GW and two or three other signers were not living in one of the counties of the Northern Neck between the Potomac and Rappahannock rivers: Stafford, King George, Westmoreland, Northumberland, and Richmond. The five men who appeared at the meeting on 9 Sept. and were not signers of the Articles of Agreement were Charles Digges, a merchant in Upper Marlboro, Prince George’s County, Md., and Alexandria; James Douglas, a merchant in Dumfries, Prince William County, on the Potomac, who was married to a sister of Robert Brent (see above); Francis Thornton (d. 1784) of Society Hill, then in Stafford County, now in King George County, a brother of Presley Thornton (see above); William Brent (1733–1782) of Richland in Stafford County; and George Simpson, who may be the man by that name who lived in Fairfax County and died in 1782. The identifications of William Fitzhugh, Sr., Francis Thornton, and William Brent are all tentative.