George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Thomas Jefferson, 15 November 1792

To Thomas Jefferson

[Philadelphia] Thursday Eveng 15th Novr 1792

The letter enclosed, intended for Govr Blount, appears to me to be very proper.1

Go: Washington

ALS, DLC: Jefferson Papers. Jefferson docketed the letter: “Washington Presidt recd Nov. 15. 92,” and he noted below the text that “it was my letter of Nov. 14. 92.”

1In a note to GW of 14 Nov. 1792, Jefferson had submitted his letter to William Blount of that date and “the correspondence on which it is founded”

for GW’s approval (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters). The enclosures included the letters to Jefferson of 24 Aug. and 4 Oct. 1792 from North Carolina governor Alexander Martin and the letter to Jefferson of 12 Nov. 1792 from Attorney General Edmund Randolph (see 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 24:321–22, 439, 609). The subject of this correspondence was the legitimacy of certain land grants made by North Carolina in territory that the state recently had ceded to the federal government, which, according to Blount, was included in the Southwest Territory, of which he was governor. For Blount’s original complaint to Jefferson, see his letter of 23 April 1792 (ibid., 23:443–44). The dispute involved differing interpretations of a clause in the Act of Cession of 22 Dec. 1789 (see 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 4:5–6 and note 12). Martin in his letter to Jefferson of 4 Oct. conceded that the subsequent Treaty of Holston of 2 July 1791 reserved the disputed area for the Cherokee Indians, and he issued a proclamation prohibiting further land grants in that region. Randolph wrote in his letter to Jefferson of 12 Nov. that legal action would be necessary to negate grants already made, but that the “management of this business” might be left for Blount to conclude. Jefferson replied to Blount on 14 Nov. that “in order to avoid the appearance of wishing to harrass the people, it might suffice, where the grantee is not in actual possession, to warn him against taking possession and to see that he does not. Where they have come to the lands, . . . and remain in possession of them, it is difficult to say at this distance and with only our information, whether any and which of their cases have any equitable circumstances which should induce a permission to continue, on their giving an acknolegement that they hold subject to the future pleasure of the government of the U.S. This is submitted to your discretion, with an entire confidence that you will secure the right of the U.S. with as little trouble and injury to the intruders and grantees as you can” (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 24:617–18).

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