George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Edmund Randolph, 29 July 1785

From Edmund Randolph

Richmond July 29. 1785.

Dear sir

Your favor of the 23d instant came duly to hand. But I am sorry to be unable to execute the request contained in it. The council-books are destroyed.

The general restriction of settlement on the western waters does, I acknowledge, extend to military rights, as well others. But it continues only, until the King’s further pleasure should be known. The patent in your hands is abundant evidence, in my judgment, of his further pleasure having removed the restriction from military rights. For would a governor oppose a proclamation, without special instructions? How could an individual procure a copy of any instruction without his permission, and who can tell, that the governor has ever deposited that instruction in any of the public archives? So that to require a copy of the instruction, which wiped away the effects of the proclamation, might amount to the requiring of an impossibility.1

It will not be amiss to obtain the certificate you mention; supported by the seal of the state. But I cannot any where procure it. Should you be able to obtain it, Mr A. Blair, the clerk of the council, will immediately authenticate it.2 I mention him, that you may not be disappointed by writing to me on the subject as to morrow I leave Richmond for the neighbourhood of Winchester.3 If I can be of any farther use to you in this matter, I pray you, my dear sir, to command me freely; as I feel the most unfeigned satisfaction in subscribing myself yr affectionate friend & servt

Edm: Randolph


1GW’s letter of 23 July has not been found, but his letter of 13 Aug. makes clear that he was seeking to establish from the journals of the Virginia council the date it first permitted “Warrants to issue on military Rights” for land barred from settlement by the Proclamation of 1763. Although unable to confirm it by reference to the council’s journals, Randolph simply argues that the fact the governor issued GW a patent for the Millers Run land was sufficient proof that he had been given authority to lift the ban in the case of military claims and that such authority had been given him before the date of the warrant. As a matter of fact, the copy of the journals of the Virginia council deposited in the Public Record Office in London reveals that on 11 Oct. 1773 Lord Botetourt, governor of Virginia, conveyed to the Virginia council the king’s order in council, dated 7 April 1773, making exceptions in the ban on patents for western lands of the “Officers and Soldiers who are intitled to grants of Land in Virtue of his Majesty’s Royal Proclamation of the 7th of October 1763” (Exec. Journals of Virginia Council, description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds. Executive Journals of the Council of Colonial Virginia. 6 vols. Richmond, 1925–66. description ends 6:541–42); but questions were raised about whether this applied to provincials (see GW to Thomas Lewis, 17 Feb. 1774).

2GW apparently had asked for certification “that the recognition of military rights was previous to October 1773” (GW to Randolph, 13 Aug. 1785). See note 1. The clerk of the council was Archibald Blair (c.1753–1824).

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