George Washington Papers

Tobias Lear to Jonathan Dayton, 9 November 1792

Tobias Lear to Jonathan Dayton

Philadelphia Novr 9th 1792


In reply to your letter of this date, the President of the United States directs me to inform you, that he is ready to do, at any time, whatever may depend on him towards completing the “grant and conveyance of certain lands to John Cleves Symmes and his associates,” in conformity to An Act of the Legislature passed during the last session of Congress. But as the President understands that there are certain things in that business which may require legal investigation, he thinks it proper that it should come to him through the Attorney General of the United States.1 I have the honor to be very respectfully Sir, Your most Obedt Servt

Tobias Lear.
Secretary to the President of the United States.

ALS (letterpress copy), DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DLC:GW.

1For background on the Symmes Purchase, see Dayton to GW, 9 Nov. 1792, and note 1. Dayton replied to Lear the next morning, Saturday, 10 Nov.: “I wish to speak with you on the subject of your letter to me of yesterday in reply to mine of the same date to the President. I shall remain at the Hall of the House of Representatives until the hour of adjournment, or if it be inconvenient for you to come here, I will call upon you at the President’s to ask an explanation of a part of your answer” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters, docketed as 10 Oct. 1792; the dateline is “Saturday morning”).

On 19 Nov., Dayton wrote Symmes from Philadelphia that Attorney General Edmund Randolph agreed with GW and Alexander Hamilton that “we must be confined to the original boundaries in the contract until you or your agent and associate duly authorized for that purpose, have applied and agreed, as mentioned in the first act [of 12 April 1792], to alter the contract agreeably thereto. They think my letter of agency insufficient for the purpose.” The attorney general, Dayton reported, “will decide on the fullness and sufficiency of the powers you may send me.” Dayton concluded his letter by suggesting several actions that Symmes might take to facilitate the issuance of a new patent (Bond, Correspondence of Symmes, description begins Beverley W. Bond, Jr., ed. The Correspondence of John Cleves Symmes: Founder of the Miami Purchase. New York, 1926. description ends 271–75).

Lear wrote Dayton again on 20 Nov. 1792 from Philadelphia: “In obedience to the President’s command, I have the honor to enclose for you, a copy of a letter from the Attorney General of the United States, on the subject of your letter to the President, of the 9th instant” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters) . The letter from Randolph has not been identified.

To promote his interests and remove various obstacles to acquiring a new patent, Symmes visited Philadelphia in the summer of 1793. He did not return to the Northwest Territory until after GW issued him a land grant on 30 Sept. 1794 (ibid., 163–67). For the 1794 patent, see Dayton to GW, 9 Nov. 1792, n.1.

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