From Winthrop Sargent
Vincennes, County of Knox [Territory N.W. of River Ohio]
July 31st 1790
The Absence of the Governor having made it my Duty to carry into Effect as far as possible the Resolution of Congress of the 29th of August 17881 respecting the Inhabitants of Post Vincennes—I beg Leave to report, not only my Proceedings under that Resolution but, some Circumstances which, in my Opinion, ought at this Time to be communicated as very materially concerning the Interests of the United States as well as Individual Settlers.
The Claims & Pretensions of the People have very generally been exhibited, but notwithstanding they were early advertised upon this Business by Proclamation2 of Governour St Clair given at Kaskaskias, March last, & have since been repeatedly called upon by me, yet I have no Doubt there are a few Instances of Inattention & Neglect—which I have provided for by the Resolution No. 8—a Copy of which is hereunto annexed.3
For all the Possessions which appear to have been made by French or British Concessions I have issued Warrants of Survey as by the last Page of No. 2, No. 3, 4, 5, 6, & 7, of the Land Records for the County of Knox, Copies of all which, accompany this Report.4
I have also directed that the four hundred Acre Lots to be given to every Head of a Family should be laid off for the Persons named in No. 15 & 2—and alloted—Excepting those, that might fall to the Absentees mentioned in the Pages b & c of No. 2 which are to be retained as there set forth until the Pleasure of Government is known.
I beg Leave Sir to observe, that there are a few Instances where the ancient Inhabitants (by removing from Vincennes to the Illinois Country or from that Country to this Place) can not be included under the Description of Persons entitled to Donation Lands, And they humbly Solicit that Congress would be graciously pleased to consider their Situation & admit them to participate in the general Bounty.
I think it necessary here to remark Sir, that Although the Lands & Lots which have been ordered to be surveyed, appear from very good oral Testimony to belong to those Persons under whose Names they are respectively entered, either by original Grants to them made, Purchase or Inheritance yet, there is scarcely one Case in twenty where the Title is complete—owing to the desultory Manner in which public Business has been transacted, & some other unfortunate Causes—The original Concessions by the French & British Commandants were generally made upon a small Scrap of Paper, which it has been customary to lodge in the Notary’s Office—who has seldom kept any Book of Record, but committed the most important Land Concerns to loose Sheets, which in Process of Time have come into the Possession of Persons that have fraudulently destroyed them—or, unacquainted with their Consequence, innocently lost, or trifled them away—for by French Usage they are considered as Family Inheritance, & often descend to Women & Children—In one Instance, & during the Government of Mr St Ange6 here, a Royal Notary run off with all the Public Papers in his Possession, as by a Certificate produced to me, And I am very sorry further to observe that in the Office of a Mr Legrand which continued from the year 1777 to 1788, & where should have been the Vouchers for important Land Transactions, The Records have been so falsified, & there is such gross Fraud & Forgery as to invalidate all Evidence & Information which I might otherwise have acquired from his Papers.
In addition Sir to the ancient Possessions of the People of Vincennes under French & British Concessions Here is about one hundred & fifty Acres of Land constituting a Part of the Village & extending a Mile up the Wabash River in Front of their improved Claims—which, was granted by Mr St Ange to some of the Pyankeshaw Indians; allotted into small Divisions for their Whigwhams And by them occupied & improved until the year 1786 when the last of them moved off—selling individually as they took themselves away their several Parts & Proportions. The Inhabitants now hold this Land, parcelled out amongst them in small Lots, some of which are highly improved & have been built upon before & since 1783—But imagining that a Confirmation of any Indian Purchase whatever might virtually involve some future Questions of Magnitude in this Territory, I have postponed all Order upon the Subject Until the Pleasure of Congress can be known—In the mean Time giving to the Claimants my private Opinion that they would be permitted to retain them, either by free Gift or for some small Consideration.
A Court of Civil & criminal Jurisdiction established at this Place by J. Todd Esqr.7 under the Authority of Virginia in June 1779 and who Eked out their Existence to the Summer of 1787 have during that Long Period continued to make large Grants of Lands, even by their own Acknowledgments, And without more Authority for so doing than is set forth in No. 98—Many of the Concessions which have been exhibited to me in their Name, They deny to have had any Knowledge of—and indeed there are some Reasons to conclude they may have been forged in the Office of the Mr Legrand before mention’d who was a Servant of the Court & in whose Hand Writing the Deeds have all been made out.
I can not find from any Informations I have been able to acquire that Mr Todd ever delegated any Power of granting Land in this Country or, in Fact, that he was endowed with it himself—On the contrary, I find by the Acts of Virginia of 1779,9 that the Lands Northwest of the River Ohio were expressly excepted from Location, And that it was declared no Person should be allowed Pre-emption or any Benefit whatever from settling on this Side the said River, And the Governour was desired to issue his Proclamation requiring all Persons to remove themselves & in Case of Disobedience to make use of an armed Force—this not to extend to French & other old Inhabitants actually settled on or before that Time in the Villages of Post Vincennes & upon the Mississippi. It appears, however, by a Proclamation of Mr Todd, No. 1010—given at Kaskaskias the 15th Day of June 1779, that a Kind of Authority was meant to be implied somewhere in the Country to grant Lands not only upon the River Bottoms & Prairies under the French Restrictions, but in larger Quantities & with more Latitude at a Distance therefrom—And twenty Six thousand Acres have been granted away from that Time to 1783 inclusive—and to the year 1787 (when General Harmar checked the Abuse) twenty two thousand more—generally in Parcels of four hundred Acres, tho’ some are much Smaller & do not exceed the Size of House Lots—The Court has also granted to Individuals in some Instances, Tracts of many Leagues square, but a Sense of the Impropriety of such Measures has prevented the bringing forward those Claims. Notwithstanding that some of the four hundred Acre, & smaller Lots, were possessed on & before 1783 yet, the Authority whence they were derived has been such that I could not consider them as “rightful Claims”; They are however Sir in a few Instances under considerable Cultivation & Improvement, and some of the Plantations & many of the small Lots which have been granted by the Court since that Time are now cultivated in Tillage, & have been possessed by the present Claimants at much Expense—but by far the greatest Number of them were obtained at the Cost of Office Fees only & remain to this Hour in a State of Nature—or with no other Alteration than has been necessary to convert them into Sugar Camps.
Upon the Subject of those Lands Sir, A Petition has been presented to me by, & in Behalf of Eighty Americans, setting forth that they were induced to come into this Country by the Court of Post Vincennes with every Assurance of their Authority to make Grants—that in good Faith of this, they have formed their Establishments at considerable Expense & must be involved in Ruin unless the Generosity of Congress shall permit their holding them.
The French Inhabitants have also petitioned me upon the Subject of Court Grants; some of which are now under Cultivation at no small Expense & Labour—I beg Leave Sir to lay the Situation of those People before Government—most respectfully representing that the Welfare and Prosperity of a Number of Industrious & good Citizens in this Territory must depend very much upon their Order.
A Petition has also been presented by the Inhabitants of Vincennes, praying a Confirmation of their Commons11—comprehending about 2400 Acres of good and 3000 Acres of sunken lands—they have been, it appears, thirty years under a Fence which is intended to confine their Cattle within its Boundaries & keep them out of their Wheat Fields—for contrary to the Usage of Farmers generally, the Cattle are here enclosed, and the cultivated Lands are left at large, excepting on those Parts which immediately approach the Common—But this Fence, & quiet Possession under the French & British Governments they seem to imagine entitles them to a good prescriptive Right—It has been the Usage of the Commmandants here to make all their Grants in Writing & as this has not been produced or any Evidence of it I think it my Duty to refer the Matter to Congress as I am not authorized to decide upon it.
One other Petition Sir, I am constrained to introduce—It has been signed by 131 Canadian, French and American Inhabitants, all enrolled in the Militia—setting forth that many of them were Heads of Families soon after the year 1783—that from their Situation they are liable to & willing to perform an extraordinary Proportion of Military Duty, And soliciting that Congress would be pleased to make them a Donation of Lands—In Justice to the Petitioners I think it incumbent on me to observe, that the commanding Officer of the regular Troops here has been obliged in some Instances to demand their Services for Convoys of Provisions up the Wabash River; and from the Weakness of the Garrison & the present Difficulties of Communication with other Posts, & the Ohio, that he may have frequent Occasion for their Aid, which I have no doubt will be yielded at all Times, with the greatest Cheerfulness.
Before I close this Letter Sir, I must take the Liberty of representing to Congress by Desire of the Citizens of this Country, and as a Matter which I humbly conceive they should be informed of, that there are, not only at this Place but in the several Villages upon the Mississippi considerable Claims for Supplies furnished the Troops of Virginia before, & since 1783, which no Person yet has been authorized to attend to—& which is very injurious to the Interests & Feelings of Men who seem to have been exposed to a Variety of Distresses & Impositions by Characters pretending to have acted under the Order of that Government.12
The People of Vincennes have requested to make known their Sentiments of Fidelity & Attachment to the Sovereignty of the United States & the Satisfaction they feel in being received into their Protection, which I beg Leave to communicate in their own Words by the Copy of an Address presented me on the 23d Inst.13
If in this long Letter of Report & Representation I may appear to have tediously dwelt upon the Claims and Pretensions of the People of this Country, I request Sir, that it may be attributed to that Desire which I feel at all Times, faithfully to execute the Attentions necessary to Individual Interests and the great Duty I owe to Government.14 With every Sentiment of Respect To your Excellency & Congress I have the Honour to be Sir your most obedient Humble Servant
ALS, DNA: RG 59, Territorial Papers, Territory Northwest of the River Ohio; LB, DNA: RG 59, Territorial Papers, Territory Northwest of the River Ohio; copy, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, OHi: Journal of Executive Proceedings, Northwest Territory.
The French located Post Vincennes near a village of friendly Piankashaw Indians on the Wabash River early in the eighteenth century as one of a series of forts and fur-trading posts tenuously connecting their Canadian and Louisiana possessions. The tangle of Illinois country land claims that Winthrop Sargent and other federal and territorial officials attempted to unravel in the spring and summer of 1790 resulted from frontier conditions, careless record keeping, and the multiplicity of governments that had administered the territory in the previous half century. By the Treaty of Paris of 1763, the French ceded Post Vincennes to the British, who generally neglected it, retaining a French commandant, until annexing it to the province of Quebec under the Quebec Act of 1774. With its conquest by George Rogers Clark in 1779, the Vincennes region became the territory of the state of Virginia, which administered it as Illinois County before ceding it to the United States in 1784, and it became part of the Northwest Territory in 1787. Virginia’s act of cession of 1 Mar. 1784 stated: “That the French and Canadian Inhabitants and other Settlers of the Kaskaskies St Vincents and the neighbouring Villages who have professed themselves Citizens of Virginia shall have their possessions and titles confirmed to them and be protected in the enjoyment of their rights and liberties.” This was confirmed by the Confederation Congress in the Northwest Ordinance of 13 July 1787, and in response to petitions from the French inhabitants Congress immediately attended to their land claims (Carter, Territorial Papers, description begins Clarence Edwin Carter et al., eds. The Territorial Papers of the United States. 27 vols. Washington, D.C., 1934–69. description ends 2:8, 40; see also n.1 below; GW to Arthur St. Clair, 6 Oct. 1789 and note 3; and Lux, Vincennes Donation Lands, description begins Leonard Lux. The Vincennes Donation Lands. Indianapolis, 1949. In Indiana Historical Society Publications, vol. 15, no. 4. description ends 427–42).
As Winthrop Sargent never received contrary instructions from GW in response to his 2 Jan. 1790 interpretation of the 7 Aug. 1789 act providing for the government of the Northwest Territory, the territorial secretary continued to send his official communications directly to the president. His letter of 31 July 1790 probably reached GW in the first week of December 1790, as Tobias Lear on 8 Dec. 1790 transmitted to the secretary of state “sundry communications of the proceedings of Government in the western Territory from Jany to July 1790 made by the Secretary of the said Territory . . . upon which the President requests your opinion as to what should be done respecting them” (Sargent to GW, 2 Jan. 1790 and note 2; Lear to Thomas Jefferson, 8 Dec. 1790, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters).
In the copy of his executive journal for July 1790, which he also sent to the president at the beginning of August, Sargent noted under the date of 31 July 1790: “Having examined the Titles and Possessions of the Inhabitants & Settlers of Post Vincennes as far as I have been able to obtain Information of them—The Warrants of Survey as by the Land Records for the County of Knox & Town of Vincennes No. 7, were put into the Hands of the Surveyor Saml Baird Esqr. and Report made of my whole Proceedings under the Resolution of Congress of August the 29th 1788 [by the foregoing letter] To the President of the United States—Those, & also my Official Communications from January to June inclusive are to be forwarded by Major Vigo who is to leave this Place for New York upon the 2d of August.
“I have also made out a Copy, from the Records of my Proceedings in the Executive Department of Government for the Month of July—to be forwarded by the same Opportunity, as from their Relation to the Report they may be proper to be known at this Time” (DNA: RG 59, Territorial Papers, Territory Northwest of the River Ohio; bracketed words appear only in the original journal at OHi).
1. The Confederation Congress resolved on 29 Aug. 1788: “That measures be taken for confirming in their possessions and titles the french and Canadian inhabitants and other settlers at post St Vincents who on or before the year 1783 had settled there and had professed themselves citizens of the United States, or any of them, and for laying off for them at their own expence the several tracts which they rightfully claim and which may have been allotted to them according to the laws and Usages of the Governments under which they have respectively settled.
“That four hundred acres of land be reserved and given to every head of a family of the above description settled at Post St Vincents.
“That the Governor of the western territory cause to be laid out at the public expence in the form of a square adjoining to the present improvements at Post St Vincents and in whatever direction the settlers shall prefer, a tract of land sufficient for compleating the above donations; which tract shall afterwards be divided by lot among the settlers who are entitled to any part of the same, in such manner as they shall agree” (JCC, description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends 34:472–73).
2. Arthur St. Clair’s proclamation issued at Kaskaskia on 7 Mar. 1790 announced his authority to implement a 20 June 1788 resolution of the Confederation Congress and required the town’s inhabitants to present their land claims to the office of his secretary for authentication of their titles (Carter, Territorial Papers, description begins Clarence Edwin Carter et al., eds. The Territorial Papers of the United States. 27 vols. Washington, D.C., 1934–69. description ends 3:296–97; JCC, description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends 34:251–52).
3. The text of Sargent’s 18 July 1790 proclamation giving land claimants sixty days to present their papers at the office of the notary public in Vincennes is printed in ASP, Public Lands, description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends 1:15.
4. For enclosures nos. 2–7, see Boyd, Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950—. description ends 18:184; ASP, Public Lands, description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends 1:12–15.
5. Sargent’s enclosure no. 1, a copy of his 13 July 1790 letter to surveyor Samuel Baird, which lists the names of 143 heads of families or subsequent widows who had been confirmed living at Vincennes in or before the year 1783, is printed ibid., 11–12.
6. Louis St. Ange dit Bellerive (1698–1774) succeeded François Marie Bissot, sieur de Vincennes (1700–1736), as commandant of Post Vincennes in 1736 and served in that capacity until 1764 (Lux, Vincennes Donation Lands, description begins Leonard Lux. The Vincennes Donation Lands. Indianapolis, 1949. In Indiana Historical Society Publications, vol. 15, no. 4. description ends 434).
7. The Virginia legislature created Illinois County in October 1778, and John Todd, Jr. (1750–1782), was appointed its lieutenant or commandant in chief in December 1778 with instructions to “take care to cultivate & conciliate the affections of the French & Indians. . . . Let it be your constant Attention to see that the Inhabitants have Justice administered to them for any Injurys received from the Troops. The omission of this may be fatal. . . . You will embrace every opportunity to manifest the high Regard & friendly Sentiments of this Commonwealth towards all the Subjects of his Catholic Majesty, for whose safety prosperity & advantage you will give every possible assistance” (9 Hening description begins William Waller Hening, ed. The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619. 13 vols. 1819–23. Reprint. Charlottesville, Va., 1969. description ends 552–55; Journal of the Council of State of Virginia, 2:233–36).
8. Sargent’s enclosure no. 9 was a copy of a letter, dated Vincennes, 3 July 1790, to him from magistrates Francois Bosseron, Louis Edeline, Pierre Gamelin, and Pierre Querez, in which they claimed ancient usage as the reason their court continued making land grants after 1779 (DNA: RG 59, Territorial Papers, Territory Northwest of the River Ohio; DHFC, description begins Linda Grant De Pauw et al., eds. Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America, March 4, 1789-March 3, 1791. 20 vols. to date. Baltimore, 1972—. description ends 6:1590–91).
9. See the October 1779 “Act for more effectually securing to the officers and soldiers of the Virginia line, the lands reserved to them, for discouraging present settlements on the north west side of the Ohio river, and for punishing persons attempting to prevent the execution of land office warrants” (10 Hening description begins William Waller Hening, ed. The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619. 13 vols. 1819–23. Reprint. Charlottesville, Va., 1969. description ends 159–62).
10. Sargent’s enclosure no. 10 was a copy of a 15 June 1779 proclamation issued by John Todd, Jr., at Kaskaskia enjoining new settlements on the Wabash and requiring presentation of the records of prior land claims (DNA: RG 59, Territorial Papers, Territory Northwest of the River Ohio; DHFC, description begins Linda Grant De Pauw et al., eds. Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America, March 4, 1789-March 3, 1791. 20 vols. to date. Baltimore, 1972—. description ends 6:1591–92).
11. The inhabitants of Vincennes based the title to their town’s common lands on a 50–year-old unrecorded Indian grant, as witnessed by the claims of Pierre Gamelin and fifteen other petitioners in November 1793. This Indian cession was recognized by later Indians and by French, British, and American authorities even though no written deed of the grant was ever found (Inhabitants of Vincennes, Northwest Territory, to GW, 20 Nov. 1793, DNA: RG 46, Records of the United States Senate, Third Congress, 1793–95, Records of Legislative Proceedings, President’s Messages). See also Lux, Vincennes Donation Lands, description begins Leonard Lux. The Vincennes Donation Lands. Indianapolis, 1949. In Indiana Historical Society Publications, vol. 15, no. 4. description ends 428–30.
12. On 14 Dec. 1790 Jefferson sent an extract consisting of this entire paragraph to the president and suggested that it required the attention of the secretary of war (Jefferson to GW, 14 Dec. 1790 [second letter], MH).
13. The enclosed copy of the petition to Sargent, originally dated 23 July 1790 and signed “By order and on behalf of the Citizens of Vincennes” by Antoine, Paul, and Pierre Gamelin, François Bosseron, Louis Edeline, Francis Vigo, James Johnson, Henry Van Der Burgh, and Luke Decker, reads: “The Citizens of the town of Vincennes approach you, Sir, to express as well their personal respect for your honour, as their full approbation of the measures you have been pleased to pursue in regard to their government and the adjustment of their claims, as inhabitants of the territory over which you at present preside.
“While we deem it a singlelar blessing to behold the principles of free government unfolding among us, we cherish the pleasing reflection, that our posterity will also have cause to rejoice at the political change now originating—A free and efficient government, wisely administered, and fostered under the protecting wings of an august Union of States, cannot fail to render the citizens of this wide extended Territory securely happy in the possession of every public blessing.
“We cannot take leave, Sir, without offering to your notice a tribute of gratitude and esteem; which every citizen of Vincennes conceives he owes to the merits of an officer who has long commanded at this post. The unsettled situation of things for a series of years previous to this gentleman’s arrival, tended in many instances to derange, and in others to suspend the operation of those municipal customs by which the citizens of this town were used to be governed. They were in the habit of submitting the superintendence of their civil regulations to the officer who happened to command the troops posted among them. Hence, in the course of the late war, and from the frequent change of masters, they laboured under heavy and various grievances. But the just and humane attention paid by Major Hamtramck during his whole command, to the rights and feelings of every individual craving his interposition demands and will allways receive our warmest acknowledgments.
“We beg you, Sir, to assure the supreme authority of the United States of our fidelity and attachment; and that our greatest ambition is to deserve its fostering care, by acting the part of good citizens” (DNA: RG 59, Territorial Papers, Territory Northwest of the River Ohio).
Sargent also sent GW a copy of his reply of 25 July 1790 and had both documents printed in the eastern newspapers upon his return from the Northwest Territory in late 1790 (DNA: RG 59, Territorial Papers, Territory Northwest of the River Ohio; General Advertiser, and Political, Commercial, Agricultural and Literary Journal [Philadelphia], 10 Dec. 1790; see also Sargent to GW, 1 Aug. 1790, n.1, and Boyd, Jefferson Papers description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950—. description ends , 18:166, n.27).
14. Tobias Lear on 8 Dec. 1790 transmitted Sargent’s letter and enclosures to the secretary of state, noting, “the President requests your opinion as to what should be done respecting them.” Jefferson reported back to the president less than a week after he had received the papers from Lear. The secretary of state’s report of 14 Dec. 1790 on Vincennes land grants stated: “The legislature alone being competent to authorize the grant of lands in cases as yet unprovided for by the laws, the Secretary of state is of opinion that the Report of the Secretary of the North-Western government, with the papers therein referred to, should be laid before Congress for their determination.” GW agreed and presented to Congress on 23 Dec. 1790 one copy of Sargent’s 31 July 1790 report and its enclosures along with Jefferson’s report of 14 Dec. 1790, noting, “there are certain cases respecting Grants of Land within that territory, which require the interference of the Legislature of the United States” (Lear to Jefferson, 8 Dec. 1790, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; Jefferson to GW, 14 Dec. 1790, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; GW to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, 23 Dec. 1790).
The House read Jefferson’s report and Sargent’s papers on the same day Lear delivered the president’s message to Congress, 23 Dec. 1790, and ordered them to be sent to the Senate. That body received and read them the following day and ordered them to lie for consideration. On 31 Dec. 1790 Caleb Strong, Oliver Ellsworth, and William Maclay were appointed a committee to consider the papers and reported positively on 6 Jan. 1791. On 11 Jan. 1791 a Senate bill was sent to the House, which amended and passed it on 2 Mar. 1791. GW signed into law on 3 Mar. 1791 “An Act for granting lands to the Inhabitants and settlers at Vincennes and the Illinois country, in the territory northwest of the Ohio, and for confirming them in their possessions” (DHFC, description begins Linda Grant De Pauw et al., eds. Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America, March 4, 1789-March 3, 1791. 20 vols. to date. Baltimore, 1972—. description ends 1:516–17, 519, 526, 527, 529, 682–85, 691, 3:641, 6:1563–1607; 1 Stat., description begins Richard Peters, ed. The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, from the Organization of the Government in 1789, to March 3, 1845 . . .. 8 vols. Boston, 1845-67. description ends 221–22).
The act covered all the issues raised by Sargent on 31 July 1790 and approved by Jefferson’s 14 Dec. 1790 report, in which he noted that Sargent had carried into effect the congressional resolution of 29 Aug. 1788 “as to all the claims to which he thought it could be clearly applied. there remain however the following descriptions of cases on which he asks further instructions,” which Jefferson listed:
“ 1. Certain cases within the letter of the resolution, but rendered doubtful by the condition annexed to the grants of lands in the Illinois country. the cases of these claimants, fifteen in number, are specially stated in the paper hereto annexed No. 2. & the lands are laid off for them, but remain ungranted till further order.
“2. Certain persons who, by removals from one part of the territory to another, are out of the letter of the Resolution, but within it’s equity, as they concieve.
“3. Certain heads of families, who became such soon after the year 1783. who petition for a participation of the donation, & urge extraordinary militia service to which they are exposed.
“4. 150. acres of land within the village, granted, under the former government of that country, to the Piankeshaw Indians, & on their removal sold by them in parcels to individual inhabitants, who in some instances have highly improved them both before & since 1783.
“5. lands granted both before & after 1783. by authority from the Commandant of the post, who, according to the usage under the French & British governments, thinking himself authorised to grant lands, delegated that authority to a court of civil & criminal jurisdiction, whose grants before 1783. amount to 26,000 acres, & between that & 1787 (when the practice was stopped) to 22,000 acres. they are generally in parcels from 400. acres down to the size of house lots; & some of them under considerable improvement. some of the tenants urge that they were induced by the court itself to come & settle these lands, under assurance of their authority to grant them, & that a loss of the lands & improvements will involve them in ruin. besides these small grants, there are some much larger, sometimes of many leagues square, which a sense of their impropriety has prevented the grantees from bringing forward. many pretended grants too of this class are believed to be forgeries, & are therefore to be guarded against.
“6. 2400 acres of good land, & 3000 acres of sunken do held under the French, British, & American governments, as Commons for the use of the inhabitants of the village generally, & for 30. years past kept under inclosure for these purposes” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters).
Following Sargent’s recommendations, Congress granted 400 acres to each 1783 resident head of household in Vincennes who afterwards removed therefrom; gave 150 acres to every person who had lived on and improved the Piankashaw grant; authorized the governor to confirm any grants made by previous commandants and courts as long as the possessors had made improvements and the grants did not exceed 400 acres; confirmed the village’s title to its 5,400–acre common lands; and granted 100 acres to each man enrolled in the militia at Vincennes or in the Illinois country on 1 Aug. 1790 and who had actually performed militia duty (1 Stat., description begins Richard Peters, ed. The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, from the Organization of the Government in 1789, to March 3, 1845 . . .. 8 vols. Boston, 1845-67. description ends 221–22 [3 Mar. 1791]).