George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Richard Dobbs Spaight, 6 January 1794

From Richard Dobbs Spaight

No. Carolina Fayetteville January 6th 1794


Agreeable to the request of the legislature I do myself the honor to transmit to you, a copy of the petition of Thomas Person and others proprietors of lands in the Territory South of the Ohio And a copy of the petition of the Trustees of the University of North Carolina, together with sundry resolutions of the General Assembly on that subject.1

I have to request that you will be pleased to recommend the subject matter of the said petitions to the early consideration of Congress and to urge them to do speedy and ample justice to the petitioners.2 I have the honor to be sir Your Most obedt Servant

Richd: Dobbs Spaight

ALS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, Nc-Ar: Governors’ Letterbooks.

1Thomas Person (1733–1800), although born in Virginia, spent most of his life in North Carolina at his estate in Goshen, Granville (now Warren) County. After first accumulating land and money as a surveyor, he served in a number of public offices. He was a county sheriff, a justice of the peace, and a member of the General Assembly beginning in 1764 and serving almost continuously for thirty years. He helped to secure a charter for the University of North Carolina in 1789 and was a member of its first board of trustees, 1789–95.

Person, John Rutledge, Hugh Williamson, William Polk, and Robert Irwin presented a petition to the North Carolina General Assembly on 21 Dec. 1793, asking for compensation on behalf of themselves and others for land granted them as bounties for their military service during the Revolutionary War or purchased for speculation. North Carolina, however, subsequently surrendered these western lands to the United States. The U.S. government ceded these same lands to the Chickasaw and Cherokee Indians in the respective treaties of Hopewell (1786) and Holston (1791), thus voiding the state grants. On 26 Dec. 1793, William R. Davie presented a petition on behalf of the trustees of the university, asking for compensation for the 20,000 acres granted to the university that also lay within the ceded territory. In its resolutions, the North Carolina General Assembly declared that the U.S. Congress was “bound by every principle of justice and equity, to grant complete and ample redress to the petitioners.” It called on Spaight to solicit the president “that he will be pleased to recommend” the petitions to Congress for consideration and will “urge them to do speedy and ample justice to the petitioners” (Petitions of the University and Others to the Legislature Relative to Western Land Claims, 21 Dec. 1793, in Connor, R.D.W., Documentary History of the University of North Carolina, 1776–1799, 2 vols. [Chapel Hill, 1953], 1:279–86). The enclosed copies have not been identified.

2Under GW’s direction, Bartholomew Dandridge, Jr., enclosed Spaight’s letter and its enclosures in a letter to Edmund Randolph of 20 Jan., in which he wrote: “The President wishes the Secy to report such measures as may seem to him proper to be taken relatively thereto” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters). GW subsequently complied with Spaight’s request with a letter to the U.S. House of Representatives of 30 Jan., which reads: “I lay before you, the copy of a letter from the Governor of the State of North Carolina; together with two petitions, to which it refers, and which I am requested by the Legislature of that State, and himself, to transmit to Congress” (LB, DNA: RG 233, Third Congress, 1793–95, House Records of Legislative Proceedings, Journals; LB, DLC:GW).

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